Student Blog – T.I. Atkins | The Political Economy of International Money

OwensThe forum that I found most interesting in the monetary policy conference was the opening dinner led by Jeffrey Frieden, who spoke on macroeconomic international cooperation between states. During the forum I was pleased to note just how much I understood about what he was describing from what I’ve been learning in my classes. In his opening remarks on the status quo of international political economic politics, for example, he alluded to the two prevailing theories of the modern age, one of which is too cynical, the other too utopian. It was exciting to catch the reference to the international relations theory which I’m learning about in one class, and how that pertains to real-world dynamics in IPE of which I’m learning in another. To hear him explain how multilateral liberalization and exchange rates lead to lower consumer prices domestically, was sometime I (who until this semester has zero knowledge of economics) had just learned a couple weeks prior  in the case of China artificially undervaluing their currency for the benefit of both Chinese industries and American consumers. The brief discussion he gave on Great Britain as being the only historical example of unilateral liberalization was something I was vaguely aware of from Britain’s hegemonic precedent but hadn’t fully considered until then. The phenomenon of large consumer benefit and great industrial cost (which ultimately affects policy-making more drastically) poses an interesting question for me as to why multilateral liberalization in two different markets can offset the relative harms. Surely Chinese consumers must be hard-pressed with the rise of American partnership in business just as American businesses struggle to compete with foreign prices of labor and manufacturing. What makes multilateral liberalization and cooperation fundamentally different or less harmful than a purely domestic market policy, where in Frieden’s terms there “are more winners than losers?”

In addition to the references I have been currently learning about, there were a lot of points that I haven’t yet covered at all in my classes and was therefore grateful to consider for the first time. The 2008 economic crisis is something I’ve heard about ad nauseam, but the ramifications of the crisis amongst international players was something I hadn’t considered. Frieden explained how the crisis set a precedent that led to greater cooperation between principal central banks, and how emerging markets from developing countries were soon flooded with capital that led to borrowing in their own currencies. This, in turn, led to a skyrocketing of currency values that invited relatively cheap foreign borrowing, inevitably leading to speculative fear and total collapse. To see how the boom-and-bust effect of larger richer countries facilitated the untimely demise of developing countries was extremely interesting and novel to me.  Another such extrapolation that I found interesting was a comment almost made in passing in which he mentioned the circulation of a new “unholy trinity” in IPE, consisting of state sovereignty, democracy, and global economic governance. Not even weeks prior, I had just been tested on the definition and application of the conventional “unholy trinity” of exchange rates; noting the evolution of such concepts and the most-current ideas of renown economists such as Frieden was a cool way to go beyond the classroom for the newest developments in economic theory.

The most provocative section of Frieden’s discussion however, was his speculation towards the end on how this should impact policy –in effect his argument. From what I understood, he made the claim that since leading banks don’t factor domestic economic impact into their behavior they should not be expected to contribute in any significant way to domestic policy. The nature of a bank, as with any corporation, is to maximize the profits of today in order to stay afloat in the economy. The lack of foresight therefore is not irresponsible so much as it reflects the prioritization of survival. Thus the burden of national, long term best interest, he argued, should fall on politicians who are more equipped to consider bigger-picture impacts of economic policies. The idea of international macroeconomic cooperation comes into play when politicians could be influenced by the approval of their congregation from said collaboration. I believe the term he used was “public attractiveness;” though, I’d be curious to know how much of politician’s constant striving for re-election that Frieden considered in making this theory. His argument that banks are not fit to make long-term decisions because of the competitive nature of their environment and their constant plight for self-preservation seems to hold especially too in the political arena as well. In terms of the broader analysis of international relations I must admit that I am encouraged to see him taking a stance in favor of being “too utopian” than “too cynical.” From what little I’ve learned about international relations liberalism seems to be the laughing stock of the majority of experts, and, perhaps in the naivety of youth, I would like to maybe enter the arena one day with the hope of making international interdependence more feasible than the pipe-dream that it is largely perceived as at present. Without a doubt there were a lot of points to Frieden’s argument that I didn’t understand fully or that just passed me by, but in the bigger picture I have to agree with the merits of his proposal more so than the downsides, and I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to hear his thoughts at the forum.

 

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Student Blog – Anna Norkett | The Political Economy of International Money

Owens

On April 4th, 2014, I was able to attend The Political Economy of International Money Conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas thanks to the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU. I had never been to a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas before, so once I wandered my way in and made it through the top-notch security, I was impressed by the beautiful building. After checking in, I was led to the auditorium where the conference was being held. While no one was there at first, people started to trickle in from lunch. After a few minutes, everyone settled into their seats, and the program began. I looked around, and only about 40-50 people were in attendance. I was thankful for this opportunity because how many times as a college student can you walk in to the Fed to attend such an intimate discussion with important economists?

