Newsletter of the BISA US foreign policy working group
Volume Two • Issue Two • January 2009
US Foreign Policy and the
Future of Conservative
Faith-Based Groups
rofessor Stuart Croft (University of
Warwick), Dr Trevor McCrisken
(University of Warwick), and
Dr Richard Jackson (Aberystwyth
University) kicked off a major new
project on the influence of Conservative
Faith-Based groups on US foreign policy
by attending the Republican National
Convention, Saint Paul-Minneapolis,
September 1-4, 2008. Guests of the
Nebraska Delegation, they were given
access to a wide array of Republican
officials and Convention meetings, as
well as attending the nightly Convention
speeches by figures such as Rudy
Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Joe Lieberman,
and of course Sarah Palin and John
McCain. Among the Convention
meetings they attended inside the
“security cordon” was a foreign
policy roundtable sponsored by the
International Republican Institute (IRI)
that featured a number of foreign policy
advisers to John McCain including
former National Security Advisor Brent
Scowcroft, former Secretary of State
Lawrence Eagleburger, former US
Ambassador to Germany Richard Burt,
Congressman Pete Hoekstra, former
Secretary of the Navy John Lehman
and former Ambassador to the United
Nations Richard Williamson. They
also gained access to talks by various
important religious leaders including
Gary Bauer, president of the conservative
Values and co-founder of the American
Alliance of Jews and Christians; Richard
Land, president of the Southern Baptist
Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty
Commission and a member of the US
Commission on International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF); and Jim Wallis, the
liberal evangelical founder and editor of
Sojourners magazine.
The rationale for the project is that
while the domestic political agenda of
Conservative Faith-Based Groups in
the US has been extensively studied,
less is known about the aims and
influence of these groups in regards
to US foreign policy. The project aims
to better understand the core foreign
policy ideas and worldview, policy
agenda and strategies of influence of this
extremely diverse collection of groups
by conducting a series of face-to-face
interviews with Conservative faith
leaders and members of their churches
and organisations across the country.
The project focuses on the increasing
engagement of the Christian Right
in the United States, and specifically
Conservative Protestant Evangelicals,
in developing a ‘Christian foreign
policy.’ The project will examine how
ideas about four main foreign policy
commitments – to Christian solidarity
globally, a hostility to international
institutions such as the UN and EU,
a commitment to Christian global
justice, and support for Israel – are
being developed across a range of US
Conservative Protestant actors: in their
non-governmental organisations; in
Christian universities and training
centres; in the Christian new media;
in mega-churches; and in the Christian
hinterland of the United States. There
is a new consensus on foreign policy
emerging among these actors. Their
aim is that this consensus should be
policy relevant and enable them to build
networks of influence and a powerbase
within the foreign policy establishment.
The project will map this consensus,
and will critically interrogate its basis,
and its applicability. The project will
address questions such as: what are
the key elements of US Conservative
Protestant Evangelicals’ thinking about
foreign policy? Where are those ideas
being generated, and how are they
being transmitted? How policy relevant
are they? And as a consequence, how
might they impact upon the foreign
policy of the Obama administration
and the development of oppositional
foreign policy positions within the
traditional base for the religious right,
the Republican Party?
Even before Senator McCain’s defeat
in the presidential election, an important
initial finding gained by this visit to the
Republican National Convention is that
Conservative Faith-Based groups are
attempting to re-define their role and
identity within the US political system
as they face the possibility of a long
term re-alignment in US politics that
would see influence in policy making
move further and further away from the
Republican Party, their traditional allies.
Whereas once liberal and conservative
groups could not talk to each other
because of profound differences over,
for example, abortion and gay rights,
now there is a real interest in engaging
in finding common ground over issues
such as the right to life (including
abortion and poverty), and creation
care (i.e., the environment). This
was demonstrated in the comments
of Richard Land and Jim Wallis at a
roundtable on Faith and Politics held
at the University of Minnesota during
the Convention. Although there remain
significant differences between them
and the constituencies they represent,
Faith-Based Conservative Groups
nonetheless Land and Wallis were both
keen to emphasize the common political
ground between them on a number of
issues including their opposition to the
use of torture. How this emerging crossdenominational dialogue will influence
ideas about foreign policy will be one of
the key focuses for the research.
The significance of such shifts
in political affiliation of evangelical
Christians was apparent in the recent
presidential election. Although John
McCain still secured the majority of
the self-declared evangelicals and
born-again Christians who make up
a quarter of the US electorate, Barack
Obama made gains among some
elements of the evangelical vote in
particularly important states. According
to the New York Times, Obama doubled
Democratic support among young
white evangelicals (those aged 18 to
29) compared with John Kerry in 2004.
The increase was almost the same for
white evangelicals aged between 30
and 44. These gains were most striking
in the ‘battleground’ states where the
Obama campaign had concentrated its
efforts the most: Florida, Pennsylvania,
Indiana, Michigan, Colorado, and
Virginia. Indeed, in Colorado, Obama
increased his support among white
evangelicals over that achieved by John
Kerry by some 10 percentage points.
These shifts in electoral support toward
Obama suggest that during the course of
his administration there may be greater
opportunities than might be expected
for evangelical faith-based groups to
gain access and influence, particularly
if conservatives are increasingly willing
to build political alliances with more
liberal evangelicals and other religious
groups. The next four years will prove
a particularly rich time to be researching
the links between faith-based groups
and the development of US foreign
Trevor McCrisken
22 2008
The Politics Department at the University of
Manchester hosted a one-day symposium on
“Soft Power and US foreign policy” in May, at
which Joseph Nye (Harvard) was the guest of
honour. Inderjeet Parmar was the organiser of
the event, which featured several panel on the
day’s theme, followed by a lecture from Prof.
Nye. The event was sponsored by the Research
Group on American Power, the Centre for
International Politics of the University of
Manchester, and by Routledge.
LONDON, SEP. 18-19, 2008
The Institute for the Study of the Americas
and LSE IDEAS co-hosted the US working
group’s annual conference in September.
The event was organised by Tim Lynch of
ISA. Spread over two days, the conference
included eleven panels, as well as a keynote
address from Prof. Daniel Deudney (Johns
Hopkins) [see photo - top right]. More than
90 people attended the event, including a
large number of postgraduates, supported by
bursaries generously provided by the ESRC.
At the group’s business meeting, John
Dumbrell (Durham) stood down as coconvenor of the working group after three
years’ service and was thanked by members
for his work in helping establish the group.
Adam Quinn (Birmingham) was elected to
replace him as co-convenor, for a three-year
term. Ed Lock (University of the West of
England) was elected as co-editor of Argentia.
Next year’s annual conference will be hosted
by the University of East Anglia.
The working group held two panels at the ISA
conference in San Francisco in May. The first,
on ‘The Legacy of the Bush Era and Future
Prospects’, featured Bruce Jentleson (Duke)
James McCormick (Iowa State), John Dumbrell
(Durham), David Dunn (Birmingham) and
Inderjeet Parmar (Manchester). The other, ‘US
National Interest as Ideology’, featured Adam
Quinn (Birmingham), Simon Rofe (Leicester),
Oz Hassan (Birmingham) and Linda B. Miller
(Brown). The latter panel was chaired and
discussed by Harold P. Smith (University of
California, Berkeley).
The working group organised a panel “US
Foreign Policy after Bush: continuity or
change” at the annual BISA conference. The
panel featured Inderjeet Parmar, Adam Quinn,
Oz Hassan, Mark Phythian (Leicester) and Jim
Guth (Furman, South Carolina).
Recent years have witnessed the largest
restructure in the American intelligence
community since the early years of the
Cold War. This conference will consider
the historical and contemporary role
of the Central Intelligence Agency in
the formulation and implementation of
American foreign relations.
Plenary speakers include:
(Professor and Edward J. Buthusiem
Family Distinguished Faculty Fellow in
History at Temple University, Assistant
Deputy Director of National Intelligence
for Analytical Integrity and Standards and
Analytic Ombudsman for the ODNI)
(Professor of International Security at the
University of Warwick and the author of
several books on intelligence and security
communities, including The Hidden Hand:
Britain, America and Cold War Secret
We invite papers and panels that address
any aspect of the relationship between
the CIA and US foreign policy from the
creation of the Agency in 1947 up to the
present day. There will be a particular,
although by no means exclusive, attention
to issues of Agency reform, representation
and interaction, as well as new approaches
to intelligence.
For further information visit:
The Argentia Editorial Team
Ed Lock is Senior Lecturer in
International Relations at the
University of the West of England,
His article, ‘Refining
Strategic Culture: Return of the
Second Generation’ will appear in
the Review of International Studies
later this year.
Professor of International Studies
(Research), at the Watson Institute,
Brown University, USA. She was
Editor of the ISA’s International
Studies Review from 1999-2002.
Her article, ‘Bush-Cheney Redux’
will appear in the next edition of
International Politics.
Linda B. Miller is Professor of
Political Science, Emerita, at
Wellesley College and Adjunct
J Simon Rofe is Lecturer in
International Relations in the
International Relations and Centre
for American Studies at the
University of Leicester. Among his
most recent publications is Franklin
Roosevelt’s Foreign Policy and the
Welles Mission (Palgrave: New York,
2007). [email protected]
Adam Quinn is Lecturer in
International Studies at the Dept of
Political Science and International
Studies, University of Birmingham.
His book, US Foreign Policy in
Context: National Ideology from
the Founding Fathers to the Bush
Doctrine, will be published by
Routledge later this year.
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Layout & Design by Matthew Brough
Roundtable Review
After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign
Policy - Timothy J. Lynch & Robert S. Singh
Oz Hassan
University of Birmingham
n the current “Anything-ButBush” environment, this is a very
provocative and controversial book.
The central conclusions that Lynch and
Singh present are that the Bush doctrine
is a continuation of a US foreign policy
tradition, is highly successful and should
be continued. As such their arguments
are interesting and important but make
for incredibly uncomfortable reading.
Not only is the book uncompromising,
but it is sure to prove divisive because of
the antagonistic manner that the authors
continuously challenge “Realists’” and
“left- liberals’” assumptions.
As one can imagine, to defend the
book’s central conclusions requires
doing so on multiple fronts. Indeed the
book valiantly tries to deal with the most
dominant critical arguments presented
against the Bush doctrine. These vary
from the decision to cast the terrorist
attacks of September 11 2001 as an “act
of war”, the decision to invade Iraq, the
cost of the war, the comparison between
Vietnam and Iraq, the conflict between
security and liberties, democratic
enlargement in the Middle East region,
how US policy should face Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia and North Korea, and the
future of American Primacy. Dealing
with such a wide variety of issues
provides a holistic defence of the Bush
doctrine, which is greatly reinforced by
a consistently superb understanding of
US culture.
However what the book covers in
breadth, it is left wanting in analytical
depth. As such there appears to be a
temperament being put forward, rather
than a robust methodology that guides
the reader towards sound premises
and conclusions. This is evident in the
failure to develop a theory of political
continuity and change, and masked
in the assertion that “‘Tradition’ as
a concept, is difficult to define with
precision… [and] invariably involves
the scholar in this often fuzzy realm of
analysis”. This leaves the text without a
theoretical structure that can be referred
back to, whilst allowing the authors
to be extremely unclear over issues of
Yet the failure to adopt a theoretical
structure does allow a common thread
to appear throughout the book’s
arguments. A Hobbesian temperament
is often present that relies on the bottom
line passions of fear and desire to
persuade the reader. Once understood
in this way the varied elements in the
book can be drawn together to suggest
a more coherent rationale. This is highly
evident in the manner in which the
book begins by framing the debate with
a fictitious announcement from a future
president. The narrative espoused is
one in which the United States has
attacked Iran with nuclear weapons,
in retaliation for nuclear strikes on
Washington, Los Angeles, and New
York. What is interesting about this
framing is that it sits uncomfortably
with the notion of “political science”,
appealing instead to the imagination
and a fear of violent death. Within this
framework “conceivability” is used as
a justification for policy, which is very
different from rigorous sound analysis of
intelligence. Where there is the slightest
possibility of a terrorists-technologytyranny triad then the US is seen to
have carte blanche on how it responds.
