Social Issues


  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
    CFR Luncheon Discussion at ISA: Foreign Policy in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
    The CFR luncheon event held in conjunction with the International Studies Association featured a discussion on Foreign Policy in the Age of Artificial Intelligence on Thursday, April 4, in San Francisco. The conversation featured Rachel Gillum, vice president of ethical and humane use of technology at Salesforce; Andrew W. Reddie, associate research professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley; and Carla Anne Robbins, senior fellow at CFR. James M. Lindsay, senior vice president, director of Studies, and the Maurice R. Greenberg chair at CFR, moderated the discussion.
  • United States
    Modernizing the Federal Student Loan Experience
    President Biden wants to modernize the federal student loan system. The U.S. Postal Service and Affordable Care Act can show him how.
  • Education
    2024 College and University Educators Workshop
    The goal of the workshop is to find new ways for college and university educators to encourage their students to learn about international relations and the role of the United States in the world. It provides an opportunity for educators to explore the wide array of CFR and Foreign Affairs teaching and research resources available to the academic community, participate in substantive briefings with subject experts as well as in group discussions, and share best practices and educational tools for bringing global issues into the classroom. The workshop included an opening night dinner conversation on the role of the United States in the world; plenary sessions on the Middle East, societal implications of AI, and climate policy and implementation; a presentation on CFR Education and fellowship opportunities; and a breakout discussion with a choice among regional topics.
  • Women and Economic Growth
    International Women’s Day, With Ann Norris
    Ann Norris, a senior fellow for women and foreign policy at CFR, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss International Women’s Day and the challenges facing adolescent girls around the world and the solutions to address them.
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    Higher Education Webinar: Navigating Academic Discourse on Israel and Palestine
    Tarek El-Ariss, James Wright professor and chair of Middle Eastern studies at Dartmouth College, and Susannah Heschel, Eli M. Black distinguished professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, lead the conversation on navigating academic discourse on Israel and Palestine. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you’d like to share it with your colleagues. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Tarek El-Ariss and Susannah Heschel with us to talk about navigating academic discourse on Israel and Palestine. Tarek El-Ariss is the James Wright professor and chair of Middle Eastern studies at Dartmouth College. Susannah Heschel is the Eli M. Black distinguished professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College. And they teach together a class at Dartmouth called “The Arab, the Jew, and Constructions of Modernity.” So, with that, I’m going to turn the conversation over to them to talk about how they teach this class, and how they’ve worked together to address discourse on Israel and Palestine in Dartmouth, and best practices, as we all think about how to discuss these issues. So, over to both of you. Thank you for being with us. EL-ARISS: Thank you, Irina. Just to backtrack a little bit on the idea of the class, and our collaboration, I’m originally from Beirut. I’m trained in philosophy and literary studies. And I grew up during the civil war. And what we’re going through right now is extremely difficult to watch, to engage in, but this is something that we need to do. And this is something that I’ve been very interested in thinking about. And I just wrote a book on the subject, called Water on Fire: A Memoir of War, which really starts in Beirut, what was then called West Beirut, and ends in New York on 9/11, where I was actually teaching a course on the Middle East at NYU. And specifically on that day, I was teaching a course—a class on Islam. And needless to say, that these crises, these catastrophic events that happen from the region that I’m associated with, where I come, has been really fundamental to the way I think about scholarship, to the way I think about pedagogy, the way I think also about teaching and the community building that I think is really fundamental for the conversation today. So, I just wanted to kind of situate that within that context. And how do you think and deal with these questions? And how do you incorporate them? And where does the personal scholarship and the pedagogical engagement come, and so on? My work has been really dealing also with the question of the universal and the questions of the Enlightenment tradition. I mean, this is very important, and questions of modernity. Also wrote on the subject in the context of Arab modernity, in the context of what’s called the Nahda, or the nineteenth century Arab renaissance, and which is this kind of engagement with European modernity. So, this question of the universal, or the experience, of the European enlightenment tradition and how it kind of affects different parts of the world, how it allowed us to understand questions of human rights or questions of the universality is also at the core of this conversation here, and also of my intellectual training. So, this question has been really fundamental. I’ve also been interested in how a lot of these Arab intellectuals and scholars went to Europe in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and how they experienced this modernity. And that is not just simply an intellectual experience where they’re thinking about the ideas of the West and trying to translate them or reject them or accept them, but it is also an embodied experience. It’s also—I’ve been working on this question of the somatic, on the affect. And my work has also been, again, tracing this question of the universal of modernity to also think about it in the context of the digital age. And my last book is called Leaks, Hacks and Scandals. It’s on digital culture and the Arab Spring, and also digital culture that’s transforming some of our concepts of writing, political protest, community, the public sphere—all that is associated with that kind of eighteenth century that has been reverberated and had major influences across the region. So, I think I just want to kind of trace that genealogy. I think it’s important to also see where we come from and what are the things that have shaped a little bit our work, and where we have come, and then how we end up collaborating and also teaching this course that you mentioned. HESCHEL: Thank you, Irina. My name is Susannah Heschel. And, as you mentioned, I am chair of the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College. And my work together with Tarek stems in part from my academic scholarship. Also, perhaps from the experiences that I had growing up. I grew up in New York City and my father was a Jewish theologian, Abraham Joshua Heschel. And he was involved in the civil rights movement, in the Second Vatican Council, and the movement against the war in Vietnam. And those were important experiences for me on many levels. For one thing, the civil rights movement and Dr. King made me fall in love with the Hebrew Bible. But, it was also an example for me of how to talk to people from another community, from a completely different environment. When I saw my father and Dr. King, and their relationship, or my father’s work with Cardinal Bayet at the Second Vatican Council and so on, I learned something about how to function in this world when you’re talking about very difficult, very painful issues. My own scholarship looks at Germany. And, in fact, I’m in Hamburg, Germany right now on a research fellowship at the Maimonides Institute. And I’m interested—my first book was a study of a Jewish historian in the nineteenth century in Germany who wrote an important book on the Koran showing parallels between Judaism and the Koran. And then later, he did work on Jewish rabbinic texts and the influence on the gospels, the New Testament, and Christian origins. So, I was interested, as you see, in how Jewish studies overlaps or interacts, and creates a synergy with other kinds of fields. And that continued with a book I wrote on Nazi theologians who supported Hitler. So, the question of how does the academy respond to political crisis, to fascism in this particular case? And now I’m working on another study, on the history of Jewish scholarship on Islam. But again, about interactions. I’m in the department of religion, as well as in Jewish studies. And the work that we do together, Tarek and I, on campus, has become very important for both of us, and also for our students. We teach the class together, the Arab, the Jew, and constructions of modernity. And we have a wonderful collection of students with different kinds of backgrounds—Palestinian, Jewish, from all parts of the world. And we try to create an atmosphere in the classroom of community and engagement with one another. We want the students to see themselves as working with us to do academic investigation, discussion, analysis. So, it was in that context then, that on October 7, when I was hearing the horrible news, I got a phone call from Tarek. And his voice sounded as horrified and devastated as I felt. And we planned two forums on campus that week of faculty—open to students, faculty, everyone. And the response was overwhelming. Far more than I expected. I think what was important—we can talk more about those forums—but I just want to say that we sought to model for the campus how we speak to each other, what kind of a tone we take, even in the midst of a crisis. Four of us from Jewish studies and Middle Eastern studies, we speak with respect, of course, with dignity. But, also, in doing that, we modeled for the students. So, they asked questions that were sometimes difficult to hear. But they asked respectfully, politely. And so going on from there, we’ve established a series of dialogues. And we find that in our work together, having two professors teaching courses on difficult topics creates a much better atmosphere in the classroom. It unites students. It shows students how to talk to each other, even when they disagree, to have the dialogue taking place right there. So go ahead, Tarek. EL-ARISS: And the idea, we also have—we’ve worked—this is my seventh year at Dartmouth. So, this is really—we’ve been working a lot together also on inviting people and trying to bring different programs and departments to sponsor events, to bring authors, to bring filmmakers, so also there is—even to bring a rock band. We brought Mashrou’ Leila at some point to Dartmouth right before COVID hit. (Laughs.) And so, I’m coming to New York to see Hamed Sinno’s concert at the Met this weekend. So, this is—you also have to create a community within the classroom and outside of the classroom. And maybe Dartmouth, also the—where it is located, the size, also the resources, I mean, there are differences. Not every place has the same culture, or the same abilities, and the same—but this is our experience. And this is what we worked very, very consciously on building, is that we need to create this community that operates—that connects to culture, intellectual processes, learning, music, that brings all these bodies and different departments and programs together in an interesting way. And this is also what we teach. And we have Ezzedine Fishere, my colleague, who co-teachers, a course, with Bernie Avishai in government on the politics of Israel-Palestine. Susannah was teaching in the fall a course on 1967 with a colleague, also who works on Arabic literature, Jonathan Smolin. And the administration has been very receptive and encouraging to these kinds of models that allowed us to come up with these courses and bring different disciplinary backgrounds. Like, I come from literature and philosophy. And Susannah comes from religion, and so on. And bring these different backgrounds also that are cross disciplinary and that open up the subject matter in an interesting way. And our course, I mean, this is also where our research overlaps, is this question of the nineteenth century, which is very interesting in this part of the world—eighteenth/nineteenth century—is how Jews and Arabs deal with this question of modernity, which I think is very important. And because this is the question, also, of language, how Hebrew becomes modernized/standardized, how Arabic becomes standardized, how you rethink questions of community, questions of political institution, writing genres, but also how certain issues that deal with questions, for instance, of racism and xenophobia and antisemitism—begin to influence or affect some of these relations. And I edited an anthology on this question, where you have a lot of—called The Arab Renaissance—that we teach texts from it. And you have all these Jewish intellectuals from Beirut, from Cairo, engaging with the Dreyfus affair in 1894 to 1895. I mean, the Dreyfus affair is a huge global scandal at the end of the nineteenth century. And you have Reuters cable for the beginning—the beginning of mass communication—media. Technology that are starting. So, people in Beirut are reading what’s happening in Paris to Dreyfus as the cables are arriving. So, then you see these questions. And then you have Zola, you have this Jewish woman from Beirut, Esther Moyal, who’s writing about Zola and how Zola is defending Dreyfus in his famous article, in J’Accuse…!. So, you also have solidarity among Muslim scholars saying: Where is the French universal now? I mean, where are these human rights and equality and fraternity of the French Revolution in the face of this xenophobia, antisemitism that’s coming out of France? So, it’s also interesting to create genealogies. Like, how do we connect the genealogy from Zola, through Beirut, through Esther Moyal, to the intellectuals speaking truth to power, to Foucault, and Sartre, and Edward Said? And how do you kind of bring different narratives to the students that expand, also, our understanding of what’s happening in the Middle East, and the kind of perspective of conflict? So, I think when October 7 happened, the students were part of the community thinking about these things in multiple ways, in diverse ways, and students coming from different backgrounds. HESCHEL: Yes. I would just to add to that, that it’s important for me, as the chair of the Jewish Studies Program, that we have alliances with the different departments and programs on campus, many different ones. So, I want courses that we teach in Jewish studies, but that are cross listed in African American studies, in sociology, history, religion, and government, and so forth, women’s studies. That’s very important to me. And not only because of the alliances that we can create, and in some sense reproduce what Tarek was just talking about in the Nahda, but also because this sheds light on aspects of Jewish history, of Jewish religious thought, that we wouldn’t otherwise recognize. We see, for example, the parallels between Jews coping with European modernity and Arabs coping, in very similar ways. And also, being horrified at some of the same things. So, the construction of our identities has some parallels. There’s a way in which teaching this class also demonstrates to students that there was a very different trajectory from what one might imagine, looking back from today and all of the conflicts and terrible events and catastrophes that are going on, even at this moment. But to see that there was something else that was blossoming. It didn’t last, but it may come back. And that also is an important element here, to give our students some hope. And to show them, also, that the situations, the conflicts that we look at, are terribly complex. So, we tell the students, don’t look for a simple narrative. Try to learn to hold onto complexity, something that can’t be unraveled easily. There is no bad witch and fairy godmother, bad guy and good guy. Don’t divide the world that way. That just exacerbates the polarization that’s affecting all of us. See the complexity. And look at the future. Imagine, optimistically, what you would like to see in twenty, thirty, fifty years. How can we get there? What are the roadblocks? What do we need to do? What can you, students, do? What problems can you tackle and overcome so that we can achieve something? Too often we are so mired in the present that we don’t think about the future. And we have to offer our students that possibility and encourage them to think about a better future for themselves. EL-ARISS: And this is—pedagogically, it’s really very important, especially now. When I look at the pictures coming out of the region, I mean, I’m devastated. But how do I deal with this devastation? And how do I transform it? Do I bring it to class as is? Because I feel like I always—I also write on monsters and really kind of dark things that are happening in the world. But also my cynicism and my sometime despair—I feel like when I’m in the classroom, I also have to give hope. I can’t also just bring it as it is to the classroom. I feel like in front of them, I want to be hopeful. I want to—and I do it organically. It is not almost by design, but it is almost something—because I feel like I owe it to that generation also. And this is also kind of a question about where our personal research and what we teach, how they come together, or they might differ. And how thinking pedagogically also is very important, especially in these moments of crisis. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. I want to go to the group for questions and comments, and then we can continue the conversation. (Gives queuing instructions.) So, the first question we’re going to go to Mark Tessler. Q: This a great discussion. And I hope I can ask a question to each of the speakers to push a little bit. The end of the nineteenth century that Tarek has been talking about is really an important period. And he did a good job of describing it. But, it’s in the context of a region where there are centers and peripheries. And, I mean, I went to school in Tunisia, and I would say that’s part of the center, surprisingly. Egypt is the center, but Tunisia was not too far behind. But Palestine was the periphery. And it wasn’t totally untouched, but relatively speaking change was much less and much slower. And there’s an analysis by a number of Arab scholars, one of them was my professor a long time ago when I went to grad school, that this—I hesitate to use the word backwardness—but this relatively unchanged circumstance in Palestine, with a traditional inward-looking elite not really interested in the kinds of changes that are taking place in Egypt with the reopening of Ijtihad and so forth. And so, the argument is that that’s an important part of the story about why Palestinians fared so poorly in the context of their emerging confrontation with Zionism. And so, I cover this period a bit in my own course on Israel-Palestine. I forgot to say I’m at the University of Michigan, where I teach about the Middle East. And so, it’s interesting to think about this period and the larger implications that Dr. El-Ariss has been pointing out, very significant. But, if we kind of see what does that mean for Palestine, the story is going to be quite different. If I could ask a quick question, I’ll try to be brief, to Professor Heschel. And I read your father’s work, and glad to know a few. This is a really interesting story as well, in how the two people are struggling together to—I’ve done some writing on this myself earlier in my career—to find their way, to not lose their identity, to balance tradition, but to be of the modern world. This is not so much about Israel-Palestine, but this is an important story. But if we focus on, in particular, North Africa—and this would apply to Egypt to some extent, as well—this meant for the Jewish populations of those societies less of an alliance in the service of a joint struggle that they’re both engaging in, and more—it gets mixed up with colonialism. The Jewish elite, and to some extent, the Jewish masses becomes very European in their orientation. And so as we look to the evolution, the story isn’t quite as happy as—both of these peoples have common concerns. They’re facing them at the same time in history in response to the same stimuli from Europe. And, my goodness, the dialogue between them is enriching. And we have examples of that. But, I would say that it isn’t—and for at least the Maghreb, where there are half a million Jews—it’s not the most important part of the story. This quest for modernization in the end doesn’t build alliances with the Muslims in those countries. There are exceptions, but as a generalization. But rather, puts them if not politically—and sometimes it is political—but at least culturally on the side of the Europeans. And the divide between the indigenous Jewish population and the indigenous Muslim Arab population actually grows. So, just a few things to—food for thought. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Tarek, let’s go to you first, I think. EL-ARISS: Yeah. I mean, Mark, I think it’s a—I also need to push back against your comment. (Laughs.) But, I think it’s obviously a more complex story. I mean, a lot of the Palestinians are also studying at the Syrian Protestantn College in Beirut, a lot of Lebanese from out Lebanon are in Cairo founding Al-Ahram. So, the way you locate cultural development or Nahda, but the way you define center and periphery, I kind of—I contest this binary. And I think it’s a much more complex picture. And you have the movement across that region. I mean, you have also people who are writing in exile in France. You have people who are in Russia studying a lot of Lebanese Greek Orthodox, for instance, and Palestinians. So,  we  need to think territorially, but also in terms of that region itself as kind of engaging with these questions of modernity in interesting ways. And of course, it’s a complex relation to modernity. I mean, there is a pull. There is a rejection. There is a fascination. But if you look at it as a whole comprehensively, you see those kind of movements that we try to capture in our class. HESCHEL: So, Mark, of course I know who you are, and I know your work and admire it greatly. And far be it for me to—(laughs)—answer the questions that you yourself write about. I’d just say that of course I agree with you. And we—in our class—when we do talk about these issues, we range from everything from Jessica Marglin’s work to The Rabbi’s Cat. And I think one of the big problems we focus on is the Crémieux Decree, and that has larger resonances, in fact; the significance—the political significance of something like that, how that is to be evaluated and how something like that actually recurs throughout the course of Jewish history with often very dire consequences that you pointed out. So, thank you for the comment, and thank you for your work. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question, a written question from Alison Brysk at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s a professor of global governance. She appreciates your model but has had different disturbing experiences teaching contemporary poli-sci, and IR, and human rights classes on a very politicized campus. My whole agenda is universalism, context, international humanitarian law for all sides. But, about half of my students are simply locked into preexisting identities and convictions and will complain when I try to present a basic range of perspectives and evidence on roots of the conflict. Do you have any suggestions for the beleaguered public university when students experience humanistic history as hate speech? I don’t know who wants to start. HESCHEL: Go ahead, Tarek. EL-ARISS: This is something we also struggle with. I mean, this question of the universal; come back to it. That’s, of course, the critique of the universal as Eurocentric, as only covering or being framed along very specific political lines that exclude the other or that does not represent people who might come from, to come back to Mark’s term, the periphery in some way, whatever that periphery is. But again when you are thinking about conflict, how do you work outside of that framework? I mean, this is also the question. So how—we need it in order to think of a community of—we need to think of—do the critique of universality, but also take the good things, because we also have human rights. So, how are we going to talk about human rights? How are we going to talk about things that matter for everyone that we all need to care about and be mobilized if we only situate forms of identity or rights in the particular, and the particular that is defined in very specific ways? And I think there should be teachable moments like, OK, you don’t think—let’s ask the students or let’s organize teach-ins about, what do they mean by certain terms? I mean, I think we use terms and concepts really without knowing what they truly mean, or what their histories are. I mean, we are at the university. This is the place to actually engage and say what this kind of humanism or universality that is seen as Eurocentric and exclusive in many ways, then what is its history? How—did it not also influence the way people in that part—in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, different parts of the world where they also think of themselves as modern subjects and as claimants to particular rights and traditions, and so forth? So, I know where we are. I mean, I understand the, kind of, current moment. But, how do we try to bring it to a level where, OK, what do you mean by this? Ask questions. Listen, but then ask questions, and open it up to a conversation. Maybe the class is about something else, but maybe because of the crisis, the class has to pivot or shift to a different moment that deals with a particular event that is unfolding in the world. HESCHEL: But let me just add that I understand a hundred percent and have experienced it, too. My sense is, first of all, students are very lonely. Identity—that kind of insistence on one’s own identity—is a very lonely position to take. Students will end up saying: You will never understand what it feels like to be me. And that needs to be challenged. It may be, I will never understand you and your identity, but I can help you understand yourself better. I can help you accept relationships with other people, and even be loved by other people. So, there have to be ways to open up and not end with the declaration of identity, and that is a problem. I also would say that a lot of students have a very strong sense of injustice, and I admire that and appreciate it. But, sometimes they get into a state of despair over it, and we need to make sure that we can lift them up and not let them sink into a hole of despair, but to talk in more concrete terms about what they can do and make it a viable engagement with injustice—overcoming injustice. So, those are just a few things. There’s so much more to say about it. But we both have experienced this, and we’re with you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question from Margaret Lewis, who’s at Seton Hall University. Q: Thanks so much. I’m both a professor and an associate dean, so I think about this from several angles. So, I wanted just to think more broadly about navigating the academic discourse. It’s one thing to do that in an intimate course setting where you know the students, they know you. But, I wonder if you have thoughts, both about how to create community conversations or spaces outside of a class when we do have a situation that emerges—for example, not just one we’re having now, but go back to Freddie Gray or anything that’s really rocked our students. And then maybe separately, but if you have thoughts about university messaging, the emails that our students expect us to put out after events and the extent to which those are helpful. And, if so, how to craft them in ways that: Is it expressing care just for the students? How do we try to bring in different stakeholders to give us language that will work across different stakeholders? Any of that would be hugely helpful as we all navigate this. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Tarek, or— HESCHEL: Yeah. I’m not sure it’s a single answer that will address every institution because there are important differences. You say you’re at Seton Hall, which is Catholic, and it’s a different culture on campus. I’m familiar with that; I actually lectured there a few months ago. In terms of the statements, I found that the outrage over many university president statements puzzling initially. And then I realized, I suppose, people were psychologically/emotionally so devastated that it was a displacement, and then a lot of argumentation arose over the precise language of statements. I’m not sure if statements are the way to address emotional devastation or catastrophe. And the statements that were quite formal in the language, or politically oriented, perhaps that wasn’t the way to do it. I’m not sure—I haven’t been an administrator—exactly how to formulate it, but I think that’s—in those kinds of moments, that’s what people are looking for, some sense of support. I also think it’s important at the convocation in the fall—Tarek and I were discussing this earlier—for the university to make its message clear, the mission: What are you supposed to be doing here, undergraduates, at this university for the next four years? This is what we want to offer you. And then, at some point later on, have the students write something. What they’re looking for because the only essay you have from them really is for the admissions. And once they arrive, it would be good to hear from them: What do you want to get out of these four years? What do you want from your classes, from your professors, and so on? And then finally, I’d just say that the atmosphere in the classroom is very important—friendly, happy, a joyous atmosphere throughout the semester—to keep the students together as a group having a good time, feeling that they’re there for each other, forming a community. We find that very important when we’re teaching a class that can, in fact, give rise to terrible conflict. We want to avoid that. So, we bring cookies. We have an open door in our office. We have conversation. So, again, the atmosphere. Tarek, go ahead. EL-ARISS: Yeah. No, and I think also we need to rethink, I mean, outreach. We also go to the students. We go to different religious groups, different houses. I went. Susannah went. We go also into their own spaces. We don’t just organize the event and say come; we go to them. And when we bring people—we’ve organized a couple of forums and we brought some people from outside, and we said—we organized breakfast with the students. We have organized places where the students also feel comfortable. And it’s very important, this question of space and you going to them. And they, then, are hosting you on their own—their own dorms or their own whatever—houses and so on. I think that’s very important. And also, the administration is not—the more I think about it, it’s not one thing. It’s not like the administration is this abstract thing, like a tower in the middle of campus that’s—I mean, I’m also the administration. Susannah is also the administration. I mean, my office is open to these students. They come. I listen to them. Some of them are not happy with the way things are going. I comfort them. I sometimes transmit their messages to higher-ups and say this—and who ask me, actually, how are the students doing? And I say, I met with so-and-so, and he said this, or she said that. And also, I have say, okay, I have this kid that said, you’re going to run the Arabic Club this term, or you’re going to help me on this research dealing with these questions, because I also have the ability to recognize some of the things they’re struggling with. So, the administration, we have to—or how the university responds—has to be rethought, and also support organic processes that are already happening. Who among the faculty are in conversation? What can the administration do to give them more support, to highlight more what they’re doing? So, I mean, we’re seeing some efforts that are coming from high up, from the top down; like, OK, we’re going to have a task force and start dialogue. But, I think it’s important that the administration responds to what faculty are doing and supports it. So, support these organic processes, these community-building processes that, I think, are much more effective and are more likely to produce results than some sort of, kind of a, let’s bring a consultant and tell us what we have to do, and then form this committee, and then make everyone go through more drills about how to be a good citizen in this university. I don’t think that is effective. I don’t think it’s effective in—also in other contexts that we’ve been experiencing on campuses. