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Episode sixteen: Iran, so far away - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 14:00

 

Jonah rocks the casbah in the latest Remnant, with Middle East scholar Michael Rubin, who helps him assess the condition of the regimes of Iran and Turkey and the status of the Middle East and Islam generally.

You can subscribe to The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, and TuneIn. You can also download this episode here.

This podcast was originally published by National Review.

Podcast intro and closing music is “March of the Elephants” by Remnant listener Craig Robison.

The signal and the noise: Trump’s foreign policy in year two - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 20:46

As we enter the second year of US foreign policy under the current administration, sometimes it is hard to separate the signal from the noise. Is there a guide for the perplexed?

US President Donald Trump, flanked by National Security Adviser HR McMaster (L) and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R). REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The new National Security Strategy may be a useful starting point. Many of the administration’s opponents conceded that National Security Adviser HR McMaster and his staff, led in this instance by Nadia Schadlow, did excellent work in crafting a thoughtful and perceptive document. The usual suspects and critics of a Republican presidency denounced the strategy — critics including the People’s Republic of China, Vladimir Putin, prominent liberal Democrats, and strict non-interventionists on the Right. Another common theme emerged among critics that the document could not possibly represent the president’s actual beliefs on foreign policy. Interestingly, this is also the fear of some Trump supporters; they fear there is a “deep state” clique around the president.

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Yet the United States has and continues to have a president-centered foreign policy system. Bureaucratic influences are quite significant, but can also be overrated. At the end of the day, presidents make the big decisions. The problem with ascribing Trump’s foreign policy decisions to intense bureaucratic pressure is that he has made — from the perspective of most experts — some broadly conventional decisions. These include Afghanistan, continued reinforcements to Poland, and pressure on North Korea. He has made some unconventional ones as well: Jerusalem, the Paris climate accord withdrawal, and the travel ban. The best explanation for this variance is likely the president’s own determination of what he finds convincing in each case.

Keeping this in mind, perhaps the real meaning of the new National Security Strategy is not so esoteric after all. Here are some of its central themes:

  • We live in a competitive environment, internationally
  • The United States has the right to pursue its own interests within this environment
  • Restoration of economic competitiveness as the basis for American power
  • Rebalanced US alliance relationships including increased burden-sharing and commercial reciprocity
  • Border control and homeland security as fundamental
  • American energy dominance
  • Pushing back against numerous adversaries of the United States overseas, rogue states as well as major ones
  • Acceptance of great power rivalry as a fact of life, combined with hopes for regional stability and cooperation where possible
  • A US military buildup.
  • Hunting down jihadist terrorists wherever they live

Now you may agree with the above themes and priorities, or you may disagree. However, if you’re still entirely convinced that Trump does not believe in them, go back and reread the list. It is true the president has offered significant modifications on critical issues from his earliest language on the campaign trail. But the majority of what he has said about America’s alliances since his inauguration has reaffirmed their place in US foreign policy. To be sure, he still calls, in the bluntest of terms, for increased defense spending from allies overseas, especially in regard to Berlin.  Yet the actual practice of the current administration — including the president’s language — has been, in many ways, to affirm and even sometimes bolster existing US alliances.

Trump’s most vociferous critics might be more persuasive if they did not sound as though they were trying to untie his shoelaces every minute, hoping for him to trip. Good foreign policy analysis — like good foreign policy — is empirical. A bad-faith model of any given president cannot be a useful guide because it rejects all contrary evidence. If presidents can learn, then so may their critics. On a wide range of issues, conservative Republican national security hawks will need to consider whether they are willing to take yes for an answer from this administration. Most already have.

Echo-chamber fury, lousy press coverage, meat-grinder party politics, rumors of palace intrigue, superficial tweets and counter-tweets — that is the noise.

An underlying foreign policy direction thus far emphasizing freedom of action, rebalanced and reciprocal alliance relationships, a blunt emphasis on US national interests, attention to the domestic economic sources of power, continuing forward military presence, counter-pressure against numerous foreign adversaries, and a new American nationalism — that is the signal.

In this year and beyond when it comes to US foreign policy, consider focusing on the signal, not the noise.

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Charles Murray on the right questions and the wrong answers - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 20:38

In this AEI Events Podcast, Charles Murray offers a retrospective of his career from a personal point of view.

https://media.blubrry.com/aeieventspod/p/content.blubrry.com/aeieventspod/Events_Charles_Murray_on_the_right_questions_and_the_wrong_answers_2017_01_08.mp3

Murray opens by discussing two places that had a lasting impact on his worldview: Newton, Iowa, where he was born and raised, and rural Thailand, where he spent five years as a Peace Corps volunteer and researcher. In different ways, both places taught him about the intimate relationship between local community and a meaningful, happy life.

He then discusses his career as a policy analyst, focusing on the work that was most meaningful to him. Although it did not generate the most public acclaim (or controversy), he has always regarded “In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government” (Simon & Schuster, 1988) as the book he is most proud of writing because it allowed him to wrestle with deep questions about the relationship between policy and happiness.

Murray then reflects on how politics and policy have changed over the past few decades, and he closed with advice to all those who still hold libertarian or conservative principles: Character is destiny.

Run of show: Ryan Streeter is joined by Karlyn Bowman to introduce Charles (2:40), Charles Murray begins his remarks (8:00), and audience Q&A (57:30). This event took place on January 8, 2018.

Watch the full event video here.

Subscribe to the AEI Events Podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Private Data, Not Private Firms: The Real Issues in Chinese Investment - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 20:18

Key Points

  • The main development in 2017 for China’s investment around the world was the curbing of private Chinese investment in the US and the expansion of state-owned enterprises’ investment in Europe. There were signs late in the year that Beijing could allow more private spending in 2018.
  • The United States, at least, may not be interested. American skepticism grew first due to a wave of attempted Chinese technology acquisitions and most recently with the possibility of Americans’ personal data being held by Chinese companies. Formal US restrictions are pending.
  • The Belt and Road Initiative consists primarily of Chinese construction projects rather than investment. These continue to be substantial, but there was no sign of intensified activity in 2017, and the extreme dollar figures some associate with Belt and Road are currently unreasonable.

