An Era of Intervention: Is Our Grand Strategy Making Us Safer?

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, United States grand strategy has remained consistently activist. The United States has used force frequently, maintained military bases around the globe, and expanded its collection of alliances. The September 11 attacks only increased the depth and frequency of U.S. military engagement. Proponents of this approach argue that this has been necessary for our safety.

However, these policies have produced questionable results at great cost. Nearly 7,000 U.S. military personnel have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The combined cost for the United States of those two wars exceeds $4 trillion and continues to climb. Our stated goals have not materialized in Iraq, Libya, and so many other recent cases of intervention.

Is it time to challenge the Washington consensus that led us here? Has this activism made Americans safer? Have U.S. interventions truly protected American interests? Does nation building contribute efficiently to our security?

The Charles Koch Institute is inviting esteemed foreign policy experts to discuss the results of current U.S. foreign policy. They will explore whether there are more effective alternatives to the current grand strategy.


Paul J. Saunders, Executive Director, Center for the National Interest
Saunders is executive director of the Center for the National Interest and a member of the Center’s Board of Directors. He is also associate publisher of the Center’s magazine, The National Interest. In addition to serving as the Center’s chief operating officer, Saunders directs its U.S.–Russia relations program, and he has managed projects on U.S.–European Union relations, U.S.–Japan relations, and international energy issues. Saunders is a columnist for Al-Monitor, a board member of the Energy Innovation Reform Project, and a non-resident associate of the Tokyo Foundation. He was a senior advisor for the State Department during the George W. Bush Administration and has also served as a senior advisor to the House Republican Policy Committee.


Eugene Gholz, Associate Professor of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin
Gholz is an associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. He works primarily at the intersection of national security and economic policy, on subjects including innovation, defense management, and U.S. foreign policy. From 2010–2012, he served in the Pentagon as senior advisor to the deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy. He is the co-author of Buying Military Transformation: Technological Innovation and the Defense Industry and U.S. Defense Politics: The Origins of Security Policy. Gholz’s recent scholarship focuses on energy security.

William Ruger, Vice President of Research & Policy, Charles Koch Institute
Ruger serves as the vice president, research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute and the vice president for research at the Charles Koch Foundation. Before coming to the Institute, he was most recently an associate professor at Texas State University. Ruger earned his doctorate in politics from Brandeis University and Bachelor of Arts in government from the College of William and Mary. His work has appeared in International Studies Quarterly, Civil Wars, and Armed Forces and Society, among other outlets. He is also the author of a biography on Milton Friedman and co-author of Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom. Ruger is a veteran of the Afghanistan War.

Stephen M. Walt, Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a contributing editor at Foreign Policy. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received the International Studies Association’s Distinguished Senior Scholar award in 2014. His books include The Origins of AlliancesRevolution and War, and Taming American Power: The Global Response to US PrimacyThe Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, his most recent book which he co-authored with John J. Mearsheimer, was a New York Times best-seller and has been translated into more than twenty foreign languages.

Sign up for updates