Must Reads

A sortable index of the best online analyses and inquiries on foreign policy.

FT: A Bullingdon Bust-Up That Masks a Real Welfare Problem

Author: Gideon Rachman

"The enlargement of the EU and the free movement of people are both fine ideas. But, taken together, they have changed the nature of the union. A pragmatic pro-European should acknowledge that, when circumstances alter, democratic systems adapt. Changes to the welfare rules – allowing countries more scope to give priority to their own citizens – would make it easier to win the more important argument for open borders."

See more in Europe; Society and Culture

New America Foundation: Do NSA's Bulk Surveillance Programs Stop Terrorists?

Authors: Peter Lampert Bergen, David Sterman, Emily Schneider, and Bailey Cahall

"Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group.... The overall problem for U.S. counterterrorism officials is not that they need vaster amounts of information from the bulk surveillance programs, but that they don't sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that was derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques."

See more in United States; Defense and Security

FT: Investment: Dollar Disruptions

Author: Robin Wigglesworth

"A dollar renaissance is unlikely to prove as agonising as it did in the past. The biggest risk in 2014 is going to be the more immediate impact that the Fed's unwinding of its quantitative easing programme will have on global borrowing costs. Chinese economic growth – a big driver of emerging economies – is another wild card. But a stronger dollar will not prove painless and policy makers in the developing world should not be complacent."

See more in Global; Economics

Cairo Review of Global Affairs: Legitimizing an Undemocratic Process in Egypt

Author: Michele Dunne

"It will be nearly impossible for observers to do a credible job under the present conditions in Egypt. And even if the referendum goes smoothly, it is not at all clear that the vote will make a meaningful contribution to getting Egypt back onto a democratic path. Observers and foreign governments, including the United States, would do well to make sure that their engagement and statements keep the focus on the big picture of Egypt's worrisome trajectory."

See more in Egypt; Elections; Democratization

Harper's Magazine: The Pious Spy: A Taliban Intelligence Chief's Death and Resurrection

Author: Mujib Mashal

"Perhaps Ahmadullah no longer feels that his life is at risk. Unlike al-Qaeda, the Taliban have emerged from the past decade remarkably unscathed. Many of the group's leaders have vanished into tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and others live in urban areas—such as Quetta and Karachi—where U.S. drones could not reasonably operate. Still, if Ahmadullah who is no older than forty-seven, has any hope of playing a role in Afghanistan's future, he will have to emerge at some point from 'under the grave.'"

See more in Afghanistan; Intelligence

Journal of Democracy: Breaking the News: The Role of State-Run Media

Authors: Christopher Walker and Robert W. Orttung

"Aside from outliers such as Cuba, North Korea, and Turkmenistan, today's authoritarian regimes do not seek total domination of all the means of mass communication. What they want instead is what we might call "effective media control"—enough for them to convey their strength and puff up their claims to legitimacy while undermining potential alternatives. Such state dominance—whether exerted through overtly state-run or merely state-pliable media outlets—enables regimes to put progovernment narratives front and center while using the power of editorial omission to limit systematic criticism of official policies and actions."

See more in Global; Media and Foreign Policy

FP: Breaking Syria's Reign of Terror

Author: Hassan Hassan

"The fighting over the past week is a watershed moment for the Syrian uprising. The momentum against extremism can pave the way for the re-emergence of moderate groups that had been pushed to the margins under ISIS's reign of terror. The episode has proved that it is Syria's mainstream rebels who are best fit to face down extremists -- not the Assad regime."

See more in Syria; Terrorism

Al-Monitor: In 'Rumi’s Field': Can U.S. and Iran Meet in a Place Beyond Sanctions and Centrifuges?

Author: John W. Limbert

"Some say Iran and the United States have "crossed the Rubicon," and there is no road back to the old ways. Whatever metaphor one uses, Iran and the United States have ventured into new and unfamiliar territory for which neither side has reliable maps. In this new reality, both sides must use long-neglected tools and exercise atrophied muscles. On this new ground they must put aside the old practices of reflexive bashing and insults and relearn elementary diplomacy: how to listen, how to be patient and how to be careful with language. They must relearn the value of quiet and private contacts, which without the need for posturing can set the stage for more fruitful public events."

See more in Iran; United States; Politics and Strategy

NYT: Germany Adds Lessons in Islam to Better Blend Its Melting Pot

Author: Alison Smale

"For the first time, German public schools are offering classes in Islam to primary school students using state-trained teachers and specially written textbooks, as officials try to better integrate the nation's large Muslim minority and counter the growing influence of radical religious thinking. The classes offered in Hesse State are part of a growing consensus that Germany, after decades of neglect, should do more to acknowledge and serve its Muslim population if it is to foster social harmony, overcome its aging demographics, and head off a potential domestic security threat."

See more in Germany; Religion

New Yorker: The Al Qaeda Switchboard

Author: Lawrence Wright

"Yes, the F.B.I. could have stopped 9/11. It had a warrant to establish surveillance of everyone connected to Al Qaeda in America. It could follow them, tap their phones, clone their computers, read their e-mails, and subpoena their medical, bank, and credit-card records. It had the right to demand records from telephone companies of any calls they had made. There was no need for a metadata-collection program. What was needed was coöperation with other federal agencies, but for reasons both petty and obscure those agencies chose to hide vital clues from the investigators most likely to avert the attacks."

See more in United States; Defense and Security

Monkey Cage: How Hard Is it to Win Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan? Very Hard.

Author: Jason Lyall

"While a key policy takeaway—avoid civilian casualties—seems obvious, even taking great pains to minimize civilian suffering is no guarantee that civilians can be won over. Cognitive biases that predispose individuals to favor (or excuse) the actions of their fellow in-group members, while simultaneously using negative actions by the out-group (like ISAF) to confirm prior prejudices, are powerful frameworks not easily overcome during wartime. Without engaging these underlying psychological biases, however, efforts to win hearts and minds are likely to be expensive, protracted, and, in the end, fleeting."

See more in Afghanistan; Defense and Security

NYT: The House Edge

Authors: David Kocieniewski and Gretchen Morgenson

Articles in this series examine the challenges posed by Wall Street's influence over markets and the prices consumers pay.

See more in United States; Economics