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take a written question from Mark Diamond which is—I think follows onto this, from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles: Could both of you share your thoughts about academic freedom on college campuses, especially as it relates to discourse on Israel and Palestine? When, if at all, is student or faculty discourse on campus out of bounds and poses a threat to others in the university? HESCHEL: Well, I can’t address the legal issues. I know that each university has a set of standards and so forth, and they may well vary. I know one college president of a Catholic university told the students: You may hold a prayer vigil, but you may not hold a demonstration. And that was that. So, that I don’t think happens everywhere, but that was one example. What is out of bounds? What’s out of bounds is, I would say first of all, people who don’t know very much about the topic that they’re addressing or screaming about. So, I begin with that. I was talking to some colleagues about this. Don’t teach a course if you don’t really know the subject or limit the course to what you know. I would encourage students who are deeply concerned about a political conflict to take courses on that conflict to get some background. We also encourage our students to think about what they can do in the future. Making a demonstration on a college campus is exciting, but actually, it can be more important to work for a political candidate, for example. To do canvassing and do work for an NGO, or come to Washington and be an aide at a congressional office. So, pointing that out to an 18-year-old is sometimes very helpful. Telling them that they can actually do something very concrete and powerful—not just on the college campus, but on the national level of politics. And then, I would say, yes, in terms of the kind of language and out of bounds, that’s really our point of our work. We wanted to demonstrate to the campus how to have a dialogue that’s respectful, that’s polite—even if we disagree—and that we talk to one another at a university in a way that’s different from the kind of conversation one has at a restaurant with your friends. We also emphasize that there’s a distinction between private and public. I may have some pretty strong views that I tell my family or my close friends—I’m not going to tell the whole world. That would be highly inappropriate. I think faculty need to be professional, and so do students. Once you’re in a university, you have to be a student. That’s a particular role, an academic role, and that, also, should be outlined to students when they’re admitted to the university, or at the fall convocation. Professional behavior is something we expect from everyone—from a doctor, a lawyer, a plumber, an electrician. I don’t want vulgar, sexist jokes when I’m consulting a physician, for example. And I don’t want a certain kind of language from faculty colleagues. So, these are basic standards of behavior that I think have been eroding in recent years, and we need to come back to them. EL-ARISS: Yeah, but we also understand that the university itself, the education and mission and the university as an institution, is no longer correspond to the model that we also study, or the Humboldt model, or the creation and the formation of the national subject. So, there is also something about the university itself that is shifting in terms of use, I mean, people say, if you also look at statistics about what people think of higher education in the U.S. and so on. So, there is a lot of questions about the university. What is the university? I mean, a lot of kids come to the university, they already know more than we do about a lot of things. They have technology on their side. Some of them are making money from apps that they created, and they talk to their parents, and they say is it really a good investment or not? So, also, we have to acknowledge that there is something about the university that—the humanistic tradition and the liberal tradition—that perhaps is no longer functioning in the same way that we imagine it to be. And we need to take this challenge seriously. And is the green a place where you take your students when it is nice out if you are in Ithaca or Ann Arbor—(laughs)—in April or end of April to do the class outside because you are missing the sun, or is the green a place of protest now, or identity affirmation. So, there are real fundamental questions about the university, and about our mission, and about our classrooms, and it’s not an either/or, it is not either this or that. How do we kind of bring the community into a space of negotiation where I understand that this is what the students are feeling right now, and they are angry, and they want to express themselves in an embodied fashion, and really do something about the world because we also expect them, when we ask them to apply how they are going to change the world. So, we also set them up for it. And so, we need to have a conversation about that. This is a moment of crisis, but it’s a moment of self-reflection that I think is really important to have—every university needs to have it, and it could have been some other crisis unfolding. But, I think this is an opportunity to ask these questions and have these conversations among—and Susannah was just we were talking today that we should have these conversations about—with faculty, with colleagues, cross-generationally, what do people think, how are they teaching, how do they come to the subject that they come to, what are their assumptions, what is the point of the classroom? Is it the political platform? Is it the place of intellectual inquiry? How do they come together? So, these are important questions I feel like, and this is the moment to ask them and engage them. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Heidi Lane. Q: Thank you very much. The question I have relates to things that I don’t actually experience in professional military education, but I have in teaching in universities like Dartmouth. And the question is, what do you think Dartmouth, or universities in general, should be doing to help faculty like yourselves engage in this kind of open, trust-building course? That’s the first question—because that really is a pressure that I think a lot of universities and administrators are feeling and navigating that for their faculty is maybe even as difficult as the relationship between the faculty and the students. That’s the first thing. And then the second question is, how do you change your model when you are teaching in, let’s say, an open session that’s like a lecture that is not part of the course? Because it’s one thing to build that trust within your class, within maybe twenty or so students over a semester, but it’s another thing to apply that same model when you are going into an open session and maybe even people from outside the campus are coming. So, thank you. HESCHEL: Those are big questions—thank you. There’s much to say. I’ll just say briefly, so on October 9, Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. my phone rang. It was the dean of faculty at Dartmouth calling to tell me that the president of Dartmouth—who was new, Sian Beilock—had asked her to get in touch with me because the president wanted to have dialog on campus. So, too often, I am afraid administrations aren’t really aligned with their own faculty. They don’t know who is teaching what, or who has what expertise, and they don’t turn to faculty in moments like this. And I actually—I’ve seen that happen after October 7 at times when I thought why didn’t the president call the faculty? Get the faculty, who are the ones working with students, to set up the kinds of forums that we held. I think it would have been very helpful. There is sometimes not a close enough relationship at some colleges and universities between administration and faculty, and faculty can actually help a great deal since we’re spending every day with the students in the classroom. So, that’s one thing. I think another issue is, when we hire faculty, we have to make sure we are hiring people who are willing to engage in dialogue. Who are willing to sit down and talk to people, or teach with people, from other programs, people who have different backgrounds with whom they may disagree. If they are willing, and enthusiastically, willing to do that kind of teaching, then I say bravo, hire them. But, those who are unwilling—that’s a problem at a university. If we aren’t talking to each other as faculty, then the institution is going to fall apart. We need to have that engagement; that includes in the sciences, the biologists and the geologists talk to each other. So, we have to foster that and make that an imperative, actually, a criterion for faculty. Are they engaged with one another? Are they open, willing to talk? There is more to say, but Tarek, you go ahead. EL-ARISS: No, I mean, basically recognize where there are efforts and where there are conversations—productive conversations—and see how you can support them; support them financially, support them logistically, get assigned space, fund—I mean, we’re lucky, really. We’re really lucky, I mean, in many ways, to have each other, but also to have an administration that was very receptive and very supportive, and said, what do you need? How can we help you to continue to do this? And that was very important. And they understood that, and they recognized—they knew us but we were kind of, I would say, a bit under the radar, and there is a new administration and new kind of leadership. So, again, it’s like, immediately they recognized that, OK, they are doing something, and what can we do to support it? How can we make it grow? How can we—and they continue to do that. And we took the initiative. We also went on a retreat to think about courses, to think about people we want to invite. So, I mean, I think it’s important that you have an administration, who are on the ground—(laughs)—are talking to faculty, who have their hand on the pulse and see where these collaborations are, and then try to figure out ways where—again, the changes are not coming from some cookie-cutter model that’s coming from the outside and being imposed on the campus, on the faculty, but actually—I mean, I’m a literary critic, and I always tell the students read the text; like do a close reading. So, do your close reading and see what is happening, and then from there, you move to the theoretical. No, don’t impose the theory on the situation, but rather let it come out of what is happening on the ground. And I think—so, this requires this different administrative direction from what we’ve been witnessing, which is bringing people from outside and training us in all kinds of ways to be better teachers, and more humane, and so on. And that’s taking the place of a lot of the things we do like the humanity especially—(laughs)—which is supposed to be doing that. So, recognize and build these infrastructures of support by recognizing what is happening on your campus, and the particularity of your campus, and your student body, and your geographic location. HESCHEL: What Tarek is trying to emphasize is that what’s important for the college is teaching that engages students in a dialogue, that brings students from different positions together, that that’s what should be recognized as the most important innovation in teaching and the most important thing for the future of the college and for the students, and not the size of the classroom, let’s just say, yeah? FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Karen Jackson-Weaver who is associate vice president of global inclusive faculty engagement and innovation advancement at NYU, and she also comes as a former dean at both Princeton and Harvard Kennedy School. So, she thanks you both for the important framing of your collaboration in the work you’ve done at Dartmouth. My sense is that the kind of sophistication and complexity that Professor Heschel mentioned that is very much needed is missing in academic discourse and in many conversations taking place on college campuses. Do you have any suggested guides or resources that you can share, which have been useful in the Dartmouth community and elevate the discourse in a meaningful way? HESCHEL: Look, that’s a great question, and it’s going to be waking me up in the middle of the night because I’m going to think of some things to tell you. But I would just say that I come to this because I wrote book about a Jewish scholar writing about the Jewishness of the New Testament, Jesus in the context of Judaism, and so on. Abraham Geiger was his name—and how the Christians responded to his arguments—very negatively, very critical—and he responded to them, and so on. So, there was a kind of engagement that I analyzed very carefully, something primarily from the late 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s, and that gave me a way of sort of understanding the subtlety of arguments, how they were perceived in the moment. So, that trained me to look for things like this, and I think that’s what I bring to this kind of situation: this way of trying to engage in—yeah? EL-ARISS: Yeah. I mean, my simple answer would be us. (Laughs.) But, we’ve actually been working on coming up with some dialogue, reflections on dialogue, or some resources that might—about this because this is also something that we’re thinking about—not about what we’re doing, but also as some sort of values that I think are important, not just for us, for our campus, and for the different constituencies on our campus who want to engage in this, who want to organize events dealing with these questions. So, I think eventually we will develop something, but this is not—I mean, really, we were just doing our normal work and—(laughs)—working on the—( HESCHEL: Yeah, but I would say that we understand that fields develop by engaging with different disciplines, with different theoretical models. That’s how we move ahead in a field. So, I would say, first of all, to any faculty member, think about how your field has developed and what has generated new ideas. What’s made it exciting is to engage with others; not to simply hide in its own corner. OK. FASKIANOS: OK, I’m going to go next to Stephen Zunes, with the raised hand. (Pause.) Yeah, we can hear you. Can you hear us? Q: OK. How about now? EL-ARISS: Yes. HESCHEL: Yes. FASKIANOS: Yes, we can. Q: OK, hi. I’m Stephen Zunes, University of San Francisco. I’ve been teaching Israel and Palestine for over thirty-five years now, and there’s been a big shift in, sort of, the assumptions that students come in with. I mean, when I first started teaching, pretty much every student was familiar with the Israeli narrative, but not really aware of the Palestinian narrative, so I had to bend over backwards to make sure they knew that, as well. Today, if anything, it’s the other way around. It’s been quite striking, the shift—generational shift. I mean, maybe because the larger percentage are people of color. These people—this is a generation where black lives matter, indigenous rights—whereas our generation where the nationalism was a progressive force, and many of us saw Zionism as a national liberation movement for Jews. Nationalism seems more of a reactionary force to today’s youth of the Eastern Europe, and everything else, and Israel is seen more as a colonial settler-state. And, I was wondering, since it appears you all have been teaching this for a while, too, I was wondering if you’ve noticed similar shifts, and how you might have adjusted your teaching in light of this. EL-ARISS: I think—I don’t know, I think a lot of our students come—they don’t know a lot about this, and maybe this is where we are, or different campuses. I mean, there are some students who know and who are engaged. But I think what we try to do is that we try to kind of give them the longer history of this, so take them back to the eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and to see where they ended up—so not to kind of focus—like, we have colleagues who teach, like, Israel—the politics of Israel-Palestine and focus on the contemporary conflict, so they are more—(laughs)—they can tell you more about what the students say about those particular narratives. But, the students who come to us really don’t know anything beyond like the contemporary conflict if they know anything. So, we try to take them to places that really are uncharted—Damascus affair, the Dreyfus affair—I mean, Max Nordau on early Zionism. I mean, so texts that are foundational—and then they take politics of Israel-Palestine, and then they engage it, and they have a different understanding. So, we try to do the kind of earlier work to open up those narratives, so we’re not just simply pro-Palestinian, or pro-Israeli, or outside of these just simple binaries. We kind of take them even to open a wider horizon. HESCHEL: I would just add that I think—I’ve also noticed what you’ve noticed. There seems to be, also, just a wide rift generationally on these political issues and on many others as well, of course. And what I found in the course that I taught together with Jonathan Smolin in the fall on the 1967 war, sometimes called the Six-Day War, students came in and they thought they knew something—on both sides, by the way—but it turns out they didn’t. So, that’s one thing—to show students what they don’t know; that what they know is only a drop in the bucket, and there is so much more. Also, to show them that whatever you think there is something new that comes in that actually contradicts that assumption because there is so much evidence coming from so many different parts of the world—because it’s not ever really about just Israel and Palestine; it’s about nearly every other country one can think of, from the United States to China. So, the complexity is something. And then another—finally I want to say, sometimes students come in and they are looking for somebody to blame. That’s something important for us to address. This is not about blaming one side or the other, and sometimes, for example, yeah, one side is bad and one side is good. Sometimes both are bad. And when both are bad, I tell them. Even someone who has committed a terrible crime, don’t you still care about that person that is still a human being, who should be treated with dignity? So, let’s keep that in mind as well. Let’s remember that even those who do terrible things, nonetheless, these are human beings. There are reasons for it. Let’s figure that out, let’s see what we can do about it. But, don’t just dismiss it and say, oh, well, they’re terrible; let’s walk away—so to keep the students engaged all the time, to show the complexity, to show that it’s more and more and more complex, involving so many different groups, and not try to reduce it to bad guys, good guys, this one is to blame, this one is the innocent. Nobody ultimately, in politics, is innocent, and nobody is a hundred percent guilty. They become interlocking as we know, and they are doing that dance. What was the line about Fred Astaire danced with—who was it? Not Jane Crawford—Ginger Rogers, but she did everything he did but backwards and wearing high heels. So, there are ways in which each side influences the other, and we have to think about it in those terms as well. They are not separate from each other. So, those are some of the ways we try to overcome the biases that they walk into the classroom with, and we ask them sometimes, how has your mind changed in the last few weeks of the course? Every few weeks ask them that. What changes here when we bring you this document, or this fact that you didn’t know about? And hopefully they will experience the class as something uplifting and exciting, and that they will know that they are coming away as a different person with so much more knowledge. So, thanks for the question. FASKIANOS: And with that, we are at the end of our hour. I’m sorry that we couldn’t get to all the questions, raised hands, but I can say that I wish I were at Dartmouth and could take your class. (Laughs.) So, maybe perhaps you should do it and have it be available online to a broader group. I don’t know. (Laughs.) It’s a thought. Thank you very much, Tarek El-Ariss and Susannah Heschel, for this wonderful hour. We do appreciate it. And to all of you for your questions and comments. And we encourage you to follow us at @CFR_academic on X and visit,, and for research and analyses on global issues. And we look forward to your continued participation in CFR programs. So, thank you again. (END)
