NASA’s Unique Place in American Science and Security

By Greg Mercer

We talk a lot here about the intersection of science, technology, and security studies, and NASA has sat squarely in the center of that relationship since it was called the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The Hill reports that GOP legislation is threatening NASA’s plan to develop its own launch vehicles to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. Currently, the US relies on Russia for this capability. Defunding domestic launch capabilities would result in continued reliance on Russian launch capacity, which has cost $1.2 billion since late 2011. The House and Senate spending measures undercut the $1.24 billion needed for the Commercial Crew Program—which would pay for Boeing and SpaceX to develop manned spacecraft by 2017—by up to $300 million.

Relying on Russia for launch capacity creates an interesting contradiction. First, NASA is not a military organization, and its activities are largely in the spirit of international cooperation, especially when it comes to Russia. However, defense hawks tend to oppose Russia’s ongoing incursions into Ukraine, sometimes loudly. This generally means supporting increased sanctions and avoiding cooperation, so it wouldn’t seem to follow that while scolding Russia for their military actions towards their neighbor, the US should also continue to rely on them for launch capacity. This isn’t the first time this sort of relationship has been framed this way. Foreign oil dependence has been a buzzword for decades, and it’s an issue that combines two different issues- energy and defense- into one. The argument goes that relying on potentially unstable partners for oil is a threat to national security, since the collapse of an oil-exporting partner could require military action to protect American energy interests. Regardless of this argument’s veracity, it has persuaded lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to pursue energy production means other than oil imports. A similar argument follows for Russia: if the US wants to economically punish Russia’s aggression and remain the forefront player in the space industry, why would it pay Russia to transport its astronauts?

I support NASA’s budget pretty vehemently, but for somewhat more optimistic reasons. I’m a strong proponent of space exploration of a national goal and a human endeavor, but I’m not adverse to a simple economic argument. Take a look at the list of NASA spin-off technologies. NASA has developed a huge range of technologies that undeniably benefit technology investors, the US, and the world at large.

For the first time since the shuttle program, NASA’s Orion program is providing the agency with long-term goals for manned spaceflight. And if you want to talk about a real security threat, no organization is better suited to detect and potentially avert objects that pose a threat to Earth. NASA pays science and security dividends in spades. Hopefully the hawks and the doves can come together to support it.

Image Credit: MrMiscellanious

Week in DC: Events

July 7, 2015

The New Containment: Changing America’s Approach to Middle East Security
Date: July 7, 12:00 pm
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

Securing the Middle East after an Iran nuclear deal is the region and the world’s next big challenge. The United States and its allies have engaged in tireless diplomacy with Iran over the past few years to produce an agreement that would limit Tehran’s nuclear program for the next decade and a half. A final deal is expected to be reached by the June 30 deadline. But the hard work does not stop here, and in fact, it may have just begun.

To protect the deal and take full advantage of its potential benefits – which include the drastic reduction of the risk of nuclear weapons proliferating in the region – the United States needs a comprehensive strategy for regional security in the Middle East. After all, the ultimate prize and broader objective is and has always been to secure and stabilize the region, and a nuclear deal with Iran – as strategically significant as it is – is only one piece of the Middle East security puzzle.

Please join the Atlantic Council for a launch of a report by Brent Scowcroft Center Senior Fellow for Middle East Security Bilal Saab entitled The New Containment: Changing America’s Approach to Middle East Security and a debate on the future role of the United States in the Middle East following a nuclear deal with Iran.

Register here.

Two Unforseen Wars: A Military Analysis of the Conflict in Ukraine and the Campaign Against ISIS
Date: July 7, 2:00 pm
Location: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2121 K Street NW, Suite 801, Washington DC

The unexpected Russian occupation of Crimea, the subsequent insurgency in eastern Ukraine and the rapid conquest of much of northern and western Iraq by ISIS were all strategic shocks. But there is now enough reporting on the conflicts to allow a preliminary analysis of their military contours, including the similarities and differences between the two wars.

Brigadier Ben Barry will present the military dynamics of both the Ukrainian conflict and the ISIS insurgency, while examining the emerging military lessons of the conflicts and the military challenges that the pose for the US, NATO and their allies.

Register here.

July 8, 2015

India’s Evolving Nuclear Force and Doctrine
Date: July 8, 9:30 am
Location: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC

India stands at a new juncture in its nuclear development. New Delhi is unveiling ballistic missiles of ever-greater range, while its nuclear-armed submarine fleet is finally taking operational form with the launch of the Arihant. Despite these developments, India’s nuclear doctrine has not been officially updated since 2003. What is the future direction of India’s doctrine? Will India continue to adhere to a force posture informed by credible minimum deterrence? What are the potential implications for India’s relationships with the United States, Pakistan, China, and the global nonproliferation regime?

Frank O’Donnell and Yogesh Joshi will discuss current Indian perspectives on these questions and more. Carnegie’s George Perkovich will moderate.

Register here.

Sen. Lindsey Graham on “America’s Role in the World”
Date: July 8, 10:00 am
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

Please join us at the Atlantic Council as we launch a new series on “America’s Role in the World” that will offer a platform for all US presidential candidates to speak on foreign policy and national security.  As part of this series, the Council is pleased to welcome Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

This is Senator Graham’s first major foreign policy speech as a 2016 presidential candidate. He will discuss why strong US leadership and comprehensive strategies, which include military and diplomatic options, are needed to tackle security challenges such as a nuclear Iran and radical extremist ambitions in the Middle East, and a wide range of other threats.

This series is part of the Atlantic Council’s Strategy Initiative led by the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. This Strategy Initiative seeks to encourage and support a more constructive and substantive public dialogue on US strategy in a complex and dynamic global context.

Senator Graham’s remarks will be followed by a moderated discussion and an audience Q&A session. We look forward to having you at the Atlantic Council for what is sure to be an exciting event.

Register here.

The Iran Negotiations: Is this Really the End Game?
Date: July 8, 11:00 am
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 6th Floor Conference Room, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC

Despite the uncertainties, the United States and Iran seem to be in the final stages of what promises to be a comprehensive accord on the nuclear issue.

Join us as four analysts and observers of Iran, Middle Eastern politics, and U.S. foreign policy assess the state of the current negotiations, the implications of an accord and the consequences for the region without one.

RSVP here.

Statesmen’s Forum: DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson
Date: July 8, 1:00 pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, 2nd Floor Conference Center, Washington DC

Secretary Jeh Johnson will speak at CSIS on the role of DHS in cybersecurity.

Register here.

Joint Subcommittee Hearing: Reviewing the U.S.-China Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement
Date: July 8, 2:00 pm
Location: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC

Chairman Salmon on the hearing: “The Obama Administration recently submitted a new 30-year peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement with the People’s Republic of China for congressional review. While the current “China 123” agreement is set to expire at the end of the year, proliferation sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals remain in place and China continues to expand its own nuclear arsenal.  Congress, especially this subcommittee, has the responsibility to examine the specifics of this agreement and to determine if China is fulfilling its nonproliferation commitments.  This vital hearing will allow for a much-needed discussion on the benefits of continuing the agreement as well as the concerns we have over sharing access to dual use technologies.”

Chairman Poe on the hearing: “There has been a big debate over the renewal of the current Section 123 agreement with China, which is set to expire in December. This hearing will give Members of the Committee the opportunity to hear from knowledgeable government officials and policy experts so we can gain a better understanding of the details of this agreement and the ramifications of its renewal or expiration.”

Watch live online here.

July 9, 2015

Hearing: Implications of a Nuclear Agreement with Iran
Date: July 9, 10:00 am
Location: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 2173 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC

Chairman Royce on the hearing: “As we anticipate a congressional review of the Administration’s possible nuclear agreement with Iran, we’ll be looking to see how the Administration has done on Congress’ red lines.  Did we get anywhere, anytime inspections?  Full Iranian transparency regarding its past nuclear activities? No large-scale, immediate sanctions relief; but guaranteed, workable sanctions snap-backs? Meaningful restraints on Iran’s nuclear program that last decades?  This hearing will be the first in a series the Committee will hold should the Administration strike what might be one of the most significant agreements in decades.  As I have said, no deal is far better than a bad deal.”

Watch live here.

Surface Warfare in a Complex World
Date: July 9, 1:00 pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington DC

The Maritime Security Dialogue brings together CSIS and U.S. Naval Institute, two of the nation’s most respected non-partisan institutions. The series is intended to highlight the particular challenges facing the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, from national level maritime policy to naval concept development and program design. Given budgetary challenges, technological opportunities, and ongoing strategic adjustments, the nature and employment of U.S. maritime forces are likely to undergo significant change over the next ten to fifteen years. The Maritime Security Dialogue provides an unmatched forum for discussion of these issues with the nation’s maritime leaders.

This series is made possible with support from the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Register here.

The Iran Deal and its Consequences
Date: July 9, 2:00 pm
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) are expected to reach a ground-breaking comprehensive nuclear agreement by the end of June or shortly thereafter. The panelists will analyze the agreement in terms of its impact on nonproliferation, regional dynamics, US-Iran relations, and trade and investment in Iran. They will also discuss the potential obstacles to implementation both in Iran and in the United States.

The Iran Task Force, chaired by Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, seeks to perform a comprehensive analysis of Iran’s internal political landscape, its role in the region and globally, and any basis for an improved relationship with the West. It is supported generously by the Ploughshares Fund.

Register here.

July 10, 2015

A View from the Frontlines of Islamist Insurgency: Perspectives on Terrorism in the Middle East and South Africa
Date: July 10, 12:00 pm
Location: Heritage Foundation, Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington DC

What do ISIS’s rise in Iraq and Syria and Iran’s new-found power and growing sphere of influence in the region portend for the broader Middle East? What is being done to counter Islamist extremist forces in the region and what is the current state of play? How do the current regional dynamics impact the threat from al-Qaeda, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Join us at The Heritage Foundation as a panel of experts discuss the evolving regional dynamics and trends pertaining to the threat of Islamist extremism and share with us various perspectives on the struggle against the threat.

