News / USA

Expert: US Foreign Policy in 'Retreat'

Vali Nasr, dean of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)Vali Nasr, dean of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
Vali Nasr, dean of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
Vali Nasr, dean of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
Pamela Dockins
A former senior advisor to the late Richard Holbrooke, who served as U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, says when it comes to foreign policy, the U.S. is in "retreat."
Vali Nasr, who is now dean of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), said the Obama administration has concluded that the best way forward for the United States is to do "less in the world."
On VOA's Press Conference USA, he said President Barack Obama had adopted a "minimalist foreign policy" strategy, partly due to what Nasr called an "overreach" by former President George W. Bush in handling the Iraq war.
Mr. Bush was widely criticized for mischaracterizations about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's so-called weapons of mass destruction as a justification for the war.
"We still are in the shadow of the Bush years," said Nasr, but added, "The world is not used to America suddenly disappearing."
Nasr said even if the U.S. made "mistakes," it is still considered a pivotal force for stability in many regions of the world.
Nasr outlines his theory in his new book. "The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat." His title borrows from a phrase used by former President Bill Clinton, who said "America stands alone as the world's indispensable nation."
Nasr said the U.S. approach to the Afghanistan conflict is an example of the Obama's administration's "retreat" on foreign policy.
The U.S. and other foreign combat forces plan to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.
"Now that we have declared we are leaving, we have very little influence" in the region, said Nasr. 
He said Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Taliban and Pakistani officials had already begun "factoring" out the United States in the region and pursuing their own policies.
President Obama defended the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan during a speech Thursday on counterterrorism at the National Defense University.
"In the Afghan war theater, we must support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. That means we will continue to take strikes against high value al-Qaida targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces," Obama said.
The president said the U.S. would no longer have the same needs for force protection by the end of 2014. He also said progress against al-Qaida elements in the region would reduce a need for drone strikes.
In spite of his overall criticism of Obama foreign policy, Nasr said the president does have "tremendous equities" at his disposal.
He said Obama's assets include his "global popularity," his "power of persuasion," and the "goodwill of the international community."
Nasr said the Obama administration could use the equities to more forcefully engage in the conflicts in Syria, Iran and Iraq. 
Johns Hopkins foreign policy analyst James Mann outlined a similar view in his book, "The Obamians," saying Obama's view of the U.S. role in global affairs was "more modest and downbeat" than the views of his predecessors, former presidents Bush and Clinton.
Mann said the Obama administration has placed greater emphasis on domestic issues.
In spite of comments from both Nasr and Mann, Obama gave no indication of a U.S. foreign policy retreat in Thursday's speech.
He cited his administration's foreign policy engagement in countries like Syria, Libya and Egypt, as well as negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
President Obama said in spite of the risks of active diplomacy, he believed "any retreat from challenging regions will only increase the dangers we face in the long run."

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs