Academic articles by CFR fellows and experts.

The Cult of the Expert—and How It Collapsed

Author: Sebastian Mallaby
The Guardian

Sebastian Mallaby uses the framework of central bank power to examine the rise and recent decline of the cult of the expert. He concludes that, ironically, experts need to play the political game if they hope to maintain their legitimacy; and that a healthy democracy is well served by a mix of public accountability and technocratic independence. 

See more in United States; Monetary Policy; International Finance

Are U.S. Voters Becoming Isolationist–or Just More Partisan?

Author: Stephen Sestanovich
Wall Street Journal

American voters still favor an active U.S. role in the world but disagree more than they used to about how that role should be exercised. They are increasingly at odds about two big issue clusters—globalization and military intervention. These divisions will not keep a new president from trying to build bipartisan support for foreign policy, but the poll numbers are clear—the job is getting harder.

See more in United States; Polls and Opinion Analysis

War Goes Viral

Authors: Emerson T. Brooking and P.W. Singer
The Atlantic

Social media has altered the nature of war, argue Emerson T. Brooking and P.W. Singer. The viral propaganda of the self-declared Islamic State, Russian disinformation campaigns, and Chinese cyber-nationalism are all indications of a more fundamental shift in conflict—a revolution that threatens to catch U.S. policymakers and social media companies off guard. 

See more in Global; Technology and Foreign Policy; Social Media

Relations in "Kim Jong Un's Era"

Authors: Scott A. Snyder and See-won Byun
Comparative Connections

China-South Korea tensions rose with the announcement of the U.S.-South Korea alliance decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea and South Korean protests against illegal Chinese fishing. Exclusive economic zones (EEZs) remain another point of China-South Korea tension. Although China and South Korea seek to advance trade within various frameworks, such efforts only highlight a widening gap between the economic and political aspects of their relationship. Current security priorities require effective approaches to both immediate differences over THAAD and EEZs and longer-term preferences over how to effectively promote lasting stability on the Korean Peninsula, write Snyder and See Won Byun, PhD candidate in political science at the George Washington University.

See more in China; South Korea; Defense and Security; Trade

Cyberspace, Terrorism and International Law

Author: David P. Fidler
Journal of Conflict & Security Law

Governments have long worried about terrorists using the Internet to launch cyberattacks, spread propaganda, recruit and radicalise individuals and raise funds. However, the Islamic State’s exploitation of social media has caused a crisis and generated questions about international law’s role in addressing terrorism in cyberspace.

See more in Global; Terrorism; International Law

US-Japan Relations: Hiroshima to The Hague

Author: Sheila A. Smith
Comparative Connections

Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies, overviews President Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima in May and his last visit to Asia that reemphasized the regional priorities of his “pivot” to Asia. She, together with Charles McClean of University of California, San Diego, also examine the shared challenges the United States and Japan face such as domestic politics of each country,  the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, North Korean fifth nuclear test, and continued maritime tensions in Asia even after the ruling of The Hague came out.

See more in China; Japan; Regional Security

When Women Lead Soldiers Into Battle

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
The Atlantic

The ban on women in ground combat, which stood in some form ever since women were first permanently integrated into the U.S. military in 1948, has been lifted and all combat roles are now open to women. Since Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the new policy last December, the American military has also seen women ascend to positions in its highest ranks: Air Force General Lori Robinson became the country’s first female combatant commander, and Admiral Michelle Howard became the first female four-star admiral.

See more in United States; Military Operations; Women

Trade, Social Preferences and Regulatory Cooperation

Authors: Thomas J. Bollyky and Petros C. Mavroidis
Social Science Research Network

Global value chains have changed the way that the world trades. The World Trade Organization (WTO) should embrace the confluence of shared social preferences and trade, where it may exist such as digital trade, food and drug safety, and climate smart-agriculture, as a motivation for advancing international regulatory cooperation. To do that, changes to the corporate governance of the WTO are needed facilitate the use of plurilateral agreements and multilateralize progress already occurring bilaterally and regionally. 

See more in Global; Trade

Democratic Backsliding and the Reach of ISIS in Southeast Asia

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick
Current History

In early May 2016, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines made a major announcement. The three countries, which often have trouble cooperating on transnational challenges, and have long disputed ownership of some of their adjacent waters, said they would begin coordinated patrols at sea and install a threeway hotline to discuss kidnappings and other militant activities.

See more in Asia and Pacific; Terrorist Organizations and Networks

Venture Capital and Cleantech: The Wrong Model for Clean Energy Innovation

Author: Varun Sivaram
MIT Energy Initiative

Venture capital (VC) firms spent over $25 billion funding clean energy technology (cleantech) start-ups from 2006 to 2011 and lost over half their money; as a result, funding has dried up in the cleantech sector. In this report, we present the most comprehensive account to date of the cleantech VC boom and bust, aggregating hundreds of investments to calculate the risk/return profile of cleantech, compared with those of medical and software technology investments. The results are stark—cleantech offered VCs a dismal risk/return profile, dragged down by companies developing new materials, chemistries, or processes that never achieved manufacturing scale. We conclude that the VC model is broken for the cleantech sector, which suffers especially from a dearth of large corporations willing to invest in innovation. Fortunately, new public and private capital may be on the way after announcements made at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Summit. If a new and more diverse set of actors avoids the mistakes of the cleantech VC boom and bust, then they may be able to support a new generation of cleantech companies."

See more in Global; Energy and Environment