June 10, 2013 5pm to 6:30pm

In “Tyranny of Consensus,” Nolan examines three cases-the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the proxy war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa-to find the limitations of American policy-makers in understanding some of the important developments around the world. Assisted by a working group of senior practitioners and policy experts, Nolan finds that it is often the impulse to protect the already arrived at policy consensus that is to blame for failure. Without access to informed discourse or a functioning “marketplace of ideas,” policy-makers can find themselves unable or unwilling to seriously consider possible correctives even to obviously flawed strategies.


Janne E. Nolan is a member of the international affairs faculty at George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Association for Diplomatic Studies. She has held numerous senior positions in the private sector, including as professor of international affairs and deputy director of the Ridgway Center at the University of Pittsburgh, project director and research faculty at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, director of foreign policy for The Century Foundation, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, and senior international security consultant at Science Applications International Corporation.

Nolan's public service includes positions as a technology trade and arms control specialist in the Department of State, as senior representative to the Senate Armed Services Committee, and as the defense adviser to several presidential campaigns and transition teams. She served as an appointed member the White House Presidential Advisory Board on U.S. Arms and Technology Policy (chair), the National Defense Panel, the State Department's Accountability Review Board (investigating terror attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa), the Gates Panel to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the U.S., and the Secretary of Defense's Policy Board.

She is the author of seven books, including “Guardians of the Arsenal: The Politics of Nuclear Strategy” (Basic Books, 1990), “Trappings of Power: Ballistic Missiles in the Third World” (Brookings, 1991), and “An Elusive Consensus: Nuclear Weapons and American Security after the Cold War” (Brookings, 1999), and is editor (with Bernard I. Finel and Brian D. Finlay) of “Ultimate Security: Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction” (The Century Foundation Press, 2003).