Reviews of published work
On Barack Obama's Post-American Foreign Policy: The Limits of Engagement (Bloomsbury, 2012)
- Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy, the Brookings Institution, and author of The World America Made: 'Dr. Singh's critique of Obama's foreign policy is sober, balanced, scholarly, and engagingly written. At a time when assessments of the Obama administration in the U.S. are colored by partisanship, perhaps it takes a keen foreign observer to provide some genuine insight.'
Professor Colin Dueck (George Mason University, Washington DC): 'Outstanding. This is the single best book to grasp and assess the international priorities and overall foreign policy record of the Obama administration. Rather than simply taking for granted the superiority of the president's distinctive foreign policy approach, Singh subjects it to a genuinely sophisticated, nuanced, and critical analysis. He finds that Obama has transformed US foreign policy much less than might have been expected, and that an emphasis on diplomatic engagement has run up against its own limitations. Systematic, intelligent, and thoroughly convincing.'
Professor Michael Cox (Co-Director IDEAS, London School of Economics and Political Science): 'Rob Singh has once more thrown the proverbial cat amongst the liberal, and indeed even some conservative, pigeons in his stimulating new book on Obama's foreign policy. His carefully argued thesis - that Obama is seeking to do the impossible by trying to manage American decline while preserving US primacy - is certainly a challenging and original one that will hopefully generate for once a serious open debate about the future of world order in what some are now prematurely calling a post-American world. Another original contribution from one of the great contrarians of the US foreign policy community.'
Professor Robert J. Lieber (Georgetown University): 'An incisive, lucid, and original work. Robert Singh deftly rebuts the conventional wisdom, avoids the platitudes that so often afflict treatments of the subject, and identifies surprising continuities with the Bush era. This is the best book yet written on the Obama foreign policy.'
Gary J. Schmitt (Co-director, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, American Enterprise Institute): 'Good books make you think anew your own assumptions—and Rob Singh’s Barack Obama’s Post-American Foreign Policy does that in spades. A scholar of American statecraft but not a partisan to its execution, Professor Singh offers a rich, sometimes biting but always judicious, account of how the realities of the world and American politics have pulled and pushed the Obama administration into following its predecessor’s policies far more than its political opponents, the world, or even Mr. Obama himself ever expected.'
Thomas Donnelly, Co-Director, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, American Enterprise institute, USA: 'Rob Singh has two big things exactly right: Barack Obama's hope to transform American foreign policy is truly audacious, but his struggle against past American strategic culture and habits of international leadership is, at best, incomplete. And he offers not just an analysis of the story to date, but a way to understand what a second Obama term would mean.'
Dr Timothy J. Lynch (editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History, Senior Lecturer, University of Melbourne): 'Singh has done the debate over the Obama presidency a great and necessary service. He has managed to depoliticise the assessment of one of the most polarizing presidents of the recent past and offer a preliminary judgement which, whilst critical, is devoid of the rancour and eulogising that accompany contemporary Obama studies. I can think of no book that "gets" Obama in the manner Singh does here. Singh’s ability to place Obama within the historical context of American foreign policy is one almost entirely lacking in the debate about his presidency. This book is a seminal accounting of what promised to be a transformative international agenda and yet became a misunderstood reworking of the Bush Doctrine. You don’t have to like this interpretation; you do have to deal with it. This book is required reading for everyone – American and non-American – that in 2008 invested the Obama presidency with too much hope or too much cynicism. Singh avoids the delusions of both and offers a portrait of a foreign policy that is compelling, critical and historically-informed. This study will endure long after the Obama eulogies and denunciations have faded.'
Professor Rory Miller (Director of Middle East & Mediterranean Studies, King’s College London). 'It seems only fitting that Rob Singh, the co-author of the prescient and groundbreaking After Bush now focuses his considerable expertise on President Obama’s foreign policy. The result is a highly informative, thought provoking and important work that challenges much of what passes for conventional wisdom on the subject. That he has done so in a reader-friendly and easily accessible way makes it a must read for all those interested in contemporary international affairs.'
Dr James D. Boys (Richmond University, UK): 'In his latest work on US foreign policy, Rob Singh continues his expose of current deployments and dilemmas and offers a tour d'force of Obama's world. Covering a wide swath of issues, Singh presents a well-rounded expose of the strengths and weaknesses of Obama's foreign escapades, ensuring this is a must-read for anyone seeking to comprehend the direction of US foreign policy in the post-Bush years.'
