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  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Both the American left and right often use “national security” to justify sweeping proposals for new U.S. protectionism and industrial policy. “Free markets” and a lack of government support for the manufacturing sector are alleged to have crippled the U.S. defense industrial base’s ability to supply “essential” goods during war or other emergencies, thus imperiling national security and demanding a fundamental rethink of U.S. trade and manufacturing policy. The COVID-19 crisis and U.S.-China tensions have amplified these claims. This resurgent “security nationalism,” however, extends far beyond the limited theoretical scenarios in which national security might justify government action, and it suffers from several flaws. First, reports of the demise of the U.S. manufacturing sector are exaggerated. Although U.S. manufacturing sector employment and share of national economic output (gross domestic product) have declined, these data are mostly irrelevant to national security and reflect macroeconomic trends affecting many other countries. By contrast, the most relevant data—on the U.S. manufacturing sector’s output, exports, financial performance, and investment—show that the nation’s total productive capacity and most of the industries typically associated with “national security” are still expanding. Second, “security nationalism” assumes a need for broad and novel U.S. government interventions while ignoring the targeted federal policies intended to support the defense industrial base. In fact, many U.S. laws already authorize the federal government to support or protect discrete U.S. industries on national security grounds. Third, several of these laws and policies provide a cautionary tale regarding the inefficacy of certain core “security nationalist” priorities. Case studies of past government support for steel, shipbuilding, semiconductors, and machine tools show that security‐​related protectionism and industrial policy in the United States often undermines national security. Fourth, although the United States is not nearly as open (and thus allegedly “vulnerable”) to external shocks as claimed, global integration and trade openness often bolster U.S. national security by encouraging peace among trading nations or mitigating the impact of domestic shocks. Together, these points rebut the most common claims in support of “security nationalism” and show why skepticism of such initiatives is necessary when national security is involved. They also reveal market‐​oriented trade, immigration, tax, and regulatory policies that would generally benefit the U.S. economy while also supporting the defense industrial base and national security.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, COVID-19, Free Market, Deindustrialization
  • Political Geography: China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Neal McCluskey
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In one year, COVID-19 contributed to the permanent closure of at least 132 mainly low‐​cost private schools. But that was better than some feared. As COVID-19 struck the United States in March 2020, sending the nation into lockdown, worry about the fate of private schools was high. These schools, which only survive if people can pay for them, seemed to face deep trouble. Many private schools have thin financial margins even in good economic times and rely not only on tuition but also on fundraisers, such as in‐​person auctions, to make ends meet. When the pandemic hit, many such events were canceled, and churches no longer met in person, threatening contributions that help support some private schools. Simultaneously, many private schooling families faced tighter finances, making private schooling less affordable. Finally, families that could still afford private schooling might have concluded that continuing to pay for education that was going to be online‐​only made little sense.
  • Topic: Education, COVID-19, Private Schools
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jeffrey Miron
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Policymakers must do something to slow the growing debt burden or else face a major fiscal meltdown. Proposals such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal would only make the looming fiscal crisis worse. Before COVID-19, the U.S. debt burden was large and on an unsustainable path under reasonable assumptions about economic fundamentals. Standard policy responses, such as higher taxes or lower discretionary spending, could not substantially slow the growth of the U.S. debt burden; only reduced growth in entitlement spending, especially on Medicare, had the potential to avoid eventual fiscal default. COVID-19, the ensuing recession, and the subsequent policy responses have all increased U.S. deficits substantially, potentially altering these conclusions. But these events are likely to be temporary and may be partially offset by other demographic and economic changes related to COVID-19. As a result, the pandemic did not substantially alter the projected path of the U.S. fiscal imbalance. That bit of good news does not alter the grim long‐​term U.S. fiscal outlook. The most effective way to slow the growth of the debt burden is to cut entitlement spending substantially.
  • Topic: Debt, Tax Systems, Fiscal Policy, COVID-19, Fiscal Deficit
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: John Edwards
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Despite Victoria’s second wave of infection, Australia’s economic recovery from the coronavirus is underway. The bitter aftermath includes high and rising unemployment, vastly increased government debt, and a markedly less congenial global economy. Though formidable, the fiscal challenge is well within Australia’s means, especially if the Reserve Bank remains willing to acquire and hold Australian government debt. It may need to do so anyway to suppress an unwelcome appreciation of the Australian dollar in a world where major central banks are committed to low long term interest rates. Australia’s increasing integration into the East Asia economic community offsets the drag from the major advanced economies, but the US–China quarrel and the dislocation of global trading and investment relationships it threatens heightens the tension between Australia’s economic and security choices.
