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The End of Ambition:

America’s Past, Present, & Future in the Middle East

What’s next for the U.S. in the Middle East? Join author Steven Cook, senior fellow for Middle East & Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations, in conversation with Jim Falk on what went wrong with U.S. involvement in the region, and how the U.S. should reimagine our strategic interests in the Middle East amid a changing global order.

“Cook demonstrates with terrifying clarity that the Middle East’s reputation for devouring the schemes and dreams of great powers is sending to more and is more often than not a place where grandiose American ideas have gone to die.”
Aaron David Miller, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Brought to you by WorldNow with Jim Falk hosted by the World Affairs Council of Connecticut and Global Santa Fe.

Date & Time:

Tuesday, July 30, 2024

 4:00 pm PDT/7:00 pm ET


Zoom Webinar



About the Book

The End of Ambition: America’s Past, Present and Future in the Middle East by Steven Cook

A clear-headed vision for the United States’ role in the Middle East that highlights the changing nature of US national interests and the challenges of grand strategizing at a time of profound change in the international order.

Following a long series of catastrophic misadventures in the Middle East over the last two decades, the American foreign policy community has tried to understand what went wrong. After weighing the evidence, they have mostly advised a retreat from the region. The basic view is that when the United States tries to advance change in the Middle East, it only makes matters worse.

In The End of Ambition, Steven A. Cook argues that while these analysts are rightly concerned that engagement drains US resources and distorts its domestic politics, the broader impulse to disengage tends to neglect important lessons from the past. Moreover, advocates of pulling back overlook the potential risks of withdrawal. Covering the relationship between the US and the Middle East since the end of WWII, Cook makes the bold claim that despite setbacks and moral costs, the United States has been overwhelmingly successful in protecting its core national interests in the Middle East. Conversely, overly ambitious policies to remake the region and leverage US power not only ended in failure, but rendered the region unstable in new and largely misunderstood ways.

While making the case that retrenchment is not the answer to America’s problems in the Middle East, The End of Ambition highlights how America’s interests in the region have begun to change and critically examines alternative approaches to US-Middle East policy. Cook highlights the challenges that policymakers and analysts confront developing a new strategy for the United States in the Middle East against the backdrop of both political uncertainty in the United States and a changing global order.

Purchase The End of Ambition here.

Speaker Bio:

Steven A. Cook

Steven A. Cook is Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S.-Middle East policy. Cook is the author of False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East. Cook is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine. He has also published widely in international affairs journals, opinion magazines, and newspapers, and is a frequent commentator on radio and television. Cook holds a BA in international studies from Vassar College, an MA in international relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and an MA and a PhD in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. He speaks Arabic and Turkish and reads French.

Moderator Bio:

Jim Falk

Jim Falk is President Emeritus of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. Now residing in Santa Fe, New Mexico he is member of the Board of Global Santa Fe where he chairs the program committee. Jim co-hosts Perspectives Matter, a McCuistion Program, that airs weekly on KERA-Dallas (PBS). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.