On September 16-18 2013, The University of Warwick hosted the Globalisation and American Grand Strategy in a Time of Austerity Conference organized by Oz Hassan, who runs this blogs Transatlantic Interests Project. Over the three days the conference had 120 delegates from around the world, making it the largest US foreign policy focused conference in Europe. The conference was funded by the University of Warwick’s Institute for Advanced Studies, Warwick’s Politics and International Studies department, the US Embassy London, the ESRC, the Institute for the Study of the Americas, and BISA.
It began with an exclusive early career day where a number of high profile international guests exchanged feedback with MA, PhD and Post-Doctoral members about their work. This was followed by a master-class on US policymaking and the creation of the national economic council, delivered by Robert F. Wescott. Dr Wescott is the founder and President of Keybridge Research LLC in Washington D.C. From 1993-94 he was Chief Economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and from 1999-2001 he served as Special Assistant to the U.S. President for Economic Policy at the White House. As senior economic advisor to President Clinton, he helped to develop the Administration’s policies towards the G-7, other key emerging markets, and the international financial system.
The following day began with discussions about American Leadership, dealing with nuclear proliferation, the European relationship, issues of American exceptionalism, and the looming crisis in Syria. This was followed by discussions over whether America was in decline, and how this related to China’s rise. Evident from the panel was a sense that America should not be written off yet, and China is a potential super power, but isn’t there yet. The following roundtable picked up on these issues discussing the nature of globalization and American power. What became clear is that, unlike over the last five years, the prospects of America’s decline on the international stage are fading. It was agreed that America is less likely to want to act in the future, because of a wide range of issues, but America’s economic and military power is far from fading.
Ambassador John D. Negroponte then picked up these factors in his keynote speech, introduced by the Vice Chancellor Nigel Thrift. Ambassador Negroponte has been US ambassador to Honduras, Mexico, the Philippines, the United Nations and Iraq. He has served twice on the National Security Council staff, first as director for Vietnam in the Nixon Administration and then as deputy national security advisor under President Reagan. He has also held a cabinet level position as the first director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush. His most recent position in government was as deputy secretary of state, where he served as the State Department’s chief operating officer. In 2009 he began a part-time position at Yale University, as a distinguished senior research fellow in grand strategy and lecturer in international affairs. The ambassador provided a highly stimulating discussion and an invigorating question and answer session. He talked about how President Bush was miss sold intelligence that led to the Iraq War (which he believe Bush now regrets), and how the Bush administration believed oil was important – much more so than it actually is. If there was a slow intelligence day, then intelligence reports on oil would be given to VP Cheney to keep his office interested. In what was an open and candid talk, there were a lot of reveals about the way the intelligence community now works, and about the last few decades of American Foreign Policy. The evening was topped off by a speech by Liz Dibble the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in London. Delivering her speech in the Great Hall at Warwick Castle, she reminded the audience of the special relationship between the US and the UK, and the dangers that remain in the world – what’s more she was kind enough to go beyond the “standardised version” of such a speech and give real detail about the future of US policy.