Jack Goldstone: “Migration, Islam and Security”

Refugees at Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, 2006. Image: Vito Manzari/Wikimedia

How secure is Europe? What is the future of the Muslim community in the West? What should be the nature of Europe’s relationship with the Islamic world? In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, these were some of the questions addressed by Dr. Jack Goldstone at a recent ISN-CIS roundtable held on 20 January 2015 at ETH Zurich.

After diagnosing Europe’s demographic situation, Dr. Goldstone’s message was a straightforward one: without continuing large-scale immigration, Europe will soon begin a rapid economic decline.  The continent therefore does not have an ‘immigration problem.’  It has an integration problem.

Şaban Kardaş: “Central Country? Turkish Foreign Policy in a Tumultuous Middle East”

Source: Flickr/UNHCR

What has become of Turkey’s so-called ‘Zero Problems’ foreign policy? What should we think about the country’s evolving role as a regional actor?  And when we ask the latter question, which region are we actually talking about?   These questions were the focus of a recent discussion, sponsored by the Center for Security Studies, with Dr. Şaban Kardaş, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Ankara.

Dr. Kardaş argued that in order to answer these questions properly, we must understand the notion of Turkey as a ‘central’ country or power.  In other words, we must recognize that Turkey’s geography and history seem to demand that Ankara play a leading role in its region. What Dr. Kardaş meant by a ‘region’, however, turned out to be quite expansive indeed.  


Gary LaFree: Public Policy and (Myths About) Terrorism

9/11. Photo: 9/11 Photos/flickr.

On 22 May 2013, the ISN hosted the latest in a series of roundtable discussions on international relations or security-centered events. After analyzing the present status of Political Islam in last month’s roundtable, the topic of discussion this time around was Public Policy (and Myths) about Terrorism, which featured the University of Maryland’s Dr. Gary LaFree.

In his preliminary remarks, Dr. LaFree first observed that counterterrorism policy agendas are too often set by a small number of high-profile yet ultimately atypical events. In other words, terrorist strikes such as 9/11 and the recent Boston Marathon bombing have had a disproportionate impact on the development of counterterrorism policy in the US and elsewhere. That such “black swan” events have influenced policy as they have then led Dr. LaFree to raise his second point. Actual terrorism is more akin to ordinary criminal activity than not. In fact, terrorist incidents tend to be highly concentrated in time and space. They are rarely isolated in nature and tend to occur in small, self-repeating clusters or “bursts”. They echo, in short, the “near-repeat” phenomena seen in criminal activity.

Realism and Retrenchment

The Pentagon
The Pentagon. Photo:mindfrieze/flickr.

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, historian Elizabeth Hoffman added her voice to those calling for sharp reductions in American military commitments abroad. In the current climate, her argument is a familiar one: the Pentagon-heavy grand strategy that the US has pursued for the last sixty years has become an unnecessary drain on its resources. It now diminishes America’s security rather than enhancing it. But like many others, Hoffman’s call was not limited to the more controversial commitments that have been incurred in the decade since 9/11.  With the Soviet Union long-defeated and fiscal disaster seemingly imminent, Hoffman’s call is more dramatic. “Everyone talks about getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan,” she writes, “but what about Germany and Japan?”

Business and Finance

Niall Ferguson: Can Europe Fail and Is America Next?

Niall Ferguson
Niall Ferguson. Image: The Aspen Institute//flickr

Probably no questions are more relevant today than those Niall Ferguson considered in his lecture on Monday (30 January 2012), hosted by the Swiss Institute of International Studies, at the University of Zurich.  Fresh from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, the answers he gave were far from comforting:  Can Europe collapse? Of course it can.  Is America next?  Maybe.

But more importantly, Ferguson told us, we should have seen this coming. Ten years ago, in an article he co-authored in Foreign Affairs, he predicted that Europe’s newly minted Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) was doomed without a fiscal union to accompany it.  Indeed, Ferguson was one of the original ‘Cassandras’ of the project, warning as early as 2000 that “monetary unions can be undone by fiscal imbalances.”  This, he told us, was one of the lessons of history.  The closest precedent of the EMU, after all, was the obscure Latin Monetary Union, comprising France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece between 1865 and 1927.  Why is it so obscure?  Because it was destroyed by “asymmetric fiscal problems” – by the divergence between French fiscal probity, on the one hand, and Italian and Greek fiscal laxity on the other.