Analysis + Opinion | 2020

European Troops in front of NATO banner

Analysis + Opinion

December 3, 2020

Europe can defend itself

Barry PosenIISS Survival Editors' Blog

Barry Posen argues that Europe is better placed to defend itself militarily than many, including the IISS, have portrayed it to be. 

Jim Walsh

Analysis + Opinion

November 12, 2020

The future of the Iran nuclear deal

WBUR, Here and Now

President Trump pulled the US out of the deal signed in 2015 with Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia. But president-elect Joe Biden is promising to reverse Trump's decision.


Photo of protester for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Analysis + Opinion

November 5, 2020

What the nuclear ban treaty means for America's allies

Heather WilliamsWar on the Rocks

Whether or not the treaty delivers on its disarmament promises or has a major impact on US or NATO nuclear postures ultimately depends on what its members and supporters do next and if it can prove that it is more than just a symbolic protest against the nuclear status quo.

Analysis + Opinion

October 22, 2020

Why we can’t be friends with our allies

Patrick Porter, Joshua ShifrinsonPolitico

By falsely equating alliances with friendships, Biden and his team run serious risks. The rhetoric of friendship obscures the reality of US foreign policy to the American people.

Barry Posen on Grand Strategy at Johns Hopkins

Analysis + Opinion

October 21, 2020

Is it time for a grand strategy of restraint? A debate

Johns Hopkins | Kissinger Center for Global Affair

Barry Posen and Michael Mazarr layout their cases in opposing sides to this debate on whether the United States should embrace a grand stragy of restraint or not.

Young Chinese woman with face mask

Analysis + Opinion

October 20, 2020

Understanding US-China strategic competition

Determining the right prescription for how the United States should respond to strategic competition with China depends on having the right diagnosis of the problem, writes former Robert E Wilhelm Fellow Paul Heer.

Topol TEL in Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps St. Petersburg

Analysis + Opinion

October 13, 2020

Vipin Narang on the global nuclear landscape: hype and reality

The Diplomat

With many nuclear powers pushing their envelope and, in some cases, luck, and the future of arms control under stress, the current nuclear environment is defined by several challenges around proliferation and escalation risks.

Iraqi woman holding archival photos

Analysis + Opinion

September 15, 2020

Important Iraqi archives are now back in Baghdad. Where were they, and what happens now?

What makes these documents so important — and a source of controversy? They detail the crimes of an authoritarian state, from the collaborations of citizens to the predations of state officials.

US troops on a joint patrol with Afghan security forces

Analysis + Opinion

September 13, 2020

Seven bad options to counter state sponsorship of proxies

Sara PlanaLawfare

Iran, Russia and other countries often use proxies as a way to fight the United States and its allies while advancing their own influence. Fighting proxy war, however, is often more complicated than confronting traditional aggression. Sara Plana details a range of responses to proxy war and notes their many limitations. (Daniel Byman).

The California Army National Guard supported supporting humanitarian assistance to food banks during the COVID-19 crisis

Analysis + Opinion

August 17, 2020

Pandemic politics: Covid-19 and the US military

In addressing relationship between the US military and the COVID-19 crisis, it is important to note that there are two key questions: how can the US military affect the current national crisis and how is the crisis affecting the military? The military has been involved in messaging, logistics and direct support of communities affected by the pandemic. At the same time, the realities of living with an infectious disease are challenging basic assumptions about military budgets, force readiness and training.

Members of New York National Guard take calls on a hotline for pandemic

Analysis + Opinion

August 10, 2020

Pandemic politics: Covid-19 and grand strategy

As the world attempts to cope with and contain the COVID-19 pandemic, policy-makers and citizens alike are questioning the role of the state, its goals and the tools it uses. Lockdowns, overtaxed health care systems, mass unemployment, increasing mental health crises and supply chain disruptions plague the global system. Citizens wonder whether we will see a change in how states conduct themselves after the pandemic, both internationally and domestically.

Latvian flag with troops behind it

Analysis + Opinion

August 9, 2020

Beware of Latvians bearing gifts

Harvey SapolskyThe National Interest

There is no need for the United States to guard Europe against the Russians. The Europeans are rich, numerous, and fully capable of defending themselves. America must resist Latvians or Poles bearing gifts, argues Harvey Sapolsky.

Female military leader wearing Covid-19 protective mask

Analysis + Opinion

August 5, 2020

Pandemic politics: How the Future Strategy Forum amplifies the expertise of women

Sara Plana and Rachel TecottInternational Affairs Blog

In a new International Affairs blog published hereSara Plana and Rachel Tecott reflect on the work of the Future Strategy Forum (FSF). The FSF amplifies the voices of national security experts from under-represented backgrounds.

