About Power & PolicyPower & Policy is a virtual forum for explaining and debating the exercise of American power in the world. The core participants are renowned Harvard Kennedy School faculty members and associates who have spent decades studying how power works.
Topics9/11 Afghanistan Al Qaeda American power Arab spring Belfer Center Bush China cyber Egypt Europe Fukushima Graham Allison Harvard Harvard Kennedy School Heineman Heinonen Iran Iraq Islam Israel Japan Libya Middle East military Muammar al-Gaddafi Mubarak Muslim Brotherhood NATO Nicholas Burns North Korea nuclear Nye Obama Osama bin Laden power Putin Qaddafi Russia Saudi Arabia security Syria terrorism Wikileaks Yemen
Category Archives: The Power Problem
The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. By Stephen Walt Who won the war between the United States and Al Qaeda? Which side is … Continue reading
The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Reflecting on the tenth anniversary … Continue reading
The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. By David E. Sanger Chief Washington Correspondent, The New York Times; Senior Fellow, National Security and the … Continue reading
The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. By Juliette Kayyem Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; former assistant secretary, Department of Homeland Security … Continue reading
The Power Problem: Third in a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. By Monica Duffy Toft Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from September 11, 2001 is … Continue reading
The Power Problem: Second in a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. By Linda J. Bilmes The US response to 9/11 has been a major contributor to America’s current … Continue reading
Was 9/11 a turning point in world history? It is too soon to be tell. After all, the lessons of World War I looked very different in 1939 than they did a mere decade after 1918.
As I argue in The Future of Power, one of the great powers shifts of this century is the increased empowerment of non-state actors, and 9/11 was a dramatic illustration of this long term trend. In 2001 an attack by non-state actors killed more Americans than a government attack did at Pearl Harbor in 1941. But this “privatization of war” was occurring before 9/11 and some American government reports in the 1990s even warned it was coming.
The long-term effect of 9/11 depends on how the United States reacts and the lessons it has learned. In the short term of the past decade, the US has learned to take the new threat seriously and has improved its security procedures and been able to prevent a recurrence of 9/11. All that is to the good.
World Trade Center memorial lights (Photo by John Franco)
World Trade Center memorial lights (Photo by John Franco)
But there is a larger question about terrorism.
My friend John Deutch has challenged me to explain the breakdown of governance in the United States and to identify what can be done about our capacity to deal with it.
The problems are real, but “breakdown” is too strong a word to describe them, and it is important to put current problems in historical perspective. The founders deliberately designed American government to be inefficient with checks, balances, and delays. As the joke goes, it was designed so King George could not rule over us — nor anyone else. Some argue that an inefficient 18th century design cannot cope with 21st century global problems like the rise of Asia or the transnational diffusion that I describe in The Future of Power. However, our inefficient system has coped with even greater problems in the past with only one serious breakdown a century and a half ago.
John Deutch, the former U.S. director of central intelligence and deputy secretary of defense and who is now an institute professor at MIT, has challenged his friend Joseph Nye to complete an unusual “assignment.” Deutch called on Nye to use the analytical lens that Nye has long focused on international problems to tackle a domestic crisis – what Deutch describes as the breakdown of governance in the United States. Deutch gave Nye this assignment at a gathering of colleagues on May 17 at the Harvard Kennedy School to honor Nye’s decades of academic and public service. Nye, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, is a Harvard University distinguished service professor and former dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. Deutch is a board member of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
The Nye assignment forms the basis of a new installment of The Power Problem, an occasional feature on the Power & Policy blog that allows experts to propose answers to pressing policy problems. Joe Nye will respond soon to Deutch’s challenge by publishing his completed homework assignment on this blog – and virtual comments on Joe’s proposed repairs will be welcome, from participants at the gathering and from others who care about the problem. The goal is to foster a serious debate that generates specific suggestions.
Deutch’s full remarks:
Last week we launched The Power Problem, an occasional series of mini-forums on Power & Policy, which asks specialists from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School to suggest policy responses by the United States to pressing world issues. For our inaugural Power Problem, we asked our experts: What should the United States do now that Qaddafi is digging in? And what is the gravest risk for the United States in the Libyan crisis?
Nicholas Burns, Stephen M. Walt, and Rami G. Khouri weighed in, and we gathered responses from readers and other Belfer Center colleagues. Here are two responses to the Power Problem posts, from David Mednicoff and Joseph P. Nye.