Register here to attend in person or here to watch live online.

America’s War on Terror: Democracy is No Panacea

Nine days after the attacks of September 11, the President declared America’s war on terror had begun. After the Bush Administration perceived early successes in Afghanistan, spreading democracy became one of the key policies supporting America’s strategy for the war on terror. Over time, the President came to view the promotion of democracy as a positive and transformational change agent for the Middle East and Muslim-majority countries. Empirical analysis, however, suggests democracy promotion did not help America achieve its broad objectives in the war on terror, though democracy indicators did marginally improve.          

This is Part 4 of 4 of Erik Goepner‘s paper. In case you missed them, read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3; the full paper is available here.

America’s efforts in the war on terror have not achieved the desired objectives. Whether measuring the number of global terror attacks, number of attacks against the U.S. homeland, fatalities caused by terrorists, number of Islamist-inspired terror groups or the amount of fighters aligned with Islamist-inspired terror groups, the data suggests U.S. efforts in the war on terror have achieved disappointing results. During the 12 years prior to 9/11, terrorists committed an average of just over 3,200 attacks annually. In 2001, that number dropped to under 1,900 attacks. Since the U.S. initiated its war on terror, however, the average number of attacks has climbed to almost 4,300 per year.[1] Regarding the U.S. homeland, the attacks of 9/11 were a statistical outlier, making it difficult to determine if other similarly sized attacks might have followed. In the 13 years before 2001, there were five Islamist-inspired terror attacks in America. That compares to four attacks in the 13 years since.[2] Another 63 Islamist-inspired terror attacks against the homeland have been thwarted in the past 13 years, as well.[3]

Similar to the rise in worldwide terror attacks, the number of fatalities have likewise climbed, but at a faster rate. Nearly 6,500 people were killed worldwide per year in terror attacks for the decade-plus before 9/11. In 2001, more than 7,700 were killed. Then, in the 12 years since, the annual average has risen to just under 9,500. The before and after numbers for U.S. citizens killed by acts of terrorism are similarly discomforting, with 45 killed per year before 9/11 and 64 each year since.[4]

A final macro measurement for the war on terror examines the number of Islamist-inspired groups identified by the Department of State (DoS) as foreign terrorist organizations and how many fighters comprise those groups. Since 2000, the overall number of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) increased by 86 percent, from 29 to 54. The subset comprised of Islamist-inspired FTOs, though, grew by 185 percent, from 13 to 37 groups.[5] Moreover, the number of fighters within those groups has dramatically increased from an estimated 32,200 in 2000 to more than 110,000 in 2013.[6]

Unlike the overall measures of performance for the war on terror which have all worsened since 2001, governance and democracy measures are not as clear-cut. Freedom House’s indicators show a marginal, though statistically insignificant, improvement for the 47 Muslim-majority countries since 2001. The average political rights and civil liberties’ scores for all Muslim-majority states were essentially identical in the years prior to, and including, 2001. Since that time, they have improved by nearly 6 percent (Freedom House scores range from 1 “most free” to 7 “least free”).[7] However, a chi-square statistical analysis indicates the difference in pre- and post-9/11 scores were not statistically significant (X2=7.819, p=0.729). Though insignificant, the modest improvement occurred as average freedom scores declined worldwide for the past nine years.[8]

Afghanistan and Iraq had the lowest possible Freedom House scores for the years prior to 9/11 (i.e., 7). Scores for both countries have improved since, though neither has yet been listed among the 125 countries currently meeting the definition of an “electoral democracy.” The Polity IV Project from the Center for Systemic Peace provides another governance measurement. Their assessment of Afghanistan is unchanged from 2001. Throughout the past 13 years, they have assessed the country as “moderately fragmented,” meaning 10 to 25 percent of Afghanistan is ruled by authorities unconnected to the central government.[9] The assessment of Iraq, though, has changed rather dramatically. In the decade prior to the U.S. invasion, they assessed Iraq as extremely autocratic. Beginning in 2003 and holding for the next six years, they assessed Iraq as seriously fragmented, with between 25 and 50 percent of the country being ruled by authorities that were not connected to the central government. Then, beginning in 2010, Iraq was listed as slightly democratic and that assessment remained through 2013, which was the last year recorded. [10] No assessment has been made since the Islamic State seized sizeable portions of the country, so it is quite likely that the next report will list Iraq as moderately or seriously fragmented.

In conclusion, the decision to include democracy promotion as a key part of the war on terror did not happen immediately. Rather, it appears to have occurred in response to perceived early successes in Afghanistan. Policymakers apparently missed or ignored much of the research and intelligence available at the time that highlighted the numerous challenges to successfully democratizing Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, the research since 9/11 largely corroborates the earlier research. Finally, the quantitative analysis indicates democracy promotion did not help achieve the desired outcomes in the war on terror, though modest gains in democracy measures were observed.

Image Credit: Cpl. James L. Yarboro

[1] Data from the Global Terrorism Database, available at
[2] National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2013). Global Terrorism Database [globalterrorismdb_0814dist-1.xlsx]. Retrieved from
[3] David Inserra and James Phillips, “67 Islamist Terrorist Plots Since 9/11: Spike in Plots Inspired by Terrorist Groups, Unrest in Middle East,” The Heritage Foundation, April 22, 2015,
[4] Data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2013). Global Terrorism Database [globalterrorismdb_0814dist-1.xlsx]. Retrieved from
[5] Bureau of Public Affairs Department Of State. The Office of Website Management, “2000 (Patterns of Global Terrorism),” March 23, 2006, 2000/; Bureau of Public Affairs Department Of State. The Office of Website Management, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014, http://; Martha Crenshaw, “Mapping Militant Organizations,” Stanford University, accessed March 27, 2015, /group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups.
[6] Martha Crenshaw, “Mapping Militant Organizations,” Stanford University, accessed March 27, 2015, See also Department of State Country Reports and Patterns of Global Terrorism at http://www.
[7] Data from
[8] Arch Puddington, “Discarding Democracy: A Return to the Iron Fist,” Freedom House, 2015,
[9] Monty Marhsall, Ted Gurr, and Keith Jaggers, Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2013: Dataset Users’ Manual (Vienna, VA: Center for Systemic Peace, 2014), 13.
[10] Monty Marshall, Ted Gurr, and Keith Jaggers. 2014. Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2013. [p4v2013-2.xls]. Retrieved from

Week in DC: Events

June 29, 2015

Degrade and Defeat: Examining the Anti-ISIS Strategy
Date: June 29, 9:00 am
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, 2nd Floor Conference Center, Washington DC

June 9th, 2015 marked one year since Iraq’s second largest city fell to ISIS. Since the fall of Mosul, ISIS has suffered losses at the hands of coalition air power, Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga, and Shia militias. Despite this, ISIS has made worrisome gains in both Syria and Iraq, most recently by seizing Ramadi and expanding in Syria. Additionally, the group has attracted the bulk of the more than 22,000 foreign fighters arriving on the battlefield from more than 100 nations. U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to increase U.S. troop deployments to Iraq signals more is needed to degrade and defeat ISIS.

Please join the Transnational Threats Project for a dynamic discussion with Stephen Kappes, David Ignatius, and TNT Director Tom Sanderson as they review developments since the fall of Mosul in addition to the struggles ahead against ISIS and the conditions enabling their continued operations.

Register here to attend in person or watch live online here.

Yemen in Crisis: What Next?
Date: June 29, 9:00 am
Location: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, Rayburn House Office Building, Room B339, 45 Independence Ave SW, Washington DC

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee are hosting a public affairs briefing on “Yemen in Crisis: What Next?”

The featured specialists include Dr. Noel Brehony, Chair, Menas Associates; Former Chair, British Yemeni Society; Author, Yemen Divided: The Story of a Failed State in South Arabia; Ms. Sama’a Al-Hamdani, Analyst and Writer, Yemeniaty; former Assistant Political Officer, Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Washington, DC; and Mr. Peter Salisbury, Journalist and Analyst, the Financial TimesThe EconomistVice News, and other publications; former Consultant, Chatham House Yemen Forum. Serving as moderator and facilitator will be Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founding President and CEO, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; and Member, U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and Subcommittee on Sanctions.

RSVP here.

Zero Hour—Examining the Iranian Nuclear Threat with Dr. Matthew Kroenig
Date: June 29, 12:00 pm
Location: Endowment for Middle East Truth

As the final round of negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program draw to a close, the public is left with more questions than answers. The results of these negotiations have the potential to set a new, and dangerous, precedent for the future of nuclear proliferation, as well as profound effects for the security of the U.S., our allies, and the global community. What was supposed to be a negotiation that would mitigate the threat posed by Iran has the potential to create more problems than solutions. Iran has become more aggressive in the midst of the P5+1 talks; with significant incursions being seen in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. The released framework resulted in inconsistent points between the various actors, and no substantive understandings to build from. In response to the amorphous nature of the discussions, skeptical U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia are exploring the nuclear option, creating the potential for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

What is the threat we face from Iran? Will the negotiations mitigate these threats? What are the implications for a future deal?

Join us the day before the negotiation deadline, as Dr. Matthew Kroenig answers these questions and more. Call (712)432-0075 and use participant code 397784 to participate.

Diplomacy Beyond the Nation-State: An Ambassador’s Roundtable
Date: June 29, 2:00 pm
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

In an era of diffuse power, the 2015 QDDR makes a strong case for much greater diplomatic engagement with non-state actors. Similarly, the Atlantic Council has long made the case that more systematized engagement with non-state actors ought to become a core component of the US government’s strategic outlook. The Council’s first Strategy Paper, titled Dynamic Stability: US Strategy for a World in Transition, asserts that in a ‘Westphalian-Plus’ world, states must be able to harness the power and capabilities of non-state actors in order to succeed diplomatically.

Ambassadors from Chile, Morocco, Singapore, and other nations will join the State Department’s Thomas Perriello, Special Representative for the QDDR, at this event. They will discuss the forces of change in the twenty-first century and how the interstate system must adapt to harness these forces within a rapidly evolving global system.

Register here.

Policy Recommendations for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit
Date: June 29, 2:30 pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, 1st Floor Conference Center, Washington DC

The CSIS Proliferation Prevention Program, a member of the Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG), will host a briefing on the FMWG’s new report The Results We Need in 2016: Policy Recommendations for the Nuclear Security Summit, which offers innovative solutions to nuclear security challenges.

The 2016 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) must result in bold, concrete commitments that will keep the world safe from acts of nuclear terrorism. To help achieve this goal, a group of respected international experts developed new recommendations that can help prevent such a tragedy.

Speakers at this event include: Andrew Bieniawski, of the Nuclear Threat Initiative; James Doyle, an independent analyst; and Sharon Squassoni, of the CSIS Proliferation Prevention Program.

Register here to attend in person or watch live online here.

June 30, 2015

Are Super Intelligent Computers Really A Threat to Humanity?
Date: June 30, 9:00 am
Location: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 610, Washington DC

While artificial intelligence is at the heart of some of the most notable innovations in the past decade, including Google’s self-driving car, IBM’s Watson, and Apple’s Siri, a number of technologists, including luminaries such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates, have spoken publicly about their concern that advances in artificial intelligence may eventually lead to the rise of supremely intelligent computers that could go out of control and threaten the very existence of mankind. These fears have gripped the popular imagination, in no small part because these ideas are widely represented in pop culture. This year alone has witnessed a parade of digital supervillains in blockbuster films such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ex Machina, and Terminator: Genisys. But is the sky really falling? Others argue that these fears are merely hyperbolic nonsense, ungrounded in reality and detrimental to technological progress.

Please join ITIF for a spirited discussion about the state of artificial intelligence, whether super intelligent computers will someday pose a threat to the human race, and how policymakers should respond to these ideas.

The event will be open to the public, and the proceedings will be recorded and webcast. Follow @ITIFdc during the event and join the conversation using #AI

Register here.

Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future
Date: June 30, 10:00 am
Location: Heritage Foundation, Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington DC

With the world focused on the nuclear crisis in Iran, it is tempting to think that addressing this case, North Korea, and the problem of nuclear terrorism is all that matters and is what matters most. Perhaps, but if states become more willing to use their nuclear weapons to achieve military advantage, the problem of proliferation will become much more unwieldy. In this case, our security will be hostage not just to North Korea, Iran, or terrorists, but also to nuclear proliferation more generally, diplomatic miscalculations, and wars between a much larger number of possible players.

This, in a nutshell, is the premise of Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future, which explores what we may be up against over the next few decades and how we currently think about this future. Will nuclear weapons spread in the next 20 years to more nations than just North Korea and possibly Iran? What is the current thinking about our nuclear proliferation future? Join us as a distinguished panel of experts examines these questions and more.

Register here.

Finding Its Way to the West? Ukraine and Its Challenges
Date: June 30, 11:00 am
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 5th Floor Conference Room, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC

The Maidan revolution was launched to ensure that Ukraine could make its European choice. Political rhetoric aside, what are Ukraine’s true prospects for success and how much assistance is the West really prepared to offer? In discussing these issues, the panelists will offer their impressions from recent visits to Ukraine and on-going discussions with leading European policymakers.

RSVP here.

Cyber Security: A Loo at Legal Implications and Risk Management
Date: June 30, 11:30 am
Location: International Stability Operations Association, 2101 L Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington DC

Cyber-attacks, data breaches and social media snafus are just a few reasons to be concerned with the current cyber security landscape. While cyber security remains at the top of the headlines in news outlets, many companies remain unaware of the implications a cyber security event can actually pose.

Join the International Stability Operations Association in partnership with Clements Worldwide for a free round-table event where a panel of experts will discuss the issues and challenges of cyber security as well as how to take the necessary steps to mitigate risk and what happens after a breach.

Register here.

July 1, 2015

Assessing State Fragility in Africa
Date: July 1, 10:00 am
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, 2nd Floor Conference Center, Washington DC

Please join us for a discussion on state fragility in Africa as we examine its underlying causes and seek to identify strategies for building resilience in fragile states. The session will serve as the launch of a new IMF paper, “Building Resilience in Fragile States in Sub-Saharan Africa.” CSIS will also unveil the main findings of its year-long study into fragile states, informed by case studies from Africa and Southeast Asia. Panelists will explore how best to mitigate drivers of fragility, including achieving a balance between national and sub-national engagement, altering dysfunctional political economy dynamics, and improving development outcomes.

RSVP here.

July 2, 2015

Team of Teams: Lessons from JSOC for a Complex World
Date: July 2, 3:00 pm
Location: New America Foundation, 1899 L Street NW, Suite 400, Washington DC

When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2003, he quickly realized that conventional tactics were failing. Al Qaeda in Iraq was a decentralized network that could move quickly, strike ruthlessly, then seemingly vanish into the local population. The Allied forces had a huge advantage in numbers, equipment, and training—but none of that seemed to matter. General McChrystal and his colleagues remade the task force, in the midst of a grueling war, into something new: a network that combined extremely transparent communication with decentralized decision-making authority. In Team of Teams General McChrystal and his coauthors, David Silverman and Chris Fussell, show how the challenges they faced in Iraq, Afghanistan, and over a decade of special operations missions around the globe can be relevant to businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations here at home.

A retired four-star general, General McChrystal is the former commander of US and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) Afghanistan and the former commander of the nation’s premier military counter-terrorism force, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). He is best known for developing and implementing the current counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, and for creating a comprehensive counter-terrorism organization that revolutionized the interagency operating culture.

Chris Fussell, a co-author of Team of Teams, is a Senior Fellow at New America and spent 15 years on U.S. Navy SEAL Teams from war-torn Kosovo to Iraq and Afghanistan to the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. Fussell served as Aide-de-Camp to then-Lieutenant General McChrystal during General McChrystal’s final year commanding the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). He is also the Chief Growth Officer at CrossLead, the consulting firm that General McChrystal and his colleagues founded based on the theory laid out in Team of Teams.

New America is pleased to welcome General McChrystal and Mr. Fussell for a discussion of their book and the lessons from JSOC.

RSVP here.

Pandora Report 6.28.15

It was a big week, right? The Supreme Court was making declarations and in California the General Assembly was making some decisions of their own. We’ve got the mandate for childhood vaccines in California, World War II chemical weapons testing, and other stories you may have missed.

There will be no news round up next week, in honor of one of my favorite holidays, Independence Day! I’ll be wearing red, white, and blue, watching July 4th themed movies, and celebrating with all the American spirit I can muster. I wish all of you the same!

See you back here in July!

California Passes Bill to Require Vaccines and Ban Religious Exemptions

On Thursday, the California State Assembly passed SB 277, which mandates that children attending day care or public school must be vaccinated. The bill eliminated personal-belief and religious exemptions. Largely, this bill was in response to the outbreak of measles that began at Disneyland last year. Children who cannot receive vaccinations for medical reasons can still receive the vaccine exemption. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill into law.

Slate—“The New York Times quoted Christina Hildebrand, the founder of A Voice for Choice, a nonprofit organization that has lobbied against the bill, about her unsuccessful campaign to stop this legislation, “There are large numbers of parents who are very concerned about the fact that we’re going to have mandated medical treatment against a fundamental right to education. Parental freedom is being taken away by this, because the fear of contagion is trumping it.’”

Secret World War II Chemical Experiments Tested Troops by Race

According to documents declassified in the 1990s, the U.S. Army conducted secret chemical weapons tests on minority soldiers in order to determine the effect weapons had on non-white skin. African-American and Puerto Rican soldiers were tested upon to see if their darker pigment made them less susceptible to the weapons. Japanese-Americans were used to determine how the weapons would affect enemy Japanese soldiers. The soldiers were subjected to mustard gas and lewisite and volunteered for the assignment.

NPR—“All of the World War II experiments with mustard gas were done in secret and weren’t recorded on the subjects’ official military records. Most do not have proof of what they went through. They received no follow-up health care or monitoring of any kind. And they were sworn to secrecy about the tests under threat of dishonorable discharge and military prison time, leaving some unable to receive adequate medical treatment for their injuries, because they couldn’t tell doctors what happened to them.”

Stories You May Have Missed

Image Credit: David Monniaux

Week in DC: Events

June 22, 2015

Report Release: Project Atom
Date: June 22, 9:00 am
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, 2nd Floor Conference Center, Washington DC

Project Atom took a competitive strategies approach to its zero-based, “blue sky” review of U.S. nuclear strategy and force posture. Three independent think tank teams – the Stimson Center, the Center for a New American Security, and the National Institute for Public Policy – investigated U.S. nuclear strategy for the new era (2025-2050) and what U.S. nuclear posture is needed to support that strategy. Their analysis, unconstrained by current strategy and policy and conducted within a common framework of assumptions, resulted in competing recommended strategies and postures for 2025-2050.  The panel will discuss their analysis and recommended nuclear strategies and postures. Hard copies of the report will be available in limited number.

Register here or watch live online.

Shared Water Resources in a Warming World: Conflict and Cooperation
Date: June 22, 10:00 am
Location: The Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave NW, 8th Floor, Washington DC

Growing populations, rising resource demands, and mounting environmental pressures are putting increasing strains on global water supplies. From the Middle East to the Sahel and South Asia, stresses on the world’s crucial transboundary river basins—those shared by two or more nations—are stoking tensions and stirring conflict. Continuing global climate change will exacerbate the challenges confronting policy makers, altering river flows in every populated basin on Earth by 2050.