Read the PDF.

Introduction

China’s investment around the world in 2017 was dominated by talk of restrictions applied by the central government and host governments, such as the United States. The obvious implication, supported by misleading official statistics, was that China’s global spending had plunged. This is wrong. The best available evidence indicates Chinese investment overseas climbed modestly in 2017, after a path-breaking 2016.

The China Global Investment Tracker (CGIT) from the American Enterprise Institute is the only fully public record of China’s outbound investment and construction.1 Rather than merely asserting totals, the CGIT lists all 2,700 transactions. The CGIT shows investment rising almost 9 percent in 2017. This heavily depended on the $43 billion acquisition of Swiss agro-tech giant Syngenta, without which investment would have dropped more than 16 percent. For perspective, the 2017 total without Syngenta would still be the second-highest on record.

It is true that the top line is more bullish than what is below it. The number of transactions fell, as did investment volume in many countries and sectors. But the numbers make clear that the over‑arching story is not decline but change to very large transactions by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and new sectors of emphasis, such as logistics. Such purchases lead to a banner 2017 for Britain and Singapore, as examples.

Chinese investment is often conflated with its overseas construction of rail lines, ports, and so forth. While construction activity is valuable, it does not bring ownership as investment does. Construction contracts are smaller on average, but there have been more $100 million construction contracts since 2005 than $100 million investments. Last year alone, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) signed construction deals worth $100 million or more with almost 60 countries. This is the core of the much-discussed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).2 By sector, the most activity occurred in transportation.

Construction under the BRI should be similar in 2018. The main questions for this year are whether Beijing will allow private firms to invest more aggressively and how far Washington will go in blocking Chinese acquisitions. By the end of 2017, private Chinese investment began to pick up again. It will not be allowed to return to the 2016 frenzy but will probably grow this year, helping offset any decline in state spending.

The downside risk for Chinese spending is in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). CFIUS has refused to approve a number of Chinese transactions in a timely manner. Along with PRC restrictions, this undermined 2017 Chinese spending in the US, which fell by half to below $25 billion. A bipartisan bill to extend CFIUS’ authority is being watched globally. Just as important, CFIUS has stalled Chinese acquisitions involving customer data. This embodies a difficult trade-off: the evident benefits of foreign investment versus the lack of rule of law in the PRC. Chinese spending here is positive for our economy. But Chinese firms cannot be trusted to obey American laws.

Read the full report.

Notes

  1. American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation, “China Global Investment Tracker,” https://www.aei.org/china-global-investment-tracker/.
  2. Jessica Meyers, “China’s Belt and Road Forum Lays Groundwork for a New Global Order,” Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-china-belt-road-20170515-story.html.

China Global Investment Tracker - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 18:55

Editor’s note: The value of China’s overseas investment and construction combined is approaching $1.8 trillion. In 2017, investment shifted back toward state-owned enterprises making very large acquisitions while construction on the Belt and Road was stable. The US and other countries have expressed increasing concern about Chinese attempts to acquire technology.

The China Global Investment Tracker is the only comprehensive data set covering China’s global investment and construction activity. Inaugurated in 2005, the CGIT now includes approximately 2700 large transactions across energy, technology, transportation, and other industries, as well as over 200 troubled transactions. The full list, with the amount, Chinese parent company, host country, and sector, is available for public use with the proper citation. The tracker is published by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

Keeping fossil fuels underground makes no sense - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 18:11

What would happen if climateers succeed in their campaign to keep fossil fuels in the ground?

The experience of Walt Disney World in Orlando more than 40 years ago provides some answers. In 1973, two years after it opened, plans to expand Disney World beyond the original theme park were jeopardized when war broke out in the Middle East. An oil embargo was placed on Western countries, and President Nixon introduced gasoline rationing and price controls that lasted for nearly a decade under three U.S. presidents: Nixon, Ford and Carter. For a resort that received the majority of its visitors by car, the price controls and rationing were nothing short of a disaster. Attendance at the Magic Kingdom crashed, and Disney’s share price fell by more than half.

Don Dowdell flips his token on the In and Out Board after his shift at the American Energy Corporation Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, U.S., November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

It wasn’t just Disney World and Florida tourism that suffered from the spike in gasoline prices. Areas from Chicago to Houston to Los Angeles to Phoenix experienced a similar crash, with motorists lining up for hours to fill their cars with gasoline. Businesses and construction projects suffered, factories closed and several million Americans lost their jobs during the 1973-1975 recession that was largely the result of the shock of higher energy prices.

Continue reading this article here.

A Better Way to Reform Prisons - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 16:21

Prison systems in the U.S. are bloated, inefficient, and wasteful. We can get a much better return on the estimated $40 billion we invest annually in prisons by instituting reforms based on what’s been shown to work. In a recent American Enterprise Institute report, I lay out a plan for evidence-based prison reform that 1) significantly expands the delivery of effective programming, 2) further reduces our reliance and spending on prison, and 3) places greater emphasis on the use of validated risk assessments to help prison systems make better programming and downsizing decisions.

The nation’s imprisonment rate has fallen by more than 10 percent over the last decade. Because we’ve overused prison, this decline is a step in the right direction. But prison downsizing alone will not improve public safety unless it’s accompanied by an increase in effective programming resources for prisoners, probationers, and parolees.

Prison inmates head out to the day’s work of battling the blazes at fire command center in Santa Rosa, California, U.S October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Heather Somerville.

Decades of research have shown there are effective interventions that reduce recidivism by targeting known risk factors for reoffending. Examples include substance abuse treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy, sex offender treatment, and education and employment programs. Research has also shown, however, that five-year rearrest rates for U.S. prisoners are near 80 percent.