The paramount role of government,
it is argued, is to protect the nation at
all cost and with any methods; whether
deemed internationally legal or not.
This includes the use of preventative
force which is seen as “a tool” and not
a last resort, but also the use of military
tribunals and coercive interrogation.
Yet there are more serious paradoxes
and problems in the book. Notably
three interrelated problems stand out.
Firstly, there is a failure to see power
in deontic terms. Throughout the
book power is defined in terms of
military and economic resources. This
is most prominently demonstrated
when referring to American primacy
and William Wohlforth’s observations
on measuring power (p.266). To
this extent the book plays down the
importance of rights, duties, obligations,
privileges. This writes out the type, and
role, of power that exists as long as it is
acknowledged, recognised, or otherwise
accepted. For the authors results matter
more than methods, and “strength” is
demonstrated predominantly through
confrontation. Yet it is argued that one
of the goals of the war on terror (or as
the authors refer to it “the Second Cold
War”), is not to win hearts and minds
but to change them. Such change is
seen as possible through US acts of
aggression and a monopoly on violence.
Indeed the Iraq war, which is termed
“necessary”, is seen to have faltered
because of tactical military mistakes
but remains an “unsound application
of a sound doctrine”. Yet there is silence
over the issues concerning the use of
violence and the effects that this has on
strategically selective actors’ cognitions.
Such consideration is dismissed through
the assertion that “the war is not a
public relations exercise”. Without
acknowledging the role deontic power
plays in foreign relations it is difficult
to see how to stop a cycle of violence
from occurring. It is difficult to see
how one can change minds through
violence, especially when such acts help
reproduce counter productive narratives
and perceived injustice.
Secondly, there is a problematic
representation of the US approach
to democratising the Greater Middle
East. The authors argue that the Bush
administration has adopted a quest for
human freedom over regional stability,
and that this represents the long term
solution for winning the war on terror.
Indeed it is argued that “the second
cold war on Islamist terror is premised
on such logic”. The argument put
forward is that poor governance is “the
enemy” and as long as there is a fear of
proliferation then democratization will
be adopted as the long term solution.
Arab Tyrannies will be weakened by
denying stability for their survival.
Yet if one looks at the most rigorous
research on this issue from authors such
as Tamara Coffman Wittes and Thomas
Carothers, the reality is that the primary
goal of US-MENA relations is stability
first and gradual liberalisation to secure
regional allies. Indeed this has been a
consistent critique from former Bush
insiders such as J. Scott Carpenter, who
headed the flagship Middle East reform
program from the State Department.
Thirdly, the book fails to engage
with any distinctions and first
order questions about the freedom,
democracy and liberalisation agenda
that the Bush administration is/should
be pursuing. It appears at times that
such terms are conflated. The result
of this is that a serious contradiction
appears, where the authors argue that
American primacy over the region is
(and should remain) a policy goal at the
same time as attempting to increasing
freedom/democracy/liberalisation. Yet
domination and freedom are surely
uncomfortable bed fellows. Throughout
the book it appears that aggression is
justified in terms of “liberation” and the
“foreigner’s gift of democracy”, leading
to rather Orwellian moments of ‘War is
Peace’ because of American benevolence
and security interests. The empirical
implications of this contradiction are
all too evident. Accordingly the authors’
assert that Iraq should be a place for
US troops for years to come. However
in this “liberated nation” and newly
“democratic” country, the authors
give little consideration that such a
decision should be made by the Iraqi
government, and not Washington DC.
These three related issues raise serious
questions about the conclusions that the
book draws. Ultimately the authors
represent the war on terror as the start
of an epochal struggle. Yet the failure
to see the role of deontic power closes
down alternative policy directions; the
power/change nexus is consequently
far too intrinsically linked to the barrel
of a gun. Moreover, to mask power in
terms of liberation and then call for an
Islamic Reformation, where liberalism
and ‘Islam’ suddenly synthesize,
remains dubious. Especially when in
reality primacy is America’s policy goal.
To this extent the authors may in fact
have underplayed the level of continuity
in US- Middle Eastern relations; regional
stability remains the overall emphasis of
US policy. Nevertheless if one is inclined
to agree with any of the conclusions in
the book, it is that the Bush doctrine will
continue under the next administration.
Yet it is important to add the caveat that
this is reliant on the next administration
seeing violence as a tool and believing
that they alone have a monopoly on
essentially contested terms such as
freedom, democracy and liberalisation.
Clea Lutz Bunch
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
elevated to the level of an
American national sport. The millions
of people who re-elected President Bush
in November 2004 have conveniently
evaporated and been replaced by a
multitude of pundits decrying his
policies. American bookstores are filled
with popular monographs which dissect
and condemn the Bush Administration’s
inept handling of the Iraq War. Thus,
despite my agreement with those who
criticize the president’s hasty invasion
Roundtable Review
of Iraq, I looked forward to reading
an alternative view. After Bush: The
Case for Continuity in American
Foreign Policy by Timothy J. Lynch and
Robert S. Singh promised to provide
a revisionist account of Bush’s foreign
policy; unfortunately, it failed to offer
this perspective with objective, scholarly
analysis. This work is deeply flawed on a
number of levels.
First of all, Lynch and Singh propose
a number of theses that fail to stand
up to scrutiny. The authors argue
that the Bush Doctrine is far from
unique, but instead reflects continuity
with past administrations. Yet they
undermine their own argument,
writing that “Bush’s response was
to reject the ‘narrow realism’ of his
father’s administration and the ‘wishful
liberalism’ of Clinton in favour of a
‘distinctly American internationalism.’
This married Wilsonian ideals to realist
means, focusing on regime change in
addition to containment, prevention
as well as deterrence, and preserving
American primacy.” (p.196) If, as the
authors imply, Bush crafted a unique
approach to foreign policy, does this not
undermine the thesis of continuity?
In addition, the authors consistently
refer to the War on Terror as “the Second
Cold War,” but fail to prove that parallels
exist between the current struggle
against extremism and the Cold War.
Their attempts to construct analogies
justifying the term “Second Cold War”
are weak and involve convoluted
logic. For instance, they argue that the
Second Cold War resembles the first
because there is “Disagreement about
the appropriate historical point at which
they commenced.” Yet scholars disagree
about the timelines of most historical
eras; does this indicate that they all
resemble the Cold War? The Cold
War differed from the current battle
against extremism in many concrete
ways: It involved two superpowers, not
an asymmetrical conflict between one
superpower and amorphous terrorist
organizations; the essential threat of
the Cold War was mutually assured
destruction, not a devastating but
geographically limited terrorist attack;
and the enemy could be engaged with
substantial dialogue and negotiations
during the Cold War, while the nonstate actors in the current struggle
are outside the bounds of traditional
diplomacy. Thus, the term “Second
Cold War,” which the authors use
liberally throughout their book, seems
Echoing the voice of Bush
Administration spokespersons, the
authors refuse to separate the attacks
of September 11 from the war in Iraq.
They insist on perpetuating the idea
that Saddam attacked the United States.
Yet President Bush originally justified
the invasion of Iraq by claiming that
Saddam had significant stockpiles of
weapons of mass destruction; the Iraqi
dictator could not be connected to the
attacks of September 11. It was only
after the invasion, when no weapons
were uncovered, that Bush changed his
statements, arguing that the goal of the
war was regime change as a component
of the overall War on Terror. This
distinction is important, because the
authors base many of their arguments on
the false premise that Iraq attacked the
United States. Or so it would seem when
they make statements like “Few ‘rogue
states’ have attacked the United States
or severely compromised its interests
without suffering regime change as a
consequence.” (p.89)
To verify their ideas, the authors
used so many leaps in logic, convoluted
assertions that I found myself dizzy
trying to make sense of their analysis.
The book contained many factual
errors and distortions of history that
seem mildly manipulative, such as,
“Americans have had many reasons
to demand better security. The war of
1812, the Alamo, Fort Sumter, Pearl
Harbour, 9/11—none of these assaults
violated a perfect security.” (p.28)
Lynch and Singh need to review some
of the basic facts of American history
before they include the Alamo and Fort
Sumter in this list of foreign attacks on
Americans. The book is fraught with
errors and spurious associations that
undermine the authors’ credibility.
ridiculous, like the idea that “the
term ‘reconciliation’ has no equivalent
in Arabic.” (p.168) Apparently this
statement is meant to indicate something
about the recalcitrance of Arab culture;
however, it is completely false. There are
several Arabic words that can be used to
indicate “reconciliation,” tasalih being
the first one to come to mind.
Lynch and Singh’s overt partisanship
becomes quite transparent when they
gloss over some of the most egregious
blunders of the Bush Administration,
with statements like, “George Bush’s
declaration of a ‘crusade’ on September
16, 2001 was only superficially
controversial: crusades are basic and
regularized phenomena in American
public policy—foreign and domestic…
.Not to have spoken in similar terms
after the Twin Towers fell would have
been extraordinary.” (p.44) The authors’
obvious desire to exonerate George
Bush at every turn gives them the aura
of Bush partisans, not objective scholars.
The authors also mischaracterize the
opinions of their opponents, setting
up straw men that are easy to knock
down. Realism is reduced to “what
makes Arabs happy fulfills American
national interests” a ludicrous statement
that manages to insult both realists and
Arabs simultaneously. (p.93)
Lynch and Singh even attempt to
justify actions that should be universally
condemned: “It is no surprise to find
that messy campaigns, like Iraq, within
the wider Second Cold War, and ugly
features of the war, like Guantanamo
Bay and Abu Ghraib, offend the people
they are meant to liberate. Saddam,
of course, tortured and killed several
thousand Muslims (mostly Shiites and
Kurds) at Abu Ghraib but achieved less
infamy in the Muslim world for doing so
than did America’s temporary use of the
prison.” (p.94) Are the authors implying
that Iraqis should not criticize American
military depredations, so long as they
do not meet the heinous standards set
by Saddam? According to the authors,
American actions (good or bad) are
irrelevant anyway because “The Islamist
world view is essentially immune to US
behavior.” (p.95)
The book took on a truly disturbing
tone when the authors endorsed Sam
Harris’s assertions in The End of Faith,
that “We are at war with Islam” and
that “Unless Muslims can reshape their
religion into an ideology that is basically
benign—or outgrow it altogether—it
is difficult to see how Islam and the
West can avoid falling into a continual
state of war….” Lynch and Singh fail to
substantiate these bigoted claims with an
explanation of how moderate Muslims
(the vast majority) pose a threat to the
West by quietly practicing their religion
on a daily basis. (p.208, p. 225)
In their rush to condemn “Islamists”
(a term which I loathe—imagine
“Judaists”) Lynch and Singh forget
that the United States is in a struggle
to undermine their support systems.
