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  • Author: Michael B Greenwald
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Saudi Vision 2030 — Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s bid to diversify his nation’s oil-dependent economy — is one of the most consequential development plans in modern history. So it was no surprise to see MbS, as he is known, grinning with Chinese leaders during his Asian investment trip last month. As Chinese officials raved about the “enormous potential” of the Saudi economy, Saudi officials praised the compatibility of Chinese and Saudi cultures, and MbS even defended China’s maltreatment of Muslim Uighurs
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael B Greenwald
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: We can envision the advent of a new economic revolution forming in the Shia crescent as a new, cohesive political force in the Middle East between Sunni Gulf Arabs and Israel by deepening rapprochement to counter Iran’s expansion. Alongside years of discreet contact and informal diplomatic backchannels between Gulf Countries and Israel, the future portends closer economic links between these power blocs. With the combination of Israeli technology and Gulf capital, there is no shortage of synergies eager to be developed, as Gulf States explore new visionary economic reforms looking beyond a dependence on oil revenues.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Philippe Le Corre
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Kazakhstan is one of China’s direct neighbours, and a prominent one by size and border. As the Chinese proverb states, “a close neighbour is more valuable than a distant relative”,[1] hence the importance of Sino-Kazakh ties, especially at a time when Beijing tries to promote its “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) across Eurasia. The country has a 1782.75 km-long border with China, and shares much history and people with the former Middle Kingdom. Although data is sparse, it is known that many Uyghurs –the main tribe of Xinjiang, China’s troubled autonomous region – live in Kazakhstan. There are also ethnic Kazakhs living on the Chinese side, in Xinjiang (many of them facing great political difficulties, if not persecutions).
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The Islamic Republic of Iran marks its 40th anniversary this week. But, with the country beset by a severe economic crisis, the question on everyone’s lips –within Iran and the diaspora alike – seems to be whether the Islamic Revolution has actually improved Iranians’ lives.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Martin S. Feldstein
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously to increase the short-term interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, taking it from 2.25% to 2.5%. This was the fourth increase in 12 months, a sequence that had been projected a year ago, and the FOMC members also indicated that there would be two more quarter-point increases in 2019. The announcement soon met with widespread disapproval.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Financial Markets
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Gabriel Cederberg, Jordan D'Amato
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: American democracy is under attack. From the daily news to our social media feeds, nation-state competitors target the United States and its citizens, seeking to fuel division and chaos at home while undermining our interests abroad and our will to defend them. It is critical that policymakers and citizens understand these threats and how to counter them. This playbook seeks to ensure that U.S. citizens, not foreign actors, determine the future of U.S. democracy.
  • Topic: Global Focus
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Alastair Iain Johnston
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many scholars and policymakers in the United States accept the narrative that China is a revisionist state challenging the U.S.-dominated international liberal order. The narrative assumes that there is a singular liberal order and that it is obvious what constitutes a challenge to it. The concepts of order and challenge are, however, poorly operationalized. There are at least four plausible operationalizations of order, three of which are explicitly or implicitly embodied in the dominant narrative. These tend to assume, ahistorically, that U.S. interests and the content of the liberal order are almost identical. The fourth operationalization views order as an emergent property of the interaction of multiple state, substate, nonstate, and international actors. As a result, there are at least eight “issue-specific orders” (e.g., military, trade, information, and political development). Some of these China accepts; some it rejects; and some it is willing to live with. Given these multiple orders and varying levels of challenge, the narrative of a U.S.-dominated liberal international order being challenged by a revisionist China makes little conceptual or empirical sense. The findings point to the need to develop more generalizable ways of observing orders and compliance.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Hegemony, Military Affairs, Information Age, Liberal Order
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Fiona S. Cunningham, M. Taylor Fravel
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Chinese views of nuclear escalation are key to assessing the potential for nuclear escalation in a crisis or armed conflict between the United States and China, but they have not been examined systematically. A review of original Chinese-language sources and interviews with members of China's strategic community suggest that China is skeptical that nuclear escalation could be controlled once nuclear weapons are used and, thus, leaders would be restrained from pursuing even limited use. These views are reflected in China's nuclear operational doctrine (which outlines plans for retaliatory strikes only and lacks any clear plans for limited nuclear use) and its force structure (which lacks tactical nuclear weapons). The long-standing decoupling of Chinese nuclear and conventional strategy, organizational biases within China's strategic community, and the availability of space, cyber, and conventional missile weapons as alternative sources of strategic leverage best explain Chinese views toward nuclear escalation. China's confidence that a U.S.-China conflict would not escalate to the use of nuclear weapons may hamper its ability to identify nuclear escalation risks in such a scenario. Meanwhile, U.S. scholars and policymakers emphasize the risk of inadvertent escalation in a conflict with China, but they are more confident than their Chinese counterparts that the use of nuclear weapons could remain limited. When combined, these contrasting views could create pressure for a U.S.-China conflict to escalate rapidly into an unlimited nuclear war.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, International Security, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Stephanie Schwartz
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Conflict between returning refugees and nonmigrant populations is a pervasive yet frequently overlooked security issue in post-conflict societies. Although scholars have demonstrated how out-migration can regionalize, prolong, and intensify civil war, the security consequences of return migration are undertheorized. An analysis of refugee return to Burundi after the country's 1993–2005 civil war corroborates a new theory of return migration and conflict: return migration creates new identity divisions based on whether and where individuals were displaced during wartime. These cleavages become new sources of conflict in the countries of origin when local institutions, such as land codes, citizenship regimes, or language laws, yield differential outcomes for individuals based on where they lived during the war. Ethnographic evidence gathered in Burundi and Tanzania from 2014 to 2016 shows how the return of refugees created violent rivalries between returnees and nonmigrants. Consequently, when Burundi faced a national-level political crisis in 2015, prior experiences of return shaped both the character and timing of out-migration from Burundi. Illuminating the role of reverse population movements in shaping future conflict extends theories of political violence and demonstrates why breaking the cycle of return and repeat displacement is essential to the prevention of conflict.
  • Topic: Civil War, Migration, National Security, Global Security
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tanzania, Burundi, East Africa
  • Author: Elizabeth N. Saunders
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: When and how do domestic politics influence a state's nuclear choices? Recent scholarship on nuclear security develops many domestic-political explanations for different nuclear decisions. These explanations are partly the result of two welcome trends: first, scholars have expanded the nuclear timeline, examining state behavior before and after nuclear proliferation; and second, scholars have moved beyond blunt distinctions between democracies and autocracies to more fine-grained understandings of domestic constraints. But without linkages between them, new domestic-political findings could be dismissed as a laundry list of factors that do not explain significant variation in nuclear decisions. This review essay assesses recent research on domestic politics and nuclear security, and develops a framework that illuminates when and how domestic-political mechanisms are likely to affect nuclear choices. In contrast to most previous domestic arguments, many of the newer domestic-political mechanisms posited in the literature are in some way top-down; that is, they show leaders deliberately maintaining or loosening control over nuclear choices. Two dimensions govern the extent and nature of domestic-political influence on nuclear choices: the degree of threat uncertainty and the costs and benefits to leaders of expanding the circle of domestic actors involved in a nuclear decision. The framework developed in this review essay helps make sense of several cases explored in the recent nuclear security literature. It also has implications for understanding when and how domestic-political arguments might diverge from the predictions of security-based analyses.
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, International Security, Domestic politics, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Iran, North Korea