Nasr Criticizes U.S. Foreign Policies
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 01:10
On Wednesday in Devlin 101, Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and author of several bestselling political analyses, presented a lecture titled The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat. Nasr also served as the senior advisor to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, from 2009 to 2011.
Titled after his most recent book, Nasr’s lecture evaluated the current administration’s handling of foreign policy with a focal point in the Middle East and Asia. While identifying the Middle East as the singular, most important place of U.S. foreign policy, he criticized the previous administrations’ overtly militaristic approach toward the Arabic world. After Obama’s speech at Cairo University raised hope for bringing economic stability and democracy to the Muslim world and mending its relations with the U.S., Holbrooke and his team struggled with the issue of sending more troops to Afghanistan in an effort to help rebuild a functioning nation.
They were confronted, however, with Arab foreign ministers’ stubborn opposition and a potential fear of Afghanistan becoming another Vietnam. Soon after, it was suggested that the U.S. completely withdraw from Afghanistan grounded in the growing opinion that there was no need to fight the Taliban but only to kill Osama bin Laden and disperse the ever-growing power of Al-Qaeda. “Diplomacy was not on the table,” Nasr said. “It was not considered at all.”
The U.S. then withdrew from the region and instead turned its attention to Asia, designing a grand strategy of pivoting to Asia, especially China. Inevitably, problems emerged as the European countries begrudged the idea, which spurred the U.S. to extend diplomatic relations to Asia. While the U.S. worked to contain China, at the same time, the Chinese government turned its attention to the Middle East, forming an economic alliance with the oil-rich countries on which its energy plan depends.
“The problem with the pivoting in Asia was that it failed completely,” Nasr said. While the U.S. was preoccupied with its anticlimactic policy in Asia, the Middle East was transforming, experiencing technological advancement, economic development, as well as suffering through eruptions in various regions including Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria.
Unlike several nations from other parts of the world that defeated political corruption and economic downfall thanks to timely assistance from the U.S., Nasr said, the Arab world received no investment from the international community and the U.S. that could help its democratization. He argued that one-fifth of the population in Jordan now consists of the unstable foreign population of Syrian refugees and that the U.S.’s ignorance of Egypt only exacerbated its domestic situation, eventually leading to a catastrophic explosion.
According to Nasr, the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Arab world with spontaneous indifference caused greater chaos to the region and ultimately brought its costs of intervention in the future even more. Now fermented with unstable economic and political systems and destructive regional conflicts, these countries require a greater degree of attention, and their devastating circumstances necessitate U.S. intervention. Nasr casted doubt on whether the current administration has a game plan regarding the Middle East, and closed his hour-long lecture questioning the mission of Iran and its nuclear capabilities.
Questions later asked by the audience addressed various issues, including distinctive accomplishments of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Iran’s interest in Afghanistan after the U.S.’s withdrawal, prediction of Iran’s decision on its nuclear power, and Syria’s future following the U.S.’s departure from the region.