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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: 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: 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: 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