One reason why recidivism rates are so high is that many prisoners are idle in prison, due to their own choice, overcrowding, or a lack of programming resources. When prisoners are “warehoused”, it diminishes their chances for success in landing a job and desisting from crime after they get released. A recent study found that warehousing increased the likelihood of recidivism by 13 percent.

How can we deliver more programming that’s been proven to be effective without increasing the costs? After all, programming costs money, and a lack of money in state budgets is a big reason why a number of states have recently downsized their prison populations. Further reducing the use of prison is necessary to not only lower the costs, but also to free up the physical space needed within prisons to provide more programming. Prison populations can be reduced by 1) decreasing the number of persons (re)entering prison and 2) shortening the lengths of stay for those admitted to prison.

When individuals enter prison, it should be long enough to participate in effective programming, which usually lasts between 3 and 9 months. The best way to safely reduce prison admissions would be to restrict probation and parole violators (about two-thirds of all prison admissions) to the more serious offenders who are, as it is, more likely to get longer revocations. The less serious violators, who are more likely to get warehoused due to their relatively brief stays in prison, should remain in the community. We can achieve better public safety outcomes by reallocating the decarceration “savings” to provide more programming resources for all probation and parole violators—those revoked to prison as well as those who stay in the community.

But if it’s necessary to extend the minimum length of stay in prison to at least five months for rehabilitation purposes, the same holds true for limiting how long most inmates should be imprisoned. Because inmates with longer sentences tend to be warehoused for much of their imprisonment, the average sentence length (5 years) is ample time to participate in multiple effective interventions. Shortening confinement periods for more inmates with longer sentences would generate decarceration “savings” that, once again, should be reinvested to ramp up the delivery of prison programming.

Downsizing the prison population to increase programming would require correctional systems to make more decisions relating to program placement and recidivism risk. Improving the quality of these decisions would require more extensive use of validated risk assessment instruments. Concerns have been raised about whether algorithms and “big data” are being used to worsen racial and ethnic disparities. What critics have failed to point out, however, is that the alternative would be reliance on professional judgment, which doesn’t perform very well in predicting future behavior—and recidivism is no exception. To be sure, the design and use of actuarial risk assessments can, and should, improve. But it’s also important to recognize that research has long shown that statistical prediction is the superior approach.

Implementing evidence-based prison reform would require a shift from punishment to rehabilitation in both our ideology and practice. Make no mistake, this would be no small feat. One enduring school of thought has been that if we make prison so horrible, it will motivate inmates to desist from crime. Increasing the misery of the prison experience may satisfy the impulse for retribution, but it doesn’t lead to an efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Indeed, the evidence has long shown that punitive strategies are costly and, ultimately, ineffective in promoting desistance from crime. Instead, if we want prisons to be leaner, more cost-effective, and more successful in reducing recidivism, we need reform based on what’s been shown to work.

Inside the black box: The accuracy of alternative stress test models - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 16:00

Editor’s note: This paper has been updated from the original version posted in March 2017. 

ABSTRACT

Many jurisdictions use regulatory forecasts of bank performance over multi-year economic stress scenarios to set institutions’ regulatory capital requirements and yet little is known about the accuracy of these forecasts. I use the 2008 financial crisis to assess the accuracy of alternative stress test modeling approaches. Stress test models calibrated using traditional econometric approaches similar to those that have been used by the Federal Reserve produce large forecast errors even though these models fit the estimation data exceptionally well. In contrast, machine learning calibration methods produce vastly superior stress scenario forecasts. The large forecast errors generated by commonly employed stress testing approaches highlight the need to develop techniques to assess the accuracy the regulatory stress tests models.

 

Read the full PDF here.

Trump’s national security strategy: 10 big priorities - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 14:03

“First time I met with President Trump, we disagreed on three things in my first 40 minutes with him. This is not a man who’s immune to being persuaded if he thinks you’ve got an argument.” – Secretary of Defense James Mattis, August 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

As we enter a second year of U.S. foreign policy under the current administration, sometimes it’s hard to separate the signal from the noise. Is there a guide for the perplexed?

The new National Security Strategy (NSS), designed to clarify the administration’s foreign-policy concerns and objectives, may be one useful starting point. Its release received largely positive reviews. Even many of the administration’s opponents conceded that national security adviser H. R. McMaster and his staff—led in this instance by Nadia Schadlow, deputy assistant to the president for national security strategy—did good work in crafting a serious and perceptive document ahead of schedule.

Click here to read the complete article from Dr. Colin Dueck in The National Interest. 

What, if anything, is at stake in the Czech presidential election? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 13:00

The role of Czech presidents is largely ceremonial: to host state dinners, appoint ministers, and occasionally veto legislation. But that does not mean the upcoming presidential election on January 12–13 (with a run-off scheduled for January 26–27, if necessary) is inconsequential.

Czech presidential candidates Jiri Drahos, Pavel Fischer, and Petr Hannig attend a political debate in the village of Radonice near Prague, Czech Republic January 4, 2018. REUTERS/David W Cerny

For one, Czechs seem to have a penchant for larger-than-life presidential figures who significantly shape the climate in the country. Largely through the power of his own example — bordering on a benign cult of personality — Czechoslovakia’s first president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, helped keep his country a stable democracy in the turbulent Central European neighborhood between the two world wars. Likewise, the dissident-playwright Václav Havel, elected to the Czech presidency after the country’s independence in 1993, allowed the Czech Republic to punch far above its geopolitical weight.

It is fair to say that the incumbent, Miloš Zeman, is unlikely to leave a footprint of any similar significance. The veteran politician has come under the spotlight mostly for his gaffes — such as his joke about “liquidating journalists” during his meeting with Vladimir Putin last year — heavy drinking, and for being the Kremlin’s most reliable ally in the European Union (EU). Some of the blame is placed on his adviser, Martin Nejedlý, former CEO of a Czech branch of Lukoil who helped Zeman’s campaign in 2013 and who has since received substantial financial assistance from Russia.

