Meanwhile, Somewhere in Texas…

Once upon a time there was an American president. No great diplomat, he took pleasure in calling a spade a spade and was beloved by his supporters for his plain-spoken folksiness. He called ‘em as he say ‘em and left no-one in any doubt as to what was on his mind. He was a president in time of war, indeed he faced two major conflicts, one that had widespread support, one that was contentious and would contribute to his downfall. He had no illusions about using American firepower against her enemies though he could do little to prevent a free fall in the polls that saw him leave office with opinion poll ratings in the 20s.

If you still think this is a description of W. then think again. This was Harry S. Truman, whom decades later has been extolled as a ‘near great’ American president whose actions initiated the successful policies that helped ‘win’ the Cold War.

Why is any of this relevant?

What if history is repeating itself?

Consider how the events that are occurring in North Africa right now could be considered to be George W. Bush’s legacy to the world. Recall his Freedom Agenda? What was the theory behind the invasion of Iraq? To export democracy. That removing Saddam from power would give rise to a ripple effect that could lead to a democratic and peaceful Middle East.

We are not there just yet, of course. The concept of a prevailing legacy for Bush was floated before he left office, in part by my good friends Tim Lynch and Rob Singh in their text, After Bush. Not all will agree, and again I direct you to the work of Oz Hassan and his forthcoming text on the subject.

None of this is guaranteed of course, but as I indicated on Talk Radio Europe this evening, it is based on a reading of history that reveals that the past can all too often be manipulated to a political conclusion at odds with thinking at the time. However, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that in years to come, people will look back at the events that occurred this year and link it all back to W. and his polices that were so reviled at the time.

George W. Bush as this generation’s Harry S. Truman? You heard it here first!

JDB Live on Talk Radio Europe Tonight

I will be talking with Richie Allen on Talk Radio Europe’s Tonight Show, from 7pm London Time, that’s 8pm in Europe and 2pm in New York.

Expect to hear my thoughts and observations on a raft of issues that have arisen in the last few weeks including my take on the White House reaction to the events in Egypt and Libya.

Obama, U.S. foreign policy and the role that the British government is playing will all likely be covered, so tune in if you can.

Talk Radio Europe can be accessed on the internet at www.talkradioeurope.com and you can listen live and on-line through the options available at http://www.talkradioeurope.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1676&Itemid=125

JDB and Talk Radio Europe

I am very pleased to announce that I have been appointed as the resident American consultant with Talk Radio Europe.

I will be working with the station to bring my thoughts, views and perspectives on U.S. foreign and domestic policy to their growing band of listeners. As the campaign for the presidency looms large on the horizon, it will be an interesting few months ahead as Barack Obama gears up to fight off his eventual Republican opponent. 

Established to provide the English-speaking communities on the Costas of southern Spain with a range of first class talk programmes and a judicious mix of music, Talk Radio Europe presents a wide variety of programs and presents interviews with a range of interesting guests from around the world. The station has been featured on numerous British factual TV shows and maintains a long-standing association with the British and Foreign press working closely with the BBC, ITV, SKY and RTE (Ireland).

I have been drawn to work with the team at Talk Radio Europe in part due to their continuing charitable and community work that recently saw them repeat their annual Talk Radio Europe Telethon that raised close to €23,00 in aid of Cudeca Hospice, set up by Joan Hunt OBE more than 15 years ago in order to provide palliative care to patients with non-curable cancer in the Málaga province.

I’ve been working with Steve Gilmour and the always wonderful Richie Allen for the past few months and its is a real pleasure to be formally associated with such a great bunch of guys who bring so much entertainment to the expatriate communities in southern Spain.

Time to Walk, Like an Egyptian Hosni

To quote the great Scottish International Relations philosopher, Rod Stewart, it would appear that ‘tonight’s the night’ in Cairo. All reports coming out of the Egyptian capital seem to point to an imminent departure from power by President Hosni Mubarak after some 30 years in charge. 

For more than a generation he has been the strong man in the region, ensuring that Egypt holds a pro-western stance in relation to Israel and as a result has ensured that Egypt has continued to receive billions of dollars in aid and in arms from the United States following the Camp David Accords. Regardless of political affiliation, the White House has been a constant ally to Mubarak and as such, U.S. foreign policy in the region is at a potential turning point.  Speaking in Michigan this evening, President Obama was careful to reference the movement for democratic change, whilst moving on quickly to other domestic policies. Behind he scenes, however, the president continues to be kept up to date by his experts at the CIA and the National Security Council.

As the world prepares for a post-Mubarak Egypt, the White House is playing a very careful game; not wishing to be seen to be interfering, but doubtless working furiously behind the scenes with the Egyptian military and intelligence services to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. The question is, to what? Is a military coup underway as some suggest? The irony in such a thought is that Egyptian leaders have traditionally come from the military, so a military coup appears to be  something of a contradiction!

