Simon Reich: Does it matter who wins the election when it comes to the Middle East?

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Elections, the perennial wisdom tells us, are generally not decided by foreign policy issues.

But who’s to say that 2016 will not buck the trend, as it has in so many other ways?

We are potentially only one Paris-style terrorist attack or a brazenly aggressive act by Russian President Putin from changing the mood and focus of the American electorate.

Indeed, Republican voters already consider terrorism their primary concern. And the never-ending, slow drip release of Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi emails is certain to return the spotlight to foreign policy.

So let’s take a look at how the candidates stack up in the most contentious region in the world: the Middle East.

Whom to compare – and why

Let’s look at the three major Republicans left in the race.

Donald Trump has actually said very little about foreign policy, especially about the Middle East.

In fact there are essentially few discernible differences between Trump’s position on the region and those of his main rivals, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

While Trump says little, Cruz’s position is one-dimensional. He would rely on brute force. Cruz has said he wants to “carpet bomb” the Islamic militants and find out whether “sand can glow in the dark.” But there isn’t much beyond that. Still, it is more than Trump has offered which is to “behead” the Islamic State, or ISIS, and steal their oil.

Rubio’s position is the most fleshed-out, probably because he has the most foreign policy expertise and has spent time working on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. Not surprisingly, therefore, he also offers the most comprehensive plan for dealing with ISIS, the central focus of his plans for the Middle East if elected.

Hillary Clinton, of course, has by far the most foreign policy experience of any candidate left in this year’s field – and arguably among the most of any in history.

First Lady, Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation: she has a unique resume.

Two different world views

So how do Clinton and the Republicans compare when it comes to American policy the Middle East?

President Obama has often, I believe unfairly, been accused of having no grand strategy at all, let alone one for the region.

The consensus among American policymakers is that there are are four enduring interests for the U.S. in the Middle East: oil, regime change, terrorism and the protection of its allies (always Israel and, more variably, Saudi Arabia).

Then there are also always a series of proximate issues that dominate the press – like Iran’s nuclear program or ISIS’ conquests.

The differences between these candidates are which they prioritize, and how they approach them.

Clinton’s liberal internationalism

Clinton’s approach to strategy in most of these areas relies on what policymakers and academics generally label a liberal internationalist approach, one that employs what they call “smart power.”

This approach relies on a combination of tools – diplomatic, economic, military, political, technological and cultural – in the pursuit of foreign policy.

Secretary of State Clinton speaks on Middle East policy in 2010 Jose Luis Magaua/Reuters

Secretary of State Clinton speaks on Middle East policy in 2010
Jose Luis Magaua/Reuters

Clinton has explicitly written and talked about smart power. She used this approach in Libya in 2011 when the goal was regime change
and would employ the same cocktail: for example, to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS. But while she favors a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Syria, she eschews the idea of American forces entering a Middle Eastern ground war at this point.

So, right or wrong, she appears to have learned some lessons from the Iraq debacle and the shorter Libyan intervention.

All presidential candidates talk about the essential role the U.S. plays as a “leader.” But, when they use that word, they don’t always mean the same thing.

Generally, Clinton favors the kind of influential multilateral approach to leadership adopted by the Obama administration in the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. There it saw itself as a “first among equals”: that is, a member of a group who is officially on the same level as the other members but who has more responsibility or power.

In practice, that means that the U.S. sets the agenda and largely defines the approach to problem, even as it seeks and acts on the basis of consensus.

It also means that its policymakers anticipate the need to compromise. John Kerry epitomized that approach in the exhaustive negotiations with the Iranians.

The Republican primacist view of the world

The Republicans all rely on a very different set of principles in defining their general strategy.

It is one that policy wonks and academics label “primacist.” A primacist approach relies much more on military power than Clinton’s more balanced elixir when it comes to foreign policy.

Cruz, for example, simply wants to destroy what he calls “radical Islam” from the air through carpet-bombing.

Rubio’s view is more developed. His view of leadership entails a rhetorical reference to multilateral coalitions. But still, like Cruz or Trump, he has a far greater willingness to act unilaterally without regard to the concerns of organizations such as the United Nations.

Senator Rubio at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (with Senator John McCain in the background). Larry Downing/Reuters

Senator Rubio at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (with Senator John McCain in the background).
Larry Downing/Reuters

So it isn’t surprising that Rubio’s stump speech includes lots of references to rebuilding and modernizing the military in the face of what he characterizes as “devastating” recent defense cuts. Indeed, Trump has said it would be his first order of business if elected president.

Of course, America’s military power is unprecedented. And the danger of a primacist approach is that policy makers see the use of force as a first option rather than a last one in resolving every problem. Indeed, it recalls the adage that “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Obama tried to construct a national security strategy that conserves American power. Clinton advocates much the same. But the Republicans’ philosophy is based on the belief that the aggressive use of American power will only make it more powerful.

So it isn’t surprising that Rubio’s plan to defeat ISIS includes a ground war. Or that all the Republicans are staunch advocates of intervention against countries like Iran and say they would tear up the agreement with the Iranians (and indeed roll back any agreement with Cuba if elected.)

