Long-Term Gains Far Outweigh Short-Term Costs from Withdrawing the U.S. Military from the Middle East

By Monica Duffy Toft

President Donald Trump and his administration came into office promising to stop “endless wars” in the Middle East. But like his predecessors, the president has found himself walking back this important strategic objective. Why? Because he seems to believe the best option for the United States in the Middle East comes down to pain and loss no matter which policy we choose: military withdrawal or continued forward deployment. In choosing the shorter horn of this dilemma, there are two important points to consider.

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Unlocking the Gates of Eurasia: China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Its Implications for US Grand Strategy

By Thomas Cavanna

The Belt and Road Initiative, an unprecedented infrastructure program that extends across and beyond the Eurasian continent, has elicited increasingly hostile reactions in the West and come to symbolize US leaders’ disillusionment regarding Beijing’s growing assertiveness and authoritarianism under Xi Jinping. Many observers view the Chinese initiative as a threat. At the same time, most experts contend that its prospects of success are slim. However, Belt and Road’s contours are still unclear and the subject of intense debates.

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Kill or Be Killed is No Strategy

By Monica Duffy Toft

The Trump administration’s decision to kill top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani illuminates one of the most recurrent and self-destructive fallacies of strategic thinking: that our enemies act as they do because of their “nature,” while we act as we do because we face serious structural or environmental constraints.

This short-term thinking and “fundamental attribution error” has only intensified throughout our history. And it’s possible to anticipate some of its most likely and fearful consequences.

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Toxic waste dumping in conflict zones: Evidence from 1980s Lebanon

By Nils Hagerdal
Records show that numerous countries experiencing civil wars – including Angola, Eritrea, Lebanon, and Somalia – witnessed environmental crime, such as the dumping of toxic waste. To explore the dynamics of waste crime in conflict zones I combine a historic overview of the international trade in toxic waste with a case study of the 1987 toxic waste dumping scandal in Lebanon. I show that conflict zones provide ideal conditions for waste criminals, that waste crime is an easy way for militias to profit, and that environmental crime differs sharply from other modes of predation in the political science literature.

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How Does the Kremlin Kick When It’s Down?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trust ratings are at historic lows. So are levels of popular satisfaction with Russian government authorities and economic policy. This discontent recently spilled into the streets with mass demonstrations against the Moscow’s authorities decision not to register the independent candidates for the City Duma elections. The images of riot police beating the protesting Muscovites went viral. Popular Russian celebrities with millions of followers on social media called upon their subscribers to join the protests. Dissatisfaction with the regime is not limited to the capital: In Russia’s European North, the citizens of Arkhangelsk oblast are fighting against the construction of a massive landfill. Earlier this summer, in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, people protested the local governor’s plan for building yet another church in place of a park. The Kremlin is losing the public’s tolerance to the severe mismanagement of the state. How will this domestic turmoil affect Russia’s international behavior?

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CSS Research and Policy Seminar with Bridget Coggins

Bridget Coggins, associate professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara and visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic Studies, presented her second book, Anarchy Emergent: Political Collapse and Non-Traditional Threat in the Shadow of Hierarchy, at the CSS Research and Policy Seminar on October 28. The forthcoming book explores the idea of state failure, investigating whether failed states cause non-traditional threats, such as terrorism and piracy, or not.

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