Meeting these emerging threats to the planet’s common water resources will require increased dialogue and collaboration among all riparian nations. How can international water diplomacy, multilateral development agencies, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders help build cooperative governance structures, institutions, and practices to ensure global water security in the 21st century? In a panel discussion co-hosted by the Stimson Center and the Wilson Center, water policy experts and practitioners will explore innovations, insights, and impediments to the cooperative management of shared rivers around the world. The conversation will include discussion of a new book onTransboundary Water Management and the Climate Change Debate by Anders Jägerskog and colleagues, and the findings of a new Stimson Center study of civil society initiatives to promote water cooperation in international river basins.

RSVP here.

A New Foreign Policy for America
Date: June 22, 12:00 pm
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 6th Floor, Washington DC

In an era of new and emerging global threats, Senator Chris Murphy believes there is an urgent need to refocus the traditional debate between isolationism and military interventionism. Join us as Senator Murphy outlines the eight principles for a new foreign policy vision that seeks to maintain U.S. global leadership but looks beyond our traditional military toolkit for engaging the world.

In discussion with the Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller, he will set these principles in the context of current international crises, from nuclear negotiations with Iran, to the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

Register here.

India’s Nuclear Command and Control and its Implications for Strategic Stability in South Asia
Date: June 22, 3:30 pm
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

Although the US has reconciled itself to accepting India and Pakistan as de facto nuclear weapon powers since 1998, its concerns about the likelihood of a nuclear conflict in the region have increased in recent years. These concerns derive from a recent evolution in Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine and associated threats to use nuclear weapons in a tactical role on the conventional battlefield. As during the Cold War, sub-strategic nuclear use is considered highly destabilizing. In this context, Brigadier Arun Sahgal will discuss India’s nuclear command and control and its effects on strategic stability in South Asia.

Register here.

June 23, 2015

Nations in Transit: Democracy on the Defensive
Date: June 23, 12:00 pm
Location: Freedom House, 1850 M Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington DC

Democratization in post-communist Europe and Eurasia is not simply stalled but is actively opposed by forces that are determined to see it fail. The findings of the 2015 edition ofNations in Transit, Freedom House’s annual study of democratic governance in Central Europe to Central Asia, underscore the growing audacity of democracy’s foes in Eurasia, where four of every five people live under authoritarian rule.

Register here.

Financing for Global Health
Date: June 23, 2:00 pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington DC

Please join us for the launch of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)’s Financing Global Health 2014 report: Shifts in Funding as the MDG Era Closes.

Dr. Christopher Murray , Director of the IHME at the University of Washington, will lead off with a presentation of findings from IHME’s newest report and a new article in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Murray will highlight how funding patterns have shifted across time and identify where funding gaps persist.

Following Dr. Murray’s presentation, there will be a roundtable discussion, moderated by Talia Dubovi, Deputy Director of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center that will feature: Dr. Christopher Murray, Dr. Howard Bauchner, Editor-in-Chief of JAMA and Dr. Jennifer Kates , Vice President and Director of Global Health and HIV Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The roundtable discussion will focus on the policy implications of IHME’s report.

Register here.

Envisioning the Future of Urban Warfare
Date: June 23, 3:00 pm
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

In the not-too-distant future, most of humanity will live in megacities. Megacities will serve as economic, cultural, and political hubs of international affairs–but they also will form the complex landscape of rivalry and violent conflict. Recent instances of urban combat–Saigon, Sarajevo, Fallujah–only begin to inform the epic challenge of fighting in our mid-century megacities. To fill in our understanding of that challenge, the Art of Future Warfare project will host a discussion on Envisioning the Future of Urban Warfare at the Atlantic Council on June 23 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The event is the capstone of the project’s “war-art challenge” that is eliciting illustrations (as from a graphic novel) that render scenes from urban fights in the 2040s and 2050s.

To further engage the topic, Max Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of World War Z, will join Jon Chang, the writer of the Black Powder Red Earth series, and Caerus Associates CEO Erin Simpson, plus the winner of the challenge in a panel discussion moderated by August Cole, the project’s Director. The best illustrations will be on display and the panelists will share their own perspectives on urban conflict, the future of warfare, and how creativity and the arts can enhance foresight, preparedness, and understanding of this singularly challenging battleground of the future.

The Art of Future Warfare is a project of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security which aims to give artists, writers, illustrators, directors, videographers, and other creative expressions a recognized voice in the defense establishment’s planning and preparation for the future of warfare and conflict.

Please also join us for a book signing by Max Brooks and Jon Chang following the event.

Register here to attend in person or watch live online here.

June 24, 2014

Cybersecurity: Managing the Risks of the Digital Frontier
Date: June 24, 8:00 am
Location: Newseum, Knight Broadcast Studio, Third Floor, 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC

American officials say thousands of cyberattacks are aimed at the United States every day. These malicious hacks have been called possibly the biggest systemic risk to the country. The administration declared them a national emergency and has rolled out a slew of financial penalties to respond to the threat.

In Congress, efforts to boost cybersecurity include legislation to ease information sharing between companies and the government. While many businesses support the move on Capitol Hill that offers them a degree of liability protection, civil liberties groups say it would increase cyber-surveillance.

Join National Journal for a forum of key stakeholders and experts to discuss the nation’s cybersecurity policy and strategy: Are efforts by the administration and Congress sufficient to deter and combat cyberattacks? What can companies do to deal with cyber risk and protect their critical infrastructure? What safeguards need to be in place to protect the personal information of consumers?

Register here.

Building Peace in Permanent War: Counterterrorism and Constraints on Peacebuilding Five Years After Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project
Date: June 24, 9:30 am
Location: Charity & Security Network

Five years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project upheld the application of the “material support” prohibition to include key conflict prevention and resolution activities aimed at getting terrorist groups to lay down their arms, making it clear that good faith is no defense. As the report states, the HLP ruling “sent shockwaves through the peacebuilding community.” This is but one in a broad range of counterterrorism policies in numerous countries that are impacting the work of civil society around the world, leading some organizations to scale back or withdraw assistance programs in conflict zones where their services are often most needed.

This webinar will explore these issues, what civil society has done to adapt to this environment and what can be done to make peacebuilding feasible in terrorist-controlled areas.

Register here to attend the webinar.

Defending U.S. Critical Infrastructure
Date: June 24, 11:00 am
Location: Government Executive

Please join Government Business Council, in conjunction with our partners at CDW-G and Palo Alto Networks, for a panel discussion on the evolving threats to U.S. critical infrastructure and the federal government’s role in countering them.

The threat of crippling cyber attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure presents an unprecedented challenge for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and other organizations tasked with securing our nation’s most vital systems. Between 2011 and 2014, the United States witnessed an 82 percent increase in the number of cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure, a trend likely to escalate over the next decade. To address the mounting capabilities gap between sophisticated cyber intruders and the increasingly outdated techniques used to protect U.S. critical infrastructure today, the federal government will need to invest in tools that provide defense in depth.

Tune in to learn more about some of the most pressing questions in cybersecurity today, including:

  • How has the threat to U.S. critical infrastructure evolved over the last two decades?
  • Why has critical infrastructure been slow to adapt to the current threat environment?
  • What is the federal government’s current approach to defending its vital systems, and where is there room for innovation?
  • What strategies and tools can help federal agencies achieve their missions?

Register here to attend the webinar.

Defense Acquisition Reform
Date: June 24, 12:00 pm
Location: Hart Senate Office Building, SH-902, Washington DC

The Lexington Institute is organizing a Capitol Hill forum on Wednesday, June 24th to discuss ways of streamlining management and procurement at the defense department.

The forum will be a series of back-to-back presentations by subject matter experts. It will be held from 12:00 PM until 3:00 PM, and is designed to bring out useful information quickly from experts and policymakers.

This forum will focus on:

—  what the Pentagon can do to make itself a better buyer, increase incentives, and attract a broader spectrum of companies to bid on its work.  DoD’s policies on profit, intellectual property, commerciality, long time to contract, constantly changing and burdensome regulations are widely cited as contributing factors to reluctance of commercial suppliers to do business with the defense department

—  actions the defense department can take unilaterally to weed out duplicative regulations and requirements. Can cost accounting, testing and earned value management be improved in ways that will speed up procurements, and lower costs?

—  the role Congress plays in mandating cost increases on weapons programs.  By some calculations half of the mandates the defense department must follow are generated by the legislative branch

—  the trade spaces, if any, between the McCain and Thornberry approaches to acquisition reform.  Should the defense department welcome the McCain effort to decentralize power back to the military services?

Clearly, there is tremendous potential to achieve significant savings within defense management and acquisition. Unquestionably such changes would be difficult, but we need to keep exploring additional reforms for functions and processes that do not contribute to defense readiness at a time of tremendous fiscal pressures, and growing overseas threats.

RSVP to Constance Baroudos at or via telephone 703.522.5828

Pirates, Islam, and U.S. Hostage Policy
Date: June 24, 12:00 pm
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 5th Floor, Washington DC

Michael Scott Moore, Freelance journalist, Spiegel Online and Author, will discuss his two and a half year ordeal as a captive of Somali pirates, with a focus on certain myths about hostage-taking.

RSVP here.

Eradicating Boko Haram Sustainably: An Integrated Regional Approach
Date: June 24, 2:00 pm
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 6th Floor Conference Room, Washington DC

In recent months, Boko Haram has expanded its raids from Northern Nigeria across the border into Northern Cameroon. The attacks, including attacks in March and April which killed numerous Cameroonian villagers, have mainly been attempts to obtain more supplies for the group. The spread of Boko Haram across borders highlights the need for regional cooperation to halt the group. This week, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria announced plans to conduct talks with Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin to form a regional military force to combat Boko Haram.

Join the Wilson Center Africa Program on June 24th at 2:00 p.m. in the 6th floor board room for a meaningful discussion on ways to combat Boko Haram, both from the perspective of a U.S. official and a prominent Cameroonian activist who has traveled to the Far North of Cameroon, where Boko Haram attacks have been taking place.

RSVP here.