The panel consisted of a variety of perspectives: two professors, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Affairs, and a deputy assistant secretary for the US Department of the Treasury. While each had his own particular topic, they all focused on currency wars and international monetary arrangements. Coincidentally, these are the same topics we had been learning about in my International Political Economy course at SMU, so it was a beneficial experience to be able to use what we studied in class to follow along in their discussions. In some courses in school, students often ask, “When will we ever use this in the real world?” Well, this conference was a perfect example of how coursework applies. These economists live and breathe this information, so much so that they could stand up at the podium and speak for hours without any notes at all.

Many of the panelists took information I was familiar with and presented it in a new, interesting way.  For example, Benjamin Cohen, Professor of International Political Economy at University of California, Santa Barbara, spoke about the lessons from the Great Depression on the management of currency values. The Great Depression displayed the disadvantages of freely fluctuating exchange rates that invited competitive depreciation (in effect, a currency war) before 1944. In the past, I had learned about the crash of the stock market, but never had I heard a cause of the Great Depression being a currency war.  However, this explains why the compromise at Bretton Woods was to create a par value system of currency that provided stability but also allowed for minimal adjustments. Even this, though, ultimately proved unworkable due to a fundamental disequilibrium in balance of payments. Thus, in 1976, the IMF added an amendment to its Articles of Agreement that allowed a free choice of exchange rate policies that was subject to surveillance only to avoid currency manipulation.  While the IMF tried hard to enforce this surveillance, “dirty floats” have become widespread, and countries such as China have started to practice, to borrow a term from another panelist Brad Sester (Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Economic Analysis for the US Department of the Treasury), “competitive nonappreciation.” To move forward, Cohen looked back at the Tripartite Agreement of 1936, where the United States, Britain, and France all agreed to stabilize their currencies amongst each other. While such an agreement is unlikely to be replicated today, it brings about the idea that the world does not necessarily need one big hegemon; instead, there could be a group of leaders in the international economy. Thus, Cohen suggests the G7 plus China should sit down to compromise on monetary stabilization.

Not only did this conference enforce how important and applicable the information   we learn everyday in class is, but it also gave me a small glimpse into what it would be like as a professional political economist. Political economists create theories based on what they observe happening in the political economy around them by analyzing data and looking for trends. They take lessons from history to amend current policies, always suggesting ways to improve the economy today. They discuss their ideas with other economists and sharpen each other’s points, working together to compromise on the best solution. They take into account different cultures and values to assess how to best come to an agreement between countries.  Say I was not interested in becoming an economist, though. This conference illuminated just how much the economy affects our daily lives. For example, even if someone does not understand what currency misalignment is, they surely know when prices rise because now they have less purchasing power.

Therefore, as both someone who is interested in pursuing economics as a career and a consumer in the economy, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear from expert economists speak about such important current issues.

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SMU junior Rahfin Faruk awarded 2014 Truman Scholarship

This news story first appeared on April 16, 2014. For more information click here.

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU junior Rahfin Faruk has been named a 2014 Truman Scholar. The prestigious and highly competitive national scholarship recognizes college students who are “change agents,” with outstanding leadership potential and a commitment to public service careers.

SMU junior Rahfin Faruk, 2014 Truman Scholar
SMU junior Rahfin Faruk

Faruk was one of 59 students, mostly college juniors, from 52 U.S. colleges and universities selected to receive the award, which provides up to $30,000 for graduate study. He is the 14th Truman Scholar at SMU since the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975. He was one of 655 candidates nominated by 293 colleges and universities for one of academia’s most sought-after awards.

Faruk, of Richardson, Texas, is an SMU President’s Scholar majoring in economics, political science, public policy and religious studies, with a minor in mathematics, in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. He plans to pursue an MBA and a master’s in public policy to work in the social enterprise sector.

“As someone who wants to break down sectoral boundaries, I was attracted to the societal impact I could have as a Truman Scholar,” Faruk says. “Truman Scholars are everywhere – in a wide array of sectors and functions – and they are working to serve humanity in better ways.”

“It’s fitting that the Truman Scholarship Foundation honored Rahfin Faruk as a change agent,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “Rahfin not only has excelled academically, but he also has applied his knowledge and research skills to important issues facing the North Texas and global community. With his record of servant leadership on campus and in the community, Rahfin is an SMU world changer with big ideas who no doubt will make a significant contribution as a Truman Scholar.”

Two SMU juniors also were selected as finalists for the Truman Scholarship: Prithvi Rudrappa, a Dedman College Scholar majoring in biochemistry in Dedman College and finance in Cox School of Business, with a minor in Spanish; and Fantine Giap, a President’s Scholar majoring in biological sciences and minoring in mathematics and psychology in Dedman College.

