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Posts tagged ‘Harvard Kennedy School’

Stand-off in Crimea: Cui Bono?

Simon Saradzhyan

Simon Saradzhyan

By Simon Saradzhyan

Simon Saradzhyan is assistant director of the U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism and a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center.

It seems there has been no Russia watcher left in the world who has not opined on Vladimir Putin’s swift and not so covert moves in the Crimea, pondering: “who’s to blame and what to do?”  In times like these it is also as customary for analysts of international affairs to wonder “to whose benefit?” Yet this question remains open even though some of the Western diplomats are already calling the current standoff the biggest crisis in Europe of the 21st century.

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The Off-Shoring, Out-Sourcing Debate is Out of Date

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared on, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

Labor markets have for the past quarter century been at the center of the globalization disputes under the “off-shoring and out-sourcing” rubric. How many jobs were lost at home to cheap labor abroad? What were conditions for those overseas workers? But the rapidly changing nature of the global economy has changed much, though not all, of that “off-shoring/out-sourcing” debate. Today, cheap labor is only one of many factors leading global companies to choose where to do business in diverse nations across the world. Major economic changes like the internal growth of emerging markets have scrambled debates about the global economy, posed challenges for international business, stimulated contradictory public policies and confused the general public.

It was often cheap labor in emerging markets that, more than two decades ago, led companies in developed markets to move company jobs away from the home country either to company owned facilities (off-shoring) or to third parties (out-sourcing) in developing markets. The broad idea was that less expensive manufacturing or inexpensive white collar workers would create goods and services in developing nations that would serve world markets. China, especially, would be the global product-manufacturing center; India, via the web, would be the global service provider.

The well known debate ensued between free-trade (more competition, cheaper goods in U.S., growth in developing markets) and fair trade (only wealthy benefit, hollowing out of U.S. middle class, exploitative labor standards overseas). The debate heated up in political years (including 2012), when “outsourcing” became an especially a dirty word. But, in addition to dramatic economic growth in emerging markets, four recent trends have significantly modified this old off-shoring and out-sourcing schematic. Read more

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The IEA’s Poor Performance and the Risks of Oil Abundance

By Leonardo Maugeri

Roy Family Fellow, Geopolitics of Energy Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Although quite late, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has noticed that American crude oil production is increasing at an unprecedented rate, and that it will continue to do so. In a report published only one year ago, the Agency had largely underestimated the phenomenon, as had many others.

In its new World Energy Outlook 2012, the IEA now expects that the US will produce 11.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of petroleum and natural gas liquids (NGLs) by 2020, compared to little more than 8 million bpd in 2011. In a study published by the Harvard Kennedy School in June (Oil, the Next Revolution), I had hypothesized even higher American production, 11.6 million bpd by 2020. This did not include biofuels, which by that year could raise overall American liquids production to more than 13 million bpd. The additional studies that I am carrying out on more than 2,500 tight oil and shale oil wells in the United States lead me to believe that American production could be even higher by 2020 .Other observers have forecast similar growth rates during the same period or sooner (including Citibank).

But the IEA numbers suffer from more than tardiness. Read more

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Nationalist Insurgencies and the al-Qaeda Narrative

Francisco Martin Rayo

By Francisco Martin-Rayo

The Obama administration’s heavy-handed approach to drone strikes in Yemen has blurred the distinction between terrorist and innocent civilian.  As administration officials continue to identify nearly all military-aged males in strike zones as possible combatants, media outlets have inadvertently drawn attention to another major misstep in the administration’s counter-terrorism strategy: its refusal to differentiate between local insurgencies with nationalist goals and groups focused on global terrorism.

Islamic nationalist movements over the last 20 years have found it beneficial to pledge allegiance to the broader al-Qaeda movement, which has provided them with access to a well defined financing network and to highly experienced operatives who are able to train their fighters.  General Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, highlighted this pattern recently, arguing that al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are sharing funds and training on how to use bombs.  Unfortunately, American policymakers today fail to differentiate between nationalist movements and global terrorist groups.  This lack of nuance is likely to lead to increased U.S. military involvement in domestic conflicts and enhanced cooperation between armed Islamic groups with previously disparate agendas. Read more

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The Syrian Uprising: The View from Tehran

Annie Tracy Samuel

Annie Tracy Samuel

By Annie Tracy Samuel,

A longer version of this post appeared first at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. 