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    Higher Education Webinar: U.S. International Academic Collaboration
    Jenny Lee, vice president for Arizona International, dean of international education, and professor of educational policy studies and practice at the University of Arizona, leads the conversation on U.S. international academic collaboration and how U.S.-China tensions are affecting higher education. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Jenny Lee with us to discuss U.S. international academic collaboration. Dr. Lee is vice president for Arizona International, dean of international education, and professor of educational policy studies and practice at the University of Arizona. She is also a fellow of the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Lee formerly served as a senior fellow of NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, as chair for the Council of International Higher Education, and as a board member for the Association for the Study of Higher Education. And she has also served as a U.S. Fulbright scholar to South Africa, as a distinguished global professor at Korea University, and as an international visiting scholar at the City University of London, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. So, Dr. Lee, thank you very much for being with us for today’s topic. I thought you could begin by giving us an overview of current trends in U.S. international academic collaboration, especially looking at what’s happening with our relations with China. LEE: Sounds great. Well, thank you for the opportunity, Irina. It’s a pleasure to be here and to speak with you and all those listening right now. I’ll speak for about ten or so minutes, and then open it up and engage with the audience. Hopefully, you all have some good questions that will come up during my remarks. So, clearly, we’re entering a very interesting and somewhat uncertain chapter in how we understand the role of higher education globally. So I will begin with some general observation so all our viewers are on the same page. Now, first and foremost, the U.S. is mostly at the top when it comes to the higher education sector. Most of us already know that the United States houses the most highly ranked institutions. And this allows the country to be the largest host of international students and scholars from around the world. According to the latest IIE Open Doors report published a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. attracted over a million students from all over the world. And we’re almost back to pre-pandemic levels. We also host over 90,000 scholars. And the primary purpose for them being here is research, for about two-thirds to 75 percent of them. These international scholars, as well as international graduate students, contribute significantly to the U.S. scientific enterprise. The U.S. is also among the leading countries in scientific output and impact, and the largest international collaborator in the world. In other words, the U.S. is highly sought because of its prestigious institutions, drawing top faculty and students from around the world. And with that comes the ability to generate cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs which further secures the U.S.’ global position in academia. At the same time, of course, we’ve seen China’s economy rise significantly as the country surpassed the United States in scientific output, and more recently in impact as measured by publication citations, and is outpacing the U.S. in the extent of R&D investment. Chinese institutions have also made noticeable jumps in various global rankings, which is a pretty big feat considering the fierce competition among the world’s top universities. What we’re witnessing as well are geopolitical tensions between the two countries that have impacted the higher education sector. While these two countries, the U.S. and China, are the biggest global collaborators—and they collaborate more with each other than any other country—they’re also rival superpowers. As global adversaries, what we are witnessing as well is increased security concerns regarding intellectual theft and espionage. I’m going to spend some time summarizing my work for those who are not familiar to provide some further context. I and my colleagues, John Haupt and Xiaojie Li, also at the University of Arizona, have conducted numerous studies about U.S.-China scientific collaboration. And what we’re observing across these studies is how the scientific pursuit of knowledge, which is fundamentally borderless, is becoming bordered in the current geopolitical environment. International collaboration, long valued as positive-sum, is being treated as zero-sum. Besides the rise of China and the accompanying political rhetoric that posed China as a so-called threat, tensions also grew among accusations, as you may recall, about the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and a corresponding sharp increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States. Public opinions about China were not favorable, and thus there was not a whole lot of public resistance when the FBI’s China Initiative was launched in 2018. This initiative basically signaled that anyone of Chinese descent was a potential enemy of the state, including possible Chinese Communist Party spies in our own universities, even though there was no pervasive empirical or later judicial cases that proved such a damaging assumption. Nevertheless, world-renowned Chinese scientists were falsely accused of academic espionage and their careers and personal finances ruined. In my research that followed with Xiaojie Li, with support from the Committee of 100, we surveyed about 2,000 scientists in the U.S.’ top research universities during the China Initiative. And we found that one in two Chinese scientists were afraid that they were being racially profiled by the FBI. We also observed that consequently scientists, especially those with Chinese descent, were less inclined to collaborate with China, less inclined to pursue federal grants, less inclined to even stay in the United States but rather to take their expertise to another country where they felt safer to pursue their research, including in China. In sum, the federal government’s attempts to weed out possible Chinese spies was highly criticized as a damaging form of racial profiling affecting even U.S. citizens and, in the end, undermined the U.S.’ ability to compete with China. Especially now, as we continue to observe Chinese scientists leaving the U.S. and taking their skills and talents elsewhere. With John Haupt and two academics at Tsinghua University in China, Doctors Wen Wen and Die Hu, we asked about two hundred co-collaborators in China and in the United States how were they able to overcome such geopolitical tensions and the challenges associated with COVID-19 during the pandemic? And we did learn something somewhat unexpected, and I hope valuable. Basically, we found that mutual trust between international collaborators helped overcome such perceived hurdles, including risks of being unfairly targeted. What this tells us is that a chilling effect is certainly real and remains possible, but in the end scientists have tremendous agency on what they study, where they study, and whether or not they seek funds, or where they seek funds. Regardless of the host or home country, international collaboration is important to all countries’ scientific enterprise. Coauthors from different countries improve the knowledge being produced, its applicability, enlarges global audiences, and thereby increases the impact of the work. So considering the value, yet risks, where do we begin? Firstly, federal and institutional policies, of course, matter, for better or for worse. But policies do not manufacture trust. The formation of an academic tie does not suddenly occur over a cold call in the middle of a global meltdown, as often portrayed in Hollywood. Rather, this is a gradual process. And the longevity of the relationship helps strengthen that trust over time. According to our research, these collaborative relationships begin as graduate students, postdocs, visiting researchers. They occur at academic conferences and other in-person opportunities. Cutting short-term fellowships, for example, will impact the potential of a future scientific relationship, but its effects may not be felt for years. Same with denied visas and opportunities for travel. Fewer graduate students from particular countries or fields also means a different shape when it comes to global science. U.S. for instance, was not too long ago Russia’s biggest foreign scientific collaborator, with the war in Ukraine, those research relationships, as well as much—with much of the Western world, have ceased. All of this, and my related empirical research, was conducted when I was a professor at my home institution. And since July, I’ve been serving, as Irina mentioned, as the dean and vice president of international affairs at my own institution. And I’ve been thinking a lot of, what does this mean for institutional practice? For those in university leadership positions, as mine, you know this is a tough challenge. Especially as domestic demand and state funding for higher education is generally declining. And at the same time, internationalization is increasingly central to senior leadership strategies. Universities are continuing vying to attract the world’s students, even despite a decline of interest from China. And at the same time, research universities in particular are quite dependent on federal grants. We have our own research security offices that need to ensure our universities have good reputations and relations with our large federal funding agencies and taking every precaution to not be seen as a vulnerable site of intellectual theft. These units tend not to operate within international affairs. And I’m very well aware that in my role of trying to attract as many students from China and develop international partnerships, all of them can be suddenly erased if a Chinese University partner does not pass visual compliance or there is a sudden presidential executive order, as we experienced under the Trump administration. I’m also very well aware that of senior leaders have to choose between my educational offerings and partnerships in China versus risking a major grant from a federal agency, I will lose. We witnessed that with the shutting down of over 100 Confucius Institutes in the U.S., despite a lack of evidence of systematic espionage occurring through these centers. Public perceptions, informed or not, strongly affect the nature of our international work, as in the case of Florida. Such negative perceptions are not one country-sided, of course. A key concern for Chinese and other international students and their parents relate to safety. Gun violence, including on our own college campuses, anti-Asian hate crimes in surrounding neighborhoods, and unfavorable political environment in which studies might be interrupted as in the case of Proclamation 10043, or visa non-renewals are all contributing factors for the decline of interest from China, and uncertain future student exchange as well. In closing, when it comes to China these days no practices are guaranteed. However, I can recommend some while also keeping in mind geopolitical conditions can suddenly change for worse, or perhaps better. I mentioned earlier the value of mutual trust. At my university, we have long-standing relationships with university leaders at Chinese institutions. We’ve set up dual degree programs in China. Actually, about 40 percent of our international student enrollment are through such partner relationships throughout the world, in which we go to where they are. Hiring staff who speak the language and know the culture are also essential. And, like any relationship, these arrangements have developed over time. They are not built overnight. It takes intention. It takes effort. But in my experience, as trust is established the numbers have grown, and the positive impact is still being felt. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much for that. That was terrific. Let’s go now to all of you for your questions, comments. You can use this to share best practices and what you’re doing to your universities or institutions. Please click the raise hand icon on your screen to ask a question. On your iPad or tablet, you can click the “more” button to access the raise hand feature. And when you’re called upon, please accept the unmute prompts, state your name and affiliation, followed by your question. You can also submit a written question, they’ve already started coming in, by the Q&A icon. And if you can also include your affiliation there, I would appreciate it, although we will try to make sure we identify you correctly. So let’s see. I’m looking for—no raised hands yet, but we do have questions written. So first question from Denis Simon, who’s a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Many U.S. universities have curtailed their exchanges and cooperation with China. You referenced that. Officials at these universities are worried that if they appear too friendly toward China they will lose all sorts of federal funding. Are these concerns justified? Are there any regulations or legislation that actually says federal funding can be removed assuming these universities are in compliance with the export controls, et cetera? LEE: All right. Well, thanks, Denis, for your question. I know there—when I saw the list of those who signed up, I know there are many here who can speak to this directly. So I encourage those to also raise their hands and provide input in the Q&A, maybe in the form of an A instead of a Q. But in any case, going to that question, you know, it’s a tough environment. And so much in my role, but what I even experienced in my research, is about that perception, that overinterpretation. So maybe signaling that we have this exchange program might draw attention in ways that might lead to suspicions that, oh, well is this, you know, somehow creating an opportunity for us to disclose military secrets? I mean, that’s where we take it. A friendly exchange or visit is oftentimes now having to be scrutinized and ensuring that there is no remote violation of export controls, even in educational delivery in a non-STEM field. And what we’re seeing is that this—we have our highly sensitive fields, but that kind of scrutiny we’re also seeing applied to the institution more broadly. So these seemingly benign programs about language or culture, about fields that are enhanced or help promote so-called American values, are also being watched. So I believe as an institutional leader, again, as I mentioned earlier, having to deal with the possibility of unwanted or unwarranted attention versus not having that program, I think some, as Denis has pointed out, are leaning towards being more cautious. Unfortunately, China—any work with China is considered a risk, even if there is no reason for risk, as we’ve witnessed under—or, observed under the China Initiative. I don’t know if I’ve fully answered that question, but please follow up if I haven’t. And I know others can probably say more to that issue. FASKIANOS: Great. I’ll take the next question from Peter—I don’t know how to pronounce— LEE: Peter Becskehazy. Hi, Peter. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: There you go. Thank you very much. LEE: I know Peter. FASKIANOS: All right. Good. Well, I’d love if Peter asked his question directly, if he can. Oh, good. From Pima Community College. Go ahead, Peter. Q: Hello, Jenny. Nice to see you. LEE: Hi, Peter. Q: Now my question is, the University of Arizona and other universities have had an inflow of dozens of countries, adding up to the million that you mentioned. Are other countries trying to fill in slots left vacant by Chinese students and scholars? LEE: Yeah. Great question, Peter. And I think you can also share what you’ve observed at Pima in terms of the patterns you’ve witnessed. But for us, and as we are seeing nationally, we’re seeing India rise. Not at the—not at higher numbers in many institutions, compared to China, but the rate is rising. It’s not so simple, though, because we also have relations in India, and trying to set up agreements, and bring students. The competition in India is intense. So even though there’s a relatively so-called large market, and the U.S. has been quite successful in attracting Indian students, that is perhaps where the attention is as a more, I would say—I hate to use the word “market,”—but a stable student market. There’s a lot more interest in graduate-level education globally, as we’ve observed. These countries that formerly didn’t have capacity now do have capacity. They have online offerings. They have branch campuses, dual degrees, lots of other options. And so the niche for the U.S., whereas before we didn’t really have to think about a niche, is really in graduate education. Now, of course, that’s not good news for Pima, that’s thinking about a community college and other kinds of educational offerings. But for us, we’re thinking about India a lot. Southeast Asia, of course, has always been an important partner to us. Africa continues to be a challenge. We know that when we think about population growth, Africa is the future. There’s still challenges and trying to identify places where there is capacity. But also the affordability of a U.S. education is a huge challenge. So it’s a great question. And, again, I’m curious to know other places in the world people recommend. Of course, Latin America, given our location, is a key strategic partner. But again, affordability becomes an issue. And again, I’m just talking about the traditional international student who would choose to come to Arizona. Not talking about research collaboration, which is less bound by affordability issues. Irina, you’re muted. FASKIANOS: How long have I been doing this? OK. (Laughs.) I’m going to take the next written question from Allison Davis-White Eyes, who is vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Fielding Graduate University: We have tried to work on collaborations with European universities and African universities, and met with much difficulty. What trends are you seeing in these regions? And what are emerging global markets beyond China? LEE: Great question, Allison. I mean, if you could leave the question in the future, so because I am visually looking at the question at the same time. FASKIANOS: Oh, great. Sorry. LEE: So, Allison, I’m not sure if you’re referring to academic or research. Of course, within Europe, where the government does highly subsidized tuition, it’s just becomes financially a bad deal, I suppose—(laughs)—for a student in the world who would normally get a free or highly reduced tuition to pay full price at our institution. So that kind of exchange of partnership, especially when it’s about—when it’s financially based, becomes almost impossible from my experience. But thinking about research collaboration, it depends on the level. So if it’s an institutional agreement, you know, it’s—often, these MOUs tend to just be on paper. It takes quite a bit of—it’s very ceremonial. You need to get legal involved. It’s a whole process to get an MOU. We really don’t need these non-binding MOUs for research agreements. Some countries like it, just to display that they have an MOU with a U.S. institution. But essentially, it doesn’t stop me as a professor to reach out to another professor at the University of Oslo, and say, hey, let’s do a study. Which we actually are doing. So, yeah, feel free to be more specific, or if you want to raise your hand or speak on—and elaborate on that question. So, again, for educational exchange, it is difficult because we are—there’s already a process within the EU that makes it very affordable and highly supported within the EU, or if you’re part of that bigger program. Africa, again, my challenge from my role as an institutional leader is identifying places where there is already enough mass education up through high school where one would be able to consider, first of all, being admitted to a U.S. institution, but secondly, to be able to pay the cost. FASKIANOS: Allison, do you want to expand a little bit? Q: Oh, sorry. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: There you go. There you go. Q: Right. Dr. Lee, thank you for your response. I think it was helpful, especially regarding the subsidizing of education in Europe. We’ve been working on some research partnerships. And we have just—you know, really, it has just been extremely difficult with European universities. And I do think part of it has to do with the way things are subsidized in Europe. I was just wondering if there were new and different ways to do it. I do appreciate your comment about the MOUs being largely ceremonial. I agree. And would like to see something with a little more substance. And that will take some creativity and a lot of partnership and work. As for Africa, we have tried to create partnerships with South Africa. I think there’s some potential there. Certainly, some excitement. We’ve had a few students from Nigeria, extremely bright and motivated. I just would—you know, would like to hear, maybe from some other colleagues as well on the call, if there are creative ways in working with these students as well. So, thank you. LEE: Yeah, no. And just to follow up quickly, and, again, opportunities for others to share, academic collaboration, as I mentioned during my remarks, is largely built upon mutual trust. And not to say it can’t happen from top down, but really does—is most successful from bottom up. And I don’t mean to refer to professors at the bottom, but meaning those that are actually engaged with that work. And so just some considerations is rather than a top-down initiative or strategy, is to identify those that are visiting scholars, already from that country, have networks within that country. What’s interesting, as I learned in my current role, is how little my predecessors worked with professors in these area’s studies programs, because they’re oftentimes treated as a separate or having different interests in mind when actually there is a lot of overlap to identify those that are actually there. Allison, by the way, I lived in South Africa for eight years. And I know it actually takes a long time. My Fulbright started off as a one year, and I had to extend it because even getting the data while I was on the ground takes time. And I’ll be honest, I think part of it was taking some time just to build trust the intentions of my work, what was I going to do with that data, how is that going to be used? Was it actually going to be ways to empower them? You know, for those who study international collaboration, know this north and south divide, and I think there are places in the world that are—maybe have some guardrails up from those—not saying this is what’s happening in your institution—but someone that they don’t know coming from the Global North to study someone else in the Global South. And so how do we create or initiate a collaboration that is clearly, expressly mutual at the onset? And, again, this is where trust can be operationalized lots of different ways, but that even begins with that initial message. I mean, I remember when I started my work, nobody responded to me. They’re like, who are you? And I don’t care who you are or what your CV says. And it takes time. You know, building that relationship, and that person introducing me to that other person. Like, you know, this is how scientific networks form. And I think, to some extent, this is also how institutional collaborative relationships also form. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to David Moore, who has a raised hand. Q: OK, thank you. I just got unmuted. FASKIANOS: Great. Q: Lee, I appreciate your comments. And I heard your reference to Florida earlier. I don’t know if we have colleagues on this call from Florida, but I think they’ll know what I’m about to say. I’m the dean of international education at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale. And as of tomorrow, December 1, Florida has to—all institutions in Florida, public institutions, colleges and universities, must be completely devoid of any partnerships in China. And not just China. There are seven countries of concern. And you probably can cite them, most of you would know the other six. But of the seven countries, Broward had four partnerships in China alone, none in the other countries that were active. And so we are now officially done, have to be. And I’ve had to notify the partners as well as our accrediting body, because these were international centers of Broward where they literally offer—we offered associate degrees, two-year degrees. And students could then transfer to an institution in the United States. Now, this didn’t catch us too much by surprise because two and a half years ago our Florida legislature started in on this, really probably before that, where they isolated universities in Florida and said: You cannot do research—sensitive research, whatever, you know, engineering, computer science, et cetera—any research without notifying the state. And there’s an elaborate process that had to be—you know, they had to go through to do this. But now it’s not just research institutions. Now it’s not just those kinds of collaborations. It is, in fact, all partnerships of any kind. We had to end our agent agreements where we were recruiting students from China that were—where the companies were based in China. And in course our programs were not research. They’re just general education, two-year associate’s degree, maybe some business. But we’ve been informed now it’s completely done. And so I’m actually looking for institutions outside of Florida who might be willing to take over the role that we’ve had in transcripting students who later want to come to the United States. At least for the first two years in China, and then transferring to the upper division to the U.S. So I’m not sure. You’re probably quite familiar with this. I don’t know if you know the details of how it was worked out in practice. We were the only community college in the state that had any partnerships. So we were the ones that had to desist. So I want to—there are probably people on the call that are familiar with this, but there might be many others. And I just wanted to say that I’m looking to, you know, open that door to other institutions outside of Florida that might be willing in, yes, take a risk to go into China, but to—I’ve always felt that these kinds of programs were very good to build relationships, partnerships, communication. Ambassadors really. Where we feel like we were representing American education, whatever, you know, we call American values, democracy, you know, community. We thought we were doing good. But we found out we were—we were not. We were—we were doing something that went opposed to the prevailing political climate, at least in Florida. So that’s my comment. I think people should know about it. And thank you for letting me speak to it a bit. Maybe someone will speak up and say they’re interested in they can get in touch with me, David Moore at Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. LEE: David, thank you for sharing what you did. This is a really important example of where other states could very well head. And what’s interesting, as David noted, we’re talking about a community college. When we normally think about cutting ties, it’s usually around the concerns about national security. Now, how this translates to a two-year degree that is solely educational based is a pretty far stretch, and yet is being impacted quite severely. So I think we should continue to follow this example—unfortunate example. And, David, yeah, your partners have reached out to my office, and I’m sure to others. But thank you for being available. Q: You’re welcome. We have partners—we are also working with your Jakarta, Indonesia center there. So we have that connection. Thank you. LEE: Mmm hmm. Thanks. FASKIANOS: And if anybody wants to share contact information in the Q&A box, you can certainly do that. That would be great. There is a written question from Tutaleni Asino at Oklahoma State University: There was an article today in SEMAFOR highlighting that there are currently 350 U.S. students studying in China compared to 11,000 in 2019. Comparatively, there are 300,000 Chinese students in the United States. Is this a one-way problem, where the U.S. is not investing in international engagements as a result of being more inward looking and other countries having more options of who to collaborate with? LEE: Yeah. Tutaleni, that’s—I think your question is an answer. And I think it’s—I agree with your observation. So we are seeing that as there’s state and public disinvestment in higher education, and including scrutiny about international higher education, we’re also seeing a decline and cutting of foreign language programs in the United States. So here we are, a monolingual country whose students mostly go to Europe or other English-speaking countries to study abroad. A very limited number of international—U.S. students who pursue undergraduate degrees in a foreign country. And knowing that the future is global and international, at least in my opinion, does not set the U.S. up well to be globally competitive, even though much of its international policy is around this rhetoric of we need to compete with China. And so you raise a good point. How is this possible if U.S. citizens don’t speak Chinese, or have no interest in learning about Chinese culture, or there’s reduced opportunities even in our own institutions, I think is something to think about and ask more questions about. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next question from Zhen Zhu, chair and professor of marketing, director of faculty excellence, and director for international engagement at Suffolk University: How do you see the trend of U.S. students’ interest in study abroad to China? LEE: There is actually growing interest. As many of you know, China—offering Chinese language in high schools is not as unusual as it used to be. There is growing interest as students are thinking about employability in global markets in multinational or international organizations or corporations. It would be fundamental, in fact, for someone who has any interest in international work to pick up the language if they can, and at your own institution. FASKIANOS: Great. Let’s see. From—I’m going to take the next question from Jeff Riedinger: Is there a role for universities to play in knowledge diplomacy to sustain international relationships and collaborations in addressing global problems such as climate change and pandemics when national governments may be at odds with each other? LEE: Thanks, Jeff. And hi, Jeff. I’m just going to read over that question so I can kind of digest it a bit. Is there a role for institutions to play in knowledge diplomacy, such as climate change, pandemics, when national governments may be at odds with each other? Absolutely, 200 percent. It is occurring—knowledge diplomacy, science diplomacy. That one individual going on a Fulbright or coming to study here for some extended visit, having these collaborations and, ultimately, you know, science—knowledge production—I mean, there’s no bounds. And when we think about the kind of research that may not occur because of these national governments are at odds when it comes to addressing climate change or other global issues, you know, the world is paying somewhat of a price when it comes to that in—when there are overarching concerns about national security. So, you know, my issue has always been with policy you overlook nuance, and with sweeping policies that overlook the disciplinary distinctions and contributions, what is lost in the pursuit of trying to stay ahead of another country in fields and areas that really have no economic or military value, right? But yet, have an important cultural value, or maybe will address something bigger, such as COVID-19. So as I mentioned, the work that I referenced earlier about U.S.-Chinese scientists coming together during COVID-19, were actually scientists who studied COVID-19 together. And again, this was not—this was fraught with risks. They were very well aware that there was a lot of scrutiny about any research about COVID-19 coming from China. There was scrutiny about, you know, where the data was held, who was analyzing it, who was funding it. And yet, these scientists took these risks in order to address how does the world deal with the pandemic. And this was based on interviews of those studies that were actually successful and published. This is where that mutual trust, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is so important. And without that mutual trust, these studies, I’m pretty certain, would never have been published, because it was not an easy path when it comes to that particular geopolitical climate during the pandemic. FASKIANOS: Jenny, I’m just going to ask a question. President Biden and President Xi met during APEC. Did anything come out of that meeting that could affect U.S.