Coming to America: Global Suppliers for Defense and Security
Date: June 24, 4:30 pm
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

The United States relies on global sources of supply to meet a growing share of the materiel requirements for its defense and security. The upstream end of this supply chain is replete with imported components, assemblies, and even sub-systems. In addition, the preponderance of Europe’s preeminent defense/security companies have invested in the establishment of indigenous businesses in this country both to facilitate these imports and to manage US operating companies. The panel will address the business strategies underlying their companies’ respective participation in this market and the public policies administered to shape their engagement.

The Atlantic Council Captains of Industry Series is a platform for senior executives in aerospace and defense to address the public interests their companies serve and the public policies that shape these markets. By engaging the perspective of business leaders about issues at the interface of defense ministries and industries, the series is cultivating a constituency for practical solutions to these problems.

Register here.

Should the U.S. Put Boots on the Ground to Fight ISIS?
Date: June 24, 5:30 pm
Location: Brookings Institution

The question at hand: Should the U.S. put boots on the ground to fight ISIS?  Do you have a strong opinion? Can a well-informed debate change your mind?

On Wednesday evening, June 24, three policy experts and one U.S. senator will go head-to-head in the first Brookings debate.

Arguing in favor of intervention will be Michael Doran and Michael O’Hanlon. Arguing against will be Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Jeremy Shapiro.

Watch the live webcast here.

June 25, 2015

Annual Global Missile Defense Conference
Date: June 25, 8:30 am
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

Missile Defense is a critical element for the United States’ strategy to defend its homeland and its collaborative efforts to secure the territories of its allies and partners in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.  In each of these regions, the combination of increased volatility, if not conflict, and new deployments by potential adversaries of increasingly capable ballistic missiles has made missile defense collaboration all the more challenging and urgent.

The Atlantic Council’s annual missile defense conference convenes leading missile defense and regional security experts to analyze the future trajectory of global missile defense issues. The conference focuses on how current and prospective geopolitical developments are shaping the requirements and opportunities for missile defense collaboration in Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific and will include a panel addressing the programmatic and technological challenges that define success and failure in missile defense programs. The conference will also feature an opening address by former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James E. Cartwright.

Register here.

Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World
Date: June 25, 9:00 am
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 5th Floor, Washington DC

What, really, was the Cold War? No declarations nor explosions. Hostility was in the air, but where was the battlefront? What made millions of people worldwide willingly embrace the existence of an invisible war?

Masuda Hajimu’s pathbreaking Cold War Crucible is an inquiry into this peculiar nature of the Cold War. It examines not only centers of policymaking, but apparent aftereffects of Cold War politics: social suppressions across the world during the Korean War. Such purges were not merely end results of the Cold War, as Masuda shows, but forces that drove Cold War reality in attempts at restoring tranquility at home. Revealing social construction and popular participation, Cold War Crucible elucidates how a mere discourse turned into an irrefutable reality, how and why ordinary people shaped such a Cold War world, and what the Cold War really was.

Examining historical experiences of the Cold War, Masuda’s book ultimately raises questions that are still relevant today: How and for whom are images of threats formed and circulated? How real are the rubrics used to understand global situations? In short, what is reality?

Join the Wilson Center as Masuda Hajimu (National University of Singapore) discusses these questions and introduces Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar WorldAndrew Rotter (Colgate University) and Ryan Irwin (University at Albany-SUNY) will provide commentary on Masuda’s presentation.

RSVP here.

Rouhani at Two Years: An Assessment on the Cusp of a Nuclear Deal
Date: June 25, 12:00 pm
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 5th Floor, Washington DC

During President Rouhani’s first two years in office, attention has understandably been focused on Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the P5+1. Yet these two years have also witnessed important developments—and conflicts—in the sphere of politics, the economy, human rights and social policy. Our panel will examine this broad spectrum of issues.

RSVP here.

Ukraine, Minsk II, and Deadlock: A Conversation with Tim Judah
Date: June 25, 12:00 pm
Location: German Marshall Fund, 1744 R Street NW, Washington DC

With reports of additional Russian troops amassing along Ukraine’s Eastern border captivating headlines, the fragile deadlock in Ukraine remains in place. In Kyiv, political leadership is trying to manage an untenable economic situation, as the country teeters on the brink of financial ruin. All the while, conflict simmers in the East and as with the Minsk II barely hanging on, transatlantic leaders are considering levying additional sanctions against Russia following the most recent G-7 meeting in Germany. Yet gains made by Russian backed rebels appear intractable and an end to the conflict elusive. Tim Judah is among the most informed and fearless observers of the Ukraine crisis, having reported extensively from Eastern Ukraine and Kyiv since the beginning of the conflict for the New York Review of Books and other publications. GMF is honored to host Judah for a conversation based on his unique experience on developments and deadlock inside Ukraine. The conversation will be moderated by GMF’s Counselor and Senior Advisor for Security and Defense Derek Chollet.

RSVP here.

Beyond Centrifuges: The Geopolitical Implications of an Iran Deal
Date: June 25, 2:00 pm
Location: National Iranian American Council, Stimson Center Conference Room, 1211 Connecticut Ave NW, 8th Floor, Washington DC

As negotiators work towards a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran by the June 30th deadline, there is much more at stake for the U.S. than just centrifuges and sanctions. While a deal has been contested by U.S. allies in Israel and Saudi Arabia, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen says a deal could “rebalance American influence” and that “Detente with Iran might better balance our efforts across the sectarian divide.”

How can a deal provide new options for the U.S. to resolve some of the most important challenges in the region? Join us for a timely discussion with Peter Beinart, contributing editor for The Atlantic and National Journal; Fred Kaplan, War Stories columnist for Slate; Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council; and moderator Barbara Slavin, South Asia Center Senior Fellow for the Atlantic Council.

RSVP here.

The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power
Date: June 25, 4:00 pm
Location: Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC

Many see China as a rival superpower to the United States and imagine the country’s rise to be a threat to U.S. leadership in Asia and beyond. In his new book, “The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power” (W.W. Norton 2015), Nonresident Senior Fellow Thomas J. Christensen argues against this zero-sum vision. Instead, he describes a new paradigm in which the real challenge lies in dissuading China from regional aggression while encouraging the country to contribute to the global order.

On June 25, the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings will host Christensen for a discussion on the challenges in U.S. policy toward China. Drawing on decades of scholarship and his experience as deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 2006 to 2008, Christensen shows that although China is nowhere near powerful enough to be considered a global “peer competitor” of the United States, the country is already strong enough to destabilize East Asia and to influence economic and political affairs worldwide. Following his remarks, Christensen will be followed by Senior Fellow David Dollar and Alan Romberg, distinguished fellow and director of the East Asia program at The Stimson Center.

Register here.

One Year Since Caliphate Declared: Combating ISIL
Date: June 25, 6:30 pm
Location: World Affairs Council—Washington DC, 1608 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington DC

Nearly a full year after it declared itself a caliphate, ISIL has greatly expanded its territory in Iraq and Syria, in addition to gaining the allegiance of terror networks around the globe. In the territory under their control they have effectively implemented a strict form of Sharia law, heavily utilizing corporal punishment as a means of enforcement, and they have been accused of committing genocide against ethnic and religious groups.  The question remains of how the United States’ and Coalition allies’ strategy will change to more effectively address the spread of ISIL’s ideology and their expansion of territory. Join World Affairs Council- Washington, DC as we welcome back Dr. Shadi Hamid and Thomas Sanderson for a discussion about ISIL; one of the most momentous and imposing insurgent groups facing America today.

Our speaker panel includes the knowledgeable and versed voices of Dr. Shadi Hamid; a current fellow at the Brookings Institution – Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World in the Center for Middle East Policy. Thomas Sanderson is the co-director and senior fellow in the Center for Strategic International Studies Transnational Threats Project.  Bryan Bender, defense editor for Politico, will moderate the discussion.

Register here.

Pandora Report 6.21.15

Changing things up this week, our lead story is a nuclear photo essay. We’ve also got Russian nuclear posturing and a bunch of other stories you may have missed.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Next Exit, Armageddon: Photos of America’s Nuclear Weapons Legacy

I love a good photo essay, especially those focused on abandoned places—so this is the perfect* combination of that and nuclear history. Many times on the blog I’ve made somewhat flippant comments about visiting nuclear sites on summer vacation. However, evidently there is great public interest in this. As such, the National Park Service and the Department of Energy will establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park that will include sites as Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford.

VICE News—“Elsewhere in the US, the ruins of the Manhattan Project and the arms race that followed remain overlooked. In North Dakota, a pyramid-like anti-missile radar that was built to detect an incoming nuclear attack from the Soviet Union pokes through the prairie grass behind an open fence. In Arizona, a satellite calibration target that was used during the Cold War to help American satellites focus their lenses before spying on the Soviet Union sits covered in weeds near a Motel 6 parking lot. And in a suburban Chicago park, where visitors jog and bird watch, nuclear waste from the world’s first reactor — developed by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi for the Manhattan Project in 1942 — sits buried beneath a sign that reads ‘Caution — Do Not Dig.’”

*Check out the photos. They’re truly extraordinary.

Putin: Russia to Boost Nuclear Arsenal with 40 Missiles

Everything old is new again, it seems. This week Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will put more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles into service in 2015. It is said that the new missiles are part of a military modernization program. However, the announcement comes on the heels of a US proposal to increase its own military presence in NATO states in Eastern Europe.

BBC—“Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the statement from Mr. Putin was “confirming the pattern and behaviour of Russia over a period of time; we have seen Russia is investing more in defence in general and in its nuclear capability in particular”.

He said: “This nuclear sabre-rattling of Russia is unjustified, it’s destabilising and it’s dangerous.” He added that “what Nato now does in the eastern part of the alliance is something that is proportionate, that is defensive and that is fully in line with our international commitments.’”

