Restraint and National Security Conference

February 6, 2020  |  8:15AM - 5:15PM
Robert B. Rowling Hall, Guadalupe Room

On February 6, 2020, the Intelligence Studies Project, the Clements Center for National Security, the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, and the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin in partnership with the Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins; the Duke University Program in American Grand Strategy; and the Texas A&M Albritton Center for Grand Strategy, hosted a conference on “Restraint and National Security.” The conference explored the intent, the causes, and the consequences of restraint in foreign engagement in the course of American history.

Supported by both political parties, worldwide engagement has characterized American foreign policy for many decades. Debate has most often revolved around the nature and details of engagement strategies. But the presidency of Donald Trump has provoked contentious debate concerning American engagement with the world. Indeed, the Trump presidency has shifted that debate towards a more fundamental question: Is worldwide engagement a useful or valid expression of American political life? Moreover, recent works like Stephen Walt’s The Hell of Good Intentions and a recent Minerva Initiative study, The Political, Economic, and Social Effects of the United States’ Overseas Military Presence, are examples of fresh academic interest in examining and questioning the history and consequences of America’s broad foreign engagement.

In view of this, the Intelligence Studies Project and its partners convened a conference in order to examine moments in the history of American foreign relations when policy makers and/or the American public embraced or emphasized restraint in foreign engagement. We hoped to discover causes, connections, implications, and lessons that would inform our current moment, as leaders challenge the usefulness of a variety of engagement practices such as alliances, treaties, security assistance, détente, and direct military intervention.

Conference Date and Location:
Thursday, February 6, 2020 at Robert B. Rowling Hall (RRH), Guadalupe Room.


8:15 – 8:45 am • Arrival, Breakfast, and Coffee

Coffee / Tea / Light breakfast available

8:45 – 9:00 am • Welcome Remarks

Paul Edgar, Associate Director, Clements Center for National Security

9:00 – 9:30 am • Sources of Restraint and Engagement in Civil Society

William Quinn, Johns Hopkins, SAIS

9:30 – 11:00 am • Panel One: Paradoxes of Restraint

• Jeongseok Lee, Albritton Center for Grand Strategy, Texas A&M University
• deRaismes Combes, Clements Center for National Security, University of Texas at Austin
• David Tier, Duke University 
• Tyler Bowen, Yale University 
• Moderator: Rebecca Johnston, University of Texas at Austin

11:00 am – 12:15 pm • Panel Two: History and Restraint

• Leyla Tiglay, The Ohio State University 
• Diana Bolsinger, LBJ School for Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin 
• Emily Whalen, Ernest May Fellow, Harvard Kennedy Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
• Moderator: Paula O’Donnell, University of Texas at Austin

12:15 – 12:45 pm • Lunch

Buffet lunch provided for participants and registered guests

12:45 – 1:45 pm • Keynote #1: A Historian Reflects upon Restraint

Frank Gavin, Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and Director, Henry Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, 
Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

1:45 – 2:45 pm • Keynote #2: Offshore Balancing: Revisiting the World War II Case

John Schuessler, Co-Academic Director, Albritton Center for Grand Strategy, Bush School of Government and 
Public Service, Texas A&M University

2:45 – 3:00 pm • Coffee break

3:00 – 4:15 pm • Panel Three: Restraint Under the Influence – Leaders and Structures

• Theo Milonopoulos, Columbia University
• A. Bradley Potter, Johns Hopkins, SAIS 
• Tim McDade, Duke University 
• Moderator: Ashlyn Hand, LBJ School for Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin

4:15 – 4:45 pm • “Avoiding foreign entanglements” – Reflections in View of American Political Origins

Charles Zug, University of Texas at Austin

4:45 – 5:15 pm • Reflections in View of the Practice of Strategy

Brigadier General (Ret.) Kimberley Field, Executive Director, Albritton Center for Grand Strategy, Bush School 
of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University

5:15 pm • Conference Adjourns

The event was free and open to all students and the public.