I had the very great pleasure of working with Julie MacDonald this week to discuss the first year of the Trump presidency. Speaking on Al Jazeera English, we addressed the tone of the administration and political developments that had defined its first year in office.
I was delighted to accept an invitation to discuss my forthcoming book, Clinton’s War on Terror, at the University of Warwick this week.
I took the time to speak with the student-run radio station and am delighted to be able to present the results here.
I was delighted to return to the Aljazeera studios this weekend to appear on Inside Egypt. Anchored by host Adrian Finighan, I appeared alongside Nicholas Piachaud of Amnesty International and Professor Aahar Aziz of Texas A&M University.
I have posted a variety of images from the event on Twitter and the show can be viewed by clicking the image:
I was delighted to be interviewed by London’s Metro newspaper for an article that addressed the legacy of President John F. Kennedy. My remarks were included along with those of the eminent American historian and political scientist, Larry Sabato and Thurston Clarke.
You can read the piece HERE
I was delighted to be invited to discuss the on-going crisis regarding the National Security Agency’s European activities with the Voice of America this week. I sat down with Al Pessin and discussed a wide range of related issues and was very pleased with the ensuing package that was produced.
Every once in a while, news arrives that hits you like a ton of bricks, coming from so far out of left field that you could never have seen it coming, even if you’d been looking for it. This is not a piece about the Government Shutdowns, Debt Ceilings, or the Tea Party. It is, however, a short and personal piece about something that puts all that nonsense into context.
As a talking head on various media outlets, I’m expected to be able to talk on demand, but this week I have been left lost for words, due to an event that I know has distressed a number of people that I have been fortunate enough to work with at Aljazeera. Last weekend we lost one of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure to know: Elizabeth Idienumah.
Elizabeth was not necessarily someone you would know from watching Aljazeera, but if you had ever worked with the channel, if you had been invited to give an interview, then she was someone you would never forget: glamorous, statuesque, striking, utterly charming and a true professional, Elizabeth worked as an Interview Producer in the London bureau of Aljazeera English, arranging for those of us with something to say, to turn up at the right place, at the right time and deliver the goods on camera. Heading into the London studios has always been a pleasure, one made all the more enjoyable by the team on the Interview Desk. Along with her colleagues Mandy, Ruchi and recently Caroline, Elizabeth was always on hand to ensure that the interviews went smoothly and on schedule.
Yet Elizabeth brought an extra dimension with her; an essential quality of decency and passion for news gathering and information delivery that was a delight to behold. Always ready with a wide, beaming smile, she was a joy to work with. Elizabeth could be relied on to go far beyond the necessary and perfunctory aspects of her remit, and to inquire how things were going. She remembered the details that counted, the facts that mattered and understood how to get the very best out of those of us she worked with. Of course, she made it seem like anything but work. Her warmth and focus was always something to anticipate, a pleasure to behold, and all too suddenly, a wonderful, poignant memory.
Working with Elizabeth at Aljazeera was always a pleasure and her passing this weekend, aged 42, is an absolute tragedy; a loss to her colleagues, to the network and to those of us who had the very great pleasure of working with her over the last several years. To say that she will be missed is an all too obvious sentiment. She will be succeeded, but never replaced…
Friday August 30 was something of a blur frankly. In the course of 12 hours I seemed to do nothing but speak to a series of microphones offering thoughts on the vote in parliament, its potential impact on the US-UK relationship and on military options in Syria.
I have collated my work from that day on this screen so click away on the orange links to see analysis I provided on this contentious subject:
- Interview with Barnaby Phillips on Aljazeera English
- Interview with Paul Colgan on RTE News
- Interview with Richard Bestic on CCTV
- Package piece for Aljazeera English
- Interview with BBC Arabic Channel
- Interview with Richelle Carey Aljazeera America
- Interview with Natalie Powell for Channel News Asia
- Interview with Brendan Cole on The Voice of Russia
- Interview with Iain Dale on LBC 97.3FM
- Interview with Peter Barker for Xinhau News Agency
- Interview with Gavin Grey on BBC News Channel
- Interview with David Eades on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight
- Letter published in The Evening Standard.
During his all too brief time as president, John F. Kennedy was understood to have lamented the difficulty he faced in making the threat of American power credible. ‘The place to do so,’ he speculated, ‘is in Vietnam.’ Whether JFK would have escalated the war as LBJ did is impossible to know. What is all too apparent is that President Obama faces a similar dilemma today in regard to US credibility due to events in Syria.
US prevarication over Syria has raised a series of questions regarding the potential decline of US global influence and in relation to the general competence of the Obama administration. Many of these questions are appropriate, but let us consider for a moment the position of the White House.
The Obama administration came to power on the basis that it was not George W. Bush. Now safely into his second term, Barack Obama does not wish to perpetuate any suggestion that he is merely continuing previous policies, despite the many suggestions to this effect.
The world had grown accustomed to George W. Bush’s cowboy style and rhetoric, even if it didn’t necessarily approve. By way of contrast, Barack Obama’s cool and detached demeanour appears all the more distinct and withdrawn from the passions of the moment and presents the impression of a lack of engagement or emotional commitment, which may well be at odds with reality.
Whatever one makes of the Obama administration, it did not come to office to slay foreign dragons. It has withdrawn from Iraq and is set to complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Obama, unlike his predecessor, can be accused of being a withdrawer, but not an invader, and he appears content with this position. When military action has been required, such as in the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, he has demonstrated a willingness to act, although this always appears to be the last option and one that is delayed as long as possible. After George W. Bush, seen by many as being too trigger-happy, such a stance may be welcomed. However, it now appears to many that Obama is going too far in the opposite direction to prove his non-Bush credentials.
