Analysis + Opinion | 2021

Barry Posen

Analysis + Opinion

December 23, 2021

Americas alliances: Achieving common ends

Barry PosenKoch Institute

Barry Posen joins Rajan Menon, Kori Schake, and Tom Wright to debate the future of American security commitments in the 21st Century. Alex Ward moderated the Koch Institute event. Posen argues that US alliances must be reexamined because they no longer serve US strategic interests. His remarks (lightly edited) are provided here along with a link to the entire debate on YouTube.

Taylor Fravel

Analysis + Opinion

December 15, 2021

US-China first strike showdown: Rising nuclear tensions

National Committee on US-China Relations

Why is China rapidly bulking up its nuclear arsenal, and why now? What does this spell for an already fraught US-China security relationship? And how should the United States respond in its efforts to maintain "strategic stability”? Taylor Fravel weighs in at a recent event sponsored by the National Committee on US-China Relations.

Nazli Choucri

Analysis + Opinion

December 10, 2021

Can the world change course on climate?

SHASS Communications

Political scientist Nazli Choucri discusses challenges and hopes for global coordination on climate issues — and the role of political science in the process.

Maria Ressa

Analysis + Opinion

November 28, 2021

Nobel Prize-winning journalist Maria Ressa won't be silenced

Ada PetriczkoBoston Globe

Maria Ressa faces up to 60 years in prison in the Philippines on charges of cyber libel and tax evasion, both of which human rights advocates decry as a harassment campaign. But the embattled journalist refuses to be silenced.

President Biden and members of his Defense Department

Analysis + Opinion

November 17, 2021

How Americans' views of the military have changed over 20 years

Ronald R Krebs and Robert RalstonWar on the Rocks

Americans’ views on the relationship between civilian leaders and the military are disturbing. When it comes to decisions about the use of force, recent surveys demonstrate that Americans are inclined to disempower civilians and defer to the professional military’s judgment.

A new solar panel in Lagos, Nigeria, last year. “It’s the bigger emitters that should have the responsibility to cut,” one analyst said of fossil fuels. “We should be sensitive to history.”Credit...Akintunde Akinleye/EPA, via Shutterstock

Analysis + Opinion

November 12, 2021

The world needs to quit oil and gas. Africa has an idea: Rich countries first.

Shola LawalNew York Times

As world leaders meet at COP26 in Glasgow, some African leaders and activists are, for the first time, vocally opposing a speedier pivot to renewables for their countries.

This July 25, 2021, satellite image provided by Planet Labs shows what analysts believe is construction on an intercontinental ballistic missile silo near Hami, China. (Planet Labs Inc./AP)

Analysis + Opinion

November 11, 2021

China’s nuclear arsenal is growing. What does that mean for US-China relations?

Fiona Cunningham, Taylor FravelWashington Post

The new Pentagon report reveals China’s worries about US missile defenses. While any potential changes in Beijing’s nuclear strategy are unclear, three questions stand out regarding how Beijing might seek to use silo-based missiles to deter the United States.


Military mobilisation is more effective than public threats in demonstrating resolve against hawkish, as opposed to doveish, rivals. Not many in the world will characterise Xi Jinping as a dove anyway (AP)

Analysis + Opinion

November 11, 2021

Underplaying the China threat

Kunal SinghHindustan Times

The government has consciously decided to downplay China’s aggression. This has possible benefits but also costs, explains Kunal Singh for the Hindustan Times.  

Nuclear missile flying through the air

Analysis + Opinion

October 24, 2021

What is nuclear China up to?

Kunal SinghHindustan Times

The possibility of a US-China conflict is much higher now, or at least the leadership in Beijing thinks so. If there is a conventional conflict between the US and China, over, say, Taiwan, it can escalate to nuclear levels. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Athens, Greece, November 2019

Analysis + Opinion

October 19, 2021

Is US foreign policy too hostile to China?

Eric Heginbotham and Shivshankar MenonForeign Affairs

Foreign Affairs asks the experts about US foreign policy toward China and whether it has become too hostile. Participants were asked to state whether they agreed or disagreed with a proposition and to rate their confidence level in their opinion. Eric Heginbotham, a principal research scientist at the MIT Center for International Studies and Shivshankar Menon, a former CIS Robert E Wilhelm Fellow, were asked to weigh in.

