Student Blog – Matthew Reitz | The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Implications beyond Economics

tpp.sepIn a recent New York Times article, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is quoted saying that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is “as important as another aircraft carrier” to the US’s strategy in the Pacific. Secretary Carter is emphasizing the TPP as a crucial lynchpin to the pivot to Asia, but why? America’s pursuit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been met with heavy domestic criticism yet TPP proponents argue its importance extends beyond economics. What makes the TPP important beyond economic matters in Asia and how does the agreement act as a lynchpin for the pivot to Asia? The Tower Center for Political Science Studies’ “The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Implications beyond Economics” featuring former Acting Assistant US Trade Representative for Japan, Korea, and APEC Affairs Michael L. Beeman.

According to Michael Beeman, the TPP is critical to the pivot to Asia due to economic trends within the region. Asian markets are growing and they’re pursuing free-trade. As the US debates the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Pacific nations are flirting with the idea of the TPP or other agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a concept of the ASEAN +6 Agreement. Markets are being carved up in Asia and the US can either go with the trend or miss the boat. Asia will not wait for the US to decide between internationalism or isolationism, liberalizing markets is becoming the standard. Of course, anti-TPP sentiment in the US spearheaded by liberal politicians like Senator Elizabeth Warren or conservative groups like the Tea Party raises the question of what the TPP’s odds of passing through the US Congress are. The Korean-US Free Trade Agreement passed with large numbers while the recent passage of Trade Promotion Authority passed by a thin margin. Beeman however, states that it is too early to tell what the TPP’s odds are. While there is pessimism regarding trade in Congress, Congress has yet to see the final product and judge the TPP on its merits.

Of course, what does the TPP do for US posture in the Asia-Pacific? Passing the TPP would not only ensure greater economic growth for the US, but help complement the US’s relationship with many Pacific nations and ensure closer diplomatic and military relations. As Beeman states, the US views the TPP as a way of maintaining a multi-dimensional, active relationship with East Asia. “Trade agreements are trade agreements” according to Beeman. “The TPP will compliment military power in the region, not supplant it.” The economics of the TPP are the driving force of the agreement. It will, however, help facilitate closer relations between the US and the other TPP signees, and will ensure Pacific nations feel the US is committed to them. While Ashton Carter stated the TPP is as significant another aircraft carrier within the region, the TPP does not change the strategic calculus of military arrangements in the region. The US already maintains a heavy presence in the region with nations like the Republic of Korea, Japan and Taiwan hosting US air and naval bases. While ASEAN members like the Philippines and Malaysia do not maintain active US bases, the US military is increasingly more involved with ASEAN states in naval matters. Implementing the TPP will not override this current relationship dynamic, but it will certainly facilitate closer relations.

Another question the TPP negotiations raise is how other Pacific nations that are not party to the negotiations are viewing the agreement. Presently, regional powers like China and the Republic of Korea are watching the TPP with interest and there is the possibility they will join the agreement should it pass. Korea has sent delegates to the negotiations, while China believes RCEP will bleed into TPP and integrate markets. China initially opposed the creation of the TPP but now believes that there will be linkage between RCEP and TPP nations, which would allow China to expand its markets further. While Beeman states that the TPP will not lead to economic competition with China, it will however, force nations to make choices on whom gets preferential economic treatment. Having preferential economic treatment will significantly impact the US’s power in the region and this factor provides all the more reason for the US to not miss the window of opportunity the Trans-Pacific Partnership presents. A TPP with China on-board would bring China into closer relations with its Pacific neighbors and empower the internationalists within the Chinese Communist Party, while a non-TPP China would enable party-hardliners more control over Chinese foreign policy.

In summary, the TPP’s prime importance is for the US to have access to Asian markets, and to support the pivot to Asia. The US risks getting cut out of trade within the region as preferential economic agreements are drafted. Asian nations are looking to create an Asian trade bloc and the TPP represents the US’s entry point into the bloc. As Beeman states, the TPP, unlike RCEP, as an open platform allows for new countries to enter and expand the growth of an Asia-Pacific wide trade block. New countries can join the agreement and new issues can be tackled incrementally as more nations join, and US leadership in the TPP will advance US interests within the region. Were the TPP to fail to pass, the US’s economic growth will be stifled and the pivot to Asia will be put in jeopardy. The TPP region represents 40% of the world’s GDP and liberalizing international markets represents the new norm. The US cannot afford to walk away from something that will drive massive economic growth for both the US and for the many Pacific nations.