What appears clear is that at 20:00 GMT, Hosni Mubarak will face the world and make an announcement of profound importance. If he announces his departure, a new era can begin. If he delays the inevitable, the possibilities appear to be endless. What is certain is that the risk of violence and potential deadly uprisings will increase the longer Mubarak clings to power and the longer the people continue to clamour for reform. Tonight we will find out if he departs in the manner of Ceauşescu or Gorbachev. The Mubarak regime is over. The only question that remains is over the timing of its demise.

David Cameron: Blending modern conservatism with 1960s US Liberalism?

On a day when much will be said of David Cameron’s use of language and tone following his speech on radicalism and Islamic-extremism at the Munich Security Conference, it is perhaps worth considering the repeated use that the British Prime Minister makes of lines and ideas that originated in the United States of the 1960s.

Cameron is hardly the first politician to attempt to emulate a Kennedyesque picture postcard family, but he has been unusually brazen in his use of language and phrases that have their origins in the time period. Lest anyone wonder quite what I mean consider the following examples:

Long before he became Prime minister, David Cameron was referencing JFK in a speech that called for cleaner cars and lower fuel emissions. Speaking to environment leaders in June 2008, Cameron deliberately called for a Kennedy style focus on a new mission. “As John F Kennedy said of his vision of an American on the moon by 1970, a goal that at the time seemed impossible to achieve: ‘We choose to go to the moon in this decade not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills.’ We need a JFK vision for clean cars today.”

Cameron’s speech of March 31, 2010 revealed the central philosophy of his public policy; the Big Society. Cameron referred to Kennedy as having asked ‘the noble question’ as posed in his inaugural address: “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Quoting liberal Democrats is hardly a thing that British conservative Prime Ministers have made a habit of, but David Cameron would buck that trend . His speech also lauded the work of Barack Obama, the former community organiser turned Commander-in-Chief.

At the April 13, 2010 launch of his election manifesto, Cameron referred to Kennedy as “a great American president” and proceeded to repeat the fabled words, “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” as a preface to his concept of getting people to aid their families and their community too. So, two things here; firstly the reference to JFK, a liberal Democrat as being “great,” and secondly the direct quote from Kennedy’s inaugural address of January 1961. When I was involved with the Tories in the late 1990s my efforts to consort with Democrats Abroad were forbidden. Now we have a conservative Prime Minister heaping praise on a Democrat President. I’d call that progress. This was too much to go un-noticed, of course, with the Telegraph referring to it as ‘Cameron’s Kennedy Moment.’ Missed, however, was Cameron’s distinctly American reference to “we, the people.”

The Conservative campaign manifesto document made reference to ‘the brightest and the best,’ a phrase that was identified with Kennedy’s cabinet before it was ironically inverted by David Halberstam in his Pulitzer Prize winning book on the drift to war in Vietnam. Cameron was not only paraphrasing JFK, but also being compared to him in political circles, to the detriment of Gordon Brown, of course, whose similarity to Richard Nixon could be the subject of a whole other posting!

At his first Party Conference speech as leader of the Conservative Party, Cameron deliberate made an effort to paraphrase JFK’s inaugural address, something the Observer picked upon immediately. 

Now, one need not be a particularly avid reader of American politics or history to notice that Cameron’s Big Society concept bears more than a passing resemblance to President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society.’ Designed by LBJ to complete the work of FDR’s New Deal, the Great society would ultimately come undone due toe the small but competing issue of the Vietnam War and the realisation that it really wasn’t wise to attempt to have guns and butter. At its core, however, the Great society was Johnson’s dream of reducing poverty and racial divisions. Worryingly, the American link was spotted, but incorrectly attributed. The Daily Mail was quick to suggest that Cameron was once more emulating not LBJ, but his predecessor, President Kennedy. James Chapman suggested that ‘David Cameron echoes Kennedy in crusade to empower communities.’ Nice try, but wide of the mark. I’ve always found that it helps to attribute the right polices to the right presidents. 

Lest anyone think that Cameron is ignoring his Republican cousins across the Atlantic, he is not about a Nixon reference when the occasion serves. As the general election was launched Cameron declared he was fighting for “the great ignored,” a phrase that immediately brought to mind Nixon’s Silent Majority. It will be intriguing to see which American president Cameron quotes next. I wouldn’t expect to hear many Bushism thrown in for good measure!

JDB and the Global Policy Institute

I am very pleased to announce that I have been appointed a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute.

Created in August 2006 as a Research Institute of London Metropolitan University, The Global Policy Institute brings together academics from the social sciences and business disciplines to formulate new policy solutions. I will be working with the institute’s Director, Professor Stephen Hasler and Research Associate Chris Luenen to produce both research and consultancy that will be of direct practical use to decision-makers and civil society groups.

I have been drawn to the institute in part because of its commitment to its London context. Its base at Jewry Street in the City of London ensures it can draw on its international connections and continue to utilise its well established links with practitioners in business and financial services.

I will be working with the Global Policy Institute as I continue my research and analysis into the role of the United States on the world stage in the early twenty-first century and my exploration of the life of Robert S. McNamara. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity of working with their team of dedicated researchers and to the potential that this initiative promises for all concerned.