In his graduate studies, Faruk intends to focus on improving financial inclusion, the financial system that gives the poor and marginalized access to credit, savings and insurance services. At SMU, Faruk founded a microfinance initiative called Green Riba, which provides zero-interest loans to low-income entrepreneurs in West Dallas. He twice was awarded grants for his organization through Big iDeas at SMU, an undergraduate research program.

“Services many take for granted — a savings account, free check cashing and ATM access — cost the poor disproportionately more money,” Faruk says. “Through my work with my microfinance organization, I came to realize that financial inclusion should have a bigger seat at the political table because it is interconnected to so many other aspects of life, such as health care, education and upward mobility.”

Faruk worked in the microfinance industry during summer 2012 as an intern at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh; in 2013, he interned with the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. For both internships, he was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies awarded Faruk the Jack C. and Annette K. Vaughn Foreign Service and International Affairs Internship for his work at the State Department. The Tower Center also named him the Edwin L. Cox Research Fellow and awarded him a Hatton W. Sumners Foundation Scholarship.

As a Hamilton Undergraduate Research Scholar in Dedman College, Faruk conducted and presented research at the Southwest Conference on Asian Studies and the Western Political Science Association Conference.

Faruk is the former editor-in-chief of The Daily Campus and has written op-eds for The Dallas Morning News and The Huffington Post. He is a member of the University Honors Program and serves as a student representative to the SMU Board of Trustees on the Academic Policy, Planning and Management Committee. He was named a Carole and Jim Young Fellow by TEDxSMU.

In May the 2014 Truman Scholars will attend a leadership development program at William Jewell College and will receive their awards at the Harry S. Truman Library in Missouri.

Learn about SMU’s Office of National Fellowships and Awards: smu.edu/nationalfellowships.

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Student Blog – Julien Teel | Viral Warfare: The Security Implications of Cyber and Biological Weapons

On Thursday, the Tower Center had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Gregory Koblentz, a leading expert and scholar on bioterrorism. Dr. Koblentz used this opportunity to speak about the growing security implications of cyber and biological weapons. In the wake of sophisticated and massive cyber-attacks, experts and military officials have attempted to compare cyber weapons to other conventional means to fight wars, such as air power, nuclear deterrence, and other modern doctrines. However, Dr. Koblentz made a unique and warranted observation: cyber and biological weapons share many strategic characteristics, thus we have the opportunity to address them in a similar manner.

Dr. Koblentz referred to four specific characteristics which define cyber and biological weapons. First, there is an evident multi-use nature of the associated technology. Second, the aggressor has the advantage over the defender during an attack. Third, there is a challenge of attribution following an attack. And fourth, governments and militaries use covert programs to create such weapons. The implications of such characteristics ensure that cyber and biological weapons are inextricably easy and cheap to produce, effective in safeguarding anonymity, and are alluring for weaker states to develop.

His solution proposed during the presentation, however, presented the opportunity that cyber capabilities may be used to advance information technology rather than risk physical confrontations. Dr. Koblentz stated that any solution to address cyber-attacks cannot be technical in nature. Rather, just as the international community addressed biological weapons, we must once again take an ethical and moral stance against the use of cyber weapons. If the global community was able to produce the Biological Weapons Convention to combat the use of biological weapons, then there is an opportunity to produce a comparable agreement in regards to cyber weapons.

Considering the similar characteristics between cyber and biological weapons, it is entirely possible that an international agreement or convention develop in the future. It was stated that the world, beginning with the United States, must create the norm that it is morally and ethically wrong to use cyber weapon capabilities to attack civilians, energy and transportation infrastructure, and financial systems. Without such a change in behavior norms, there can only be escalation and the possibility for physical confrontation.

– Julien Teel, 2013 Tower Center Vaughn Intern


Teel, JulienJulien Teel recently graduated from SMU in December 2013 with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. His research encompasses security and defense issues in East Asia, as well as analyzing the trilateral relationship between the U.S., Japan, and China. Currently, Julien is in the process of applying for Officer Candidate School in the Navy with the intention of entering as an Intelligence Officer. He eventually hopes to become a Foreign Area Officer in the Navy, formulating and promoting American foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Honoring the legacy of Ambassador Robert Strauss

Tower Center regrets to inform you of the passing of the Honorable Robert S. Strauss, our dear friend and supporter of the SMU Tower Center for Political Studies.

Honoring a Legacy: Ambassador Robert S. Strauss, 1918-2014

By the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, March 20, 2014

It is with heavy hearts that we convey the news that Ambassador Robert S. Strauss has passed away.

