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New data shows key US allies against terrorism are the most corrupt countries on earth

Transparency International is out with the latest edition of its Corruption Perceptions Index which measures how corrupt people feel public officials are in each country on earth. It's all available here in convenient interactive map form — and it contains some bad news for American foreign policy.

The broad pattern is that Northern European countries and English-speaking countries do best. The good news about the United States is that we fit that pattern and come in 17th place, tied with Ireland, Barbados, and Hong Kong. The bad news for the United States is that while we rank highly in the grand scheme of things, we rank below our cultural peers Australia (11), Canada (10), and New Zealand (2) so we could aspire to do better.

But the really bad news for America arguably comes on the foreign policy front. The bottom ten includes both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the governments are the result of recent US military interventions and where American defense policy calls for the creation of stable competent local governments. Somalia where the US is similarly, but more lightly, involved is dead last. Yemen just barely escaped the bottom ten and comes in as the 11th most corrupt country on earth. Which is to say that a very large share of the states our foreign policy is counting on as key partners are seen as totally incapable of delivering honest governance. That's a pattern that makes success unlikely, and it at least raises the question of whether US military involvement in some ways contributes to local patterns of corruption.

Even if it's just a coincidence, it's a big practical problem for America's various counterinsurgency efforts.