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Event Summary

In international relations, two traditions prevail in explaining and predicting the actions of nations: realism-nationalism and conservative internationalism. During Monday’s Bradley Lecture at AEI, Henry Nau proposed a third mode of interpreting international relations, a topic he explores in his just-released book, “Conservative Internationalism.”

According to Nau, conservative internationalism, unlike the other traditions, prevents the cyclical vacillation between military engagement and disengagement that has plagued US foreign policy since the beginning of the 20th century. The tenants of conservative internationalism focus on the spread of freedom, military strength and preparedness, and decentralized global institutions that allow for national sovereignty. Armed diplomacy, as Nau also named it, prescribes the use of force as a wagering tool in negotiation. Nau extolled the foreign policy initiatives of presidents such as Thomas Jefferson, James K. Polk, and Ronald Reagan not only for their willingness to use necessary force, but also for their readiness to negotiate when possible.

Nau stressed that he hopes that by adopting conservative internationalist principles, the US will continue the spread of freedom and protection from despots while remaining fiscally responsible. He concluded that by setting clear priorities and goals before engagement, long-term military operations can be avoided. Conservative internationalism would allow the US to achieve its goals abroad and domestically.
–Laura Lalinde

Event Description

Debates about whether and how much America should stay engaged in the world revolve around three main traditions: liberal internationalism, realism, and nationalism. In his new book “Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy Under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan” (Princeton University Press, September 2013), political scientist and former White House senior staffer Henry R. Nau delves deeply into a fourth, often overlooked foreign policy tradition called conservative internationalism.

In this Bradley Lecture, Nau will explore the tradition through the foreign polices of four presidents. Conservative internationalism, Nau believes, offers a value-based and cost-effective way for America to stay engaged in the world at a time when isolationist tendencies are once again tempting America to withdraw.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


5:15 PM

5:30 PM
Arthur C. Brooks, AEI

Henry Nau, US–Japan–South Korea Legislative Exchange Program

7:00 PM
Adjournment and Reception

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Laura Lalinde at [email protected], 202.862.5875.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Arthur C. Brooks
is the president of AEI. Until January 1, 2009, he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is the author of 10 books and many articles on topics ranging from the economics of the arts to applied mathematics. His most recent books include “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise” (Basic Books, 2012), “The Battle: How the Fight between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future” (Basic Books, May 2010), “Gross National Happiness” (Basic Books, 2008), “Social Entrepreneurship” (Prentice-Hall, 2008), and “Who Really Cares” (Basic Books, 2006). Before pursuing his work in public policy, Brooks spent 12 years as a professional French hornist with the City Orchestra of Barcelona and other ensembles.

Henry Nau is professor of political science and international affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. His books include, among others, “Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy Under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan” (Princeton University Press, 2013), “Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions and Ideas” (CQ Press, Third Edition, 2011), “At Home Abroad: Identity and Power in American Foreign Policy” (Cornell, 2002), and “The Myth of America’s Decline” (Oxford University Press, 1990). Nau directs the US–Japan–South Korea Legislative Exchange Program as well as semiannual meetings among members of the US Congress, of the Japanese Diet, and of the Korean National Assembly. During the academic year 2011–12 he was the W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow and the Susan Louise Dyer Peace National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. From January 1981 to July 1983, he served on former president Reagan’s National Security Council as senior staff member responsible for international economic affairs. In 1977 he received the US State Department’s Superior Honor Award. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Council on Foreign Relations, Nau served two years as a lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

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