Ada Petriczko

Analysis + Opinion

October 7, 2021

In Europe's new humanitarian crisis, border security is prioritized over human rights

Ada PetriczkoBoston Globe

This new crisis is a stark reminder that the EU migration policy prioritizes border security over human rights. It is likely that pushbacks wouldn't have become such an obvious tool of choice now if they hadn't been widely practiced in Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, and Spain for the past five years with the silent approval of EU institutions.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, September 2019 Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Analysis + Opinion

September 30, 2021

Why conservatives turned on the US military

Ronald R Krebs and Robert RalstonForeign Affairs

Conservative American pundits and politicians have found a surprising new punching bag: the “woke” US military. “Anti-American indoctrination [is] seeping into parts of our military,” Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, railed in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in June. “Holy crap,” Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, tweeted in May in response to a recruitment ad showcasing the US Army’s diversity. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea.”​

A nuclear-powered submarine in Cherbourg, France, July 2019

Analysis + Opinion

September 30, 2021

Don’t sink the nuclear submarine deal

Caitlin TalmadgeForeign Affairs

"The benefits of AUKUS outweigh the proliferation risks," says Caitlin Talmadge, associate professor of security studies at the Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Talmadge is a research affiliate of the MIT Security Studies.

A US soldier in the Pesh valley, Afghanistan, August 2009

Analysis + Opinion

September 29, 2021

Beyond forever war

Daniel Benjamin and Steven SimonForeign Affairs

After years of hopeful delusions that the era of jihadi terrorism was past, it is indeed time for US policymakers to refocus on the threat. But returning to the fearfulness and hyperventilation that plagued the decade and a half before Trump is not the way to do it.

 U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (Photo by Richard Cordell)

Analysis + Opinion

September 29, 2021

Don't count your submarines before they're built

Erik SandWar on the Rocks
Ada Petriczko

Analysis + Opinion

September 24, 2021

The Texas abortion law has an Eastern European ring to it

Ada PetriczkoThe Boston Globe

Since Texas effectively banned most abortions, I've been in a state of perpetual deja vu. The media coverage and the language used at both ends of the political spectrum all ring close to home. Weirdly so, given that home is 5,000 miles away from Texas.

Taking off at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province, China, June 2020 China Out / Reuters

Analysis + Opinion

September 21, 2021

Private eyes in the sky

Erik Lin-Greenberg and Theo MilonopoulosForeign Affairs

Erik Lin-Greenberg and Theo Milonopoulos discuss how commercial satellites are transforming Intelligence in a recent article in Foreign Affairs.

John Tirman

Analysis + Opinion

September 20, 2021

Will America ever reckon with the human cost of the Afghanistan war?

John TirmanDAWN

It is difficult to know if Americans would care more if they knew more. But one modest remedy is for Congress to empower an agency to calculate the human costs of war in real time and hold regular hearings that demand accountability from the president for the consequences of US war making.

US, British, and Latvian soldiers parachute out of a C-130 Hercules aircraft as part of a joint airborne training exercise at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center in Michigan during Northern Strike 21, aimed at building readiness and interoperability with other units and multinational partners. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera/US Defense Dept.

Analysis + Opinion

September 7, 2021

A new transatlantic division of labor could save billions every year!

Barry R PosenBulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The US defense effort consumes roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars per year and makes up a quarter of all Federal spending and half of all federal discretionary spending.  Because resources are scarce relative to plausible projects and money is fungible, the defense effort should, like other federal spending, be subjected to close scrutiny.  Read Barry Posen's opinion piece on spending.

Afghanistan after the 2021 US withdrawal

Analysis + Opinion

September 2, 2021

Afghanistan was a Ponzi scheme sold to the American public

Alan Richards and Steven SimonForeign Policy

As the political fight over who lost Afghanistan gets bloodier, the latest round has shifted from lamentation over the probable return of al Qaeda to the disorderly exit from Kabul. Vivid images of chaotic activity at the airport underscore this concern. But, in fact, the withdrawal could never have been orderly, as critics unthinkingly imply. An orderly, carefully prepared exit was structurally impossible.