Matthew Reitz is from Colleyville, Texas and is majoring in political science and financial consulting. Matthew is in the University Honors program and the Mustang 11 spirit group. He is also a Hilltop Scholar and has served as an inaugural member of the Residential Commons Leadership Corps. He serves as the President of Cockrell-McIntosh Commons and is an active member of the Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity. His key interest is researching and developing policy for US international affairs in the East-Asia region that correspond to US national security and economic interests. He plans to pursue a career in the US government after completing graduate school.

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SMU Tower Center, Latino Center for Leadership Development Create Strategic Policy Institute


DALLAS (SMU) – On the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies announced it has formed a strategic academic partnership with the Latino Center for Leadership Development (Latino CLD). The new Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will identify and implement policy-focused solutions to the Latino community’s most pressing concerns, from educational and economic opportunities, to voting rights and immigration reform, to the under-representation of Latinos in elected and appointed roles at the federal, state and local levels, as well as corporate boards.

SMU-LCLD Sept152015_HJ

SMU’s John G. Tower Center for Political Studies and the Dallas-based Latino Center for Leadership Development (Latino CLD) announced a strategic new academic policy institute at SMU Sept. 15, the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Speakers at the kickoff event were, from left, Thomas DiPiero, dean of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Jorge Baldor, Latino CLD founder and SMU alumnus (’93); Joshua Rovner, acting director of SMU’s Tower Center; and Miguel Solis, Latino CLD. [Photo Credit: Hillsman S. Jackson / SMU]

As part of this unique partnership, the Latino CLD will provide SMU’s Tower Center with $900,000 over five years. The funding will allow the new policy institute to attract and engage scholars and thought leaders in an interdisciplinary think-tank, creating a framework to analyze and develop policy priorities, provide public forums and outreach, and support greater understanding and influence for the Latino community.

“America is in the midst of a fundamental, Latino-driven demographic shift,” said Latino CLD founder and SMU alumnus Jorge Baldor ’93, citing Pew Research Center reports that Latinos will represent about 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2060. “With the growing number of Latinos comes a reciprocal responsibility to lead,” he said, adding, “Latino CLD is focused on developing the next generation of those leaders.” (For additional relevant data, see accompanying “Key Research Findings Underscore Need for Forward-Thinking Policy Planning Work.”)

“I’m pleased the Latino Center for Leadership Development and SMU are joining forces for a premier Latino policy institute. The research it produces will be an asset for policy makers, allowing for in-depth analysis and creation of policies that will improve the lives of people across Texas and throughout the nation.”

– Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

The Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will work in three major areas:

  • Provide influential voices and data to support research on policy issues
  • Offer two-year appointments for postdoctoral scholars who will research and publish their findings on public policy issues
  • Provide research grants and public seminars to promote stronger community understanding and dialogue about key societal issues

The relationship between the new SMU policy institute and Latino CLD also will allow promising leaders, such as those within the Latino CLD’s new Leadership Academy, “to develop as individuals and hone network skills necessary to assume positions of influence” while focused on policy and politics to help people from all spectrums of society, Baldor said.

“The Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will provide an excellent opportunity to combine our expertise to focus on contemporary policy matters of major interest to this country’s diverse, growing Latino community,” said Joshua Rovner, director of studies at the Tower Center in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

“As a hub for social-scientific issues, we will play a major role in cutting through the cacophony of numbers related to the Latino community, letting us take big issues and quickly drill down to ideas for thoughtful solutions and policy implementation,” Rovner said.

The announcement of the new policy institute follows on the heels of the Tower Center’s Sept. 8 launch of its new Texas-Mexico Program during Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s historic visit to Mexico.

“SMU is becoming a major presence in Latino-focused research and education,” said Thomas DiPiero, dean of Dedman College. “It’s also a propitious moment to bring new expertise and scholarship to bear both nationally and locally,” he said, noting that the Dallas-Fort Worth region, with 7 million people, is the nation’s fourth-largest population center, and growing rapidly.

“Looking ahead, the success of this institute will allow SMU and the Latino CLD to contribute vital public policy research while based in DFW — a U.S. political and economic center of gravity with strong global connections,” DiPiero said.

# # #

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls approximately 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

In the spirit of John Tower’s commitment to educate and inspire a new generation of thoughtful leaders, the Tower Center seeks to bridge the gap between the world of ideas, scholarship and teaching, as well as the practice of politics. The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates. The Tower Center is an academic center where all parties and views are heard in a marketplace of ideas, and the Center pursues its mission in a non-partisan manner.

Latino CLD is a privately funded foundation with a vision of developing future leaders with an understanding of Latino-focused policies and actionable items for solutions resulting from such partnerships as the Latino CLD–SMU Tower Center Policy Institute.

