JDB to address the Henry Jackson Society in Cambridge tonight

I am delighted to announce that I will be addressing the Henry Jackson Society members at Cambridge University this evening.

I am honoured to have been invited by Jonathan Bronitsky and Brendan Simms to discuss U.S. politics with such an august group of people.

My talk, entitled, Process, Primaries and the Presidency, will address the events so far and consider the candidacies of Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, as well as Newt Gingrich. I will assess the Republican chances for success in November and the likelihood of Obama’s re-election. It is likely that foreign policy will be addressed so discussions of the forthcoming meeting between Obama and Netanyahu and the state of U.S-Israeli relations may be tabled.

The event is at 5.30 this evening at Pembroke College.

JDB and the Bow Group

As some eagle-eyed visitors to my LinkedIn site have already noted, I am delighted to announce my appointment with immediate effect, as Liaison Officer at the prestigious Bow Group. As the oldest – and one of the most influential – centre-right Think-Tanks in Britain, the Bow Group exists to develop policy, publish research and stimulate debate. As Liaison Officer I will be working to enhance and expand the reach of the organisation both domestically and internationally in academia, business and the wider think tank arena.

This is a major development in my efforts to make research relevent and will allow me to further develop the skill sets that I have been developing in the last fifteen years.

The Bow Group web site, with my latest piece and appearance on Sky News, can be found at www.bowgroup.org

JDB addressing Salzburg Global Seminar

I am in glorious Salzburg this week for the annual Global Seminar on American Studies. I will be one of a small number of keynote speakers at this year’s event, which is headlined by William Leuchtenburg.

The Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) was founded in 2003 to build upon the positive momentum stemming from thirty-two sessions organized by the American Studies Center between 1994 and 2002. The purpose of SSASA is to provide a forum for anyone working in the field of American Studies to interact with experts in the field by meeting annually at Schloss Leopoldskron to attend symposia devoted to broad American Studies themes. The annual symposia are attended by distinguished professionals from a wide number of countries around the world. Through such American Studies symposia, the Salzburg Global Seminar continues to make a vital contribution to the promotion of open, international dialogue.

The 2011 symposium is entitled “Continuity and Change in US Presidential Foreign Policy; Plans, Policies and Doctrines” and will take place at Schloss Leopoldskron from October 6-10, 2011. The program will focus on comparative developments, continuity and changes in the international role and policies of the United States of post-war presidential administrations, with a special emphasis on the Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.

Those of you familiar with my work will recognise how central these themes are to my ongoing research which is being showcased this autumn at a series of conferences in Europe and the United States.

JDB at BISA US Foreign Policy Working Group Annual Conference

I am kicking off a whirlwind of activity this autumn by attending the British International Studies Associations’s US Foreign Policy Working Group Annual Conference at the Rothermere Centre in Oxford this week. The conference is focused upon United States Foreign Policy Ten Years After 9/11. The Keynote Address will be delivered by Christopher Preble,  Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute and author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous and Less Free.

The BISA group aims to promote the study, research and teaching of US Foreign Policy in Britain. Last year I attended their conference in Leeds, which was a great success and saw the delivery of my paper on rendition that was turned into ‘What’s So Extraordinary About Rendition,’ reproduced in the International Journal of Human Rights.

This year I will be delivering a paper entitled Twin Towers and a Singular Opportunity that will seek to address the opportunity for greatness that President Bush squandered in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and contrast his reactions to those that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The work feeds into and is a direct result of my ongoing research into the US reaction to terrorist activity and acts of political violence that were initiated during my time as a Visiting Fellow at the University of North Dakota’s Centre for Human Rights and Genocide Studies.

Once the paper is delivered I will be making my way rather rapidly to Heathrow for the Friday afternoon flight to Los Angeles, where my academic adventures will continue….

Still Paying off ‘The Debt’

Last night I attended a pre-release screening of The Debt, the new movie starring a host of famous faces, including Tom Wilkinson (still in purgatory for his turn as Joe Kennedy in my book), Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Ciaran Hinds.

Based upon a small, never before heard of Israeli film, the debt tells the tale of three Mossad agents ordered into east berlin to snatch (dare i say ‘render’?) a former nazis back to justice in sunny Tel Aviv. Needless to say all does not go to plan, or it would have been a far shorter, though perhaps more satisfying film.

It’s not a sentiment that will gain much traction at cocktail parties, but if there is a message to take away from The Debt, it is surely this: if you have a crazed nazis doctor under lock and key, don’t bother with legal niceties. You may not live to regret it.

