America’s Withdrawal From Syria: Politics of Betrayal in Historical Context

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America’s military forces from northeastern Syria and redeploy some of them into Iraq has attracted widespread condemnation. The Economist described his decision as a betrayal to the Kurds that will “blow America’s credibility and will take years to mend.” Yet as straightforward as this claim may seem, the framing of Trump’s decision as a betrayal does not allow for a balanced assessment and realistic interpretation of its motivation. The fact of the matter is the United States has made analogous military withdrawals in comparaable circumstances before when it intervened in areas peripheral to its national interests, such as Syria. In such circumstances, America’s intervention does not serve a clear vital interest and less costly policy options might exist that could still protect America’s peripheral interests without risking long-term attachment to a specific area.

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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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