Bob Strauss was an innovator and leader in his field, but more importantly, he was a remarkable man. He touched the lives of many and led a life guided by wisdom, insight, kindness, and integrity. In both his personal and professional life, he exemplified the model of giving back to one’s community and garnered a deep level of respect from everyone who  had the pleasure of meeting him. After serving as a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, his students could attest to his commitment to public service and influencing positive change in the world. Outside of the classroom, he made extraordinary contributions as both a public servant and a private businessman. His passion for solving challenging global issues has served as an inspiration that we at the Strauss Center will continue to cherish and attempt to live up to for years to come.

Without him, the hopes for founding a Center that made innovations in global policy scholarship and cultivated international leaders would not have been realized.
Over the course of his remarkable career, Ambassador Strauss became one of America’s most trusted and influential figures. While it is impossible to do justice to his accomplishments and personal character in such a short space, we hope to highlight some of the extraordinary moments in his career. Among some of his outstanding accomplishments are serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, serving as President Jimmy Carter’s personal representative to the Middle East peace negotiations, and helping to guide America’s policy on Russia during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. He served as the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and played an integral role in transforming a long-standing rivalry into a relationship characterized by a greater level of cooperation. Speaking to his exceptional character and dedication to his work, Ambassador Strauss was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas as well as the former Lloyd Bentsen Chair at the LBJ School.

Ambassador Strauss leaves a particularly strong imprint on his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. Among other things, he was the inspiration for and generous supporter of the research center there that bears his name: The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

The University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. noted: “Ambassador Strauss was one of the most influential figures on the world stage of the past half-century. His stature and successes were rooted in Texas, and he has been vital in UT Austin’s growth as a global research university. As a Distinguished Alumnus, thought leader, and philanthropist, he supported and elevated programs across the university. And our Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law has brought together the best minds in academia, government, and the private sector to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The UT family will miss Bob greatly, but his legacy will serve our students, our nation, and our world for generations to come.”

Jim Langdon, a fellow University of Texas alum who was Ambassador Strauss’ partner at their law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and who played an integral role in founding the Strauss Center, said: “Bob Strauss was an American original and he was my friend, my partner, and my mentor for the last 40 years. He was a statesman and a political figure who spanned the decades. He had friends across the political spectrum at home and abroad, and he believed in the art of compromise. While he lived most of his professional life in Washington D.C., his heart and soul were firmly rooted in Texas and his beloved University of Texas. Whether the task at hand was the Middle East or the work of an Ambassador or dealing with the Congress or advising a President, one could always see those Texas roots at work. He took great pride in the establishment of the Robert S. Strauss Center at the University of Texas, but more than pride, like everything else he did in life, he has bestowed on this Center a high level of expectations. This state and this nation will miss Bob Strauss.”

Bobby Chesney, the Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and professor of law at the University of Texas, noted “A giant in American life has passed from the scene, and we are all the poorer for it. Ambassador Strauss embodied profoundly important—and profoundly American—virtues. He had a burning desire to serve the greater good, and in doing so to elevate pragmatic solutions over the temptations of partisan advantage. And he did it all with humor and grace, leaving us with an extraordinary and timely example we would do well to emulate. Our thoughts and prayers—and deepest appreciation—go out to him, and to his family.”

Frank Gavin, formerly the Director of the Robert Strauss Center and currently the Frank Stanton Chair in Nuclear Security Policy studies and Professor of Political Science at MIT, added: “Ambassador Strauss leaves an extraordinary legacy, to the University of Texas, his home state, the nation, and the world. He stood for something that is all too rare in our modern world: rising above ideology and partisanship, working with people from all sides of a debate to find the best solutions to our nation and our world’s most pressing challenges. He was wise, generous, and funny, and no one told a better story. He was an American original who will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by the many people whose lives he touched.”

Ambassador Robert Hutchings, Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, also noted: “From his position as the Democratic National Committee Chairman to his role as the first U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation after the breakup of the USSR, our dear friend Robert Strauss has left his indelible mark on how we approach domestic and international policy as a country. Through his vision, bipartisanship and philanthropy, Strauss exemplified the highest ideals of public service and his legacy will live on in the Strauss Center and the many students and researchers who will continue to benefit from his generosity for years to come.”

The Strauss Center is dedicated to fulfilling the legacy of Robert Strauss by fostering the intellectual innovation and leadership necessary to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Throughout his career, Ambassador Strauss had the unique ability of bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and encouraging open dialogue between all levels of academia, government, and the private sector. He valued giving voice to the next generation of leaders. The Strauss Center continues to honor this legacy by nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers and policymakers and contributing cutting-edge yet practical perspectives to the policy debate.

Bob Strauss will be deeply missed by everyone at the Strauss Center, LBJ School, and the University of Texas. But he will live on in the lives of his beloved family, in the countless people whose lives he touched, in the nation that he served so honorably and effectively, and in the Strauss Center as we strive to embody his values of civility, innovation, and leadership.