-China academic collaboration? LEE: Yeah. You know, this is tough. I mean, how do you analyze political statements? What do they really mean? And what is really going to change? I think what’s clear is that there’s an acknowledgment that we’re interdependent, but we’re also adversaries. Almost a love/hate codependent, in a relationship that we can’t just easily separate but we do need each other. But the form that it takes, I think there’s an understanding it needs to be more specific. And I don’t think that has been clarified yet. I realize I missed part of Jeff’s question on what can institutions do? That’s such a good question. And I got more into the topic than the actual to-do. What can institutions do? Honestly—(laughs)—I’ll just speak as a researcher, to back off a bit, right? To let scientists do what they want to do. Yes, we need to follow disclosures. We need to make sure there’s no conflicts of interest. We need to follow all of these procedures. But what I also found during the China Initiative, there was also this chilling climate in which there’s an overinterpretation that may put institutions at risk. And to my knowledge, institutions were not at risk to the extent to which their scientists, especially those of Chinese descent, felt scrutinized. FASKIANOS: Thank you. We have a raised hand from Dan Whitman. Q: OK, I think I’m unmuted. Thank you, Irina. And thanks, Professor Lee, for mentioning the Great Wall that that prevents us from dealing with even Europeans who have subsidized education or Africans who have no money. And just an anecdote, since you have welcomed anecdotes, I am an adjunct at George Washington University. But totally unrelated to that, just for free and just for fun, pro bono, nobody pays, nobody gets paid. A course that I’m giving by webinar, it’s zero cost. The topic is crisis management, but it could be any topic. And in that group, which there are about eighty people who tune in twice a week, fifteen Kenyans, twenty-five Ukrainians, and forty Kazakhs. I mean, I don’t know if there’s ever been exchange between Kazakhstan and Kenya. Anyway, my point is things can be done. We share it for free. What motivates the students? A certificate. It’s so easy to give them a certificate. And in many countries, they very highly value that, even though it’s not a—there’s no formality, there’s no formal academic credit. But the students are very motivated. And possibly, there may be universities in the U.S. that could—that might want to give a professor a small stipendium to do an informal webinar course, which would create connections, which would be zero cost, basically, and would bridge that gap of funding that you’ve alluded to. Thank you. LEE: Yeah. Dan, thank you for that. And I think this leads to a kind of a spin-off comment about certificates. Absolutely. Micro-credentials or alternative forms of education, where there’s maybe not a full-fledged undergraduate degree but some certificate, I think, is important niche, especially for returning adults or communities where they’re not able to afford to take time off. So that flexibility, and obviously now with online education, just becomes so much more accessible and very low cost. Something else to keep in mind, though, is that, depending on the institution you’re from, that will make a difference in certificates. I mean, an institution like George Washington University offering a certificate may have some symbolic or perceived value that may be higher than an institution that is lower or are not ranked at all. So this is where, unfortunately—I’m a big critic of global rankings. But unfortunately, it does play a role in how that certificate is being perceived and the attractiveness of that certificate. But absolutely, this is definitely a way to open access especially for places in the world that just cannot physically move or have the funds to support their studies. FASKIANOS: Great. There are two comments/questions in the Q&A that I wanted to give you a chance to respond to about Africa, from Tutaleni Asino and Fodei Batty. Dr. Asino talks about English is the language of instruction and governments in Africa where they’re funding education to a higher degree, and thinks that there are opportunities there, but it sounds like all fifty-four countries are grouped together. And Dr. Batty talks a little bit about there are a lot of students from African countries pursuing graduate education in the United States. But South Africa is usually an exception to the higher education American norm in Africa. Most South Africans don’t like to travel, especially travel to America. I thought maybe you could just clarify some—respond to those comments. LEE: Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you for sharing those comments. There’s a book I edited called Intra-Africa Student Mobility. And I agree with the comments. And one of the things I didn’t mention that I think is important to help us understand the broader global context is that there’s actually considerable international activity within the continent. And there’s actually considerable intra-Africa mobility within the continent. South Africa is the most important country player in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is globally ranked—has more globally ranked institutions than any other African country. And so South Africa then becomes an important hub. And, yes, as an English-speaking, among many other languages, country, that does attract African students to go oftentimes for a similar sense of shared culture, despite sometimes different languages and customs and backgrounds. And yet, nevertheless, South Africa is an important player within the continent. Not to say that there is no international mobility occurring, but there is increased capacity within the continent that would allow students and interested students to travel within the continent. Not the same extent, of course, as Europe. But the least we’re seeing that rise over time. And so it’s called Intra-Africa Student Mobility. Chika Sehoole and I coedited the book. We were able to get about eight African scholars to talk about the various reasons students would choose that particular African country, and what draw them. And what was really interesting about this phenomenon is that it goes against this prevailing notion of Africa’s victim of brain drain or all going to the north. That’s actually not what is happening. But that there is capacity building within the continent. So in trying to answer a different question, I skirted over a lot of the things I could go further into. But hopefully that book will shed light on what’s happening within that continent, at least from the perspective of eight different countries. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you for that. I’m going to go next to Jonathan Scriven at Washington Adventist University in Maryland: What are some of the strategies universities are using to make education more affordable in the United States? If that is a challenge, are schools investing more or less in setting up campuses in foreign countries as a way to reach foreign students? LEE: I’m just going to read over that question. OK, yeah. Great question, Jonathan. So what’s happening in my institution and many others is a way to attract students is we’re providing considerable aid, merit aid, financial aid, aid even to international students. The majority may not even be paying the full sticker price. Now this, of course, will affect the revenue that would have otherwise been generated, but nevertheless is a way to deal with the fierce competition across U.S. institutions for these top students. So how to make it affordable? There’s a lot of aid going around at the undergraduate, not just the graduate, levels. And so what are institutions doing? Well, for example, at the University of Arizona for our dual degrees, it’s a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to be a student at our main campus. When you have a combination of hybrid or online delivery with a campus partner maybe providing most of the gen ed’s and then we would teach most of the major courses as an example, that does significantly lower the cost where that student will still get a bona fide University of Arizona degree, just like they would at main campus. So these alternative forms of delivery certainly make it more affordable, especially for those that opt to stay in their home country and receive an online education, or a flipped classroom model, or a dual degree. FASKIANOS: Great. Denis Simon, if you can—why don’t you ask your question? Q: Here I am. OK. Recently, on a trip to China in September, a number of faculty have told me they’re no longer wanting to send their best students abroad. They want to keep them in China. And this is all part of the rise of Chinese universities, et cetera. And so it may not be simply the souring of Sino-U.S. relations that has causal effect here, but simply the fact that China now is becoming a major, you know, educational powerhouse. And that also could change the dynamics. For example, even the BRI countries could start to send their students to China instead of sending them to the United States. Do you see anything evolving like this or—and what might be the outcome? LEE: Yeah. Spot on, David. That halo effect of a U.S. degree is not the same as it was when I was a university student. Chinese students, as well as students in the world, are much more savvy. They have access to information. They have access to rankings. They know all universities are not the same. And they know that they have some institutions that are highly ranked and may offer better quality education than the U.S. So that the image of a U.S. degree, of course, is not as universally perceived as it may have been, I don’t know, pre-internet, or without the—all sorts of rankings in which institutions are rated against one another. And absolutely, Chinese institutions are very difficult to get into, fiercely competitive, producing far more scientific output than some of our leading institutions. And there’s another factor when it comes to Asian culture just more broadly speaking, is that social network tie. Sociologists refer to it as social capital. When a Chinese student, a Korean student, Japanese student decides to study in the United States, they may lose that social tie that may possibly put them in a disadvantage when they decide to come back and compete for a position when they may just have that U.S. credential, but may have either lessened or no longer have that relationship that may have allowed them to get a position at the university, or in a place where that alumni network would have been especially useful. So again, I don’t want to generalize, you know, in any place to the world, but there is that component that I think sometimes is missed in the literature. Maintaining that social network is pretty key, especially as jobs, of course, global, you know, unemployment—places where students are competing for positions need to have every edge possible. So that also can be part of that reason they decide to stay. FASKIANOS: Great. The next question from Michael Kulma, who’s at the University of Chicago. He’s following on David Moore’s comments about Florida: Do you know how many other states in the U.S. are enacting or are considering such policies against partnerships with China? LEE: I do not know the answer. So if anyone wants to raise their hand and share about their own state, or put it on the answer part of the question and answer. There are related concerns about DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some of that may spill over to China. Hopefully, at some point at the Council of Foreign Relations will have a discussion on Israel and Hamas conflict and how institutions are dealing with that. And so we’re seeing a pretty challenging political environment that is clearly spilling over to our classrooms and to our international activities, our domestic recruitment. But I’m not answering your question, Michael. (Laughs.) I’ll leave it up to someone else to answer. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. So we don’t have very much time left. I thought maybe you could, given your research and expertise, could suggest resources—recommend resources for higher ed leaders and administrators to better understand how to promote collaboration. LEE: Sure. So promoting collaboration, it really—each person at a time. You know, again, MOUs may be signed, and maybe overarching presidents will come together and have an agreement, but there’s no guarantee that will ever happen. I’d love to do a study on how many MOUs never actually materialized into real action. So where do we begin? International affairs SIOs out there, identify who are your area studies experts? Who are your visiting postdocs? Who are your Fulbright scholars from other parts of the world? They all represent their own network and are certainly are valuable resources to consider. What I’ve sometimes have heard even at my own institution is, you know, how do we bring these people to the table? Why are they not at the table to begin with, and then how do we bring them there? And this is a relatively low-cost way to go about this, right? Like, faculty engaged in service. What kind of opportunities can your university provide for faculty service that is aligned with their area of expertise, the areas of the world they represent, the networks they have? And many of—some of you already have experienced this directly. These partnerships often begin with our alumni, international—former international students who decide to go back home. So, again, there’s just a lot of exciting opportunity. I love this field because it’s never boring. There’s always new ways to grow, expand new partners. But it really does begin with that essential element of trust. And that often begins with our own institutions and identifying those who’ve already started to build that network. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Thank you very much. Really appreciate your being with us and for sharing your expertise and background, Dr. Lee. It’s been fantastic. And to all of you, for your questions and comments, and sharing your experiences as well. You can follow Dr. Lee on X, the app formerly known as Twitter, at @JennyJ_Lee. I will send out a link to this webinar, the transcript, and the video, as well as the link to the book—your book that you mentioned, and any other resources that you want to share with the group. And I encourage you all to follow @CFR_academic on X, visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. We also—just putting in a plug for our other series, Academic Webinar series, which is designed for students. We just sent out the winter/spring lineup and we hope that you will share that with your colleagues and your students. It is a great way for them to have access to practitioner scholars and to talk with students from around the country. So if you haven’t received that lineup, you can email [email protected], and we will share that with you. So, again, thank you, Jenny, for being with us, and to all of you. And wishing you safe and happy holidays. And good luck closing out this semester before we get to the holidays. (Laughs.) So thank you again. (END)
  • Military Operations
    Academic Webinar: Military Strategy in the Contemporary World
    Stephen Biddle, adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at CFR and professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, leads the conversation on military strategy in the contemporary world. FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the fall 2023 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share them with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Stephen Biddle with us to discuss military strategy in the contemporary world. Dr. Biddle is an adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at CFR and professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. Before joining Columbia he was professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. He regularly lectures at the U.S. Army War College and other military schools and has served on a variety of government advisory panels and analytical teams, testified before congressional committees on issues relating to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; force planning; conventional net assessment; and European arms control, just to name a few. And, finally, Dr. Biddle is the author of numerous scholarly publications and several books, including his most recent, Nonstate Warfare, published by Princeton University in 2021 and he just recently authored a piece in CFR’s magazine Foreign Affairs in the September/October 2023 issue entitled “Back in the Trenches: Why New Technology Hasn’t Revolutionized Warfare in Ukraine,” and we shared that out in the background readings for this conversation. So, Steve, thank you for being with us. I thought you could give us an overview of the changes you’ve seen in military operations as a result of technological innovation and say a few words about wartime military behavior especially as you’ve studied it over the years and what we’re seeing now in Ukraine and now with the Israel-Hamas war. BIDDLE: Yeah, I’d be happy to. There’s a lot going on in the world of military affairs and strategy at the moment between Gaza, Taiwan Straits, and, of course, Ukraine. Maybe as a conversation starter I’ll start with Ukraine but we can go in whatever direction the group wants to go in, and the spoiler alert is in the headline of the article from Foreign Affairs that you’ve already assigned. There’s a big debate over what Ukraine means for the future of warfare and what Ukraine means for the way the United States should organize its military, modernize its equipment, write its doctrine and so on. One of the most common interpretations of what Ukraine means for all this is that it’s harboring—it’s a harbinger of a revolutionary transformation. The new technology, drones, space-based surveillance, precision-guided weapons, hypersonics, networked information, artificial intelligence, this whole panoply of things in this argument is making the modern battlefield so lethal, so radically more lethal than the past is that in the present and in the future offensive maneuver will become impossible and we’ll get the dawn of some new age of defense dominance in conventional warfare, which, if true, would then have all sorts of implications for how the United States should make all these kinds of defense policy decisions. As those of you who read the Foreign Affairs article know I don’t buy it because I don’t think the evidence is consistent with that supposition. You’ll be happy to hear that I’m not planning to do a dramatic reading of the Foreign Affairs essay, entertaining as I’m sure that would be, but I did think it might be useful for me to briefly outline the argument as a way of teeing up the subsequent