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Decision Spaces

Vol. 8 No. 1 | 2021 Edition
Scott McDonald

Forget China:
A Policy for an Interconnected Region

Written by Scott McDonald

The United States (U.S.) must approach the growing assertiveness and revisionism of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by deemphasizing its importance to U.S. policy formation. Although this will seem counter-intuitive to most observers, it is an important first step in placing the very real challenges posed by the PRC in their appropriate context. Neither is this to suggest the intentions and actions of the PRC do not pose a serious threat to the interests of the U.S., for in many areas they do. However, in crafting foreign policy, the U.S. government must first focus on promoting and defending its own interests. By contrast, the popular emphasis on “countering” other states is a second-handed approach that cedes the initiative and allows one’s adversary to control one’s policy.....



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Scott McDonald is a Non-resident Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, HI and is currently a Ph.D. Student at The Fletcher School of Tufts University. He wishes to thank the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which helped make research supporting this article possible.

Mark Nevitt

The climate-security century is here. With global temperatures rising, climate change is poised to massively destabilize the physical environment. This century may well be defined by our ability (or inability) to reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions. We must also adapt and respond to climate change’s multivariate security impacts. From raging wildfires in Australia and California to melting ice sheets and permafrost in the Arctic, climate change acts as both a threat accelerant and a catalyst for conflict. Climate change is also unlike any other traditional security threat. It accelerates and exacerbates existing environmental stressors—such as sea level rise, extreme weather, drought, and food insecurity—leading to greater instability. Climate change impacts are already taking center stage this century, forcing us to think more broadly about climate change’s relationship with human security and national security....

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Mark P. Nevitt is Associate Professor of Law at Syracuse University College of Law, affiliated Fellow with Syracuse’s Security, Policy, and Law. A former naval officer, tactical aviator, and military attorney (JAG), he previously served as the Distinguished Professor of Leadership & Law at the U.S. Naval Academy and the Sharswood Fellow, Lecturer-in-Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He thanks Juliana Heffern and members of The Fletcher School community for the opportunity to contribute to FSR.

The Climate-Security Century:
Three Climate Hotspots

Written by Mark Nevitt
Zach Cooper & Emily Young Carr

Win-Win Cooperation:
Welcoming Hong Kong Refugees
Would Benefit the United States

Written by Emily Young Carr and Zack Cooper

In his first address to employees of the U.S. State Department, President Joe Biden promised to “take on directly the challenges posed [to] our prosperity, security, and democratic values by our most serious competitor, China.” One of the best ways for the United States to show support for democratic values is to welcome victims of repression in Hong Kong to America. Such a step would not only signal America’s commitment to protecting freedom and democracy abroad, but would also strengthen the U.S. economy....

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Emily Young Carr and Zack Cooper are researchers at the American Enterprise Institute.

Cynthia Buckley, Ralph Clem, and Erik Herron

Transitions in Global Health Diplomacy:
Views of Donors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by Cynthia Buckley, Ralph Clem, and Erik Herron

Sickening and killing people worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting national and international economies and creating enormous human suffering. Current and future geopolitical implications are substantial, requiring long term attention by national security policymakers in the United States and elsewhere. Central among these foreign policy concerns is the capacity of states across the globe to deliver health care (and other services) to their populations and the role of health and human security in promoting national security. Prior to the pandemic, interest in Global Health Diplomacy (GHD) as a foreign policy tool was growing, reflecting the recognition of border crossing health concerns and the effectiveness of health-focused development aid. Health assistance provided through GHD enables improvements in the quality of life, expansion of infrastructure, and strong donor-recipient ties, each of which can contribute to recipient state capacity. Emerging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic increase the importance of international health assistance. The value of health assistance in generating grassroots aid recognition, thereby capturing “hearts and minds,” is a potent means of building international recognition of both a state’s humanitarian mission and building a positive reputation in recipient state public opinion.....

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Cynthia Buckley is a Professor of Sociology and affiliate of the Center for European Union Studies at the University of Illinois, Urban-Champaign. Her research focuses on the drivers and implications of socio-demographic change.


Ralph Clem is Professor Emeritus of Geography at Florida International University in Miami, where he was a faculty member from 1974-2009. He is currently a Senior Fellow in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs at FIU. His primary research interest is on the study of the geopolitics of Russia and Eastern Europe, with a focus on military and national security issues.


Erik S. Herron is the Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of Political Science at West Virginia University. His research focuses on political institutions, especially in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

Fletcher Security Review (FSR): What do you perceive as the greatest threat to global nuclear security? Where do you see the greatest potential for the outbreak of nuclear war?

Vipin Narang (VN): Rather than focusing on regions, I see three trends which I think we should be concerned about. One is the return of a great power arms race, and a lot of this was exacerbated in the Trump administration. Even as we head into the Biden administration—which extended the New START Treaty with Russia for five years—Russia and China are modernizing their nuclear forces at breakneck speed. They are worried primarily about U.S. missile defenses, which at this point are unconstrained. The United States has a variety of missile defense systems at the regional level which work pretty well, as well as the national missile defense system, which doesn’t…yet. You will often hear that the national missile defense system does not work very well and that is true—the success rate is around 60 percent in simulated tests. It may be difficult to ever get it to work perfectly or even well, but it is the prospect that the United States might get it to work that really drives modernization efforts in Russia and China.....

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Dr. Vipin Narang is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a nonresident scholar in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Dr. Narang received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, where he was awarded the Edward M. Chase Prize for best dissertation in international relations. He holds a B.S. and an M.S. in chemical engineering from Stanford University and a M.Phil from Oxford University. Dr. Narang is regularly cited in popular media outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others, and is the author of several books and articles, including his forthcoming book “Seeking the Bomb: Strategies of Nuclear Proliferation” (Princeton University Press, forthcoming).

"Systemic Risks"
A Conversation on Nuclear Technology
and Deterrence with Dr. Vipin Narang

Interviewed by Dylan Land
Vipin Narang
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