More on the incredible legacy of Ambassador Robert S. Strauss can be found below:
Robert S. Strauss, Texas lawyer and versatile political insider, dies at 95 by the Washington Post
Robert S. Strauss, Presidential Confidant and Deal Maker, Dies at 95 by the New York Times
Robert Strauss dies at 95; former Democratic Party chair by Los Angeles Times
Former DNC Chairman Robert Strauss dies at 95 by The Hill
Robert Strauss, 1918-2014 in Politico
Robert S. Strauss, Top Washington Trouble-Shooter, Dies at 95 by Bloomberg News
Ex-Democratic Chairman Robert Strauss dies at 95 by the Associated Press
George H.W. Bush says Strauss a valued advisor by the Houston Chronicle
Dallas’ Bob Strauss, former Democratic Party chairman, dies at 95 by the Dallas Morning News
The Life and Career of Robert Strauss by C-SPAN
Oral history interviews, including videos from the Academy of Achievement
The Inspiration for the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law
The Whole Damn Deal: Robert Strauss and the Art of Politics by Kathryn J. McGarr
Robert Strauss Oral History – Hell, Mr. President, I didn’t even vote for you” by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training
Robert S. Strauss Oral History by LBJ Presidential Library

 

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Joshua Rovner | What to Say to Russia

This op-ed first appeared in the March 14, 2014, edition of The National Interest. For more information click here.

By Joshua Rovner, Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security, Tower Center

The United States has a powerful interest in stopping the Ukraine crisis from escalating. The Obama administration rightly wants to shift its focus away from Europe and the Middle East and towards China. Restoring Ukraine as a buffer between Russia and Western Europe will help alleviate insecurity on both sides, making it easier to pivot to Asia. On the other hand, conflict in Ukraine will deepen the rift between Russia and the West and make it difficult to cooperate on issues from arms control and counterterrorism to Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

If the administration hopes to make any headway in order to stave off conflict, it needs to convince Vladimir Putin that making a deal is better than making trouble. Specifically, U.S. officials need to deliver a set of reminders, warnings, threats and assurances.

American diplomats should remind Russia that it was much better off before it sent armed forces to Ukraine. If Putin had stayed put, Russia could have maintained a reliable voting bloc in Crimea, which would have been useful given the very close results in recent elections. In addition, Russia could have waited for the inevitable Ukrainian backlash against the West for having to implement IMF austerity measures. It could have avoided a dreadful stock-market and currencyplunge. And Russia could have focused media attention on theshadier characters in the new Ukraine government, rather than diverting media attention by sending its own masked men into the Crimea.

The simple message to Putin is that Russia’s strategic position was quite favorable before it blundered into Ukraine, and he can restore that position if he is willing to back down in the current crisis.

Diplomats should also deliver a simple warning: Things will get worse no matter what Washington does. A formal annexation of Crimea will drive Ukraine closer to NATO and lead European states to balance against Russia. It will validate the far-right parties in Kiev who are most opposed to Russian interests. And it will further discourage investors, especially if they believe that Putin has designs on territories in the east of the country. Russia has put its security as well as its economy at risk, and it stands to lose a great deal more in a prolonged conflict.

To reinforce that point, diplomats may threaten specific sanctions against specific Russians. The utility of economic sanctions partly depends on the nature of the target regime. Sanctions are particularly effective if a foreign leader needs the support of key economic elites; if sanctions target those elites, the leader is more likely to back down. Thus if the Treasury Department can identify a set of elites on whom Putin relies, then the United States may be able to craft sanctions that cause him to reconsider. While sanctions are not a silver bullet, they may be useful in combination with other tools of coercion, and there is some evidence that Putin issensitive to investors.

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Joshua Rovner | Putin’s Crimea Blunder

Putin’s Crimea Blunder

This news story first appeared in the March 6, 2014, edition of The National Interest. For more information click here.

By Joshua Rovner, Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security, Tower Center

Russia’s sudden occupation of the Crimean peninsula led to some peculiar commentary concerning Russian president Vladimir Putin. Observers expressed revulsion at his brazen attempt to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and manipulate its politics. At the same time, however, they hinted at grudging praise for his particular brand of realpolitik. After all, in one eventful weekend he put the West on its heels, and nobody seemed to know how to respond. Some pundits ominously suggested that Putin’s gambit didn’t just threaten Ukraine; it threatened the whole post-Cold War international order by setting an ominous precedent about how to undermine fledgling pro-Western governments.

Critics also blamed Western leaders and the Obama administration for displays of weakness, wishful thinking, and ineptitude that supposedly encouraged Russian risk-taking. The side-by-side comparison was striking: Vladimir Putin came off as a calculating and ruthless leader who understood the rough reality of great-power politics, while Barack Obama seemed naïve and idealistic and utterly incapable of standing up to bullies. No surprise, then, that Putin outwitted the White House.