President Harry Truman reading reports of dropping the first atomic bomb

Analysis + Opinion

August 3, 2020

Why President Truman insisted on unconditional surrender

Richard SamuelsThe New York Times

Every August, newspapers are dotted with stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, accompanied by a well-picked-over — but never resolved — debate over whether atomic bombs were needed to end the Asia-Pacific war on American terms. What is left to learn 75 years (and with so much spilled ink) later?

Researcher alone in library

Analysis + Opinion

July 30, 2020

Training the Covid-19 cohort: Adapting and preserving social science research

Fotini Christia, Chappell LawsonSSRC

Fotini Christia and Chappell Lawson address changes in research and impacts of the pandemic on fieldwork. They trace the shifts in research focus that it has produced and find opportunities in newly broadened methodologies, but warn of the dangers of neglecting non-Covid research and the traditional fieldwork that still remain essential to social science.

George Floyd Mural

Analysis + Opinion

July 17, 2020

Unearthing the stories of yesterday's George Floyds

Melissa NoblesThe Boston Globe

When we call the victims' descendants to share our findings, they tell us 'I never thought I'd get this call.' The scars remain, and luckily, because we have found documents, so does proof. This opinion piece is written by Melissa Nobles and appeared first in the Boston Globe

Image of Moon Jae-In and a quote from Kacie Muira's article

Analysis + Opinion

July 15, 2020

America and China have hampered peace progress on the Korean peninsula

Kacie MuiraThe National Interest

The discordant approaches taken by South Korea, the United States, and China have hampered progress toward peace on the peninsula. Seoul’s pro-peace diplomacy has been undercut by Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign, which in turn has been undercut by Beijing’s loosening of sanctions enforcement.

Mountain range between India and China

Analysis + Opinion

July 2, 2020

India's Pangong pickle: New Delhi's options after its clash with China

Christopher Clary and Vipin NarangWar on the Rocks

India was surprised by the scale of China’s incursions and was initially caught unprepared. It now faces the difficult challenge of trying to restore the status quo.

Chinese soldiers patrol the border with India

Analysis + Opinion

June 26, 2020

China’s sovereignty obsession

M Taylor FravelForeign Affairs

Beijing and New Delhi are now attempting to de-escalate tensions, but they have sent reinforcements to the border and eye each other warily. The series of events that led to the clash seems to have begun with China’s move into a portion of the Galwan Valley, raising questions about Chinese motives. Provoking India could push New Delhi to pursue closer ties with Washington at a time when US-Chinese relations are on a downward spiral. 

illustration of the COVID-19 virus

Analysis + Opinion

June 23, 2020

Covid-19 news and activities

Here you can find a running list of Covid-19 news stories, features, and events that involve members of the CIS community.

Indo_China border

Analysis + Opinion

June 9, 2020

Tension high, altitude higher: Logistical and physiological constraints on the Indo-Chinese border

Aidan MilliffWar on the Rocks

Are India and China on the path to war in the Himalayas? Or will recent tensions over their disputed border fade into history like dozens of other standoffs that were resolved diplomatically? Aidan Milliff explores the issues in a recent War on the Rocks essay.

Indian schoolgirl wears a face mask of Chinese President Xi Jinping

Analysis + Opinion

June 2, 2020

Why are China and India skirmishing at their border? Here’s 4 things to know.

M Taylor FravelThe Washington Post

Here’s what we know— and don’t know—about China’s recent actions in this long-standing territorial dispute. 

Man in military uniform with AI

Analysis + Opinion

June 2, 2020

Integrating emerging technology in multinational military operations: The case of artificial intelligence

Erik Lin-GreenbergTexas National Security Review

Last fall, Perry World House hosted a two-day colloquium titled "How Emerging Technologies Are Rewiring the Global Order." The essays in this roundtable emerged from a panel on how emerging technologies like AI are changing international politics. Featured here is one of the essays by Erik Lin-Greenberg, who joins MIT this fall as an assistant professor of political science at MIT.

Cartoon of President Trump using red China flag to bullfight a donkey

Analysis + Opinion

May 10, 2020

Can the democrats avoid Trump’s China trap?

Rachel Esplin Odell, Stephen WertheimThe New York Times

Democrats, and Republicans who truly put American security first, face a choice. Joe Biden in particular will decide whether to lead his party into Mr Trump’s trap or play a different game.

Drawing of cat on balcony overlooking apartment balconies

Analysis + Opinion

May 9, 2020

An ode to the humble balcony

Bernardo ZackaThe New York Times

It is private, yet public; exposed, yet secluded. It offers company without the demands of intimacy, and we should never take it for granted again, writes Bernardo Zacka in a New York Times opinion piece available here.  

Photo of Kim Jong Un at funeral procession

Analysis + Opinion

May 8, 2020

4 things that will happen if Kim Jong-un died

Jim WalshThe National Interest

Should Chairman Kim exit early, there may be an opportunity to return to the negotiating table, especially given the North's precarious situation--one that is likely to deteriorate even further over the near to medium term, writes Jim Walsh in The National Interest's series asking what happens if Kim Jong-un died.