Stories You May Have Missed

Image Credit: Federal Government of the United States

Week in DC: Events

June 15, 2015

Calculating the Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Date: June 15, 12:00pm
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 6th Floor, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC

A new report by the RAND Corporation, The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, estimates the net costs and benefits over the next ten years of five alternative trajectories — (1) a two-state solution, (2) coordinated unilateral withdrawal, (3) uncoordinated unilateral withdrawal, (4) nonviolent resistance, and (5) violent uprising — compared with the costs and benefits of a continuing impasse.

This event will explore both the economic and the non economic factors surrounding the conflict that might influence the parties’ decisions and the long-term implications for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and the international community.

RSVP here.

Global Cooperation Under Threat: Adapting the U.N. for the 21st Century
Date: June 15, 1:30pm
Location: Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC

Nearly 70 years after the United Nations charter was signed, the world faces new and rapidly evolving threats—both transnational and geopolitical. New tensions on the U.N. Security Council, however, risk limiting the United Nations capacity to intervene in civil wars and respond to humanitarian crises. At the same time, transnational and sub-state threats have the potential to seriously disrupt regional and international order.

On Monday, June 15, the Foreign Policy program at Brookings will host Susana Malcorra, chief of staff to the United Nations secretary-general for a discussion exploring how the organization is adapting to new geopolitical, transnational, and sub-state challenges.

In her current position at the U.N., Malcorra plays a central role in decision-making at the highest levels of the organization, advising the secretary-general on the full range of global and organizational affairs. Prior to her appointment as chief of staff in March 2012, Malcorra served as the undersecretary-general for field support, directing all support for U.N. peace operations worldwide. Malcorra also served as the chief operating officer and deputy executive director of the World Food Programme. Prior to joining the U.N., she spent 25 years in the private sector.

Watch live online here.

June 16, 2015

Can Afghanistan Stabilize as U.S. Forces Plan Their Exit?
Date: June 16, 10:00am
Location: United States Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave NW, Washington DC

The United States’ current policy in Afghanistan mandates a “responsible withdrawal” of U.S. forces by January 2017, when President Obama leaves office. With 18 months to go, a sense of crisis is mounting in Afghanistan as the economy sags, Taliban attacks increase, and the eight-month-old unity government remains deadlocked. Afghanistan’s instability has led policy specialists, commentators and other public voices to question whether enough progress can be made to let Afghanistan succeed if the U.S. withdrawal is conducted as planned.

Neither the international community nor Afghanistan’s divided political elites want to see the Afghan government fail. And the government has made some promising—if unfulfilled—initiatives, such as stronger anti-corruption efforts and an attempt to work with Pakistan against insurgents in both countries.

Join USIP’s experts on the region for a discussion on June 16, 2015, on both the perils of the situation and opportunities for improving it that have not been fully grasped.

USIP’s Dr. Andrew Wilder, will moderate the discussion, having just returned from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Former Afghan Minister of the Interior Ali Jalali will address security issues. Dr. William Byrd, former Afghanistan Country Director at the World Bank, will speak to the economic and fiscal issues. Scott Smith will analyze the function and dysfunction of the national unity government, and Moeed Yusuf will look at the prospects of President Ghani’s outreach to Pakistan and his attempt to reach a peace deal with the Taliban.

RSVP here.

Hearing: Advancing United States’ Interests at the United Nations
Date: June 16, 10:00am
Location: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC

Chairman Royce on the hearing: “In the coming months, the United Nations Security Council is likely to consider several key issues, including sanctions on Iran and North Korea, peacekeeping reform, and Middle East security.  It is critical that our mission to the United Nations advance our national interests in an institution that has long been in desperate need of reform and often taken positions against American interests.  This hearing will give members an opportunity to press the U.S. Ambassador to the UN on Congressional concerns and priorities.”

Watch live online here.

Russia and its Northern Neighbors: Young Leaders on the Future of Baltic Security
Date: June 16, 10:00am
Location: Johns Hopkins University—SAIS, Bernstein-Offit Building, Room 500, 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC

Russia’s actions in Ukraine have sparked new concerns about the security of neighboring countries in the Baltic region. Despite being often grouped together as the Baltic States, these countries hold unique perspectives and face widely differing challenges vis à vis their neighbor to the East.

What are the top concerns among the younger generation in the Baltic countries and Finland about their relationship with Russia? How did the war in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea affect local attitudes toward Russia, and toward Russian-speaking minorities at home?

Please join CGI and the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS for a panel discussion to address the future of Baltic security through the eyes of young professionals from the region. The panel will also consider how young Russians view the current situation and prospects for the future. Amid the current political environment, this panel will explore ways to ease tensions around the Baltic Sea for the broader goal of European security.

CGI Program Director Konstantin Avramov will give opening remarks. Donald Jensen, resident fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, will moderate the discussion. A lunch reception will follow.

RSVP here.

Perspectives on the State of the TSA: Exploring Possible Reforms to the Transportation Security Administration
Date: June 16, 12:00pm
Location: Heritage Foundation, Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington DC

Following breaking news that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) failed to stop undercover agents in 67 out of 70 recent security probes, various reform initiatives and proposals are being discussed. Should airports opt out of TSA-administered screening and explore signing contracts with private contractors? What can be done to improve airport security assessments? Does the TSA need to adopt more risk-based strategies and programs? Are more fundamental changes needed?

Join us for what should be a lively discussion on which security reforms the TSA should pursue in order to recover from unacceptable lapses in homeland security.

RSVP to attend in person or watch live online here.

Subcommittee Hearing: Reviewing the Administration’s FY 2016 Request for Europe and Eurasia
Date: June 16, 2:00pm
Location: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC

Chairman Rohrabacher on the hearing: “This hearing will address how the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request will advance US interests and help our friends and allies in Europe and Eurasia. What is our policy and is our aid being used in a manner which promotes that policy? Are we funding efforts that are fiscally sustainable and don’t create a dependence on the part of the host government?  This hearing will provide the chance to put the Administration on the record and continue the Subcommittee’s ongoing oversight efforts.”

Witnesses include: Ms. Alina Romanowski, Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Daniel Rosenblum, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, The Honorable Jonathan Stivers, Assistant Administrator at the Bureau for Asia in the U.S. Agency for International Development, Ms. Susan Fritz, Acting Assistant Administrator in the Europe and Eurasia Bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch live online here.

Democracy in the Dark: The Seduction of Government Secrecy
Date: June 16, 6:30pm
Location: Politics and Prose at Busboys and Poets Brookland, 625 Monroe St NE, Washington DC

Recent revelations of the extent of NSA citizen surveillance were a shock—and there have been similar surprises in recent years. In his deeply researched study of the role of government secrecy in a democracy, Schwarz, who co-authored Unchecked and Unbalanced and served as chief council to the Church Committee on Intelligence, looks at key moments throughout U.S. history—from the nation’s founding to the Cold War to the War on Terror—to establish a framework for balancing legitimate national security needs with the protection of constitutional rights.

Schwarz will be in conversation with Josh Gerstein, a White House reporter for POLITICO.

June 17, 2015

Making the Case for Peace: 2015 Global Peace Index
Date: June 17, 9:30am
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1800 K Street NW, Washington DC

Please join us for the release of the ninth annual Global Peace Index and discussion on:   Making the Case for Peace: the 2015 Global Peace Index   What is the state of global peace in 2015? What are the main threats to peace and how can we prevent violence in the future? What are the implications of these trends for foreign policy and aid interventions?

The 2015 Global Peace Index discussion will explore these questions, detailing recent trends in militarization, safety and security, and ongoing conflict, with a focus on analyzing the factors that underpin peaceful societies.

Panel: Moderated by Aubrey Fox, Executive Director, United States, Institute for Economics and Peace Global Peace Index results presented by Daniel Hyslop, Research Manager, Institute for Economics and Peace Panelists: Ambassador Rick Barton Melanie Greenberg Executive Director, Alliance for Peacebuilding Matt Wuerker Editorial Cartoonist and Illustrator, POLITICO.

About the Global Peace Index: The Global Peace Index (GPI) is the first-ever analysis to methodically rank countries on their peacefulness and to identify potential drivers of peace. Comprised of 23 indicators measuring the absence of violence in society, the GPI takes into consideration both internal and external factors, and measures 99% of the world’s population.

Register here.

Hearing: Assad’s Abhorrent Chemical Weapons Attacks
Date: June 17, 10:00am
Location: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC

Chairman Royce on the hearing: “The Assad regime continues its chemical weapon strikes, despite Obama Administration claims to have destroyed its illegal stockpile. Assad denies having any chemical weapons, while his forces brazenly gas men, women, and children.  This hearing will highlight these horrific attacks and what can be done to protect vulnerable Syrian civilians. The Committee will hear chilling accounts, including from brave responders working to save the lives of those targeted by the Assad regime.”

Witnesses include: The Honorable Robert Ford, Senior Fellow at The Middle East Institute, Mohamed Tennari, M.D., Idlib Coordinator at the Syrian-American Medical Society, Mr. Farouq Habib, Syria Program Manager at Mayday Rescue, Annie Sparrow, M.B.B.S., Deputy Director Human Rights Program and Assistant Professor of Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Watch live online here.

Climate Security: the Next ‘Battle Ground’?
Date: June 17, 10:00am
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

As the international community heads to COP21 in Paris this December, much of the public discourse focuses on the relationship between climate and the environment.  Equally important, however, are the ways countries address the global security threats that arise from climate change.  From a national security perspective, climate change is viewed as a risk multiplier or conflict aggravator and a source of nontraditional threats that require nontraditional responses.  What local and global actions can be taken to reduce the stresses climate change has on economic, social, and political systems? How can security planners and actors address the threat of climate change on international security? What are the dangers of inaction and could an international climate regime contribute to reducing instability and conflict risks?