On After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy (with Timothy J. Lynch), (CUP, 2008)
- Professor John Dumbrell (University of Durham), delivering the address on the award of the Richard E. Neustadt Prize: "This book is distinguished by the brilliance and sheer élan of its argumentation. The book’s subtitle, ‘The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy’, captures its most important argument. The book is not a simple and blanket defence of the Bush foreign policy. The writers enumerate the mistakes made by the administration in Iraq: insufficient troops, the failure to manage an effective political transition away from Baathism, the failure to secure international support for nation-building, and the failure to win enduring popular support – whether in the US, among the allies, or in Iraq itself. Rather, Lynch and Singh applaud the ‘clear objectives’ of the War on Terror: securing of the homeland, destroying ‘terrorist sanctuaries abroad by removing their root cause – non-democratic governance’; and encouraging a ‘coalition of states in these efforts’ (p. 114). These objectives are held to be firmly in the mainstream of the historical development of American foreign policy, and as likely to persist as firm commitments for future presidents. The book combines excellent scholarship with vigorous polemic. Here is Lynch and Singh concluding their ‘case for continuity’: ‘despite the hopes of the liberal left and the predictions of realists, there is not a single mainstream US politician who would choose the constraints of multipolarity over the freedom of US primacy. It is inconceivable that a presidential candidate who seeks a permission slip to act on behalf of American security could win the White House...The freedom of action Bush enjoyed, which included the freedom to botch disastrously in the aftermath of the Iraq War, is one none of his successors will sacrifice’ (p. 294). This is fine, engaged and finely argued, political writing. Few European scholars will agree with all the arguments made by Lynch and Singh. In terms of the European academic and journalistic discourse of the first decade of the 21st century, this book - from its defence of the Bush Doctrine to its support for John Yoo’s expansive reading of the Commander-in-Chief powers – is about as unfashionable as it is possible to imagine. However, its impact has been huge. Although this was not a prime consideration of the judging panel, After Bush has probably had a wider transatlantic impact than any book produced by an American Politics Group academic in recent years. As a major contributor to the public debate at the end of the Bush presidency, the book’s impact will endure. Richard Neustadt would certainly not have approved the conclusions of After Bush. Nevertheless, he would, I am sure, have appreciated its qualities of intensely engaged, scholarly and incisive political argument."
John Binkley (University of Maryland), Parameters (Spring 2009): 'In spite of criticisms of this book, I do recommend After Bush to those involved in political, military, and foreign policy decision-making. The issue of whether to continue the Bush Administration’s policies is going to be central to American foreign policy for years to come, and Lynch and Singh make arguments that cannot be ignored. Moreover, the authors are correct that the George W. Bush Administration has forced subsequent administrations to focus on the Middle East. My caveat to this book is that it must be carefully read. This is a very sophisticated book. The authors’ arguments have an internal consistency and logic that are very enticing. A casual reading of this book can easily lead the reader to accept, uncritically, all of the authors' contentions.'
Colonel Joseph J. McCue , Strategic Studies Quarterly, Summer 2009: 'Overall, these scholars offer a well-written book that clearly states the reasons why their thesis may hold true in the near future. Consequently, this book is useful for Americans wanting to digest the current state of affairs of foreign policy development with an eye towards what may be in store for the country. Yes, I would fully recommend this book for our Air Force audiences. It is well researched, documented, and skilfully written...If the thesis of these writers proves true, then perhaps in future years when a new historical appreciation of President Bush's contribution to our security is made, a greater appreciation of his foreign policy my be forthcoming than he now enjoys and, then again, perhaps not. The potential resolution of that paradox is part of the worth that each reader may find from reading this book.'
- Jean Schindler, Democracy and Society 7 (1) 2010: 'It is still too early in the Obama administration to offer more than a tentative assessment of its policies in light of this book's arguments...But no matter how the current administration's policies develop, After Bush is worth reading. Lynch and Singh make a vigorous case for promoting stable regimes that are not only firendly to the US, but friendly to US political values. The national debate on the nature of US involvement in the world is far from over, and while the neoconservative view is out of style now, it may not be out forever.'
- Joshua Muravchik, Commentary, November 2008: 'To critics and decriers of the Bush doctrine, two well-versed scholars have forcefully posed the question: if not this, then what? In doing so, they have provided a most welcome tonic to the shrill election-year demagogy that has filled the American air.'