Attending an Afghan National Army graduation ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 2019 Omar Sobhani / Reuters

Analysis + Opinion

August 26, 2021

Why America can’t build allied armies

Rachel TecottForeign Affairs

Too often, the United States’ efforts to train and equip foreign militaries have been motivated by bureaucratic logic rather than sound strategy.  Rachel Tecott explains in this opinion piece.

Members of a militia group outside the office of Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer during a protest against her Covid stay-at-home order, Lansing, April 30, 2020. Three of them were later charged with being involved in a plot to kidnap her, attack the state capitol building, and incite violence.

Analysis + Opinion

August 19, 2021

How can we neutralize the militias?

Steven Simon and Jonathan StevensonThe New York Review

The threat of violence from domestic far-right extremists calls for a measured and well-coordinated response from law enforcement and intelligence services according to this opinion piece by Robert E Wilhelm Fellow Steven Simon (with Jonathan Stevenson).

A statue of a soldier facing Xiamen, China, from Kinmen, Taiwan, August 2018

Analysis + Opinion

August 16, 2021

Strait of emergency? Debating Beijing’s threat to Taiwan

Rachel Esplin Odell and Eric HeginbothamForeign Affairs

Recent articles that warn of the growing risk of Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait have become so common that they have created something of an invasion panic in Washington—one that is damaging to both the United States’ and Taiwan’s interests according to Rachel Esplin Odell and Eric Heginbotham

A Taliban flag flies in the main square of Kunduz, Afghanistan, after fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces on Aug. 8. (Abdullah Sahil/AP)

Analysis + Opinion

August 9, 2021

The Taliban has seized more cities, despite US efforts to build a strong Afghan military. What happened?

Rachel TecottThe Washington Post

Persuading partners to emulate the US military approach doesn’t necessarily work, new research finds. Rachel Tecott explains in this opinion piece.

US soldier with large gun standing tall

Analysis + Opinion

August 6, 2021

The transatlantic relationship: Radical reform is in the US national interest

Barry R PosenThe Hague Centre for Strategic Studies

The North Atlantic Alliance is now over 70 years old and much has changed since its birth.  The United States role in the alliance, its interests and how best to pursue them, are due for a serious reconsideration and Barry Posen argues that the Biden Administration should look carefully at US interests in Europe and the threats to those interests. 

This undated satellite image obtained July 29 courtesy of Planet Labs shows what researchers say are missile silos under construction in the Chinese desert. (AFP/Getty Images)

Analysis + Opinion

August 3, 2021

Commercial satellites — not US intelligence — revealed China’s missile program

Theo Milonopoulos and Erik Lin-Greenberg The Washington Post

The proliferation of commercial satellites has upended a near-monopoly on government intelligence gathering. And this also means leaders now have less freedom — both politically and strategically — to handle this kind of news.

URL address to access the Internet

Analysis + Opinion

July 26, 2021

Public-private partnerships key to providing high-quality broadband to all

Steven KoltaiThe Hill

"Billions for broadband" are about to pour out of Washington. That sounds good, but it is not aligned with the reality faced by many individual states, counties and towns. In rural – as well as some poor urban – areas, the "business model" for private ISPs “prevents” them from offering service.

The passenger side door of a US Customs and Border Protection vehicle in the dessert

Analysis + Opinion

July 24, 2021

Want to fix the Border Patrol? Don't carbon-copy the playbook to reform police

Josh Kussman and Chappell LawsonAZ Central

The Border Patrol needs reform, but it can't be a rigid, top-down approach. Here are 4 ways to make changes happen - and make them last according to Chappell Lawson.

Haiti's acting prime minister Claude Joseph

Analysis + Opinion

July 21, 2021

How the US could really help Haiti

Malick GhachemAmericas Quarterly

What are the options for American policy makers to help Haiti? Military intervention or an international protectorate are out of the question on both moral and practical grounds. It is also difficult to envision Washington’s promised security assistance as more than temporary and limited. 