The three pillars of Latino CLD involve the annual Leadership Academy, which brings together national future leaders; a policy institute; and ongoing strategic initiatives to address critical current topics, including, which led bi-partisan efforts to preserve in-state tuition at Texas universities for all of the state’s residents.

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SMU Tower Center launches unique research program for policy-based analysis of Texas-Mexico relationship

SMU Tower Center launches unique research program for policy-based analysis of Texas-Mexico relationship

Program announced during Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s historic visit to Mexico

September 8, 2015

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies is launching an ambitious new program to research and promote policy-based discussion on the economic, political and social ties between Mexico and Texas.

Texas-Mexico Map courtesy of Hispanically Speaking News
Map courtesy of Hispanically Speaking News

Related Link:

The program is made possible through a $1 million gift from GRUMA-Mission Foods, a Mexican corporation with global reach headquartered in Dallas.  The program is designed to elevate the frequently fractured conversations about and between Texas and Mexico, creating a platform that examines shared issues through a policy lens. Plans include:

  • Texas-Mexico research, grants, reports and white papers
  • Binational and bilingual annual conferences
  • Academic seminars and public forums

“SMU and our home city of Dallas are uniquely situated for this kind of study,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We have the academic resources to bring clarity to issues that are frequently viewed as singular challenges rather than pieces of a puzzle connected by laws, economic factors and social patterns that may go back for generations.   This is a tremendous opportunity for SMU and for Texas.”

Dallas is at the geographic crossroads of the increasingly integrated market amplified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada. The city also is home to the greatest concentration of Fortune 100 companies in the United States outside of New York City. Texas exported to Mexico goods valued at more than $102 million in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and imported from Mexico goods valued at over $90 million for the same period.

“Economics, energy, migration, culture, human capital, internet technology and cyber security are obvious topics for study, but the door is open,” said Juan Antonio González Moreno, Chairman and CEO of GRUMA. “We found in this program a tremendous opportunity to build a foundation for what should become the primary think tank on Texas-Mexico relations.” The list of potential topics is open to almost anything that impacts the relationship between Texas and Mexico.

Supporting the program is important to GRUMA-Mission Foods, González Moreno said, because, being a leading food company with over $2 billion in sales in the United States, it wishes to contribute to a better understanding between the two countries. He perceives that people of Mexican descent are more integrated into society in Texas than in other border states, and believes that analyzing those success stories in Texas might help Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in other U.S. states to integrate more fully into the economy and society.

“This is, to one extent, an opportunity to show our appreciation to Texas,” González Moreno said.  “We are proud to have our name associated with this prestigious University. “

The gift from GRUMA-Mission Foods to the Texas-Mexico Program counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign. To date the campaign has raised more than $987 million in gifts and pledges to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence, and the campus experience.  The campaign coincides with SMU’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

“Obviously, there’s been a great deal of friction in Texas-Mexico relations over the last 10 to 15 years,” said Joshua Rovner, Director of Studies at SMU’s Tower Center. “At the government level there’s been an effort to improve relations, but from an academic standpoint, we want to understand that relationship.”

Rovner said the greatest opportunity for the Tower Center’s Texas-Mexico Research Program may lie in cutting through the noise that surrounds issues influencing the Texas-Mexico conversation.

“There is this great cacophony all the time – not only the number of speakers, but the number of issues can make your head spin, “ Rovner said. “The Tower Center is a place where you can bring in the best people available and actually have civil conversations about these policy issues.  We invite all voices to the table.”

“We will be celebrating the 100th birthday of the opening of SMU on Sept. 25,” said Brad Cheves, SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs.  “It is particularly gratifying to be able to announce a program with the potential to improve future relations between Texas and Mexico as we begin our next century.”

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John A. Booth, Associate

  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • “Political and economic policies that affect economic development in Northern Central America,” U.S. Department of State conference, Washington DC, April 13, 2015.

Karisa Cloward, Associate

  • Papers and Publications
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • “The NGO Life Cycle: Organizational Birth and Death in the Kenyan Development Sector” The annual meeting of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, LA, February 21, 2015.
    • Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute Fellows Seminar, Co-organizer, “Global Africa: Between Intervention and Engagement” 2014-2015.

Christopher Jenks, Associate

Robert Jordan, Senior Fellow

Carolyn Smith-Morris, Associate

  • Papers and Publications
    • Husain, Saira and Carolyn Smith-Morris.  “Diapers in War Zones: Ethnomedical Factors in Acute Childhood Gastroenteritis in Peshawar, Pakistan”. PLoS One. Online, March 13, 2015.

