Why the U.S. leaked its war plan in Iraq

Tower Chair Joshua Rovner coauthored an editorial with political scientist Caitlin Talmadge, “The U.S. just leaked its war plan in Iraq. Why?” in the Washington Post.

Rovner and Talmadge argue that the Islamic State might not be the intended audience of the leak — they know a battle for Mosul is coming eventually anyway.

“The United States might be trying to signal its own trustworthiness as a partner, stiffen the backs of unmotivated Iraqi forces, create a fait accompli with regards to campaign planning, or some combination of the above,” they wrote.

Read the article here.

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Student Blog | Brexit will cost the UK, EU

Dr. Harold Clarke opens the discussion at the Tower Center Student Forum event, “A Brexit Discussion” Oct. 7.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has come to the forefront of foreign policy discussions across the world. In the Tower Center Student Forum’s most recent event, A Brexit Discussion, scholars Dr. Harold Clarke of the University of Texas at Dallas and Dr. Lorinc Redei of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, shared opinions regarding the outcome of upcoming UK/EU negotiations and the precedent set by Brexit. Clarke provided an analysis of politics and public opinion leading to Brexit, while Redei examined Brexit from the EU’s perspective.

Dr. Harold Clarke: The politics and public opinion leading to Brexit

This has been a long time coming. A third of voters voted to leave the EU in 1975. While Euroscepticism was a minority view, it still had a presence in UK politics. Such sentiment was only furthered by the Maastricht Treaty of 1990 which expanded the EU outside of free trade and made it a political project. As a reaction to the increasing integration of Europe and the increasing prominence of Euroscepticism, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a right-wing populist party, was founded in 1993. Ultimately UKIP became the formal movement Brexit needed to be successful.


Clarke said that there has always been a great deal of volatility in public opinion. Brexit wasn’t just about demographic division or regular voting lines; partisan cues were far weaker in this vote. From 2010 to June 22nd, 2016, this battle was closely fought. Just two days prior to the vote Remain had a two point lead, but still “the world ended” June 24. Leave was not a nationwide consensus. UGOV polling showed that while Wales and England had a majority leave vote, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. The youth population and the upper-class elites both voted to remain as well; surprisingly, there was no gender difference.

Short-term forces

Clarke stressed the fact that Brexit was the result of short-term forces. Both Remain and Leave ran largely negative campaigns. From the Remain camp, also referred to as “Project Fear”, rhetoric focused on the costs of leaving rather than the benefits of staying. Former Prime Minister David Cameron relied heavily on the influence of others’ intimidation. From President Barack Obama to the Prime Minister of Sweden to David Beckham, the Remain campaign used famous faces to convey a daunting message – leaving the EU would be tremendously costly. Similarly, the Leave campaign’s success relied on the population’s perception of risk. By disseminating fear that the UK would drown in immigrants, lose its sovereignty, democracy, and culture, proponents of leaving the EU played off the emotions of voters. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and the Leave campaign, and Boris Johnson played a pivotal role in Leave’s victory. While Farage has a negative or “rough” reputation, Johnson is extremely popular. His massive influence led to the phrase, “No Boris, No Brexit.”

Evaluating Brexit

In the wake of Brexit, the media and elites trashed the electorate and shamed the majority of voters for their choice. Many have said that Brexit was the result of poor voter turnout and that it isn’t representative of the full electorate’s opinion. Yet for all the criticism of the voters, Clarke stated that Brexit is the result of weak partisan cues and strong short-term forces.

redei_cropDr. Lorinc Redei: Brexit from the EU perspective

Brexit is a clash of politics not economics. According to Redei, it is about sovereignty and controlling borders. The UK only has two options in the upcoming proceedings: (1) They can stay in the single market and accept the free movement of people, or (2) they can stay in only with “one little toe.” The first option would  be politically worse and leave the UK no role in the decision-making processes of the EU. The second option wouldn’t be much better as it would come at tremendous economic cost to the UK. No matter what comes of the upcoming UK/EU talks, the UK government will be very unpopular at home.

From the EU side

The rest of the EU hates the United Kingdom. Major EU problems such as the Greek financial crisis, the immigration crisis, and youth unemployment, will be swept under the rug for the next two years while the EU negotiates with the UK. As a result, the EU will drive a hard bargain. Three factors the UK needs to keep in mind during negotiations: (1) the EU holds the cards, (2) the EU will resist giving the UK any kind of special deal in order to prevent other member states from demanding the same, and (3) the result will showcase the benefits versus costs of leaving the EU. With so much negativity surrounding Brexit (the pound is now at a 30-year low against the dollar), this is a perfect opportunity for the EU to discourage other member states from withdrawing.

