May 14

Past Event

American Foreign Policy in Retreat? A Discussion with Vali Nasr



  • Less Engagement In the Middle East Poses Risks for American Foreign Policy

    Vali Nasr: There is an assumption that the United States can afford not to be engaged in the Middle East. “Doing less is more” poses certain dangers and risks for American foreign policy. 

    Vali Nasr

  • Risks to Action Versus Risks to Inaction

    Vali Nasr: If a problem around the world is very complicated, should we actually just try not to deal with it at all or engage in any way we can? There is a risk to action. There is also a great risk to inaction, which we really have to consider.

    Vali Nasr

  • The Emerging Role of China In the Middle East

    Martin Indyk: The argument that China will fill a vacuum evaded by U.S. in the Middle East is puzzling. My sense is that Chinese leaders are not eager to jump in and would rather the U.S. take care of the Middle East.

    Martin S. Indyk

  • The Sine Wave of American Intervention

    Robert Kagan: If you look at American intervention, we go through a sine wave. We start off with great expectations about what we’re going to accomplish, and then we somehow don’t always meet those expectations and lose steam.

    Robert Kagan

Full Event


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For the past decade, a debate has raged about the future of American power and foreign policy engagement. In his new book, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat (Knopf Doubleday Publishing, 2013), Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Vali Nasr questions America’s choice to lessen its foreign policy engagement around the world. Nasr argues that after taking office in 2009, the Obama administration let fears of terrorism and political backlash confine its policies to that of the previous administration, instead of seizing the opportunity to fundamentally reshape American foreign policy over the past four years. Meanwhile, China and Russia – rivals to American influence globally – were quietly expanding their influence in places where the U.S. has long held sway. Nasr argues that the Obama administration’s foreign policy decision making could have potentially dangerous outcomes, and, what’s more, sells short America’s power and role in the world.

On May 14, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted Vali Nasr for a discussion on the state of U.S. power globally and whether American foreign policy under the Obama administration is in retreat. Brookings Senior Fellow Robert Kagan joined the discussion, which was moderated by Vice President Martin Indyk, director of Foreign Policy.

Event Agenda


May 14, 2013

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM EDT

Brookings Institution

Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW


For More Information

Brookings Office of Communications


Hosted By

Foreign Policy