News

CNN.com: Boots on the ground? There are people in them

Author: Michael Desch

This week's New York Times investigative piece on the likely suicide of Navy Cmdr. Job W. Price, the commander of SEAL Team Four in Afghanistan and another casualty in America's longest war, should remind us that when we talk about putting boots on the ground, they are filled by flesh-and-blood men and women...…

CNBC.com: Why you shouldn't panic about North Korea's H-bomb

Author: Michael Desch

The web is atwitter in response to North Korea's claim to have exploded a hydrogen bomb — essentially an atomic bomb on steroids — and the international community is wondering what to make of this latest development in Hermit Kingdom. Last month, the mercurial leader Kim Jong Un abruptly canceled the Beijing leg of the tour of his all-girl rock and roll band Moranbong; this month he's promising to up his Armageddon game. What should we make of this?...…

Foxnews.com: Saudi Arabia vs. Iran: America's Shia problem

Author: Michael Desch

Saudi Arabia's execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr on charges of terrorism exposes both the fragility and the brutality of the Saudi regime.  The Shia represent only about 15% of Saudi Arabia’s population and they feel persecuted by the dominant fundamentalist Sunni regime.  They are increasingly speaking out and protesting, as was the recently executed Shia Sheikh, but unlike in Yemen or Lebanon, Saudi Shia have for the most part not taken up arms.  As with the House of Saud's pandering to Sunni fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics, repressing Saudi Shia may shore up their domestic power in the short-run, but it is likely to backfire over the longer run, undermining both Saudi and U.S. national interests in the process...…

“Maintaining U.S. Energy Security,” in Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role

Author: Eugene Gholz

The end of the Cold War ushered in a unipolar world, cementing U.S. dominance over a generally liberal international order. Yet where once it seemed that U.S. foreign policy would be simpler and easier to manage as a result, the events of the past 15 years—the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Arab Spring, and Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine—strongly suggest otherwise. The world today is certainly safer for Americans than it was under the existential threat posed by the Soviet Union. But the world is undoubtedly more complex, as nonstate actors, shifting alliances, and diverse domestic political factors complicate U.S. foreign policy formation and implementation. A robust debate on America’s foreign policy choices is urgently needed...…

“Energy, Coercive Diplomacy, and Sanctions,” in Palgrave Handbook of the International Political Economy of Energy

Author: Eugene Gholz

This Handbook is the first volume to analyse the International Political Economy, the who-gets-what-when-and-how, of global energy. Divided into five sections, it features 28 contributions that deal with energy institutions, trade, transitions, conflict and justice. The chapters span a wide range of energy technologies and markets - including oil and gas, biofuels, carbon capture and storage, nuclear, and electricity - and it cuts across the domestic-international divide...…

"U.S. Spending on its Military Commitments to the Persian Gulf," in Crude Strategy: Reexamining the Energy Logic of the U.S. Military Commitment to the Persian Gulf

A reasonable estimate of the defense budget cost of protecting the Persian Gulf (and especially of protecting production and transit of oil) would make an important contribution to a rational assessment of the desirability of continuing to include this mission as part of U.S. military strategy. Unfortunately, such an estimate is not easy to produce. Ideally, it would incorporate three sources of defense budget cost: the avoidable future investment to acquire the force structure to perform the mission, the cost of the force posture linked to the mission (the incremental cost of forward basing, specific training exercises that could be cancelled, etc.), and the intermittent cost of military operations in the region (whether surges of forces to deter potential adversaries or actual wars)...…

Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena: Professors or Pundits?

Author: Michael Desch

What is a public intellectual? Where are they to be found? What accounts for the lament today that public intellectuals are either few in number or, worse, irrelevant? While there is a small literature on the role of public intellectuals, it is organized around various thinkers rather than focusing on different countries or the unique opportunities and challenges inherent in varied disciplines or professions. In Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena,…

CNN.com: Is Putin more realistic on Syria than Obama?

Author: Michael Desch

President Barack Obama took advantage of the fact that both he and Vladimir Putin were in Paris for this week's multilateral climate talks to give the Russian President some strategic advice about Russia's military intervention in Syria. The advice is particularly timely since Turkey, America's NATO ally, shot down a Russian plane last week near the Turkish-Syrian border...…

CNN.com: Does Clinton's strategy for beating ISIS add up?

