The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat by Vali Nasr

In a brilliant and revealing book destined to drive debate about the future of American power, Vali Nasr questions America’s dangerous choice to engage less and matter less in the world.

Vali Nasr, author of the groundbreaking The Shia Revival, worked closely with Hillary Clinton at the State Department on Afghan and Pakistani affairs. In The Dispensable Nation, he takes us behind the scenes to show how Secretary Clinton and her ally, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, were thwarted in their efforts to guide an ambitious policy in South Asia and the Middle East. Instead, four years of presidential leadership and billions of dollars of U.S. spending failed to advance democracy and development, producing mainly rage at the United States for its perceived indifference to the fate of the region.

After taking office in 2009, the Obama administration had an opportunity to fundamentally reshape American foreign policy, Nasr argues, but its fear of political backlash and the specter of terrorism drove it to pursue the same questionable strategies as its predecessor. Meanwhile, the true economic threats to U.S. power, China and Russia, were quietly expanding their influence in places where America has long held sway.

Nasr makes a compelling case that behind specific flawed decisions lurked a desire by the White House to pivot away from the complex problems of the Muslim world. Drawing on his unrivaled expertise in Middle East affairs and firsthand experience in diplomacy, Nasr demonstrates why turning our backs is dangerous and, what’s more, sells short American power. The United States has secured stability, promoted prosperity, and built democracy in region after region since the end of the Second World War, he reminds us, and The Dispensable Nation offers a striking vision of what it can achieve when it reclaims its bold leadership in the world.

VALI NASR is Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the bestselling author of The Shia Revival and Forces of Fortune. From 2009 to 2011, he served as Senior Advisor to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. He is a columnist for Bloomberg View and lives in Washington, D.C.

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American Foreign Policy in Retreat? A Discussion with Vali Nasr


Published on May 15, 2013

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.

Vali Nasr’s Dispensable Nation


Published on Apr 29, 2013

On April 24th, IPI hosted a conversation with Vali Nasr, author of The Dispensable Nation, who calls into question America’s dangerous choice to engage less in the world and chart a path forward for how the United States can regain its lost influence.

The event was moderated by IPI Senior Adviser for External Relations, Warren Hoge.

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