Unlike Clinton, Rubio, for example, would aggressively support regime changes in both countries. The Republicans reject what Obama characterizes as “strategic patience” an approach that emphasizes the importance of awaiting changes to slowly unfold in both countries.

Similarities – yes, there are some

Nevertheless, there are some areas where Clinton and the Republicans would likely enforce similar policies.

These are areas where every president, including Obama, have been remarkably consistent. The U.S. Navy, for example, protects freedom of navigation in the Straits of Hormuz off Iran’s coast. Their goal is to ensure that world markets are not roiled by a sudden shortage of Middle Eastern oil caused by sabotage of tankers passing through this narrow waterway.

And they’d all maintain a close alliance relationship with Israel, although – based on their rhetoric – the Republicans would be exceptionally uncritical.

Clinton, for her part, has consistently supported Israel and has links to America’s Jewish community that can be traced back decades. But her support of the Iran deal has cast a doubt in the minds of some of Israel’s supporters as to her fidelity when it matters the most.

So what should we conclude?

At the end of the day, the policy differences between Clinton and the leading Republicans are occasionally stark. At other times, however, they are unclear.

If we are to believe what they say (which is always an issue in any election season), then the chances of America entering a new ground war in the Middle East will significantly increase under a Republican president. Their style would be more forceful as they rely more on American military power as an instrument of change.

Clinton’s style and tone would differ. Looking at the success of the Iran agreement, she might be tempted to rely more on multilateral diplomacy as a first option and force as a last – even if it means negotiating with people she doesn’t like.

Then again, despite her impressive resume, Clinton might feel that she has to demonstrate some resolve, as America’s first female president, to address any lingering doubts. And in the Middle East there is no way of knowing where that will lead.

One thing is certain: whoever becomes president, there is no way that America will relinquish its continued obsession with the region.The Conversation

Simon Reichgood-bye hegemony reich jacket, Professor in The Division of Global Affairs and The Department of Political Science, Rutgers University NewarkHis most recent book is Good-Bye Hegemony! Power and Influence in the Global System.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The decline of American growth is no local matter

GordonRobert J. Gordon‘s The Rise and Fall of American Growth may focus on an American economic phenomenon, but the book has grown into a major force internationally since becoming a New York Times Best-Seller this week. Gordon uses past economic revolutions to analyze whether economic growth could possibly continue at the exponential rate at which it exploded in the past. The book is at once a tribute to a century of radical change and a harbinger of tougher times to come. Its message has universal implications that have captivated people across the world.

In France, Le Monde interviewed Gordon and noted that his analysis of the economy could stand for any industrialized country, not just the United States. Gordon speaks here about how the golden age of growth is in the world’s past. Today’s innovations fit into a comparatively small percentage of the overall products used and produced, so any economic change that may occur will be exceptionally slow.

Over in Holland, NRC Handelsblad refers to how unique The Rise and Fall of American Growth is in its stance against the popular opinion that today, progress is moving at a faster rate than ever before.

The Financial Times reports that “As an economic historian, Gordon is beyond reproach”. Looking to the future, Gordon also leaves room in his argument for inventions that haven’t quite reached the market yet. And yet he warns that creations like robots and driverless cars will not lead to any great leap forward in economic progress. Read more in the article to to see Gordon’s argument for the pervasiveness of the stagnation of the economy.

Prospect Magazine calls the book “an extraordinary work of economic scholarship”. Complete with compelling charts, the article explicates the economic issues and facts as presented in The Rise and Fall of American Growth, supported by Lawrence Summers’ personal experiences growing up after the economic turn.

Robert J. Gordon is the Stanley G. Harris Professor in the Social Sciences at Northwestern University. His books include Productivity Growth, Inflation, and Unemployment and Macroeconomics. Gordon was included in the 2013 Bloomberg list of the nation’s most influential thinkers. His most recent book is the New York Times Best-Seller The Rise and Fall of American Growth.

 

#TheDress: Consulting the experts on color

White and gold or blue and black are the questions that have been taking the world by storm. For those who managed to miss it, #TheDress is a picture that has been floating around the Internet. Some say it’s white and gold, while others swear by black and blue. Others have even switched their allegiances. Amazingly, one dress has sparked a huge debate over color and how humans perceive it.

Neuroscientists have started to chime in on the discussion with scientific evidence. If you are curious about neuroscience perhaps want to provide some concrete reasoning for your color choice, or would like to read more on the social history of color, check out these two books:


 

bookjacket Colour:
Why the World Isn’t Grey
Hazel Rossotti

 

bookjacket Black:
The History of a Color
Michel Pastoureau

 

PUP News of the World

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Attention all book lovers! From now on, every week we will be posting a round-up of all of our most exciting national AND international reviews/interviews/events/etc. that took place in the last week. Why? Because we love to see our books reaching so many people all around the world, and we think you’ll like it too.