But that is not what happened. Putin has not outwitted anyone. He has not taken advantage of feckless Western leaders to expand Russian power and prestige, nor has he set in motion a pattern of events that has put the international order at risk. What he has done is drive headlong into a crisis where all of the likely outcomes for Russia are bad.

Consider the possible endgames. One is that Crimea will vote for independence in its upcoming referendum and become something like a Russian vassal state. Moscow would gain very little as a result. It already enjoys considerable influence over the majority Russian-speaking population, and it has long maintained its Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol. What it would risk losing, however, would be the chance to ever restore a pro-Russian leader in Kiev, because all of those pro-Russian voters in Crimea would no longer get the chance to vote in Ukrainian elections.

What if Russia is unsatisfied with Crimea alone? Putin has repeatedly warned that the armed forces may intervene in East Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians. In this case Ukraine might go to war, though it would face extremely long odds because of its vast military disadvantages. A Russian victory, however, would cause as many problems as it would solve. Conquering territory means ruling over people, and in this case Russia can expect a burst of political violence from angry Ukrainians not happy about being ruled. The Russian military, famous for its high corruption and low morale, would then face the possibility of a protracted insurgency. And in this case it would not be keen on the kind of brute force that worked in Chechnya, because so much of the civilian population is ethnic Russian.

A third possibility is that Russian forces will turn to the west and seek to destroy Ukraine’s military in detail. Kremlin officials may calculate that this is the only reliable way to install a pliant regime in Kiev, and they may also believe such a war is necessary to stop violence directed at Russians in the east. Even if Russia achieves a quick and comprehensive military triumph, it would be left with a serious problem: occupying a large country marked by deep ethnic differences and a restive population. Russia would also become increasingly isolated and face a variety of international sanctions that would place new burdens on its already overstressed economy. Meanwhile, European leaders would have very strong incentives to find novel ways of reducing dependence on Russian natural gas resources while simultaneously balancing against Russian power. Some victory.

What does all this mean for U.S. strategy? First, the Obama administration is right to move slowly and to ignore critics who demand aggressive steps against Russia. As a few astute observers have noted, Putin is perfectly capable of self-defeating behavior . He does not need Washington’s help.

Second, efforts to organize a military response are both unnecessary and unwise. Putin has erred badly in Ukraine, but by invoking Russian nationalism he will find it hard to back down if confronted with Western military power. A NATO-led military action would be particularly provocative and dangerous, given longstanding Russian anger at the alliance’s eastward expansion.

Rather than forcing a confrontation, the appropriate U.S. response is patience and restraint. Russia has already dug itself a deep hole, it is likely to come out in much weaker shape, and its actions might finally stimulate meaningful balancing in Europe. For the time being, then, the best strategy is to let Putin be Putin. At some point quiet diplomacy may be in order to ease the Kremlin out of the crisis. Much as we don’t like to admit it, Russian cooperation is crucial for any long-term solution on issues from arms control to Syria to Iran. A prolonged standoff over Ukraine would threaten progress on these issues, while creating new and needless risks.

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Admiral Patrick M. Walsh | Written Congressional Testimony to the House Armed Services Committee

House Armed Services Committee – Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces

27 February 2014

Capabilities to Support the Asia Pacific Rebalance – A Maritime Perspective

Witness Statement

Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, USN (Ret.)

In Asia-Pacific today, maritime considerations influence national security planning, economic exchange and societal development more than any other region, domain, or aspect of the global environment.  Here, the maritime narrative influences the largest populations, economies, and militaries of the world, so nations that desire the capability to protect their economic interests, ensure stability, and secure the key lines of approach to their future, need maritime capabilities.  As a result, decisions made about maritime forces directly impact the protection, representation, and ability of a nation to defend its sovereign interests at sea; in this region, seapower has returned to pre-eminence as an essential element of national power.

In the “Pacific Century,” seapower resumes its traditional role in the sea lines of communication as an instrument of peace, stability, and protector of trade and development.  For the US government, investments in the navy…as well as reductions contemplated in procurement, readiness, operations, and manpower, while other governments invest in their own maritime forces…have direct and predictable consequences that call into question the ability of the United States to remain engaged in the region, to defend its interests and those of its partners.  I am not aware of any country in Asia-Pacific that is reducing the size or capability of its navy.  Additionally, long-standing partners, friends, and allies in the region desire more American naval presence rather than less, because of concerns over tension and the potential for conflict.