Author: Michael Desch

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a polished and effective speech on her strategy for dealing with ISIS on Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations. As with her recent testimony before the House Benghazi Committee, she came across as reasonable and in command of the many facets of the wickedly complex problem of global terrorism...…

"Retrenchment and Regional Tradeoffs," in International Studies Quarterly

Author: Joseph Parent

In “Decline and Devolution: The Sources of Strategy Military Retrenchment,” Kyle Haynes builds a theory of how states react to decline across different regions. Haynes makes two key arguments. First, declining states should begin to retrench earlier when they have access to compatible successor states, which are willing and able to uphold the regional order as the waning state withdraws. Second, declining states should retrench more rapidly in regions that are less important to their security. The gist of our remarks is that, though we have qualms about the nitty-gritty, the work clarifies the big picture and substantially improves the literature on a number of fronts. This is real progress...…

Defense News: Political Choices Shape Industry, Not Mergers

Author: Eugene Gholz

Over the past several years, Pentagon leaders have warned the big defense industry companies not to merge with each other. In early 2011, Ash Carter, then-undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, acknowledged that firms would likely restructure in response to expected cuts to the defense acquisition budget, but said, "The department is not likely to support further consolidation of our principal weapons systems prime contractors."...…

The American Conservative: How Popular Is Peace?

Author: Michael Desch

The rhetorical muscle-flexing at the Republican debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California in September made Sunday afternoon at Venice Beach seem like a convention of “girly men.” The contenders engaged each other in verbal feats of strength over foreign policy, vying to establish who would be the most Reaganesque, or George W. Bushesque, in reasserting America’s role as global strongman...…

Technique Trumps Relevance: The Professionalization of Political Science and the Marginalization of Security Studies

Author: Michael Desch

I explain here the disconnect between our discipline’s self-image as balancing rigor with relevance with the reality of how we actually conduct our scholarship most of the time. To do so, I account for variation in social scientists’ willingness to engage in policy-relevant scholarship over time. My theory is that social science, at least as it has been practiced in the United States since the early twentieth century, has tried to balance two impulses: To be a rigorous science and a relevant social enterprise. The problem is that there are sometimes tensions between these two objectives. First, historically the most useful policy-relevant social science work in the area of national security affairs has been interdisciplinary in nature, and this cuts against the increasingly rigid disciplinary siloes in the modern academy. Second, as sociologist Thomas Gieryn puts it, there is “in science, an unyielding tension between basic and applied research, and between the empirical and theoretical aspects of inquiry.” During wartime, the tensions between these two impulses have been generally muted, especially among those disciplines of direct relevance to the war effort; in peacetime, they reemerge and there are a variety of powerful institutional incentives within academe to resolve them in favor of a narrow definition of rigor that excludes relevance. My objective is to document how these trends in political science are marginalizing the sub-field of security studies, which has historically sought both scholarly rigor and real-world relevance...…

Havard Kennedy School: Why the United States and China Are on a Collision Course

The rise of China has the potential to transform the balance of power in Asia. If the Chinese military and economy continue to grow at their current pace over the next few decades, the United States will confront a genuine peer competitor for the first time since the Cold War. Assuming that this scenario unfolds, interested observers will want to know its effect on international politics. Are the United States and China destined to compete or can they find a way to coexist?...…

ND Magazine: Show Some Restraint

Author: Michael Desch

In a presidential debate with a sitting vice president, a candidate from the other party distanced himself from the activist foreign policy of the previous administration in favor of a more restrained approach to the world. “I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building,” he declared. The candidate also warned that America’s overwhelming power was both a blessing and a curse. As he explained, “Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we have to be humble.”...…

The National Interest: Don't Worship at the Altar of Andrew Marshall

Author: Michael Desch

I first met Andrew Marshall, the longtime director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA), in the mid-1990s. The occasion was one of the late Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington’s “Strategy and National Security” conferences at the Wianno Club on Cape Cod. A number of Huntington’s students, including Eliot Cohen, Aaron Friedberg and my Olin Institute for Strategic Studies colleague Stephen Rosen, were also Marshall protégés—alumni of St. Andrew’s Prep, as they referred to themselves—having spent some of their careers under his tutelage in the ONA...…