Reports & Papers

221 Items

A member of the Afghan security forces walks in the sprawling Bagram air base after the American military departed, in Parwan province north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, July 5, 2021.

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Paper

Easier to Get into War Than to Get Out: The Case of Afghanistan

| August 2021

The U.S. should accept with humility its inability to fully eliminate terrorism. Specifically, U.S. policy must balance “ends, ways, and means;” establish clear and achievable objectives; adopt efficient, effective, and resource-sustainable strategies; ensure synchronization of diplomatic and military efforts; build alliances to share the burden of countering terrorism; and leverage cooperative mechanisms and regional partnerships to increase the capacity and willingness of regional states to defend their sovereignty and contribute to multinational coalitions against terrorism.  A balanced, integrated, and synchronized strategy encompassing defense, diplomacy, economic, and humanitarian assistance lines of effort should be cornerstone of a revamped foreign policy in the coming decades.

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Report - Intelligence Project

Report: Climate Change, Intelligence, and Global Security

This report is derived from a half-day conference in April 2021 co-sponsored by the Intelligence Project and the Environment and Natural Resources Program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, along with the Center for Climate and Security and The Cipher Brief. It explores the requirements of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) to fulfill the mission prescribed by President Biden, DNI Haines, and Secretary Kerry. The IC must rise to challenge, unshackled from the past, to re-imagine its role in combatting climate change. The IC has talked the talk about climate change, and now it needs to walk the walk. The stakes are too high not to do so.

The main hall for the IAEA’s Talks on Supplying Nuclear Fuel for Iranian Research Reactor, Vienna, Austria, 19 October 2009. 

Dean Calma/IAEA

Paper

The Deal That Got Away: The 2009 Nuclear Fuel Swap with Iran

| January 2021

With concerns and uncertainties regarding Iran’s nuclear future persisting to this day, this paper seeks to review the TRR negotiations and the context in which they unfolded in order to capture some of the lessons of negotiating with Iran regarding its nuclear program, primarily from the viewpoint of senior U.S. officials involved at the time. The paper is also informed by the personal perspective of one of the authors (Poneman) who led the U.S. delegation in the 2009 Vienna talks, and who, prior to this publication, had not publicly elaborated on his experience. The other author (Nowrouzzadeh), who supported the TRR talks in an analytical capacity within the U.S. Department of Defense, also conducted an extensive interview with Poneman as part of their collaboration on this paper. By drawing on existing literature and recent interviews with several senior U.S. officials involved in the negotiations now that over ten years have passed, the authors seek to draw useful lessons from this episode that can assist policymakers in understanding Iran’s nuclear decision-making and in their continued efforts to shape the future trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program.

Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci

AP/Alex Brandon

Paper - Centre for International Governance Innovation

US Intelligence, the Coronavirus and the Age of Globalized Challenges

| Aug. 24, 2020

This essay makes three arguments. First, the US government will need to establish a coronavirus commission, similar to the 9/11 commission, to determine why, since April 2020, the United States has suffered more coronavirus fatalities than any other country in the world. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic represents a watershed for what will be a major national security theme this century: biological threats, both from naturally occurring pathogens and from synthesized biology. Third, intelligence about globalized challenges, such as pandemics, needs to be dramatically reconceptualized, stripping away outmoded levels of secrecy.

Tractors on Westminster bridge

AP/Matt Dunham

Paper - Institut für Sicherheitspolitik

The Global Order After COVID-19

| 2020

Despite the far-reaching effects of the current pandemic,  the essential nature of world politics will not be transformed. The territorial state will remain the basic building-block of international affairs, nationalism will remain a powerful political force, and the major powers will continue to compete for influence in myriad ways. Global institutions, transnational networks, and assorted non-state actors will still play important roles, of course, but the present crisis will not produce a dramatic and enduring increase in global governance or significantly higher levels of international cooperation. In short, the post-COVID-19 world will be less open, less free, less prosperous, and more competitive than the world many people expected to emerge only a few years ago.

A representative image of a digital "map"

Adobe Stock

Report

Reconceptualizing Cyber Power

Our intention is to provide the best possible understanding of cyber power capabilities to inform public debate. The Belfer approach proposes eight objectives that countries pursue using cyber means; provides a list of capabilities required to achieve those objectives that demonstrates the breadth of sources of cyber power; and compares countries based on their capability to achieve those objectives. Our work builds on existing cyber indices such as the Economist Intelligence Unit and Booz Allen Hamilton’s 2011 Cyber Power Ranking, by, for example, including a policy dimension and recognizing that cyber capabilities enhance military strength.

A satellite view of Shigatse, Tibet, home to the PLA’s 6th Border Defense Regiment, near the China-India border.

Maxar Technologies / CNES Airbus via Google, used with permission

Report - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Strategic Postures of China and India: A Visual Guide

| March 2020

Fueled by aggressive rhetoric from both capitals, Indian and Chinese ground forces engaged in a standoff between June and August 2017. The Doklam crisis, as it became known, stimulated introspection among officials and experts in both states about the future of their relationship. Politically, both strategic communities largely concluded that the peaceful resolution of border disputes is now less likely, forecasting more rivalry than cooperation. Militarily, Indian discussions on the strength of its military position against China in their disputed ground frontier areas have converged on the view that China holds the conventional and nuclear edge over India in this domain.

Based on our analysis of data on the location and capabilities of Indian and Chinese strategic forces and related military units, we conclude that this assessment of the balance of forces may be mistaken and a poor guide for Indian security and procurement policies. We recommend that instead of investing in new nuclear weapons platforms that our analysis suggests are not likely to be required to deter China, New Delhi should improve the survivability of its existing forces and fill the gap in global arms control leadership with an initiative on restraint and transparency.

Military helicopters fly over the training ground during strategic command and staff exercises Center-2019 at Donguz shooting range near Orenburg, Russia, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.

AP Photo/Sergei Grits

Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Defense Playbook for Campaigns

    Authors:
  • Richard Kuzma
  • David Michelson
  • Jacqueline Parziale
  • Kathryn Reed
  • Ryan Solís
  • Tom Wester
  • William Wright
| March 2020

The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) is predicated on a single organizing principle: America’s military pre-eminence is rapidly eroding. This is not a new concept. For years, experts have warned that the economic and technological advancements of U.S. adversaries, coupled with the 2008 financial crisis and America’s focus on peripheral conflicts, have caused a decline in America’s military dominance. 

In this context, the advances of near-peer competitors such as China and Russia have created plausible “theories of victory” in potential conflicts across Eastern Europe and East Asia. Competitors’ unaddressed improvements in strategic innovation, economic investment, and dual-use technology increases the risk of conflict and strains the U.S. alliance system. It is urgent that the United States reestablish and maintain credible deterrents against these near-peer competitors. After decades of focusing on post-Cold War ‘shaping’ operations, the American military needs to reinvigorate for full spectrum great power competition.

This report is intended as a blueprint on how to begin that process from graduate students at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Contained inside are 12 memorandums. Each provides a high-level overview and specific recommendations on a key issue of American defense policy. 

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Paper

The Case for Transatlantic Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

| Dec. 18, 2019

The evolving strategic dynamics in the Indo-Pacific are of paramount importance for the future of the rules-based international order. While the United States is redirecting strategic focus to the region as part of its Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, Europe is also stepping up its role—leveraging a strong economic profile, long-standing bilateral ties, and active engagement in various regional multilateral forums. The European Union (EU) and its member states can make distinct contributions to an open, transparent, inclusive, and rules-based regional order, though not necessarily always in lockstep with Washington.