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In How to be Secular, Berlinerblau argues for a return to America's hard-won secular tradition; the best way to protect religious diversity and freedom lies in keeping an eye on the encroachment of each into the other. Berlinerblau passionately defends the virtues of secularism, reminds us what it is and what it can protect, and urges us to mobilize around its cause, which for all Americans to continue to enjoy freedom for--and from--religion. This is an urgent wake-up call for progressives in and out of all faiths.

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SFS' Andrew Natsios recently wrote about unlinking food aid from nuclear talks in the Washington Post.

The Obama administration pledged 240,000 metric tons of food aid and nutritional supplements for children just as the president’s North Korean envoy, Steve Bosworth, announced that Washington would resume four-party nuclear talks. Bosworth acknowledged that the food aid would demonstrate to the North Koreans “that they are getting something in return for the freeze in their nuclear activities.”

Obama officials are repeating the mistakes the U.S. government made in the 1990s when it used food aid in the midst of famine to coax North Korea to the nuclear table. We all know the results of that effort: North Korea has probably six to eight nuclear weapons, and its poor continue to endure hunger and starvation.

To read more about U.S. and North Korean relations, check out "Stop feeding North Korea's nuclear ambition".

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SFS Dean Carol Lancaster was recently part of a panel entitled "Is Foreign Aid Worth the Cost?" at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Woodrow Wilson Center's blog New Security Beat summed up some of Dean Lancaster's statements, saying:

Lancaster listed four vulnerabilities in the future course of U.S. foreign aid that should be avoided, including trying to merge our various interests through the State and Defense Departments with our aid programs in countries like Pakistan, where the institutions are weak and corrupt; the danger of creating an entitlement dependency through funding of HIV/AIDS drugs, where we will be guilty of causing deaths if we reduce funding; the danger of attempting to undertake too many initiatives at once, such as food aid, global health, climate change, and science and technology innovations, while simultaneously trying to reform the infrastructure of USAID; and trying too hard to demonstrate results from aid given the difficulty of disentangling causes and effects and gauging success over too short a time frame.

Read more about the panel on foreign aid, or watch the video at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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SFS Distinguished Professor Andrew Natsios wrote about Sudan's oil crisis, and how that is the least of Bashir's problems, with threats of being overthrown and an economy in tatters looming for Foreign Affairs this week.

But the referendum and the South's formal declaration of independence have not produced a lasting peace, yet. Despite the mediation of former South African President Thabo Mbeki, negotiations before independence (and since) left several unresolved issues to fester: How much the South would pay to transport oil through the North, where the actual border would lie (especially the status of the disputed region of Abyei), debt sharing, and what the citizenship status of South Sudanese remaining in the North, and vice versa, would be. In addition to tension surrounding these questions, a wider opposition that includes the three major Darfur rebel movements, the Northern arm of the Southern political movement, is growing. It is making this moment all the more precarious for Khartoum. In fact, the tangle of contestations and conflicts across the country marks the most serious challenge to the survival of Omar al-Bashir's Islamist government since it usurped power more than two decades ago.

Read more about the troubles in the Republic of South Sudan in Foreign Affairs.

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Colin H. Kahl, associate professor for the SSP program, recently wrote a rebuttal to an article in Foreign Affairs arguing that it was time to attack Iran saying that Washington should not choose war when there are still other options. He went on to say that Washington should not base decisions off of best-case scenarios of how it hopes the situation would turn out.

In "Time to Attack Iran" (January/February 2012), Matthew Kroenig takes a page out of the decade-old playbook used by advocates of the Iraq war. He portrays the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran as both grave and imminent, arguing that the United States has little choice but to attack Iran now before it is too late. Then, after offering the caveat that "attacking Iran is hardly an attractive prospect," he goes on to portray military action as preferable to other available alternatives and concludes that the United States can manage all the associated risks. Preventive war, according to Kroenig, is "the least bad option."

But the lesson of Iraq, the last preventive war launched by the United States, is that Washington should not choose war when there are still other options, and it should not base its decision to attack on best-case analyses of how it hopes the conflict will turn out. A realistic assessment of Iran's nuclear progress and how a conflict would likely unfold leads one to a conclusion that is the opposite of Kroenig's: now is not the time to attack Iran.

Click here to read Kahl's whole piece in Foreign Affairs on why it's "Not Time to Attack Iran".

