SSASA » Overview

A Long History of American Studies Programs at Salzburg Global Seminar

Since Salzburg Global's founding in 1947, with the first American Studies program at Schloss Leopoldskron, the study of America has played a vital role in the history of this organization. For decades, scores of prominent intellectuals - academic and non-academic - have gathered in Salzburg to examine and debate American politics, foreign policy, economics, literature, history and culture, and America's role in the world. More than 30 American themed seminars have been organized, all are self-funded.

Session in 2016:

Images of America: Reality and Stereotypes
September 23 to 27, 2016

Interviews and coverage from our SSASA programs

Hasan Ayoub - Without functional nation states, instability will dominate international relations
Hasan Ayoub at the SSASA program on America's Changing Role in the World
Hasan Ayoub - Without functional nation states, instability will dominate international relations
Heather Jaber 

The discussion of US foreign policy would not be complete without considering America’s relationship with the Middle East. Hasan Ayoub, assistant professor at An-Najah National University in Palestine, offered insight into the impact of US foreign policy in the region.

Ayoub, who was a participant of the latest Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World, touched on strategic mistakes of American foreign policy, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the potential impact of the future US administration in an interview with Salzburg Global during the session.

“I would say that in the last maybe two decades, it seems like what Winston Churchill said once about American foreign policy - that America does the right thing all the time, but after exhausting all other wrong options - seems to hold in this case.” Mistakes made by American administration in the Middle East, said Ayoub, are having impact in regional conflicts, including the failure of states and new alliances which serve to further exacerbate tensions.

“In some respect, foreign policy of the US in the region in the last 20 years was counter-productive,” he said, adding that trying to figure out the best course of action for these complex tasks will not be easy. “I don’t believe the United States can with one prescription solve all those problems.”

At the heart of the matter, though, said Ayoub, is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In order to stabilize and maintain a balance between national interests and the interests of those in the region, new approaches will need to be taken. “Maybe it’s time for the United States to think of the Palestinians not as a liability,” he said, “but as a nation who deserves the full attention of the United States and the full recognition of the United States.” Without addressing this question, said Ayoub, there is little chance of success in the region.

Looking to the US presidential elections next year, Ayoub reflected on the potential impact a Republican administration would have on the legacy and impact of Obama’s foreign policy, which was marked by a stress on less interventionism and more reliance on allies to ease tensions and conflicts. A Republican administration, said Ayoub, would reduce the accomplishment and impact of strategies like the recent Iran nuclear deal or a new openness to Cuba.

To maintain national interests and a global balance, the answer may lie in the delicate balance between the basic units of the international community, or the nation state, said Ayoub. “There’s no single state that can isolate itself today apart from the effects of…the foreign policy of other states, [the] interests of other states.” Appreciation and understanding of this interdependence then is necessary in balancing the national and the global, he said.

Listen to him discuss US foreign policy in the Middle East and more in the interview below.

Hasan Ayoub was a participant at the Salzburg Global Program The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World, which was held by the Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). The session was hosted in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Centre. More information on the session can be found here:

Hillary Rising by James D. Boys
James D. Boys, author of Hilary Rising, at the SSASA program on America's Changing Role in the World
Hillary Rising by James D. Boys
Heather Jaber 

Discussion of the Clinton administration and its implications for the current world order was right at home at The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World. While attending the latest session by Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), Fellow James D. Boys gave some context on his new and timely book on Hillary Clinton. 

The book, called Hillary Rising, is set to come out in January 2016 by Biteback Publishing and is part of a unique collection of books written by Boys on the Clintons. Hillary Rising covers Hillary Clinton’s path to the potential nomination of Democratic Party candidate for the 2016 presidential elections. The book offers a non-partisan look at her possible future as president of the United States and the choices she made along the way.

His earlier books, Clinton’s Grand Strategy and its follow up, Clinton’s War on Terror, help put 9/11 into context and provide synthesis and analysis of primary sources and interviews with key players from the administration and other associates. 

Boys, Associate Professor at Richmond University, sat down with Salzburg Global Seminar to discuss his latest book.

SGS: Why did you decide to write and continue writing about the Clintons?

