2015 National Security Strategy Report Unveiled Today

Finally…. It’s been promised for the past two years, but finally the Obama administration will today unveil its second term National Security Strategy Review document. By this point in an administration there should, technically, have been more than two to show for some six years in office. Under the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986, the White House is mandated to release such reports on an annual basis, but since the Clinton years, no administration has done so, and the Obama administration has adopted the same schedule as its predecessor, by releasing one per term so far.

The report will be announced by the President’s Adviser for National Security Affairs, Dr Susan Rice at the Brookings Institute, where she was affiliated prior to joining the Obama team. The event is being live streamed and can be accessed HERE 

I will be live tweeting on the event and invite you to follow me on twitter at @jamesdboys from 6pm London time/1pm EST.

Following the announcement I will be heading to central London to discuss the new strategy with Ian Collins in the LBC studios in Leicester Square this evening from 9-10. the program will be live streamed and can be accessed HERE

The previous 15 national security strategy reports can be accessed HERE

The White House has released the document and it can be accessed HERE

A Fact Sheet for the 2015 Report can be accessed HERE

Talks on Clinton’s Grand Strategy

Final Cover

I will be holding a series of talks over the coming months to mark the release of Clinton’s Grand Strategy. The dates for these events will be updated and uploaded as they are confirmed:

January

January 30: The New College of the Humanities

February

February 6: LBC Radio

February 24: CNBC Television

 

March

March 3: University of Northampton

March 10: RTE Radio

March 24: Global Diplomacy Forum

March 25: Richmond University, Kensington campus

March 26: King’s College London

March 27: University College London, Institute of the Americas

April

April 29: University of Hull

 

Interviews on Clinton’s Grand Strategy

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I have conducted a series of interviews to mark the imminent release of Clinton’s Grand Strategy that you may find of interest.

Interview on CNBC

Interview with The History Vault

Interview for My American Studies

Interview for The British Association of Political Studies’ American Politics Group

Interview for The Political Studies Association

Interview for Bloomsbury

Interview for RTE Radio

Interview for The New Books Network

Clinton’s Grand Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Post-Cold War World

Final Cover

 Clinton’s Grand Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Post-Cold War World is now available in the UK and will be released in April in the United States. It is available simultaneously in hardback, paperback and electronic formats and can be ordered NOW on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. I will be attending a series of events to mark the release and will be happy to provide signed copies upon request.

Access a special preview of the book HERE

About the Book

President Clinton’s time in office coincided with historic global events following the end of the Cold War. The collapse of Communism called for a new US Grand Strategy to address the emerging geopolitical era that brought upheavals in Somalia and the Balkans, economic challenges in Mexico and Europe and the emergence of new entities such as the EU, NAFTA and the WTO. Clinton’s handling of these events was crucial to the development of world politics at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Only by understanding Clinton’s efforts to address the challenges of the post-Cold War era can we understand the strategies of his immediate successors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom inherited and continued Clinton-era policies and practices.

James D. Boys sheds new light on the evolution and execution of US Grand Strategy from 1993 to 2001. He explores the manner in which policy was devised and examines the actors responsible for its development, including Bill Clinton, Anthony Lake, Samuel Berger, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke. He examines the core components of the strategy (National Security, Prosperity Promotion and Democracy Promotion) and how they were implemented, revealing a hitherto unexplored continuity from campaign trail to the White House. Covering the entire duration of Clinton’s presidential odyssey, from his 1991 Announcement Speech to his final day in office, the book draws extensively on newly declassified primary materials and interviews by the author with key members of the Clinton administration to reveal for the first time the development and implementation of US Grand Strategy from deep within the West Wing of the Clinton White House.

Reviews

‘In Clinton’s Grand Strategy, James D. Boys provides a comprehensive and balanced assessment of America’s foreign policy by its first Post-Cold War president. He persuasively argues that President Clinton pursued a foreign policy that focused on “national security, prosperity promotion, and democracy promotion” and one that was more cohesive and strategic than some earlier analyses have suggested – albeit not always successful in implementation. Dr. Boys employs careful scholarship throughout, utilizes numerous interviews with key Clinton officials and critics to make his case, and writes in a clear and engaging style. In all, Clinton’s Grand Strategy is an important contribution and should prove to be a ready reference for understanding American foreign policy during a crucial decade.’

James M. McCormick,

Iowa State University, USA

‘Extending his earlier work, Dr. Boys provides a carefully-researched and well-argued analysis of the Clinton foreign policy, identifying a thoughtful and consistent grand strategy often overlooked by critics and commentators. Drawing on key documents and insightful interviews, Dr. Boys illuminates the strategic considerations that began in the 1992 presidential campaign and provides a window to understanding U.S. foreign policy in that unique period between the prolonged end of the Cold War and the now dominant and perhaps perpetual War on Terror.’

