Speaker: Patrick Porter, Professor of International Security and Strategy, University of Birmingham

How should political realists view the United States' role in the Middle East? Political realists disagree on what America should "do" and "be" in the Middle East. They are united in their scepticism towards extravagant geopolitical projects such as the "Global War on Terror" and attempts to transform the region along democratic, capitalist lines. Yet they divide over other fundamental questions: how important is the Middle East to U.S. national interests? Is America's patronage of Israel and the Saudi bloc prudent? What military posture is needed, if any, and for what purpose? This seminar offers a genealogy of these intramural arguments within realism, in order to surface the disagreements and evaluate the choices they offer. The speaker identifies two strands: "primacy" realism, that advocates continued pursuit of hegemony with the United States as an effective stabilizer, and "shield of the republic" realism, which views the region as an unruly place that both entangles and corrupts the republic, involving interests that are either manageable from a remove or only generated by being there in the first place. The speaker makes the case for the second tradition, arguing that the time for abandonment has come.

Please join us! Coffee, tea, and refreshments provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

This seminar is being held under the auspices of the joint HKS/MIT Program on Strategy, Security, and Statecraft.

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.