Hiroki Takeuchi, Senior Fellow

Jenia Iontcheva Turner, Associate

  • Papers and Publications
    • The Exclusionary Rule as a Symbol of the Rule of Law, 67 SMU L. REV. 821 (2014) (contribution to Rule of Law symposium issue).
    • Foreword, The 2014 SMU Criminal Justice Colloquium, 67 SMU L. REV. 489 (2014) (with Meghan Ryan) (contribution to Criminal Justice symposium issue).
    • Interstate Conflict and Cooperation in Criminal Cases: An American Perspective, 4 EUR. CRIM. L. REV. 114 (2014) (peer review).
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • “Pre-Plea Disclosure in Germany and the United States”, Willamette University College of Law, Salem, OR, Apr. 27, 2015.
    • “Pre-Plea Disclosure in Germany and the United States”, William & Mary Law Review Symposium, Williamsburg, VA, Feb. 21, 2015.
    • “Pre-Plea Discovery in Criminal Cases: A Tale of Two States”, AALS Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., Jan. 4, 2015 (based on paper co-authored with Allison Redlich).
  • Awards
    • Sam Taylor Fellowship from the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in support of project (with Allison Redlich, University of Albany) to survey prosecutors and defense attorneys about their pre-plea discovery practices.
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Open Position | Post-doctoral Teaching Fellowship


The Tower Center for Political Studies invites applications for a non-tenure track post-doctoral teaching fellowship in immigration, immigrant policy, and Latino politics. Proficiency in Spanish is desirable. The fellow will be based in the Tower Center and will work closely with the Latino Center for Leadership Development’s Policy Institute. The Tower Center is an interdisciplinary center in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences sponsoring programs in public and international affairs. The Latino Center for Leadership Development’s Policy Institute covers a broad range of issues important to the Latino community, including education, economic development, voting rights and participation, immigration, poverty, urban planning, and transportation.

The post-doctoral teaching fellow position is a one year appointment to begin in January, 2016 and it is renewable for an additional year and a half (until May, 2017). It carries a 1×1 teaching load. Classes are small and expectations are high in both teaching and research. We welcome applicants with backgrounds in political science, public policy, sociology, history, anthropology and other cognate fields. The successful candidate may, depending upon expertise, offer courses relevant to interdisciplinary programs. Salary, benefits, and research support are competitive.

Southern Methodist University is a comprehensive university of 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students located on a beautiful urban campus just north of downtown Dallas. SMU is an equal opportunity employer. Applicants should email a letter of application, curriculum vitae, evidence of teaching effectiveness, a writing sample, and three letters of recommendation to:

Prof. Joshua Rovner, Interim Director,
John G. Tower Center for Political Studies

Review of applications will begin September 15, 2015, but the search will remain open until the position is filled. All letters will be acknowledged. SMU will not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or veteran status. Hiring is contingent upon the satisfactory completion of a background check.

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Director’s Activities | Professor James Hollifield

Summer, 2015

      • On 2 July, Professor Hollifield gave the keynote address on “The Migration State in the Global South” for a conference on ‘Migration, Mobility and Membership’ at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London.


      • On 10 July at the 22nd International Conference of Europeanists in Paris, the 3rd edition of Migration Theory: Talking Across Disciplines was the subject of two roundtables “Importing and Exporting Migration Theory across Continents.”  Panel one was on “Importing North American Theory in Europe” and Panel two was on “Exporting European Migration Theory to Asia.”


Migration Theory
Talking across Disciplines, 3rd Edition

During the last decade the issue of migration has increased in global prominence and has caused controversy among host countries around the world. To remedy the tendency of scholars to speak only to and from their own disciplinary perspective, this book brings together in a single volume essays dealing with central concepts and key theoretical issues in the study of international migration across the social sciences. Editors Caroline B. Brettell and James F. Hollifield have guided a thorough revision of this seminal text, with valuable insights from such fields as anthropology, demography, economics, geography, history, law, political science, and sociology. Read More

21917D_068_HollifieldDr. James F. Hollifield, Director of the Tower Center, has been appointed as a Public Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. for 2015-2016.

During his sabbatical at the Wilson Center, Professor Hollifield will be completing a book entitled THE MIGRATION STATE, a study of how states manage migration for strategic gains.

Dr. Joshua Rovner, Tower Chair and Director of Studies will serve as interim director in Professor Hollifield’s absence.