I had been expecting an improved version of Munich, and certainly the signs were good; great cast and director and from Miramax. Hang on, you are no doubt thinking, Miramax went the way of the dodo years ago.  Exactly. Welcome to the last gasp from a dead studio. It is a rule of thumb that films that sit in cans for years should probably stay there.

A film with great potential has some serious flaws at its dark heart. A major flaw in this case is that the fine cast are playing the wrong characters. Ciaran Hinds’ younger self is a buttoned down square, whilst Tom Wilkinson’s younger self is something of a swinger. Yep, right actors in the wrong roles. Think Harrison Ford playing Luke Skywalker. Exactly.

The producer (who introduced the screening) was at pains to note how director John Madden had insisted on filming in Israel. Well it could be Israel, or anywhere else with a beach. There was little else of this fascinating country on the screen.

The production had a ‘made for tv’ feel to it and this contributed to a rather underwhelming reaction.

As a friend of mine noted, the film is a treatise on the failure of the liberal mentality. Quite right as usual Tim.

This is ultimately a film about secrets. It supposes that three secret agents can’t cope with the guilt over keeping sect the details of a botched mission. The flaw is perhaps in sipping that theses are normal people asked to keep stum. Not top Mossad agents. Not sure how much you know about the Mossad but I wouldn’t mess. The film turns into one complicated love triangle (how original) when it would have been far mire interesting if it had focused on the moral implications of rendering justice.

The film’s climax ultimately feels like a tacked on ending as the grandmother secret agent heads off to do what the two men cannot, namely face down their nemesis is a Ukrainian asylum. I wonder if Helen Mirren realised she had already played this role in RED?

So, points for effort, and hugs and kisses from the lovies for reminding us that lying is bad, but killing ageing Nazis in cold blood is worse, but if push comes to shove, I’ll call the real Mossad, not the Hollywood variation, if I really want a job doing properly!

JDB at the TSA

I am delighted to announce that I will be addressing the Transatlantic Studies Association’s annual conference in Dundee next week.

I will be joining a panel to discuss  Transatlantic Relations, Diplomacy, Statecraft and Culture in the Second World War.

My discussion will focus on the problematic relationship between Winston S. Churchill and Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, father of the future American president. It will consider concepts of personality, geopolitics and the foreign policy implications of the ‘not so’ special relationship between the two men. It will also consider the vital role of isolationism in US foreign policy at this time.

This will be the first in a series of papers to be produced that will form the basis for my new research project on the development of the relationship between the Kennedy family and the Churchills from 1938-1968.  The project will address the Ambassador’s posting to London, his dealings with Chamberlain, his mis-reading of Churchill and his fall from grace. It will also consider the influence that his time in London had on the young John F. Kennedy and the degree to which his career was influenced by Churchill, leading to his decision as president, to appoint the former PM with honorary American citizenship.

The conference itinerary can be found at:

http://www.transatlanticstudies.com/TSA%202011%20Conference%20Programme.pdf

Some thoughts on ‘The Kennedys’

Every once in a while words fail me. As a writer, academic and broadcaster, I am sue that you can imagine that this is a problematic situation. However, such a situation occurred recently after watching the TV miniseries, The Kennedys.

Before I go any further let me state for the record my interest in this material. It may be hard to believe, but as a young guy growing up in Thatcher’s Britain I was a little unfocused. At 14 I imagine most guys are. Certainly I was more interested in football and girls than in studying and accordingly my ‘forward thinking’ teachers assured me that I would never amount to much, and would certainly fail any A levels that I should attempt.

And then something interesting happened. British television screened a miniseries starring Martin Sheen as the lead role in Kennedy. Broadcast over consecutive nights I was hooked, even if they finished too late for me to watch the end of them.

From then on I was hooked on American history and by extension, politics. Martin Sheen’s portrayal of JFK probably had as big an impact on me as anything ever put on screen. I started reading about the president, the family, the assassination and later on wider issues pertaining to the nation and its history. Like a ripple in a pool, my interests widened, but always with JFK at the heart of things. Eventually we studied the assassination at school and for the first time, I knew more about an event than the teacher.

So, it’s important to note that 1) I’m interested in the subject matter, and that 2) I’m no academic snob. I’m of the belief that whatever it takes to get people interested in history or politics, or whatever, is a good thing if it inspires people to develop an interest.

So, to end the digression and return to the subject at hand….

