Vali Nasr's The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat (Doubleday, 2013) is that rare contemporary political examination: critical and positive, specific and big picture. Nasr, dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, uses his experience as a senior adviser to veteran U.S. ambassador Richard Holbrooke to discuss what the United States is and isn't doing right in the Middle East. He delivers a highly informed examination of the Obama administration's Middle East policy that doesn't turn into partisan sermonizing. He offers an insider's perspective of diplomatic talks to assay the foreign policy's overarching philosophy. And he somehow provides a streamlined plunge into today's fractured Middle East that has the audacity to be hopeful in the face of an uncertain future.