JDB: I worked on Capitol Hill in 1995 and was very fortunate — I got to meet the president at the height of his time in office. When I finished working on Wall Street in 2001, I returned back to Britain and decided to do a Ph.D. I’d always wanted to write about the Clinton presidency, which had just ended at that point. So, I began looking at Bill Clinton’s first term in office and his development of national security strategy…

It was something that was of interest to me not just because I met the president, but I saw a lot of people being drawn to academia who were being drawn to the Cold War and subsequently in the post 9/11 era, and...that left an eight-year gap during which Clinton was president which was not being examined. That, therefore, presented both an opportunity to develop an area of expertise, as well as a void that needed to be filled on the basis that if you don’t understand what’s happening under Clinton, then you can’t understand what comes afterwards. And I think there’s far too many people within academia and within the media who see 9/11 as the beginning of a process rather than part of a process, and it was a indeed a process that was under way when Bill Clinton was president…

SGS: How did you conduct the research for your books? Can you give us a little insight into the process?

JDB: For any research to be valid, I fundamentally believe that to justify a book, you’ve got to offer something new. There’s too many books in existence written by journalists and academics that singularly fail to do so. They merely regurgitate secondary sources and old news, so what’s the point? It was nothing I was interested in doing, so particularly for the Clinton’s Grand Strategy book, I made absolute sure it was based upon primary documents and primary sources. 

I conducted elite interviews with senior members of the Clinton administration…Also, I wanted to interview people who had covered the election. What I was trying to do was get not only the perspective of the administration from inside, but also the perspective of key players at the time who were interacting with the administration…So this proved vital in terms of getting a sense of how the administration was acting was perceived as well…I also managed to get access to a whole host of previously classified material...and really made sure that they were data-mined as much as possible. No other work on Clinton has done any thing of this so far; all of the other work on Clinton has been very much based upon newspaper work and secondhand thoughts…

SGS: You mentioned a “Clinton dynasty” in your book. Do you think it’s realistic to call it that?

JDB: There is a chapter in the Hillary Rising book that talks about the concept of a “Clinton dynasty,” and what I tried to do in the book is to lay out exactly what a dynasty is, what an American dynasty looks like, and to question whether the Clintons are in fact a dynasty. My conclusions are basically that at this point, they are a very powerful family, they have come from a relatively poor background, that they don’t fit the classic pattern of an American dynasty. At the moment, the problem with calling them a dynasty is only one member of the family has held office at any one time. It’s often forgotten now that Hillary’s Clinton’s time in office doesn’t begin until after Bill Clinton has left office. 

It has never become multi-generational, so we’re talking about one generation of the family which has held office so far. There’s no doubt, I think, that Chelsea Clinton is being prepared, to put it politely, for office…If that were to happen then you could start looking at concepts of dynasty, because it’s this idea of power being passed from one generation to another. At the moment, I think it’s too early to call them a dynasty, they are a very powerful and influential American political family who have dynastic ambition.

SGS: You said in Clinton’s Grand Strategy that Bill Clinton was elected at the only time where it was theoretically possible. Do you feel the same way of Hillary Clinton? Is this the time where it’s theoretically possible for her to be president?

JDB: I don’t think it’s the only time, I think it was more than theoretically possible that she could and should have been elected eight years ago. 2008 in many ways represented a better opportunity for Hillary to become president. She was running against the legacy of George W. Bush. It was generally perceived at that time that whoever got the democratic party nomination was going to become president. So all she had to do, really, was get the nomination. It was hers to lose, and lose it she did. 

The story of 2008 is really not just about the rise of Barack Obama, but the collapse of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for office and a big section of what I’m looking at in Hillary Rising is what explains that. Because if you want to look at how she might do well in 2016 you need to look at what she did wrong in 2008 to make sure that she’s not repeating the old mistakes. The old adage of the definition of madness is to do the same thing over again and expect different results. So it’s important to understand where she went wrong in 2008 so that we can then say, ‘Well, has she learned from this? Is she doing anything different? And if not, how does she expect to win?’

SGS: You and other participants discussed whether Hillary Clinton’s potential presidency would be a continuation or departure from the presidency of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Could you give some commentary on that?

JBD: There’s no doubt that Hillary Clinton is attempting to position herself as an independent candidate and not merely as someone who would complete a third term for either her husband or for Barack Obama. She has to say that, but realistically, I think it’s important to note that there will be echoes of her husband's administration, as well as Barack Obama’s, and this will be felt in personnel as much as anything else.

If you look at Hillary Clinton’s campaign team, what you see are basically three different power groups…people advising her who used to work for her husband directly, people who used to work for her in what’s known as Hillary Land -- her inner core of mainly female advisors, it must be said -- as well as people who have come to her campaign from Barack Obama’s team. She’s brought these three disparate groups together very much to try to present a united front and to tap into the energy and skills that they bring to American politics.

By doing so…you’ve got advisors who have come of age and know how to practice politics because of their time with either Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Human nature would suggest that they will continue politics and policies that they believe to be valid under both Obama and Clinton under a Hillary Clinton…administration. She will be her own president, I think she is singularly-minded most of the time, but that you will see continuation as well as some change from both Bill Clinton’s as well as Barack Obama’s.

