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  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Located at the heart of the Middle East, connecting the Levant to the Persian Gulf, Iraq has always been at the centre of regional dynamics. Yet, the country is today reduced to a quasi-failed state fundamentally damaged in its political, social and economic fabric, with long-term consequences that trace a fil rouge from the 2003 US-led invasion to the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the country’s current structural fragility.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Lorenza Errighi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: If 2020 was the year of “mask diplomacy”, as countries raced to tackle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and acquire the necessary protective gear and equipment, 2021 is likely to be remembered as the year of “vaccine diplomacy”. Growing competition between states to secure the necessary quantities of vaccines to inoculate their population has already become an established feature of the post-COVID international system and such trends are only likely to increase in the near future. It normally takes up to a decade to transition from the development and testing of a vaccine in a laboratory to its large-scale global distribution. Despite current challenges, the speed of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns is unprecedented. To put an end to the current pandemic – which in one year has led to the loss of 2.6 million lives and triggered the worst economic recession since the Second World War – the goal is to ensure the widest immunisation of the world population in a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. In this context, COVID vaccines emerge as instruments of soft power, as they symbolise, on the one hand, scientific and technological supremacy and, on the other, means to support existing and emerging foreign policy partnerships and alliances with relevant geopolitical implications. From their experimentation in laboratories, to their purchase and distribution, the vaccine has emerged as a significant tool for competition between powers, often associated with the promotion of competing developmental and governance models across third countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Vedran Džihić, Paul Schmidt
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In societies devastated by the pandemic, the EU needs to leave its conventional tool-box behind and urgently speed up the Europeanisation of its neighbours in Southeast Europe. The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the vulnerabilities affecting Western Balkan countries and exposed the weakness of their state institutions, especially in the health sector and social protection. At the same time, related to the limited effectiveness of the EU enlargement process over the past years, the progress of reforms has stagnated and some countries have even experienced concerning regressions in the rule of law. The outbreak of the coronavirus crisis has meanwhile increased the presence of other geopolitical players in the region, mainly in the context of competition over vaccinations, not only of China but also of Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Awareness is growing that the EU and the West is not the only available partner. As other powers not known for their democratic practices use or misuse the Western Balkans to promote their interests, the vision of a free, democratic and truly European Balkans is no longer self-evident.
  • Topic: European Union, Institutions, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Balkans
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Union is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has swept through European societies and economies, causing more than 500,000 deaths (and counting) and a GDP downturn of –6.4 per cent in 2020. This is the third big crisis – and possibly the most dramatic – to impact the EU over the last 12 years, following the economic and financial crisis in 2008– 2010 and the extraordinary influx of migrants arriving on European shores in 2015–2016. All these crises produced asymmetrical consequences on the member countries and citizens. The already marked differences among member states have been exacerbated, making a unified response by EU institutions difficult in the process and suboptimal in the outcome. Indeed, especially during the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, the actions and statements of national leaders revealed a deep rift within the EU and the Eurozone, leading to nationalistic moves in border control and the export of medical supplies. Citizens were therefore exposed to the negative consequences of a Union with limited powers in sectors such as health and crisis management. Meanwhile, important decisions such as the approval of the Next Generation EU package and the new budget for 2021– 2027 risked ending in failure due to the opposition of some member states.
  • Topic: Regional Integration, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Marine plastic pollution has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nuclear technology provides a sustainable and scientific approach to tackling this environmental problem. Can it help Southeast Asian countries battle plastic pollution?
  • Topic: Environment, Science and Technology, Pollution, Pandemic, COVID-19, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Author: Alistair D.B. Cook
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: As the confrontation between the protestors and the military in Myanmar continues to deteriorate, now more than ever is the time for regional diplomacy. Countries in the region can be the bridge needed to the people in Myanmar and the wider international community
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Regional Integration
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Jose M. L. Montesclaros
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: With vaccines not expected to fully roll out until 2024, lockdowns remain a critical priority to save lives today. February 2021 marks the end of a year of COVID-19, and the opportunity to re-visit and improve the way lockdowns are implemented in the year ahead.