Long-term effects

Despite the upper hand of the EU, Redei said that a hard Brexit will cause fallout in the long term. The first repercussion is Brexit will usher in a trend of European disintegration. Aside from Greenland, this is the first real geographic reduction to the EU in an otherwise upward trend of increasing integration. There’s no precedent for the transference of policy from the EU back to the member states, but now, because of Brexit, states will consider the renationalization of policies. Already, the UK has sparked repatriation in other European states, as seen in Hungary with both their referendum on asylum and their hard border with Serbia.

The second repercussion is the unpreventable portrayal of Brexit as the UK verses the EU, with the EU as the monster, “trampling on good ole’ Brits.” It’s already causing a strong wave of anti-Europeanism. In light of both of these, Brexit will likely come at a great cost not only to the UK, but also to the entire European Union.

Listen to “A Brexit Discussion”:

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claire_huitClaire Huitt is a senior at Southern Methodist University triple majoring in public policy, economics, and political science with a focus on international relations and the Asian Pacific. She is a Bauer Scholar in Political Science, Hamilton Scholar, Engaged Learning Fellow, a representative of IGNITE Women in Politics, Chair on Asian Pacific Relations with the Tower Center Student Forum, Dedman School of Law Pre-Law Scholar, New Century Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program. After graduation Claire intends to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and foreign affairs.

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Cal Jillson Provides Historical Precedent to Nasty 2016 Campaigns

Tower Center Associate Cal Jillson provided historical precedent to the nasty campaigning seen in the 2016 election in an interview with WFAA. He said Thomas Jefferson and John Adams also engaged in personal attacks during their campaigns in 1800.

Jillson doesn’t seem to think the strategy, especially during the debates, is helping Donald Trump expand his voter base.

“He solidified his base of 40 percent, but he didn’t grow it at all,” Jillson said. “And 40 percent doesn’t win you a presidential election.”

Debate number three, coming up next week on Oct. 19, could be uglier than the last two, according to Jillson and another expert interviewed.

Read the WFAA article here.

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Event Recap | How the 1968 election affects politics today


Michael Cohen opens his talk at the Tower Center discussing his book “American Maelstrom” with Tower Chair Joshua Rovner and Center for Presidential History’s Thomas Knock.

Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen visited the Tower Center Oct. 6 to discuss his book, “American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division,” and the 2016 election.

Introducing Cohen, Thomas Knock of the Center for Presidential History said understanding what happened in 1968 holds “inestimable importance to understanding the politics of our time.”

George Wallace set the stage for Donald Trump

George Wallace ran as an independent in the 1968 election. Comparable to today’s GOP nominee Donald Trump, he capitalized on the fears of the people and blamed the government for the unstable environment the country was facing at the time of the election. Cohen pointed out that Wallace’s ideology was not conservative as much as it was reactionary. Wallace was a liberal on every issue except for race. True conservatives hate and fear Trump for that same reason, according to Cohen.

“The root of Trump’s success is that he appeals to nativism and racism,” Cohen said.

Though Wallace only won 13 percent of the vote, Cohen wrote in his book’s introduction that “his campaign rhetoric depicting an out-of-control federal government and his outreach to alienated white working-class Americans would within four years become the idiom of Republican politics.”

Changing demographics

The 2016 primaries proved that a Republican candidate cannot win the party nomination without first winning over the nativist crowd mentioned above. However, demographics are changing, and they could force the GOP to shift its strategy to appeal to a wider portion of the electorate. “I had hoped we’d get to the end of ’68 politics this election because the demographics would demand it,” Cohen said. Though this wasn’t the case, he says eventually it will be.

Anti-government sentiment

One of the most harmful repercussions of 1968, according to Cohen, was that it changed how Washington works. People are more hostile toward government, which makes it more difficult for anything to be accomplished. He wrote that voters began “fostering an almost reflexive resistance to any new government initiative.”

This idea of anti-establishment has been especially effective for the Republican party, as seen by the ‘Tea Party Takeover‘ that gained momentum in 2010 with candidates like Rand Paul and Ron Johnson winning seats. Cohen said that while it is surprising that Trump, the man, won the nomination, it’s not surprising he won on an anti-establishment campaign.