Islamic fundamentalists cannot sustain
their organizations without significant
assistance from moderates in the Middle
East. By spreading war and chaos
throughout the region, policymakers
have persuaded many moderates that
violence is the only effective response to
American aggression. Lynch and Singh
are correct in their assertion that radicals
cannot be converted with promises of
aid and friendship, but policymakers
can appeal to moderates and undermine
the support systems that sustain radical
The authors also use insulting terms
to target their opponents in academia.
They claim that western university
students are “rarely schooled in
economics” and that “Some of their
professors continue to recycle the
Marxism that, as students themselves,
led them onto the streets in greater
numbers but with no greater wisdom, a
generation ago.” pp.(34-35) Lynch and
Singh chastise the “self-doubting liberal
left” for their “shrill anti-Bushism.”
(p.86) This is hardly the language of
objective scholarly discourse.
In conclusion, I think that Lynch and
Singh can be commended for attempting
to broaden the scholarly discourse on the
subject of the Bush Administration, but I
believe their approach is heavy-handed:
fraught with partisan language, unclear
argumentation, and unsupported theses.
Their work will doubtlessly inspire
more revisionist accounts of Bush’s
policies; I look forward to viewing these
alternative perspectives as they become
Scott Lucas
University of Birmingham
hen I was asked to review
After Bush by Timothy J.
Lynch and Robert S. Singh,
I promised myself (and the somewhat
nervous review editors) that I would
seek a constructive response. I knew
this was a challenge: Lynch and Singh
have set out to be provocative rather
than informative, promising a “forceful
rebuttal of Bush’s critics”, included
contorted, misguided “realists”, the antiAmerican “liberal left”, and “European/
Venusians”. Accompanied by a slick
website promotion and blurbs from
the Washington network (David Frum
of “Axis of Evil” fame, Richard Perle,
torture advocate John Yoo), this is a
400-page challenge to critics of recent
US foreign policy: Have a Go If You
Think You’re Hard Enough.
Yet, having read the book soon after
its launch in the spring and re-read it
in September en route to European/
Venusian Norway, I find that penning
a measured response is not the issue.
No, the possibly insurmountable quest
is finding any meaningful engagement
- academic or political - with Lynch and
Singh’s argument.
The book’s historical framework
can’t be engaged because the fragments
here are speculative, unsupported,
or flat-out wrong.1 It’s never a good
sign when a book opens with the
futurist counter-factual, in this case,
a Presidential speech of 19 June 2016
after an Iranian-supported nuclear
attack on Washington, Los Angeles,
and New York. However, concern turns
to despair when the authors’ historical
rationalisation is that George W. Bush is
exactly like Harry S. Truman, two good
ol’ boys transcending unprecedented
unpopularity at the end of their White
House years when we recognise their
“reinvigoration of America’s grand
strategy and world role, supported by a
far-reaching reorganization of the federal
government itself”.(p.5)
Leave aside the near-magical
Roundtable Review
transformation from “First Cold War” to
“Second Cold War”, from Communism
to “jihadist Islam”, from a geopolitical
context with the Soviet Union to “a
global war on Islamist terror”. There is
no substance to Lynch/Singh’s history.
A chapter on “Bush and the American
Foreign Policy Traditions” consists
of mere assumptions: the US frontier
leads to “atomistic social freedom”, that
US ideology, unlike that of European
countries, is dedicated “to a proposition
that all people have rights given not
by government but by God”, that “the
link of America’s trading prowess with
its search for security is a fundamental
part of a foreign political tradition”. This
grand survey is underpinned by quotes
from Alexis De Tocqueville, Frederick
Jackson Turner, and Abraham Lincoln
but forgets to mention, let alone analyse
or critique, a single incident, policy, or
strategic concept except this: “In 1919
[Woodrow Wilson] warned the British
government to abandon the expectation
of preferential treatment on the basis of
Can Lynch and Singh’s purported
legal framework, set out in their chapter
“The Constitution of American National
Security”, be engaged? Possibly,
but only after cutting through their
twisting of legal and political precedent
into an endorsement of “a series of
constitutional coup d’etats” by the
Executive. The authors first try out John
Yoo’s “structural thesis” of executive
power, skipping over the inconvenience
that Yoo’s rationalisation of Presidential
action from the sanctioning of torture
to unchecked surveillance of American
citizens has been ripped apart by almost
every legal scholar except Dick Cheney
and a minority trio on the Supreme
Court.2 They then try to bend the 200year-old notion of judicial activism and,
more recently, the notion of a “Living
Constitution” to their ends: if you
progressively supported the Supreme
Court’s intervention on desegregation
and reproductive rights, then you are
obligated to progressively support an
expansive interpretation of executive
power to assure “national security”.3
You must progressively support this
expansion even if, as Lynch and
Singh conclude, it has occurred not
through legal affirmation but through
“presidential usurpations, ineffective
congressional response, and supine
judicial acquiescence”. (p.58)
If the argument that the President has
always had great latitude in the conduct
of foreign policy is a starting point for
consideration, the problem is that Lynch
and Singh then ignore or push aside the
distinction of the Bush Administration.
It was not only free to act because of the
absence of Congressional and judicial
restraint; it also threw out existing
laws - national and international - that
might constrain it. Lynch and Singh’s
belated, brief consideration of this
extra-legal, if not illegal, behaviour is
by turns judicially vacuous (“In the case
of the NSA wiretapping and finances
programs, while there was no prior
express authorization, the circumstances
of 9/11 made such initiatives rational
and, at least in principle, defensible”)4
and disingenuous (“in the cases
of military tribunals and coercive
interrogation, the presumption of
presidential war powers authority
was at minimum reasonable, however
questionable the merits of the particular
adopted policies”)5, culminating in a
claim that would be laughable were it
not so horrifyingly wrong: “ ‘Prisoner
abuses’ were aberrations - recurrent
in every way - rather than the logical
consequence of the authority under
which Bush acted.” (p.78)6
This fantastic7 re-writing of the
contemporary leads to the biggest
surprise of the book: it cannot even
be engaged on its supposed ground
of combat, the policymaking strategy
of the Bush Administration. Halfway
through the book, I realised that I had
read snappy quotes from Warren Zevon
(one of the few bright spots in the
polemic) and Clive James but only five
- whether as public presentation, private
discussion, or intra-Administration
debate - from the President or his closest
advisors. There is a specious theory of
the Holy Triangular Trinity of terrorism,
tyranny, and technology to explain the
Bush Doctrine but no examination
of the public record, unpublished
documents, or private statements which
would establish that this was indeed the
Administration’s coherent view of the
world and the appropriate American
response to it.
In this book, the period between
January and 11 September 2001 (and
indeed the 2000 Presidential campaign)
does not exist. Yet, if Lynch and Singh
had been interested in a few minutes
of reading for analysis rather than
for diatribe, they could easily have
discovered key debates and discussions
that framed the Bushian worldview
before 9-11. They might have noted the
tensions in the Bush campaign between
a strategy focused on the old rivals of
China and Russia and one concentrating
on the newer “rogue states”, between
a projection of military power and a
commitment to nation-building after
the use of that power, between a pursuit
of alliance diplomacy and a rejection
of international frameworks and
institutions. They might have considered
Donald Rumsfeld’s concern, some
might argue obsession, with military
transformation, the Administration’s
grail of Missile Defence, the Justice
Department’s priority of a crackdown
on drug production and use, with the
consequent inattention to terrorism as
a priority.8
Instead of leaving Iraq until after 911 (and, indeed, not-so-subtly repeating
the connection of Iraq with 9-11),
Lynch and Singh might have noted
that “regime change” popped up as the
#1 item on the #1 agenda for Bush’s
National Security Council.9 They might
have considered the unprecedented
pursuit, via the National Energy Policy
led by Vice President Cheney, of a global
strategy for control of energy supplies.10
They might have come to grips with
the scholarly hypothesis, far more
substantive than any of the straw-men
criticisms of the Bush Administration
that they set up and knock down, that
the Administration from its earliest days
was trying to convert the “unipolar”
from projection into reality.
All of this, however, disrupts their
fragile connection between First and
Second Cold Wars. It exposes both
their parroting of Donald Rumsfeld’s
mantra of “the long war” and their
equally-repetitive insistence that “the
war is working”. It highlights both
the pertinence and the shallowness of
their claim, “The key to winning the
Second Cold War on Islamist terror
rests on successfully reforming the
Middle East.” (p.190) That project was
not constructed by the Administration
after 9-11 but eight months before it:
“Imagine what the region would look
like without Saddam and with a regime
that’s aligned with US interests. It would
change everything in the region and
Indeed, for Lynch and Singh, it is
not just a case of obliterating the record
before September 2001 but of ignoring
it. Iraq - the alleged weapons of mass
destruction, the ties to terrorism, the
oil, “liberation” - is discussed for 41
pages without a single reference to a
meeting on strategy, any consideration
of a specific policy before or after March
2003, even a public rationalisation
of the Administration of its actions.
Lynch and Singh can be read for their
assertions of “what ought to be”, but
this is completely divorced from any
explanation of what transpired and
how it was perceived - by Bush and
his officials, by Iraqis, or by any other
actors in the war - between 2001 and
2008. A similar claim can be made for
Lynch and Singh on the Middle East as
they proclaim, “It should be clear that
in encouraging the growth of market
democracies the West is seeking to
enable Arabs and Muslims to find their
own path to remedy the deficiencies
so comprehensively detailed by Arabs
themselves” (226) (38 pages, 1 reference
from the Administration). Or for Lynch
and Singh on “Friends and Foes After
Bush”: “Bush’s successors will likely
feel at home within a de facto Englishspeaking alliance, one symbolic of a
remarkable history and still capable of
future victories.” (p.255) (28 pages, no
references from the Administration).
No, this book has to be engaged
- can only be engaged - as a polemic.
Rather than an appreciation, let alone a
consideration, of the critiques of Bush,
the authors set up uni-dimensional
caricatures. “Realists” apparently argue
that “being liked” is the “key aim...of
international strategy”. (p.92) The
“left-liberal” camp, which for Lynch and
Singh as Tariq Ali, Osama bin Laden,
and “university and newspaper liberals”,
“march in [the] defense” of “fascist
dictatorships”. (p.104) The views of
is not about wielding big sticks but
big carrots. It is about appeasement.”
This is enjoyable banter, suitable for
the pub, an undergraduate debating
society, or the Jeremy Kyle Show12 if he
ever ventures from family counselling
into political punditry. Lynch and Singh
might even claim to refine academic
interpretation in the same way that
Rush Limbaugh refined American
radio, the New York Post refined recent
journalism, and John Bolton refined
American diplomacy.
I find it impossible, on a critical
level, to give any meaningful response
to After Bush because there is nothing
significant to respond to. I do, however,
recognise the book for what it is: a
macho, cheerleading division of the
world into its saviour - the macho
cheerleader who became the 43rd
President of the United States - and
those who would dare challenge him.
For this accomplishment, it merits a
niche, amongst other ephemera, as a
pseudo-factual symbol of the fictional
“Second Cold War”.
1. To be fair, some of Lynch and Singh’s most
egregious historical errors did not make it into
the final draft. Consider this from their website:
“The most important military official serving
George W. Bush is Dan Petraeus. Ditto Harry S.
Truman and Douglas MacArthur. Each general
brought stunning success that was profoundly
controversial back home.” One can only presume
that Lynch and Singh have yet to realise Truman
fired MacArthur in 1951 after the general
threatened a nuclear attack against China. [“In
for the Long Haul: Petraeus and the War”, 9 April
2. A useful starting point for critique of the Bush
Administration’s approach to the law is Philippe
Sands, Lawless World (Penguin, 2006). See also
John Dean, Broken Government: How Republican
Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and
Judicial Branches (Viking, 2007) and, specifically
on Yoo, Stephen Holmes, “John Yoo’s Tortured
Logic”, The Nation (13 April 2006).
