Friday, December 28, 2012


"Barack Obama has nominated John Kerry to be the next US secretary of state, marking the first step in an overhaul of the president’s national security team for his second term. Mr Kerry, a Vietnam veteran and Massachusetts senator who was 120,000 votes in Ohio away from being president of the US in 2004, will succeed Hillary Clinton after what is expected to be a relatively trouble-free confirmation. The selection of Mr Kerry brings to the state department a politician who first won national attention in 1971 when he told the senate foreign relations committee that the war in Vietnam was a “mistake”. Mr Kerry later came to chair that same committee and has become the epitome of the country’s foreign policy establishment....Mr Kerry’s nomination was seen as inevitable when Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, withdrew her name from consideration last week after being criticised for comments she made about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. A Massachusetts senator since 1984, Mr Kerry’s nearly three decades on the senate foreign relations committee have allowed him to build up extensive relationships with foreign leaders, the sorts of contacts that Mr Obama sometimes lacks. Friends and former aides say he has long coveted the position of secretary of state. Mr Kerry has acted as an informal envoy for the administration – at sensitive moments in Afghanistan during the 2009 elections and in Pakistan after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He will take over at the state department at a time when the US faces complicated and dangerous challenges, from the nuclear programmes in North Korea and Iran to the civil war in Syria. Like Mr Hagel, Mr Kerry is considered to be cautious about the use of military force, which might make him more reluctant to advocate US intervention in places such as Syria than Ms Rice might have been. A former Senate aide said one of Mr Kerry’s core foreign policy beliefs was an idea that the US has “no permanent enemies”. Mr Kerry’s influence over policy will depend heavily on the sort of relationship that he has with the White House, which controlled a large part of the foreign policy agenda in Mr Obama’s first term. Although Mr Kerry was an early backer of Mr Obama’s presidential bid, he lacks the close personal relationship that Ms Rice enjoys with the president. However, that distance could allow."
Geoff Dyer,"Kerry nominated to replace Clinton." The Financial Times. 21 December 2012, in
"Lord Home is clearly a man who represents the old, governing class at its best and those who take a reasonably impartial view of English history know how good that can be. He is not ambitious in the sense of wanting to scheme for power although not foolish enough to resist honour when it comes to him. Had he been of another generation he would have been of the Grenadiers and the 1914 heroes. He gives that impression by a curious mixture of great courtesy, and even of yielding to pressure, with underlying rigidity on matters of principle".
Harold Macmillan, "Memorandum." 15 October 1963. The Independent. Originally published in "You Never Had it so Bad." 1st January 1995, in
In nominating John Forbes Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be the next American Secretary of State, the American President has no doubt done the state some service. While it would be an overstatement to opinion that Senator Kerry is the 'best candidate' for the position (probably the best 'candidate' for the position among members of the Democratic Party, would be former Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott perhaps), he is, given the overall situation well suited indeed to be the next holder of the office. It would be perhaps a bit of an exaggeration to say of Senator Kerry what the late Earl of Stockton, said about his successor as Prime Minister, the 14th Earl of Home in 1963. But not by much. Indeed it would be a truism, that Senator Kerry and Senator McCain represents two shades of an older American political tradition among its governing elites. Men for whom service to the state, in almost a Hegelian sense, was a higher order of duty than the mere quest to make money. Something which of course is now almost completely absent from the succeeding generations of American politicians. Viz: the current American President as well as President Clinton, not to speak of his wife, the current Secretary of State....The fact that we have avoided having the ultra-egregious Susan Rice as Secretary of State is in itself enough to thank Senator Kerry for accepting the position. Which is not to say that Senator Kerry is going to be a Bismarck or Metternich redivivus. Since of course the real chief diplomat in the current American Administration, nay almost any recent American Administration has always been the American Chief Executive. Whether or not Senator Kerry can change that calculus is at this point in time an imponderable proposition. We can only hope that someone with his known penchant for personal diplomacy, will be able to utilize his skills in negotiating the various sharp corners which American and indeed Western diplomacy has to deal with currently. In particular the crisis in Syria, the menace of the China in the Far East as well as the dangers of Persia acquiring nuclear weapons. Which is not to say that all or indeed any of these situations can merely be dealt with by 'pure diplomacy'. It is much more likely that a mixture of diplomacy and force, or the threat of force is the very best means of resolving these ongoing problems. It is reassuring though that someone of Senator Kerry's background and experience will be handling matters at the State Department in the next four years.