The violent confrontation between Bashar Assad’s regime and opposition forces, now fifteen months old, has generated much concern in Iran.  The collapse of the regime would present a serious threat to Iran’s strategic interests.  Syria has been one of Iran’s closest and most important allies since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, and the fall of the Assad regime would hamper Iran’s ability to project power into the eastern Mediterranean-Levant region.

Iran has therefore provided support to the Assad regime since the beginning of the Syrian uprising to help its ally stay in power.  According to U.S. and European officials, members of Syrian opposition groups, and others, Iran is providing material support to the Syrian government to assist in the crackdown and is advising Syrian leaders on “best practices” for suppressing the protests, an area in which it has a fair amount of experience.

Iran has repeatedly denied accusations of any such involvement.  While it is difficult to determine the extent and nature of Iran’s involvement in Syria from the information that is publicly available, it is reasonable to assume that Iran is indeed aiding the Assad regime, given Iran’s overriding interest in its survival.  Still, it is not clear if Iranian forces are actually present in Syria or how important Iranian aid is to the Assad regime. Read more

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Sanger book: Obama order sped up cyberattacks against Iran

David E. Sanger

David E. Sanger

By David E. Sanger

(This is an excerpt from a New York Times front-page article today, which is adapted from David Sanger’s new book, “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” being published by Crown on Tuesday.)

WASHINGTON — From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet. Read more

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Lessons learned from the protracted Iranian nuclear file

Mansour Salsabili

By Mansour Salsabili

Research Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

(This commentary appeared first on

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Continuing to insist on sanctions against Iran will produce a bad deal for America.

Why? Because this week Iran is putting on the table in Baghdad a number of concrete and tension-reducing offers in response to the earlier requests of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

These offers will have the strong support of Russia and China, and may attract positive votes from other European delegations as well. This will leave the US administration, which cannot force Congress to end sanctions, in the corner and in a passive position in any future talks. Read more

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Russia and Putin Redux: Prospects for Change

Simon Saradzhyan

Simon Saradzhyan

Nabi Abdullaev

By Simon Saradzhyan  and Nabi Abdullaev           

(Updated Monday, March 5, 2012)

There was little doubt that Vladimir Putin would be elected president of Russia on Sunday and return to the Kremlin for a third term. The Central Elections Committee announced on Monday that Putin won more than 60 percent of the vote and avoided a second round. But there is also little doubt that the legitimacy of his presidency will be contested during his third term, given the scale of recent protests against his return and strong criticism of the Sunday vote, which some of the opposition leaders and independent observers condemned as unfair and fraudulent. Read more

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Scholars reflect on Afghan Koran burnings, rioting

Several Harvard Kennedy School scholars who have worked in Afghanistan were asked to comment on how the United States should respond to the accidental burning of Korans by the U.S. military, and the subsequent deadly rioting in the country. Here are their responses:

Aisha Ahmad

Aisha Ahmad, International Security Program research fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. Ahmad, a doctoral candidate at McGill University, studies political Islamic movements, and has done field work in Afghanistan and Pakistan..

(Note: this comment appeared first on the Los Angeles Times World Now)

Afghans are very religious people, and the desecration of the Holy Koran is an extraordinary offense to Muslims. However, these riots are symbolic of a much larger discontent with the international presence in Afghanistan. Read more

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Fighting for Food?

By Halvard Buhaug, Helge Holtermann, and Ole Magnus Theisen

The globe keeps warming and a global food crisis is looming, but evidence suggests that, contrary to the opinion of many observers, tensions over scarce food and water will not increase the risk of civil war.

The number of undernourished people on our planet may never have been higher. Soaring food prices and a global financial crisis have increased the ranks of the world’s food insecure to more than a billion people according to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization. According to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2011, increasing food prices have stirred protests and riots in more than 60 countries in recent years. Some experts also attribute the ongoing wave of revolutionary uprisings across the Arab world partly to unstable food supply, suggesting a causal connection between weather-induced crop failure and armed conflict. Read more

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