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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Beirut Exchange Program

In January 2018, Mariya Ilyas F’18, a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy alumna from The Fletcher School, participated in the 19th Beirut Exchange Program. Organized by the news website Mideast Wire, the Exchange is an enrichment program consisting of conferences centered in different cities around the Middle East. Mariya availed this opportunity with funding from the Center for Strategic Studies, the Fares Center, the Academic Dean’s Office, and the Tufts Provost’s Office.

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Monica Toft Speaking at the Fletcher-MGIMO Conference

By Anna P. Ronell

Because U.S.-Russian relations may be at an all-time low since the end of the Cold War, it is especially important now to continue dialogue between the two countries through all available channels. To quote Fletcher professor Daniel Drezner, “Last fall, the common consensus was that the state of the bilateral relationship was at its lowest point since the Cold War. That was before the Trump administration ratcheted up diplomatic and economic sanctions, pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and slapped new tariffs on Russian steel. It’s safe to say that things have gotten worse.” More than ever before, keeping channels of communication open should be a priority for the Fletcher community.

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What Does China’s Belt and Road Initiative Mean for US Grand Strategy?

By Thomas Cavanna

The United States’ response to a rising China has largely focused on bolstering military capabilities, doctrines, and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific (or, more recently, the Indo-Pacific). This approach misconstrues the problem: it overstates the security threat and understates (or ignores) the economic challenge. To maintain its dominant position globally in the long-term, the United States must reckon with the ambitious geoeconomic endeavor Beijing has launched to project strategic influence across the Eurasian continent, which hosts most of the world’s economic centers and natural resources.

The nascent Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) illustrates the transformative geopolitical implications of China’s rise. Despite its changing contours and the fact that it partly recycles preexisting plans, this series of major infrastructure and development projects designed to connect Eurasian regions together is a coherent enterprise of unprecedented scale: $4 trillion of promised investments in 65 countries representing 70 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of its GNP, and 75 percent of its energy reserves. The BRI aims to stabilize China’s western peripheries, rekindle its economy, propel non-Western international economic institutions, gain influence in other countries, and diversify trade suppliers/routes while circumventing the U.S. pivot to Asia.

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How a Clear Exit Strategy Can Optimize America’s Interests in Afghanistan

By Thomas Cavanna

President Trump’s August 2017 decision to increase U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan alleviated the prospect of an immediate meltdown of Kabul’s government and security forces. However, it risks luring Washington again into its recurrent temptation to apprehend this campaign as a mere question of capabilities and dedication, thereby perpetuating the appeal of military occupation and eluding much deeper problems. For this decision to yield strategic results, the U.S. must clearly signal it does not envision any permanent military presence in Afghanistan, initiate direct negotiations with the Taliban, and capitalize on its regional competitors’ interest in countering radical Islamism.

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