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Zeman’s ostentatious defense of Moscow and his overtures to China — combined with a much colder attitude toward the Czech Republic’s traditional partners in Europe — have raised eyebrows internationally. But what seems to hurt him more among voters is the fact that the 73-year old politician, a lifelong smoker and drinker, suffers from a severe diabetic neuropathy, making it difficult for him to walk even the shortest distances. As a result, Mr. Zeman has not participated in any televised debates between candidates and it is not clear how well he can cope with the rigors of another 5-year term in office.

With the notable exception of former Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, Mr. Zeman’s challengers are figures with little prior experience in politics. Unless Mr. Zeman is elected narrowly in the first round (which could happen if turnout is very low), the run-off promises to be a close race, with Mr. Zeman likely facing Jirí Drahoš, a physical chemist and former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

The stakes are high for domestic reasons, too. Following a parliamentary election in October, the billionaire-turned-populist Andrej Babiš formed a government that does not enjoy a majority in the lower house. His cabinet survives largely due to the leniency of President Zeman, who is allowing the minority government to operate against prevailing constitutional conventions.

It is unlikely that any of his challengers would be similarly accommodating toward Mr. Babiš. What makes the current situation even more precarious is the fact that, if it weren’t for his immunity as a parliamentarian, the current prime minister would face criminal prosecution for fraud involving public funds awarded to his hotel resort, the Stork’s Nest.

True, the Czech presidential election might not be a nailbiting drama like the ones seen recently in France and Austria. However, whoever wins will shape the country’s increasingly volatile domestic politics and will also have a say in potentially irreversible foreign policy decisions that will either tie Prague closer to the EU’s integration core or entrench its current position on the political periphery. For those reasons, this is definitely an election worth watching closely.

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The 2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 13:00

Today, we unveil the 2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, identifying the university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to shape educational practice and policy. Simply being included in this list of 200 scholars is an accomplishment, given the tens of thousands who might qualify. The ranked scholars include the top 150 finishers from last year, along with 50 “at-large” nominees chosen by the 31-member selection committee (see yesterday’s post for a list of committee members and all the salacious methodological details).

Here are the 2018 rankings (scroll through the chart to see all names and scores, or click the link below the chart to view the table in a new tab). Please note that all university affiliations reflect a scholar’s institution as of December 2017. The bottom line: This is a serious but highly imperfect attempt to nudge academe to do more to recognize and encourage scholarship which engages the real world of practice and policy.

View this table in a new tab.

Without further ado, let’s get to the results. The top scorers? All are familiar edu-names, who have authored influential works and played outsized public and professional roles. Topping the rankings, once again, was Stanford University’s Linda Darling-Hammond. Rounding out the top five, in order, were Harvard’s Howard Gardner, U. Penn’s Angela Duckworth, U. Wisconsin’s Gloria Ladson-Billings, and NYU’s Diane Ravitch. The rest of the top ten included Stanford’s Larry Cuban, Temple’s Sara Goldrick-Rab, U. Penn’s Marybeth Gasman, Stanford’s Jo Boaler, and the University of Virginia’s Carol Ann Tomlinson.

Harvard’s Dan Koretz made the biggest single leap from last year, climbing 132 spots to 20th place. His rise was fueled by the success of his much-discussed University of Chicago Press book, The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better. Others making especially big jumps from 2017 included Harvard’s Stephanie M. Jones and David J. Deming, Stanford’s David F. Labaree, and Michigan State’s Barbara Schneider. Also notable was Stanford’s Raj Chetty debuting at 14th, on the back of his high-profile work on equality of opportunity and college mobility.

Stanford University and Harvard University had the most ranked scholars. Stanford placed six scholars in the top 20 and Harvard four. U. Penn also placed multiple scholars in the top 20. When it came to overall representation, Harvard led the way with 24 ranked scholars. Stanford was second, with 20, and Columbia was third, with 14. All told, 55 universities had at least one scholar make the cut.

A number of top scorers penned influential books of recent vintage. U. Penn’s Angela Duckworth’s best-seller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance continues to do exceptionally well. A few other books that did especially well were Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America; Harvard Dean Jim Ryan’s Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions; and Jo Boaler’s Mindset Mathematics: Visualizing and Investigating Big Ideas.

As with any such ranking, this exercise ought to be interpreted with appropriate caveats. Given that the ratings are a snapshot, the results obviously favor scholars who published a successful book or big study last year. But that’s how the world works. And that’s why we do this every year.

A few scholars tended to lead the field in any given category. For those of you keeping score at home, here’s some highlights:

More than 40 scholars maxed out on Google Scholar. When it came to book points, fifteen scholars maxed out, including Darling-Hammond, Gardner, Ravitch, Larry Cuban of Stanford, and Carol Ann Tomlinson of the University of Virginia. Duckworth and UC-Berkeley’s Richard Rothstein finished first and second in Amazon points, with 20.0 and 19.9 respectively. Fourteen scholars maxed out on syllabus points, including Ladson-Billings, Stanford’s Sam Wineburg, and UT-Austin’s Angela Valenzuela.

As far as attention in the education press, Darling-Hammond, Duckworth, and Temple’s Sara Goldrick-Rab topped the charts. When it came to mentions in mainstream newspapers, Goldrick-Rab took the top spot, with Stanford’s Raj Chetty and U. Penn’s Marybeth Gasman not far behind. In terms of web presence, over a dozen scholars received the maximum score, including Stanford’s Sean Reardon, Harvard’s David Deming, and Marc Lamont Hill of Temple. When it came to social media, Ravitch and Lamont Hill posted the top Klout scores for the second year in a row.

If readers want to argue the construction, reliability, or validity of the metrics, go for it. I’m not sure that I’ve got the measures right or how much these results can or should tell us. That said, I think the same can be said about college rankings, NFL quarterback ratings, or international scorecards of human rights. For all their imperfections, I think such efforts convey real information—and help spark useful discussion.