SGS: Could you give us some insight into your next book, Clinton’s War on Terror?

JBD: Clinton’s War on Terror will be the direct follow up to Clinton’s Grand Strategy and it will look at the eight years that Bill Clinton was president, and what his administration did to address acts of political violence and terrorism. It will also be two things in terms of context. It will place Clinton’s time in office addressing these issues in the wider context of American history by considering what previous administrations had done, going right back to the revolution, and it will also serve therefore to put 9/11 in context...and therefore hopefully to try and dispel some of these myths that: a) 9/11 was the beginning of something, which it was not, and b) that the Clinton administration had done nothing to try to address terrorism during its time in office, which is singularly not true.

James D. Boys was a participant at the Salzburg Global Program The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World, which was held by the Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). The 2015 session was hosted in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Centre. More information on the session can be found here:

Irakli Alasania - USA has an obligation to lead, defend, and assist people defending their own freedom
Irakli Alasania speaking at the SSASA session on America's Changing Role in the World
Irakli Alasania - USA has an obligation to lead, defend, and assist people defending their own freedom
Heather Jaber 

With experts in the form of academics and practitioners participating in The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World, the latest session of Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), Irakli Alasania’s political experience and perspective as former Defense Minister of Georgia added to a well-rounded discussion.

Alasania, who heads the liberal Our Georgia – Free Democrats party in Georgia, was Georgia’s ambassador to UN when war between Georgia and Russia broke out in 2008. He was also Defense Minster of Georgia from 2012 to 2014, giving him experience in diplomacy, security, and conflict resolution.

In an interview with Salzburg Global, Alasania discussed Georgia’s current political climate, mentioning his country’s prospective NATO membership and a transition away from a Soviet path towards a European one. “To be part of the free liberal democratic societies is the only way Georgia feels we can secure our identity, [to] secure our development as an independent state,” he explained.

Alasania, who is gearing up for Georgia’s parliamentary elections in 2016, shared that although his country is developing a bilateral relationship with the United States, he would like to see more US involvement in the region. “We want to see on a more regional level, US involvement in the countering of resurgent Russia,” he explained. “It doesn't mean that we’re offering that the United States has to have the military deterrent on the ground in Georgia like US troops. We’re talking about providing Georgia, Ukraine, and other freedom-loving and aspiring states with the tools, even military tools as well, to defend our freedom from the aggressors.”

Much of the September session discussion centered around the global power balance, especially in relation to the future foreign policy of the United States, and the tension between an interventionist or isolationist strategy. Alasania touched on this tension between maintaining national interests as well as a global balance of power.

“I think domestically the United States is having legitimate debate over how much US power, soft or hard, can be extended and I think its a legitimate discussion,” he said. “But we have to insert into these discussions whether the US will be better served, from a security standpoint, from counterterrorism, [from a] counter insurgency standpoint.”

He expanded on this by saying that there is an obligation for countries like the US to lead, defend, and help those who are defending their own freedom. “I think that's the core value of the United States,” he said. “I think it's how it this country was established, and I see that these kind of values will be preserved and introduced in foreign policy as it was before."

Of the session itself, the former minister praised the open and comfortable setting: “What is most important is you are really creating the atmosphere where different opinions can be voiced without rancor, without bitterness, and in the atmosphere that will likely give us more food for thought.”

Irakli Alasania was a participant at the Salzburg Global Program The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World, which was held by the Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). The 2015 session was hosted in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Centre. More information on the session can be found here:

More Questions than Answers for the New Global Order
More Questions than Answers for the New Global Order
Heather Jaber 
The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World wrapped up on September 28, leaving the Fellows with more nuanced approaches to global issues of power. In the latest program of Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), participants tackled the complex question of America’s role in a shifting world balance. Researchers and practitioners from 27 different countries gathered to share diverse perspectives of the future of US foreign policy and the implications for the rest of the world. At the culmination of the session, the Salzburg Global Fellows identified some dominant strands of thought, with mixed views on many issues of global concern. Chair and long-time SSASA faculty member Ron Clifton moderated the wrap-up, inviting the group to offer their final insights. More nuanced questions than simple answers emerged, as participants discussed their views on media usage, the concept of the American century, and the role of the US in future world affairs. The participants suggested four different roles that the US could take in future affairs: a hegemonic leader with negative imperialist connotations; an indispensable leader acting as an honest broker; the leader of a multipolar world with problematic conflicts of interest; or a leader which considers offshore balance and calculated interdependence. “Do people want more American power and intervention in global affairs, do they call for greater invention?” asked one Fellow. “It’s a question people could not decide on.” “Is it even in America’s interest to solve every crisis?” asked another. However, the Fellows generally agreed that the US cannot continue as a unilateral power, and that it must take a more nuanced approach to power as it navigates within a potentially multipolar age. The participants also complicated the notion that the US is in a state of decline. “Is change not maybe a better way to describe what’s going on?” asked a Fellow.  There were mixed thoughts on the role of social media in foreign affairs, with some participants offering that it can be used as a tool for change and mobilization, and others citing negative impacts, like its use by fundamentalist groups. Contrasting perspectives seemed to stem from the age or level of media usage of the participants.  The uncertainty about both mainstream and social media’s roles in global affairs also reflected the recency of the topic. Without hard facts, it is difficult to come up with conclusive answers to these questions.  “It might just be too soon to tell what the digital revolution has brought about,” concluded a Fellow. As a final wrap-up, majority views were shared through the results of a questionnaire on the US’ role in the world. Fellows identified major issues in Washington’s support of dictators and its relationship with the Middle East. China was identified as both a great challenge and an opportunity for the US. There were also mixed opinions on US interventionism, with some suggesting that the US should take a less interventionist approach, and others supporting a strong approach for national security. America, the participants agreed, faces a transitioning global arena and an urgent need to use calculated collaboration to maintain stability. The next SSASA session, Images of America: Reality and Stereotypes, will focus on the representation of America in media. A full report on the discussions and conclusions from the 2015 program will be published later in the year.
The Salzburg Global Program The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World is part of the multi-year series Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). The session was hosted in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Centre. More information on the session can be found here:
Silvia Nunez Garcia - “Through this social transformation that is taking place domestically, the US is going to have a new way of performing globally”
Silvia Nunez Garcia - “Through this social transformation that is taking place domestically, the US is going to have a new way of performing globally”
Heather Jaber 

An important issue in the potentially changing global balance is the internal demographic shift in the United States, particularly in regards to the Hispanic population. Silvia Nunez Garcia, researcher and professor from Mexico, discussed inevitable social changes at the latest program of the Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World.

Nunez is the director of the Center for Research on North America at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (CISAN-UNAM). Her work focuses on social inequality and structure in North America. According to Nunez, the transformation of the US's position in the world is strongly related to the transformation of its society. “There is a very deep transformation within the US society and we need to understand this because the United States through this social transformation that is taking place domestically, it is going to have a new way of performing globally,” she explained in an interview with Salzburg Global.

Among other issues, Nunez discussed the impact of contact between the Hispanic community, the wider United States society, and the “home countries” of Latino Americans. “Because they have experienced the core values of American society, the Hispanic or the Latino community is also a very pragmatic group of people. I think one of the positive trends with regards to the growing number of the Latino community in the United States is that they have been strengthening their relations with their home countries.” Nunez explained.

Nunez also discussed the high levels of uncertainty at a more global level, with many countries - not only the US - addressing the changing balances of power. “The world has become more complex; all the countries now face a sort of interdependence because of globalization. So in this way, I see the United States transforming itself as the rest of the world in need to transform all over.” Despite their differences, especially as the rhetoric around illegal immigration is growing in the US, Nunez urged both the US and Mexico to recognize that they face the same problem “on both sides of the border” with regards to the environment and climate change, and to seek solutions together. 

Having previously attended the Salzburg Global session Eclipse of the Nation State in 1997, Nunez highlighted the need for continued communication on a large scale in such fora as Salzburg Global Seminar: “[Salzburg Global] has not only been able to survive and overcome the economic crisis, but also to strengthen the level of the dialogue.”

Listen to her discuss the transformation of North American societies and more in the interview below.

Silvia Nunez Garcia was a participant at the Salzburg Global Program The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World, which is part of the multi-year series Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). The series/session was hosted in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Centre. More information on the session can be found here:

The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World
The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World
Heather Jaber 
Is America’s long-standing international power on a downward spiral? From the South China Sea to the Middle East and Eastern Ukraine, current events are sparking debate about the once unchallenged role of the United States as the sole global superpower.  Addressing this issue in an increasingly interconnected world, the Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) is hosting a session called The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World, with 58 academics and professionals from 27 countries gathering at Schloss Leopoldskron from September 24 to 29. Salzburg Global has offered sessions in American Studies since its beginnings in 1947, but in recent years much has changed for America and the global power balance. China is now an established economic powerhouse. Russia is flexing its military muscles again. Both state and non-state actors are causing widespread strife and destabilization in Middle East and forcing millions from their homes in search of asylum across the region and into Europe. Climate change is impacting countries the world over. Despite the global nature of these issues, the United States remains one of the most significant actors. But what is the former hegemon’s role in addressing these challenges? How has this changed and how will it continue to change?  The USA itself also faces power balance changes at home as demographics shift and domestic politics become increasingly polarized. Although the USA claims a longstanding title as the model of democracy, its involvement in drone warfare and alleged violations in communications surveillance make this status debatable also.  The five days of presentations, panels, and working group discussions in Salzburg will examine this shifting global balance, with discussion topics including American exceptionalism, foreign policy, and power relations with countries in the Middle East and Europe, as well as Russia, China, Japan, and India, and its closer neighbors in Latin America. Recent practices in social media and international media coverage of foreign affairs will also be discussed. Long-serving SSASA faculty member and former director of SSASA’s predecessor the American Studies Center, Ron Clifton will chair the session. The retired counselor in the Senior Foreign Service of the United States will be joined by co-chairs Alex Seago, chair of the Department of Humanities at the American International University London, and Kees van Minnen, director of the Roosevelt Study Center. Additional faculty members include Irakli Alasania, former Minister of Defense of Georgia; Thomas Bender, professor of humanities at New York University; James D. Boys, associate professor of international political studies at Richmond University, London; Edith Chapin, acting executive editor of NPR News; and Ted Widmer, journalist and historian at Brown University, USA.  This 13th SSASA program is in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, the Netherlands, and is supported by 11 U.S. embassies around the world.  Previous SSASA and earlier American Studies Center programs have covered topics such as the impact of sustainable urban living, film and television, and race and immigration. Last year’s SSASA session was Defining America: New Writing, New Voices, New Directions, which discussed new voices and identities in American writing. 
The Salzburg Global program The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World is part of the multi-year series Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association. The session is being hosted in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Center. More information on the session can be found here: For more information on the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association, please visit: 
Re-envisioning Salzburg Global Seminar
Re-envisioning Salzburg Global Seminar
Salzburg Global Seminar 
Salzburg Global Seminar proudly presents its new periodical, The Salzburg Global Chronicle. Replacing the traditional annual President’s Report, the new publication “chronicles” Salzburg Global’s programs at Schloss Leopoldskron and around the world, including profiles on both “up-and-coming” leaders and high profile Salzburg Global Fellows, and features on the impact Salzburg Global Seminar, its programs, staff and Fellows have in the world beyond the Schloss.

Highlights include:

15 Faces for the Future  

Salzburg Global Seminar’s mission is to challenge current and future leaders to tackle problems of global concern. To this end, Salzburg Global brings young, emerging leaders to Schloss Leopoldskron, not only for our Academies programs, but for every Salzburg Global session. Nearly 500 of our 1844 Fellows who attended sessions between 2011 and 2013 were under the age of 40, in addition to the more than 800 Academies participants. Below are just 15 of our remarkable young Fellows.

The Power of Partnership 

Salzburg Global Seminar’s programs would not happen without our partners. Partners provide not only the intellectual capital and input to drive the session forward but often the much needed financial capital necessary to bring Fellows and faculty to Salzburg. But what do partners get out of working with Salzburg Global?

A Distinct History, a Universal Message  

For three days, at a palace once home to the local Nazi party leader, experts from across the globe considered the value of Holocaust education in a global context at a symposium hosted by Salzburg Global and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. They proved the Holocaust is more than just a European or Jewish experience.

Strength in Diversity 

LGBT rights are moving up the international agenda, and while progress is being made, at the same time some countries are passing increasingly regressive laws. In June 2013, Salzburg Global convened its first ever Salzburg Global LGBT Forum addressing LGBT and Human Rights: New Challenges, Next Steps, starting a truly global conversation.

An Unlikely Constellation of Partners  

Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Appalachian College Association, member institutions of which serve predominantly white students, do not seem like the most obvious of partners. But this did not stop them from coming together to transform their schools into sites of global citizenship through the Salzburg Global Seminar-led, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Mellon Fellow Community Initiative.

Media Change Makers

Since helping to launch the program in 2007, Salzburg Global President Stephen L. Salyer has taken a hands-on role in the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change: helping to devise the program, delivering lectures and mentoring students. This year, he met with student representatives from each region represented at the eighth annual program to find out how the Academy is helping shape them. The Chronicle is available online at and to download as a PDF and in our ISSUU Library    Download the Salzburg Global Chronicle as a PDF Print copies are available at Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron and all upcoming Salzburg Global Seminar events and programs.
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