Ship on the South China Sea

Analysis + Opinion

May 7, 2020

Does the global pandemic open new South China Sea opportunities for Beijing? Not really.

M Taylor FravelThe Washington Post

A number of recent analyses have emphasized that China is seizing pandemic-created opportunities to improve its position in the South China Sea as other countries are distracted or otherwise unable to respond. A key implication of such claims is that absent the pandemic, China would have acted differently and perhaps with more restraint.

Aerial view of the Pentagon

Analysis + Opinion

April 28, 2020

Don’t classify the FYDP; Budget transparency helps allies, taxpayers

Miranda PriebeBreaking Defense

Unclassified information about DoD’s current plans will help the country weigh options such as sustaining the current defense budget, shifting priorities within it or significantly shrinking it by rethinking the US approach to the world.

Long unemployment line

Analysis + Opinion

April 25, 2020

Europe has kept down pandemic unemployment--and the US hasn’t. Here’s why.

Anke Hassel, Kathleen ThelenThe Washington Post

Over the last several decades, the United States has either shrunk its state capacity or failed to build it, especially around providing social benefits. In Europe, by contrast, governments have enough administrative capacity to deliver comprehensive help swiftly and directly.

Serbian soldiers stand guard at border crossing with Croatia

Analysis + Opinion

April 23, 2020

Do pandemics promote peace?

Barry PosenForeign Affairs

Covid-19 does nothing to mitigate such risks for world leaders—and a great deal to feed their reasonable pessimism about the likely outcome of even a conventional war, says Barry Posen in an essay in Foreign Affairs.

Military trucks on dusty road in the Middle East

Analysis + Opinion

April 21, 2020

The Middle East in an era of great power competition

Barry Posen and Stephen WaltMiddle East Institute

How does or should the Middle East fit in America’s new grand strategy? Does the great power competition require a new approach toward the Middle East? Which approach best serves Washington’s new global plans? To answer these questions and more, the Middle East Institute (MEI) hosted a conversation with Barry Posen (MIT) and Stephen Walt (Harvard). Find the video and transcript here.


Participants at the conference

Analysis + Opinion

April 15, 2020

Insights from the After iGEM biosecurity policy conference

Ronit Langer

The parallels between the findings of the IGEM biosecurity policy conference last November and the actions of scientists and policy makers across the world in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic today are striking: Scope, containment, and communication.

Image of smartphone and globe indicating tracking Covid-19

Analysis + Opinion

April 15, 2020

How digital contact tracing slowed Covid-19 in East Asia

Yasheng Huang, Meicen Sun, Yuze SuiHarvard Business Review

For Western democracies the time has come to either rethink our values around the tradeoff between personal privacy and public safety in a pandemic or to accelerate technology innovation and policy development that can preserve both. 

Joel Brenner

Analysis + Opinion

April 8, 2020

The inspector general’s badge of honor

Joel Brenner

The president’s power to remove Senate confirmed officials is not stated in the constitution. That power is grounded in the president’s constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” In this case, ironically, Trump removed Atkinson for having faithfully executed the law, explains Joel Brenner in a recent opinion piece. 

President Trump addressing Covid-19

Analysis + Opinion

April 3, 2020

It’s high time we fought this virus the American way

James E BakerNew York Times

The administration has all the authority it needs to produce medical supplies and prepare for a potential vaccine, argues James E Baker in a recent New York Times opinion piece.  Judge Baker was a former CIS Robert E Wilhelm fellow.

Fotini Christia

Analysis + Opinion

March 29, 2020

Deal-making during the coronavirus pandemic

Fotini Christia

It is unclear what a negotiated settlement could look like between the Afghan government and the Taliban given the latter’s clear desire to head the state. Whether the Taliban can commit to power sharing is a highly doubtful proposition as many expect it to get militarily emboldened as soon as the US withdraws and to become the de facto ruling power.

Yemeni soldiers

Analysis + Opinion

March 26, 2020

Yemen's proxy wars explained

Peter Krause, Tyler B ParkerPolitical Violence at a Glance

Five years of war have accentuated the futility of pure military resolutions to the fighting in Yemen. However, its proxy wars are likely to persist, much for the same reason they have persisted in Syria and Libya; namely, because the potential benefits to intervening states still outweigh the costs that they pay to gain control, maintain the status quo, or simply feed the chaos.   

US Army ready to fight

Analysis + Opinion

March 20, 2020

How coronavirus will affect the US military

Rachel Tecott, Erik SandWashington Post

The coronavirus pandemic will continue to negatively affect US military readiness, leaving the Pentagon to think carefully about how to mitigate the impact on training and overall troop readiness, says Rachel Tecott and Erik Sand in a recent opinion piece originally published in The Washington Post (online).