In honor of the European Union’s (EU) Climate Diplomacy Day, please join the Atlantic Council and the EU for a discussion exploring the critical dynamic between climate change and global security. An introduction will be delivered by H.E. David O’Sullivan, the Ambassador of the EU to the United States and keynote remarks will be provided by H.E. Gerard Araud, the Ambassador of France to the United States. Panelists include The Hon. Sharon Burke, Senior Adviser to the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, Tom Burke, Founding Director and Chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism, Major General Munir Muniruzzaman (Ret.), Chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC) and President and CEO of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS), and Dennis Tänzler, Director of International Climate Policy at Adelphi.  The discussion will be moderated by Dan Chiu, Deputy Director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.  Welcome remarks will be provided by The Hon. Richard Morningstar, Founding Director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

Register here to attend in person or here to watch live online.

Advanced Nuclear Energy and the Battle Against Climate Change
Date: June 17, 12:30pm
Location: Capitol Visitor Center, SVC-203, East Capitol St and First St NE, Washington DC

Nuclear energy was once regarded by many as the answer to our energy needs. That enthusiasm waned in the U.S. after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Today, there’s a growing interest in advanced nuclear energy and new reactor designs that are safer and more efficient. As Third Way’s Josh Freed details in his Brookings Essay, “Back to the Future,” a flood of young engineers and private firms are focusing on advanced nuclear energy as the best option for battling climate change. Freed also argues that if the U.S. doesn’t invest in these new technologies, other countries will lead the way in this game-changing field. The good news is that today there’s significant private investment and several dozen companies developing the technology.

On Wednesday, June 17, Brookings will gather four energy experts, including Freed, at the Senate Visitor’s Center to talk about the opportunities for advanced nuclear energy and the challenges posed both in the U.S. and abroad. The conversation will be moderated by Quartz Washington Correspondent Steve LeVine. A light lunch will be provided.

Register here.

Privacy and Security
Date: June 17, 12:30pm
Location: Goethe-Institut, 812 7th Street NW, Washington DC

The AICGS Foreign & Domestic Policy Program; Goethe-Institut Washington; and the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier are pleased to invite you to the following seminar:

The Snowden revelations raise pointed questions in the United States and Germany about the future of privacy and security, particularly in light of our thoroughly networked and digitized age. A number of circumstances justify a focus on the American and German perspectives. America’s intelligence activities in Europe—and Germany in particular—have strained vital transatlantic partnerships in recent years. The different reactions to the so-called “NSA-Affäre” on opposite sides of the Atlantic have posed challenges to our assumptions about shared transatlantic values. As two of the most established—and respected—constitutional democracies, the newly-exposed differences regarding privacy in the United States and Germany present a unique opportunity for comparative constitutional reflection.

This lunch-time dialogue will feature David Cole (Hon. George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at the Georgetown University Law Center) and Russell Miller (Professor of Law at Washington & Lee University School of Law). Professor Cole is one of the most prominent American voices in the public and scholarly debates surrounding the on-going “war on terror.” He has commented extensively and published widely on the constitutional law and legislative frameworks relevant to the “NSA-Affäre.” Professor Miller is a leading commentator on and scholar of German constitutional law. He is currently a DAAD Research Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) at Johns Hopkins.

Register here.

Russia’s Strategic Interest with the West
Date: June 17, 12:30pm
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

As Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine’s east continues to escalate, President Putin is cracking down on opposition leaders and human rights activists at home. The murder of Boris Nemtsov, the alleged poisoning of Vladimir Kara Murza are recent and tragic examples of mounting human rights violence.  Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of Kremlin’s most prominent critics, has a broad set of experiences in Putin’s Russia and an extraordinary perspective on developments there, which he will share with us.

Prior to his arrest in 2003, Khodorkovsky was the head of Yukos, one of Russia’s largest oil producers, and an increasingly outspoken critic of corruption in Russia. Khodorkovsky was arrested, charged with fraud and tax evasion, and sentenced to nine years in prison, prolonged to eleven after the second trial. Khodorkovsky, who was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was released in December 2013 prior to the Sochi Olympics. In 2014, Khodorkovsky relaunched Open Russia, a nongovernmental organization aiming to unite pro-European Russians to promote a strong civil society.

Register here to attend in person or here to watch live online.

Food Security in the Face of Climate Change
Date: June 17, 2:00pm
Location: World Resources Institute, 10 G Street NE, 6th Floor Board Room, Washington DC

Join World Resources Institute for a discussion featuring the keynote presentation “Agricultural Research on Adaptation to Climate Change” by Dr. François Houllier, the President of INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research).

A discussion on “Food Security in the Face of Climate Change” will follow the presentation.

Speakers include: Dr. François Houllier, President, l’Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), Dr. Rob Bertram, Chief Scientist, Bureau for Food Security, U.S. Agency for International Development, Heather McGray, Director, Vulnerability & Adaptation, World Resources Institute, Dr. Keith Wiebe, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Tim Searchinger, Research Scholar, Princeton University and Senior Fellow, World Resources Institute (moderator).

Register here.

Subcommittee Hearing: China’s Rise: The Strategic Impact of Its Economic and Military Growth
Date: June 17, 2:00pm
Location: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, 2200 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC

Chairman Salmon on the hearing: “The People’s Republic of China is at a turning point economically, politically, demographically, and militarily. Though China’s military buildup has been a decades-long affair, recent Chinese military developments under President Xi Jinping have been particularly disconcerting, especially as its advances threaten to diminish the United States’ role in the region. China is also embarking on massive trade, infrastructure, and investment initiatives, which are global in scope and driven by economic shifts at home. At the same time, China’s domestic profile is changing—its workforce is shrinking, its population is disproportionately aging, and the Xi regime restricts more and more personal and political freedoms. The Subcommittee must fully understand China’s current and future changes to fulfil its duty to oversee U.S.-China relations, particularly in light of increasing bilateral tensions, and in preparation for Chinese President Xi ‘s November state visit.”

Witnesses include: Derek M. Scissors, Ph.D., Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Alison Kaufman, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist in the China Studies Division at the CNA Corporation, Mr. Jerome A. Cohen, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Han Dongfang, Founder and Director of the China Labour Bulletin.

Watch live online here.

Subcommittee Hearing: The Iran, North Korea, and Syria Non-Proliferation Act: State Department’s Non-Compliance
Date: June 17, 2:00pm
Location: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC

Chairman Ros-Lehtinen on the hearing: “The GAO’s latest report on the State Department’s non-compliance with the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act’s (INKSNA) reporting requirements is greatly alarming. INKSNA can be a powerful tool in helping curtail the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction but its effectiveness is diminished when State does not sanction individuals and make timely reports to Congress as required by law. State’s non-compliance calls into question which other sanctions provisions the administration has been blatantly ignoring during these misguided and dangerous nuclear negotiations with Iran and puts our national security at risk by increasing the potential for additional proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This hearing will provide our Members the opportunity to examine State’s reporting history in regards to INKSNA, the reasons State has delayed reporting, how to improve the process to ensure that reporting requirements are met, and what impact State’s delays have had on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Watch live online here.

Cyber Risk Wednesday: Waging Cyber Conflict
Date: June 17, 4:00pm
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

We are still early into the age of cyber conflict and do not yet fully understand the dynamics of how nations and nonstate actors fight in cyberspace. Though there is a solid understanding at the tactical and technical levels of what happens between bits and bytes and particular adversary groups, the operational and strategic dynamics are often ignored. Failing to connect cyber conflict to larger strategic considerations leaves many central questions unanswered: How do cyber conflicts arise? How and by whom are they fought? Who wins and who loses? Is a country “winning” in cyberspace if it seizes more digital hilltops or if it wins the hearts and minds of digital natives around the globe?

To shed light on these questions and cyber operations and strategy beyond bits and bytes, this session brings together Jason Healey, the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative Senior Fellow and editor of the first-ever cyber history book A Fierce Domain: Conflict in Cyberspace, 1986-2012 (2013); Chris Inglis, US Naval Academy Distinguished Visiting Professor in Cyber Security Studies and former NSA Deputy Director; and Dr. Brandon Valeriano, Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow and author of Cyber War versus Cyber Realities: Cyber Conflict in the International System (2015). The panel discussion will be moderated by Dr. Nora Bensahel, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at American University’s School of International Service.

Register here to attend in person or here to watch live online.

June 18, 2015

The Changing Sanctions Landscape: Past, Present, and Future
Date: June 18, 12:00pm
Location: Venable LLP, 575 7th Street NW, Washington DC

Key developments in economic sanctions regimes over the last 18 months – spanning Cuba, Russia/Ukraine, and Iran, to cyber and beyond – have had a wide-ranging impact on businesses, and continue to raise a host of challenges for officials and industry players alike. Venable LLP and the Stimson Center invite you to a conversation about the practical implications of sanctions regimes. Industry experts, regulators, and practitioners will discuss how high policy is translated into concrete implementation measures, and how companies deal with the real-world fallout in their strategic and operational decision-making.

A light lunch will be served.

RSVP here.

Launch Event for the 2015 Fragile States Index
Date: June 18, 2:00pm
Location: United Nations Foundation, 1750 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC

The Fragile States Index remains a leading tool that highlights current trends in social, economic and political pressures that affect all states, but can strain some beyond their capacity to cope. Apart from the impact on their people, fragile states present the international community with a variety of challenges.

Linking robust social science with modern technology, the Index is unique in its integration of quantitative data with qualitative data produced using content-analysis software to process information from millions of publicly available documents. The result is an empirically-based, comprehensive ranking of the pressures experienced by 178 countries. The Index is used by policy makers, civil society, academics, journalists and businesses around the world.

The event will include a presentation of the key findings of the 2015 Fragile States Index, as well as an expert discussion on fragile and conflict affected societies. The event will also include adequate opportunity for questions and comment.

Dress code is business or business-casual attire.

Register here.

Fighting Terrorism in the Age of ISIS
Date: June 18, 5:00pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington DC

Please join the Smart Women, Smart Power initiative for a discussion of “Fighting Terrorism in the Age of ISIS” with Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser to President George W. Bush. The Islamic State, known as ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh, now controls territory in the Middle East that’s nearly the size of Belgium and is pushing into North Africa. It continues to recruit fighters to the cause, including some from Western Europe and a small number from the U.S. Ms. Townsend will offer insights on protecting the homeland and countering the threat.

