Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bridging policymaking and academia: a SAIS tradition

The scope of SAIS scholarship leapt from the pages of a recent edition of one of the world's leading newspapers.

SAIS's dean, a resident scholar at the Bologna Center and an alumnus of the Bologna program all featured in Financial Times articles touching on U.S. foreign policy, President Barack Obama's presidency and a late Marxist historian.
SAIS Dean Vali Nasr

The range of expertise reflected SAIS's long tradition of bridging policymaking and academia. Exhibit number one, SAIS Dean Vali Nasr.

Nasr's new book, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, was reviewed by the FT's chief U.S. commentator, Edward Luce, who says the former U.S. State Department adviser "is capable of making almost Kissinger-like connections – a sophistication that often seems lacking in Obama’s White House."

This is how Nasr put it in speaking to the Johns Hopkins Gazette: "[Diplomacy] has played a very important role in furthering American interests all along, and I’m basically very hopeful about America’s place in the world. It has played a very critical role in stability in the world economically, securitywise and politically, and I hope that this book will be read with the view that that mission has to and will continue.”

The same FT article reviewed a new volume by James Mann, an author-in-residence at SAIS's Foreign Policy Institute who this spring has been the first resident scholar at the Bologna Institute for Policy Research.

In Luce's view, Mann concludes in his book, The Obamians, that "Obama is handling America’s straitened circumstances with growing skill."

Putting both books side by side, Luce says: "(F)or insights readers should turn to Nasr and Mann. Both books come too soon to be definitive. Obama’s presidency is only halfway done. But in their different ways each sheds light on a U.S. whose indispensability much of the world is starting to question."

In the same pages of the FT, SAIS Bologna alumnus Mark Mazower reviews a posthumous volume of essays, lectures and reviews by Eric Hobsbawm, a British historian who influenced generations of students with his works on industrial capitalism and socialism before dying last year.

Mazower, a professor of history at Columbia University, attended SAIS Bologna in 1981-83.

Nelson Graves

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