Pope Francis delivers Sunday prayers from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on July 4. (Vatican Media/AFP/Getty Images

Analysis + Opinion

July 7, 2021

Politicians aren’t usually saints. But Pope Francis just put one on the path to sainthood.

Emma Campbell-MohnThe Washington Post, Monkey Cage

Is the pope endorsing the European Union? Emma Campbell-Mohn, a PhD student in the Department of Political Science and the Security Studies Program, explains in a recent essay in the Washington Post's Monkey Cage

A United States Navy vessel

Analysis + Opinion

July 2, 2021

Freedom of navigation operations: A mission for unmanned systems

Trevor Prouty

By properly executing a transition to unmanned system freedom of navigation operation (FONOPs), the United States can use technological advances to ensure a continuing ability to “provide a legal order that will, among other things, facilitate peaceful international uses of the oceans.” 

The 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team on the ground in Syria. (Image: The National Guard)

Analysis + Opinion

July 1, 2021

US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, explained

Kristen de GrootPenn Today

The United States has carried out airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria in recent days. The Biden administration said the attacks on weapons storage facilities were meant to deter increasing violence by the militias Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada. The Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups had conducted drone attacks against US troops in Iraq over the last few months. Who exactly are those militia groups, and why is the US responding in this way at this time?

A supporter of Ebrahim Raisi displays his portrait during a celebratory rally for his presidential election victory in Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2021 Photo by Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency via Reuters

Analysis + Opinion

June 28, 2021

Why Iran may be in no hurry to get nuclear weapons even without a nuclear deal

Mayumi FukushimaRand Corporation

History shows that many countries with advanced nuclear technologies but without nuclear bombs opt to stay that way, rather than rushing to build nuclear weapons as soon as they can.

US soldiers in Afghanistan

Analysis + Opinion

June 22, 2021

Is Washington right to leave Afghanistan?

Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs asks experts—including faculty and students affiliated with the Center and the Security Studies Program—to state whether they agreed or disagreed with the withdrawal from Afghanistan. They were also asked to rate their confidence level in their opinion. An excerpt of their responses are featured here.

Weaponized migration image showing armed police and refugees

Analysis + Opinion

June 2, 2021

Morocco ‘weaponized’ migration to punish Spain. That’s more common than you think.

Strategically engineered migration is far more common than most people realize. At any given time, somewhere in the world, leaders inside or outside governments are likely manipulating migrants and/or refugees to pursue political, military or economic objectives. Here’s what we know.

Yoshihide Suga

Analysis + Opinion

May 23, 2021

How Japan is falling short

Samuel LeiterNational Interest

For its own sake, Japan must end its time on the American cheap-ride and invest politically and financially in its own defense, writes Samuel Leiter. Leiter is a PhD candidate at MIT.  This essay took first prize in the 2021 John Quincy Adams Society/The National Interest Student Foreign Policy Essay Contest.

Illustration of China flag background and puppeteer

Analysis + Opinion

April 29, 2021

How not to win allies and influence geopolitics

Audrye Wong's essay in the May/June 2021 issue of Foreign Affairs describes China's self-defeating economic statecraft. Wong is a Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program.

Vladimir Putin

Analysis + Opinion

April 21, 2021

Russia: A problem, not a threat

Joshua ShifrinsonNewsweek

To be sure, Russia is a destabilizing force in Europe and the Middle East, led by a government with a horrible civil liberties and human rights record. Nevertheless, these issues do not require the U.S. to treat Russia as an adversary or a threat to core American interests. Instead, Russia is a problem child in international relations that can, and should, be coolly managed.

People Liberation Army soldiers and tanks are shown during military disengagement at the India-China border in Ladakh. (Indian army/AFP/Getty Images)

Analysis + Opinion

March 3, 2021

China and India are pulling back from the brink. They’ve created a buffer zone and started talks.

M Taylor FravelThe Washington Post

The disengagement may be a sign of easing tensions along part of the India-China border dispute known as the western sector. Also called Ladakh or Aksai Chin, this area comprises roughly 12,7000 square miles (excluding areas of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir that India also claims as part of this sector). In multiple areas, China and India hold conflicting views of where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) lies, which creates numerous smaller disputes within the larger territorial conflict.