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Joshua Rovner: Iran deal “neither as transformative as advocates hope nor as terrible as critics fear”

DSC_7285Joshua Rovner is the John G. Tower Distinguished Chair of International Politics and National Security, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Director of Studies at the Tower Center for Political Studies. He is the author of the multiple-award winning Fixing the Facts: National Security and the Politics of Intelligence (Cornell University Press, 2011). He writes widely on intelligence, strategy, and nuclear weapons. Dr. Rovner received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The White House announced Tuesday, July 14, that the United States and other nations had struck a deal with Iran to limit its nuclear programs in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.

Joshua Rovner, the John G. Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security at SMU, says:

As a nonproliferation agreement, there is a lot to like. The deal significantly reduces Iran’s current nuclear capabilities and enhances international monitoring, which will make it easier for inspectors and intelligence agencies to spot cheating.

But in terms of regional politics, the deal is neither as transformative as advocates hope nor as terrible as critics fear. Some advocates believe that it will signal a new era of stability and better relations between the United States and Iran. This is unlikely. Past arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, Libya, and North Korea had little effect on their relations with the United States. Better political relations can lead to more durable arms control deals, not vice versa. So while there is reason to celebrate the announcement, we should not exaggerate what it means for the Middle East or for U.S.-Iranian relations.

Meanwhile, some critics of the deal fear that offers Iran a pathway to regional hegemony. This ignores profound problems in Iran. Its economy is in shambles and its conventional military capabilities are very limited. It also suffers from political dysfunction at home, and large segments of its young population are clearly disillusioned with the clerical regime. The agreement alleviates some of the economic stress on Iran, but it does not solve these problems. Regardless of the deal, Iran will remain a struggling regional power that uses proxies to extend its influence, but not the kind of country that could make a serious bid for regional hegemony.

In April 2015, when the world was wrestling with the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran and what intelligence information should be believed, Rovner wrote:

From The Washington Post for April 13, 2015

Why U.S. Intelligence Is Right About Iran

In 2002, the intelligence community produced a flawed estimate of Iraq’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons capabilities. Intelligence analysts had very little reliable information at their disposal, especially because weapons inspectors had been out of the country for several years. Making matters worse, the George W. Bush administration began to lean on the community to exaggerate the Iraqi threat, and it used intelligence to sell the war to Congress and the public. Despite the patchy and unreliable underlying information, intelligence reports became increasingly assertive about the growing danger posed by Saddam Hussein’s illusory arsenal.

In 2007, the intelligence community produced another controversial National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). This time the topic was Iran’s nuclear program. Unlike the first case, this estimate was prepared under the assumption that it would remain classified, and analysts were surely surprised when then-President Bush ordered its publication. The estimate became the target of intense criticism, especially from Republicans who accused intelligence agencies of undermining the administration’s aggressive posture toward Iran. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger called it “policy conjecture” masquerading as objective intelligence. Peter Hoekstra, the former House intelligence committee chairman, called it a “piece of trash.”

In reality, the NIE was accurate and prescient. It concluded that Iran had disbanded its organized nuclear weapons research program in 2003. At the same time, it noted that Iran was continuing enrichment work apace and that Iran would have sufficient material for a bomb by 2015 if it chose to enrich its uranium stockpile to weapons grade. This prediction, which was supported in later threat assessments, has been borne out in International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports and open source analyses. Meanwhile there is no evidence to suggest that Iran had resuscitated its weaponization effort at any point between 2003 and 2007. If the estimate was so naive, as critics would have it, they are at a loss to find proof that it was substantively wrong.

Despite all the criticism, intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program has been a success story. The 2007 NIE made the useful distinction between Iran’s suspended weapons effort and its ongoing enrichment program. It served as the baseline for subsequent analyses, which refined what was known and unknown about Iranian capabilities and intentions. The Director of National Intelligence’s annual threat assessments give a flavor of the evolving view of Iran’s capabilities and intentions. The conclusions incorporate new information about Iran’s nuclear program but do not contradict the bottom line in the original NIE. Iran was building the scientific and technical infrastructure to master the nuclear fuel cycle, but it had not restarted the weapons program.

Nor was the intelligence community surprised by Iran’s revelation of a second enrichment plant called Fordow. On the contrary, it had been surveilling the site for months and perhaps years before Iran started installing equipment for centrifuges in 2009. Intelligence officials have publicly and privately asserted that they were watching closely but were reluctant to come forward until they could make a convincing argument that the facility, buried under a mountain near the city of Qom, was designed to house uranium centrifuges. No subsequent reporting appears to challenge these claims.

