Contributors | Power & Policy


Graham AllisonGraham T. Allison
Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Since the 1970s, Graham Allison has been a leading analyst of U.S. national security and defense policy, with a special interest in nuclear proliferation and terrorism. He served as assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton Administration, and was a longtime member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board.  He is the founding dean of the modern Kennedy School. Full bio >

Nicholas Burns

R. Nicholas Burns
Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

Nicholas Burns is Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and Faculty Chair for programs on the Middle East, and on India and South Asia. He served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008, leading the effort to reshape U.S. relations with India. Previously, he was U.S. Ambassador to NATO. Full Bio >

Richard ClarkeRichard A. Clarke
Faculty Affiliate, Belfer Center
Richard Clarke, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, served the last three presidents as a senior White House adviser. He has held the titles of Special Assistant to the President for Global Affairs; National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism; and Special Advisor to the President for Cyber Security. Full bio >

Steven MillerSteven E. Miller
Director, International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Steven E. Miller is editor in chief of the quarterly journal International Security and also co-editor of the International Security Program’s book series, Belfer Center Studies in International Security (which is published by the MIT Press). A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Miller is co-chair of the Committee on International Security Studies, and co-directs the Academy’s Project on the Global Nuclear Future. Full bio >

Joseph NyeJoseph S. Nye, Jr.
Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is Dean Emeritus of the Kennedy School. He joined the Harvard Faculty in 1964. He developed the theory of neoliberalism, and the concepts of soft power and smart power. He served as chairman of the National Intelligence Council in 1993-94 and was assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Clinton Administration.  Full bio >

Meghan O'SullivanMeghan O’Sullivan
Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Meghan L. O’Sullivan was deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush on Iraq and Afghanistan. Previously she served in the Office of Policy and Planning in the State Department, where she developed the smart sanctions policy for Secretary Colin Powell. Her areas of research include nation-building, counterinsurgency, the geopolitics of energy, decision making in foreign policy, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Full bio >

Monica ToftMonica Duffy Toft
Associate Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Monica Duffy Toft is director of the Initiative on Religion in International Affairs at the Kennedy School. A former Army sergeant, Toft conducts research on international relations, religion, nationalism and ethnic conflict, civil and interstate wars, the relationship between demography and national security, and military and strategic planning. Full bio >

Stephen WaltStephen M. Walt
Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Stephen M. Walt has been a Resident Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution, and a consultant for the Institute of Defense Analyses, the Center for Naval Analyses, and the National Defense University. A former academic dean of the Kennedy School, Walt is a leading thinker on political realism; he developed the balance of threat theory in the 1980s to explain changing global alliances as the Cold War was coming to an end. Full bio >

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ASEAN | Power & Policy

Tag Archives: ASEAN

ASEAN’s Great Power Dilemma

By Kei Koga. (This article first appeared in Asia Times Online) Since the end of the Cold War, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has engaged the outside world to play an active security role within greater East Asia. … Continue reading >

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Harvard Kennedy School | Power & Policy

Tag Archives: Harvard Kennedy School

Stand-off in Crimea: Cui Bono?

It seems there has been no Russia watcher left in the world who has not opined on Vladimir Putin’s swift and not so covert moves in the Crimea, pondering: “who’s to blame and what to do?” In times like these it is also as customary for analysts of international affairs to wonder “to whose benefit?” Yet this question remains open even though some of the Western diplomats are already calling the current standoff the biggest crisis in Europe of the 21st century. Continue reading >

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The Off-Shoring, Out-Sourcing Debate is Out of Date

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr. (This article first appeared on, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor) Labor markets have for the past quarter century been at the center of the globalization disputes under the “off-shoring and out-sourcing” rubric. … Continue reading >

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The IEA’s Poor Performance and the Risks of Oil Abundance

By Leonardo Maugeri Roy Family Fellow, Geopolitics of Energy Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Although quite late, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has noticed that American crude oil production is increasing at an unprecedented rate, and that … Continue reading >

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Nationalist Insurgencies and the al-Qaeda Narrative

