“Robert Kagan, Friedman Senior Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy at Brookings, spoke last Thursday about his new book, The Jungle Grows Back: America and our Imperiled World. Hosted by WorldBoston, a nonprofit organization and World Affairs Council dedicated to engagement on international affairs, the intimate gathering took place on the 25th floor of the Prudential Center, situated amid gorgeous views of the Boston cityscape. Kagan’s talk was yet another installment of Chat & Chowder, an ongoing book talk series featuring topics ranging from international affairs to current events. Attendees were treated to an assortment of delicious Boston chowders as well as other beverages and refreshments. Prior to the talk, WorldBoston members and guests were able to mingle, getting to know one another as development and policy professionals and world affairs aficionados alike. Once his talk began, Kagan received everyone’s rapt attention, and for the rest of the evening conversations tuned in to debates of American foreign policy.
“We’re having a great debate without actually discussing anything,” Kagan remarked, lamenting the state of current American politics. To this degree he noted some rare similarities between Trump and Obama’s domestic nation-building efforts, citing a gradual American withdrawal from being a major participant in world affairs. A “fragile” Liberal World Order is contingent on sincere American participation, as we are one of its founders and, in a sense, guarantors of the system’s wellbeing. During his talk, Kagan argued that the “America First” policy of protectionism in exchange for domestic wealth blatantly defies the other members of a world order based on free trade and mutual prosperity. To that end, he gave an impassioned appeal for foreign policy leaders to take into account historical episodes of isolationism as harbingers of chaos and disorder. According to Kagan, if America does commit to upholding the international system it helped to create, and instead retracts into isolationism, the system is bound to collapse.
Kagan did leave us with a bright note by the end of his talk. On the overall resilience of our current system he remarked, “Even Donald Trump couldn’t wreck this easily.” He offered a few suggestions to reform policy, and put faith into the liberalist system as able to endure what inevitable challenges to its stability may come.
To get Kagan’s full perspective, check out his new book here.”