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  • Author: Ryan C. Berg
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Daniel Ortega’s suppression of protestors and civil society continues unabated. Since April 2018, Nicaragua’s security forces have killed hundreds of people, thousands have been injured or held as political prisoners, and more than 100,000 Nicaraguans have fled to neighboring countries or the United States. Ortega’s authoritarian consolidation began well before April 2018; the keys to his regime’s ruthless survival strategy are the National Police and Nicaraguan Army, co-optation of the judiciary, domination of the media, and a highly complicit private sector that long ago embraced a modus vivendi with his socialist government, among others. The US should ramp up its sanctions against the Ortega regime; target individuals and industries, especially those connected to Ortega or the military; sequence its sanctions rollout; and synchronize external pressure with the domestic opposition to develop an effective strategy for achieving key political and electoral reforms ahead of the general elections in 2021. Reinvigorated diplomacy, particularly with the European Union and other Latin America governments, should seek to expand the international coalition against Ortega’s repression to maintain steady pressure for a definitive change in the character of the regime.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Civil Society, Sanctions, Protests
  • Political Geography: Central America, Nicaragua, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Hal Brands, Tim Nichols
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: America is moving from one era of foreign policy to another: The primacy of counterterrorism has faded, and competition with authoritarian great powers is the dominant concern. While special operations forces (SOF) understand that they must play a role in great-power competition, they often lack a clear understanding of what that entails. SOF can support great-power competition in five ways: gathering information, working with allies and partners, imposing costs, handling crisis response, and undertaking strategic raids. In addition, retaining competency in counterterrorism is itself a crucial contribution to great-power competition, because suppressing non-state threats is the prerequisite to allowing the rest of the American government to focus on other things.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Power Politics, Armed Forces, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Danielle Pletka, Brett D. Schaefer
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In a pandemic, a global health organization that is overly deferential to one nation and incapable of being an honest broker costs the very lives it exists to save. While China deserves primary blame for the devastation of COVID-19, the WHO also played a key role by failing to alert the world to Beijing’s lack of transparency. The WHO’s failures cannot be allowed to recur. Without change, it will fail again. It must implement reforms if it wants to restore confidence and earn US support.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, World Health Organization, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Karen E. Young
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Much energy has focused on China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the debt-trap diplomacy it represents. But there is another set of players on the scene whose growth and influence in this sphere have been largely ignored. Gulf Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have increasingly embraced an aggressive growth, investment, and development model for the broader Middle East. This report and the accompanying Gulf Financial Aid and Direct Investment Tracker are an effort to understand the breadth and scope of Gulf aid and financial intervention into a representative set of cases in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, and West Asia. The objective is to demonstrate the competitive landscape for foreign investment in the receiving case countries and indicate the growing strength of Gulf capital investment, as it measures against a perception of Chinese capacity in the wider Middle East and emerging markets broadly. Most important, the comparative data here also demonstrate how private capital flows from the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union compete against flows of capital from state capitalism sources such as China and the Gulf.
  • Topic: Foreign Direct Investment, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Investment, Strategic Competition, State Capitalism
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Emily Estelle
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Great-power competition and the terrorist threat intersect and interact with one another in Africa and the Middle East. US disengagement from these regions to prepare for great-power competition in other theaters will increase a growing vacuum that is drawing more regional and global actors—states and non-state extremist groups—into a series of vicious cycles that will pose grave threats to American national security in the coming decades. Breaking the vicious cycle will require the US and its allies to separate the Libyan and Syrian conflicts and disentangle and discourage proxy conflict by external players while supporting the development of responsive governance in the two countries. Preventing similar crises will require a proactive strategy to seal off localized conflicts and prevent them from becoming larger competitions between external players while taking action to improve governmental responsiveness in at-risk areas.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, National Security, Power Politics, Violent Extremism, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Iran has embraced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a major pillar of its military strategy. Iranian officials may exaggerate their capabilities, but Western analysts should not dismiss the threat posed by Iranian drones. Iranian authorities have invested in and experimented with drones for 35 years. Iranian authorities use drones for two main purposes: surveillance and attack. Iranian controllers now have the ability to conduct missions over the horizon and in most weather. Attack drones fall in two categories: Those with the ability to drop bombs or launch missiles and return to base and “kamikaze” drones that seek targets of opportunity. Iranian authorities have had more success with the latter. The biggest danger posed by Iranian UAVs, however, in years to come may be the result of Iranian proliferation of its drones to proxy groups, such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and the transfer of the ability to manufacture those drones. This will create some ambiguity in the operational environment as uncertainty about the identity of the drone’s controller can undercut momentum to hold that controlling country or group to account. This ability to escape accountability might actually make the use of drones more likely in surprise and terrorist attacks in the coming years.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Weapons , Drones
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Kenneth Pollack
