Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Cabot 703
Marion Smith is a civil society leader and expert in international affairs, and has been executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation since March 2014. As Executive Director, he provides strategic leadership for VOC and spearheads its educational initiatives. He is also founding president of the Common Sense Society, an international foundation that promotes civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and leadership virtues among young professionals in the United States and Europe.

Read more

The Intervention Project Gets into Gear

By Xiaodon Liang

Under the direction of Prof. Monica Toft and research lead Dr. Sidita Kushi, the Center for Strategic Studies’ first major research program, The Intervention Project (TIP), has entered its first phase. Last Thursday, Kushi gave a presentation to CSS staff and fellows of the research so far, which has entailed assessing the existing literature on U.S. interventions and constructing a working definition of the phenomenon.

Read more

CSS Open House 2018

We welcomed Fletcher students back for the academic year at an open house on September 17. The event introduced new and returning graduate students to the center’s recent work and our agenda for the coming year.

CSS Director Monica Toft kicked off the event by thanking the 40 students, representing all of The Fletcher School’s resident degrees and Tufts University’s undergraduate program, for attending the afternoon session. She presented her newest work on migration and demographics, a volume co-edited with Isabelle Côté and Matthew I. Mitchell entitled People Changing Places: New Perspectives on Demography, Migration, Conflict, and the State. Demographic change is a subtle and underappreciated factor driving conflict and tensions in all parts of the world, and she encouraged students to pay more attention to the long-neglected field. Demographics are critical for understanding power between and within states, shifting balances, and political violence and war. She noted that demographers were studying the effects of immigration on political stability many years before they hit the front pages of newspapers in Europe and the United States.

Read more

Welcome to the New Academic Year at CSS

by Monica Duffy Toft

Dear Colleagues, Students, and Friends of CSS,

It’s hard to believe that the start of the academic year is already upon us: students are back, books have been ordered, syllabi have been distributed, and fellows have arrived. The Center for Strategic Studies (CSS) begins its second year with excitement and enthusiasm as we continue our mission to train the next generation of scholars and practitioners in strategy and national security policy.

Three new postdoctoral fellows—Nils Hagerdal (PhD Harvard), Sidita Kushi (PhD Northeastern), and Megan McBride (PhD Brown)—have joined CSS, while others—Rita Konaev, Burak Kadercan, and Sarah Detzner—have left to begin another phase of their careers. Professor Thomas Cavanna will continue teaching at Fletcher on US foreign policy and researching his book on US-China relations, and postdoctoral fellow Karim Elkady will continue his research on critical cases of US state-building interventions. Our postdoctoral fellows are joined by eight PhD fellows, some of whom are returning—Polina Beliakova, Zoltan Feher, Meg Guliford, David Kampf, and Xiaodon Liang—while others are new to CSS—Neha Ansari, Lydia Sizer, and Colin Steele. In addition to working on their dissertations, the fellows will be helping me and program manager Anna Ronell to advance the research and activities of the center.

Read more

Operation Inherent Resolve Will not Save Iraq from Its Political Mess

by Karim Elkady

Without U.S. political engagement with Iraq’s domestic politics, the military and security gains that Iraq, the United States, and their international partners in Operation Inherent Resolve have achieved will diminish. During a press briefing in Baghdad on July 24, 2018, Brigadier General Frederic Parisot, the director of Civil-Military Operations for Operation Inherent Resolve responded to a question about post-ISIS stabilization in Iraq and Syria. He said “we – the Coalition – (will) fail to defeat Daesh if stabilization is not successful.” Instead of waging another war against Iran, the United States should finish the job in Iraq. More than fifteen years ago, the United States invaded Iraq, changed its regime and occupied it with the purpose of transforming it into a stable democratic state; yet up to this day Iraq suffers from political instability and turmoil.

Read more

Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular — Monica Toft is an Outside Expert for the Modeling Religion Project

Originally published by Sigal Samuel in The Atlantic

Imagine you’re the president of a European country. You’re slated to take in 50,000 refugees from the Middle East this year. Most of them are very religious, while most of your population is very secular. You want to integrate the newcomers seamlessly, minimizing the risk of economic malaise or violence, but you have limited resources. One of your advisers tells you to invest in the refugees’ education; another says providing jobs is the key; yet another insists the most important thing is giving the youth opportunities to socialize with local kids. What do you do?

Well, you make your best guess and hope the policy you chose works out. But it might not. Even a policy that yielded great results in another place or time may fail miserably in your particular country under its present circumstances. If that happens, you might find yourself wishing you could hit a giant reset button and run the whole experiment over again, this time choosing a different policy. But of course, you can’t experiment like that, not with real people.

You can, however, experiment like that with virtual people. And that’s exactly what the Modeling Religion Project does. An international team of computer scientists, philosophers, religion scholars, and others are collaborating to build computer models that they populate with thousands of virtual people, or “agents.” As the agents interact with each other and with shifting conditions in their artificial environment, their attributes and beliefs—levels of economic security, of education, of religiosity, and so on—can change. At the outset, the researchers program the agents to mimic the attributes and beliefs of a real country’s population using survey data from that country. They also “train” the model on a set of empirically validated social-science rules about how humans tend to interact under various pressures.

Read more

Monica Toft Comments on Trump-Putin Summit

“Trump allowed Putin to paper over the core issues,” said Monica Duffy Toft, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Tuft University’s Fletcher School. Instead of holding Russia responsible for the annexation of Crimea, threatening European security and meddling in the U.S. election, Trump made a “moral equivalency” argument, pitting the blame on the previous Obama administration.

“Russia’s basically been given a green light that at least the executive branch is not going to hold the Russian administration accountable,” she noted.

Read more

How to Fix America’s Refugee Policy

by David Kampf

Submitting to fears of asylum seekers besieging the country, the United States is restricting entry and pulling back from international solutions to the global refugee crisis. But this hands-off—and walled-off—approach diminishes Washington’s ability to manage the issue and safeguard the country. Like it or not, the global refugee crisis will not disappear anytime soon and it will continue to pose strategic threats.

It is delusional to think other countries will solve the problem of mass human displacement for the United States and a mistake to let America’s refugee policy get bogged down in partisan infighting over broader immigration policy. To defend U.S. national security and protect refugees, the Trump administration should increase the number of refugees it resettles in the United States, lead a multinational effort to modernize the international humanitarian regime, and increase long-term funding for refugees around the world.

Read more

The New Normal: Urban Violence in the 21st Century

By Margarita Konaev

Urbanization is a relentless trend, and as cities grow and expand, armed conflict and violence are urbanizing as well. In recent years, cities like Aleppo, Sana’a, and Mosul have been largely destroyed in wars that involve conventional state forces fighting different insurgents and terrorist groups, armed groups battling each other, and third parties providing support to both state and non-state actors. Terrorist groups and ‘lone wolf attackers’ sponsored or inspired by the Islamic State have orchestrated sophisticated and deadly bombings, shootings, vehicular and suicide terrorism attacks on major cities across Europe and Africa. And even traditionally rural insurgent groups such as the Taliban and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) are increasingly targeting cities, with devastating consequences for civilians.

Read more