That’s what I’ve sought to do here. Meanwhile, I’d welcome suggestions for possible improvements and welcome thoughts, questions, and suggestions. So, take a look, and have at it. And, don’t miss Ed Week’s special commentary package coming out next week (both in print and online) on the RHSU rankings—including a lively discussion of what happens when scholarly engagement in public debate ceases to be a good thing, how we can tell, and what can be done about it. Tune in to see what Wisconsin’s Diana Hess, UCLA’s Pedro Noguera, Seton Hall’s Robert Kelchen, Arkansas’ Pat Wolf, and yours truly have to say on that score.

Huawei out of the US, Apple out of China? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 21:44

In what the press is calling a “stunning setback” for the Chinese telecoms giant, Huawei, AT&T walked away from a deal to distribute the company’s handsets (phones) through its large nationwide distribution network. (Most mobile phones are sold in bundled packages by US carriers.)

The Huawei booth shows its public safety solution at an exhibition during the 86th INTERPOL General Assembly at Beijing National Convention Center in Beijing, China. REUTERS/Jason Lee

According to reports, the deal had been two years in the making, and the companies were set to announce the pact today (ads were already up on US billboards). While important details of the deal’s failure are still unknown, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal, security concerns about Huawei in general and the handset itself were behind AT&T’s sudden decision. The vague phrase “security concerns” noted in public reports almost certainly points to an intervention, behind the scenes, by a US government agency.

There is a lot more to be written as deeper analysis of this episode emerges, but at this point I have only one query: Why shouldn’t Tim Cook over at Apple be worried and apprehensive? The Chinese market has been described by Cook as a key element in Apple’s future growth. The company, after struggling for several years in the highly competitive Chinese handset market, has seen sales “soar”over the past quarter. But given the deteriorating state of US-China trade and investment relations, won’t it be tempting for Beijing to mirror the US and raise “security” concerns about Chinese citizens using a US company’s technology?

Just a thought.

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Is Trump unfit to govern? Who decides? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 20:22

Questions about President Trump’s mental health resurfaced recently, touching off a debate about the 25th Amendment and the Goldwater Rule which prohibits psychiatrists from evaluating someone they have not met. AEI Resident Scholar Sally Satel, a practicing psychiatrist, is available to comment on Trump’s mental fitness, the 25th Amendment which deals, among other things, with presidential disability, and the guidelines set forth by the American Psychiatric Association.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Satel wrote:

Much has been written lately about the Goldwater Rule, the American Psychiatric Association’s prohibition against members’ evaluating anyone they have not personally examined. The rule dates to 1973, when analysis of patients’ unconscious processes drove diagnosis. Today, diagnosis is often linked to observable traits, making evaluation at a distance plausible. Even if Mr. Trump refused to cooperate, diagnosis might be the easy part — perhaps too easy. Whether or not they can say so, many experts believe that Mr. Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder. He is grandiose, entitled, desperate for admiration and so on.

But any number of presidents have remained in office despite some level of mental impairment. Historians believe that Abraham Lincoln, for example, had clinical depression. A president can have a mental disorder and, overall, function admirably. In the absence of disability, a president may be inexperienced, indecisive or inept. Psychiatrists would be alarmed if mental illness were considered an absolute bar to public service.

Considering personality disorder only: How does it relate to fitness? Can erratic behavior be strategic? Decisions at this level of refinement become ever less scientific, less medical… However flawed, the Goldwater Rule saves psychiatrists from the temptation to misuse diagnosis for partisan purposes.

To arrange an interview with Sally Satel, please contact AEI Media Services at mediaservices@aei.org or 202-862-5829.

Discussing Trump’s leadership: Thiessen on Fox News’ ‘The Story with Martha MacCallum’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 19:48
Resident fellow Marc Thiessen discusses President Trump's meeting with legislators on immigration reform.

Intelligence beyond 2018: A conversation with CIA Director Mike Pompeo - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 19:31

The event is only accessible to the general public through our livestream. If you are a member of the media and wish to cover this event, please contact MediaServices@aei.org, 202.862.5829.

The United States carries into 2018 many of the most pressing national security challenges of the previous year. The North Korean nuclear and missile programs now threaten not only the region but also the US mainland. China, Russia, and other revisionist powers are working to shape global events and landscapes to conform to their interests, to the detriment of those of the United States. And the terror threat from groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda remains potent throughout the world. In this global threat environment, America’s intelligence community is working hard to ensure the homeland remains safe.

One year into his tenure, CIA Director Mike Pompeo joins AEI’s Marc Thiessen to discuss the Trump administration’s response to these challenges and his vision for the agency’s future.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.

 If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.

Localism vs. the Politics of Abstraction - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 18:48

In 1742 the Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote, “Parties from principle, especially abstract speculative principle, are known only to modern times, and are, perhaps, the most extraordinary and unaccountable phenomenon that has appeared in human affairs.”

Hume’s observation is a useful insight into the kinds of division and polarization that characterize the American political landscape today.

Like America’s founders after him, Hume was interested in how political factions operate. He observed that factions in the modern era had started behaving in ideological ways. Ideology, or “abstract speculative principle” in his vernacular, had become a powerful force in human associations, fueling the passions in ways that more mundane reasons for forming associations did not.

“Parties of interest” were more historically familiar than “parties of principle,” he argued, uniting citizens around common commercial and geographic interests. If, say, a politician has a keen interest in promoting solar energy because producers of solar products are in her district, she is acting out of interest. If her political decisions are framed by an abstract notion of “climate justice,” she is behaving ideologically.

In his day, Hume was primarily concerned with how religious abstractions were corrupting the pursuit of common political interests. But his observations are just as relevant today, as secular ideological commitments advance through a kind of zealotry akin to the religious fanaticism of Hume’s day.

Spiritualizing political ideologies produces what we might call a “politics of abstraction” in which adherents join an ideological tribe and defend its tenets with an inflexibility that the tribe’s members regard as virtuous. Hume said that members of factions experience a good deal of fortification from the “unanimity of sentiment” they experience in their common cause, but they are then disproportionately “shocked and disturbed” when they encounter any opposition to their ideological views.

