With the generous support of a Graduate Research Expenses Grant, I was able to complete a month-long research trip to the United States in direct support of my DPhil thesis in International Relations. The brief summary below outlines how I made use of the funds made available to me in a trip which significantly exceeded my expectations.
This research trip aimed to allow me to collect data for my DPhil project which examines the impact of electoral politics on American decision-making in war across three cases: the Vietnam War (1963-73), the Korean War (1950-53), and the Iraq War (2003-11).
The primary focus of this trip was on the third and most recent case. Since documents are not widely available in the public domain, interviews with former Bush/Obama administration officials were deemed essential for the project to be able to proceed. As can be seen from the below, the access I was able to gain hugely exceeded my expectations. Among the interviews I was able to complete were those with the Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and his deputy, with whom he maintained an extremely poor relationship, which was clear from my discussion!), the Former Deputy Secretary of State, and the former Commander of all US forces in Iraq. While in the U.S. I was able to use these interviews to gain further meetings through a ‘snowball’ technique. The subsequent interviews were with figures including Michele Flournoy (who recently turned down Trump’s offer to be Secretary of Defense but at the time was a leading figure in Obama’s Defense Department). I also have several subsequent phone interviews lined up with, for example, Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser (Tony Blinken) and a former Ambassador to Iraq (Jim Jeffrey). Moreover, while in the U.S., I was permitted access to the personal papers of two of the overall commanding generals in Iraq (Casey and Petraeus), which contained meeting minutes of key decision meetings with President Bush which I was previously convinced were not publicly available (even today they are only accessible with the donor’s consent, and I was told I was the first non-U.S. citizen to see them).
In addition to the Iraq case work, I was able to complete additional archival work in connection with my other two studies. At the Library of Congress, I was able to consult the papers of Averell Harriman (Lyndon Johnson’s lead negotiator in the Paris Peace Talks of 1968), Robert S. McNamara (Johnson’s first Secretary of Defense), Clark Clifford (LBJ’s second Secretary of Defense), and Hoyt Vandenburg (Chief of Staff of the Air Force during the Korean War). At the Douglas MacArthur archive in Norfolk, Virginia, I was able to consult the papers of the American general leading the UN forces in Korea (1950-51). In all cases I found valuable evidence to bolster my arguments. None of this material can be accessed remotely, so I was fortunate to be able to make the trip the see them first-hand.
As perhaps may be surmised even from this brief summary, I cannot express clearly enough how fortunate I consider myself to have been afforded the opportunity to complete this research trip. The material I am now combing through as a result of the trip will make an enormous difference to my research, and I hope to be able to use it to publish an article this year, in addition to (hopefully) turning the eventual thesis into a book in due course thereafter. Aside from the academic output and value of this trip, I must admit that this was one of the most memorable experiences I can recall having full stop. I remain immensely grateful to Merton College, the student support committee, and the donors who have made this grant available for making this all possible.
This is a detailed breakdown of the key activities I undertook while in the US. Interviews are listed with the interviewee underlined.
Week commencing 12 March 2018
Thursday 15, DC – Dr Colin Kahl (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Iraq and Afghanistan, 2008-2011)
Friday 16, VA – General George Casey (Commanding General, Multi-National Force – Iraq, 2004-07; Chief of Staff of the US Army 2007-11)
Week commencing 19 March 2018
Monday 19, Charlottesville, VA – Professor Philip Zelikow (Counselor to the Secretary of State 2005-07); Professor Philip Potter (UVA); Professor William Quandt (UVA)
Tuesday 20, Boston, MA – Major General William Rapp (Head of Commander’s Initiatives Group [Petraeus internal think tank], 2007)
Wednesday 21, Boston, MA – Ambassador Robert Loftis (Lead SOFA Negotiator, 2008)
Thursday 22, DC – General James Cartwright (Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 2007-11)
Friday 23, Carlisle, PA – Visit to US Army Historical Records Department at the US Army War College, inc. interview with Dr Conrad Crane (lead author of Counterinsurgency Field Manual (FM-24), 2006)
Week commencing 26 March 2018
Monday 26, DC - Library of Congress (Vandenburg, Clifford papers)
Tuesday 27, DC - Ambassador John Negroponte (Ambassador to the UN, 2001-04; Ambassador to Iraq 2004-05; Director of National Intelligence 2005-07; Deputy Secretary of State 2007-08; NSC Director for Vietnam 1971-72)
Wednesday 28, VA - Professor Stephen Biddle (Georgetown)
Thursday 29, DC - Admiral Mike Mullen (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 2007-11, Chair of Naval Operations 2006-07); Michele Flournoy (Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012)
Friday 30, DC – Library of Congress (Harriman, McNamara papers)
Week commencing 2 April 2018
Monday 2, DC - Ambassador Douglas Lute (J-3, Joint Staff, 2004-07; ‘War Czar’ 2007-09)
Tuesday 3 – Travel…
Wednesday 4 - Friday 6, Norfolk VA – MacArthur Archives
Week commencing 9 April 2018
Monday 9 - Tuesday 10 VA – National Defense University Library (for papers of Generals Casey and Petraeus)