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: For the first two to three decades after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian-led “Axis of Resistance” was little more than rhetoric, ascribing greater unity of effort to an amalgam of states, semi-states, and non-state actors that opposed the Middle Eastern status quo than was ever the reality. Because of the events of 2014–16, when key Shi’a groups and governments faced severe threats, there has been a significant shift in the Axis’ composition and effectiveness. Today, the Axis is comprised of an increasingly cohesive coalition of groups functioning more directly under Iranian guidance. Iranian support for these groups has also shifted from covert terrorist collusion, funding, intelligence sharing, rhetorical support, and tacit diplomacy to overt force deployments, joint military operations, economic assistance, deterrence, and alliance solidarity. Nevertheless, Iran’s successes have led to additional problems. The Axis of Resistance strategy was born out of necessity, and it is unclear, especially without Soleimani, whether Iran will be able to adapt moving forward.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Non State Actors, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Ryan C. Berg
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Much of Brazil’s deadly urban violence is the direct result of territorial battles involving the country’s powerful transnational organized crime groups, many of which trace their origins to the country’s dangerous and overcrowded prisons. The Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), or First Capital Command, took shape in São Paulo during the early 1990s, as inmates organized against poor prison conditions to impose order and preserve lives. Eventually, the PCC developed an ability to project its influence and control well beyond prison walls and into Brazil’s sprawling urban slums. The PCC has vanquished many of its domestic rivals, enjoys a footprint in every state in Brazil, runs operations in almost every country of South America, and is now more globally minded than ever before, recruiting guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and Venezuelan refugees and partnering with European mafia groups and Lebanese Hezbollah. Law-and-order strategies that “stuff” Brazil’s crowded prisons with new inmates may actually exacerbate the problem, given that the PCC has effectively converted the country’s prisons into logistical hubs and training centers of illicit activity. To fight the PCC, the US should designate it as a transnational organized crime group to confer the benefits of multiple pieces of legislation and seek extradition of key PCC leaders.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Non State Actors, Law Enforcement, Prisons/Penal Systems, Violence
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Latin America
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Sahel-based Salafi-jihadi groups including al Qaeda and the Islamic State coordinate and cooperate across organizational divides united by common objectives, shared histories, and ethnic ties, creating a unique ecosystem of ideology and terror. The Salafi-jihadi ecosystem in the Sahel is strengthening rapidly. The number of attacks will continue to rise and will become deadlier as groups’ capabilities improve. The groups’ coordinated effort to transform Sahelian society and governance into their vision under Islam has helped destabilize the region and has created additional opportunities for Salafi-jihadi growth.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Non State Actors, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Salafism, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Sahel
  • Author: Derek Scissors
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Partial decoupling from China is overdue. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) suppresses foreign competition and infringes intellectual property. It is an ugly dictatorship at home and increasingly aggressive overseas. Decoupling involves a range of tools and economic activities. Policymakers should quickly move to document and respond to Chinese subsidies, implement already legislated export control reform, monitor and possibly regulate outbound investment, and provide legal authority to move or keep supply chains out of the PRC. Decoupling has costs—higher prices, lower returns on investment, and lost sales. But they are dwarfed by the costs of continued Chinese economic predation and the empowerment of the Communist Party.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Derek Scissors
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: As expected given COVID-19, China’s construction and, especially, investment around the world plunged in the first half of 2020. The decline may be exaggerated by Chinese firms not wanting to report global activity, but Beijing’s happy numbers are not credible. From what little can be discerned, the Belt and Road Initiative is becoming more important, primarily because rich countries are more hostile to Chinese entities. American policy needs to shift. Incoming Chinese investment is now extremely small, but technology is still being lost due to lack of implementation of export controls. Growing American portfolio investment in China is unmonitored and may support technology thieves, human rights abusers, and other bad actors.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Investment, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Derek Scissors
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Chinese investment and construction around the world contracted in 2019, regardless of Beijing’s claims to the contrary. However, the decline is concentrated in large, headline-winning deals, and Chinese firms remain active on a smaller scale. A contraction in acquisitions in rich economies has boosted the relative importance of greenfield spending. The number of countries in the Belt and Road continues to expand, and power plant and transport construction continues to be preeminent. American policymakers were initially spurred to act by intense Chinese investment in 2016. This has dropped sharply, but there are challenges related to investment review that are more important, starting with strengthening export controls.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economy, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Investment
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Frederick W. Kagan, Nicholas Carl, Marie Donovan
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces are organized around headquarters that are meant to coordinate the operations of Iranian paramilitary forces and support the Quds Force’s use of proxy groups such as Iraqi Shi’a militias abroad. Their basing in Iran indicates a primary focus on suppressing internal unrest and waging irregular warfare in the rear of an invader rather than on defending against an invasion conventionally. Their organizational structure and the pattern of their operations in Syria suggest that they might be challenged to coordinate large-scale (multi-division) operations abroad and possibly at home. The fact that the Iranian leadership has not yet had to use them on a large scale to suppress growing domestic unrest suggests that the regime still has a potent reserve force to ensure its survival even if the unrest grows considerably, as long as it does not also face a requirement for large-scale military operations abroad.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Armed Forces, Qassem Soleimani, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC)
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Aaron M. Renn