3. Lynch and Singh’s own tortured logic is
highlighted by the inconvenience that perhaps
the most vehement Supreme Court exponent
of the Bush Administration’s expanded power,
Roundtable Review
Justice Antonin Scalia, is also one of the
vehement opponents of a “Living Constitution”.
See United Press International, “Scalia Says
Constitution is Not ‘Living’”, 5 March 2008,
4. On the Bush Administration’s use of the
National Security Agency for domestic
wiretapping and surveillance, setting aside the
1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, see
James Risen, State of War (Simon and Schuster,
2006). An illuminating specific incident occurred
when Attorney General John Ashcroft, semiconscious in an intensive care unit, was pressed
by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to
approve a warrantless programme (Dan Eggen,
“FBI Director’s Notes Contradict Gonzales’s
Version of Ashcroft Visit”, Washington Post, 17
August 2007).
5. Lynch and Singh’s claim is refuted by, amongst
others, Philippe Sands, Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s
Memo and the Betrayal of American Values
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
6. The notion of abuse of prisoners as an
aberration, rather than a consequence of
Administration policy, was thoroughly discredited
as early as 2004 in Seymour Hersh, Chain of
Command (Harper Collins, 2004). For more
recent details see Sands, Torture Team, and Philip
Gourevitch and Errol Morris, Standard Operating
Procedure (Penguin, 2008).
7. Deriving from the root word “fantasy”
8. A forthcoming interpretation is in Scott Lucas
& Maria Ryan, “Against Everyone and No-one:
The Failure of the ‘Unipolar’ in Iraq and Beyond”,
in David Ryan and Patrick Kiely (eds.) America
and Iraq: Policy-Making, Intervention and
Regional Politics Since 1958 (Routledge, 2009).
9. See Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty: George
W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of
Paul O’Neill (New York: Simon and Schuster,
10. An incisive, if anti-Bush, analysis can be
found in Michael Klare, Blood and Oil (Henry
Holt, 2005).
11. Suskind, The Price of Loyalty, p. 73
12. Those unfamiliar with Mr Kyle can learn
more at
Mitchell Lerner
Ohio State University
s I sit at my desk to write this, I
cannot help but notice the “Bush
Countdown Clock” sitting on
my shelf, ticking down the remaining
seconds of the Bush presidency. I am
most certainly not the only owner of
such a device; a quick Google search
reveals not only clocks but countdown
stickers, magnets, coloring books, and
more (my favorite is perhaps the “Final
Countdown Hot Sauce,” which can be
ordered for a mere $5.95 per bottle). The
brisk sales of such items should come
as no surprise to anyone who follows
presidential politics; after all, George W.
Bush currently sits with one of the lowest
approval ratings in American history. But
for the many Americans planning a party
for his January 2009 departure, Timothy
Lynch and Robert Singh warn you to be
careful what you wish for; you might get
it. For in their view, America after Bush
has “few compelling reasons to expect
or want” (p.7) significant change in
their nation’s approach to international
affairs, which they say has not been the
failure under the current administration
that so many allege. Their conclusions
about the Bush presidency are strongly
revisionist and likely to prove very
controversial, and I admit that while
I find much here to admire, I find the
larger thesis unconvincing. But, I should
note from the outset, my critique should
not be construed to suggest that After
Bush is anything less than a thoughtful,
provocative, and significant work. I have
many serious disagreements with it but
they are the type of disagreements one
has with serious work done by serious
scholars. It makes them no less serious.
To paraphrase the subject of their study,
After Bush is a work that should not be
The book’s contributions are plentiful.
The analysis of the flawed decisions
that hindered the occupation of Iraq is
thoughtful and well presented, as is the
discussion of the serious consequences
that a precipitous withdrawal from
that nation would foster. I agree with
many of their recommendations for
future American policy, even if some are
easier to put down on paper than they
would be to implement. Declaring, for
example, that the US should endeavor
to convince all Arab states in the region
to recognize Israel (p.213) is as desirable
as it is unlikely to be achieved, and the
authors offer no real details as to how
to accomplish it; I might similarly note
that I should improve my social life by
looking more like Brad Pitt. And their
central thesis that subsequent presidents
will likely continue many of Bush’s
policies is logical and well-argued,
although it strikes me as somewhat
less controversial than they imply;
after all, even the less hawkish of the
two candidates for the White House
has pledged to leave an American
military presence in Iraq for as long
as needed, indicated his willingness to
strike terrorist targets inside Pakistan if
necessary, and pledged to do “whatever
it takes” to stop the Iranian nuclear
program. I am aware, though, that this
will be a much less exciting roundtable
if I continue to focus on the book’s
many strong points, so let me instead
emulate my nation’s current president
by embracing a more combative persona
for the rest of this discussion.
My first problem with After Bush
is its occasional reliance on historical
oversimplification, overgeneralization,
and even outright inaccuracies. Some,
I suppose, are fairly unimportant. The
Monroe Doctrine did not, as alleged,
claim an American right to “interfere
in the Americas” (p.27); it took almost
100 years for Theodore Roosevelt to add
that plank to the original proclamation.
America’s defeat in Vietnam is here
attributed to a “defeat-phobic American
public,” (p.40) without noting that
supporters of the War were actually
in the majority until 1968.Describing
American policy between 1966 and 1973
as isolationist is at best simplistic and at
worst just wrong; one can only imagine
Richard Nixon turning in his grave at
such a depiction (p.21).And many of
these oversimplifications are clearly
designed to champion conservatives
and discredit liberals. We learn, for
example, that Ronald Reagan won the
Cold War (p.143), a claim that has a
modicum of truth, perhaps, but ignores
so many other contributing factors and
people that it is more polemic than
historical position. At one point, the
authors even make the shocking claim
that America’s enemies in the early Cold
War period were “appeased by liberals”
(p.291),a statement that would likely
spark a fistfight had it been uttered to
Truman, Acheson, Kennan, Lilienthal,
Nitze, Forrestal, Clifford, Harriman,
or many others; the authors support
this claim with a single reference to
Henry Wallace, evidence so far off the
mark that it calls into question their
understanding of the political history
of the era (in fact, when it became clear
in 1944 that President Roosevelt was
gravely ill, Democratic Party leaders
came together to have Wallace removed
from the vice-presidency, at least in part
because his views were so far from the
party mainstream).
Such oversimplification struck me as
most troubling when it appeared in one
of the book’s fundamental arguments:
the idea that Bush’s actions have
conformed to both recent American
political norms and the intentions of
the Founding Fathers. The first claim
seems misguided, albeit not totally
unreasonable. While it is true that
American presidents since WWII
have significantly expanded executive
power, there remains a qualitative
difference between this administration
and those that preceded it; no previous
administration has championed torture,
claimed the right to imprison American
citizens indefinitely, or required the CIA
to manufacture evidence leading to war.
In fact, the defining principle behind
Administration policy is an expansive
interpretation of the already expansive
“unitary executive” theory, one that
essentially argues that during wartime
the President’s personal interpretation
of the Constitution allows him to
overrule Congress and the courts, an
unprecedented claim that essentially
overturns the separation of powers that
has been sacrosanct in the US since
Marbury v. Madison in 1803. But even
more doubtful is their second claim,
that expanded wartime powers fits with
the founders’ vision. When a delegate to
the constitutional convention proposed
giving the president the power to
“make war,” the suggestion was roundly
rejected, with one prominent delegate
insisting that the presidency was “not
safely to be entrusted” with such power.
In fact, the weakness of this argument is
reflected in the fact that to make their
case the authors rely heavily on the
work of John Yoo, which they describe
as offering “the most prominent and
strong support” of their position, and
which is cited five times in the footnotes
and three times in the text. But it
was John Yoo who, from his position
within the Justice Department that
he held because of ideological affinity
rather than expertise or competence,
formulated many of the legal arguments
in favor of the administration’s position!
If Lynch and Singh want to argue this
point they need to confront, or at least
reference, the overwhelming body of
scholarship that refutes it, written by
scholars such as David Cole, John Hart
Ely, Jonathan Turley, Ronald Dworkin,
and Anthony Lewis (who has called
the Administration’s positions regarding
wartime power “so troubling that one
hardly knows where to begin discussing
them”). Citing Yoo in support of a
position that Yoo helped create is a bit
akin to asking Paul McCartney if the
Beatles were any good.
This point leads us to another
problem: the willingness of the authors
to portray Bush in the most favorable
light even when evidence to support
such claims is weak or even absent.
Consider their pronouncement on
Libya. The authors, while admitting the
existence of some evidence suggesting
that the country’s abandonment of
its nuclear program was a product of
diplomacy and soft power, still conclude
that the major role was played by the
hard line of the Bush administration.
But the evidence for such a claim is just
not there. We simply do not know what
lay behind Gaddafi’s decision, and again
the authors make no reference to the
numerous experts who would attribute
it to internal Libyan economic need
or domestic political imperatives, and
would stress the long-term diplomatic
process that pre-dated the Bush
administration. And once again their
sources are troubling, as they cite the
opinions of American hawks like William
Kristol and Charles Krauthammer
(and even quote Dick Cheney), but
this hardly meets commonly accepted
evidentiary standards. This is not to
say that Singh and Lynch are wrong
about Libya, of course. But it is to say
that controversial arguments can only
be credibly supported by legitimate
evidence rather than a reliance on posthoc ergo propter-hoc logic.
A more troubling example of such bias
comes in their depiction of the Korean
situation. Bush’s policies here, we learn,
were “not much different from that of
Bill Clinton,” a conclusion they reach
based largely on the fact that both men
involved the international community
in efforts to contain the regime (p.135).
While this may be true in theory, it
obscures the obvious differences in
practice. The Clinton Administration
took the lead in negotiating the 1994
Agreed Framework that, for all its flaws,
saw the DPRK lock away its spent fuel
rods at Yongbyon, and seal the reactor
and plutonium reprocessing facilities
there, with the facility then opened to
Roundtable Review
IAEA inspectors. When Bush came to
office he quickly moved in the opposite
direction, repeatedly criticizing the
DPRK government and suspending
(despite the opposition of South Korea)
the heavy oil shipments that had been
agreed to in1994. When the agreement
soon fell apart, the administration had
gotten exactly what it wanted: a reversal
of the Clinton policies. Subsequent
claims of turning to multilateralism were
an obvious cover, since everyone knew
that nothing would get done in Korea
without active American leadership.
And doing nothing is exactly what the
neo-conservatives, convinced that the
stick would work better than the carrot,
wanted. Now, one might argue (although
I would strongly disagree) that this
approach was superior to Clinton’s. But
the fact that both administrations talked
about multilateralism does not mean
they were the same. Even less credible is
their claim that “Bush used multilateral
diplomacy to forestall Pyongyang’s
nuclear program” (p.243). When Bush
came to office, the American intelligence
community was almost unanimous
that the DPRK had produced enough
weapons-grade plutonium for one or
two weapons, although they had not
weaponized it, tested it, or developed
the ability to deliver it to a target
successfully. But by January 2003, the
North had restarted the Yongbyon
facility, expelled IAEA officials, and
withdrawn from the NNPT, and
by2006 they had conducted their first
underground nuclear test, demonstrated
a significantly improved delivery system,
and reprocessed enough plutonium for
as many as twelve nuclear weapons.