  • Topic: Pandemic, ASEAN, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Despite Duterte’s desire to shift Philippine security policy away from its treaty alliance with the US, Manila remains a close American ally. Key domestic, strategic and humanitarian factors actually make the alliance healthier. The Biden administration might just wait for Duterte to finish his term in a year's time.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Philippines, North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The recent swarming of Chinese militia boats in Whitsun Reef may indicate that President Duterte’s appeasement strategy towards China does not really work. Asserting the Arbitral Ruling must therefore be explored by Manila.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Militias
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Vietnam, Philippines
  • Author: Alistair D.B. Cook, Joel Ng
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The military coup in Myanmar has caused widespread human insecurity. The reaction of Asian countries and investors will influence Myanmar’s prospects, but further deterioration will compound difficulties.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Partnerships, Political stability, Human Security
  • Political Geography: East Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: After four dark years during which President Donald Trump systematically weakened the United States’ commitment to multilateralism, international law and universal human rights, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their impending inauguration. As an international civil society organization with its headquarters in New York, we join human rights defenders both here and abroad who view this historic moment with relief and hope. President Biden and Vice President Harris will be sworn in at a time of unprecedented crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous suffering around the world and killed over 380,000 Americans. Globally, more than 80.3 million people are also currently displaced by conflict, persecution and atrocities, the highest number since the Second World War. In all too many countries the laws, institutions and individuals who defend human rights appear to be under threat. This includes the United States, where disturbing political developments over the last four years led to the proliferation of online hate speech, the criminalization of asylum seekers and a prejudicial “Muslim Ban” aimed at refugees.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Elections, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Atrocities, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Andrew Preston, Darren Dochuk, Christopher Cannon Jones, Kelly J. Shannon, Vanessa Walker, Lauren F. Turek
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: Historians of the United States and the world are getting religion, and our understanding of American foreign relations is becoming more rounded and more comprehensive as a result. Religion provides much of the ideological fuel that drives America forward in the world, which is the usual approach historians have taken in examining the religious influence on diplomacy; it has also sometimes provided the actual nuts-and-bolts of diplomacy, intelligence, and military strategy.1 But historians have not always been able to blend these two approaches. Lauren Turek’s To Bring the Good News to All Nations is thus a landmark because it is both a study of cultural ideology and foreign policy. In tying the two together in clear and compelling ways, based on extensive digging in various archives, Turek sheds a huge amount of new light on America’s mission in the last two decades of the Cold War and beyond. Turek uses the concept of “evangelical internationalism” to explore the worldview of American Protestants who were both theologically and politically conservative, and how they came to wield enough power that they were able to help shape U.S. foreign policy from the 1970s into the twenty-first century. As the formerly dominant liberal Protestants faded in numbers and authority, and as the nation was gripped by the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, evangelicals became the vanguard of a new era in American Christianity. Evangelicals replaced liberal Protestants abroad, too, as the mainline churches mostly abandoned the mission field. The effects on U.S. foreign relations were lasting and profound.