President Obama appears impressed by this record. The White House has expressed confidence in the intelligence community’s ability to keep track of Iran, and Obama has a particularly close relationship with CIA Director John Brennan, whom he has backed despite calls for his resignation. All of this suggests that policymakers are using intelligence to help inform their judgment about the nuclear deal and to monitor Iranian compliance in the aftermath. So far, so good.

The problem is that policymakers are also using intelligence for political purposes. Rather than simply letting secret intelligence inform its private discussions, the administration is enlisting it to help sell the nascent nuclear deal with Iran. Last week, for instance, Brennan spoke about the ongoing negotiations at Harvard University. Beyond discussing general issues related to intelligence, he included praise for U.S. policy, arguing that sanctions had badly hurt Iran’s economy and caused Tehran to give away far more than expected. The deal, he said, was “as solid as you can get.” Brennan also took aim at critics, some of whom are “wholly disingenuous” for their claims that the deal provides Iran with a pathway to the bomb.

It is easy to understand the temptation to use intelligence as a public relations vehicle. Individuals tend to believe that private documents are more reliable than public statements, and they associate information quality with secrecy. Thus when leaders use secret intelligence to justify their policy choices, they remind skeptics that they are privy to unique sources and thus deserve the benefit of the doubt. Selectively releasing intelligence also implies that more valuable information remains classified.

But using intelligence in public is dangerous. My research shows that it often pushes the community toward firm conclusions even when the underlying information is open to multiple interpretations. Leaders involved in policy disputes do not benefit from intelligence that betrays uncertainty or doubt. If a gap appears between intelligence conclusions and policy statements, policymakers may pressure intelligence officials to alter the tone and substance of their conclusions. Examples abound. In 1967, Johnson administration officials pressured the CIA to provide optimistic assessments of progress in Vietnam in order to overcome growing opposition to the war. Two years later, the Nixon administration leaned on intelligence to hype the Soviet strategic threat in order to help sell a controversial missile defense program in Congress. In both cases the underlying information was ambiguous and contested inside and outside the intelligence community, but the demands of the public debate meant that policymakers could not tolerate signs of doubt or disagreement. So they removed them.

In addition, using intelligence to win public debates discourages reassessment – even if new information appears that contradicts previous beliefs. Intelligence leaders are reluctant to review their findings after making bold public pronouncements, because doing so would amount to an embarrassing admission of failure. In the months leading up to the 2003 Iraq War, for example, the intelligence community benefited from new information from inspectors as well as new secret sources. Officials were loathe to reassess their earlier findings, however, despite the fact that it was increasingly hard to justify the earlier estimates. The United Nations and IAEA conducted several hundred inspections, but they found no evidence of active unconventional programs or stockpiles of old weapons. Some mid-level CIA officers were desperate to reconsider the NIE and follow new leads, but they were stymied. “It’s time you learn it’s not about intelligence anymore,” one was told. “It’s about regime change.”

Finally, the decision to use intelligence in public may poison intelligence-policy relations over the long-term. Right now the Obama administration and the intelligence community seem to share a common view of Iran’s nuclear program. But their views may diverge, and intelligence leaders may become unwilling to make the kind of unequivocal statements that political leaders crave. If this occurs there may be a falling out that outlasts the current administration. Past intelligence-policy breakdowns have created mutual mistrust and hostility that lingered for years after the fact.

As the administration pushes to complete the Iran deal it should keep these dangers in mind. The expectation that intelligence will be part of the foreign policy debate has already led to surprisingly specific revelations about issues including Syria’s use of chemical weapons and U.S.-Saudi intelligence sharing in Yemen. U.S. policy is somewhat ambivalent on these issues, however, meaning that the risk of politicization is low. In the case of the Iranian nuclear deal there is no ambivalence: the administration is clearly staking itself to a nuclear deal in the face of substantial Senate opposition, and it is using intelligence to help make the case. This is a recipe for politicization. If intelligence conclusions start to drift from policy beliefs the White House will be strongly tempted to bring it back into line.

The administration should also reflect on the reasons that intelligence on Iraq was a disaster while intelligence on Iran was a triumph. Before the war in Iraq, intelligence was buffeted by the demands of an administration that needed to use it to justify the invasion. In 2007, however, there was no expectation among analysts that their work would be aired in public. The result was an estimate that has stood the test of time and subsequent intelligence built on the NIE to form a wide-ranging picture of Iran’s nuclear activities. If the White House continues to use intelligence to sell the Iran deal, it risks sacrificing that record.


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Reassessing Texas-Mexico Relations

This news story first appeared on June 19, 2015 . For more information, click here.