Earlier in the year, controversy arose when it was revealed that The History Channel were producing a lavish $30 million dollar mini series examining the Kennedy family. Key members of the Kennedy entourage spoke out against the project having seen drafts of the shooting script. This included the late, great Ted Sorenson, whom I had the very great honour of meeting before his death last year. The fear was that this was to be a conservative interpretation of events that would raise all sorts of scandals and portray a very different idea of Camelot than I had experienced in 1983.

With former Kennedy Aide, Ted Sorensen

Things came to a head when the finished project was turned over for broadcast. Realising the state of the finished article, the History Channel passed on the project. Having financed it, they now refused to broadcast it, claiming “this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand.” Channel after channel passed on the project until it was later picked up by the ReelzChannel at a cost of $7 million, plus a further $10 million in advertising and broadcast the series in April 2011.

What you would be forgiven for not knowing having watched The Kennedys

 1. That Ted Kennedy ever exited

2. That Joe and Rose Kennedy ever had more than 4 children (only Joe Jr, JKF, RFK and Rosemary are identified)

3. That Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday, Mr President

4. That Frank ‘The Voice’ Sinatra organised the Inaugural gala

5. That JFK gave more than 3 speeches as president

6. That JFK ever travelled overseas as President

7. That Kennedy signed a nuclear test ban treaty

8. That JFK and Jackie ever had civil world to say to each other

9. That Jackie miscarried in the 1950s

10. That JFK was 6ft tall and not shorter than most people around him

11. That haircuts changed from 1952-1968

12. That someone named Martin Luther King existed

13. That RFK went on a voyage of self discovery from 1963 to 1968

14. That anything of any importance happened between 1963 and 1968

15. That there is any dispute over the deaths of the Kennedy brothers.

16. That Joe Kennedy was American and not British.

17. That Joe Kennedy had his stroke in the winter of 1961 and that the administration carried on fine for almost 2 years after that.

18. That JFK had a group of talented individuals around him who worked on key issues and ensured a successful delivery of the administration’s policies and messages.

19.That there was anyone else in the cabinet except Bob McNamara (who looked nothing like he did in this series and was pictured sitting on the wrong side of the President in key meetings.

20. That Secretary of State Rusk was not the same person as Ambassador Stevenson. Time and again the show allocated sentiments and statements articulated by US Ambassador to the UN, Adlai Stevenson, to Secretary of State Rusk.

I could go on, but time and space prevent this!

Problems abounded in the production. There was a lack of tension, music was terrible, the use of non-related, pretentious quotations at the start of episodes was distracting. The habit of starting episodes with the climax before rehashing events that led up to events was repetitive and didactic. And then there were the haircuts…

I don’t know how familiar any of you are with fashion, but over a 16-year time span, they change. But not on this show. JFK and RFK are shown with the same wigs throughout this entire time period, ensuring that RFK looked exactly the same at the start of Ike’s America, as he did at the peak of the hippy movement in 1968.

This was nothing more than a Pantomime interpretation of history. The real tragedy will be if anyone accepts it as history, or worse is repelled from this incredible story due to the awful portrayal of events in this travesty of a show.

New Publication: What’s So Extraordinary About Rendition?

I am delighted to announce that my latest academic article, ‘What’s So Extraordinary About Rendition? has just been published in the International Journal of Human Rights. I encourage you all to have a look at it and let me have your thoughts.

For those with access to it, you can find it at:

What’s so extraordinary about rendition?
The International Journal of Human Rights
Volume 15, Issue 4, 2011, Pages 589 – 604
Author: James D. Boysa
DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2011.561989
It can be accessed HERE

Abstract

The election of Barack Obama was believed to herald a profound change in direction for US foreign policy, following eight years of pre-emption, neo-conservatism and extraordinary rendition under George W. Bush. However, this has not occurred to the degree that many expected. Instead the Obama White House continues to refer to the controversial policy of rendition as ‘appropriate’. This article will consider the rendition programme and its evolution to discern the degree to which the Bush administration was continuing policies inherited from President Clinton. This article will reveal the extent to which rendition was developed under the Clinton administration and the degree to which it evolved into extraordinary rendition in the years prior to the George W. Bush presidency. The article will reveal the extent to which the Clinton White House was waging a war on al Qaeda, using rendition to destroy the organisation, ‘brick by brick’. The article will finally consider the extent to which Obama has repudiated the Bush Doctrine and chartered a new course for US foreign policy.

JDB, Chatham House and 60 Years of UK-Israeli Foreign Relations

Yesterday I had the great honour, and high privilege to attend a Chatham House conference marking 60 years of UK-Israeli foreign relations, at the invitation of the Israeli embassy here in London.