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CPASS Associate Director David Maxwell wrote two articles last month for Small Wars Journal. The first was about the death of Kim Jong Il and the challenges and opportunities the US, the international community and for the Republic of Korea.

The real opportunity is not to exploit the current events to cause a regime change for which no one is prepared, but to exploit the opportunity over the next two or more years to conduct the effective preparations necessary to deal with regime collapse on terms that the ROK and US desire. 

The second article focused on professional military education and how a better system could look.

A core curriculum is key to ensuring that the joint military has a common basis for understanding joint and combined military operations and strategy.  A common, foundational educational experience can provide the basis for career long interoperability in the joint force, the ability to have a common understanding for the American Way of War and most importantly provide the basis for development of successful campaign plans and strategies.  Ideally, such a common educational experience should be provided to national security professionals, military and civilian alike; however, the civilian aspect is beyond the immediate scope of this paper but should be considered.

In addition to a common core curriculum there may be value in a common educational framework for career military personnel.  The US military has been known as an institution that provides excellent educational and training opportunities to allow military and civilian personnel to develop to their full potential.  This should be sustained and built upon.

For a more in-depth analysis on military education read the full article at the Small Wars Journal.

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SFS Professor Bruce Hoffman and Dr. Sarah Fainberg discussed the implications of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden on both the Islamic world and the United States. Watch this episode of Faith Complex below or at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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SFS Associate Professor Abraham Newman wrote about the European financial crisis for Foreign Affairs this week. He asserted that private investors and richer countries will have to shoulder some of the sacrifice to save the continent.

The eurozone crisis is not a simple story of sinners and saints. Overleveraging -- the excessive borrowing practice at the core of the crisis -- is itself a perverse and direct consequence of the unified currency. The introduction of the euro and the inflation-fighting mandate of the European Central Bank caused credit-rating agencies to lower interest rates across the eurozone. Greece, Ireland, and Italy suddenly found themselves with Germany’s credit score, and their citizens and governments went on borrowing sprees. Current account deficits exploded in the periphery, as German and French banks loaned money to Greeks and Spaniards to buy German and French products. Fantastical financial products pushed by Wall Street, London, and Frankfurt further fueled the consumption binge, since they allowed individuals to take out even larger mortgages and revolving credit.

All was well until the financial crisis dried up revenues and forced governments to transfer the costs of risky private borrowing to the public through bailouts. Banks are once again making record profits, but taxpayers are stuck with the hangover from the party. The sovereign debt crisis, then, is not merely a result of individual states’ irresponsible fiscal decisions but part of a systemic failure in the flow of European credit.

Read The Greek Haircut and Europe's Shared Responsibility at Foreign Affairs.

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SFS Professor and South Asia expert Christine Fair testified before the House Foreign Affairs South Asia Subcommittee about Pakistan and argued that that the nation has been taking advantage of "our stupidity, our gullibility."

I think what the Pakistanis are taking advantage of historical events -- and this has been true of every single period of engaging them -- saying that they support our strategic interests while taking advantage of our stupidity, our gullibility to take the massive aid that they get and funnel it into systems that really target their security interests, which have always been and always will be India-centric.

Read the full article here.

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SFS Professor and Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding John Esposito wrote about Tunisia post-free elections for the Washington Post's On Faith blog.

Amidst reports of a 70-80 percent voter turnout of young and old, women and men, moderate Islamists and secularists, the election symbolized a restoration of their dignity and freedom and the hope for a better future. At the same time, many in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world and the West watched the first fruits of the Arab Spring unfold. Early reports indicate that among the 80-plus political parties and independents, Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) Party, already has won 45 to 50 percent of the seats.

Ennahda’s emergence as a major political player has been enhanced by its history as the primary opposition movement and victim of the Ben Ali regime’s police state, by its strong organization, national appeal and platform, as well as the absence of strong alternative political parties. The legacy of Ben Ali’s Tunisia as that of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt is a history and culture of authoritarianism which precluded the development of a strong multi-party system. The RCD like its Egyptian counterpart the NDP flourished in what was an essentially a one party state. 

If the question in the past had been: Is Arab culture or Islam compatible with democracy? Today the key question is: “Are the old political and bureaucratic guard and “liberal” secularist elites as well Islamists ready for the transition to Arab democracies and political pluralism?”

Read the full article at the Washington Post.

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