Cover to Cover: P.J. Crowley

“Red Line: American Foreign Policy in a Time of Fractured Politics and Failing States”

As part of the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council and its membership, you are able to have the opportunity to listen monthly to excellent authors and/or business leaders through ‘Cover to Cover’ calls or webinars with the World Affairs Councils of America and Global Ties U.S.

In the month of December, Phillip J. “P.J.” Crowley spoke on a call about his new book “Red Line: American Foreign Policy in a Time of Fractured Politics and Failing States.”

Crowley is the former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and currently a Fellow at The George Washington University Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication and Contributor to the BBC.

Over the past quarter century, four consecutive American presidents—two Democrat, two Republican—have spent more time, diplomatic capital, and military resources on Iraq than any other country in the world. Much as the Vietnam syndrome cast a long shadow over American security policy in the decades after the end of the Vietnam War, Iraq provides the commanding narrative for this generation of American leaders. In this book, Crowley, one of America’s most insightful national security commentators, unpacks the legacy of American triumphs and failures in Iraq. He argues that presidents have fallen victim to the Iraq Syndrome—the disconnect between politics, policy, strategy, and narrative—that has hampered America’s foreign policy in the Middle East and hotspots throughout the world. In order to maintain America’s global leadership role, Crowley argues that the next president must realign American’s national security politics, policies, strategies, and narrative for the long term.

Red Line details how U.S. foreign policy has evolved over the decades examining in particular the Obama Administration’s greatest foreign policy success and failures. P.J. Crowley in this month’s Cover to Cover Call discusses the important role that Iraq has played in U.S. foreign policy in detail. Iraq has become the greatest foreign policy challenge for four consecutive American presidencies’ who have devoted more resources to this country than any other since the Vietnam War. Crowley notes that George W. Bush who had initially ran a more traditionally conservative foreign policy platform in his 2000 presidential campaign would see his foreign policy dictated by a post 9/11 world. George W. Bush after 9/11 would adopt a more interventionist stance and his foreign policy would draw a bridge between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by saying there would not be distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them. During the 2008 election Barack Obama was the only candidate that had not voted for the War in Iraq and this fact played a substantial role in helping him on his way to victory. However, in 2016 as political instability grips Iraq and threatens its survival it remains one of the Obama Administration’s foreign greatest policy shortcomings and virtually insures that “Iraq syndrome” will continue to cast a long shadow over U.S. foreign and domestic policy and challenge incoming administrations.

From his discussion of Iraq, Crowley expands into the area of U.S. foreign policy that gives his book its namesake, Syria. The title being a reference to the red line statement President Obama made regarding chemical weapons use by the Assad regime. Crowley notes that in the case of Syria, the U.S. has struggled with wanting to use U.S. power and influence to end the conflict, but has seen its efforts restricted by a lack of domestic support to use this influence outside of confronting the Islamic State group. Crowley highlights how the Obama administration has struggled with a balance of interests. Explaining that the U.S. struggles to articulate a strong interest in an outcome for the conflict when compared to other regional players like Russia or Iran who see the war as having much greater stakes for their countries and are in turn much more proactive and invested in the outcome of the conflict.

This complex web of relationships and tumultuous geo-political landscape will impact the incoming Trump Administration, specifically in its relationship with Russia. Crowley discussed with the World Affairs Council how previous presidential attempts to reset Russian relations have gone and if they can be used as an indicator to what a renewed “Russian reset” may look like. George W. Bush and Obama alike initially started with optimistic and ambitious foreign policy goals regarding Russia however were ultimately disillusioned. George W. Bush saw a deterioration in relations with the Russian invasion of Georgia as did Obama with the Russians involvement of conflicts in the Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea. The Trump Administration may very well find itself in similar circumstances as U.S.-Russian interests continue to lose the common ground where diplomatic solutions are possible.

P.J. Crowley’s discussion with the World Affairs Council highlights just a few of the pressing issues that he lends his decades of diplomatic insight to in his new book which is forthcoming. Red Line: American Foreign Policy in a Time of Fractured Politics and Failing States will be published in January of 2017 and is now available for preorder.

Written by James McManus, GCWAC Programs Associate

James McManus is a graduate student at Northern Kentucky University’s Master of Public Administration program with a focus in community development.

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