A similar situation is playing out in Downing Street. David Cameron may have referred to himself as the heir to Blair but he cannot afford for that impression to take hold in regard to military operations of this type. The Prime Minister has overhauled the UK’s national security architecture in a deliberate attempt to prevent decisions involving the deployment of British forces being made on the Downing Street sofa. The new UK National Security Council, with its American name if not necessarily its political or military muscle, is an indication of Cameron’s clear intent to do things differently from Blair. On one level, at least, it seems to be working. No one hears reference to Cameron being Obama’s poodle.
One thing is certain; neither President Obama nor indeed the United States, can afford to use Weapons of Mass Destruction as a pretext for war in another Middle East nation. No wonder, therefore, that the administration is treading carefully. Just as in the early days of the lead up to the war in Iraq, there are in weapons inspectors on the ground seeking access to chemical weapons sites and scenes of atrocities. Getting them to these sites must be a priority. For Assad to deny them access would be seen by many as tantamount to an admiration of guilt that would be very difficult for his allies to justify.
Another challenge for the Obama administration is that this crisis is breaking at the exact time that official Washington is on vacation. Congress is out of town and so is the president, merrily golfing in Massachusetts. Alas, Obama’s protagonists are not waiting for the president and his team to get off the golf courses or the beaches, and are moving ahead with their nefarious plans. This is not to say that the American government is closed for business and we need to be careful not to focus too heavily on the actions of the president. His ambassador to the UN maybe AWOL, but Defence Secretary Hagel has been busy manoeuvring US assets into place should they be required, while Secretary of State Kerry has been quietly engaging in diplomacy to line up key actors should the shooting start. Alas, his second term did not begin well in terms of getting a foreign policy team in place and recent events have done little to inspire confidence.
Whatever happens next, the entire situation bears an uncanny resemblance to events surrounding Bosnia in the 1990s. Then, as now, a Democratic administration in Washington faced intense international criticism for allowing bloodshed to occur. Then, as now, the White House desired United Nations’ approval for military intervention, only to be blocked by Russian vetoes. Ultimately, the Clinton administration tuned to NATO and acted militarily, commencing the move away from the UN and towards a US embrace of NATO as its foreign policy instrument of choice; a journey that began several years before George W. Bush came to power.
A similar situation presents itself to us today. Russian and Chinese intransigence ensures that the UN Security Council will be an unlikely venue in which to resolve this situation. UK Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham believes that the Russians will be moved by the latest images to emerge from Syria, but this is to misunderstand Russia and its motivating factors. No one ever accused the Russians, or indeed Putin, of acting on sentiment. Putin has repeatedly rebuffed US advances throughout Obama’s term in office and recent events surrounding Edward Snowden have not improved matters. Russia will act to advance its national interest and so long as Assad’s Syria remains Russia’s ally in the region, his regime will not lightly be overturned, unlike Mubarak’s in Egypt. Russia, along with Iran, has much to lose with the fall of Assad and is more than capable of blocking any diplomatic solution, forcing the British and the Americans to ponder military action that neither nation seriously wishes to entertain. Iran’s statement today will only exacerbate this developing situation.
The rush to war may be occurring at a snail’s pace for those on the receiving end of Assad’s cruelty, but it certainly appears to be ramping up this weekend.
I am delighted to announce that I have signed a book contract that will see my research into the Clinton Administration’s Grand Strategy published by Bloomsbury. The book will be available simultaneously in hardback, paperback and electronically and will be listed for pre-order on Amazon in the coming months, with publication anticipated for Christmas 2014.
About the Book
Examining the policy making process and the implications that theses decisions had on the global stage, Clinton’s Grand Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Post-Cold War World will draw on interviews with leading members of the former Clinton National Security Council and his foreign policy team. The book examines the evolution and execution of U.S. Grand Strategy during the Clinton Administration (1993-2001), exploring the manner in which policy was devised, the characters responsible for its development, the philosophical and political factors that shaped it and the way in which the policy was implemented.
Clinton’s Grand Strategy was designed to address the world in the aftermath of the Cold War and the book will cover the dramatic events that affected its implementation. The manner in which these events shaped or hindered policy implementation will be considered in detail, as will tensions that existed between the abstract task of developing policy and the challenges of implementation in a constantly evolving world system. Drawing on materials and interviews with those who knew and worked in the administration, this book places Clinton’s Grand Strategy in sharp relief, detailing the evolution of the president and his administration from their early days in office as they sought to come to terms with the power at their disposal, through their two terms in the White House as they attempted to implement their grand design.
Bloomsbury is a leading global publisher with offices in London, Sydney, New York, Doha and New Delhi. Bloomsbury is home to Harry Potter, Jay McInerney and the Churchill Archive. In 2013 the Academic & Professional Division was awarded two Independent Publishers Guild awards: Independent Publisher of the Year and Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year. The division was also shortlisted for two Bookseller Industry Awards: Academic, Educational & Professional Publisher of the Year and Digital Strategy of the Year.
I had the great pleasure of appearing on Monocle24 Radio yesterday with Phil Han and Emma Nelson. I was invited along to appear on the show, Midori House as their daily ‘Agenda Setter’ which allowed me to discuss a series of issues and news stories that are developing in the media. I chose to focus on issues surrounding freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom of protest and freedom of travel.
I addressed these in relation to the death of Lady Thatcher, the right to travel to Cuba and the developments regarding North Korea.
The show is available for your listening pleasure HERE