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  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Russian private military companies or contractors (PMCs) have received much attention in recent years, but the Russian state has a long history in utilizing such groups. Under Vladimir Putin, however, this model is growing, evolving, and expanding. This study reviews the history of semi-state military forces in Russia and explains the unique way the Russian state utilizes PMCs, which is different from how Western governments utilize private contractors. An important aspect of PMCs is that they are officially illegal under Russian law. The study then traces the rise of the PMC model under Putin. It notes that while plausible deniability is a major reason for Moscow to utilize PMCs, it is also linked to other considerations, such as internal rivalries within the Russian government and other domestic reasons. Competition with the West drives the Kremlin’s use of PMCs. Paradoxically, the Russian PMC model demonstrates both state strength and weakness. The study reviews PMCs activities in Ukraine, Syria, and Africa, examines who joins these groups and under what circumstances, and concludes with policy recommendations.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Military Affairs, Private Sector, Mercenaries
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Justin Finkelstein
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: As improbable as it may sound, over the past decade or so about half of Israelis and Palestinians have been willing to accept something akin to the two-state solution (as described in the box below) to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even amidst the mayhem and turmoil in the Israeli-Palestinian arena over the past several months, polls have continued to show that there is no other solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on which Israeli and Palestinian public opinion converge to such a large degree.
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Shibley Telhami
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The Arab-Israeli peace process is a broad subject; therefore, this paper will briefly touch on some of the major peace agreements and negotiations that have taken place. It should be noted that as of today—and based on public opinion polls that I have conducted—most Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs outside of the Palestinian territories believe that peace will never happen. This has resulted in a real problem, where people in the region no longer take the term “peace process” seriously. In order to understand how we got to this point, we need to look back at the history of the peace process on both the Israeli-Palestinian front and also on the Arab-Israeli front.
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Liora Halperin
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: One of the key forces in shaping the history of Palestine was the Zionist movement. This movement emerged from and is rooted in political developments in Europe, but it changed and developed as it evolved from a political movement in Europe to a settlement and nation-building project in Palestine. Thus, we need to step outside the physical context of the Middle East to understand a force that ultimately changed the Middle East.
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Tami Davis Biddle, Robert M. Citino
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The resort to war signals the failure of far more satisfactory means of settling human conflicts. It forces us to face and wrestle with the darkest corners of the human psyche. It signals the coming of trauma and suffering—often intense and prolonged—for individuals, families and societies. War-fighting concentrates power in non-democratic ways, infringes upon civil liberties, and convulses political, economic, and social systems. From the wreckage—the broken bodies, the re-drawn boundaries, the imperfect treaties, the fresh resentments and the intensified old ones—altered political and social patterns and institutions emerge that may help to prevent future conflicts, or sow the seeds of new ones. All of this creates a difficult, complicated, and fraught historical landscape to traverse.
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: <p>On February 3, 2015, the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, Drexel University, and The Franklin Institute presented a symposium, entitled, rather hyperbolically, 21st Century Technology: New Beginning, or Terrible End. The sessions addressed issues of particular interest to millennials, as well as the future of the Internet, genetics in medicine, energy and climate change, space exploration (with special guest speaker, Col. Buzz Aldrin), and transformations of healthcare by big data. Council President Craig Snyder challenged both panelists and the audience to think broadly about both the promises of technology, which, he explained, are exemplified by his childhood experiences of the Apollo Moon landings and Star Trek, but also about the dystopian visions of the Terminator movies and other works of science fiction that explore the Faustian vision of the defeat of humankind at the hands (or robotic claws) of its own inventions. The following essay is my response to this challenge, as well as responses to the questions posed by Mr. Snyder about Internet technology and its future./p
  • Author: Aaron Rock-Singer
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Religion was a pillar of pre-modern political identity in the Middle East, arising out of Muslims’ understanding of Islam’s foundational moment and state institutions that developed with the spread of Islamic Empire. Beginning at the turn of the 19th century, European colonial powers and indigenous reformers questioned the centrality of religious identity; instead, it was to be the nation that defined the political community. Since then, the nationalist project has permeated 20th century ideological conflicts in the region, equally shaping the claims of secularists and Islamists. Today, advocates of religious change refer back to early Islamic history as they seek to place religious over national identity, yet they, like their competitors, are unmistakably shaped by the secular nationalist project.
  • Topic: Islam, Nationalism, Post Colonialism, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Lev Weitz
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The majority of the Middle East’s population today is Muslim, as it has been for centuries. However, as the place of origin of a range of world religions – including Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and many lesser-known faiths – it remains a region of remarkable religious diversity. This article considers the place of religious minorities in the modern Middle East from three angles: their distinctive religious and communal identities, their place in the major transformations of the region’s political landscape from the nineteenth century to the post-World War I era, and the challenges of contemporary political conditions.
  • Topic: Demographics, Islam, Religion, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: We live in an age of identity politics. We define ourselves by one or more objective measures: measures of race, ethnicity, gender, politics, religion, sexual orientation, to name just a few. Those measures then define who we are to others. They determine our place in society, the communities with which we identify, our attitudes towards others and other communities. The politics of identity are fraught, and they interact in ways that both liberate and confine. On the one hand we prize diversity. On the whole, this is a good thing, since it reflects a larger transformation in American life. Like it or not, the fact is that we are becoming, have become, a “multi-cultural society.” No matter what terms we use to define diversity—racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, gender, whatever—we are more diverse now than we have ever been, and we are destined to grow more so. Multi-culturalism is not an option; it is the future. The only question is how, and how well, we are going to deal with it.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Religion, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Samuel Helfont
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Defining – and distinguishing between – the terms Islam and Islamism has broad consequences for America, both domestically and internationally. However, teaching about the relationship between these two concepts involves negotiating numerous sensitivities and it can cause considerable consternation for educators. At the most basic level, Islam is a major world religion practiced by well over a billion people, and Islamism is a political ideology to which a subset of the broader Islamic community adheres. The importance of this distinction seems fairly clear. The United States, and the American body politic more generally, views itself as committed to secular governance and religious freedom. While Islam is not completely immune from criticism, Americans have traditionally objected to state interference in religious matters and, theoretically, they should expect the same standards to apply to Islam. Therefore, Islam as a religion would seem to have a clear place in the diverse fabric of American society. Islamism, as a political ideology, opens itself to harsher critiques and even questions about its appropriateness in, or compatibility with, the American political system. Unsurprisingly, American public discourse suggests that Americans generally feel much more comfortable with Islam than they do with Islamism.
  • Topic: Islam, Political Economy, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States of America