conversation. And the basic argument in the article is that whereas there are, indeed, all sorts of very new technologies in use in this war, when you actually look carefully at the results they’re producing, at the attrition rates that they’re actually causing, at the ability of the two sides to gain ground and to suffer the loss of ground, the actual results being produced by all this very new technology are surprisingly less new than is assumed and supposed in the argument that we’re looking at some transformational discontinuous moment in which a new age of defense dominance is dawning. This doesn’t mean that nothing’s changing or that the United States military should do in the future exactly what it’s done in the past. But the nature of the change that I think we’re seeing is evolutionary and incremental as it has been for the last hundred years, and if you think what’s going on is incremental evolutionary change rather than discontinuous transformation that then has very different implications for what the U.S. should do militarily. So just to unpack a little bit of that by way of pump priming let me just cite some of the examples of what one actually observes and the outcomes of the use of all these new technologies as we’ve seen in Ukraine. So let’s start with casualty rates and attrition. At the heart of this argument that new technology is creating a new era of defense dominance is the argument that fires have made the battlefield so lethal now that the kind of offensive maneuver you saw in World War II or in 1967 or in 1991 is now impossible. And, yet, the actual attrition rates of, for example, tanks, right—tanks tend to be the weapon system that gets the most attention in this context—are remarkably similar to what we saw in the world wars. So in the first twelve months of the fighting in Ukraine, depending on whose estimates you look at the Russians lost somewhere between about half and about 96 percent of their prewar tank fleet in twelve months of fighting. The Ukrainians lost somewhat in excess of 50 percent of their prewar tank fleet, and intuitively that looks like a heavy loss rate, right? Fifty (percent) to 96 percent of what you opened the war with, that seems pretty—you know, pretty dangerous. But in historical context it’s actually lower than it frequently was in World War II. In 1943, the German army suffered an attrition rate to the tanks it owned at the beginning of the year of 113 percent. They lost more tanks in 1943 than they owned in January 1943. Their casualty rate went up in 1944. They lost 122 percent of all the tanks they owned in January of 1944. So these attrition rates while high aren’t unusually high by historical standards. What about artillery, right? Artillery is the single largest casualty inflicter on the modern battlefield defined as since the turn of the twentieth century, 1900. As far as we can tell the attrition rate from Ukrainian artillery fire of Russian forces in this war looks to be on the order of about eight casualties inflicted per hundred rounds of artillery fired and that’s higher than in World War II but not discontinuously radically higher. In World War II that figure would have been about three casualties per hundred rounds fired. In World War I that figure would have been about two casualties per hundred rounds fired. If you chart that over time what you see is an essentially linear straight line incremental increase over a hundred years of about an additional .05 casualties per hundred rounds fired per year over a century of combat experience. There’s no sudden discontinuous increase as a result of drones or networked information or space-based surveillance at the end of the period. What about ground gain and ground loss? The purpose of attrition on a modern battlefield is to change who controls how much territory and the whole transformation argument is that all this putatively much more lethal technology is making ground gain much, much harder than in the past, and yet the Russia offensive that opened the war, mishandled as it was in so many ways, took over 42,000 square miles of Ukraine in the first couple of months of the war. The Ukrainian Kyiv counteroffensive retook more than 19,000 square miles. Their Kharkiv counteroffensive retook 2,300 square miles. The Kharkiv counteroffensive took back more than 200 square miles. There’s been plenty of defensive stalemate in the war, right? The Russian offensive on Bakhmut took ten months to take the city. Cost them probably sixty (thousand) to a hundred thousand casualties to do it. The Mariupol offensive took three months to take the city. But this war has not been a simple story of technologically determined offensive frustration. There have been offensives that have succeeded and offensives that have failed with essentially the same equipment. Drones didn’t get introduced into the war in the last six months. Drones were in heavy use from the very outset of the fighting and this kind of pattern of some offensives that succeed, some offensives that don’t, like the attrition rate is not particularly new. I mean, the popular imagination tends to see World War I as a trench stalemate created by the new technology of artillery and machine guns and barbed wire and World War II as a world offensive maneuver created by the new technologies of the tank, the airplane, the radio. Neither World War I nor World War II were homogeneous experiences where everything was defensive frustration of World War I and everything was offensive success in World War II. That wasn’t the case in either of the two world wars. The Germans advanced almost to the doorsteps of Paris in the initial war opening offensive in 1914. In 1918, the German spring offenses broke clean through Allied lines three times in a row and produced a general advance by the Allies and the subsequent counteroffensive on a hundred-eighty-mile front. There was a lot of ground that changed hands in World War I as a result of offensives in addition to the great defensive trench stalemate of 1915 to mid-1917. In World War II some of the most famous offensive failures in military history were tank-heavy attacks in 1943 and 1944. The Battle of Kursk on the Russian front cost the German attackers more than a hundred and sixty thousand casualties and more than seven hundred lost tanks. The most tank-intensive offensive in the history of war, the British attack at Operation Goodwood in 1944, cost the British a third of all the British armor on the continent of Europe in just three days of fighting. So what we’ve seen in observed military experience over a hundred years of frequent observational opportunity is a mix of offensive success and defensive success with technologies that are sometimes described as defense dominant and, yet, nonetheless, see breakthroughs and technologies that are sometimes seen as offense dominant and, yet, sometimes produce defensive stalemates and what really varies is not so much driven by the equipment, it’s driven by the way people use it. And the central problem in all of this is that military outcomes are not technologically determined. The effects of technology in war are powerfully mediated by how human organizations use them and there are big variations in the way human organizations use equipment. And if you just look at the equipment alone and expect that that’s going to tell you what the result of combat is going to be and you don’t systematically account for how the human organizations involved adapt to what the technology might do on the proving ground to reduce what it can do on the battlefield then you get radically wrong answers and I would argue that’s what’s going on in Ukraine. Both sides are adapting rapidly and the nature of the adaptations that we’re seeing in Ukraine are very similar to the nature of the adaptations we’ve seen in previous great power warfare. Again, incremental lineal extensions of emphases on cover, emphases on concealment, combined arms, defensive depth, mobile reserve withholds—these are the ways that all great power militaries have responded to increasingly lethal equipment over time to reduce their exposure to the nominal proving ground lethality of weapons in actual practice. The problem is this collection of techniques—and in other work I’ve referred to them as the modern system, this kind of transnational epistemic community of practice and the conduct of conventional warfare—to do all these things right and minimize your exposure is technically very challenging. Some military organizations can manage this very complex way of fighting; others cannot. Some can do it on one front and not on another front, and the result is we get a lot of variance in the degree to which any given military at any given moment embraces the entirety of this doctrinal program. Where they do, defenses have been very hard to break through for a hundred years. This isn’t something that came about in February of 2022 because of drones and networked information. This has been the case repeatedly for a century of actual combat. But where they don’t, where defenses are shallow, where reserve withholds are too small, where combined arms aren’t exploited, where cover and concealment isn’t exploited, then casualty rates go way, way up. Then breakthrough becomes possible. Then attackers can gain a lot of ground with tanks or without tanks. The German offensives that broke clean through Allied defensive lines in 1918 had almost no tanks. The first of them, Operation Michael, was a one-million soldier offensive that had exactly nine tanks in support of it. So the differences that have mattered are the interaction of increasingly lethal technology with these variations and the ability of real human organizations to master the complexity needed to fight in a way that reduces exposure to this and that’s the same thing we’ve seen in Ukraine. Where defenses have been shallow and haven’t had enough reserves behind them you’ve gotten breakthroughs. Where they’ve been deep, adequately backed by reserves, as we’ve seen in this summer counteroffensive over the last three or four months, for example, they’ve not been able to break through and this isn’t a new story. This is just a recapitulation of a hundred years’ worth of military experience. If that’s so then what difference does it make to the U.S.? So, again, as I suggested earlier, that doesn’t mean don’t change anything, right? A 1916 tank on a modern battlefield would not fare well. Part of the stability in these kinds of outcomes is because people change the way they do business. They change the way they fight. They update their equipment. They execute measure/countermeasure races and so we need to continue to do that. Depth is probably going to increase. Reserve withhold requirements are going to go up. Demands for cover and concealment are going to increase. There will be technological implications stemming from the particular measure/countermeasure races that are emerging now especially with respect to drones. Almost certainly the U.S. Army is going to have an incentive, for example, to deploy counter drone escort vehicles as part of the combined arms mix, moving forward. But the principle of combined arms that’s behind so much of the way the U.S. Army fights is very unlikely to change very much. What’s going to happen is a new element will be added to the combined arms mix, and escort jammers and anti-aircraft artillery and other air defense systems that are optimized for drones will become part of the mix of tanks and infantry and engineers and signals and air defense and all the rest, moving forward. The whole revolution argument, though, is not that, right? The reason people refer to this as a revolution, as transformation, is they’re using language that’s designed to tee up the idea that ordinary orthodox incremental updating business as usual isn’t enough in this new era because of drones, because of hypersonics, or space-based surveillance or whatever. We need something more than that, and I think if we look closely at what’s going on in Ukraine what we see is not an argument that we need to transform the way the U.S. military does business. What we see is an argument for incremental change that implies incremental adaptation is appropriate, that it’s not the wrong thing to do. I think it’s possible to over-innovate. I think there are ample historical examples of militaries that have gone wrong not by being resistant to innovation—there are plenty of those, too—but by doing too much innovation. In the 1950s and 1960s U.S. Air Force transformed itself around an idea that conventional warfare is a thing of the past, all wars of the future will be nuclear, and they designed airplanes for nuclear weapon delivery that were horribly ill-suited to the conventional war in Vietnam that they then found themselves in. The U.S. Army transformed its doctrine following a particular understanding of the lethality of precision-guided anti-tank weapons in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, adopted a concept called active defense that relied on static defense in a shallow disposition from fixed positions, emphasizing the ostensible new firepower of anti-tank weapons. Found that that was very innovative but very ineffective and abandoned it in favor of the airline battle doctrine that’s a lineal descendant of the doctrine we use now, which was much more orthodox and conventional. There are plenty of examples of militaries that have over-innovated. This language of revolution and transformation is designed to promote what I’m concerned could be over-innovation again. I think we could talk more about the particulars of what incremental adaptation should comprise but I think that’s the right way forward in light of what we actually observe about what’s going on in Ukraine. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you for that, Steve. That was great. Let’s go now to all of you for your questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) And so don’t be shy. This is your time. We have our first question from Terrence Kleven. Q: Hello. Can you hear me? FASKIANOS: We can. If you could tell us your affiliation that would be great. Q: Yes, very good. Terrence Kleven. I’m at Central College in Pella, Iowa, and I teach in a philosophy and religious studies department and I teach quite a lot of Middle Eastern studies. Thank you very much for your presentation because so much of this we don’t talk about enough and we don’t understand, and I appreciate the opportunity to hear what you have to say and look forward to reading your—some of your material. Just kind of a practical question, why aren’t the Russians using more planes in this war or are they and we just don’t have a report of that? I assume that the Russian air force is much superior to what the Ukrainians have but it doesn’t seem to give them a great advantage. What’s missing? What’s going on? BIDDLE: Yeah. You’re raising a question that has bedeviled military analysts in this war since its beginning. Part of the issue is the definition of what plane is, right? If we define a plane as something that uses aerodynamic lift to fly through the air and perform military missions the Russians are using lots of planes; they just don’t have pilots. We call them drones. But a drone, to a first approximation, is just a particular inexpensive, low-performance airplane that is relatively expendable because it’s inexpensive. But because it’s inexpensive it’s also low performance. If by airplanes one includes drones, then there’s lots of airplane use going on. What you had in mind with the question, I’m sure, is the airplanes that have people in them—why aren’t they more salient in the military conduct of the war, and the Russians have tried to use piloted aircraft. The trouble is the loss rates have kept them, largely, out of the sky. So this again gets back to the question of human adaptation to new technology. Air forces—and navies, by the way, but that’s a different conversation—are much more exposed to more technology increases—the technology changes that produce increasing lethality than ground armies are. Ground armies have much easier access to cover and concealment. It’s hard to find much cover and concealment up there in the sky, right? You’re highlighted against a largely featureless background. There are things you can do as an air force to try and reduce your exposure to precision-guided anti-aircraft weapons and the U.S. Air Force, for example, practices those extensively. But the complexity of operating an air force to be effective at the mission called SEAD—suppression of enemy air defenses—is very high and it requires a lot of practice and it requires a lot of flight hours and it requires you to burn a lot of fuel in training, and the U.S. Air Force is willing to do that. The Russians historically have not. Therefore, they’re not very good at it. Therefore, they’re very—they have been very exposed to the lethality precision-guided Ukrainian anti-aircraft defenses and, therefore, they’ve mostly decided not to expose themselves to this fire. They fly mostly over friendly terrain, especially in metropolitan Russia, and they fly at low altitudes that keep them under the radar, which is a cliché that’s leached into public conversation because of the actual physics of the way radar works and responds to the curvature of the earth. If the Russians operate over Russian territory at low altitude and launch cruise missiles at huge distances then their airplanes don’t get shot down as much. But then the airplanes are a lot less effective and contribute a lot less and that’s the tradeoff that the Russians have accepted with respect to the use of airplanes. The airplanes they use a lot