The politics of abstraction is especially troubling when laid against the backdrop of two related developments in American public life.

First, because of its inflexibility, the politics of abstraction tends toward federal, one-size-fits-all policymaking whether the issue is climate change, government spending, taxes, healthcare, inequality, or whatever is driving the national debate. Variation, which is more common as solutions become more local, is unpalatable to ideological purists.

Progressives have long argued for federal solutions to problems, but lately, conservatives have been doing the same. The new nationalism that imbues a large swath of current Republican sentiments has little use for subsidiarity and federalism. From the Tea Party election of 2010 to the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, Republicans have been sending people to Washington with hopes solving big national problems.

Supporters cheer U.S. President Donald Trump’s motorcade as it returns him to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Very little has been said by the right or left in recent years about the virtues of mediating institutions, those bedrocks of a civil society that stand between the state and the individual, such as local associations, schools, houses of worship, neighborhoods, and families. The Contract with America that defined the Republican revolution of 1994 was anchored by policy goals presupposing the centrality of families, neighborhoods, and personal responsibility and action at the local level. Today, listening to the most prominent talking heads and politicians on the left and right, it is as if America is a nation full of unsheltered individuals seeking protection from a federal overseer. The sacred middle layer of protection between the state and the individual has largely disappeared from political rhetoric.

This problem is compounded by the incompatibility of a politics of abstraction with American institutions, which is a second problematic development. Our institutions are supposed to be vehicles through which publicly minded individuals engage in the give-and-take of solving common problems and pursuing commonly held goals. And yet our fundamental institutions such as Congress, universities, the executive branch, the media, and even the courts have increasingly become platforms for ideological expression in lieu of serving their core public purposes. It is no surprise that public confidence in them has declined significantly in the past few decades.

It is telling that as public confidence in federal and state government has declined over the past generation, confidence in local government has remained higher and largely unchanged over the same time period. Fixing potholes is less prone to ideological manipulation than fighting inequality.

Meanwhile, as ideological tribalism and institutional cynicism grow, we find ourselves more alone. Loneliness has skyrocketed since the 1980s. This is not to say that our political environment is causing the rise of social isolation in America. We do not know enough to make such a claim, and what we do know suggests that social isolation is a complex phenomenon. But it is worth noting that as voters on the right and the left have grown more exercised and angry about political issues bouncing around social media and cable TV, they are also feeling more alone. Ideological tribes may generate a “unanimity of sentiment,” in Hume’s terms, but they are no substitute for a neighborhood, church, school, or local civic organization where people stand side by side while helping a neighbor in need.

The corrective to political abstractions and personal isolation is the localization of national concerns. Almost everything that the United States needs more of is generated at the local and regional level. We need more new businesses. We need more jobs filled by underemployed people. We need more happy people. We need more healthy people. We need more good schools. We need more kids raised in two-parent families. We need more entrepreneurs with better ideas and access to more financing. We need more giving, more helping, more connectedness.

There is very little that federal government does to directly produce more of these goods. This is not to say that federal policy does not create conditions for flourishing or decline. It does. But too often, our public debates about public problems forget about the importance of looking to the local level for solutions.

Local solutions are important because human scale matters. People care most about – and are most likely to act on – that which is proximate to them. There is a reason that philosophers throughout the ages, from Plato to Hume, argued that the size of a polity matters. If problems are no longer the responsibility of those next door, and if those next door no longer feel connected to those who need them, the politics of abstraction wins.

America needs two forms of localism to counteract the politics of abstraction. The first is more local governance over issues we have ceded to Washington, DC. We need to give more flexibility to local agencies and institutions so they can better help low-income families get training and better jobs, create more educational options for families, create environments that entrepreneurs like, experiment with new types of infrastructure, make innovation easier, and more. This would be a large-scale project granting exceptions to federal and state requirements in favor of local innovation.

The second, and perhaps more important, form of localism concerns economic and social innovation. Smaller, local businesses generate revenue for other local firms and are reliable employers during economic downturns. Local entrepreneurs have a positive effect on income and employment and employ workers who are committed to their communities. We should make it easier for local entrepreneurs to launch new businesses through licensing and banking reform. We should make it easier to match enterprising firms with talented workers through modernized workforce development policies. But most importantly, we need what no government policy can achieve: local business and civic leaders committed to cultivating new business and social entrepreneurs no matter what political leaders do. This is an opportunity for a new generation of philanthropists and civic innovators.

Local action is the arena in which people are needed by others. It is the arena in which national problems become local. It is the arena in which you and I create solutions instead of waiting for distant bureaucrats to do it for us. It is the arena in which the politics of abstraction no longer makes sense and social isolation dissolves amidst true community.

Ryan Streeter is the director of domestic policy at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributor to the American Project.

Discussing smartphones’ effect on youth: Pethokoukis on CNBC’S ‘Power Lunch’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 18:30
DeWitt Wallace Fellow James Pethokoukis discusses the increased usage of smartphones among children and teens.

Air routes and instability in the Taiwan Strait - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 18:10

As the Trump administration has maintained its focus on the North Korean threat in Asia, China’s policy of unrelenting pressure on Taiwan has continued unabated. Since Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016, Beijing has cut off formal communications with Taipei, stripped it of democratic allies (thus breaking the “diplomatic truce” that had been in force since 2008), launched a campaign of naval and air exercises around the island, and ensured that Taiwan’s already minimal participation in international organizations was further constrained.

China’s recent behavior evinces a determination to further unsettle the security environment in the Taiwan Strait, and the Trump administration should respond appropriately. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin

Most recently, China last week inaugurated four new commercial air routes in the Taiwan Strait without informing Taiwan. In doing so, Beijing ignored a prior agreement with Taipei, dating to 2015, in which China agreed to launch only one of five new routes it had previously announced without consulting the Ma Ying-jeou government.