By Francisco Martin-Rayo The Obama administration’s heavy-handed approach to drone strikes in Yemen has blurred the distinction between terrorist and innocent civilian.  As administration officials continue to identify nearly all military-aged males in strike zones as possible combatants, media outlets … Continue reading >

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The Syrian Uprising: The View from Tehran

By Annie Tracy Samuel, A longer version of this post appeared first at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.  The violent confrontation between Bashar Assad’s regime and opposition forces, now fifteen months … Continue reading >

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Sanger book: Obama order sped up cyberattacks against Iran

By David E. Sanger (This is an excerpt from a New York Times front-page article today, which is adapted from David Sanger’s new book, “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” being published by Crown … Continue reading >

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Lessons learned from the protracted Iranian nuclear file

By Mansour Salsabili

Research Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

(This commentary appeared first on

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Continuing to insist on sanctions against Iran will produce a bad deal for America.

Why? Because this week Iran is putting on the table in Baghdad a number of concrete and tension-reducing offers in response to the earlier requests of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

These offers will have the strong support of Russia and China, and may attract positive votes from other European delegations as well. This will leave the US administration, which cannot force Congress to end sanctions, in the corner and in a passive position in any future talks.

In the second round of the current negotiation — between Iran and the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — any forward looking plan will need to be comprehensive, including all aspects of a final deal. However a comprehensive approach cannot be implemented in a single shot or in haste, but rather in a step-by-step process that produces concrete results for each step in turn. The final deal may commence from particular unresolved issues involving the Iranian nuclear program and then extend to more general questions of regional cooperation and even peace in the Middle East. Continue reading >

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Russia and Putin Redux: Prospects for Change

By Simon Saradzhyan  and Nabi Abdullaev            (Updated Monday, March 5, 2012) There was little doubt that Vladimir Putin would be elected president of Russia on Sunday and return to the Kremlin for a third term. The Central Elections Committee announced … Continue reading >

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Scholars reflect on Afghan Koran burnings, rioting

Several Harvard Kennedy School scholars who have worked in Afghanistan were asked to comment on how the United States should respond to the accidental burning of Korans by the U.S. military, and the subsequent deadly rioting in the country. Here … Continue reading >

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Fighting for Food?

By Halvard Buhaug, Helge Holtermann, and Ole Magnus Theisen The globe keeps warming and a global food crisis is looming, but evidence suggests that, contrary to the opinion of many observers, tensions over scarce food and water will not increase … Continue reading >

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Osama bin Laden | Power & Policy

Tag Archives: Osama bin Laden

Do U.S. drone strikes on al-Qaida make us safer?

By Sean M. Lynn-Jones On June 4, a missile fired from a pilotless U.S. drone reportedly killed Abu Yahya al-Libi, said to be al-Qaida’s second-in-command, in a remote region of Pakistan. Just over a year earlier, U.S. special forces stormed … Continue reading >

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Leveraging smart power against terrorists

Some hawks have cited the skillful military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden as proof that terrorism must be dealt with by hard power, not soft power. But such conclusions are mistaken. A smart strategy against terrorism also requires a large measure of soft power.

Terrorists have long understood that they can never hope to compete head on with a major government in terms of hard power. Instead, they use violence to create drama and narrative that gives them the soft power of attraction. Terrorists rarely overthrow a government. Instead, they try to follow the insights of jujitsu to leverage the strength of a powerful government against itself. Terrorist actions are designed to outrage and provoke over-reactions by the strong.

For example, Osama bin Laden’s strategy was to provoke the United States into reactions that would destroy its credibility, weaken its allies across the Muslim world, and eventually lead to exhaustion. The United States fell into that trap with the invasion of Iraq. According to a May 6 article in the National Journal, “By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.” Continue reading >

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Pakistan can chart a new nuclear future

Osama bin Laden’s death is a victory as well as vindication over the terror and pain that his actions had spawned over the years. Al Qaida has been dealt a significant blow. People of all walks of life, age and creed will remember this moment of justice rendered.