The importance of social issues

Are we stuck with the politics of 1968 forever? Maybe not. Social issues have played an increasingly important role in the election. Voters are increasingly motivated by issues of identity. Cohen sited a 15-point shift in college educated women who moved away from supporting the Republican nominee. “This has nothing to do with economics,” he said. “This is the Trump effect.”

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Student Blog — Madeleine Case | How voters think and learn about elections

SMU student Madeleine Case interviewed Arthur Lupia, professor of political science at the University of Michigan

SMU student Madeleine Case interviewed Dr. Arthur Lupia, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, before his Tower Center lecture “I’ll See it When I Believe it: How Voters Think and Learn about elections” Sept. 21.

Since the turn of the 21st century, technology has allowed political news to spread further, faster, and to an expanding audience. However, this appears to have had no impact on the level of interest that this audience takes with political news. With every election season, the people voting seem to stay uninformed. In his lecture at the Tower Center Sept. 21, Dr. Arthur Lupia, author of “Uninformed: Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It,”addressed this concern in the form of four specific questions: 1) Why are so few voters informed; 2) How much does a voter need to know; 3) How do voters learn this information; and 4) Should we be cynical?

Lupia argued that it is not the voters’ job to be informed. Instead, it is up to the informers to communicate information to the voters despite the reality of media overload — they need to be more interesting than cat videos.

Why are so few voters informed?

The answer to this question was simple: We are all uninformed. Although experts may have far greater experience in the political field than the average voter, no one on earth could ever have every piece of political knowledge to make a completely informed decision. As an example, Lupia asked if anyone had read through every single law that was passed by Congress this past year, which on average is roughly 200 laws. No one raised their hand. “There are two groups of voters,” Lupia said. “Those that know that they can’t know everything, and those that are delusional about how much they know about politics.”

How much does a voter need to know?

According to Lupia, how much a voter needs to know depends on the person. “How much should I eat?” he asked. “The answer varies if you’re a marathoner or a baby.” Most people vote for what is most consistent with their values. Identifying with a political party can simplify the decision-making process. It acts as a cue, or a practical shortcut answer to achieve an ultimate goal. Voters can use their party affiliation as a brand name and trust that they are voting for what aligns with their values without being familiar every piece of legislation in D.C.

How do voters learn?

When it comes to attention span, humans only have room in their minds to think about seven plus-or-minus two “chunks” at a time. That means “when you’re trying to talk to someone about politics, there are only seven plus-or-minus two parking spaces,” he said. Not only that, but politicians are now competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of other forms of entertainment on mass media today—like cat videos — for those parking spaces. Because of this, Lupia argued that it is important for political experts to make their messages urgent, simple, and direct.

He offered the Remain camp in the Brexit campaign as an example of how this message idea failed. The slogan of the Leave campaign was “We send the EU 350 million pounds a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.”  The Remain slogan was “Britain stronger in Europe.” Lupia argued this slogan was obscure and ineffective compared to the Leave slogan: “What does it mean, and can I eat it?” he said. Even by using the term “Brexit,” Lupia said the Remain campaign was feeding into the urgent, seemingly simple solution that the Leave campaign was offering.

It is up to the experts, not the voters, to listen to their audience and see the audience on their own terms. They will never be able to communicate political news to voters if they cannot figure out what the voters care about, and then spend time crafting a simple, direct message.

Should We Be Cynical?

Lupia’s answer to this last question was yes and no. “Politics is people. It’s your choice,” he said. He believes voters can affect their classrooms, offices, communities, and cities by choosing to communicate effectively about politics. So whether or not we should be cynical about the future of political information sharing depends on who’s making that choice, and how involved they want to be.

My takeaway

I would argue that Lupia’s points are just as relevant to university professors, corporate sales people, or presenters across all professions. In my interview with Lupia before his presentation, he described his class environment at the University of Michigan. Throughout the semester, Lupia and his students discuss political issues. On the board, Lupia displays a map of the classroom, and students stand in the area that pertains to their beliefs on an issue. For their final exam, students choose one of those topics, stand at the front of the room, and change their classmates’ minds. Lupia said the key to changing their minds, just like changing voters’ minds, is “focusing on the the students and changing a presentation so that it is useful” to the audience so that “they hear their story.”

Listen to Dr. Arthur Lupia’s lecture:

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caseheadshotMadeleine Case is a SMU junior from Dallas majoring in English and international studies with a minor in mathematics. She is a President’s Scholar, SMU Ambassador, and is currently working with Dr. Hiroki Takeuchi as a Hamilton Scholar researching comparative authoritarianism in state-society relations.