SOUDA BAY, Greece (Feb. 20, 2021) Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Bradley Holloway, right, and Fire Controlman 2nd Class Matthew Hayes man a M2HB .50-caliber machine gun as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) departs Souda Bay, Greece, Feb. 20, 2021.

Analysis + Opinion

February 25, 2021

A liberal case for seapower?

Jonathan Caverley and Sara McLaughlin MitchellWar on the Rocks

The Biden administration should not confuse Trump’s enthusiasm for ships with a coherent vision of the naval forces’ role in his “America First” approach to the world.  Jon Caverley and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell weigh in with their thoughts on maritime strategy.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Feb. 20, 2021) Marine machine gun teams fire 50-cal and M240 machine guns during a live-fire gunnery training exercise aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18)

Analysis + Opinion

February 23, 2021

Don't knock yourself out: How America can turn the tables on China by giving up the fight for command of the seas

Paul van HooftWar on the Rocks

The United States should give up its quest for command of the maritime commons in the Western Pacific. In this piece, Paul van Hooft argues that the United States should not trap itself by framing the rise of China as an existential struggle between two titans that depends on the United States retaining command of the Western Pacific.

Senior Airman Josh Serafin, a B-52 Stratofortress crew chief with the 5th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, walks around the aircraft he maintains prior to crew startup at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. on January 26, 2017. It is not uncommon for temperatures in Minot to dip below minus 20, making maintenance efforts extremely difficult. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)

Analysis + Opinion

February 22, 2021

Sole purpose is not no first use: Nuclear weapons and declaratory policy

Ankit Panda and Vipin NarangWar on the Rocks

Ankit Panda and Vipin Narang exaimine the debate on the US nuclear policy and the “no first use” pledge.  This essay was first published in War on the Rocks here.

President Biden with head of NATO

Analysis + Opinion

February 16, 2021

Can Europe defend itself?

Barry Posen joins the Eurasia Group Foundation’s Mark Hannah to discuss the future of the alliance and America’s security interests in Europe. They cover Posen’s recent piece for the journal Survival, in which he insists—and demonstrates how—Europe can defend itself.

Image of retro panel of nuclear current dials and readers

Analysis + Opinion

February 16, 2021

After the apocalypse: US nuclear policy

Inkstick Media

What should the Biden administration prioritize when it comes to US nuclear policy? Heather Williams and Vipin Narang are among the scholars requested to offer their recommendations.

Vladimir Putin videoconference with Ilham Aliyev

Analysis + Opinion

February 14, 2021

Russia’s new crises on the periphery

Carol SaivetzLawfare

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Russia has sought to maintain its sway in the post-Soviet space despite numerous upheavals. Carol Saivetz explains in a recent article first published here in Lawfare.

Indian advocates from Punjab state attend a sit-in protest near New Delhi on Wednesday.

Analysis + Opinion

February 5, 2021

India’s farm protests turned violent last week. But why are farmers protesting in the first place?

Saksham Khosla and Aidan MilliffThe Washington Post

Farmers remain steadfast in their demands — a full repeal of the new laws. Union leaders promise to continue protests late into the year, and the government shows few signs of backing down from the broader agricultural policy agenda. The standoff will be another hard test of India’s ability to resolve political disputes through peaceful consensus-building.

Mahsa Rouhi

Analysis + Opinion

January 27, 2021

A Middle East Forum can help Biden succeed

President Joe Biden has yet to outline his overarching strategy for the Middle East. While some in the United States and abroad fret that Biden’s America will disengage from the region and create vacuums that adversaries will exploit the greater likelihood is that the new administration will neither be leaving nor leading in the Middle East.

President Trump at a campaign rally for Republican US Senate candidates in Dalton, Ga., on Jan. 5, 2021. (Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) (Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Analysis + Opinion

January 8, 2021

There is no legal way to stop Trump from ordering a nuclear strike if he wants to, expert says

Elizabeth N SaundersThe Washington Post

Vipin Narang comments on Speaker Pelosi's conversation with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and discusses the protocol for launching a nuclear strike.  “The United States is one of the only countries to have sole launch authority — even Russia does not. It is striking that the Russian system requires an additional vote to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, but America’s does not.”