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The W&Y Book Review – Clinton’s Grand Strategy

Clinton’s Grand Strategy by James D. Boys
Bloomsbury 2015


Many of us remember the Clinton years for having a rock star President who was involved in all sorts of adventures in Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, other foreign climes, and of course in the relative privacy of the Oval Office.

But readers of Professor Boys’ new book will search in vain for references to cigars and ‘that woman’ Monica Lewinsky.

This is a serious book for the serious reader looking only at the Clinton administration’s foreign policy and asking if it had a ‘grand strategy’.

The author suggests that the current academic view of the Clinton years was that they were the gap between the end of the cold War and Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’, and the re-introduction of history ushered in by 9/11 and therefore there is little to study. This view is, he writes, “fundamentally flawed” and the book seeks to redress the balance.

Boys argues that the Clinton era helped shape the post cold war world, managed the emergence of China, and was the only force capable of bringing to an end the Balkan Wars.

The strategy was based on creating a solid economy, being trusted with the security of the nation, and reducing global tension while standing up for democracy.

Boys draws on primary material throughout, going over policy documents and speeches starting back in Little Rock, Arkansas and the making of the future President.

He reminds us that it was Team Clinton that coined the phrase ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ which helped propel them all to the White House.

Readers of a certain age are reminded of the names we knew so well at the time as Boys details how Clinton put his administration together: Warren Christopher, Sandy Berger, Anthony Lake, Nancy Soderbergh and others arrive at a brisk pace and begin the long slog of a two term Presidency.

The eight years are punctuated by Somalia (Black Hawk Down) Iraq (No fly zone) Bosnia, tensions with North Korea, and the dramatic events in Serbia and Kosovo in 1999.

His conclusion? That due to Clinton’s lack of foreign policy experience when running for the top job ‘it looks increasingly likely that Clinton was elected at the only time in his life when it was theoretically possible’. However a strategy did develop and it was “A strategy grand enough for the times’.

‘Clinton’s Grand Strategy’ is not competing in a crowded market, which is precisely why it was written. It is a comprehensive, well researched, and necessary addition to our understanding of the Clinton years.


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