In this context, the People’s Republic of China drives any discussion about state interests and national security, regionally and globally.  China has moved beyond a ‘continental defense’ strategy and her leaders are convinced that to defend China it is necessary to push foreign militaries out of its ‘near seas’ to the first island chain — to include the Yellow Sea, East Sea, and South China Sea areas.  This ‘near-sea’ defense strategy attempts to influence and to whatever extent possible, control all foreign military operations in adjacent seas, extending even to (and some cases within) the territorial seas of its neighbors.  This strategy attempts to redefine the taxonomy, understanding, and use of the high seas in terms wholly unfamiliar to a region that is home to three of four of the world’s largest economies, ten of the world’s fastest growing economies, and one-third of global trade in transit.  Today, maritime highways network and connect a regional, economic juggernaut made possible by US presence over the past six decades.  To accede to the narrowly selective Chinese historic interpretation and expansive geographic claim in the South China Sea — effectively makes 1600nm of water that conforms roughly to the shape of the extended southern Chinese coastline — subject to internal Chinese law with sovereign, territorial rights attendant to it, which is unequivocally counter to the most specific, unimpeachable axiom of the maritime commons, envisioned and practiced by nations for centuries in the form of customary international law.

As China has developed the technology, equipment, and confidence to execute this strategy, it has created hubris within its ranks and taken actions viewed and characterized by Japan and the ASEAN neighbors as ‘over-reach’ — a term used to describe intimidating, aggressive behavior well-beyond acceptable norms.  Assertive and expansive maritime territorial claims have touched-off and unleashed a volatile resurgence in nationalism, historic boundary disputes, and challenged access to resources in contested economic exclusion zones that fuel tension in the region.

We are witnessing the PLA growing rapidly in technical capability and industrial capacity symbiotic with an increasingly jingoistic fervor and rhetoric.  We see evidence that technical military advancements have provided fertile ground for new diplomatic initiatives and concomitant challenges to established USG positions on: resource exploration, building ties to traditional US partners, maritime boundaries, and in other coercive ways that do not conform to international law, are antithetical to regional stability, and test globally accepted democratic principles at a time when our national mood has focused on domestic issues.

In looking at this half of the globe over the coming decades, relatively few topics have the potential to determine substantial political, economic, and military outcomes for such a large area of the community of nations as:

(a) PRC expansion of influence (economic, political, military)

(b) PRC near-sea defensive construct

(c) PLA role in China’s internal/external policy-making process

(d) US posture, presence, and influence in the region

(e) US economic performance

For decades, the U.S. Pacific Fleet has focused its security responsibilities in support of the Taiwan Relations Act…today, as a result of a decade of military modernization, the flashpoint for misunderstanding and conflict at sea extends beyond the Strait.  Since there are no conventional arms control regimes or pre-established frameworks designed to manage escalation, the real possibility exists for conflict in the maritime domain that is not at the time, place, or for the duration of our choosing.  The absence of a regime or framework to de-tension the area also creates the equally real probability for conflict that is regional in context, extending beyond the borders of the Taiwan Strait and involving US treaty allies, regional partners, as well as multinational commercial interests.

For very real strategic as well as operational reasons, we place a high premium on deterrence and conflict prevention strategies based on a tested formula of forward presence and cooperative relationships with our allies.  Reassurance to allies and partners is a critical function of forward deployed U.S. forces.  Forward presence is the face of US resolve.  It presents the nation with the necessary capability and opportunity to exercise US leadership through appropriate, timely, and consequential actions…actions that are designed to address or resolve the coercive, unsafe, or unhealthy conditions that can affect economies, populations, and nations.

For real world economic and political reasons, there are direct linkages between national imperatives and the need for a Navy responsive to US interests overseas.  It is important during a period of declining budgetary authority to memorialize ‘first principles’ that support conflict prevention strategies with an American military capability that:

- is forward-deployed to a region of consequence;

- builds true, deep partnerships and sustains influence with allies and partners;

- sustains wholeness in fleet readiness;

- attracts and retains high quality people;

- makes wise investments in an era of frugality.

During a period of vulnerability that comes with recapitalization, there is a requirement for short-term mitigations to address the immediate concerns of the current security environment versus the long-term need for programmatic investments.  For a comparatively modest investment, munitions are an important, credible element of the discussion: continued investment in both capacity and capability for Integrated Air and Missile Defense, continued development for long range surface-to-surface striking capability, and continued procurement for air-to-air capability in a complex electro-magnetic environment.  Despite budgetary pressures to the contrary, the Navy must be prepared with responsive capabilities and sufficient power to deter armed conflict and suppress threats to commerce in the maritime domain.

Nations in the region are watching, with keen interest, the affect of US economic challenges and the strain of more than a decade of war on the Navy’s ability to remain forward, engaged, and ready.  The US fiscal environment and the Asia Pacific security environment are on diametrically divergent paths.  In my former position in the Pacific Fleet, we recognized the fiscal constraints and understand that we must balance investments (as well as offsets) with the ‘wholeness’ of the force in an environment that is changing at an increasing pace.  We have an immediate challenge to manage short-term issues, which involve increasingly higher levels of risk.  We have been on this page of history before and our team has faced austere economic cycles in the past.  While the American public has kept faith with the navy, they have not changed their view of our mission or their expectations for our response to crisis conditions.  Over the course of our respective careers, we have witnessed a Navy engaged in a variety of operations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, sometimes focused on one enemy, as in the Cold War against the Soviet Union, or sometimes deployed against a regional adversary, as in Vietnam or the Gulf War.  In all that time, the U.S. Navy configured platforms for one contingency, but actually used it globally for many others, including humanitarian missions, well beyond the imaginations of those who laid the keel.