Stephen A. Smith,

Professor of Communication at the University of Arkansas, USA and former Executive Assistant to Governor Bill Clinton

About Bloomsbury

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.

 

Paralyse, Neutralise, Stigmatise: The Master Plan Behind the GOP’s Legal Pursuit of Obama

While not implementing what I this week christened his Half-Arsed Doctrine in key geographical regions such as Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, or dithering over the growing immigration crisis on America’s borders, President Obama has been busy tinkering with his signature legislative ‘achievement’, the Affordable Healthcare Act, better known as Obamacare. Passed with undue haste and a lack of legislative attention to detail (‘We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it’) as the Democrats’ narrow grasp on a Senate supermajority and a majority of any sort in the House evaporated, the bill has contributed to great ruptures in the American body politic.

Rather than passing a universal health care bill that garnered strong bi-partisan support, the manner in which the legislation was steamrollered through, and the specific elements of the provisions, ensured that the Act remains contentious. The bill’s opponents have attempted pretty much every legal manoeuvre possible to have it overturned, including a telling day in the highest court of the land, in which the administration was forced to concede that the measure was indeed a tax, having stressed all along that it was not. Such efforts formed part of the GOP’s master plan for Obama’s time in office: Ensuring he was a one-term president.

When the best efforts of Mitt Romney proved unequal to this task in 2012, Republicans were forced to come up with a new plan, one designed to ensure that this president has more than one historical distinguishing star by his name. Reaching back to the late 1990s, they devised a plan to derail his administration by legal means. Whereas their predecessors attempted to impeach a popular, populist Democratic Chief Executive, they now would seek to sue an increasingly unpopular and far from populist president for his excessive tinkering with legislation and his continuing efforts to bypass the Congress.

This is a move based on political calculation and a very specific reading of history. Republican leaders know that they do not have anything like the votes to impeach President Obama, even if they could agree upon what to charge him with and get the House of Representatives to approve such articles. 67 members of the Senate are simply not going to vote to remove Obama from office.

Yet removal from office is not the aspiration of the GOP. The bigger target is Hillary Clinton and the forthcoming election of 2016. Right now, the GOP simply does not have anyone who can beat her. With that being the case, a strategy appears to be one of decimating the incumbent to ensure that a case for continuity cannot be made at the next election. In this, a leaf is being taken from the GOP playbook of the late 1990s.

Think the impeachment of Bill Clinton failed? Think again. Who won the presidency in 2000? Republicans dreamt of impeaching Clinton throughout his presidency, but recognised that if this were to succeed they would hand the presidency to Al Gore, recognised as being a weak campaigner, but whose stature and chance of electoral success would be greatly enhanced by the incumbency.

Despite their best efforts, perhaps, the GOP therefore arrived at their perfect scenario when its efforts to impeach President Clinton failed to remove him from office: A humbled and contrite chief executive remained in office, while his deputy and would-be successor found it impossible to campaign as his heir for moral and political reasons. It can safely be acknowledged, that the final vote in Clinton’s impeachment came not in the Senate Chamber in 1999, but in the Supreme Court in December 2000.

Such a play is underway once more, and again, Republican efforts in regard to President Obama do not need to succeed to be successful. The plan is simple: paralyse, neutralise and stigmatize.

Paralyse

There are 27 months until the next presidential election in November 2016.   These are vital times for the president to establish his legacy. If he can achieve a lasting peace in a key global region, or enact meaningful legislation this would go a long way to relieving the sense of disappointment with his time in office. By paralysing his remaining time in office, his political opponents seek to prevent such a reappraisal from being possible. Paralysis of the president’s political activities and timetable would deny him the opportunity to focus upon and implement legacy projects and ensure that his presidency is lamented in history books, rather than lionised.

Neutralise

President Obama my be a lame duck, constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term in office, but that does not mean that the Republicans are guaranteed to win the White House in 2016. Indeed, their recent track record has been poor. Defeated in the elections of 2012 and 2008, narrowly securing victory in 2004, the benefactors of a highly contentious decision in 2000 having lost the popular vote and having lost in 1996 and 1992, the GOP national campaign strategy is in serious need of a new approach as its natural constituency gets older and whiter, as the nation gets younger and darker. The GOP cannot necessarily win by advancing policy, but it can neutralise any opponents, and the obvious target is Hillary Clinton. If the GOP can neutralise her candidacy by tying her to an administration and a president under legal review, either via impeachment or prosecution, the GOP may be able to secure victory by default, in a similar patter to 2000. All this before they need to raise the shadow of Benghazi, or whisper anything about the oft-reported continuing private antics of the former president.

stigmatize

Any legal process against Obama will form part of his presidential history. As was demonstrated in the 1990s, such initiatives need not succeed to be successful. The stigma of a presidency under legal review will prevent the Obama administration from pursuing a meaningful, place a democratic succession in jeopardy and further alienate the White House from local politicians in close races. All of which aids the GOP in its efforts to further undermine the Obama presidency both in the immediate and long-term, and in its efforts to secure electoral success in 2016.

