Report on PHN Symposium

Report on PHN Symposium

US National Security in the Early Cold War and Early Post-Cold War

The Presidential History Network hosted a lively and well-attended symposium at UCL’s Institute of the Americas on 27 March.  The first session explored The CIA in the Early Cold War. Steve Long (Canterbury Christchurch)  in his presentation offered a fascinating insight into a seemingly obscure effort to overthrow the communist regime of Enver Hoxha in Albania in the early 1950s.  He argued persuasively, however, that this was intended as a ‘clinical test’ of the capacity of covert operations to overthrow a communist system, one the agency failed with significant consequences for its Cold War role in Europe.  Hugh Wilford (CSU Long Beach) followed this with an equally insightful account of how the CIA drew legitimacy from the prevailing politics and culture of early postwar America.  His provocative but ultimately persuasive argument depicted the agency as an international offshoot of the New Deal that enjoyed liberal support until the 1960s.

In the second session devoted to presidential foreign policy in the early post-Cold war period, James Boys (Richmond) made a presentation based on his new monograph, Clinton’s Grand Strategy: US Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War World (Bloomsbury 2015).  This was a riveting session in which James articulated the nature of Clinton’s grant strategy as a coherent effort to address America’s security needs, economic interests and democracy promotion in the 1990s. This excellent talk covered the personnel, policy process, and principles of US foreign policy when adjusting to new international conditions and established its links with the concerns of twenty-first century administrations.

The PHN thanks the speakers for their fluent presentations, engaging arguments, and enlightening ideas.

It invites any member to discuss symposium or conference proposals to be hosted by their home institutions next academic year. Please contact Michael Cullinane ( The success of our first conference at the University of Northumbria and our first symposium at UCL suggests that there is considerable interest for further explorations of the US presidency through conference or symposium formats.  We look forward to hearing ideas of how to take things forward.


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