What has kept the Navy relevant since ship/submarine/aircraft design of our current fleet many years ago has been the skill and ingenuity of Sailors, young Americans, who continue to adapt, to think critically and address challenges for sustained operations from any location, at any time — without caveats.  I would suggest that the continued investments made in people have improved the relevancy and responsiveness of the fleet in an era of great challenge and change.  It is our people who make contact in the region, who represent the national interest, who act on democratic principles that appeal to audiences well beyond the confines of a single mission or operation, and who demonstrate the leadership, commitment, and resolve of the American government.  Our Sailors provide the best and brightest return for US government investment.


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Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, USN (Ret.) is Senior Fellow at the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies and recently served as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Prior to that assignment, 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. Walsh also has chaired the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the U.S. Naval Academy and directed the Navy Quadrennial Defense Review. He began his career as a Naval Aviator and flew with the Blue Angels. Walsh is highly decorated and has received numerous awards during his career, including two Distinguished Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, four Legion of Merit awards and two Meritorious Service Medals.

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Student Blog – Grace Lee | U.S., North and South Korea Event: What the Future Holds

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The Tower Center hosted a panel discussion on the politics of the Korean peninsula and U.S. – Korean relations. Han Park and Victor Cha are Korean scholars who discussed their opinions on the possibility of the unification of the Koreas. Although unification is desirable, there is a low level of practicality. Some unstable scenarios between the Koreas are not only on nuclear and military fortified spots, but also on the tension of legitimacy war and the inability to have both regimes. In addition, North Korea is listed as the #1 most homogenous country in the world; the country’s ability to even consider the act of unification is undermined by the government’s lack of openness to the world. Under these circumstances, unification may seem impractical, but in the words of Victor Cha, “it’s the right thing to do.”

Nevertheless, Professor Park reminded us of the gradual change that is happening in recent times through stories of long lost families reuniting after years and years of no contact. He also pointed out an interesting aspect of North Korean politics, which involved the worship of Kim Il Sung, who passed in 1994. Rather than a significant ruler who runs the country, the ghost of Kim Il Sung is in fact running the country. For this reason, no matter how many rising leaders North Korea has, the government remains the same. As Professor Cha discusses, the unification of North and South Korea may result in either a nightmare or an opportunity.

As for the thoughts of other regions on this issue, Professor Victor Cha tells the perspective of other countries, such as Russia, Japan, and China; they would not oppose in the unification because of the risk of threatening the preservation of international relations. Furthermore, he believes in the support of America’s interest in the unification of North and South Korea.

Dr. Victor Cha is the university director of Asian Studies and holds the D.S. Song Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has authored several books on Foreign Affairs between U.S. Korea, Japan and North Korea. Cha has also served in the White House as Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. Dr. Han Park is the university professor of Public and International Affairs and Director of the Center for the Study of Global Issues at the University of Georgia. He is currently an ABC News Consultant/Analyst and has appeared on major global media outlets, including CNN, ABC News, BBC, and KBS.

- Grace Lee, SMU Student and Tower Center Intern


Grace Lee is a Tower Center intern at the Tower Center of Political Studies department at SMU. She is a senior pursuing a degree in International Studies with a specialization in East Asia. After graduation, Grace hopes to attend graduate school in Washington D.C. and be involved in International Affairs.

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Amb. Robert Jordan on #Iran & who could play the bad cop in the Mideast

In the News/Fox Radio, November 27, 2013

Note: The entire interview can be heard here.

Amb. Robert Jordan on #Iran & who could play the bad cop in the Mideast

Amb. Robert Jordan, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, weighed in on the P5+1 deal with Iran and quoted President Reagan by saying we should “trust but verify.”  However, he amended the quote by saying he doesn’t know if he would even go as far as to trust!  On Israel and Saudi Arabia collaborating, Jordan said, “It is certainly possible that they could be collaborating with each other on what kind of strategy to employ.  Either to stop this interim agreement or to take action on their own part.”  He added, “It doesn’t hurt us to have a good cop, bad cop environment so that we can say to the Iranians ‘If you don’t play ball with us, watch out because there’s some really bad actors out there who would like to do away with you!’”


Ambassador Robert Jordan is a Diplomat-in-Residence at the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies. Click here to visit his personal page on our website.

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