Such initiatives are hardly the methods of governing that can be found in US Politics 101 classes or ones that anyone would necessarily want to be implemented to run a modern superpower. It is, however, the way of doing business in the 21st century. It is the inverse of Clausewitz’s famed remark about War being the continuation of politics by other means. As politics becomes the continuation of war by other means, there will be casualties on both sides; the risk, however, is that democracy itself becomes the ultimate victim.

JDB on Inside Egypt

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:

photo

The State of Obama’s Union: Not Great, and Getting Worse

If you are visiting (or hopefully following) this website, you will know that I have fond memories of the Clinton years, and am preparing to complete my first book on his adminstration. (Clinton’s Grand Strategy, available later in the year from Bloomsbury)

Back then, President Clinton routinely opened his annual address to Congress by intoning that ‘the State of our Union is Strong.’ Not a bad way to begin, both structurally and rhetorically. It set the tone and demonstrated mastery of the moment.  (Even when the wrong speech was fed into his Teleprompter). In other words, Clinton did everything that was missing from the 2014 State of the Union address.

President Obama’s speech was fascinating for many reasons. It was, perhaps, his best (some would say final) opportunity to breathe new life into an administration that appears to be rapidly running out of road and to put the disaster that was 2013 behind him. With the world watching and the nation gathered around television screens, computer terminals and perhaps even the odd tablet, the stage was set for Obama’s big moment. So much so that talk emerged of State of the Union fatigue! This, however, was Obama’s big night for his big reveal; what would he do with the remainder of his presidency? What initiatives would be unveiled that would doubtless prove instrumental in any legacy?

The answer, apparently, was not very much. When even Gary Younge is forced to concede thatObama’s union is in a state, it’s time to start packing…

Obama promised a year of action for 2014 but this appeared to be lacking in his speech. Instead of sweeping ideas and potential legislative initiates, the speech was full of small postures and restated positions. It is remarkable that a year into his second term the president had so little new to offer and raises the question as to why he ran for re-election if he has no tangible agenda to initiate over the next three years. He has served but a quarter of his second term, and yet specific policy initiatives were thin on the ground.

Instead of moving forward, Obama backtracked, and called out his opponents over their opposition to his healthcare plans. The White House is desperate to get on the front foot on this issue and move beyond the technical issues that have haunted the administration since its roll out. Such efforts will probably succeed as the technical glitches get sorted, but the initiative has taken a pounding as a result.

50 years on from Lyndon Johnson’s ambitious War on Poverty, the president who initially appeared to offer so much to elements of American society that had previously gone un-noticed, did little to breathe life into the corpse that is the Great Society. Much has been made of Obama’s pledge to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10, but this will have a limited impact since many federal workers already earn more than this. Neither will it be applied retrospectively and so will only have a limited impact at some point in the future. Republicans, naturally, have concerns that it could drive businesses to the wall.

Both sides are playing to their base in an election year. However, in the United States, every other year is an election year and every other year the country is anticipating an election. This, therefore, is a government far better suited for campaigning than for actual governing.

That being the case the president made a play for the female vote (traditionally Democrat) by highlighting the gender gap in pay and conditions and calling this an embarrassment. It should be highlighted, of course, that he has been president since January 2009, and so part of that embarrassment must be shouldered by his administration. This, remarkably enough, was not conceded.

Continuing in the election year mode, issues of immigration reform have become lost in the weeds and the president’s blustering efforts to address this issue are unlikely to help. A bi-partisan group was making interesting headway on this issue last year, until Obama stumbled in and insisted on stamping his own views on the process, which appears to have damned the initiative to failure.

There was little sign last night of a contrite chief executive, seeking the bi-partisan approach to policy that is necessary for success on Capitol Hill. Instead, Obama’s perceived presidential pomposity was exacerbated by his announcement of a willingness to act by Executive Authority in defiance of Congress, a stance that will do nothing to assist bi-partisanship for the remained of this time in office. It’s almost as though he wishes to fail in his legislative relations! For a former Constitutional lecturer, he appears to have a rather nuanced interpretation of the role of the president as defined by the Founders, who actively sought to avoid a leader capable of ruling by decree.

Three years from now the next President of the United States will be in office and Obama will presumably be home in Illinois. When he kicks back and watches the new president’s first address to Congress, he will be forced to concede (privately, of course) that his 2014 attempt to rescue his presidency failed to do so. With his opinion polls lower than many members of Congress, he remains a liability for Democrats heading into the midterms, an event that will effectively end the Obama presidency and fire the starting pistol for the 2016 presidential election to find his successor.  They, presumably, will have rather more initiatives to promote than the incumbent and greater personal and political skills with which to try and implement them. One can but hope.