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Executive Director Luisa del Rosal profiled in the Daily Campus

Luisa del Rosal, newly appointed executive director of the Tower Center and Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center, was profiled in the Daily Campus by SMU student Allison Plake.

“As the first female, Hispanic executive director for the Tower Center, she hopes to raise awareness against cultural stereotypes and provide an inviting platform for the SMU community and the public to discuss difficult topics,” Plake wrote.

Read the full story here.

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Q&A | Tower Scholar studies trade, U.S. leadership

The Tower Center sat down with Tower Scholar Matthew Reitz, class of 2017, to discuss his research on U.S.-Japan security, and more recently, free trade. Reitz, a political science and international studies major, spent June studying in Japan with Professor Hiroki Takeuchi. He is now pursuing a research project with Hunt Mexico examining the effects of free trade agreements on labor wages.

Why did you choose Asia as you area of focus for the international studies major?

We’re living in the Asia Century. Asian states have rapidly developed their economies in the past 70 years, and now they’re beginning to play an increasingly important role in international relations and global governance. These states are contributing to peacekeeping and economic development but they’re also competing for resources and prestige, and they are modernizing their militaries. The United States has a lot of opportunity in the Asia-Pacific to demonstrate its leadership, foster cooperation to avoid conflict, and enable economic growth for all parties, but  we need to play an active role in the region. We need people who understand Asia’s history, its cultures and its peoples.

What stood out to you about the culture in Japan?matthewjapancrop

I was in a hurry to get to the campus library one morning and forgot to turn off the fan in
my room. When I came home later that day, my host mom told me people in Japan are conscious of wasting energy and reminded me to be more careful in the future to avoid leaving electronics on. This is just one example of the environmental awareness I saw while in Japan. In America, many of us leave our lights on at night, throw our recycling into trash cans or leave the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s different in Japan. They take efforts to minimize their environmental impact and its part of their daily life.

What do you consider to be the most pressing security issue for the U.S.-Japan relationship?

 The most pressing concern for the U.S.-Japan security relationship is managing the rise of China. China could be a responsible international player or an aggressive one that attempts to rewrite the rules in its own favor. The United States, being the dominant power and protector in the Pacific, and Japan, being a major regional power, naturally need to work together to engage China diplomatically to ensure peace.

Your research for Hunt-Mexico switches focus from security to free-trade. What impact do you expect to find free trade agreements have on labor wages?

Changing from security issues in the Pacific to examining the impact of trade at home lets me research a global issue that has significant ramifications locally. In this election cycle we see a lot of hot air about “free trade” versus “fair trade.” Many Americans feel left behind by agreements like NAFTA and are worried that agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership could have the same effect. Examining the impacts of trade on a specific sector like energy will help create a greater understanding of trade for policy-makers and activists alike.

I suspect to find that NAFTA positively impacted energy-sector wages for skilled workers since it significantly reduced barriers to trade and increased investment in capital and infrastructure. The energy sector was one of NAFTA’s big economic winners but there’s still the question of how unskilled workers were impacted. I suspect NAFTA had adverse effects on unskilled workers since there’s greater access to cheap labor. This likely would have depressed wages as major energy companies could look across the border if local wages are too high.

How has the Tower Scholar program shaped your goals and aspirations for the future?

Even before becoming a Tower Scholar, I always had this hunch I’d end up doing something in the international relations field. The Tower Scholar Program, from the Iran Nuclear Deal case project last year to my free trade research this year, builds a solid foundation for me to do so. I hope to enter the State Department’s Foreign Service one day and serve the United States. as a diplomat. The Tower Scholar Program has taught me how to think critically and strategically, work on a team with diverse view points, and undertake independent research, all of which will prove invaluable in my future endeavors.

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September Texas Economic Update: Pia Orrenius, Dallas Fed

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Watch Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius give the September Texas Economic Update. “The worst of the energy crisis may be over,” she said.


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Student Blog — Thomas Schmedding | Strategic Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy

Tower Scholar Thomas Schmedding interviewed Dr. Kenneth Schultz, professor of political science at Stanford University, before his lecture “Strategic Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy” Sept. 7.