Monday, December 10, 2012


"The scholarly field embraced by this lively synthesis is busy, presently crossing into the 1970s, facilitated by arbitrary British and United States declassification schedules and the subsequent 'race to the archives'. The resultant source-bound redactions tend to privilege post-war British high official mentalities, which in turn has preserved the conceit of an 'Anglo-American Middle East'. Jeffrey R. Macris's book has this tendency, despite strong evidence, particularly economic and US ideological, that this idea was a naïve if not deluded British hope. Post-Second World War British elite overtures aimed at regenerating Britain's hegemony (with American help) were admittedly persistent. But they foundered, in all but contingent military respects, against steadfast American refusal to embrace full-scale political, economic, and regional system building, both in the Persian Gulf and the wider global periphery. Commander Macris's main aim is to seek instructive indications in British experience for future American methods of securing key Persian Gulf interests. But to put this beyond the realm of constructive anachronism demands recognition of why, essentially, British pre-eminence was so inimical to American overseas policy that, despite some Vietnam-era separation anxiety, it was cut loose in favor of prime security relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, whatever this may ultimately have entailed. In many respects, how and why the British empire worked is indeed instructive for American policy-makers, but mostly to show how, in a cautionary sense, redemptive self-projection abroad so easily metamorphoses into various forms of antagonistic encumbrance. Current meditations on the meanings of empire, from right and left, embrace a wide array of metropolitan, colonizer, subaltern, cultural, economic, ideological and geographic perspectives.1 Macris sticks to politics and security, which are but two relevant analytical themes, albeit in need of new thinking. These themes however are the ones most frequently dismissed in current post-colonial scholarship as reactionary and inauthentic to the processes experienced by the imperialized 'other', whose voices should be traced and included uppermost, if real understanding is to follow. The key to the American epiphany on the Persian Gulf, during the Second World War, is nonetheless opposition to Britain's plans for a comprehensive and radical integration of strategic hegemony with political, economic and social 'guided development. By 1971 the latter had evaporated for lack of the U.S. underwriting which Britain had solicited in various forms since the days of Lend Lease. American forms of influence were deliberately less formal than British. But by 1991, and again in 2003, these forms of influence nonetheless required armed intervention to sustain. Macris explores how, from the late eighteenth century until 1971, British dominance at limited liability might suggest a model for future United States engagement".</blockquote>
Simon Davis, "Review." H-Diplo. 26 November 2012 in
"I have a different aim. In investigating Anglo-American policies toward Europe in war and peace, my book is concerned with British efforts to influence the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. It discusses Britain's attempts to keep America involved in Continental affairs after war and eventually to assume the burden of Greece. Above all this study deals with an issue that is fundamental in understanding the origins of the cold war: the evolution of Anglo-American relations towards the Soviet Union from wartime cooperation to the Truman Doctrine".
Terry Anderson. The United States, Great Britain and the Cold War, 1944-1947. (1981), pp. viii-ix.
The two above quotations present to the innocent reader something in the nature of a puzzle as to how one can readily explain the recent evolution of the field of Diplomatic History. Specifically, how a once ultra-empirical and fact based field of knowledge has in a good many instances devolved into something akin to the intellectual equivalent of bad porridge. It would appear that the infamous 'linguistic turn' has reared its ugly head in the once quiet and scholarly genre of diplomatic history. A field of study which was not so many years ago, labeled (not entirely inaccurately) as the study of 'what one clerk said to another clerk'. As to a concrete answer as to 'why', my own surmise would be something along the following lines: i) the need to 'popular' (with one's fellow academics of course); ii) the need to display and or better yet, be seen to display so-called 'cutting edge' scholarship (we shall leave aside the fact that much of what passes as 'scholarship' which is currently characterized as 'cutting edge' is in fact little more than an intellectual form of self-abuse / self-gratification). In short, the field has been subverted by people (one is not entirely sure if one can class them 'historians') who au fond have little or no interest in the field of diplomatic history qua diplomatic history and a great deal of interest in being seeh as being very comme il faute. In the case of Dr. Simon Davis, it is rather clear that for him the field of Diplomatic History is merely a stepping stone to some sort of gauchist apotheosis. Since, teaching as he does at 'Bronx Community College', he can hardly expect his poor students to be able to follow his mental ruminations in the upper regions of what one may term for lack of a better way of phrasing it: 'hot air'. In short, we are face to face with that paradox of intellectual chicanery first identified by Lewis Carroll:
'Then you should say what you mean', the March Hare went on. 'I do,' Alice hastily replied 'at least---at least I mean what I say---that's the same thing, you know.' 'Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter, 'Why, you might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as I eat what I see!'