What Were We Thinking? Selected Schar School Op-Eds (April 2021)


From the Washington Post:

Will the Pandemic Spark a Religious Revival in the Muslim World?

To find out, we conducted a unique study on the effects of the pandemic in the Muslim world. Our data reinforces the assumption that religion does indeed serve an important function in times of hardship. Those experiencing psychological distress from pandemic-related income loss turned to religion more than those whose livelihoods were secure. Moreover, we found that higher levels of religiosity seem to be correlated with significantly lower levels of distress among the Muslims we surveyed.

—Peter Mandaville, A. Kadir Yildirim, and Tarek Masoud


From CNN:

What America Would Look Like With Zero Immigration

In short, if immigration remained at near-zero levels, within decades, the country could be older, smaller and poorer. But if the US government welcomed more newcomers, within decades, the country could be younger, more productive and richer.

—Justin Gest


From Roll Call:

President Biden: Open the White House Virtual Visitor Logs

This isn’t the only place where the Biden White House has come up lacking. So far, it has failed to post online the daily schedules of the president and vice president. Also, the White House comment line has been eliminated. It’s still early, but in presidential politics, early actions often create lasting impressions, and the president risks being seen as less transparent now in contrast to his longstanding image for candor and openness. 

—Mark J. Rozell and Mitchel A. Sollenberger


From Asia Times:

Is Tehran-Beijing Partnership a Game Changer?

So, for now, it may be best to watch if and how this ambitious partnership comes to life. Many of the recipients of Chinese rhetorical embrace through the Belt and Road Initiative have been bitterly disappointed. Perhaps Iran will be the exception, and through a robust oil and infrastructure partnership these two countries can change history in the region.

—Ellen Laipson


From Newsweek:

The World Has Changed a Lot Since 1986. The Politics of Immigration Hasn't.

While Congress should pass President Biden's important citizenship bill, our immigration problems will linger until we all begin to imagine our future rather than content ourselves with fixing problems currently before us.

—Justin Gest


From Bloomberg Law:

It’s Time to Do Away With the Social Security Earnings Test

Although difficult choices about tax increases and benefit cuts can’t be avoided, the pressure on Social Security’s finances can be lessened by taking a hard look at policies that punish work at older ages—doing so would help to facilitate longer working lives. One such policy is the Social Security earnings test, a provision that reduces benefits for younger Social Security recipients who continue to work. 

—Sita Slavov


From the Hill:

Russian Policy Toward Syria: The Perils of Success

And if America’s allies in the region see advantages in Russia’s continued presence in Syria, America may not be able to do much to oppose Moscow there without hurting its relations with its Middle Eastern partners. 

—Mark N. Katz


From Cyber Security Intelligence:

Standing on the Cryptocurrency Frontier

The concept of precious metals and paper money have been around for millennium. The type of centralized regulation of money we currently have is relatively new—really since the mid-19th century. In fact, in the United States—today’s international currency standard—we accepted Spanish doubloons up until the Civil War. 

—Ronald Marks


From the National Interest:

Taliban Rule In Afghanistan Is Worse for Its Neighbors Than America

The more likely outcome is that a year or two after the U.S. and allied departure, the weak Kabul government will be overthrown by the Taliban. But what will be the impact of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan?

—Mark N. Katz


From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

We Need Voter Reform to Reduce Recidivism and Improve Community Reintegration for Returning Felons

It is important that everyone feel connected to the communities they live in. Reducing the level of disenfranchisement experienced by re-entering individuals re-enforces the incentive to conform and reduces the marginalization experienced by disadvantaged communities.

—PhD Student and ACE! Research Assistant Chelsea Foudray


From Defense News:

Don’t Sell Arms to the Philippines

The most obvious downside of arming the Duterte government is that the regime is actively using American firepower to kill and imprison its own people. 

—A. Trevor Thrall and Jordan Cohen


From Spy Talk:

Get Smart: 5 Ways to Read an Intelligence Report

I have had to deal with intelligence reports as both a producer and as a user for nearly 40 years. There’s a lot of mystique, misunderstanding, and controversy about what “intelligence” is and what it canand cannotdo for you. So, allow me to give you five basic, hard-earned rules about dealing with reports turned out by the intelligence wings of the CIA and other national security agencies. 