  • Topic: International Relations, Religion, International Affairs, History, Culture, Book Review, Christianity, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Dustin Walcher, Lindsay M. Chervinsky, James F. Siekmeier, Kathryn C. Statler, Brian Etheridge, Seth Jacobs
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: Seth Jacobs can write. Rogue Diplomats is a book that specialists and educated general readers will enjoy, and the reviewers agree with my assessment. It is, in Kathryn Statler’s words, “an absolute page-turner.” Lindsay Chervinsky writes that it “… is a serious diplomatic history that contributes to our understanding of the field and U.S. history, but is also fun – a quality that isn’t always associated with historical scholarship, but should be welcome.” Brian Etheredge finds that Jacobs’ “vignettes are beautifully told,” and that he “has an eye for the telling quote and writes with a verve and sense of irony that captivates.” He is “a master storyteller at the top of his game.” In sum, Jacobs elucidates important episodes of U.S. diplomacy and entertains in the process. That alone is a substantial accomplishment.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, History, Diplomatic History, Dissent
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Thomas W. Zeiler, Grant Madsen, Lauren F. Turek, Christopher Dietrich
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: When David Anderson, acting as a conduit for editors at the Journal of American History, approached me at a SHAFR meeting in 2007 to write a state-of- the-field essay, I accepted, in part because we were sitting in a bar where I was happily consuming. The offer came with a responsibility to the field. I was serving as an editor of our journal, Diplomatic History, as well as the editor of the digitized version of our bibliography, American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature. Because these positions allowed me to survey our vibrant field, accepting the offer seemed natural. And I was honored to be asked to represent us. Did I mention we were drinking? I’m sure that Chris Dietrich accepted the invitation to oversee this next-gen pioneering Companion volume from Peter Coveney, a long-time editorial guru and booster of our field at Wiley-Blackwell, for similar reasons. This, even though there were times when, surrounded by books and articles and reviews that piled up to my shoulders in my office (yes, I read in paper, mostly), I whined, cursed, and, on occasion, wept about the amount of sources. What kept me going was not only how much I learned about the field, including an appreciation for great scholarship written through traditional and new approaches, but both the constancy and transformations over the years, much of it due to pressure from beyond SHAFR that prompted internal reflections. Vigorous debate, searing critiques, sensitive adaptation, and bold adoption of theory and methods had wrought a revolution in the field of U.S. diplomatic history, a moniker itself deemed outmoded.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, History, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Christopher McKnight Nichols, Heather Marie Stur, Brad Simpson, Andy Rotter, Michael Kimmage
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: The title of this book evokes numerous Donald Trump tweets, statements, and threats over the past five years. It also raises questions: was Trump pro-West or not, and how does his administration and its policies compare to those of his predecessors? Trumpism and the related, inchoate policies of “America First” were firmly positioned against the organizational structures and assumptions of the so-called liberal international order, or rules-based order. Trump’s targets ranged from NATO to the World Health Organization (WHO). From his speech at Trump Tower announcing his run for office to statements we heard during his efforts to contest the results of the 2020 election, Trump promulgated racist, particularist claims about which peoples and groups counted (white ones), which immigrants should be allowed in (northern European) and which should be banned (Muslims, those from “shithole” countries), and what wider heritages they fit into or “good genes” they were blessed with.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Liberal Order, Donald Trump, Anti-Westernism, Rivalry, Clash of Civilizations, America First
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Bessner, Michael Brenes
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: The U.S. academic job market is in total freefall. As the American Historical Association’s (AHA) 2020 jobs report bluntly stated, “History Ph.D.s who graduated in the past decade encountered fewer opportunities and more competition on the academic job market than any cohort of Ph.D.s since the 1970s.”1 And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which, the 2021 jobs report noted, has resulted in numerous “program closures, enrollment declines, and faculty layoffs.”2 It’s not an exaggeration to say that, even if things improved tomorrow (which they won’t), there will be several “lost generations” of historians who will never secure stable academic employment. The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) is well aware of these depressing and disturbing trends. Under the leadership of past-SHAFR presidents Barbara Keys and Kristin Hoganson, the organization recently established a Jobs Crisis Task Force to begin to deal with the new material and structural realities of U.S. higher education.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Higher Education, Academia, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Marijke Verpoorten, Nik Stoop
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: On January 1, 2021, the European Conflict Minerals Act came into force. It aims to regulate the trade in four minerals—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, also known as 3TG—that are often sourced from conflict-affected countries where the profits may allow armed groups to finance their activities. The regulation aims to break the link between minerals and conflict by ensuring that European Union (EU)-based companies only import minerals from conflict-free sources. If companies import minerals from conflict regions, the law requires them to report where the minerals were mined, the location of processing and trade, and the taxes and fees that were paid.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Conflict, Minerals