  • Topic: Debt, Economy, Fiscal Policy, Unemployment, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia, North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Steven Metz
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the United States, the Army is simultaneously providing extensive support to civil authorities and maintaining readiness to perform its deterrence and warfighting missions. Eventually the current crisis will subside but the United States and its Army will not simply return to the way things were before. The pandemic has unleashed great change within the United States and the global security environment, accelerating forces that will, in combination, be revolutionary. As Dmitri Simes put it, "If ever the modern world faced a “perfect storm,” this is it. The combination of a deadly and highly infectious virus, an emerging worldwide economic depression, the collapse of global governance, and an absence of a coordinated and effective international response—all have contributed to a tragedy of historic magnitude, one that will not be easily overcome." While it is impossible to predict precisely the course of any revolution, it is important to assess the likely or possible direction of change. Given that, this discussion paper suggests some of the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the US Army and recommends one or more senior leader steering committees the Army should undertake once the immediate crisis is under control.
  • Topic: Security, Army, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mr. Nathan P. Freier, Robert Hume, John Schaus
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The Department of Defense (DOD) needs to re-institutionalize horizon scanning for “strategic shock” and integrate this perspective into its strategy, plans, and risk assessment. Defense-relevant “strategic shocks” are disruptive, transformational events for DOD. Though their precise origin and nature are uncertain, strategic shocks often emerge from clear trends. Shocks are often recognized in advance on some level but are nonetheless “shocking” because they are largely ignored. Too often, rapid strategic shock catches the DOD off guard because leadership fails to account for it. To be sure, accounting for shock is a value judgment. Many may actually see what ultimately becomes a shock well in advance. However, readying for shock requires leadership to understand a contingency event’s potential for strategic-level hazard. Failing that, and once confronted with shock, leadership frequently mischaracterizes it as defying reasonable prediction and prior planning.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Army, COVID-19, Strategic Planning
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: C. Anthony Pfaff
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: There has been a great deal of speculation regarding how the current COVID-19 pandemic could affect civil-military relations in the United States. Oona Hathaway observes that after the terrorists attacks on September 11, 2001, which killed approximately three thousand Americans, the United States “radically re-oriented” its security priorities and embarked on a two-decadelong global war on terror that cost $2.8 trillion from 2002 to 2017. Given that COVID-19 could kill more than one hundred thousand Americans, she argues that it is time to re-orient those priorities again.1 Of course, simply re-orienting security priorities by themselves will not be transformative. Nora Bensahel and David Barno, for example, argue that diminished defense budgets resulting from shrinking revenues will make less funds available to maintain expensive forward bases and legacy weapons programs. Moreover, they argue, the increased sense of vulnerability will give the National Guard and reserve components a greater priority than active forces given their more prominent role in addressing the current crisis.2 They are probably right that these things will occur. However, a smaller active force and an empowered National Guard and reserve components will not fundamentally alter the role the military plays in American society. That kind of transformation requires not only taking on new missions, but more importantly, taking on new expert knowledge. Since a profession’s status is contingent on a distinct body of expert knowledge, and the autonomy to apply that knowledge within a given jurisdiction, prioritizing human security will require developing expertise in more than the use of force. Doing so will shift the military’s focus from lethality to the prevention, or failing that, the alleviation of suffering, potentially blurring the lines between military and civilian realms. Of course, such an outcome is not inevitable and the US military has played a role in disaster response before without re-orienting its security priorities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may prove a pivotal moment but not simply because of reduced funding for military expenditures or increased vulnerability to pandemics. Diminishing external security threats, due in some part to the effects of the virus, coupled with increasing demand to assure human well-being both in the United States and abroad, could lead to a rethinking of the military’s role in American society. This rethinking could include the redistribution of roles between the military, civilian agencies, and other organizations, which extends beyond simply decreasing funds spent on defense.