The M503 air route was previously opened to southbound traffic per the 2015 agreement. Last Thursday, China announced it would henceforth be open to northbound traffic as well. China also announced the opening of three west-east feeder routes to the M503 from Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Dongshan.

The M503 runs just west of the Taiwan Strait’s center line, which serves as the unofficial air boundary between Taiwan and mainland China. Those responsible for ensuring Taiwan’s security worry that People’s Liberation Army aircraft may take advantage of the new routes to approach the island under the guise of commercial airliners.

China’s behavior here evinces a determination to further unsettle the security environment in the Taiwan Strait and a willingness to do so with little regard for the safety of civil aviation. The actions of a responsible major power these are not.

Taiwan’s inclusion in the Trump administration’s recently released National Security Strategy was a positive development, and the president should now move quickly to put some meat on his strategy’s bones. Strategic stability is on the wane in the Taiwan Strait. To restore it, and thus head off a potential crisis, Washington should draw closer to Taiwan, support its military modernization needs, and make the island’s security a priority in the administration’s dealings with Beijing.

Learn more:

Reinventing America’s schools | Viewpoint - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 15:58

AEI’s Andy Smarick interviews David Osborne, author of the new book “Reinventing America’s Schools”. A quarter-century ago, Osborne co-authored “Reinventing Government”, the path-breaking, best-selling book on reimagining how the government carries out some of its key responsibilities. “Reinventing America’s Schools” uses those lessons to explain the dramatic education changes taking place in a number of US cities. He and Smarick discuss parental choice, local boards of education, and nonprofit school operators, as well as the encouraging results and challenging politics of these reforms.

DEBATE: What Could the Iran Uprising Portend? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 15:42

BESA Center Online Debate No. 4, January 9, 2018.

Q: Anti-government protests in Iran – occurring for the first time since 2009 – are attracting international attention. The scale and ferocity of the uprising have left many people dead, injured, or arrested. The reasons for this new internal instability, and the potential repercussions for the country and the regime, have generated a lively debate. BESA asks the experts: What could the uprising in Iran portend?

Respondents: Benjamin Weinthal, Ze’ev Maghen, Michael Rubin, Anoush Ehteshami, Ali Ansari, Peter Rough

 

Benjamin Weinthal, Research Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

There are two possibilities for the Iranian protests sweeping the country.

First, the Iranians seeking liberty, democracy, self-dignity and economic justice could topple the regime controlled by the incorrigibly reactionary Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is probably a tall order to dissolve the regime, but the different character of the revolts blanketing Iran reveal a bundle of potential for a new political and social system. A telling point is that the protests, in contrast to the 2009 Green Movement demonstrations, are not largely limited to Tehran but have permeated the country and smaller cities. BBC Persian reported that 90% of the protests unfolded in cities that have not previously experienced demonstrations against Iran’s clerical rulers. The mix of working-class Iranians and young people demanding an end to the regime is a breathtaking development.

Widespread labor unrest in a largely closed society like Iran is a salient example that the regime’s foundation is on shaky ground. The chants voiced among the protesters suggest that the outrage is chiefly about human freedom. Some of the slogans voiced: “We don’t want an Islamic Republic!” “Death to the Dictator!” “Mullahs Must Get Lost!” “The Clerics Act Like Gods!” Death or Freedom!” “Leave Syria, think about us!” “Not Gaza, not Lebanon – my life for Iran!” and “We will die – [but] we will take back Iran!” Whereas the Green Movement activists of 2009 protested the fraudulent presidential election, the ubiquitous protests over the last week help explain that this new movement is about emancipation.

The second possibility is that Iran’s regime employs its massive security apparatus (the Revolutionary Guards Corp and the Basij) to crush the protests. With over 20 people dead and more than 2,000 arrests, Iran’s clerical rulers are already waging a bloody conflict. It is worth recalling that an Iranian regime that aided Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in his use of chemical warfare to wipe out civilians will go to great lengths to preserve its Islamic revolutionary system.

If the worst case scenario succeeds and the current protests are smashed, there is a still a strong basis for a new revolt. European Union and US support for democracy promotion in Iran will help enormously for the next wave of protests. Put simply, ordinary Iranians loathe the regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The inherent potential of regime change will not vanish. In fact, it will increase.

 

Professor Ze’ev Maghen, Professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic History and Senior Research Associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University

The fundamental difference between the ongoing protests in Iran and similar demonstrations in previous years is that they are undermining the very basis of the Islamic Republic. In the past, demonstrators complaining about the economy or against corruption or election irregularities could hardly threaten the Islamic Republic itself. But current slogans reflect strong nationalism. They are calling for a return to the Iran of before the Islamic Revolution and are not simply targeting a particular person, although “death to the dictator” is still heard these days.

The future course of the ongoing protests will mainly depend on two factors. The first is the number of participants, which is not particularly large as yet. The second is the ability of the Islamic Republic to practically apply its repression mechanism and silence the voices of opposition. For the time being, the protesters are finding it difficult to motivate the masses to take to the streets around the country and support the cause of nationalism against the ayatollahs. However, if the number grows, the Iranian regime will be placed under threat. It is under those circumstances that regime change might be cultivated.

 

Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Washington DC

Make no mistake, the fall of the Islamic Republic would be a gift to the world. Iran is a country of fantastic human capital and wealth and Iranians deserve to be free. The Iranian public is also largely immunized to Islamism and other populisms, having suffered so dearly for them over the decades. But it’s important not to be Pollyannaish about the difficulties that would ensue. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is extraordinarily wealthy, and at least some are true believers. They may not go down without a fight, even if Ali Khamenei ends his days swinging from a lamppost. Even if the Revolutionary Guards move on, they will be a formidable economic force in the future.

It’s naïve to believe Iranians are pro-American or even pro-Western. Conspiracy theories don’t die overnight. A naïve leftism and statism has long dominated Iranian intellectual circles. And while lofty rhetoric of social justice may sound good in tea houses and university campuses, it’s going to take serious work to rebuild the damage done to Iran over decades. Still, the overall balance sheet will be positive should the Islamic Republic end, not only for Iranians, but also for Lebanese, Syrians, Yemenis, and many others.

