Difficult Transitions: Foreign Policy Troubles at the Outset of Presidential Power

"A marvelous account of how foreign policy and national security concerns can complicate presidential transitions. Difficult Transitions provides would-be policymakers and interested observers alike with keen insights into this quintessentially American...


"A marvelous account of how foreign policy and national security concerns can complicate presidential transitions. Difficult Transitions provides would-be policymakers and interested observers alike with keen insights into this quintessentially American political process."

- Brent Scowcroft , former National Security Adviser

"This is fascinating history combined with a crucially important guide for policymakers. Anyone putting together a leadership team and structure --especially the next president -- should read it, underline it, and enjoy it."

- Walter Isaacson , President of the Aspen Institute and author of Einstein: His Life and Universe

WASHINGTON , Dec. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The process of transferring power from an outgoing U.S. president to an incoming president-elect is one of the most distinctive and perilous features of the American constitutional system -- a time of great hope and optimism but also one of great risk. In Difficult Transitions, former presidential advisers Kurt Campbell and James Steinberg draw on decades of government service and public policy experience to review past foreign policy episodes and identify the major pitfalls that President-elect Obama must try to avoid.

The need to learn on the job can lead to difficulties or costly mistakes, such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the conflicts in Haiti and Somalia early in Bill Clinton's first term. In addition to exacerbating the problems at hand, foreign policy miscues at the outset of a new administration can also have unfortunate long-term effects. Campbell and Steinberg show how factors such as campaign promises, personnel issues and a president's developing relationship with Congress all present challenges to early establishment of an effective foreign policy. Most important, they provide authoritative guidance on how to conduct a successful presidential transition with foreign policy and national security objectives in mind. Part cautionary tale, part self-help book, Difficult Transitions offers a road map for navigating a presidency's dangerous early days.

President-elect Obama will take office at an extraordinarily delicate and dangerous time. U.S. troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan , while Pakistan continues to destabilize; Russia is reasserting itself; China's influence continues to grow. Vice president-elect Biden is on the record saying that an international crisis will test the new administration's mettle within six months. Difficult Transitions is an authoritative guide for the incoming president and his foreign policy team as they seek to survive the landmines and booby traps that await them.

The Authors

Kurt M. Campbell is CEO and cofounder of the Center for a New American Security. Previously he directed the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He has served as director in the Democracy Office of the National Security Council Staff and deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration. His books include Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security, written with Michael O'Hanlon .

James B. Steinberg is the dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin, having served previously as a vice president and director for Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. He was deputy national security adviser to President Clinton from 1996 to 2000 and previously held the position of director of policy planning in the State Department.

The Brookings Institution is a private nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and innovative policy solutions. For more than 90 years, Brookings has analyzed current and emerging issues and produced new ideas that matter -- for the nation and the world.

Difficult Transitions: Foreign Policy Troubles at the Outset of Presidential Power

By Kurt M. Campbell and James B. Steinberg

Brookings Institution Press

This content continues onto the next page...