  • Topic: Security, Armed Forces, Pandemic, COVID-19, Civil-Military Relations
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: William Braun
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare several long-dormant vulnerabilities, and opportunities, associated with US national security and military business practices. Military leaders must consider political context when making resource prioritization decisions that attend to these new perspectives. Three controversial political themes dominate the national security dialogue in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. First, the nation’s initial focus will likely be on the economic recovery effort, while incorporating preparations to mitigate the reemergence of COVID-19 or a future pandemic. Second, the nation may experience a prolonged period of austerity, possibly combined with greater taxation, to recover COVID-19 related mitigation debt. Finally, because of these first two issues, defense budgets are likely to experience cuts. Defense spending is the only viable discretionary spending category subject to belt-tightening measures amid the divisive political gridlock and vitriol of a highly contentious election year. Emerging analysis suggests the probability of economic stagnation, uneven sector and state economic recovery, mounting national debt, and political infighting in the shadow of a contentious election will underpin these themes. However, analyses of military implications are less developed. Military resource prioritization choices are often biased by traditional justification reasoning and conventional force management assumptions. Arguments defending these choices may not adequately account for the influence of domestic political agendas, structural power pressures, or the military’s culture. This paper will examine domestic political trends, their potential military implications, and offer a few defense management arguments to augment traditional justification reasoning. A future article will consider the influence of stakeholder’s structural power, the culture of the Army’s defense management enterprise, and their influence on arguments used to defend resource prioritization choices.
  • Topic: National Security, Military Affairs, Domestic politics, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Matt Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will have significant implications for the military and the US Army. Some experts have suggested that massive budget cuts are likely and will force the Army to increase the size of the reserve components. After all, the reserve components have performed the majority of the military’s work during the pandemic, and have argued for years that they are a low-cost alternative to active forces. However, there are several reasons this should not happen—at least not without a major shift in America’s global military presence and a significant revision of our National Security Strategy. There is no doubt that the Army’s reserve components have played an important role in the nation’s coronavirus response. Over forty-six thousand National Guard troops have been mobilized across the country, and the Army Reserve mobilized over three thousand soldiers. This was most notable in the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, which deployed to various cities in need of additional manpower. They have provided vital services and a visual reminder of the Army’s homeland responsibilities. The importance of their efforts have led some to suggest that the reserve components will become more important and that resources should be diverted to them or that their numbers should grow. After all, reserve units in reserve status cost less. The National Guard consumes 12 percent of the Army’s base budget, and the Army Reserve only a paltry 6 percent, the major savings being the full-time pay, additional benefits, housing, installation, training, and operations and maintenance costs required by their active counterparts.
  • Topic: Budget, Army, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nathan Freier, Robert Hume, Al Lord, John Schaus
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: These are complex, turbulent, and uncertain times to be sure. The Department of Defense (DOD) is at an important inflection point. COVID-19 has irrevocably altered the dynamics of international security and reshaped DOD’s decision-making landscape. As a result, DOD will have to adapt to significantly different strategic circumstances post-COVID than those assumed operative in the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS18). We recommend that DOD recognize this to be true, seize the initiative, create opportunity from crisis, and recraft defense strategy to re-emerge from COVID as a stronger, more hypercompetitive institution. The past is definitely prologue in this regard. DOD’s current strategic circumstances mirror those of the immediate post-9/11 period. The wars that followed 9/11 forced a substantial strategic course correction on DOD. By 2003, it was clear that the azimuth set in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR01) was fundamentally compromised by the stark reality of the Iraq and Afghan wars and the wider “Global War on Terrorism.” There was corporate recognition at the time that the path described in QDR01 was not likely to position the American military for the demands of the post-9/11 environment. Just as war reshaped DOD’s strategic agenda then, COVID-19 will change the dynamics of great power rivalry and the defense choices associated with it going forward as well. By itself, we suggest this necessitates a thoughtful re-examination of the assumptions and approach described in NDS18. To use a pop culture analogy, DOD’s current situation is reminiscent of “Neo’s choice” in the dystopian movie The Matrix. In the film, rebel leader Morpheus offers protagonist Neo the choice of a red pill or a blue pill. The red pill extends to Neo an unvarnished view of “the matrix” and its broader and more difficult set of governing facts. The blue pill, on the other hand, returns Neo to his prior blissfully naïve existence plugged into a land of computer make-believe. The blue pill is all about doubling down on a comfortable yet already discredited past. The red pill offers Neo the opportunity to boldly enter a difficult but nonetheless transformational future. In the end (spoiler alert), Neo chooses red. Like Neo, DOD has its own difficult “red or blue” choice on the near-horizon. COVID forced the issue. DOD’s choice is between prudent risk-taking, transformation, and increased hypercompetitiveness (red) on the one hand, and status quo, steady decline, and inevitable loss of position in key regions and domains on the other (blue). As in the case of Neo, we suggest that DOD choose the former (red pill) transformational option.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Armed Forces, Strategic Competition, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Christopher A. McNally
