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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For the past year, you've seen that perhaps no leverage that the US and the West thought it had — aid, sanctions, the freezing of Afghanistan's reserves — has really had an effect on Taliban behavior. The Taliban has essentially done what they had always done. The Afghan people have been in a humanitarian crisis because the Taliban hasn't budged.