At the same time, finding that bin Laden had been hiding in the heartland of Pakistan and living in a fortified house within the vicinity of a prime Pakistani military academy raises serious questions. This comes after a long list of other security concerns that have befallen the country, including high-level assassinations, terrorist acts, and nuclear proliferation activities. It also revives uncertainties on the extent to which the government is in full and effective control the country. Such lingering concerns are neither good for Pakistan nor for the region. With the immense challenges and complexities facing Pakistan, its leadership and stability are both vitally important.

Pakistan’s support has been crucial in battling many of the threats mentioned above. In particular, Pakistan’s assistance is needed in the fight against nuclear terrorism. If Pakistan were to fail in this fight, it would be everyone’s failure as well. But the signs are troubling. Pakistan is on a nuclear upswing and has been building additional nuclear weapons by boosting its plutonium production capacities. It is in the process of commissioning a third plutonium production reactor, starting construction of a fourth reactor at Khushab, and is completing its reprocessing plant at Chashma. By the end of this decade, Pakistan is poised to have the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. Continue reading >

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Vigilance essential in coming months

The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs We must remain especially vigilant over the next weeks and months. There is likely to be a global spike in terrorist threats … Continue reading >

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security | Power & Policy

Tag Archives: security

China’s nuclear policy: changing or not?

By Hui Zhang Senior Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School The new defense white paper released by China on April 16 has sparked a debate over whether China is … Continue reading >

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Nuclear Security Summit: One year on, and looking ahead

We asked nuclear policy experts in Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs to summarize in one paragraph the achievements in the year since President Obama convened a summit on nuclear security on April 12-13, 2010. And … Continue reading >

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Cyber Security at the Munich Security Conference

Last weekend, I chaired a panel at the Munich Security Conference on cyber security. This is the first time the venerable gathering has addressed the issue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed it, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague devoted nearly his whole speech to Britain’s new cyber strategy. Until recently, the issue of cyber security has largely been the domain of computer geeks and specialists. When the internet was created forty years ago, this small community was like a virtual village of people who knew each other, and they designed a system with little attention to security. Even the commercial Web is only two decades old. Security experts wrestling with cyber issues are at about the same stage in understanding the implications of this new technology as nuclear experts were in the early years after the first nuclear explosions.

In my new book, The Future of Power, I describe diffusion of power away from governments as one of the great power shifts in this century. Cyberspace is a perfect example of a broader trend. The largest powers are unlikely to be able to dominate this domain as much as they have others like sea, air or space. While they have greater resources, they also have greater vulnerabilities, and at this stage in the development of the technology, offense dominates defense in cyberspace. The United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China have greater capacity than other state and non-state actors, but it makes little sense to speak of dominance in cyber space. If anything, dependence on complex cyber systems for support of military and economic activities creates new vulnerabilities in large states that can be exploited by non-state actors.
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Disagreeing with Joe Nye

As a colleague who has been learning from Joe Nye for many years, I join the chorus applauding his latest in a string of pearls of wisdom about power in international affairs.  The Future of Power is a must-read.  Imaginatively, judiciously, Joe tours the horizon of current debates and offers thoughtful, policy-relevant advice.

From questions about the rise of China and decline of the U.S., to cyberspace and changing metrics of power in 21st century international affairs, he advances the debate.

With so much to agree with, what’s to disagree?  While my major difference is more one of emphasis than fundamentals, let me overstate it for the sake of clarity.  Consider the core question: what is the single biggest threat to American power and security today?

Interestingly, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has answered this question unambiguously.  As Mullen has stated on several occasions, his considered judgment is that “the single biggest threat to American national security is our debt.”  By debt he means not only the current mountain of nearly $14 trillion of gross federal debt that has accumulated mostly over the past decade, but also the current trajectory that will add an additional $1.5 trillion this year, and even worse, embedded trendlines in spending and taxing that are undermining America’s balance sheet.

In the words of our colleague Larry Summers, who just returned from Washington: “Is there not something odd about the world’s greatest power being the world’s greatest debtor?”

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