Reports & Papers

80 Items

A large refugee camp on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey, near the town of Atma, in Syria’s Idlib province, April 19, 2020.

AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed

Paper

Syria Redux: Preventing the Spread of Violent Extremism Through Weaponized Populations and Mobile Safehavens

| May 2020

The resurgence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the next evolution of violent extremist ideology will undoubtedly flow from this region. Regional and global actors have protracted the conflict and stymied the peace process. This paper is not an exposé on the plight of Syrian refugees nor is a plea to rebuild Syria. Instead, this paper discusses the national security threat components of weaponized populations and mobile safe havens used by violent extremist organizations and offers policy recommendations to support a long-term strategy to reduce violence in the region, contain these new threats, and set conditions for reconciliation and peace.

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. 

Giles Clarke for UNOCHA

Giles Clarke for UNOCHA

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

Partnering to Protect: Reforming US Security Assistance to Reduce Civilian Harm

Security assistance has long been an important component of American statecraft. The foreign policies of successive administrations have focused on empowering US partners to confront their own security challenges, rather than solving them through American force alone. Today, US foreign and defense policy indicates an intent to work “by, with, and through” partner forces to achieve shared goals. However, the outsourcing of American security objectives comes with a host of potential risks to civilians living in conflict zones or fragile states. Fighting with or relying on local partners–whose interests, priorities, and capabilities may not necessarily align with those of the United States–can complicate or even degrade America’s ability to minimize civilian harm during military operations.

This Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) examines the causes and consequences of civilian harm in security partnerships, and its implications for US foreign policy

Paper

The Culture of Strategic Thought Behind Russia’s Modern Approaches to Warfare

    Author:
  • Stephen R. Covington
| October 2016

In September of 1991, I met with Russian general officers in Minsk at a military reform seminar. Our discussions took place against the backdrop of the August coup attempt in Moscow, the subsequent collapse of Soviet power, and the so-called parade of sovereignty by former Soviet Republics. At the same time, President Yeltsin was signaling his intent to change dramatically the national security strategy, military doctrine, and military system the Soviet Union had developed since the 1940s.

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

The German Blitzkrieg Against the USSR, 1941

    Author:
  • Andrei A. Kokoshin
| June 2016

Seventy-five years ago, on June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, betting on a brief war with the firmest of goals, a type of war that came to be known as blitzkrieg.

Making sure that the German attack would catch the Soviets by surprise on a tactical, operational and even strategic level was one of the most important components of planning the blitzkrieg. To that end Berlin conducted an unprecedented disinformation campaign that proved largely successful.

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Report

Nine Lessons for Navigating National Security

| March 25, 2016

Belfer Center Senior Fellow and Center for a New American Security (CNAS) CEO Michèle Flournoy has written a new report examining 70 years of U.S. national security policy and processes and making recommendations for the next President as he or she builds the next national security team. The report, “Nine Lessons for Navigating National Security,” is part of CNAS’ Papers for the Next President series, which explore critical regions and issues the next president will have to address early in his or her tenure.

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

Putin's Choice for Russia

    Author:
  • Stephen R. Covington
| August 2015

This paper was written by Stephen R. Covington, with a Foreword written by Kevin Ryan.

In Putin’s view, any solution short of changing the European security system—including full integration, separation by erecting new walls, freezing the status quo around Russia, or partnering with other countries to counter-balance the powers in the European system—only means Russia’s inevitable loss of great power status and the loss of his personal power at home.

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

SUMMARY REPORT: U.S.-China 21

| April 2015

The future relationship between China and the United States is one of the mega-changes and mega-challenges of our age. China’s rise is the geopolitical equivalent of the melting polar ice caps – gradual change on a massive scale that can suddenly lead to dramatic turns of events.

In this Summary Report of a longer forthcoming work, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center, asks if this defining trend of the 21st century can be managed peacefully? He argues that it can – if Washington and Beijing commit to placing their relationship on a stable, long-term footing.

Rudd's findings emerge from a major study he led at the Center on the possibilities and impacts of a new strategic relationship between China and the United States.

Report

Challenges to U.S. Global Leadership

In a Harvard Kennedy School IDEASpHERE session titled "Challenges to US Global Leadership," Graham Allison, Nicholas Burns, David Gergen, David Ignatius, and Meghan O’Sullivan discussed challenges as well as opportunities facing the United States. Burns moderated the session.

Challenges include the rise of China and the future of the U.S.-China relationship, the crises taking place around the world, and the reputation of the U.S. worldwide. An unexpected opportunity is the increase in available energy sources in the United States.