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Navin Bapat
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: The risk of terrorism is often overstated. Americans are more likely to die from everyday risks, such as driving, drowning, or being hit by lightning, than from terrorist attacks. I’ve often criticized the willingness of leaders to politicize terrorism, arguing that this results in ‘othering’ that harms racial and ethnic minorities, and, in some cases, in very large, costly, and brutal wars. I therefore do not say this lightly: In the case of the US, however, white supremacists like those who engaged in the mob attack on the US Capitol, are a clear and present danger to the human security of the American nonwhite population and to national security.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Far Right, White Supremacy, Racism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Nina von Uexkull, Halvard Buhaug
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: While former US President Donald Trump frequently denied man-made climate change, the Biden administration has pledged to make climate change a priority, including for national security. In line with years of thinking within the defense sector, the Biden-Harris team refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” pointing to risks of regional instability and resource competition driven by worsening environmental conditions. This perspective also aligns with the initiatives of other countries that have pushed climate security in the UN Security Council and other international bodies.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Climate Change, International Security, Conflict, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Anthony Bubalo
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The examples of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the risks in betting on the stability of autocratic regimes in the region. Despite the Arab uprisings of the last decade, most countries in the Middle East remain in the grip of autocrats, with a widespread view that this is the 'default setting' for the region. However, an examination of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where authoritarianism has been revived, reveals both regimes are struggling for popular legitimacy. Increasingly reliant on repression, these regimes risk provoking civil unrest, and external powers should reconsider their assumption that autocracy guarantees stability in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Egypt
  • Author: Roland Rajah
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Indonesia has much economic potential but the trade-off between growth and stability continues to bind its growth ambitions. Indonesian economic policy continues to prioritise stability over growth but the adequacy of economic growth has become the bigger issue. President Joko Widodo’s commendable pro-growth efforts have so far only stabilised Indonesia’s trajectory rather than boost it. Doing better will require reforms to be calibrated to make the trade-off between growth and stability less binding while enhancing productivity.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Economy, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Natasha Kassam, Richard McGregor
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has lost the battle for public opinion in Taiwan. Saturday’s elections are likely to reflect strong anti-Beijing sentiment China is already looking past the elections to weaken the island’s democracy through overt and covert means Whatever the result, Beijing will increase pressure on Taipei to open talks on unification
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Luca Franza
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Dolphins are being spotted in harbours, canals in Venice have never looked so clean and the temporary ban of corridas has spared the lives of a hundred Spanish bulls. Looking at the bright side of things is an admirable quality, but we should not get too carried away with the idea that COVID-19 is good for the planet. Besides the anecdotal phenomena quoted above, the collapse of mobility and economic activity induced by COVID-19 are generating meaningful short-term consequences for the environment. These include a sharp reduction in Hubei’s and Northern Italy’s air pollution levels and a likely reduction in global CO2 emissions in 2020. Rejoicing over such news rests on a short-sighted view. The interlinkages between COVID-19, energy and climate issues are so complex that we are actually looking at a mixed bag of consequences.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Pollution, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Francesca Ghiretti
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The bilateral relationship between Italy and China is back in the spotlight one year after the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. To date, Italy is the second hardest hit country by COVID-19 pandemic after China. Despite strict measures in place to limit the crisis, numbers keep rising, placing the national health care system under severe strain.
  • Topic: Health, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Italy, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Italian armed forces need to adjust to a changing operational environment, whereby threat levels are on the rise and the United States is more reluctant to lead military operations than in the past.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elisa Murgese
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: China’s 2018 import ban on mixed “recyclable” plastic waste revealed deep-rooted problems in the global recycling system and uncovered the wasteful and harmful nature of the recycling trade. Repercussions have been global. In April 2019, Greenpeace East Asia took a closer look at the top plastic waste importers and exporters globally. This data details the 21 top exporters and 21 top importers of plastic waste from January 2016 to November 2018, measuring the breadth of the plastics crisis and the global industry’s response to import bans. Two core trends emerged from China’s ban and the Greenpeace analysis.
