Robert tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.
The 2016 elections in the United States: What do they mean for the world?
Is fascism coming to America? The threat posed by Donald Trump to American democracy.
What would a Trump presidency mean for the future of American foreign policy.
Clinton or Trump? Two directions for American foreign policy
Russia and the West
China and the International order: Rising powers and the risk of war
The future of transatlantic relations after Brexit
What do Brexit and Trump tell us about the state of the world?
The future of middle east and terrorism
Combatting terrorism: a transatlantic solution
The immigration challenge: Europe and the United States
The coming world disorder
Syria and world order: the challenge to the West
A discussion of America’s place in the world, past and present.
In 1817 America’s minister in London, John Quincy Adams,
reported that “The universal feeling of Europe in witnessing the
gigantic growth of our population and power is that we shall,
if united, became a very dangerous member of the society of
nations.... They therefore hope what they confidently expect, that we shall not long remain united.”
Most Americans today would be surprised to know that their nation, even in its infancy, was regarded as a very dangerous nation by most of the rest of the world. Americans have long cherished an image of themselves as by nature inward-looking and aloof, only sporadically and spasmodically venturing forth into the world, usually in response to external attack or perceived threats. This self-image survives despite 400 years of expansion and an ever-deepening involve- ment in world affairs, and despite innumerable wars, interventions, and prolonged occupations in foreign lands. It is as if it was all an accident or an odd twist of fate. Even as the United States has steadily risen to a position of global hegemony, expanding its reach and purview and involvement across the continent and then across the oceans, Americans still believe their nation’s natural tendencies are toward passivity, indifference, and insularity.
This lack of self-awareness has had its virtues. A nation so unaware of its own behavior may seem less threatening than a nation with a plan of expansion and conquest. But it has also been a problem. Americans have often not realized how their naturally expansive tendencies—political, ideological, economic, strategic, and cultural—bump up against and intrude upon other peoples and cultures. They have not anticipated, therefore, the way their expansiveness could provoke reactions, and sometimes violent reactions against them.
And not only have Americans frequently failed to see how their actions could provoke reactions from others. They have not even accurately predicted their own responses. The history of America has been one of repeated surprises, not only at the behavior of others, but at the behavior of the United States in response to the actions of others. Most Americans have believed they did not care what happened in most of the rest of the world, and yet when events occurred, they found that they did care.
The Middle East
Is Arab democracy a threat to Israel? The idea of an Egypt governed by the Muslim Brotherhood sends shivers down spines. Israelis and supporters of Israel in the United States generally agree that the ferment in the Arab world has been a major setback to Israel's interests and look back with some nostalgia to the good old days of Arab dictatorship. But is this assessment correct? All the wars Israel has ever fought in its difficult history have been against Arab dictatorships, not Arab democracies. Today the greatest threat Israel faces is from the theocratic dictatorship of Iran. Would a democratic Egypt, even dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, be more likely to make war on Israel? It seems unlikely, especially with all the immense difficulties Egypt faces both politically and economically. And if a democratic, Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government does preserve peace with Israel, this would be a breakthrough. It would mean that for the first time, a popular Arab government, reflecting the views of Islamists, chose peace and co-existence with Israel over confrontation—in which case the Arab revolutions might turn out to be a blessing for Israel rather than a curse.
The Return of History
Hopes for a new peaceful international order after the end of the Cold War have been dashed by sobering realities: Great powers are once again competing for honor and influence. The world remains "unipolar," but international competition among the United States, Russia, China, Europe, Japan, India, and Iran raises new threats of regional conflict, and a new contest between western liberalism and the great eastern autocracies of Russia and China has reinjected ideology into geopolitics.
How we in the democracies understand and cope with these challenges will shape our future for better or for ill.