Again, one might argue that this was
not a reflection of poor policymaking
by the Bush team, but to describe it
as “forestall[ing] Pyongyang’s nuclear
program” seems so far off the mark that I
admit to being a bit baffled as to exactly
what the authors mean.
Similarly one-sided is their optimistic
depiction of American policies in the
War on Terror. I happily confess that
my gloomy view of this situation has
been improved a bit by reading Lynch
and Singh’s analysis, which offers some
nuggets of information of which I was
unaware. Still, I remain unconvinced
that, as they write, “the war is working”
(p.112).Al Qaeda may be weakened
but is hardly beaten, as made clear by
a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate
that concluded that the group “has
protected or regenerated key elements
of its Homeland attack capability.”
Moreover, while the situation within
Iraq seems to have improved, one has
to question whether the effort was
worth the ramifications for the larger
war against Islamic terrorism across
the globe; by most accounts Iraq has
drained American resources, diverted
attention from more immediate
threats, alienated many moderate Arabs
whose assistance is vital in (among
other things) intelligence efforts, and
sparked a resurgence in anti-American
sentiment across the world. It has also
proven to be both a recruiting tool and
a training ground for a new generation
of jihadists (according to a recent study,
the number of fatal terrorist attacks by
jihadist groups has risen over 600%
since the war began, and is up 35%
even if one excludes attacks on targets
inside Afghanistan and Iraq), and has
left the American army near its breaking
point by almost any measure. Lynch and
Singh are repeatedly critical of those
who opposed this war, which they see
as a necessary step in the larger struggle
against terrorism; what they ignore is
that most critics (myself included) saw
in a 2006 poll of over a hundred leading
American intelligence and foreign policy
officials conducted by Foreign Policy,
84% concluded that the US was not
winning the war against terrorism.
There are other examples of a proBush bias that undermine the work’s
credibility. Abuse of prisoners, we
are told, is an aberration rather than
a government policy, despite the fact
that a thorough Army study found
otherwise; “The commander in chief
and those under him authorized
a systematic regime of torture,”
concluded General Antonio Taguba.
“There is no longer any doubt as to
whether the current administration
Iraq as a potential threat to be dealt
with but only after more pressing ones
were addressed. So while the US has lost
4,000 soldiers and $3 trillion in Iraq,
Afghanistan has seen the re-emergence
of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the return
of its opium industry, and suicide
attacks that grew from two in 2003
to 137 in 2007; a recent study by the
American government concluded that of
the 433 police units trained by the US
since 2002, not a single one is capable
of handling domestic terrorist activities.
The Iranian threat grows, both through
its nuclear program, which had 160
centrifuges enriching uranium in 2003
but now has 3,300, and its support
for terrorist groups. The Pakistani
border regions has seen an explosion
of anti-Western terrorist groups and
jihadist training centers; the Council on
Foreign Relations wrote that “In recent
years, many new terrorist groups have
emerged in Pakistan, several existing
groups have reconstituted themselves,
and a new crop of militants have taken
control, more violent and less conducive
to political solutions than their
predecessors.”Meanwhile, US prestige
wanes with every new revelation about
an Abu Ghraib, a Guantanamo, a secret
midnight rendition, or the existence of
another CIA torture camp in Eastern
Europe. Lynch and Singh are right to
point out the hypocrisy of the many
brutal regimes that condemn these
practices, but when Canada places
the US on its list of rogue nations,
one has wonder about the future of
America’s standing as leader of the
“Free World.”Little wonder, then, that
has committed war crimes.” President
Bush, we read, has implemented 37
of the 39 recommendations made by
the 9/11 commission (p.119). There
is no footnote explaining these specific
numbers (the best match I can find is
the Administration’s own claim in a
statement of policy in January 2007), but
regardless, there is no acknowledgment
that many of these reforms were passed
by a Democratic Congress over the
opposition of the Administration,
which criticized the spending amounts,
objected to the strengthening of a civil
liberties oversight board, resisted the
creation of a grant program for local law
enforcement, and threatened a veto over
various labor protection provisions. No
real surprise here, of course, since
Bush had resisted the creation of the
9/11 Commission itself and refused to
cooperate fully with its investigation.
In a few cases, the misleading nature
of the book’s assertions are particularly
worrisome. Perhaps most egregious
is the claim that the 9/11 commission
concluded that Iraq “did have a
relationship with Al Qaeda,” a statement
that is technically true but dangerously
misleading (p.158). The 9/11 Report
actually minimized this relationship
strongly, and denied it completely with
regard to the orchestration of the 9/11
attacks. The authors’ footnote for this
allegation cites page 66 of the report,
but even that page contradicts their
message, as it concludes that “[sources]
describe friendly contacts and indicate
some common themes in both sides’
hatred of the United States. But to date
we have seen no evidence that these
or the earlier contacts ever developed
into a collaborative operational
relationship. Nor have we seen evidence
indicating that Iraq cooperated with
al Qaeda in developing or carrying
out any attacks against the United
States.”Similarly Lynch and Singh cite
the Duelfer Report to support their
claim that Saddam planned to resume
production of WMDs once free of UN
sanctions (p.160). Again, this statement
is technically accurate but seriously
flawed, as it ignores the report’s central
conclusion that, regardless of future
intentions, Saddam did not have WMDs
at the time of the America invasion, had
been bereft of them since 1998, and
had not taken steps to develop them
since then. Saddam’s programs, the
report concluded, had “progressively
decayed,” and the regime “had no
formal written strategy or plan for the
revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither
was there an identifiable group of WMD
policy makers or planners separate from
These troubling moments of pro-Bush
bias are exacerbated by the presence of
my final objection: the occasionally
petulant and shrill tone that marks the
book. Singh and Lynch are impressive
and accomplished scholars, who
should be above the mean-spirited
personal attacks on the political left
that dot this book. Readers learn, for
example, that “left-liberals rather want
[America’s decline] to happen” (p.96).
And that “the US is opposed by many
on the left because…it is far worse
than the opponents it provokes and
creates” (p.96). And that a “descent
into an ineffectual internationalism
[would] please the academic left”
(p.232). And that “the poverty of the
left’s contribution is symbolized in an
increasingly shrill anti-Bushism which
has gone not much further than support
for Cindy Sheehan, the Dixie Chicks,
and the doomed senatorial candidacy
of Ned Lamont.” (p.86). The authors
are of course entitled to their opinions,
even ones like these that are hyperbolic,
insulting, or ridiculous (or all three).
But such derisive barbs only impugn the
impartiality of those who launch them,
and do not belong in a serious work of
scholarship. Simply, they are unworthy
of two such distinguished scholars.
By now it is clear to anyone who has
managed to muddle through this overly
long commentary that I have serious
concerns with After Bush. I do. None
of these concerns, however, are meant
to imply that it is not an important
book. It is. And it will likely stand as
the definitive voice for this position for
some time. Future historians may not
like it (I did) and they may not agree
with it (I didn’t). But they will have to
recognize its contributions and address
the arguments it makes. In fact, for all
of the objections I have voiced here, I
would leave readers with four simple
words about the book: it made me
think. An author, I believe, can earn no
higher praise.
Roundtable Review
Response to reviews
e are grateful to these
reviewers for, to paraphrase
themselves hard enough and having a go
at our book. Provocation is easier than
persuasion and we are cautious that if
we have not achieved the latter in the
book itself, how much less likely we are
to do so here. The four reviews range
widely and we will not attempt here to
acknowledge all praise or defend against
all attacks. We will take each review in
turn – and do so in the spirit of debate
rather than confrontation.
Oz Hassan articulates a reaction
common to each reviewer here: that
we have engaged in broad brush
polemic obscuring our analytical and
normative claims – some of which he
is prepared to admit gave him pause.
It is, of course, impossible to find a
style – especially in a co-authored
monograph about an inherently
controversial subject – that will please
all readers. Supporters condemn us for
being insufficiently robust, opponents
deride us as polemicists propagating a
‘Hobbesian temperament’ rather than a
‘methodology’. Like persuasive analysis,
polemic is invariably in the eye of the
Hassan expresses a valid and oft
expressed concern that international
law has been downgraded in a noholes-barred effort to realize US
security. But as we argue in chapter 1,
a sturdy scepticism of the claims made
by international lawyers did not begin
in the United States on September 12,
2001. Any number of presidents have
found the duty of self-defense greater
than the morality of international law.
Even presidents claiming to be acting on
its behalf – observe Clinton in Kosovo
– did so outside of its institutions.
Neither Kosovo 1999 and Iraq 2003
commanded UN approval and yet each
campaign was waged to make their
targets more not less responsive to UN
The reviewer claims we misunderstand
power. We do not. We just believe that
the efficacy of hard power has been
underappreciated in the cosmopolitan
rush to its softer forms. If Joseph Nye can
get away with so amorphous a concept
as soft power there is space in the
debate for those who suggest the death
of military power has been exaggerated.
If anything, the fate of Iraq since 2003
was caused by the failure of hard power
to secure an environment for soft power
to work. We do not disavow diplomacy
and collective action. We do query their
record in bringing lasting security to
the United States and its allies or the
nations it finds itself in conflict with.
The reviewer is wrong to suggest
that we grant to the US military a
transformational power to which the
last eight years give the lie. We do not
contend that hearts and minds can be
changed at the barrel of a gun. We do
argue, and agree with him, that poorly
chosen military tactics can lose wars.
Our remedy, though, is to craft better
tactics rather than insist on a blanket
rejection of violence as an inherently
inappropriate tool. This reviewer has
done us the service of reading our book
with some care. However, his review
indicates an appreciation of international
Each contended, rightly, that American
primacy was better for the US and the
world than its absence. Where they fell
short was in their pretence that they
could ignore the continuities. Hence
our problem with the narrow realism
of Bush Sr., which left Saddam in power
for a disastrous twelve years after Desert
Storm, or the wishful liberalism of Bill
Clinton, which left Rwanda dripping
relations so at variance with our own
that we are unlikely ever to convince
him – though we are grateful to him
for allowing us to try. American primacy
is not American domination; though
the reviewer conflates these terms and
hears the echo of the latter in our use
of former.
Clea Lutz Bunch is right to expect
a consistent defence of the book’s
concept of continuity. We contend we
have offered this, the reviewer does not.
Continuity does not mean that each and
every president adopts the same foreign
policy as his predecessor. If this were
true the important differences between
Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr. would
quickly invalidate our claim. Rather, we
argue in the book that national security
strategy changes only very slowly and
that, usually, one administration hands
on its approach to the next. Differences
of style and presentation across the
three post-cold war administrations
should not obscure us to the substantial
continuities they embody. Clinton and
both Bushes made war on Saddam
Hussein. Clinton and Bush Jr both
attempted to capture and/or kill Osama
bin Laden. These three administrations
engaged in wars the substantial effect
of which was to liberate Muslims from
oppressive regimes to which they found
themselves exposed: Kuwait 1991,
Bosnia 1995, Kosovo 1999, Afghanistan
2001, Iraq 2003. None disavowed
humanitarian intervention, though
their record of execution was patchy.
in blood. Both men were afforded a
room for manoeuvre denied to George
W. Bush who was forced to bridge the
gap left by both approaches in the wake
of 9/11.
We do take exception to accusations
of bias, on behalf of George W. Bush
or against Muslims – both are made by
the reviewer and both are categorically
rejected by us, whose record should
speak for itself. To observe that crusades
are basic and regularised phenomena
in US public policy is not a defence of
President Bush. To indict the failure of
Arab governance and want its reform
is not to be Islamophobic. Indeed,
we argue that real, lasting change
in the Middle East will come only
when the vast majority of Muslims,
quietly practicing their religion on a
daily basis, are afforded the right to
alter or abolish their governments.