 

Anoush Ehteshami, Professor of International Relations in the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University

These are significant developments in Iran.

This level of countrywide protest was last seen in 2009 following Ahmadinejad’s reelection as president against all predictions and pollster expectations. In 2009 demonstrations started in Tehran and spread to other major urban centers; the demonstrators had a clear set of grievances regarding the election’s outcome (“Where is my vote?”) and the system’s repressive and dismissive response to it; the demonstrators had clear leadership in the figure of the two popular, reform-leaning candidates (both of whom are still under house arrest); and the demonstrations were organized.

This time, while protests were triggered as a response to the difficult socioeconomic conditions and were sparked by President Rouhani’s hardline opponents, they soon spread beyond their control and acquired an anti-regime form. This time around there is no leadership, no organized force to manage the protests, and no clear demands that can be met or addressed. So while it may be easier to quell the protests, their spontaneous and political nature, as well as their spread, marks them out as a signal of widespread dissatisfaction and pent-up anger and frustration against the regime.

Ironically, the protests make life very difficult for the centrist and pro-reform President Rouhani, whose election victory last year was welcomed as a sign of reformist-consolidation, reinforcing the reform camp’s grip on city councils and in the parliament. The assumption was that with them in control, Iran was stabilizing around the center ground. The protesters are signaling that small changes, cosmetic reforms, or talk of change without action is no longer acceptable to them.

Further, slogans against Iran’s regional policies indicate that there is general concern about the direction of Iran’s foreign policy and the “axis of resistance” that Tehran so proudly and openly sponsors and supports. Iranians want an end to regional adventurism and isolation and demand that the resources squandered in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, and Yemen be used to help them at home.

So the regime is facing a serious crisis. A reformist government that promised change for the better, rule of law, openness, and freedom of thought and expression cannot then brand protesters foreign agents and dismiss their concerns – and yet without major structural change and a serious check on the power of the clerical and security establishment, little can be changed! The pro-reform government simply cannot enforce the necessary structural changes.

Also, Iran’s regional and foreign policy is set by the Supreme Leader and agreed by the country’s Supreme National Security Council. The government cannot change Iran’s regional and foreign policy by itself; nor does it want to change the principles of the regime’s foreign policy, as the current foreign policy course of action is all about Iran’s “revolutionary horizons.” This government certainly cannot try and renegotiate that policy with the Leader and the security establishment and expect to stay in power.

The government is between a rock and a hard place domestically and is in danger of appearing weak and vulnerable externally, which might invite pressure from its regional detractors as well as the US. Questioning the legitimacy of the Rouhani government will make it more vulnerable to pressure by the hardliners at home. This will not only add to Tehran’s problems but may well push the outside opponents of the nuclear deal to seek its renegotiation, or worse still termination. If the Iranian security apparatus uses excessive force against the protesters, imprisons large numbers of people, and kills many on the streets or under torture, then it will be very difficult for the parties who remain supportive of the nuclear deal, like the EU, China, and Russia, to come to Tehran’s defense.

Finally, the crisis can only deepen the cleavages in the Iranian state between the so-called moderates and hardliners, thus weakening the regime and its apparatus in the long run. These protests are perhaps a wake-up call for the regime, whose leadership is increasingly detached from the people and appears hypocritical and unresponsive to the people’s and the country’s needs. As I said in my recent book on Iran, this is a regime “stuck in transition” – and as we are now witnessing, this limbo land is dangerous and unsustainable.

 

Ali Ansari, Professor, School of History, St Andrews University

It is difficult to assess at this stage how the protests might develop, but the authorities are clearly preparing for a clampdown by pointing the finger at the usual foreign suspects and attempting to make a clear distinction between rioters and protesters, a distinction that I suspect will be quite difficult to make in practice. The immediate consequence therefore is likely to be a period of further repression and a weakening of Rouhani, who faces the unpalatable choice of siding with his constituents or with the revolutionary authorities – and losing credibility with whichever side he disappoints. Experience of course suggests that he will side with the authorities.

How matters subsequently develop depends very much on what efforts might be taken to address the causes of the discontent. Again, history suggests that the authorities will do very little to address the clear political deficiencies, preferring instead to labor away at economic development as the solution. History has shown this to be ineffective with the consequence that the Islamic Republic is likely to be facing a period of protracted turbulence and instability.

 

Peter Rough, Fellow, Hudson Institute, Washington DC

The first rule of crisis management is that early facts are unreliable – and quite often tend to be wrong. As a result, it is important to remain analytically cautious in assessing the events unfolding on the ground in Iran. Even so, that uncertainty should not translate into political paralysis. Iran is a committed enemy of the West, and the US and its allies should seize this opportunity to apply pressure on it. The protesters in Iran must hear that even more powerful actors than their own oppressors stand with them.

In the best-case scenario, the protests in Iran trigger a comprehensive US policy to pressure the Iranian regime. The US has taken at least one step in this direction already, issuing new sanctions against entities linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program. Appalled by the regime’s crackdown, President Trump may decide to go a step further by sanctioning complicit individuals. In the ideal scenario, the president would decline to continue waiving sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and publish information on the institution’s role in channeling money to regional proxies and wars. A broad campaign to undermine Iran in Syria would follow.

For years, Iran has cultivated a Janus-faced image: while Hassan Rouhani wore a Western smile, Qassam Soleimani brutally exported the Iranian revolution. In the uprising, the people of Iran have exposed Rouhani as a regime functionary rather than a moderate reformer. Paradoxically, Rouhani’s hardline competitors inside the regime will interpret the protests as vindication, arguing that his style has brought the regime to the precipice of ruin. As a result, the mullahs are likely to turn even more ruthless in the coming year, crushing dissent at home while continuing their malfeasance abroad. In the process, the true face of Iran will reveal itself even more clearly.

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