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: With both the US and China facing a long economic slowdown, the bilateral relationship between the globe's two largest economies faces massive challenges. Making matters worse, Washington and Beijing have attempted to divert domestic attention away from their own substantial shortcomings by blaming each other. Given the economic uncertainty, each side has limited leverage to force the other into making concessions. Harsh rhetoric only serves to inflame tensions at the worst possible time. For better or worse, the US and China are locked in a messy economic marriage. A divorce at this time would exact an enormous cost in an already weakened economy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kyoko Kuwahara
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The hardening of US attitudes toward China's exercise of sharp power in recent years has been dramatic. As a result, China's sharp power has been eliminated from the US, and the confrontational structure between the US and China has shifted from a "US-China trade war" to a "political war" or "information war". Since the beginning of 2020, the two superpowers have engaged in verbal warfare over responses to the new coronavirus. Whenever the US criticizes China, China shifts the blame to the US, and they use the media to restrain each other. Now the US and China are fighting against the new coronavirus even as they also waging a "propaganda war" against each other.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Public Opinion, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tetsuo Kotani
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: "We're not at war. Sailors don't need to die," wrote the captain of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was infected with the novel coronavirus while on a mission at sea in March, in a letter to the Navy's leadership asking for permission to isolate the bulk of his roughly 5,000 crew members on shore. The U.S. Navy dismissed the captain for unnecessarily spreading the sensitive letter, while more than 1,000 crew members, including the captain himself, have been confirmed infected and one has died. In the meantime, the acting chief of the Navy, who had inappropriately criticized the dismissed captain, was forced to resign, and the command and control of the military has been brought into question in the midst of the pandemic of COVID-19.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Armed Forces, Alliance, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Naoko Funatsu
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The US is currently being rocked by two disruptions: the spread of novel coronavirus infections and the systemic racism deeply rooted in American society. These two disruptions have once again brought into relief the divisions that have long existed at all levels in the US. With society facing such major disturbances, both coronavirus countermeasures and racial discrimination have become politicized, and divisions in the US stemming from the partisan divide as well as President Trump's words and actions have become increasingly serious, amplifying the social turmoil.
  • Topic: COVID-19, Polarization, Society, Racism
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Many argue that the coronavirus pandemic will ultimately benefit China more than the rest of the world, especially the US. After all, America is now the worst-hit country on earth in terms of human casualties. But the crisis could in fact help the US reorganize its geopolitical thinking toward the People’s Republic, resulting in a radical break in which Washington’s political and economic elites are newly unified against a rising Beijing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: It is early days, but first indications are that the global coronavirus pandemic is entrenching long-drawn Middle Eastern geopolitical, political, ethnic, and sectarian battle lines rather than serving as a vehicle to build bridges and boost confidence. Gulf states are taking contradictory approaches to the problem of ensuring that entrenched conflicts do not spiral out of control as they battle the pandemic and struggle to cope with the economic fallout.
  • Topic: International Relations, Bilateral Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Joel Parker
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In our June issue of Iqtisadi, Joel D. Parker examines the connection between the economic crises in Lebanon and Syria in light of new sanctions imposed by the United States.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Economy, Syrian War, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: William A. Rugh
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: American Diplomacy
  • Abstract: During the pandemic that swept the world in 2020, President Trump sought to focus major blame on China, where the virus first emerged. At a press conference on March 20, as American cases increased dramatically, he began to call it the “Chinavirus”, crossing out the word “coronavirus” in his prepared text. He continued to use that term, so criticizing China became a central theme in American “public diplomacy”. A new burden was added to the U.S.-China relationship, at the very time we need more, not less, mutual understanding.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America