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  • Author: Chris Kozak
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: U.S. policymakers in April 2015 appear to be returning to the position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad represents the “least worst option in Syria” for American strategic interests. Assad is often compared to the Islamic State (ISIS) with the implication that Assad is the lesser of two evils. Senior administration officials including Secretary of State John Kerry signaled support for diplomatic negotiations with the regime in March 2015, rather than developing a committed strategy to remove Assad from power. American leaders’ ambivalence reflects the limitations of U.S. policy which attempts to treat Syria as the backdrop for a narrow counterterrorism problem rather than a comprehensive national security issue. This outlook is dangerously flawed.
  • Topic: International Security, War Crimes
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Lauren McNally, Paul Bucala
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: The success or failure of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has reached a critical juncture. Newly appointed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced on February 21, 2015 that the United States is considering a number of changes to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, including slowing the drawdown timetable and rethinking the U.S. counter-terrorism mission. On March 16, 2015, anonymous U.S. officials confirmed that the United States is likely abandoning its plans to cut the number of U.S. troops to 5,500 at the end of the year. The United States could allow many of the 9,800 troops in Afghanistan to remain beyond 2015. A visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Washington, DC from March 22-25, 2015 is intended to discuss these issues.
  • Topic: Civil War, International Security
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Ivo Daalder, Michèle Flournoy, John Herbst, Jan Lodal, Steve Pifer
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: This report is the result of collaboration among scholars and former practitioners from the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, the Center for a New American Security, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. It is informed by and reflects mid-January discussions with senior NATO and US officials in Brussels and senior Ukrainian civilian and military officials in Kyiv and at the Ukrainian “anti-terror operation” headquarters in Kramatorsk. The report outlines the background to the crisis over Ukraine, describes why the United States and NATO need to engage more actively and urgently, summarizes what the authors heard in discussions at NATO and in Ukraine, and offers specific recommendations for steps that Washington and NATO should take to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses and thereby enhance its ability to deter further Russian aggression.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, America, Ukraine
  • Author: Manata Hashemi
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: Disproportionate levels of youth unemployment and economic marginalization in the Middle East have prompted many regional observers to conclude that socioeconomically disadvantaged Middle Eastern youth are more prone to radicalization and thereby constitute a threat to national and international security. The general consensus in these accounts is that low levels of occupational opportunities leave poor youth more disposed to frustration and fatalism, which in turn are strongly linked to radical politics. Alternatively, scholars in the language of rational choice argue that these young people engage in a deliberate calculation of means and ends in order to attain the power and wealth necessary for upward mobility. These scholars posit poor youth as rational, autonomous agents whose goals are defined by individual interests and preferences. However, these respective theories are unable to account for 1) the absence of political radicalism among poor youth in many countries of the Middle East, and 2) the presence of seemingly irrational acts among these youth that neither maximize self-interest, nor necessarily reflect individual preferences. Given the shortcomings of each of these prevailing theories, this paper, instead, synthesizes these two approaches and assesses the social conduct of poor youth in the Middle East from the perspective of aspirations-bounded rationality. From this vantage point, the behaviors of poor youth are not determined by individual economic interests or by pure emotion, but by aspirations. This paper proposes that these youth struggle and create strategies to improve their lives that are conditioned by experience and observation of those who inform their social worlds.
  • Topic: Youth Culture, Employment
  • Political Geography: Middle East