- Darren Wheeler (Dept of Political Science and Public Administration, University of North Florida): 'It lays out a provocative, compelling case for the authors’ positions without much of the hyperbole that is, unfortunately, often associated with much scholarship on the Bush administration and its policies in the War on Terror. It is thought-provoking and forces the reader to examine the Bush administration's policies in the context of past US foreign policy and, perhaps more importantly, the contemporary international system. If Lynch and Singh are correct in their belief that “jihadist Islam” is “an existential threat of a generational nature” (p.259), then debating the assertions raised in this book will be obligatory for both academics and policy practitioners in the coming years...It is easy to identify the current Bush administration with the War on Terror. It is all we have known since 9/11. Still, the War on Terror/Second Cold War will continue even after the Bush administration has departed from office. How will American foreign policy change? This is an important question, one that should be examined apart from the personal animosity that drives so much of the discussion surrounding American foreign policy under President Bush. The ultimate goal should be the development of coherent, long-term policies that are grounded in American traditions and based on American national interests. AFTER BUSH is a useful book that can help facilitate the discussions needed to move us towards this goal.' (http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/lynch-singh0808.htm)
- David Frum (Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute): 'Learned, judicious, and courageous - this study of the Bush foreign policy will continue to illuminate and explain long after today's philippics and polemics have been consigned to the back shelves. A uniquely valuable work.'
- Richard Perle (Fellow, American Enterprise Institute and former Assistant Secretary of Defense): 'After Bush is a serious, carefully researched and documented analysis of American policy in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Lynch and Singh demolish a great many of the dozens of myths and misconceptions that have become the conventional wisdom about the Bush administration's response to terrorism, the decision to go into Iraq and the thinking and influence of neo-conservatives. It will take many more such books to balance the mountain of nonsense that has been piled up by ideologically driven academics and a huge flock of journalistic sheep. They should be congratulated for having made a start.'
- John Yoo (Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley): 'This book is required reading for both defenders and critics of the current direction of American foreign policy. The authors make the provocative case that the policies of the Presidents to come will resemble those of the Bush administration, because Bush himself followed the historical traditions of America's approach to the world. On the other hand, the authors argue that a Second Cold War against Islamist terrorism has more in common with the first Cold War than many would like to think. This fascinating combination of foreign policy, strategy, and even constitutional law should cause readers to reconsider their fundamental positions.'
- Robert J. Lieber (Professor of Government and International Affairs, Georgetown University): 'Lynch and Singh make a compelling case that the Bush doctrine will outlast the current American president, and they assemble considerable evidence to show that fundamental components of the doctrine are consistent with foreign policy tradition. The authors skillfully depersonalize the debate about American foreign policy in order to move beyond the current obsession with George W. Bush.'
Ivo Daalder (US Ambassador to NATO and co-author, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy): 'Whatever one might think of the argument that the Bush Doctrine not only will but should survive the Bush presidency - and I, for one, strongly disagree - Lynch and Singh develop it cogently and with great vigor. An important contribution to the literature on American foreign policy.'
- Daniel Pipes (Director, Middle East Forum):'More compellingly than the Bush administration itself, Lynch and Singh argue that a Second Cold War is underway, this time against radical Islam. U.S. policies, they hold, must resemble those of the original Cold War. And American responses since 9/11 are sound and will endure. With panache, After Bush offers a well researched, original, and refreshing tonic to a truck-load of anti-Bush screeds.'
- Brendan Simms (University of Cambridge): 'Outstanding: a worthy successor volume to Kagan's Dangerous Nation.'
- Michael Cox (Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics):'The common sense view - shared by the chattering classes around the world - is that Bush has failed, that the war on terror has been a disaster, and that the United States should return with all speed to the multilateral system is so unnecessarily abandoned some time during 2001. Here is a book that frontally challenges all these cosy assumptions. The world and the United States have changed for ever - it insists - and the sooner the rest of us get used to the fact the better. A provocative, trenchantly argued study that leaves the reader with few places to hide.'
- John Dumbrell (Professor of Government, Durham University): 'Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh do a fine job of defending the foreign policy approach of the George W. Bush administration. Deeply unfashionable and brilliantly polemical, After Bush will redefine the parameters of debate.'
- Don Vincent (OU History Society): 'With the plethora of left wing liberals in academia, a media circus whose memory stretches to one week at best, so called alternative comedy rhetoricians and politicians ever looking to score party points, one might think there is nobody eager to or capable of, promoting a learned and well argued study of American foreign policy, before during and subsequent to the presidency of George W Bush. Step forward Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh ... After Bush by Timothy J. Lynch and Robert S. Singh is a well argued alternative to the rash of condemning works that presently seek to command attention, due to the veracity of its arguments, it will, unlike them, stand the test of time.'
