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  • Author: Michael B Greenwald
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many view the Belt and Road Initiative as the most geoeconomically significant infrastructure project since the Marshall Plan. Promising alternative trade routes, abundant capital flows, and advanced infrastructure to the developing world, the program has scaled significantly since its inception in 2013.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael B Greenwald
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Saudi Vision 2030 — Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s bid to diversify his nation’s oil-dependent economy — is one of the most consequential development plans in modern history. So it was no surprise to see MbS, as he is known, grinning with Chinese leaders during his Asian investment trip last month. As Chinese officials raved about the “enormous potential” of the Saudi economy, Saudi officials praised the compatibility of Chinese and Saudi cultures, and MbS even defended China’s maltreatment of Muslim Uighurs
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Martin S. Feldstein
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously to increase the short-term interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, taking it from 2.25% to 2.5%. This was the fourth increase in 12 months, a sequence that had been projected a year ago, and the FOMC members also indicated that there would be two more quarter-point increases in 2019. The announcement soon met with widespread disapproval.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Financial Markets
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Gabriel Cederberg, Jordan D'Amato
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: American democracy is under attack. From the daily news to our social media feeds, nation-state competitors target the United States and its citizens, seeking to fuel division and chaos at home while undermining our interests abroad and our will to defend them. It is critical that policymakers and citizens understand these threats and how to counter them. This playbook seeks to ensure that U.S. citizens, not foreign actors, determine the future of U.S. democracy.
  • Topic: Global Focus
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Henry Farrell, Abraham L. Newman
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Liberals claim that globalization has led to fragmentation and decentralized networks of power relations. This does not explain how states increasingly “weaponize interdependence” by leveraging global networks of informational and financial exchange for strategic advantage. The theoretical literature on network topography shows how standard models predict that many networks grow asymmetrically so that some nodes are far more connected than others. This model nicely describes several key global economic networks, centering on the United States and a few other states. Highly asymmetric networks allow states with (1) effective jurisdiction over the central economic nodes and (2) appropriate domestic institutions and norms to weaponize these structural advantages for coercive ends. In particular, two mechanisms can be identified. First, states can employ the “panopticon effect” to gather strategically valuable information. Second, they can employ the “chokepoint effect” to deny network access to adversaries. Tests of the plausibility of these arguments across two extended case studies that provide variation both in the extent of U.S. jurisdiction and in the presence of domestic institutions—the SWIFT financial messaging system and the internet—confirm the framework's expectations. A better understanding of the policy implications of the use and potential overuse of these tools, as well as the response strategies of targeted states, will recast scholarly debates on the relationship between economic globalization and state coercion.
  • Topic: International Relations, Globalization, Information Age, Global Security, Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Michael Mousseau
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Permanent world peace is beginning to emerge. States with developed market-oriented economies have foremost interests in the principle of self-determination of all states as the foundation for a robust global marketplace. War among these states, even making preparations for war, is not possible, because they are in a natural alliance to preserve and protect the global order. Among other states, weaker powers, fearing those that are stronger, tend to bandwagon with the relatively benign market-oriented powers. The result is a powerful liberal global hierarchy that is unwittingly, but systematically, buttressing states' embrace of market norms and values, moving the world toward perpetual peace. Analysis of voting preferences of members of the United Nations General Assembly from 1946 to 2010 corroborates the influence of the liberal global hierarchy: states with weak internal markets tend to disagree with the foreign policy preferences of the largest market power (i.e., the United States), but more so if they have stronger rather than weaker military and economic capabilities. Market-oriented states, in contrast, align with the market leader regardless of their capabilities. Barring some dark force that brings about the collapse of the global economy (such as climate change), the world is now in the endgame of a five-century-long trajectory toward permanent peace and prosperity.
  • Topic: Peace Studies, War, Hegemony, Peacekeeping, Global Security, Liberal Order
  • Political Geography: United States, United Nations, Global Focus
  • Author: Deborah Jordan Brooks, Stephen G. Brooks, Brian D. Greenhill, Mark L. Haas
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The world is experiencing a period of unprecedented demographic change. For the first time in human history, marked disparities in age structures exist across the globe. Around 40 percent of the world's population lives in countries with significant numbers of elderly citizens. In contrast, the majority of the world's people live in developing countries with very large numbers of young people as a proportion of the total population. Yet, demographically, most of the world's states with young populations are aging, and many are doing so quickly. This first-of-its kind systematic theoretical and empirical examination of how these demographic transitions influence the likelihood of interstate conflict shows that countries with a large number of young people as a proportion of the total population are the most prone to international conflict, whereas states with the oldest populations are the most peaceful. Although societal aging is likely to serve as a force for enhanced stability in most, and perhaps all, regions of the world over the long term, the road to a “demographic peace” is likely to be bumpy in many parts of the world in the short to medium term.
  • Topic: Demographics, War, International Security, Democracy, International Relations Theory
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Japan, China, Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Dominic D.P. Johnson, Dominic Tierney
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: A major puzzle in international relations is why states privilege negative over positive information. States tend to inflate threats, exhibit loss aversion, and learn more from failures than from successes. Rationalist accounts fail to explain this phenomenon, because systematically overweighting bad over good may in fact undermine state interests. New research in psychology, however, offers an explanation. The “negativity bias” has emerged as a fundamental principle of the human mind, in which people's response to positive and negative information is asymmetric. Negative factors have greater effects than positive factors across a wide range of psychological phenomena, including cognition, motivation, emotion, information processing, decision-making, learning, and memory. Put simply, bad is stronger than good. Scholars have long pointed to the role of positive biases, such as overconfidence, in causing war, but negative biases are actually more pervasive and may represent a core explanation for patterns of conflict. Positive and negative dispositions apply in different contexts. People privilege negative information about the external environment and other actors, but positive information about themselves. The coexistence of biases can increase the potential for conflict. Decisionmakers simultaneously exaggerate the severity of threats and exhibit overconfidence about their capacity to deal with them. Overall, the negativity bias is a potent force in human judgment and decisionmaking, with important implications for international relations theory and practice.
  • Topic: Political Theory, Emotions, International Relations Theory, Psychology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: James M. Acton
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: This policy brief is based on “Escalation through Entanglement: How the Vulnerability of Command-and- Control Systems Raises the Risks of Inadvertent Nuclear War,” which appears in the summer 2018 issue of International Security.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Patrick Porter
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Political scientists and historians continue to debate the sources of U.S. grand strategy. Some emphasize the importance of the United States’ material capabilities and large share of relative power; others point to the significance of ideas in shaping policymakers’ choices. Both accounts are incomplete. Two case studies—the first eighteen months of the presidency of Donald Trump and the presidency of Bill Clinton—demonstrate that the United States persists with a strategy of primacy because it has become a habit—an axiomatic, sacrosanct belief system that the American foreign policy establishment perpetuates.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Global Focus