  • Topic: Crime, Environment, Trafficking , Waste
  • Political Geography: Europe, Malaysia, Asia, Italy
  • Author: Nicola Bilotta, Alissa Siara
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: One of the key priorities of the new European Commission is to enhance the EU’s geopolitical credentials and “learn to use the language of power”, as stated by the incoming EU High Representative Josep Borrell. The EU’s ambition is two-fold: to increase the Union’s ability to project power and influence at the global level, including through increased integration and coordination among member states, and secondly to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy from the US in the political, military and economic domains. Both objectives, ambitious in the best of circumstances, are today under severe strain by the COVID-19 crisis. Implications will be long-lasting and multidimensional, and for Europe, its impact will have a direct bearing on its ambition for strategic autonomy, touching each of the three pillars outlined above.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Economy, Autonomy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Giuliano Garavini
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Oil markets are facing a perfect storm. The scissors of supply and demand are moving against one another, generating increasing pain on the oil industry and the political and financial stability of oil-producing countries. Global oil demand is dropping due to the recession induced by the COVID-19 shut down of economic activity and transport in the most industrialized countries. Goldman Sachs predicts that global demand could drop from 100 million barrels per day (mdb) in 2019 to nearly 80 mdb in 2020.1 If confirmed, this would be single biggest demand shock since petroleum started its race to become the most important energy source in the world.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Oil, Global Markets, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Global Focus
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic will negatively affect the defence field from a budgetary, industrial and politicostrategic point of view, particularly in Europe. Depending on the pandemic’s duration, its economic consequences and national and EU responses, effects may range from contained damages to a much wider European security crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Crisis Management, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Daniele Fattibene
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stands at a crossroads. While Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have progressively entered the political discourse and agendas of numerous states, without long-term financial investments, building a more just and sustainable future will remain little more than a rhetorical embellishment.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Elena A. Korosteleva, Irina Petrova
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Resilience has recently emerged as a possible solution to address the increasing dysfunctionality of national and global governance, strengthening its ability to deal with the frequenting crises and the adversity of VUCA – the more vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – world around us.
  • Topic: Politics, International Relations Theory, Institutions, Coronavirus, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Tommaso Emiliani
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020, followed by the Iranian retaliation on US military bases in Iraq, left many Europeans wondering how – if at all – the European Union can foster de-escalation in the Middle East. The EU is presently stuck between a deepening strategic rift with its US ally and its inability to advance its independent interests and policies vis-à-vis Iran. It is now clear that Europe cannot protect its relations with Washington while also salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iranian nuclear deal. Borrowing from an old Persian proverb, Europe cannot have both God and the sugar dates.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Military Affairs, Trade, Transatlantic Relations, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Luca Barana
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Commission’s Joint-Communication “Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa”, published on 9 March 2020, envisioned the beginnings of a new and more equal partnership with the African Union (AU).[1] Meanwhile, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented disruptor effect on the world scene. Its impact dramatic and long-lasting, the crisis may also be an opportunity to move beyond policy principles and actually consolidate the EU–AU relationship. The Commission aspires to structure this new course of EU–AU relations around five thematic partnerships and ten actions so as to concretely step up cooperation. A common thread emerging from the Communication is the need to strengthen multilateralism and the rules-based international system.