The Confidence TrapOur top title this week with six articles, a podcast and an event is… The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present by David Runciman!
Runciman had an interview with Prospect, a review in The Guardian where they call The Confidence Trap ‘…a lucid, wholly original book..’, and  op-eds from both The Guardian and The Chronicle, in which he discusses the current state of our democratic system (which isn’t looking too great). He does the same in a podcast with The Guardian. Plus, The Australian calls the book “[r]efreshingly free of received and rehearsed wisdoms,” while New Statesman says that “[Runciman’s]work is in the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, perhaps the greatest book ever written about democracy, and of James Bryce, whose American Commonwealth, an attempt at a sequel to de Tocqueville’s work, Runciman rightly rescues from oblivion.” Want more? Check out this audio clip of  Runciman’s full interview with the RSA.


Next on our list is The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland by Richard Crossley & Dominic Couzens. They received some love in a review from RSPB Nature’s Home blog, who said “I was delighted to see that the Crossley guide to UK birds lived up to my expectations”, while the Aussie Birding blog gives it a thumbs up for simplifying the bird identification process.


Our other bird title, The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, received praise from The Urban Birder, who said, “This book is certainly worthy of a place on anyone’s heaving book shelf. It is refreshing, stunningly illustrated and importantly, educational. If you want to get to grips with North America’s Warblers, you will need to tightly grip The Warbler Guide!”


Would You Kill the Fat Man? The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us about Right and Wrong by David Edmonds was called “[J]aunty, lucid and concise” by the New York Times Book Review this week, while Edmonds himself took the time to participate in a podcast with Rabbi Jeffrey Saks on WebYeshiva.


The Bleeding Heart Libertarians called Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change by Edmund Phelps, “wide-ranging and highly eclectic” and “both illuminating and thought-provoking” on their blog.


The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality by Angus Deaton received some praise from Prospect when they said “The Great Escape is a thoughtful work, extensively illustrated with data, from a distinguished economist who tackles a central controversy of our time in a style refreshingly free of ideological baggage”, while Deaton also did a podcast with Russ Roberts to talk about our standard of living and The Great Escape. The interview was then discussed on another popular economics blog, Café Hayek.


Prospect reviewed The Book of Job: A Biography by Mark Larrimore and said that “Larrimore is particularly good at helping us understand ancient and medieval readings of Job.”


On a similarly short note, The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order by Benn Steil was reviewed by the London Review of Books.


McCallSmith_AudenWhat W. H. Auden Can Do for You by Alexander McCall Smith had a good week. A review from Spectator called it a “kindly, avuncular, contemplative opusculum” and an “earnest, unpretentious, endearing rumination”, which is a lot of fancy words for ‘this book rocks!’ A review from Scotsman claims “The book is written in the voice we have come to know from McCall Smith’s fiction: calm, reassuring, able to disentangle complicated ideas and emotions and to express them in ways we recognise and understand as our own. To those with a passing interest in Auden it will provide affirming delight.” Lastly, the Irish Times reviewed this title as well expressing particular interest in the passages about Auden’s poetry.


Art and the Second World War by Monica Bohm-Duchen was reviewed in Publishers Weekly in which they said “In this well-researched, clear-eyed assessment of art’s relationship to the war that ‘has left the darkest and most indelible mark on modern society,’ Bohm-Duchen (After Auschwitz) presents a sobering overview of the official and nonofficial fine art produced in warring nations…[T]he book is particularly impressive for the obscure work it covers…Bohm-Duchen punctuates the narrative with astute insights… Brimming with chilling full-color images, this handsome volume reaffirms the importance of WWII in relation to the fine arts.” Quite the compliment!


 On a racier note, our last installment of The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei (Volume Five: The Dissolution), translated by David Tod Roy, was recently reviewed by The New York Times, in which they say that, aside from its erotic nature, this book is also “the first long Chinese narrative to focus not on mythical heroes or military adventures, but on ordinary people and everyday life, chronicled down to the minutest details of food, clothing, household customs, medicine, games and funeral rites, with exact prices given for just about everything, including the favor of bribe-hungry officials up and down the hierarchy.”


Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America by Christopher S. Parker & Matt A. Barreto drew some attention this week in an article by Newsmax about racism in Washington D.C. against Obama, even after he’s spent almost eight years in office.


Another of our more political titles, The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It by Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig had some international intrigue this week when Admati traveled to Amsterdam and was interviewed by three major papers there: De Telegraaf, NRC Handelsblad and Het Financieele Dagblad.


 William Helmreich had some attention this week for his book, The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City, in an interview with CUNY TV. He also has an event coming up next week that you can learn about here.


James Kingsland from The Guardian took notice of Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life by Enrico Coen, saying “Coen’s intellectual honesty is commendable.”


Kenneth T. MacLeish’s book, Making War at Fort Hood: Life and Uncertainty in a Military Community was interviewed by New Books in Anthropology. The link for the full interview can be found on the bottom left corner of the page.


John Sides, co-author of  The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election with Lynn Vavreck, recently participated in a roundtable discussion on MSNBC about ‘potential turning points in the race for the White House.’


COMING SOON: An interactive map of the world where you can check out all of our reviews from multiple countries and continents, sorted by publication.