On The Bush Doctrine and the War on Terrorism (co-ed.), (Routledge, 2006)
- Stanley Hoffman (Harvard): 'The international team of scholars that has examined the origins, political and economic effects of the Bush doctrine, its consequences for international law and institutions, and the reasons why other states have either approved it or condemned it has done an excellent job, by providing a balanced, subtle and searching analysis of one of the most controversial innovations in U.S. foreign policy.'
- John Dumbrell (Durham):'The essays in this superbly edited and organized volume provide a comprehensive and original account of the global implications of the policies announced in President George W. Bush's 2002 National Security Strategy. The collection is first-rate and very highly recommended.'
- Timothy Lynch (Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London): 'An excellent, scholarly-grounded account of where we stand. Too much in this field is polemic masquerading as analysis, these essays offer originality with rigorous dispassion, wise reflection instead of partisan rancour. A contribution to war on terror scholarship which may well outlive the war it dissects...A strong collection of essays which place Bush, his doctrine and his war within a long range historical and geographic perspective, opening up his strategy to theoretical inquiry and scholarly debate. The editors have drawn together essays which will form the basis for the post-post-9/11 scholarship - which in large part they have defined in this seminal collection.'
- Brendan Simms (Cambridge): 'The Bush doctrine is here to stay. This nuanced and wide-ranging collection, while never bland, tackles this exceptionally controversial phenomenon with admirable concision and sobriety. It is also the first study to look systematically at the Bush doctrine's regional impact across the globe.'
On (ed.) Governing America: The Politics of a Divided Democracy (OUP, 2003)
- Michael Foley (University of Aberystwyth), The Times Higher Education Supplement Textbook Guide Issue no. 16, 28 November 2003, p. iv:'A well-conceived and superbly designed introductory text for university and college students…The book manages to combine a stream of access points with the virtue of an organizing theme, that of divided democracy…In contrast to many competing texts, Governing America gives political issues and conflict equal status with the structures and processes of institutions and organizations…The outcome is one in which the animating properties of political dispute and the contested direction of policy are woven into the fabric of government rather than treated as loose threads. Editor Robert Singh's exemplary management has succeeded in providing a tightly controlled excursion into all the main features of the subject. Students will appreciate the mix of lucid information and authoritative interpretation for many years to come.'
On Contemporary American Politics (Sage, 2003)
- Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (University of Edinburgh): 'Rob Singh is a master of style, and his book is the perfect companion for those who are interested in America's "culture wars" but hitherto have been put off by the execrable jargon they have spawned.'
- Byron E Shafer (University of Wisconsin):'For those who still believe that politics is normally, naturally, about economics, Rob Singh has gathered the evidence and dialed the wake-up call: seven major instances of an ongoing culture war meet a common analytic framework here in a lively and informative fashion.'
- Alan Ware (University of Oxford):'All undergraduate courses on American politics should include it on reading lists for seminars, tutorials and classes.'
On American Government and Politics (Sage, 2003)
- Nigel Bowles (University of Oxford):'Finely organized and informative…combines to an unusually high degree analytical clarity, accessibility of style and form, and an enlightened scepticism about received wisdom. This is an admirable book.'
- Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (Professor of American History, University of Edinburgh): 'Full of topical information and written with sparkling clarity, this book is a short-cut to excellence for the discriminating student.
On American Politics and Society Today (ed.) (Polity, 2002)
- Trevor McCrisken (Warwick), Political Studies Review 2004, pp. 230-31: 'a valuable collection that should be used by all those interested in contemporary US politics.'
- B. Ramesh Babu (University of Hyderabad), American Studies International October 2003 vol. XLI, no. 3: '…it is vital that we the "outsiders" (i.e. the Europeans, Asians, Africans and Latin Americans) "commit ourselves ever more carefully and consistently to the dispassionate and reasoned study of the United States", as Singh rightly asserts. As a specialist on American politics and public affairs from India, I find the essays by my British counterparts to be of particular interest. It will be fascinating to make a comparative analysis of similar studies by other "foreign" scholars of the USA. Experts as well as an informed public will find American Politics and Society Today to be a good learning experience.'
- Byron Shafer (University of Wisconsin): '…sets itself the challenge of blending current events with the enduring contours that shape them. Robert Singh and nine colleagues start with the international policy context, tour the main institutional landmarks of policy-making, and embed all of that in the larger society. What results is the liveliest investigation of American politics to cross my desk in along time.'
- Alan Ware (University of Oxford): 'This is an excellent collection. Not the least of the book's merits is that it focuses on a number of issues at the interface of politics and society, and thus goes beyond the usual approach of focusing just on political institutions or on political behaviour.'