  • Topic: Migration, United Nations, Multilateralism, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, European Union, African Union
  • Author: Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: On 25 March, one month after Russia registered its first confirmed case of Coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin announced a week of paid national holiday and invited Russians to stay home in a televised address to the nation. Further measures were subsequently introduced to limit the spread of the virus, while authorities prepared emergency plans to safeguard socio-economic conditions in the country. Initiatives included providing a new support package to businesses hit by the pandemic, a monthly bonus to medical personnel and the construction of new hospitals, following the Chinese model. Meanwhile, the constitutional referendum meant to extend Putin’s term limit as president was postponed. Originally scheduled for 22 April, this delay is due to Putin’s concern for public health and the multidimensional impact of the pandemic, a perfect storm involving quarantine measures, declining living standards, inflation and a weakened exchange rate, rising prices and increased job insecurity. Taken together, these challenges could jeopardise the outcome of the referendum. A recent poll conducted by the Levada Center in March highlighted a very slim majority (45 per cent) in favour of Putin’s constitutional amendments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Soft Power, Coronavirus, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Italy
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Every era has its symbols. In 1984, Mitterrand and Kohl held hands on the battlefield in Verdun, coming to symbolise the importance of peace in the pursuit of European integration. Today, in times of COVID-19, the so-called “Coronabonds” could have emerged as the symbol of a new Europe, one that is ready and able to do what it takes to collectively overcome the present crisis. Yet, what some member states consider an indispensable emblem of European solidarity, namely debt mutualisation to face an unprecedented symmetric crisis brought about by COVID-19, is regarded by others as an ultimate excuse for moral hazard. As a result, Europe could end up with a politically more digestible European Fund, as proposed by Commissioners Paolo Gentiloni and Thierry Breton, designed to issue long-term bonds.[1] Or, as outlined by the Eurogroup, a Recovery Fund that is “temporary, targeted and commensurate” to the extraordinary costs of the current crisis, helping to spread them across time.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Governance, Finance, Economy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Huba Wass de Czege
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Does The US Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 lack a clear theory of victory? A comparative analysis of the development of MDO and the historical concepts of Active Defense and AirLand Battle reveals the necessity of greater insight into sources of Russian and Chinese behavior and countering mechanisms, what constitutes effective deterrence, and greater clarity regarding the political will of Allies to assist in this deterrence.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Army
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: C. Anthony Pfaff
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As is well known, then acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly fired Captain Brett Crozier, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after he wrote a letter arguing that all but ten percent of the crew should disembark the ship to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Doing so, he acknowledged, would diminish the carrier’s readiness and slow its response time in a crisis. Justifying that decision, however, he argued, “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”1 The problem for the captain, of course, was not the content of the letter as much as it was the subsequent leak to the San Francisco Chronicle. Setting aside the fiasco that resulted in his firing, and led to Modly’s sudden resignation, 2 the captain raises some important concerns regarding what the risks sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines3 should be required to take in peacetime. Because it is peacetime, he argues, “[W]e … cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily.”4 Of course, even in war no one should die unnecessarily; however, the captain raises a good question: “what risks are necessary in peacetime?” To answer that question it is first important to understand what risks are necessary in wartime
  • Topic: War, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Risk, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: United States of America
  • Author: John R. Deni
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Over the last month, an array of analysts and experts has attempted to ascertain what the post-pandemic world might look like from strategic, policy, or institutional perspectives. Several of these assessments feature dramatic predictions of a new world unlike what existed just months ago. It’s reasonable to expect change following a global crisis, but the near breathlessness detectable in some of these analyses evinces a lack of nuance or an appreciation for stasis. Moreover, few of these or other analyses have addressed the implications in a transatlantic context, or suggested specific mitigation steps. This brief essay reflects a more balanced attempt to fill these gaps, identifying recommendations for the US Army and Department of Defense to leverage the crisis and mitigate the damage across the transatlantic community.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Transatlantic Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, 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: John Schaus, Mr. Nathan P. Freier
  • 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 pandemic has led to over three million confirmed infections and more than one hundred thousand dead globally. In the United States, over sixty thousand people have died and more than 1 million have been infected. According to epidemiologists, this is only the first phase. Thus, near-term “success” against the outbreak reflects a current snapshot in time, not necessarily a permanent outcome. In light of our very preliminary understanding of the long-term impact of the outbreak and national-level responses, there are discernible trends about how countries’ responses are impacting their standing in key regions and around the world. Few regions offer such stark contrast in stories as the Indo-Pacific. In that region, South Korea is up, China is down, and the United States is out. These shifts may or may not endure. What is increasingly clear, however, is that ineffective responses—perceived at home or abroad—will limit policymakers’ freedom of action for some time to come.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Korea, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Christopher J. Bolan
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: It is worth approaching an assessment of the likely impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Middle East with a strong dose of humility. Nonetheless, it is clear that the spread of this disease has already had major impacts on the global economy, drastically reducing demand for Middle East oil exports, and leading to a historic collapse in oil prices. The immediate challenges of dealing with the monumental health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19 will add to the troubles of a region already burdened by multiple civil wars, poorly performing economies, growing civil discontent, and intensified sectarian divisions. This article offers a preliminary assessment of the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the security landscape of the Middle East and advances recommendations for how US military strategy and operations might adapt.