Tower Center Associate, Jesus Velasco is a specialist on U.S.-Mexico relations at Tarleton State University.

Guillermo Jesus Velasco and Maribel McMillian: Reassessing Texas-Mexico Relations

Rice University’s Baker Institute For Public Policy // Issue Brief //  June 19, 2015.

The relationship between Mexico and Texas is in dire need of reassessment, given the chasm between the reality of the countries’ economic and cultural relationship and the political rhetoric that surrounds it.

Brief may be found in its entirety by clicking here.

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Celebrating the American Experience and US-Japan Relations: Irene Hirano Inouye, Her Life, Works and Achievements


Friday, May 15, 2015 (3:00 PM – 5:00 PM)
Hillcrest Appellate Courtroom, Underwood Law Library (map)

Irene Hirano Inouye, President, U.S.-Japan Council

Irene Hirano Inouye-headshot

Irene Hirano Inouye is President of the U.S.-Japan Council, a position she has held since the founding of the Council in late 2008. Through the U.S.-Japan Council, she also administers the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership, with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake. The TOMODACHI Initiative invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges and leadership programs. She is the former President and Founding CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, a position she held for twenty years. A recipient of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Public Administration from the University of Southern California, Ms. Hirano Inouye has extensive experience in non-profit administration, community education and public affairs with culturally diverse communities nationwide. Ms. Hirano Inouye’s current professional and community activities include serving as Trustee and immediate past Chair, Ford Foundation; Trustee and immediate past Chair, Kresge Foundation; Trustee, Washington Center; Trustee, Independent Sector, and Vice-Chair, Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Center. Her previous positions include serving as former Chair Board of Directors of the American Association of Museums, Board Member, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Member, National Board Smithsonian Institution, Advisory Board, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Member Toyota Corporation’s Diversity Advisory Board, member, Business Advisory Board of Sodexho Corporation, President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities by Presidential appointment, and Chair California Commission on the Status of Women. She was married to the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii.

Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, U.S. Navy (Ret.), former Commander of the Pacific Fleet & Tower Center Senior Fellow, SMU

walshAdmiral Patrick M. Walsh is currently Senior Vice President, iSIGHT Partners, and General Manager of iSIGHT Partners’ ThreatSPACE® business unit, a live-fire cyber range and training facility where cyber security organizations earn hands-on experience in responding to cyber attacks.

Admiral Walsh, a Dallas native, retired from the Navy in 2012 after serving as the 59th Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.  He is a two-time Exercise RIMPAC leader, acting as the multinational strike group commander in 2004, and as overall operational leader in 2010.  With a 35-year career in training and leading joint forces, Walsh enables iSIGHT Partners to deliver specialized cyber training to large-scale and joint cyber security response operations.

After earning his Naval Aviator designation in 1979, Admiral Walsh went on to lead combat units at virtually every level of operation including squadron, wing, strike group, fleet, and regional fleet command.  Most recently, he commanded U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. 5th Fleet, while also commanding the Combined Maritime Forces conducting Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and maritime security operations in the Central Command area of responsibility.  He served as vice chief of Naval Operations and as a special assistant to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget as a White House Fellow.  He also chaired the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law at the U.S. Naval Academy.

In 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates selected Walsh to conduct a 30-day review of operations at the U.S. Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, following President Obama’s order that the detention center be closed.

Admiral Walsh is serving currently a Senior Fellow at the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University.

He is a 1977 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and holds Master of Arts and Doctorate degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He also graduated with honors from Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas, and was the second student in the sixty-year history of the school to receive both the Distinguished Graduate and Distinguished Alumnus awards.  His numerous military career awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Air Medal w/ Combat V, Navy Commendation Medal w/ Combat V, Navy, and the Presidential Service Badge.

Anny Wong, Tower Center Research Fellow, SMU

Anny IDAnny Wong joined the Tower Center in January 2013. Prior to moving to Dallas in the Fall of 2012, she was a political scientist at RAND Corporation in Arlington, Virginia, and conducted research on national security, human capital, international development, and science and technology policy for a variety of clients including the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and Japan’s National Institute for Science and Technology. She continued to consult at RAND, the World Bank, Freedom House, and other organizations, covering economics and politics in Japan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. She a board member of the Japan-American Society of Dallas/Fort Worth and recently chaired a panel on Japanese and international business investments in North Texas at the Japan Update Program on February 13, 2015. Anny was an East-West Center graduate fellow in Honolulu, obtained her doctoral degree in political science from University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and has worked, lived, studied, and traveled widely across Asia.