The conference was organised to celebrate 6 decades of international relations between the two countries and to ponder the current and future state of affairs. We in the audience were most fortunate in that the keynote address was delivered in person by the President of Israel, Shimon Peres. Click here for a link to his address.

Convened by the always smooth Dr. Robin Niblett, the day featured panels examining bilateral relations, economic and scientific issues as well as security matters. The make-up of the panellists reflected the high quality of the day and included Dr. Claire Spencer from Chatham House, Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, Israel’s Ambassador to London, HE Ron Proser, the ever effervescent Baroness Susan Greenfield, James Blitz from the Financial times, Dr. Uzi Arad, former Chairman of the Israeli National Security Council, and Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI-6.

It was a remarkable day full of remarkable people, addressing a remarkable relationship that continues to redefine itself on a regular basis. The day was brought to a fitting conclusion with a talk from the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Right Honourable William Hague, MP. Click here for a video  of his remarks.

I was able to ask the Foreign Secretary about the constraints upon the British government and the quest for peace in the Middle East of having to conform to the straightjacket of the American political timetables.

The talk very much highlighted the traditional level of excellence at Chatham House and reminded us of the need for continued dialogue in this troubled world.

Twisting in the Wind: The Shameful Treatment of the LSE

Over the past week or so it cannot have escaped the attention of a proportion of the population that the London School of Economics has been rather mired in a scandal, seemingly of its own making. The allegations surround the university’s ties with the Libyan authorities in general and their education of Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif, specifically.

Needless to say, this has all made for easy headlines, noisy protests and the furrowing of brows among much of the left-leaning intelligentsia in the UK. The affair has now led to the honourable resignation of the university’s director, Sir Howard Davies. Yet this furore is overshadowing the great work done by the university in general and the sterling work of the LSE IDEAS department in particular, which has hosted Professor Niall Ferguson this year, to great acclaim.

As a practicing academic in the current economic and educational climate it is hard to know where to start with the accusations that have been levelled at the LSE and its management.

For years of course, the Libyan regime was a pariah on the international scene, blamed for the downing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie and for over atrocities during the 1980s and early 1990s. It is no coincidence that the bad guys in Back to the Future were Libyan terrorists; in an age of Gorbachev’s reforms, ‘Mad Dog’ Gaddafi made a perfect foil for President Reagan.

Yet in the twenty-first century, quiet diplomatic efforts, led in part by the British government, appeared to make great strides, leading to the meeting between Gaddafi and Tony Blair and the Libyan leader’s rejection of a WMD programme. In line with these developments, and at the behest of the British government, the LSE advised the Libyan government with regard to its finances. At the same time, a number of British companies, including BP, sought to maximise the new potential that exited in dealing with this former adversary. For that was the situation as it stood until the past few weeks; of Libya as a reformed state, with whom the west could suddenly do business.

Little wonder therefore that organisations and universities were happy to trade and advise Libya since they were actively encouraged to so do by their own government! Advise Libya on financial matters? Why not! Educate potential Libyan leaders of tomorrow? No problem. And why should it be? After all, this was a country that was embraced on the UN Human Rights Council and was not seen as being worthy of inclusion in the now notorious Axis of Evil.

That the British government has allowed the LSE to twist in the wind like this is shameful, as is the all too obvious silence by former members of the Labour government. With former Foreign Secretary David Milliband due to address the LSE in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see what he has to say on the subject, unless, of course, he cancels in favour of his efforts to seek a career in television.

During the Second World War the United States’ government encouraged its citizens to join organisations that celebrated US ties with the USSR and its esteemed leader ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin. Within a few short years this same government would accuse such citizens of being Communists as the McCarthy era purges began. The LSE is in such a position today.

The other allegations centre on the LSE’s decision to educate Gaddafi’s son, Saif. Educating an individual whose wealth and power may have questionable origins had better not be outlawed, else there will suddenly be both a mass exodus of students and with them a great deal of money from many British universities, right at the moment that they cannot afford to lose either. With less and less public money being allocated to the university sector, more and more institutions will be required to look elsewhere for their funding. If businesses and philanthropists come forward to provide assistance, great, but if not, then the bank accounts of the not so great and the not so good will look increasingly attractive and necessary if these academic institutions are to survive in the increasingly competitive marketplace of global education.

The LSE will no doubt be hoping that Sir Howard’s departure will draw a line under the issue and that the focus will now shift elsewhere. But no one working in academia or seeking a career in the university system should be under any illusions that this situation is in any way unique or that it will not happen again. Indeed, it is the proverbial tip of the iceberg and more likely to be the way of things in the future than any mere embarrassing solitary incident.