We simply do not agree with
the reviewer on the consequences of
American unpopularity in the Muslim
world. The US-led wars listed above
hardly earned Islamist approbation. If
de facto wars in alliance with them (as
in Afghanistan in the 1980s) or on their
behalf (as in the Balkans in the 1990s)
could not do this, we would query how
better public diplomacy might.
If we wanted to caricature the reviews
we expected to get – in greater number
than we actually have – Scott Lucas’s
would be it. The reviewer has provided
us with ample vindication for embarking
on the project – for this we are grateful.
The reviewer offers the longest review in
this roundtable, and the only one with
extensive footnotes, in support of his
claim that it is ‘impossible, on a critical
level, to give any meaningful response
to After Bush because there is nothing
significant to respond to.’ The review
might have begun and ended there. It
does not. We thus find ourselves obliged
to respond to responses that are not, the
reviewer insists, responses at all.
The reviewer ‘despairs’ over our
analogy with Harry Truman. Better to
spell out why we are wrong. We are
not told. If ‘atomistic social freedom’
is not an appropriate concept with
which to explain American responses
to government, tell us why. It seems
to us that the reviewer simply does
not agree with us on several points. If
we are wrong about executive power
in wartime, explain why. We make a
series of arguments in the book but
none is engaged in this review. For all
the sound and fury of his outrage and
despair the reviewer has not managed to
join a debate, let alone win it. Indeed, he
insists there is no debate to be had and
merely offers a series of denunciations.
Mitchell Lerner’s review has many
of the strengths of the foregoing
assessments without their weaknesses.
The common thread of his various
criticisms is that a ‘one-sided’ and
‘pro-Bush bias’ undermines the book’s
credibility. In one sense, of course, this
charge is legitimate – while we carry
no torch for the president we support
the Bush Doctrine and believe that
much of the conventional wisdom
about unilateralism, the shredding
of the Constitution, and the failure
of the war on terror is simply wrong.
But we hold this to be a disagreement
about the facts, not anyone’s distortion
– witting or unwitting – of them.
Moreover, as any careful reading of the
book would acknowledge, we make
clear our agreement where Bush did
commit egregious errors, most notably
on the occupation of Iraq. That ours is
a minority, controversial and unpopular
position we are well aware – although
recent work by Philip Bobbitt, Jack
Goldsmith, Benjamin Wittes and others
is also now contributing to a more
balanced critical assessment of the Bush
administration and the nature of, and
optimal responses to, the current global
threats. Still, we are grateful for a review
that does find much to engage in our
work, if only to disagree with much as
well. Who knows, perhaps we’ll find
our macho selves pulling our punches
in the future as a result?
Tim Lynch
Institute for the Study of the
Americas, University of London
Rob Singh
Birkbeck, University of London
The Singer and the Song
President Obama will bring far more change to
the tone of American foreign policy than to its
so-called ‘substance’. But in this business, that
matters plenty.
s George Bush’s presidency is
measured up for its coffin while
Barack Obama’s limbers up in
rude health at its starting line, much effort
is being devoted, rightly, to discerning
whether the change in American leadership
will bring with it a change of course in US
foreign policy. Those making the case for
the affirmative point to the centrality of
‘change’ to Obama’s election campaign, and
also note his public opposition – uniquely
among the front rank of Democratic
candidates – to the Iraq war, the symbolic
centrepiece of the Bush approach to
foreign policy. The perceived failure of the
Bush administration to achieve many of
its foreign policy objectives might also be
cited as evidence that change must come.
Most notable in the list of those failures
must surely be the counterproductive effect
of its detain-and-torture campaign against
Islamist terrorism, the barren harvest
– flickers of hope in these final stages of
the Iraq debacle notwithstanding – of the
‘freedom agenda’ for the Greater Middle
East, and the apparently fruitless attempt
to cow Iran and (until a recent reverse
of course) North Korea into submission
through a policy of rigid confrontation.
‘Ah, but,’ respond critics of the Coming
Change thesis, ‘look past the rhetoric
of the moment to the substance of his
policies’. Has Obama not made it clear
that he is no pacifist by emphasising that
he has no problem with war in principle,
only with the “dumb” war in Iraq? Has
he not committed himself to redoubling
American efforts in the Afghan campaign,
and reiterated America’s commitment
to defeating Osama bin Laden and the
broader Islamist terrorist movement? Has
he not evangelised every bit as fiercely
as George Bush when it comes to the
universal righteousness of American values
and the virtue of democracy’s spread?
Obama may talk the talk of change, such
analysts tell us, but when the veneer of
words is stripped away, the same old
material lies at the core.
So whom should we believe: those who
tell us to prepare for a new dawn, or those
who dismiss Obamaniacal talk of change
as a PR exercise aimed at rebranding and
relaunching the same old product? In
fact, there are elements of truth in both
accounts that need to be extracted and
blended. The latter group of critics are
certainly correct that the central pillars
of post-WWII US policy – ideological,
political and economic universalism, the
defence of benign hegemonic power,
and selective military interventionism
– are unlikely to be uprooted by Obama’s
victory. To the extent that a segment of
Obama’s supporters expect the ‘change’
happy-talk of the campaign to translate
into the renunciation of these fundamental
ideas, they are indeed deluded.
Where Obama will bring a good deal of
change, however, is in the language used
to justify the American programme, and
– even more so – in the tone with which
it deals with others as it pursues it. To the
extent that the critics of the change thesis
dismiss this as frothy irrelevance, they are
guilty of a serious error of judgment. In
the business of diplomacy – and, for that
matter, wielding power in any context
other, perhaps, than via the literal point of
a gun – language and tone are inextricably
interwoven with substance. Indeed, to a
significant and under-appreciated extent
language and tone are the substance.
misunderestimation of the importance of
words and manner can be found in the
course of the primary and general election
campaigns. Both of Obama’s opponents,
first Hillary Clinton then John McCain,
sought to turn his gift for intelligent
and inspirational speechmaking into an
Achilles’ heel by accusing him of using
rhetoric to mask a void of substance.
‘Mere words’, they argued, would be of
scant use to Americans in the difficult time
ahead. In place of eloquence, they sought
to offer experience, practical skills and
graft. Unfortunately, they failed to grasp
– or conveniently forgot for the purpose of
electioneering – the fundamental truth that
words are often a president’s strongest tool
in seeking to control the nation’s course,
and sometimes his only one.
As head of state, head of government
and party leader all in one, a great part
of the president’s power lies not in the
direct orders he can issue within the
executive branch – micromanaging the
actions of the millions of sailors aboard the
supertanker of the federal bureaucracy has
proven notoriously difficult for presidents
– but in his ability to proclaim big-picture
strategic objectives and mobilise the
government and nation collectively to
pursue them. The role of the modern
president encompasses being both
visionary and motivator-in-chief, with the
office providing what Theodore Roosevelt
termed ‘a bully pulpit’ far more useful
than its direct lines of authority. Thus,
a significant part of the practical task of
being president – the real work of the job,
not just an ephemeral over-layer – lies in
being able to harness the power of words
to social effect. To criticise a candidate’s
because his appeal lies primarily in gifted
motivational speechmaking is to neglect
this truth, however useful it may (or may
not) prove as a campaign barb wielded by
a verbally disadvantaged rival.
A second parallel lies in the grim
morality tale that the Bush presidency has
become. His failure should serve to remind
us that in diplomacy appearance can fast
become one and the same with reality,
mood eliding irreversibly into substance.
In the course of Bush’s early years, he was
accused by critics of possessing a tin ear for
the mood music of international relations.
Whether through insensitivity or, more
likely, through wilful rocking of the boat,
he made a series of early decisions – on
Kyoto, missile defence, the International
Criminal Court – that discomfited
allies, and that were accompanied by a
provocatively anti-diplomatic demeanour.
After the 9/11 attacks, this alienation
of others deepened with his vehement
militarisation of the fight against terrorism,
his explicit adoption of the doctrine of ‘preemption’ and, of course, his determination
to achieve ‘regime change’ in Iraq.
Yet throughout these disastrous years
for America’s relations with traditional
allies, many analysts were keen to note
that the substance of Bush’s policy was not
so very revolutionary, if one was prepared
to shut out the rhetoric and look closely.
After all, Kyoto and the ICC had been
dead letters under Clinton, and missile
defence had been an ongoing project. The
principle of ‘pre-emption’ had always been
in place; Bush was guilty only of saying it
out loud. Hadn’t ‘regime change’ in Iraq
been the official US objective before Bush
took office? And wouldn’t any American
president have reacted in more or less the
same way to 9/11?
This analysis was true enough, as far
as it went. But it neglected the fact that
goodwill toward the United States, and
consequently its ability to solicit political
support for its policies abroad, evaporated
under Bush’s presidency faster than the
value of a mortgage-backed security.
Whether or not it is true as a matter of
descriptive fact that there was much
unsung continuity in terms of ‘substance’
between Bush’s policies and those of his
predecessor, it is clear that the perception
that there had been a major and unwelcome
change of approach took widespread hold.
This perception led other nations to react
negatively to the United States, affecting
in entirely concrete ways its ability to
achieve its objectives, e.g. to win votes at
the United Nations, elicit troops from allies
for missions abroad, or win over hostile
populaces in the Middle East, Pakistan
and elsewhere. The perception of Bush’s
policies, which was a function of manner
and tone, became through the response
it provoked in others one of the decisive
factors in the ultimate immobilisation and
decay of his foreign policy. Thus, in a very
real sense, the perception, and therefore
the manner and tone, proved at least as
consequential as the so-called ‘substance’
underlying them.
Under the new presidency, it is indeed
likely that the United States will retain
a good deal of its pre-Obama strategic
thinking, and its commitment to the
fundamental principles outlined above.
What will change radically, however, is the
way in which that strategy is presented to
the world. Obama, who has shown in the
course of his short public life a striking
capacity for calm, patience and articulate
persuasion, will pursue many of the same
objectives while presenting the United
States as a nation that listens, that is
reasonable, and that is prepared to pursue
a pragmatic course that takes account
of the views and interests of others. In
much the same way that Bush’s toxic
image, resulting from poor diplomacy,
hardened into an all-too real feature of the
environment affecting America’s capacity
to realise its objectives, a positive image of
the new administration’s efforts may create
an environment conducive to greater
achievement, even if the ultimate objectives
bear closer resemblance than anyone cares
to admit. Sometimes the problem isn’t the
song, it’s the singer. America has chosen
a new leader with a rather conventional
repertoire. Little matter, if he possesses a
golden voice.
Adam Quinn
America and the World: A New Beginning?
s redemption possible? After the
disasters of U.S. foreign policy in the
Bush era, will we see a revitalized
American foreign policy and a welcoming
reception from the rest of the world?
Judging from the favorable reaction to
Barack Obama’s election, we might feel safe
now answering both these questions with a
resounding yes. Yet dangers lurk, choices
are complex.
As observers, what we may do is outline
what might be necessary to give a more
confident affirmative answer to these
questions as the new administration gets
organized, for personnel play a key role in
image transformation and in the actual day
to day conduct of international relations.
The new economic and national security
teams will have their hands full. And no
matter how experienced and clever these
teams may be, structural problems matter,
While pundits of all stripes have praised
the selections as “centrist” rather than
“partisan” or “ideological”, citing especially
the retention of Pentagon chief Robert
Gates, the substance of what must be done
once the group takes office is daunting.