Moderator | Hiroki Takeuchi, Associate Professor & Director of Sun & Star Program on Japan East Asia, Tower Center, SMU

HirokiHiroki Takeuchi is Associate Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Sun & Star Program on Japan and East Asia in the Tower Center, at Southern Methodist University. He Received his B.A. of Economics from Keio University in Japan, his M.A. of Asian Studies from University of California at Berkeley, and his Ph.D. of Political Science from University of California at Los Angeles. Previously, he taught at UCLA as a faculty fellow of the Political Science Department and at Stanford University as a postdoctoral teaching fellow of the Public Policy Program. His research and teaching interests include Chinese and Japanese politics, comparative authoritarianism, and political economy and international relations of East Asia, as well as applying game theory to political science. He is the author of Tax Reform in Rural China: Revenue, Resistance, and Authoritarian Rule (Cambridge University Press, 2014). He is also a regular contributor to Foresight, Japanese online journal.


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Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia: Why the Saudi King Snubbed President Obama

This news story first appeared on May 13, 2015 . For more information, click here.

Robert Jordan is Diplomat in Residence and Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003. His memoir, Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11, will be published by Potomac Books in July 2015.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia: Why the Saudi King Snubbed President Obama

By Robert W. Jordan. This story first appeared in Time, May 13, 2015.

Saudi King Salman meets with President Barack Obama at the Erga Palace in the capital Riyadh on January 27, 2015.
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty ImagesSaudi King Salman meets with President Barack Obama at the Erga Palace in the capital Riyadh on January 27, 2015.

There have been too many recent policy disagreements about the Middle East

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has declined an invitation to participate in President Barack Obama’s Gulf summit meeting in Camp David this week. Both the United States and Saudi Arabia are working to minimize the fallout from this decision, but from the Saudi standpoint, this summit does not hold much attraction. Only two other heads of the Gulf states are attending. Two are in poor health, but the other non-attendees may be following Riyadh’s lead. Some of this reticence may derive from a festering series of policy disagreements that contribute to seriously frayed relations with the Gulf monarchies.

In their view, Obama was surprisingly willing to promote the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, declaring that it was time for him to go and insisting on being on the “right side of history.” Arab monarchs began to wonder whether, if this could happen to Mubarak, would this administration decide that they, too, were on the wrong side of history? They then witnessed the president’s about-face on Syria, backing away from even minimal military action against Bashar Al Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Most worrisome is the impending agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, which portends a closer American relationship with the perceived archenemy of the Gulf Arabs. Removing sanctions against Iran and freeing up billions in funds raises the threat level perceived by the Saudis and their neighbors, who fear a growing encirclement by Iran and its proxies, to say nothing of the prospect of a nuclear capable Iran that would dramatically change the balance of power in the Middle East.

Presidential summits are often all about deliverables. When then-Crown Prince Abdullah met with President George Bush in Crawford, Texas, in 2002, Abdullah wanted to demonstrate to the president, through the use of videotapes, the carnage he believed was being inflicted upon the Palestinian people by Israel. He also wanted to secure the release of Yasser Arafat from his confinement by the Israelis in Ramallah, along with a list of other items. During the summit, we worked through the issues and reached resolution on a number of them. The president took the crown prince for a ride around the ranch in his pickup truck, and the two returned with a stronger personal bond that was occasionally reinforced and served them well throughout the remainder of the Bush presidency.

Times have changed. The Arab Spring has disintegrated into chaos. Alliances that endured for decades have frayed at best. The American pivot away from the Middle East is seen as abandonment in a time of crisis. Top-level personal relationships have not jelled. A nuclear accord with Iran offers little assurance of compliance, detection, or enforcement. Also, reaffirmation of the American security umbrella, perhaps the main deliverable at this summit, may be a bridge too far.

UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba has asked for something more concrete than a “gentleman’s agreement.” Yet the most advanced aircraft and weapons systems would not be available without Congressional approval, where determination to maintain Israel’s “qualitative edge” might well prove a roadblock. Absent a treaty, even written guarantees of American protection for the Gulf may seem hollow in light of recent performance, and would not be binding on future administrations. A more muscular missile defense system may be the best the Americans can offer.

The icing on the cake may be Obama’s intention to lecture the heads of state (or their designees) on reform. In an interview with the New York Times he asserted that the Saudis and other allies should note threats from within, “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances.” While these concerns are well-founded and need attention, if this is part of the agenda, some leaders may find reason to pass. A trip to the Camp David woodshed will be about as welcome as a trip to the dentist.

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