  • Topic: Security, Oil, Military Strategy, Economy, Exports, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Isaiah Wilson III
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Almost no more need be said. This is not the traditional “monster” America prepared to destroy. But, it is the monster we face. The coronavirus, COVID-19, typifies the “compound” nature of today’s security threats. This deadly adversary is inimical to accepted international laws and conventions regarding warfare and human security protections. It is a true omnivore, respecting no borders and consuming all classes, genders, races, and faiths. This adversary has driven mass societal disruption and managed in about four months’ time to infect over 1.2 million (confirmed cases) with nearly 72,000 deaths, in the United States alone. Worldwide economic recession, even depression, seems likely and national publics now question their governments’ capacity and will to contain the adversary. Should governments fail to do so (most experts agree that the opportunity to contain COVID-19 is lost), big-data computer projections predict as many as 173,000 could die in the United States by the end of May 2020. The yet untold damage from such a toll across all sectors—political, economic, and societal—is incalculable. The potential for a global paradigm shift in the way we should perceive these threats is real. Some may ask, why speak of combatting a global pandemic as though we are waging an epochal war? This moment takes the popular fashion of war rhetoric beyond the metaphorical: We are at war against this virus…or at least we should be. We should regard this threat and its compounded implications as the security issue it is. COVID-19 is indicative of the changed nature of many of today’s threats.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: United States of America
  • Author: Matt Lawrence
  • 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 pandemic is going to change military recruiting. Recently, the Army and its sister forces have been forced to recruit virtually and have slowed processing through basic training. The Army has been vague about its recruiting goals, instead focusing on end strength, so it will not have to deal with the fanfare of missing its mission as it did in 2018. But the virus and its effects will actually help recruiting in the future. There was a storm gathering for recruiters, as the number of target youth would decrease in the years 2026-2031—a result of a decreased birth rate through the 2008 financial crisis and its fallout. Competition was going to be fierce with businesses and higher education. The virus changed everything.
  • Topic: Education, Military Affairs, Army, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • 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: Paul R. Kan
  • 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 pandemic is the byproduct of illicit global trafficking. Although COVID-19 was likely transmitted to humans via pangolins sold in the wet markets of Wuhan, China, these markets acted as mere way stations for the virus. The natural habitats of the pangolins are the forests, grasslands, and savannahs of Africa. But, through a network of impoverished local communities, poachers, transnational organized crime, gangs and corrupt officials, approximately 2.7 million of this endangered species are captured and smuggled to Asia every year. The pangolin has earned the sad distinction of being “the most trafficked animal on earth.” The illicit global network of wildlife trafficking was a major facilitator of the pandemic, but the effects of the virus’ spread are, in turn, facilitating more criminal activities while creating the potential for greater internal instability in many states. The contagion-crime nexus has been overshadowed by the urgent need to combat the spread of the virus. Nonetheless, COVID-19 is acting as an amplifier for crime and conflict that will have repercussions in the international security environment in the near and long term.
  • Topic: Crime, Trafficking , Conflict, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Global Focus
  • Author: Dr. Evan Ellis
  • 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 pandemic will have profound and enduring negative effects on Latin America and the Caribbean, significantly impacting the security, interests, and strategic position of the United States. Department of Defense and other US senior leaders should begin planning now to mitigate or manage the consequences. The effects of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean, as in many other parts of the developing world, will be far more significant than is commonly anticipated for two reasons. First, the virus will likely play out across the region over an extended length of time owing to a variety of factors discussed later. Second, the pandemic’s mutually reinforcing health, economic, social, and political effects will combine to wreak far more havoc than anticipated in analyses that only consider disease propagation or effects on commerce. Together, these two dynamics of COVID-19 will leave a Latin America that is far sicker, poorer, beset by crime, violence, social unrest, and political instability than today. It will also leave a region with expanded People’s Republic of China (PRC) commercial presence and political influence, even while being more resentful of it.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Caribbean
  • 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