The Brief, November 2015

The Brief (email header image)


November 2015

American Power and the Future of Conflict

The United States faces tough decisions about its legacy and future role in world conflicts. As violence deepens and negotiations falter, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq and Syria, experts discussed the implications of conflict and transition for American power.  

In TIME, Global Policy Program Director Daniel Markey reacted to the bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in a U.S. airstrike, which threatens to complicate the drawdown of American forces. “From the Afghan side they can’t afford for this to be yet another reason for the Americans to leave sooner rather than later,” said Markey. Read More

Dean Vali Nasr and Distinguished Practitioner in Residence John E. McLaughlin in The New York Times discussed Washington’s failure to sustain foreign forces in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. McLaughlin said “American efforts to train the Iraqi military would probably be futile without a political bargain to unite the country’s Shiite and Sunni Arabs,” while Dean Nasr addressed Iraqi perceptions of ISIS as a Sunni problem, stating that the “prevailing belief now among Shiites was that saving Anbar was not worth ‘the blood of our children.’” Read More

Eliot Cohen, Robert E. Osgood professor of Strategic Studies, delivered testimony to the Senate Armed Forces Committee and wrote in The American Interest of the need for the United States to rethink what kind of armed forces it needs as the country faces multiple worsening challenges abroad. Cohen wrote, “Money counts, as do raw numbers of troops, tanks, airplanes, and ships, but less tangible elements of strength count as well. The sinews of peace, in other words, are not merely material.” Read More

Uncertainty in China

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s October U.S. visit, experts elaborated on China’s economic growth prospects, political stability, and expansionist efforts in Asia and Africa.

Speaking on China’s economic growth at the Council on Foreign Relations, Senior Fellow John Lipsky pointed out that “the big challenge is they’re investing a huge amount and not getting very much growth out of it…even that slow growth is being accompanied by a very large run-up in private-sector or corporate debt.” Read More

In an article in The Washington Post on coup d’etat rumors and Xi’s tightening control over military and security forces, China Studies Director David M. Lampton argued, “We haven’t seen this level of uncertainty generated by the system for the last 40 years.” Read More

At the launch of her latest book “Will Africa Feed China?,” Director of the International Development Program Deborah Bräutigam probed the myths and realities behind Chinese government efforts to buy up huge tracts of prime African land to grow food to ship back to China. “If we are looking at food and who is feeding whom, the trade data show it is China that is feeding Africa,” said Bräutigam. Read More


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