New voices in American foreign policy

Sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation


How American Foreign Policy Inspires Resistance, Insurgency, and Terrorism

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been trying to create a liberal world order—and it's been a bipartisan effort, says Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University. The problem is that pushing democracy onto other nations is a "delusional" pursuit that destabilizes states in already fractured circumstances. Walt uses the cases of Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan to demonstrate why the US needs an intervention on its constant military interventions. A better approach to US foreign policy? Walt suggests leading by example. The best way to spread democracy abroad might be to have a strong democracy at home. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.


Why the Real North Korea Threat Isn't Its Nuclear Weapons

Friendly neighbors and wide oceans. That, in a phrase, is America's fallback security plan. It happens to be a very effective security plan, says Michael Desch, although you wouldn't know it by listening to politicians. Their squawking about threats to America are more the result of what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex and America's history of interventionist foreign policy. Case in point: North Korea. The hermit kingdom's nuclear weapons are a defensive strategy, not an offensive one. Kim Jong-un is a rational actor who wants his family to stay in power, not risk the complete erasure of his country. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

How Rebel Victories Stop Civil Wars While Foreign Intervention Prolongs Them

How do you end a civil war? In the movies, all you really need is for Daniel Day Lewis as Abe Lincoln to make a great speech (or Iron Man and Captain America to shake hands, depending on your definition of "civil war" in movies). But in real life, things are much more complex than that. History argues that letting the rebels win at their own pace often solves much of the problem, says Monica Duffy Toft, whose work at the Center for Strategic Studies is made possible through funding from the Charles Koch Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

The Dangers of Idealism: How America Destabilized the Middle East

For the last 25 years, the U.S. has based its foreign policy on a sense of primacy and idealism rather than restraint and realism, says William Ruger, Vice President for Research and Policy, Charles Koch Foundation. Ruger asserts that the U.S. failed to recognize the human and economic cost of international military and political intervention. "We've really opened up all kinds of challenges in this attempt to open up an exemplar for the Middle East. We actually have created an exemplar," he says, "an exemplar of what can go wrong if you engage in the world without first thinking carefully about what is necessary for American safety, and what the unintended consequences of our behavior could be..." The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

How the World Lost the Fight to Separate Church and State

Religion influences politics more now than it did 50 years ago. To help explain how we moved seemingly backward from global secularism to increased religious involvement in public policy, Professor of International Politics Monica Duffy Toft explains the threefold story of failed modernization, democratization, and globalization, and how they propelled religious figures and ideas into the political arena once again. Monica Duffy Toft's work at the Center for Strategic Studies is made possible through funding from the Charles Koch Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

Does America Really Respect Its Military Men and Women?

Why might America's respect for its military be a mile wide but less than an inch thick? Less than one half of one percent of its population serves, making civilians more cavalier about when and where to deploy its military, says Michael Desch, professor of political science and founding director of the Notre Dame International Security Center. When supporting our troops translates to flyovers at NFL games and skydiving events at NASCAR races, we fail to confront the sacrifice we actually make of the military men and women sent into harm's way. Truly respecting our troops, and having confidence in their ability, means caring more about when and where they're deployed. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

How much of a threat Is Russia to the United States?

There's a lot of talk about Russia's hostility to America, thanks to its apparent interference in the 2016 election. But in the grand scheme of things Russia is small potatoes, explains Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University. America is bigger economically, has far more friends and thus a better world standing, and has a lot more going for it, says Walt. Should the U.S. really be concerned with a country with a GDP some 15 times smaller than its own, with a rapidly aging population and no industry beside oil and gas? Stephen Walt’s weekly column can be found at ForeignPolicy.com. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.


Trade, Diplomacy, Culture: How America Can Lead the World without Its Military

America seems to have forgotten a crucial fact about war: the human toll on both sides. William Ruger, Vice President for Research and Policy, Charles Koch Foundation, asserts that it would be naive to think that there is never an appropriate time for war—WWII demanded it, for example—but America's wars in recent decades appear to lack objectives, or at least objectives that are suitable to the amount of lives, funding, and global upheaval that these wars have cost. The U.S. can engage with the world without the military, says Ruger—spreading democracy is not a divine mission. Instead, let's trade, practice diplomacy, exchange the best of our culture, and most of all be humble on the world stage. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.


What does America do with its $70 billion intelligence budget?

Americans have gotten so used to being surveilled by the intelligence community that they barely register it as an invasion of privacy, says MIT professor Barry Posen. He goes further to say that the kind of data collection used by the government could very easily be used in nefarious ways (should someone nefarious get their hands on it). Another big issue he suggests is the price tag that this surveillance costs American taxpayers. At $70,000,000,000... that so-called "security" might be priced way too high. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

America Is Preventing Nuclear Attacks in All the Wrong Ways

Nuclear weapons are an odd conundrum for the world (and indeed the human species) as of late. Remnants of WW2 and indeed the Cold War, they're mostly used now as a kind of insurance policy for the safety of a country. It's like keeping a loaded gun. And like guns, America (no surprises here) has a whole lot of them and (just like a gun) they don't want anyone they don't like to have them. America is even willing to have preventative wars so that other countries don't develop nuclear weapons; which in turn breeds resentment and even more countries that resent us... who then in turn develop more nukes. It's a vicious cycle. And it may not end well. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

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  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.

A major drug distribution company and two of its former executives are facing criminal charges, marking a major shift in the battle against the opioid crisis.