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The culture of particular places, often developed and cast into institutional form during their founding period, affects their economy in important and understudied ways. Case studies suggest several cultural traits can potentially help places be more economically successful over the long term: (1) open civic networks, which help places better adapt to change; (2) investment in civic leadership and institution building by local elites; and (3) an emphasis on education and rewarding excellence. Civic culture is difficult to change. Doing so requires first acquiring a deep understanding of it and then focusing on the most addressable areas for change, such as incubating new relationships and connections between different actors in the community.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Poverty, Culture, Cities
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Derek Scissors
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: There is a considerable chance China will stagnate by 2040, with gross domestic product growth at 1–1.5 percent. The process has started, seen most clearly in stark trends for debt and aging, but better-quality data on productivity would clarify how far along stagnation is and whether it at some point reverses. China shows no sign of adopting pro-productivity reform. It will not spur growth by leveraging or bolster a shrinking labor force through current population and education policy. Innovation will help, but a large economy requires broad innovation, and the party dislikes competition. A twist comes from China’s global position, which will not deteriorate much. Outbound investment has retrenched, and the yuan’s rise was exaggerated. Consumption exports and commodities imports will stall. But China will easily be a top-two market in most sectors, and other countries are not acting to displace it. Instead, localization will occur. Commodities producers and some developing countries will lose, the latter as Chinese capital dries up. Countries that make difficult reforms will win. Consumer goods will see inflation, but innovation will be healthier with less Chinese influence. American firms will seek new pastures, and Chinese stagnation means production may relocate to the US.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, GDP, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Vincent H. Smith
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The federal government annually appropriates funds for food aid programs that the US Agency for International Development manages to benefit some of the neediest individuals in the world. This report analyzes how one interest group, the US maritime industry, has managed to obtain rents from the Title II food aid program through cargo preference requirements in the name of national security. We find that removing cargo preference requirements would allow for between $36 and $64 million of already appropriated funds to go to feeding the hungry and would benefit US soft power globally.
  • Topic: Maritime, USAID, Mercantile Policy, Food Assistance
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Derek Scissors
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Contrasting China at various stages of reform to Japan and Korea at analogous stages shows China as less successful. The payoff is personal income, where China’s growth in local currency terms is similar to Japan’s. But it is slower than Korea’s, and, in comparable dollar terms, China is far behind Korea and Japan 40 years into the respective “miracles.” In evaluating key contributors to income gains—agricultural productivity, labor quantity and quality, leveraging, and innovation—China failed to extend education in the first 25 years of reform. A recent failure is the explosion in leveraging in the past decade. Other indicators of success roughly match Japan but trail Korea. China’s size makes it important even with less development success. For example, Chinese research and development spending affects the world while being inadequate to offset aging and indebtedness. When projecting economic size, though, trend extension is misleading. Korea and Japan illuminate how innovation and other factors will alter China’s trajectory.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Economics, Reform
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia, Korea
  • Author: Jessica Trisko Darden
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: US counterterrorism policy must draw on all available tools to succeed. This includes combining security, development, and humanitarian assistance when necessary to target environments that enable violent extremism to flourish. US foreign development assistance can effectively support counterterrorism efforts when centered on four pillars: (1) prioritizing local physical security, (2) responding to humanitarian need, (3) improving governance, and (4) targeting and tailoring programming to local contexts. A refined development approach to counterterrorism should more effectively target at-risk populations, address local governance concerns, and shape economic conditions in ways that support America’s counterterrorism goals.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Terrorism, Development Aid
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Karen E. Young
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) remain heavily reliant on natural resource revenue as a source of government spending and a driver of growth. Diversification efforts now often include new ways to generate revenue through state investments in energy projects abroad (including refining and petrochemical production) and national oil companies. Since 2015, the GCC countries have become more competitive with each other in altering their policy landscapes to streamline fiscal expenditure and attract foreign investment and resident investors. There is significant variation in policy approaches to foreign labor and tax. Each of these governments faces enormous strains on public finances and challenging economic outlooks, due to depressed oil prices, demographic pressures, high unemployment rates, and a lack of economic diversification. Debt has become a tool of choice, but the capacity to repay and the capacity to grow are both beginning to differentiate the GCC states.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Government, Natural Resources, Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Gulf Cooperation Council, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Nicholas Eberstadt, Ashton M. Verdery, Zeng Yi, Wang Zhenglian, Wang Feng, Shen Ke, Cai Yang, David E. Scharff, Jacqueline Deal, Michael Szonyi
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Over 2,500 years of family tradition in China is on an unavoidable collision course with 21st-century China’s new demographic realities. The demographic forces transforming the Chinese family are extraordinary and historically unprecedented. Curiously, despite the small library of studies on population change in modern China, little has been written on what these changes in the Chinese family portend. This cross-disciplinary volume is an exploratory foray into that intellectual terra incognita. The chapters in this volume describe the demographic dimensions of the changes in family structure already underway and visible out to the horizon, as well as their implications for China’s people, economy, and role in the world. The volume features works by authors Ashton M. Verdery; Zeng Yi and Wang Zhenglian; Wang Feng, Shen Ke and Cai Yong; David E. Scharff; and Jacqueline Deal and Michael Szonyi—leading scholars in their respective fields.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Demographics, Family
  • Political Geography: China, Asia