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The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreatby Vali Nasr
Synopses & Reviews
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.
“In The Dispensable Nation, Nasr delivers a devastating portrait of a first-term foreign policy that shunned the tough choices of real diplomacy, often descended into pettiness, and was controlled ‘by a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers.’… The Dispensable Nation constitutes important reading as John Kerry moves into his new job as secretary of state. It nails the drift away from the art of diplomacy — with its painful give-and-take — toward a U.S. foreign policy driven by the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and short-term political calculus. It holds the president to account for his zigzags from Kabul to Jerusalem….The Dispensable Nation is a brave book. Its core message is: Diplomacy is tough and carries a price, but the price is higher when it is abandoned.” Roger Cohen, New York Times
“The Dispensable Nation is an indispensable book. Taking us into the secretive world of high-level American foreign policy, Vali Nasr shares astounding, previously unrevealed details about the Obama administration's dealings with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. But Nasr doesn't just spill secrets — he also charts a path forward, advancing an insightful prescription for how the United States can regain its lost influence. This provocative story is a must-read for anyone who cares about America's role in the world.” Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Little America and Imperial Life in the Emerald City
“An original, powerful, and provocative critique of American foreign policy under President Obama.” George Packer, author of The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq
"Vali Nasr is the George Kennan of U.S. policy in the Middle East. A renowned scholar but also a practitioner and insider who served two years in the Obama administration, Nasr delivers a sharp, sober, fast-paced and absolutely riveting critique of President Obama’s policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan." Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution and author of The World America Made
Former State Department advisor for Afghanistan and Pakistan and bestselling author Vali Nasr delivers a sharp indictment of America's flawed foreign policy and outlines a new relationship with the Muslim world and with new players in the changing Middle East.
In this essential new book, Vali Nasr argues that the Obama administration had a chance to improve its relations with the Middle East, but instead chose to pursue its predecessor's questionable strategies there. Nasr takes readers behind the scenes at the State Department and reveals how the new government's fear of political backlash and the specter of terrorism crippled the efforts of diplomatic giants, like Richard Holbrooke and Hillary Clinton, to boost America's foundering credibility with world leaders. Meanwhile, the true economic threats, China and Russia, were quietly expanding their influence in the region. And a second Arab Spring is brewing-not a hopeful clamor for democracy but rage at the United States for its foreign policy of drones and assassinations. Drawing on his in-depth knowledge of the Middle East and firsthand experience in diplomacy, Nasr offers a powerful reassessment of American foreign policy that directs the country away from its failing relationships in the Middle East (such as with Saudi Arabia) toward more productive, and less costly, partnerships with other foreign allies (such as Turkey). Forcefully persuasive, Vali Nasr's book is a game changer for America as it charts a course in the Muslim world, Asia, and beyond.
About the Author
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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