The U.S. government on Tuesday charged the Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) with conspiring to distribute drugs, defrauding the federal government, and failing to file suspicious order reports. In addition to the company itself, indictment also named a former chief executive officer and chief of compliance in the indictment, at least one of whom was expected to surrender to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents on Tuesday.

Rochester is the nation's sixth-largest drug distributor, and it's the first company in U.S. history to face criminal charges for its role in the opioid epidemic. In a separate civil case, the drug company admitted that it had failed to flag suspicious opioid orders, many of which helped corrupt doctors run pill mills.

Rochester "made the deliberate decision not to investigate, monitor, and report to the DEA pharmacy customers that it knew were diverting controlled substances for illegitimate use," according to court papers. "Because it knew that reporting these pharmacies would likely result in the DEA investigating and shutting down its customers, Rochester Drug Cooperative's senior management directed the company's compliance department not to report them, and instead to continue supplying those customers with dangerous controlled substances that the company knew were being dispensed and used for illicit purposes."

Rochester has agreed to settle its civil and criminal charges, the terms of which include a $20 million fine and the expansion of its prescription monitoring system. It's unclear exactly how the criminal charges against the two former executives will play out.

"We made mistakes," said Jeff Eller, spokesperson for RDC, "… and RDC understands that these mistakes, directed by former management, have serious consequences."

​'Serious consequences'

Rochester is accused of distributing tens of millions of oxycodone, fentanyl, and other opioids to patients who had no legitimate medical need for them. This lack of oversight is one factor that enables the existence of pill mills, which are illicit medical operations where "patients" trade cash – or, sometimes, sexual favors – for prescription drugs.

"It's a huge money maker. Huge," said Jennifer Carpenter, the branch manager of the Kentuck Attorney General's Drug Investigations Branch. "Think about it. They may have 60 people on a list to be seen each day. At about $200 a person, if they see 60 people, four days a week, that's $48,000."

What's more, a 2018 study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that 28.5 percent of opioid prescriptions over a 10-year period failed to provide a valid medical reason for why patients needed the drugs. This easy access to drugs had undoubtedly led to more deaths. From 1999 to 2017, about 218,000 Americans died from overdoses related to prescription opioids. So, when Rochester refers to "serious consequences," keep those numbers in mind.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.

It's been a busy week for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The presidential hopeful recently announced a bold plan to make college tuition free and cancel existing student loan debt, a plan that would affect more than 30 million Americans. Now, Warren's weighing in on another subject that's been laying heavily on Americans' minds: Game of Thrones.

In an article for The Cut, Warren breaks down why the famously violent HBO series has captured her attention: "For me, it's not about the death count […] It's about women."

It's certainly a viable take on the show. Many of the shows' subplots are focused on women of power behaving far more capably than their male predecessors. Warren talks about Daenerys Targaryen, who succeeded in bringing an army to Westeros where her brother failed (after having molten gold poured on his head). Daenerys's success and personal force seem to have at least made an impression on the many new parents who opted to name their babies Khaleesi, after Daenerys's Dothraki title.

Warren also talks about Cersei Lannister, another woman proving to be far more efficacious than her lush of a husband from way back when in season one. Where Daenerys rules through love, however, Cersei rules through fear.

Although Warren frames her article as being focused on the women in Game of Thrones, she doesn't wind up discussing them all that much. Rather, she uses them as a lens for other issues that Americans and Westerosi alike are obsessed with; politicians who serve the people rather than the wealthy, elite, and themselves; revolutionary leaders upsetting the standard quo; and the power of money in our world.

To Warren, Daenerys's commitment to fighting the white walkers for the sake of the people rather than fighting her personal enemies to the South is a revolutionary idea:

"A queen who declares that she doesn't serve the interests of the rich and powerful? A ruler who doesn't want to control the political system but to break the system as it is known? It's no wonder that the people she meets in Westeros are skeptical. Skeptical, because they've seen another kind of woman on the Iron Throne: the villain we love to hate, Queen Cersei of Casterly Rock."

Little needs to be said about Cersei Lannister's leadership style, but Warren does a good job of summing it up: "Cersei doesn't expect to win with the people — she expects to win in spite of them."

The Game of Game of Thrones analogies

While it's not a bad take on the show, Warren's review was clearly intended to garner support for her political platform by not-so-subtly connecting her campaign to that of the good guys from Game of Thrones (inasmuch as Game of Thrones has "good" guys). It's an easy and tempting bandwagon to jump onto. Game of Thrones is a story about politics, and it's immensely successful. For many people, it serves as a great window into understanding what's happening in modern politics.

Warren isn't the first to seize this connection, either. Donald Trump has been fond of tweeting images of himself surrounded by Game of Thrones branding (much to the ire of HBO), like this one he tweeted in response to Attorney General Barr's summary of the Mueller report:

In the context of Donald Trump's prior usage of Game of Thrones, Warren's review seems like her trying to shape how we use Game of Thrones as an analogy for our real-world politics. Warren is trying to declare who the Daenerys Targaryens and who the Cersei Lannisters are in American politics.

While Warren may very well be a Game of Thrones fan, her review is more likely to be an attempt to boost her name recognition and jump up in the polls in order to become a Democratic frontrunner. Warren's not exactly polling in the middle of the pack, but FiveThirtyEight polls show that she's not yet a serious threat to Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, who, depending on the pollster, regularly switch between frontrunner and runner-up. The 2020 presidential election is still a long way away. By that time, Game of Thrones will be over, but for many Americans, the real game will have just begun.

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