—Ronald Marks


From the Hill:

A ‘Gray New Deal’ to Restore America

The result is a potential mismatch between a rapidly growing elderly population in need of care and a slow-growing workforce capable of providing and paying for it. Biden's initiatives address this imbalance in three complementary ways. 

—Jack Goldstone and Andrew Schrank


From the Hill:

Why Most Federal Laws Are Flawed—and Precious Few Succeed

There have been 15 high-quality laws enacted since the [George] Washington administration. They are:

—Frank T. Manheim


From Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Meet the Future Weapon of Mass Destruction, the Drone Swarm

In theory, swarms could be scaled to tens of thousands of drones, creating a weapon akin to a low-scale nuclear device. Think “Nagasaki” to get a sense of the death toll a massive drone swarm could theoretically inflict.

—Zak Kallenborn


From the Washington Post:

Opinion: Did Virginia’s Democrats Misread Their Mandate With a Boldly Progressive Agenda?

It was a leftward lurch unprecedented in more than 400 years of always cautious, predominantly conservative Virginia governance. Was it too much too soon? Did Democrats misread their 2019 mandate? Virginia voters will decide that on Nov. 2.

—Mark J. Rozell


From the Cipher Brief:

Contending With China’s Rise to Great Power Status

The United States cannot sit idly by under these circumstances, nor forgo its role in providing stability in East Asia. 

—PhD Student Joshua Stone


From the Atlantic Council:

Russia Is Friendly With the Houthis in Yemen. But It’s Complicated.

Unlike in Syria, where Russia and Iran support the Assad regime, Moscow is not backing the Houthis to the same extent that Iran is in Yemen. On the other hand, Russia’s actions also indicate that it does not see a resolution to the conflict in Yemen if it does not include the Houthis either. 

—Mark N. Katz


From the Hill:

The Political Calculus on the Gun Issue Has Changed

But what matters politically is intensity of support. Getting gun laws through Congress has always been difficult because of single-issue voting by gun rights supporters. The gun issue drives their votes; for most other voters, it doesn’t.

—Bill Schneider


From War on the Rocks:

National Security Needs Both Futurists and Traditionalists

With the advent of AI and robotics, hypersonic missiles, quantum computing, synthetic biology, genetic engineering, and other novelties, technology is changing rapidly. The United States needs to ensure this element of national power is well integrated with military, diplomatic, and economic power. 

—Zak Kallenborn


From Cyber Security Intelligence:

The Satanic Mills of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

We are not without hope in terms of dealing with this new world. But this requires a large-scale government-wide effort; not a private sector one. Whatever its virtues, the development and support of national level technology policy is not their job. Advice yes. Dependence on them alone, no.

—Ronald Marks


From the Corvallis Gazette-Times:

As We See It: Search Firms Come With Hidden Costs

Secrecy only serves the interests of the search firm and the candidate. It protects the names of the candidate pool and the privacy of the candidates. However, since a public university president is a public executive, we believe the public interest should come first. No other senior public executive is hired in secret.

—Judith Wilde and Jim Finkelstein


From the Atlantic Council:

FastTake: What’s Missing from U.S. Intel’s 2021 Threat Assessment

Why not, for instance, take the opportunity of the annual Threat Assessment to explore the possibility of China successfully challenging the US dollar with its own digital currency, or of the “balkanization” of the internet making it impossible for the foreseeable future to find agreement on international standards? 

—Ronald Marks and Barry Pavel


From the Atlantic Council:

Russia Secretly Feared the Iran Nuclear Deal. Here’s Why.

In private conversations with Russian observers at the time the JCPOA was being negotiated, I was told that, if a more general US-Iran detente occurred, Tehran might withdraw its forces from Syria and leave Russia to defend the Bashar al-Assad regime on its own. This was something Moscow especially did not want to see happen right when its own intervention in Syria was in planning and then beginning in 2015.

—Mark N. Katz