In the 2016 American political season, the vastly different perspectives of foreign policy continue to serve as a key point of debate between the presidential candidates. While it is easy to advocate for specific policy options, we generally fail to recognize the interests and preferences of other actors, as well. In order to postulate the possibilities and limitations of American foreign policy, Kenneth Schultz from Stanford University discussed three key dilemmas that have challenged policymakers in his lecture Sept. 7: force vs. restraint, stakes vs. leverage, and coercion vs. reassurance.

Force vs. Restraint

Addressing the first dilemma, Schultz argued that because terrorist organizations successfully embed themselves in local populations, applying force in an attempt to eliminate the terrorists could harm civilians, driving them to radicalize and join the terrorist group. Therefore, in certain situations military restraint is preferable because the use of force can be counterproductive. With this in mind, Schultz mentioned the need for inclusive democratic growth in fragile contexts that are susceptible to militant non-state actors. “When groups are systematically deprived of [democratic] resources and powers, they tend to shift more towards extremism,” he said.

Stakes vs. Leverage

The second dilemma, stakes vs. leverage, becomes an issue when the stake a state holds in kkied-1a client increases, and as a result that state’s leverage decreases. This dilemma was best depicted by a simulation of three SMU students as provincial governors in Afghanistan with a varying array of financial support from the United States. The exercise demonstrated that because the United States gives more money to nations battling insurgencies, the incentive is to exaggerate the effects of insurgency and corruption within local governments in conflict areas rather than to rid the nation of the insurgency.

Coercion vs. Reassurance

A final exercise to explain the third dilemma, coercion vs. reassurance, was a graphical representation of the dilemmas nuclear disarmament presents from the perspective of the adversary. Americans typically perceive nuclear disarmament as a scenario where an adversary can make the decision to disarm or face sanctions from the United States. Often discounted, however, is the perception by adversaries that they are making themselves weaker by setting a precedent for giving in to demands. This decision can be a risky process for adversaries. Prior to the lecture, I mentioned to Schultz that this game theory approach sounded like a quasi-geopolitics version of Newton’s third law: “For every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction.”

Schultz concluded by pointing out that while the United States is the most powerful nation in the world, it is not all-powerful. He recommends the U.S. exercise restraint when making foreign policy decisions. “We cannot be narcissistic, we have to be strategic,” Schultz said.

I generally agree with the decision to restrain, but was curious how America’s foreign policy-making institutions could adapt to new constraints in the future. This idea largely stems from the idea that domestic and international conditions facing the United States have changed a lot in the past 25 years, while the ideas, policies and institutions supporting American foreign policy have seen little transformational change. We are inherently clinging to old ideas because change is difficult. “America’s foreign policy institutions are very sticky and tough to adapt to major changes,” Schultz said. “We have seen more informal flexibility, as opposed to formal institutional changes. For example, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security has allowed for greater resistance. With that said, the United States came out of the Cold War extremely powerful and essentially forced adversaries to come up with a different strategy.”

Listen to Dr. Schultz’s lecture at the Tower Center:

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Tower Scholars PortraitsThomas Schmedding is a senior from Apex, North Carolina majoring in management, international development & social change, and public policy with minors in economics and international affairs. He is an intern for a public-private partnership between USAID and The Kaizen Company, as well as SMU’s Student Representative to the Board of Trustees for Student Affairs. Previously, Thomas has seven completed internships in the public, private, and social sector, both in the United States and abroad

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Andrew Jackson: The Patron Saint of Donald Trump?

A Donald Trump presidency, like that of Andrew Jackson in 1829, would be driven by emotion, according to SMU historian Aaron Crawford.

Crawford, from SMU’s Center for Presidential History, gave the Tower Center’s September jacksonandtrumpbbflmonthly seminar lecture: “Injury, Rage, Audacity: Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, and
the Creation of the ‘People’s Candidate.’”

Crawford explained the appeal of a candidate like Trump or Jackson as a symptom of people’s desire for a hero. They know he isn’t perfect, but they don’t care. They want someone with a strong temperament– authoritative even — and someone who they believe means well.

Voters weren’t deterred by the fact Jackson shot a man who he disagreed with, and, as Trump said at a rally in Iowa “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

After the devastation of the War of 1812 and the economic panic in 1819, Jackson’s supporters saw an America “that didn’t win anymore.” They believed the U.S. had been humiliated. This attitude, prevalent in today’s electorate, paired with a political class ignorant of voters’ feelings, lends itself to the rise of a ‘people’s candidate’ like Jackson or Trump.

“What really binds them together is this idea of victimization,” Crawford said. “The personalization of every issue.”

Listen to Crawford’s lecture:

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