Greta Thunberg, protesting in Brussels this month

Analysis + Opinion

March 19, 2020

Coronavirus halts street protests, but climate activists have a plan

Shola LawalThe New York Times

The coronavirus outbreak has prompted climate activists to abandon public demonstrations, one of their most powerful tools for raising public awareness, and shift to online protests. 

MIT President Reif

Analysis + Opinion

March 18, 2020

We lead three universities. It’s time for drastic action.

New York Times

“Is all this disruption really necessary? We believe the answer is yes,” MIT President L Rafael Reif and counterparts Lawrence Bacow ’72 of Harvard University and Marc Tessier-Lavigne of Stanford University write in The New York Timeson the “painful steps” needed to address Covid-19. “The time to act is right now.”

Angry President Trump

Analysis + Opinion

March 8, 2020

How Donald Trump should handle China's growing power

Joshua ShifrinsonThe National Interest

Ultimately, China is not the threat claimed, and inflators’ prescriptions are a recipe for overstretching and needless risk. It is not too late for the US to soberly address China’s rise. 

President Trump holding up document with signature on Executive Order on Iran sanctions

Analysis + Opinion

March 3, 2020

Courting war

Barry PosenBoston Review

Despite claims to the contrary, the Trump administration wants regime change in Iran and is risking a full-scale war in order to get it.

Illustration of hand putting iron in the ocean

Analysis + Opinion

February 26, 2020

Tweak ocean ecosystems? Maybe not, study says.

Shola LawalThe New York Times

A controversial idea to fight climate change by using iron to manipulate ocean ecosystems probably won’t work, according to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

President Donald Trump heads to India on Feb 24-25, making stops in New Delhi as well as Ahmedabad, in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat. This will be Trump's first visit to India as president.

Analysis + Opinion

February 23, 2020

Trump and Modi will meet in India this week; here's what to expect

Christopher ClaryThe Washington Post

President Donald Trump heads to India on Feb 24-25, making stops in New Delhi as well as Ahmedabad, in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat. This will be Trump's first visit to India as president.

Soldiers march in formation past Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1 during the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Analysis + Opinion

February 21, 2020

Mike Pompeo criticized China for not respecting its neighbors’ territorial integrity. What’s the story?

M Taylor Fravel The Washington Post

M Taylor Fravel reflects on how China’s approach to territorial disputes has been quite different from what Pompeo suggests.

Analysis + Opinion

February 7, 2020

Iraqi protesters will likely push forward despite violence

Marsin AlshamaryThe World | PRI

Despite violence, Iraqi protesters have made political gains, the most significant of which is the recognition by all parties that legitimacy can only come from the people.

A swarm of fireflies on Shikoku, in southern Japan.Credit...Kei Nomiyama/Barcroft Media, via Getty Images

Analysis + Opinion

February 3, 2020

Fireflies have a mating problem: The lights are always on

Shola LawalThe New York Times

These are tough times for fireflies. Like a lot of other insects, they face increasing threats from habitat loss, pesticides and pollution. But they also have a problem that’s unique to luminous bugs: It’s getting harder for them to reproduce because light pollution is outshining their mating signals.

The Thwaites glacier, above, helps to keep the much larger West Antarctic Ice Shelf stable.Credit...NASA/OIB/Jeremy Harbeck

Analysis + Opinion

January 29, 2020

Temperatures at a Florida-size glacier in Antarctica alarm scientists

Shola LawalNew York Times

Scientists in Antarctica have recorded, for the first time, unusually warm water beneath a glacier the size of Florida that is already melting and contributing to a rise in sea levels.

Trump shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo courtesy of The White House.

Analysis + Opinion

January 28, 2020

Trump’s peace plan is a paradigm shift

Peter KrausePolitical Violence At A Glance

What’s significant about the deal is that it represents a paradigm shift in US policy, at least under Trump, from one model of conflict resolution to another. This shift is evident in other areas of foreign policy, too, including Trump’s pulloute from the Iran nuclear deal... 

Willoughby image for book publication

Analysis + Opinion

January 26, 2020

Samuels summarizes "Special Duty" in Ambassador Brief

Richard SamuelsAmbassador's Brief

Since Japan‘s intelligence community (IC) had never been the subject of serious study, and since Japanese strategists have begun to focus their attention on intelligence reform, Richard Samuels took the opportunity to produce his new book, Special Duty. He summarizes the key findings in a recent Ambassador's Brief.

Analysis + Opinion

January 13, 2020

Here’s how to regulate artificial intelligence properly

David EdelmanThe Washington Post

If we’re going to govern AI, we need to recognize it for what it is: a tool, with innumerable uses. And that means we need to govern it for the ways people actually use it, and not as a phenomenon in and of itself.