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Anglo-American Relations and the 'Intermestic', 1977-81: A Case Study of the Influence of National Parliaments on Foreign Policy

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - INTERMESTIC (Anglo-American Relations and the 'Intermestic', 1977-81: A Case Study of the Influence of National Parliaments on Foreign Policy)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2018-02-01 al 2019-01-31

This project is designed to measure the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy in the United States and Great Britain, and on the bilateral relationship. It analyses the role of national parliaments in shaping external decisions, and demonstrates how interest groups, partisan politics and electoral strategizing influence foreign policy. The ‘transnational turn’ in history has produced some excellent international studies, expanding our knowledge of how actors, state and non-state, influenced the Cold War. Yet lost in the discourse, amid the global tide, has been the role of domestic politics. Increasingly, politics and policy are treated as separate entities, with little apparent interaction. The result is a distorted portrayal of the context in which decisions were reached. Studies which privilege the foreign over the domestic run the risk of becoming ahistorical, by granting greater importance to various overseas actors than they in fact warrant. Too much agency becomes assigned to international circumstances, without a corresponding examination of domestic forces, and the parameters they set for foreign policy. What is lost, as Fredrik Logevall (Harvard) argues, is the ‘intermestic’ dimension of policy, where the international and domestic agendas become entwined. This project analyses international-domestic nexus during the late Cold War, and explains how it shaped external policy.

My research covers an era in which the executive-legislative relationship was transformed. The 1970s saw the rising influence of pressure groups and parliaments, which restricted the executive’s room for manoeuvre. The project shows how domestic variables influenced the foreign policymaking process, and how decisionmakers attempted to reconcile strategy overseas with the quest to attain political legitimacy at home. Case studies include the policy shifts by Carter and Reagan towards the Soviet Union (in 1980 and 1984); the nuclear weapons debates in Britain and America (which spanned elections in both nations); and the role of the British Parliament in the Falklands dispute.

My work examines the impact of parliamentarians, and how the legislative and executive branches cooperate, and dissent, on policy. It demonstrates how the more ‘base’ domestic variables can determine policy positions and impact bilateral relations. The international-domestic nexus is at the forefront of politics today. With the recent rise in populism, partisan politics, and the 'nation-state', the key themes of my project are applicable to current affairs. National parliaments have been increasingly assertive in the shaping of foreign policy (e.g. the Brexit debate; military involvement in Syria; sanctions against Russia). In an era of populist movements, illiberal democracies, and extreme partisanship, my work can teach us about the importance of mutual compromise, flexibility, and help us to understand the vital functions of parliamentary democracies, such as the importance of a system which provides ‘checks and balances’ on the power of the executive branch.
I conducted archival research throughout the United States and Great Britain. I mined the archives at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library (Atlanta), the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (Simi Valley), the Tip O’Neill papers (Boston College), the James Baker papers (Princeton University), and special collections at the U.S. Library of Congress. I conducted research at the UK National Archives, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University for the Conservative Party Archives, and the Labour Party Archives in Manchester. I have also interviewed veteran political figures from both nations. This provided me with the scholarly apparatus to write my studies, in the form of a monograph and journal articles.

At Cornell and Harvard University, I undertook training and audited courses to gain expertise in U.S. history and politics. I discussed my research at conferences, participated in workshops and seminars, while working on a book manuscript and journal articles. I have also networked extensively, and made valuable connections with figures in the academic, diplomatic, and policymaking sectors on both sides of the Atlantic. In sum, the fellowship has greatly enhanced my professional development and career prospects. At the University of Nottingham I gained valuable teaching experience by delivering lectures in the classroom as part of a undergraduate course on U.S. foreign policy.

The primary output will be a book with Cambridge University Press – subject to satisfactory revisions to the manuscript based on the recommendations of the peer reviewers. The book charts the rise and fall of the Second Cold War (circa 1979-85) through the lens of the international-domestic nexus. It integrates discussion of domestic politics into an interpretative framework which also gives attention to strategy, geopolitics, and ideology in explaining foreign policy. To lend further contemporary relevance to my project, I wrote an article entitled ‘Brexit, the Falklands, and Intermestic Politics’ for British Politics Review, a quarterly journal organised by leading academics at the University of Oslo. Together with scholars from across Europe, I contributed to a special issue focusing on ‘Britain’s Overseas Territories: Post-Imperial Dilemma’s’. We examined the prospects for these distant territories in the context of ‘Brexit’. I am also re-writing an article titled 'Congress, Parliament, and the Nuclear Weapons Debates, 1981-84' for submission to a leading academic journal. This will shed light on how Members of Congress/MPs from major parties became central to the (anti/pro) nuclear movements in Great Britain and the United States. It examines the nuclear debates in the context of the Cold War, and the domestic-political events: the 1983 British General Election, the mid-term Congressional elections of 1982, and the 1984 U.S. Presidential Election.
My project explains how decisionmakers weigh up domestic and international factors when forming policy. It demonstrates the ways in which domestic variables (parliaments, lobby groups, party politics, and electoral strategizing) shaped key bilateral relationships (e.g. U.S.-UK relations, U.S.-Soviet relations). Applied history can help us to see patterns, and teach us how to think carefully about the use and misuse of precedents, analogies, and past mistakes. In an age of polarised opinion and partisan politics, it can teach us about past instances of flexibility, about the mutual compromise on which domestic and international agreements are brokered, and conflicts resolved.

With ongoing debates about greater EU cohesion, regional security, and the transatlantic alliance, the intermestic dimension continues to be of great significance. Precisely what role should a national parliament have in the formulation or oversight of foreign policy? In what circumstances should MPs have the right to challenge or veto major legislation affecting foreign affairs (e.g. military intervention)? Given the current political climate (e.g. Brexit, terrorism, elections, populism) is there scope for closer pan-European parliamentary collaboration? On transatlantic relations – can European parliamentarians develop a mutually beneficial relationship with leading Congressional figures in Washington? Are the regulations governing the behaviour of parliamentarians and special interests sufficiently strong?