Whether bilateral relations with Russia or
Iran dominate the early days, or whether
the economy overrides everything, the new
administration still wants to do something
about climate change and terrorism in
large part to signal its differences with its
predecessors. All admirable agenda items.
Yet unexpected events may tempt the
calm, deliberate Obama approach into
more frenzied activity, as the recent attacks
on Mumbai suggested. The three days of
chaos there put paid to the notion that
only Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan were
trouble spots in South Asia-the Middle
East. It might really matter that the U.S.
has fewer diplomats than musicians in
military bands!
Down the road, pragmatic responses
will be welcome to all the foreign policy
challenges. Retreat from hubris will be a
relief. Yet to carry through on his promises,
Obama will have to delve into the ideas
behind his assertions that Afghanistan is
a “good war” as opposed to Iraq, just to
take one example. Does the U.S. really
comprehend nationalism and others’
domestic politics any better now than in
the past? Do leaders grasp that concessions
are not always appeasement?
Do they finally accept the view that
the U.S. cannot remake the world in the
American image? Fealty to nation-building
in the service of a “global architecture”
designed in Washington is no more likely
to yield favorable outcomes for Obama
and his crew than it did for Bush and
his entourage. A new beginning depends
on such sober reappraisals once the
excitement and expectations die down.
The world will be watching.
Linda B. Miller
Editor’s Choice
Of Darkness And Light
or those readers thoroughly
saturated with tales of BushCheney disasters, told by
skilled journalists like Tom Ricks
(Fiasco), George Packer (Assassins’
(Angler), the temptation is to say
“enough”. But it would be foolish
to overlook one of the best of the
lot: Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side. In
elegant prose, she details how Dick
Cheney had prepared for doomsday
well before 9/11and how after the
terrorist attacks, he was prepared to
use or circumvent the law, all in the
name of American national security.
By assembling equally committed
colleagues pledged to deception and
secrecy to attain their aims, Cheney
was able to dominate the easily
distracted Bush and his minions. So
far, nothing revelatory.
Yet the impact of these attempts
to extend executive power beyond
previously accepted emergency
norms will constitute a good part of
Bush’s legacy, above and beyond the
final outcomes of the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan. Mayer is especially
persuasive when she recounts the
Vice President’s attempts to work
around other government players
like the intellectually challenged
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
These lesser lights often tried to
explore multiple options for the
treatment of detainees that still
might well have skirted the law.
Cheney’s disciplines had no such
scruples as they “nonchalantly
suggesting that the President could
abide by it or not, selectively”.
(p. 83) So, too, the Constitution
was easily ignored in times of
unparalleled crisis, David Addington
and others demonstrated.
Cheney was persistent in being
the last person to tell Bush what
he needed to know or do about the
Geneva Conventions and the Taliban,
about contentious Senators and
energy security. The sheer breadth
of his reach is unprecedented. No
doubt, two terms of an Obama
presidency will unearth even more
instances of his meddling.
Closing Guantanmo will be a
useful first step, but that will have
to be followed by a wholesale
housecleaning of the intelligence
agencies, as well as the military
bureaucracies. At the very least, the
Obama officials will have to decide
how far to retain the Bush practices
on domestic spying that Congress
ultimately voted to endorse.
What Mayer does for the general
reader is to leaven the unremitting
critique of Bush’s policies with
emphathetic accounts of the lives
such policies ruined. The stories of
individuals like Manadel al-Jamadi
or Jack Goldsmith stay with us
after we close the book and wonder
how long it will take to rectify the
damage done to America’s reputation
and image in the world and at home.
Mayer warns, “Seven years after
Al Qaeda’a attacks on America, as
the Bush Administration slips into
history, it is clear that what began
on September 11, 2001, as a battle
for America’s security became and
continues to be, a battle for the
country’s soul.” (p. 327)
To turn from Mayer’s assemblage
of colorful detail to the larger world
in which such detail played out is
to realize that others have moved
on while the global superpower
remained preoccupied with its own
too narrow agenda. Fareed Zakaria’s
The Post-American World, is the
story of the unintended consequences
of the follies and fantasies of the
Bush and Clinton eras. Of course,
the rest versus the West is hardly
a new theme in the discussion
relations. Zakaria infuses it with
new life in a series of convincing
tableaux. Writing in a breezy style
similar to that of Newsweek where
he is a contributing editor, Zakaria
reviews the corrosive effects of the
American fixation with dominance
and imperial overstretch in a series
of anecdotes and factual summaries
that sharpen the distinctions
between “rising” powers like India,
China and Brazil, and “diva-like”
powers including the U.S. and
What saves the book from a mere
recital of familiar themes is Zakaria’s
insistence that all is not lost, that
by making shrewd cholces in
policies toward states, international
organizations and non-state actors,
the U.S. could refashion itself: “the
chair of the board who can gently
guide a group of independent
directors is still a powerful person.”
(p. 233) But he is realistic enough
to know that domestic reactions to
concessions seen as “appeasement”
will serve as a brake on imaginative
reinvention of U.S. foreign policy
even if American political will is
strong enough to move in a different
direction. We should worry less
about “poles” in international
relations and more about a vigorous
“ad hoc” world order we could
Such a prescription is on target
as the Obama administration takes
form and begins its rule not with a
blank slate, as Mayer reminds us,
but with a tarnished one. Yet a return
to the legitimacy that Zakaria and
others like Robert Kagan demand
is not a hopeless goal, only a distant
one. American political leaders
drawn from a younger generation
have already espoused such a goal,
so now the tests begin.
Argentia’s audience will be paying
close attention for the next four
On The Election
‘Change and Constancy, Thankfully’
ne of the features of politics that
provides analysts and academics
alike with endless fodder for
debate is that we can ask of almost any
event whether it constitutes evidence of
either change or constancy. That such
questions can almost never be answered
to the satisfaction of all is, it seems to me,
both a fact of life and one for which we,
as academics, should be eternally grateful.
Uncovering lasting solutions to the riddles
of politics is the last thing that we need,
especially in tough economic times.
During the past eight years, we in the
field of US foreign policy analysis have been
blessed with many opportunities to pose
the constancy-versus-change question. The
terrorist attacks of September 2001, the
publication of the 2002 National Security
Strategy with its emphasis on pre-emptive/
preventive warfare, the rise to influence
of Neoconservatives in Washington, the
invasion of Iraq: these and other ‘events’
have allowed the wheels of the academic
mill to continue to grind. And we can rest
easy because the recent election of Senator
Barack Obama to the Whitehouse assures
us of both the likely continuation of
popular interest in matters American and
the prospect of real change in the course of
US foreign policy. Or does it…?
For many, the answer to this everreliable question must be ‘yes’. The election
of an African-American candidate, a NorthEastern liberal Democrat, an opponent of
the Iraq War and a proponent of diplomacy
and negotiation would seem to represent a
moment of dramatic change in American
politics and foreign policy. Yet one of the
things that struck me at 5am on November
5th (as I lay cocooned on the lounge room
floor) was a sense of constancy. This was
not driven by the notion that the election
of Senator Obama constituted evidence
of the continued vitality and capacity for
reinvention that represents, in the words
of the outgoing president, ‘the enduring
promise’ of the United States. Instead,
what struck me were two things: the
continued well-being of American global
leadership and the continued universalism
of American political rhetoric.
On what grounds can we proclaim the
well-being of American global leadership?
After all, many might take the opposite
line and insist that, after eight years of
George W. Bush, any claim to leadership
by the US has been dramatically
weakened. To take this line of argument
is to confuse dissatisfaction regarding
American leadership with the demise of
that leadership. As Joseph Nye (2008) has
rightly noted, effective leadership depends
on the tacit acceptance of a relationship
of authority by those who lead and by
those who are led. That American global
leadership is alive and well is evidenced
by both the continued prevalence of the
idea of American global leadership within
the rhetoric of US politics and the avid
reception of this vision of the role of the
US by those living beyond its borders. Put
simply, the vast majority of politicians,
pundits and everyday people – both
within and beyond the US – whose views
were represented during the coverage of
the election appeared to accept the fact of
American global leadership.
In one sense, this is not surprising.
The US is a powerful state with global
reach, and what it does impacts on the
lives of people in many parts of the world.
This may explain the concern of nonAmericans for the result of the election,
but by explaining this reaction as a mere
consequence of the material power of the
US we overlook the importance of this
political dynamic to the very constitution
of US power. Instead, we should see the
tacit acceptance of US leadership as being
a key element of US power. My point here
is not merely that American power will be
increased to the extent that the election of
Obama makes others more willing to accept
(or more attracted to) US leadership. Such
arguments represent judgements of the
quality of American leadership rather than
explanations of its existence. Lying beneath
such judgements was a more fundamental
assumption, namely, that the US does and
will continue to lead the world.
It is because of this that it was only
natural that, in his victory speech,
President-elect Obama should seek to
reassure those beyond the borders of
the US that ‘a new dawn of American
leadership is at hand’, as though they were
‘his’ citizens and not merely those of many
other states. It was only natural that people
should celebrate the election of Obama
in cities around the world as though he
were their president, and not merely the
soon-to-be leader of a foreign country.
It was only natural that an article in the
Tehran Times, a leading English-language
newspaper in Iran, should celebrate the
victory of ‘the world’s candidate’. Again,
what was striking throughout the US
presidential election was not that Obama
should explain America’s future role in
the world to foreigners or that people
in non-America should prefer one US
presidential candidate to another. What
was striking was the symmetry between
the claiming of the mantle of global
leadership by America’s President-elect
and the general acceptance demonstrated
by many beyond the borders of the US
that whichever candidate won the election
would lead not only America, but also the
world. American global leadership is alive
and well; it will only cease to be so when
people within and beyond America cease
to take such leadership for granted.
A second source of constancy in
US foreign affairs was assured by the
continued universalism evident in the
rhetoric surrounding the presidential
election. Both candidates continued the
tradition of describing the US as being, by
its very nature, of fundamental relevance
to the rest of the world. Within such
rhetoric the values of America are equated
with those of the world and the pursuit of
America’s national interests is understood
as being synonymous with the promotion
of the peace and security of all. We saw
the former when Obama celebrated the
‘enduring power of [American] ideals:
democracy, liberty, opportunity and
unyielding hope’ and when John McCain
defined America as being ‘called still to
spread liberty, to assure justice, to be
the makers of peace.’ We saw the latter
when McCain, time and again, repeated
the mantra that the United States is and
ever should be a beacon of light on the
global stage and when Obama asserted
that America must lead the many millions
who, ‘living disconnected lives of despair
in the world’s forgotten corners… want
[America’s] beacon of hope to shine its
light their way.’
Such rhetoric, as any observer of US
foreign affairs will know, is nothing new.
President Bush described freedom as a
value cherished by Americans but also
the equal promise of people in Sudan,
Iraq, China and beyond. The Clinton
administration described America as the
‘world’s most powerful force for…the
universal values of democracy and
freedom.’ If we trawl through the major
foreign policy statements of almost any
previous US president we will witness
the centrality to American rhetoric of this
universalist theme. Indeed, even John
Quincy Adams’ famous suggestion that
the US should not go abroad ‘in search
of monsters to destroy’ – the quote most
often used to challenge claims made
regarding America’s universal right to
foreign intervention – reinforces this same
theme. For what Adams sought to do was
not to challenge the universal validity of
US values but to clarify the implications
that America’s adherence to such values
held with regard to its foreign policy.
