Recent years have brought deeply disturbing developments around the globe. American public sentiment increasingly leans toward either international withdrawal or a new unilateralist approach that is neither isolationist nor internationalist, but active, powerful, and entirely out for itself. However, in the face of such global disarray, either approach would be a mistaken response, based on a fundamental and dangerous misreading of the world. On Wednesday, September 26, 2018, Brookings Senior Fellow Robert Kagan and Susan Glasser of The New Yorker discussed these themes of his latest book, “The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World” (Knopf, 2018).
Like a jungle that keeps growing back after being cut down, the world has always been full of dangerous actors who, left unchecked, possess the desire and ability to make things worse. The “realist” impulse to recognize American limitations and focus on failures misunderstands the essential role America has played for decades in keeping the world’s worst instability in check. A true realism, however, is based on the understanding that the historical norm has always been toward chaos–that the jungle, if unattended, will grow back.
Questions from the audience followed the conversation.
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[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.