Register here.

June 19, 2015

President Rousseff’s Visit: Photo-Op or a New Era for the US and Brazil?
Date: June 19, 9:00am
Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower, Washington DC

President Dilma Rousseff’s June 30 visit to the United States comes amid significant transformations in Brazil and in US-Latin American relations overall. Dilma is looking for big wins while the United States sees a moment to jumpstart relations with a hemispheric leader. Will this lay the foundation for moving from working-level collaboration to bold, far-reaching cooperation? How would a significant agreement on an issue like innovation be a catalyst for economic opportunity in both countries?

Join the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center and the Brazil-US Business Council for a preview of the visit with top decision-makers in the bilateral agenda. The Arsht Center will launch its latest Brazil report, US-Brazil Relations: A New Beginning? How to Strengthen the Bilateral Agenda, in which our senior nonresident Brazil fellow, Ricardo Sennes, proposes specific ways to advance cooperation in investment, trade, education, and technology and innovation.

Register here to attend in person or here to watch live online.

The Next Generation of Korea Experts: The Young and the Brave
Date: June 19, 10:00am
Location: Brookings Institution, Saul/ Zilkha Room, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC

Young scholars and practitioners have much to contribute to the policy debate about the Korean peninsula. They offer fresh perspectives on how the Koreas are analyzed, and introduce new information that prompts different ways of thinking about the Koreas. Moreover, young experts’ views will become critical to shaping future-oriented policies toward the Koreas.

On June 19, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at Brookings will host a conference featuring presentations by the youngest generation of Korea specialists. Young scholars and practitioners will gather to discuss the different generational attitudes toward Korea policy, present their perspectives on persistent regional and international policy challenges, and offer new strategies and analyses on peninsular issues through information flows and technology.

Lunch will be provided to conference guests.

Register here.

Pandora Report 6.14.15

I’ve got brunch reservations this morning so the big story about the coming egg shortage is hitting close to home. We’ve also got a story about ISIS’ WMD and a bunch of stories you may have missed.

As a final reminder, the Early Registration Deadline for the Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and International Security is tomorrow, Monday, June 15. For more information and registration, please click here.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Egg Shortage Scrambles U.S. Food Industries

The unprecedented outbreak of avian influenza in the U.S. has meant massive losses in the domestic poultry industry which has left experts warning that U.S. consumers are very likely to see an increase in egg prices. Cases of avian flu have been reported in 15 states, with Iowa and Minnesota being some of the hardest hit. “In Minnesota, the number of lost turkeys represent about 11 percent of our total turkey production…of the chickens we’ve lost that are laying eggs, 32 percent… have been affected by this” In Iowa, about 40 percent of the state’s egg-laying chickens and 11 percent of its turkeys have been affected. All these losses will mean a shortage of whole eggs and other egg-based products.

U.S. News and World Report—“Consumers haven’t felt the pinch too much just yet, but they are unlikely to emerge with their pocketbooks unscathed, [Rick] Brown [Senior VP at Urner Barry, a food commodity research and analysis firm]. He says two-thirds of all eggs produced in the U.S. remain in a shell, many of which are placed in cartons and sold in grocery stores. This stock of eggs has been hit significantly less by the avian flu outbreak than those used in the egg products industry, which Brown says encompasses “everything from mayonnaise to salad dressings to cake mixes to pasta to bread.”

Australian Official Warns of Islamic State Weapons of Mass Destruction

You may have already seen this, since this story was everywhere this week. Julie Bishop, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the Islamic State (ISIS) already has and is already using chemical weapons. Bishop made these comments in an address to the Australia Group—a coalition of 40 countries seeking to limit the spread of biological and chemical weapons. In a follow-up interview, Bishop also said that NATO was concerned about the theft of radioactive material and what that could mean for nuclear weapons proliferation.

The Washington Post—“‘The use of chlorine by Da’ish, and its recruitment of highly technically trained professionals, including from the West, have revealed far more seriou­s efforts in chemical weapons development,” Bishop said, using an alternate name for the Islamic State in a speech reported by the Australian. She did not specify the source of her information.  “… Da’ish is likely to have amongst its tens of thousands of recruits the technical expertise necessary to further refine precursor materials and build chemical weapons.’”

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Image Credit: Hannahdownes

America’s War on Terror: Democracy is No Panacea

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, the scholarly research has burgeoned, enabling a more thorough examination of the Bush Administration’s policy choice to aggressively promote democracy as part of their overall war on terror strategy. Scholars have advanced a number of compelling findings and arguments about the Bush Administration’s policymaking process, as well as why democracy has proved so problematic in both countries.

This is Part 3 of 4 of Erik Goepner‘s paper. In case you missed them, read Part 1 and Part 2.

James Pfiffner suggests President Bush did not employ a systematic decision-making process with respect to Iraq, and that the president preferred substantive discussions with only a small cadre of his closest advisors.[1] This style could easily result in intelligence and research being overlooked, or the close-knit group unwittingly succumbing to groupthink.

Regarding the challenges of democratizing both countries, researchers point to the historic challenges of Muslim-majority states adopting democratic norms, ethnic and / or religious fractionalization, lack of liberal institutions or culture, poor rule of law, and the animus felt towards the democracy promoter (i.e., the U.S.) by many in the Muslim world.[2]

In addition, two lesser-known arguments are germane and will be addressed further. The first focuses on how the Bush Administration promoted democracy and the second looks at who was being democratized. While the idea of America promoting democracy abroad is nothing new, how it has been promoted over time has changed. Jonathan Monten outlines the two predominate ways in which America has historically sought to export democracy.[3] The first, and preferred choice until the 20th century, relied on America’s example, akin to the shining city on a hill. America’s efforts to win other nations to democratic forms of governance primarily took place within America’s borders, such that other nations could see the example and be enticed to emulate it. Monten refers to the second method as “vindicationism.” It includes setting a positive example, but adds active, external measures to promote democracy. President Bush, Monten argues, embraced a version of vindicationism-plus by also adding a coercive element. Monten goes on to say the U.S.’ hegemonic status not only made coercion possible, but in some respects almost unavoidable.[4] Had U.S. power not been such an overmatch for any would-be competitor, the Bush Administration would likely have been less bold. Policymakers believed their use of power was virtuous. As a result, they did not consider that their use of power might be coercive, unwelcome, or self-seeking.[5]

Moreover, the Bush Administration believed democratic success would beget democratic success, such that bandwagoning would result rather than other nations and actors attempting to balance against U.S. power.[6] Assumed bandwagoning also contributed to the expectation that U.S. military power would facilitate a pacific transition to democracy beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. As the President claimed, a “free Iraq can be an example of reform and progress to all the Middle East.”[7]

The second argument looks at who was being democratized. It does not appear that U.S. policymakers gave any consideration to the mental health status of the Afghan or Iraqi populations prior to pursuing a policy of democratization. Specifically, the effects of decades of severe trauma visited upon both populations were ignored—Afghanistan for 20 of the 21 years preceding the U.S. invasion, and Iraq for the preceding 17 years.

Persons who have been heavily traumatized, similar to the Afghans and Iraqis, are more likely to succumb to learned helplessness.[8] This psychological phenomenon manifests over time, as an individual increasingly perceives no connection between their own efforts and the outcomes that result. Self-efficacy gives way to hopelessness. As a result, the individual no longer puts forth effort, instead they surrender to their circumstances.[9] The behavioral and cognitive changes that frequently accompany severe trauma would appear to inhibit the successful initiation of democracy.

The decision to include democracy promotion as a key part of the war on terror did not happen immediately. Rather, it appears to have occurred in response to perceived early successes in Afghanistan. Policymakers apparently missed or ignored much of the research and intelligence available at the time that indicated the numerous challenges to successfully democratizing Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, the research since then tends to corroborate the earlier research.

Next week, part 4 will take a final look at democracy promotion as a key part of America’s war on terror strategy. This last examination will focus on the numbers. How effective has the U.S. been in democratizing Afghanistan, Iraq and the broader region? And, more broadly, how have the efforts to democratize affected the overall achievement of U.S. goals in the war on terror? Erik Goepner’s full paper is available here.

[1] James Pfiffner, “Decisionmaking, Intelligence, and the Iraq War,” in Intelligence and National Security Policymaking on Iraq: British and American Perspectives (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2008), 217–8.
[2] Zakaria, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”; Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” The Atlantic 266, no. 3 (1990): 47–60; Samuel Huntington, “The Lonely Superpower,” Foreign Affairs 78, no. 2 (March 1, 1999): 35–49; Francis Fukuyama, “Why is Democracy Performing So Poorly?” Journal of Democracy 26, no. 1 (January 2015): 13.
[3] Jonathan Monten, “The Roots of the Bush Doctrine: Power, Nationalism, and Democracy Promotion in U.S. Strategy,” International Security 29, no. 4 (April 1, 2005): 112–115.
[4] Monten, “The Roots of the Bush Doctrine,” 116.
[5] Monten, “The Roots of the Bush Doctrine,” 146.
[6] Monten, “The Roots of the Bush Doctrine,” 148–9.
[7] Monten, “The Roots of the Bush Doctrine,” 150.
[8] Steven Maier, “Exposure to the Stressor Environment Prevents the Temporal Dissipation of Behavioral Depression/learned Helplessness,” Biological Psychiatry 49, no. 9 (May 1, 2001): 763; Neta Bargai, Gershon Ben-Shakhar, and Arieh Y. Shalev, “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in Battered Women: The Mediating Role of Learned Helplessness,” Journal of Family Violence 22, no. 5 (June 6, 2007): 268, 272, 274.
[9] Lyn Abramson, Martin Seligman, and John Teasdale, “Learned Helplessness in Humans: Critique and Reformulation,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 87, no. 1 (1978): 50.

Image Credit: U.S. Navy