What does all this mean with regard to
the future of US foreign affairs? Firstly, the
acceptance of US leadership by peoples
around the world suggests that when crises
or challenges emerge in world politics, we
are going to continue to turn to the US
for solutions and, just as probably, blame
the US when such solutions do not arise.
Secondly, the US seems likely to continue
along the path that it has followed for at
least the past century and, more probably,
the past two centuries. The continued
universalism of US political discourse
assures us that it will remain possible
for US politicians to link rhetorically the
well-being of people around the world
to the objectives and practices of US
foreign policy. Furthermore, by assuming
the mantle of global leadership, the
administration of Barack Obama seems
likely to continue to assert not only the
right of the United States, but also its
responsibility to intervene in the affairs of
countries and regions around the world.
Ed Lock
Department Of Politics, School
Of Social Sciences, University Of
Manchester, Friday June 5th 2009
(Sponsored by the Universities
Manchester and Edge Hill)
The Symposium will explore the
themes and inter-relations of "Race,
Religion and Empire in American Power
and Identity" with a view to increasing
our understanding not only of how
those factors have helped to shape
American identity and power, but also
to consider ways in which those factors
will combine and impact on American
power and identity in the post-Bush
era. Leading scholars from the US,
Europe and Britain will examine the
ways in which race, religion and empire
intertwine and help constitute US power.
Clearly, most recently, Barack Obama's
presidential victory has brought these
themes to broad attention. However,
race, religion, and empire’s symbiotic
relationship constitute a deep structure
and process rooted in US history. The
Symposium will interrogate the ways
in which historical structures, agencies
and processes have changed and how
they might further transform under
President Barack Obama, America’s first
African-American head of state.
Tony Smith (Tufts University –Keynote
Mick Cox (LSE)
Stuart Croft (Warwick)
Sandra Halperin (Royal Holloway,
Des King (Oxford)
Mark Ledwidge (Warwick, Manchester,
Edge Hill)
Lee Marsden (UEA)
Giles Scott-Smith (Roosevelt Study
Center, Middelburg, Netherlands)
Kevern Verney (Edge Hill)
Srdjan Vucetic (Cambridge)
Angie Wilson (Manchester)
Details from Professor Inderjeet Parmar
([email protected])
Book Review
eviewing a new, edited textbook is
never easy. On the one hand, the
quality of any textbook can only
really be judged in the context of teaching
and learning, which makes reviewing a
new textbook something of a challenge.
On the other hand, it is always difficult in
so short a space to do justice to an edited
textbook – particularly one such as Michael
Cox and Doug Stokes’ US Foreign Policy
(Oxford: OUP, 2008) which incorporates
twenty two substantive chapters by a total
of twenty-seven authors. On the former
point, I am pleased to say that early reports
from my students have been very positive.
On the latter, my response can only be to
seek to highlight the many strengths and
few weaknesses of what is, it must be said,
an excellent textbook.
The greatest strength of this text
is the sheer quality of the individual
contributions. For example, Peter
Trubowitz’s chapter on the impact of
(American) regional politics and US
foreign relations (chapter 8) provides an
excellent account of what is an important
and rarely touched-upon aspect of US
foreign policy-making. Robert Patman’s
chapter on ‘US foreign policy in Africa’
provides a detailed account of issues that
rarely receive sufficient attention from
policy-makers and analysts alike. Daniel
Deudney and Jeffrey Meiser (chapter 2)
offer an intelligent account of American
exceptionalism, while John Ikenberry
(chapter 21) and Anatol Lieven (chapter
22) help to conclude the text with
interesting, though distinctive visions of
the future of US foreign policy. These (and
other) chapters build on their respective
authors’ published research which is, no
doubt, one of the key reasons why they are
of such high quality. What is particularly
impressive, however, is that none of the
chapters feels like it is a mere reproduction
of research published elsewhere, a problem
that some other edited textbooks suffer
from. Instead, the chapters are written in
a fresh and engaging style that makes them
accessible and engaging.
One of the major challenges in
producing an edited textbook such as this
is to ensure both breadth and depth of
coverage. Breadth allows the inclusion of
a diversity of issues and opinions whereas
depth ensures the thorough coverage of
‘central’ issues within a particular field.
While this textbook strikes a fine balance
between these two criteria, it is the breadth
of coverage that is most impressive.
Indeed, this point is rightly celebrated by
the editors in their introductory comments.
Cox and Stokes suggest that, while ‘the
book does not pretend to be exhaustive’,
it does ‘touch on several intellectual bases;
many more…than the average textbook
on the subject’ (p. 4). The advantages of
adopting a broad approach to the study
of US foreign policy are easy to see. The
general structure of the book highlights
this breadth of coverage by organising
chapters under themes relating to the
history of US foreign policy (section one),
the institutions and processes by which
such policy is made (section two), the
regions (section three) and issues (section
four) towards which it is directed and its
likely future direction (section five).
The coverage of issues within these
various sections is also impressive.
Sections one (‘Historical Contexts’), three
(‘The United States and the World’) and
five (‘Futures and Scenarios’) are the most
impressive parts of this book. Section
one neatly and succinctly summarises
the history of American foreign relations.
Section three provides analysis of US
foreign policy in terms of the regions
towards which it is directed. The inclusion
of a chapter on US policy towards Africa
has been noted above, but this section also
provides thorough coverage of US policy
towards the Middle East, Europe, Russia,
East Asia and Latin America. Perhaps the
one addition that could be made to this
section would be consideration of US
policy towards South and Central Asia, and
especially towards Pakistan and India, the
key powers within this important region.
Panels, Sub-Panels & Panel Leaders
8th Annual Transatlantic Studies
Association Conference, 13-16 July 2009,
Canterbury Christ Church University,
Canterbury, UK
Plenary Speakers:
1. Literature & Culture: Peter Wright
[email protected] and Alan Rice
[email protected] New Transatlanticisms:
Africa and the Americas: Thea Pitman
[email protected] and Andy Stafford
[email protected]
Frank Costigliola, University of
Connecticut, ‘W. Averell Harriman and
Archibald Clark Kerr: A Comparative of
Politics, Personalities and Reactions to the
Rigours of Living in Moscow’
2. Planning and the Environment: Tony
Jackson [email protected] EU-US
environmental policies: Comparing EU
member states and US states: Paul Luif
[email protected]
Simon Duke, European Institute of Public
Administration, ‘Normative cynicism in
EU-US relations’
3. Economics: Fiona Venn [email protected]
, Jeff Engel [email protected] Joe
McKinney [email protected]
Sabine Boeck, Bremen University,
‘Transatlantic Slavery and Modern Feminism’
4. History, Security Studies and IR:
[email protected]
[email protected]
Section five encapsulates the breadth of
coverage provided by this text by including
not one but two chapters on the future
of US policy, thus evidencing the debate
regarding this topic that continues to take
place within the US establishment.
Section four on ‘Key Issues’ within US
foreign policy, singles out some of the
global challenges that US policy makers
face, including those posed by the global
economy, environmental change and
international terrorism. Each of these
chapters provides more than a mere
description of these challenges; they
also seek to explain the processes and
institutions through which US policy
regarding these issues has been created and
implemented. While there is no question
regarding the quality or relevance of these
three chapters, some might wish to see
the examination of US policy regarding
additional issues, such as development
(which is not addressed within the chapter
on the global economy), the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction or
pandemic diseases (including HIV/AIDS).
This may appear to some as a cheap
shot; after all, complete coverage of the
enormous range of issues addressed by
US foreign policy makers remains next to
impossible. However, the prominence of
the three issues mentioned above within,
for example, the Bush administration’s
National Security Strategy suggests that
these may be worthy of consideration.
The one section of this text in which
the balance between breadth and depth is
less finely struck is section two, entitled
‘Institutions and Processes’. This section is a
vital one, as is acknowledged by the editors
who note ‘the central importance of the
‘domestic’ in shaping US foreign policy’ (p.
4). As in other sections of this textbook, the
breadth of coverage here is commendable.
It is this breadth of coverage that results in
the inclusion of substantive (and excellent)
chapters on the roles of regional politics
(Trubowitz), national identity (Christina
Rowley and Jutta Weldes) and the media
(Piers Robinson) in the making of US
foreign policy. Michael Foley, in what is
an impressive chapter, evaluates the roles
of the executive, legislative and judicial
branches of the federal government in
foreign policy-making. What is missing
from this section is a chapter covering the
institutional structures within which policy
is formulated, articulated and implemented.
As a result of this absence, the roles of the
Departments of State and Defense, the US
military, the National Security Council, and
the various intelligence agencies – to name
but a few such institutions – are largely
overlooked. It is worth acknowledging
that this section does include a chapter on
military power and US foreign policy (by
Beth A. Fischer), but while this chapter
provides a detailed and interesting history
of US military policy it does not offer an
analysis of the role of the US military as an
institutional site within which the process
of policy-making is undertaken.
This gap in the empirical coverage of
section two is mirrored by a gap in Brian
Schmidt’s chapter on ‘Theories of US
foreign policy’. This chapter, along with
two others, serves as an introduction
to the text, and while it does highlight
the relevance of external, societal,
governmental, bureaucratic and individual
factors in the context of foreign policy
analysis (FPA), it is the first of these levels
of analysis that receives most attention.
As a consequence, theories regarding
the influence of bureaucratic, cognitive
and psychological factors are generally
overlooked. While it would clearly be
unfair to criticise this chapter because
it does not address equally the many
theories relating to FPA, the absence of any
mention – within this chapter or, indeed,
within the text as a whole – of Graham
Allison’s paradigmatic work on US foreign
policy-making represents something of a
The identification of gaps within
this text ought not to be equated with a
repudiation of its quality which, I would
reiterate, is excellent. After all, these gaps
represent a product of the breadth of
analysis and opinion that is delivered in
this book. In this case, the costs associated
with incorporating a diversity of views
within a single text are clearly outweighed
by the benefits that accrue from doing so.
While the question of how well this text
works within the context of teaching and
learning remains one that, ultimately, will
have to be answered in the classroom, it
certainly promises much. The quality and
accessibility of the individual chapters will
encourage students to engage with the
subject of US foreign policy. The breadth
of coverage offers lecturers significant
flexibility in terms of their teaching of this
subject. Finally, the breadth of opinion
offered here is sure to get teachers and
learners engaged in debate regarding the
past, present and future of US foreign
Intellectuals, Policymakers and US
Interventionism in Europe: Kaeten Mistry
[email protected] What President
for Transatlantica?
A Comparative
Historical Assessment of American
Chief Executives and Their Impact on
Transatlantic Relations: David Haglund
[email protected] Anglo-American
Relations: Steve Marsh [email protected]
NATO: Ellen Williams [email protected], Luca Ratti [email protected],
Ralph Dietl [email protected] and Oliver
Bange [email protected]
Relationship: 400 Years of DutchAmerican Relations: Kees van Minnen
[email protected] and Giles Scott-Smith
[email protected] Isolationism and
Internationalism in Transatlantic Affairs:
Simon Rofe [email protected]
5. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on
Transatlantic Relations: Priscilla Roberts
[email protected], Taylor Stoermer
[email protected]
THE DEADLINE OF 1 MAY 2009. Further info
Dr Jason Ralph has been awarded an ESRC
grant of £97,416.93 for the Research Project:
Law, War and the State of the American
Exception. The central question driving this
research is whether the post-9/11 exception
has now become the norm in US security
policy and what this means for English School
(ES) understandings of war as an institution of
intentaional society.

Argentia US Foreign Policy and the Future of Conservative Faith-Based Groups