On The Congressional Black Caucus (Sage, 1998)
- Dianne Pinderhughes (University of Illinois), American Political Science Review March 2000: 'Robert Singh introduces his study with a review of three perspectives on why the caucus has not been successful in advancing its distinctive policy agenda…The volume carefully weights these three explanations and offers an impressively detailed view of the complexities associated with the efforts of an organization to represent its own constituents and a national black constituency within Congress….Singh integrates the perspectives of the caucus members in all their complexity. The study is substantially enhanced by the use of a comparative theoretical framework…Singh has created an unusually broad theoretical foundation for the study, reviewing both American and European legislative, institutional, racial/ethnic, and partisan research. The author also devotes several chapters to an historical and highly detailed examination of the growth of African American political participation and congressional representation, as well as to the growth and evolution of the caucus. The book is a highly theoretical discussion of a racially distinct group that also occupies structural space within an American political institution. Singh sustains these dimensions throughout the study with admirable control and clarity. Singh's exploration of racial and theoretical factors as well as his careful evaluation, comparison, and weighing of strategic, ideological, and institutional forces in their effect on the caucus makes this book such an important contribution to the literature…Those who expect a highly partisan analysis of the caucus will be disappointed; Singh is not especially critical of recent work, such as Swain's Black Faces, Black Interests (1993) or Thernstrom's Whose Votes Count (1987), which challenged the effectiveness of black elected officials. Rather, Singh offers a distinct alternative to research centered on the racial/ethnic character of the group as problematic; he also does not explain away the faults and weaknesses of the caucus or emphasize its strengths as a racial group. Singh reframes the way in which scholars will examine racial and ethnic organizations by developing the complex institutional context within which such caucuses functions and by illustrating the ways in which groups with similar structural rather than racial or ethnic characteristics, in other national settings, successfully influence policy. The latter do not operate in majoritarian two-party systems, with bicameral legislatures, single-member districts, and other structural features that limit the effect of coherent minority political interests…Singh has written an unusually important analysis of a racially constructed American political body, which operates within the heart of a national political institution.'
Dianne Pinderhughes Policy (14.2. 2001): 'Research by a number of scholars, Robert Singh, Kenny Whitby, and Katherine Tate (forthcoming) shows distinct differences in voting behavior of representatives, patterns of representation, when they compared the political pattern of Black vs. non-Black Democratic representatives.'
John Owens (University of Westminster), Political Studies (48. 1. 2000, pp. 164-5): 'Singh's study is rich in information and insight into this important organization…Written in a fluent, inquiring style, the book presents a convincing case study for the Caucus' strengths and weaknesses. It will be a valuable source of information that builds our knowledge of congressional institutions and black politics.'
Charles Menifield (University of Ohio), Congress and the Presidency (25. 2. 1998, pp. 226-8)' Singh's book provides a thorough examination of the CBC…well researched and nicely written.'
Ian Scott (University of Manchester), American Politics Review (December 1998, no. 38): 'excellently documented and persuasively argued analysis'; '…the author has eschewed easy questions from which to provide convenient answers. Instead he has been critical and rigorous in fashioning an enlightened and important analysis'
The Farrakhan Phenomenon (Georgetown, 1997):
Marco Martiniello (University of Liege), Nationalism and Ethnic Politics (Fall-Winter 1999, pp. 282-3): 'there are very few comprehensive scholarly analyses of Farrakhan as a contemporary political phenomenon…Singh's most valuable book brilliantly fills this important void in the scholarly literature on African American politics and on the politics of race in America.'
Douglas Jaenicke (University of Manchester) Political Studies (47. 2. 1999, pp. 406-7): 'Singh has provided us with a nuanced explanation of the Farrakhan phenomenon which successfully criticises alternative interpretations and contributes to a deeper understanding of black politics in the United States.'
Michael Lutes (University of Notre Dame), US Library Journal (15. 09. 1997): 'Singh adds a fresh perspective to the flurry of recent books on Louis Farrakhan'; 'The author studies Farrakhan in a dispassionate manner, exposing how he has wielded power through the use of unconventional methods of political discourse'; 'Singh's strong analysis…points out the causes and consequences…not only for African American leaders but also the nation at large.'
Clarence E. Walker (Professor of History, University of California, Davis): 'Singh has written an exciting and balanced account of Farrakhan's career and place in American racial politics…[He] correctly places Farrakhan on the right side of the American political spectrum…In telling the Farrakhan story, Singh does a first-rate job of relating Farrakhan's move from the margins of American racial politics to the center.'