When Do Displaced Persons Return? Postwar Migration among Christians in Mount Lebanon

By Kara Ross Camarena and Nils Hagerdal

Under what conditions will forcibly displaced persons return to their original homes after wars end? We draw on theories of labor migration to show that even displaced persons who have positive feelings toward their original location may nevertheless choose to return as regular visitors rather than permanent residents unless the location offers attractive economic opportunities. Furthermore, we argue that violence can create negative emotions not only toward geographic locations of bloodshed but also against its perpetrators. After ethnic wars, the displaced may be unwilling to return to intermixed locations, exacerbating ethnic separation. We study postwar migration among Lebanese Christians displaced during the 1980s and identify economic conditions using exogenous price shocks for olive oil, a major local export. Among policy implications for economic reconstruction and transitional justice, our most important insight is that sometimes we should help the displaced in their new location rather than induce permanent return to their old homes.

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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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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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