are unpiloted cheap low-performance drones which they are willing to get shot down in huge numbers and they do get shot down in huge numbers. But piloted aircraft have played a limited role because the air defense environment is too lethal for an air force with skills no better than the Russians are to survive in it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Mike Nelson. Q: Thanks for a very interesting overview. I work at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and also have taught at Georgetown on internet policy and the impacts of digital technologies. Seems to me that one of the big changes with this war has been the incredible transparency, more information on what’s actually going on on the ground from social media, satellite photos, drone photos. I saw a tweet today about how they’re able to infer how many Russian soldiers have mutinied by counting these soldiers marching back from the front, presumably under armed guard. It just seems that there’s a lot more information on what’s going on hour by hour. I wonder if that is causing some changes on both the Russian and the Ukrainian side and whether the insertion of disinformation to make it appear that things are going differently than it seems is also something that’s getting better and better. Thank you. BIDDLE: Yeah. I mean, the information environment in Ukraine is complicated in ways that the debate often doesn’t deal with very well, in my view. So starting at the superficial level, public perceptions of what the lethality of first-person view kamikaze drones has been against tanks and artillery are wildly exaggerated and the reason why the public impression is wildly exaggerated is because the medium formerly known as Twitter puts up endless videos of successful attacks. But nobody posts a video of their failed attack so we only see the subset of all drone missions that succeeded. The ones that don’t are invisible. Therefore, the public gets this impression that all—that there are successful drone missions by the millions all the time and that that’s—there are serious selection effects with the way the public understands drone success rates in light of that. So one point is that the apparent transparency is subject to a variety of selection biases that lead to misunderstandings of the transparency on the battlefield as a whole. Similarly, there are lots of videos of images of Russian soldiers in a trench and especially videos of Russian soldiers in a trench before a quadcopter drone drops a grenade on them and then kills them. You don’t see any video feeds of a drone flying over a camouflaged position where you can’t see anything because nobody’s going to post that, right? It’s not interesting enough. But, therefore, again, we get the selection effect. People believe that everything is visible and everything is transparent because every video feed they see, and they see a lot of them, shows a visible target. The trouble is you’re not seeing the failed drone missions that didn’t produce a visible target and those are the vast majority as far as we can tell from more careful analyses that try to look at the totality of drone missions rather than just the selected subset that appear on now X, formerly Twitter. Now, that leads to the general issue of how transparent is the modern battlefield and I would argue that the modern battlefield is a lot less transparent than people popularly imagine that it is. The cover and concealment available in the earth’s surface to a military that’s capable of exploiting it is still sufficient to keep a sizeable fraction of both militaries’ targets invisible to the other side most of the time and that’s why the artillery casualty rate hasn’t gone up dramatically as a result of all this. It’s because cover and concealment is still keeping most of the targets out of the way. So I would argue the battlefield is less transparent than we often assume that it is and in part that’s because the systems that would generate information are countered by the other side so that they generate less information. Again, take drones, which have been the thing that everybody’s been focusing on. There have been multiple waves of measure/countermeasure races just on the technical side, setting aside technical adaptation, with respect to drones already. When the war opened the primary drone in use, especially on the Ukrainian side, was the Bayraktar TB2, Turkish-built large, you know, capable, fairly expensive drone which was very lethal against exposed Russian armored columns. Then several things happened. One is the armored columns decided to get less exposed. Smart move on the Russians’ part. The other thing is the air defense system under the Russians adapted and started shooting down Bayraktar TB2s at a huge rate to the point where the Ukrainians stopped flying them because they were so vulnerable and, instead, drones shifted from big expensive higher performance drones to smaller, cheaper, lower performance drones, which were so cheap that it didn’t make sense to fire expensive guided anti-aircraft missiles at them anymore and then the air defense environment shifted to emphasize jamming, which is even cheaper than the drones, and anti-aircraft artillery firing bullets that are cheaper than drones. So the systems that would create this transparency and that would give you this information don’t get a free ride. The opponent systematically attacks them and systematically changes the behavior of the target so that the surviving seekers have less to find, and in addition to cover and concealment and complementary to it is dispersion and what dispersion of ground targets does is even if you find a target it may very well not be worth the expenditure of an expensive precision munition to kill. A guided 155-millimeter artillery shell costs on the order of a hundred thousand dollars a shell. If you’re shooting it at a concentrated platoon of enemy infantry that’s a good expenditure. If you’re shooting it at a dispersed target where they’re in one- or two-soldier foxholes now even if you know where all the foxholes are—even if your drones have survived, the concealment has failed and the drone has accurately located where every single two-soldier foxhole is does it make sense to fire a $100,000 guided artillery shell at each of them or are you going to run out of guided artillery shells before they run out of foxholes, right? So the net of all of this—the technical measure/countermeasure race and the tactical adaptation is that I would argue that the battlefield is actually not as transparent as people commonly assume. If it were we’d be seeing much higher casualty rates than what we’re actually seeing. There’s incremental change, right? The battlefield is more transparent now, heaven knows, than it was in 1943. But the magnitude of the difference and the presence of technical measures and countermeasures is incremental rather than transformational and that’s a large part of the reason why the change in results has been incremental rather than transformational. FASKIANOS: So we have a lot of questions but I do want to just ask you, Steve, to comment on Elon Musk’s—you know, he shut down his Starlink satellite communications so that the Ukrainians could not do their assault on the—on Russia. I think it was the submersible—they were going to strike the Russian naval vessels off of Crimea. So that, obviously—the technology did affect how the war was—the battlefield. BIDDLE: It did, but you’ll notice that Crimea has been attacked multiple times since then and metropolitan Russia has been attacked multiple times since then. So there are technical workarounds. On the technical side rather than the tactical side there are multiple ways to skin a cat. One of these has been that the U.S. has tried to make Ukraine less dependent on private satellite communication networks by providing alternatives that are less subject to the whims of a single billionaire. But tactical communications of the kind that Starlink has enabled the Ukrainians are very useful, right? No doubt about it, and that’s why the U.S. government is working so hard to provide alternatives to commercial Starlink access. But even there, even if you didn’t have them at all the Ukrainian military wouldn’t collapse. I mean, in fact, most military formations were taught how to function in a communications-constrained environment because of the danger that modern militaries will jam their available communication systems or destroy communication nodes or attack the satellites that are providing the relays. Certainly, the U.S. military today is not prepared to assume that satellite communications are always going to be available. We train our soldiers how to operate in an environment in which those systems are denied you because they might be. So, again, I mean, tactical adaptation doesn’t eliminate the effects of technological change—having Starlink, being denied Starlink, right, this Musk-owned communication satellite constellation that was the source of all the kerfuffle. It’s not irrelevant whether you have it or not but it’s less decisive than you might imagine if you didn’t take into account the way that militaries adapt to the concern that they might be denied them or that the enemy might have them and they might not, which are serious concerns. Certainly, if the U.S. and Russia were true belligerents both the danger of anti-satellite warfare destroying significant fractions of those constellations is serious, or jamming or otherwise making them unavailable is a serious problem so militaries try to adapt to deal with it—with their absence if they have to. FASKIANOS: Great. We have a question—a written question from Monica Byrne at—a student at Bard College: Can you share thoughts and strategy for Israel and Gaza, given the conditions in Gaza? BIDDLE: Yeah. So shifting gears now from Ukraine to the Middle East, given Israel’s declared war aim, right—if Israel’s aim is to topple the Hamas regime and then hopefully replace it with something that’s another conversation. But let’s for the moment just talk about the military dynamics of realizing their stated war aim of toppling the Hamas regime. That will certainly require a ground invasion that reoccupies at least temporarily the entirety of Gaza, right? Airstrikes aren’t going to accomplish that war aim. Special forces raids aren’t going to accomplish that war aim. The Hamas administrative apparatus is, A, too large and, B, too easily concealed, especially underground, for those kinds of techniques to be sufficient. So if the Israelis really are going to topple Hamas a large-scale ground invasion is needed. That has obvious horrible implications for collateral damage and civilian fatalities in Gaza—urban warfare is infamously destructive of capital and of civilian human life—but also for military casualties to the Israelis. Urban warfare is a radically advantageous military environment for defenders and so Israel inevitably will take serious losses if they really expect to completely reoccupy Gaza as would be needed to depose Hamas. Now, there are ways that conventional militaries can try and reduce either the loss of innocent civilian life or casualty rates to their own forces but none of these things are perfect and the techniques militaries use to reduce civilian fatalities can be exploited by defenders who want to take advantage of them to increase Israeli military casualties and limit the Israelis’ ability to limit collateral damage. You can fire only at identified targets and not at entire buildings. You can use small-caliber weapons rather than large-caliber artillery and missiles. You can warn the civilian occupants of a building either with leaflets or text messages or the Israeli technique that’s called knocking on the roof where they drop a nonexplosive weapon on the ceiling to create a sound that tells the occupants they are about to be attacked so they leave. There are a variety of things like that that you can do and that the U.S. should hope that the Israelis are going to do. But the whole problem here is that the Hamas political and military infrastructure is deeply intermingled with the civilian population in Gaza, and so even if you’re going to be as discriminating as modern technology and military skill potentially could make you, you’re still going to kill a lot of civilians and Hamas is not going to conveniently remove the military infrastructure from the civilian population to make it easier for the Israelis to kill the fighters and not kill the civilians. They’re going to keep them tightly intermingled. Now, the Israelis can reduce their losses by being slower and more deliberate and methodical in the way they enter Gaza. There’s been a discussion in recent weeks about the difference between Mosul and Fallujah and the U.S. experience of urban warfare in Iraq. In Fallujah, we entered quickly with a large ground force that was fairly dependent on small arms direct fire and relatively less reliant on artillery and airstrikes. In Mosul with Iraqi allies on the ground, we did the opposite. Very slow entry. The campaign took months. Limited exposure, small-caliber weapons, heavy emphasis on airstrikes and artillery to reduce the ground—even so, thousands of civilians were killed in Mosul. Even so, our Iraqi allies took serious casualties. There’s no way for the Israelis to do this Gaza offensive if they’re going to realize their war aim that won’t destroy Gaza, kill a lot of civilians, and suffer a lot of casualties themselves. All these things are marginal differences at the most. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Dan Caldwell. Q: Oh, Steve, thanks very much for a very interesting overview. I’d like to raise another subject that is, obviously, very broad but I would really appreciate your comments on it and that’s the question of intelligence and its relationship to military operations that you’ve described. Broadly speaking, we can separate out tactical intelligence from strategic intelligence, and in the case of tactical intelligence the use of breaking down terrorists’ cell phones’ records and things like contributed to military successes in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a strategic sense, the breaking of the Japanese codes, Purple, and the Ultra Enigma secret in World War II contributed to the Allies’ success, and in terms of the Middle East the strategic failures of Israeli intelligence in 1973 and, I would argue, in the recent Hamas attacks contributed to the losses that Israel has suffered. So how do you think about the relationship of intelligence to military strategy? BIDDLE: Yeah. I mean, intelligence is central to everything in security policy, right? It’s central to forcible diplomacy. It’s central to preparation for war. It’s central to the conduct of military. So intelligence underlies everything. All good decision making requires information about the other side. The intelligence system has to provide that. The ability of the intelligence system to create transformational change is limited. Let’s take the national level strategic intelligence question first and then we’ll move to things like Ultra and battlefield uses. As you know, the problem of military surprise has been extensively studied, at least since the 1973 war in which Israel was famously surprised by the Egyptian attack in the Sinai. There’s been an extensive scholarly focus on this problem of intelligence failure and surprise—how can this possibly happen. And the central thrust of that literature, I would argue, has been that almost always after a surprise you discover later that the surprised intelligence system had information that should have told them an attack was coming. They almost always receive indicators. They almost always get photographic intelligence. All sorts of pieces of information find their way into the owning intelligence system. And yet, they got surprised anyway. How could this happen? And the answer is that the information has to be processed by human organizations, and the organizational challenges and the cognitive biases that individuals have when they’re dealing with this information combine in such a way to frequently cause indicators not to be understood and used and exploited to avoid surprise and part of the reason for that—the details, of course, are extensive and complex. But part of the reason for that is you get indicators of an attack that didn’t—that then didn’t happen way more often than you get the indicators of the attack that does happen. You get indicators all the time but usually there’s no attack and the trick then is how do you distinguish the indicator that isn’t going to become an attack from the indicator that is going to become the attack when you’ve always got both. And if you—especially in a country like Israel where mobilizing the reserves has huge economic consequences, if you mobilize the reserves every time you get indicators of an attack you exhaust the country and the country stops responding to the indicators anymore. It’s the cry wolf problem. I mean, the first couple of times you cry wolf people take it seriously. The eighth, ninth, tenth, twelfth time they don’t. So because of this the ability to change, to do away with surprise, with, for example, new technology, all right, a more transparent world in which we have a better ability to tap people’s cell phones and tap undersea cables to find out what governments are saying to themselves we have better ability to collect information. But there are still organizational biases, cognitive problems, and just the basic signal-to-noise, wheat-to-chaff ratio issue of lots and lots of information, most of which is about an attack that isn’t going to happen. And distinguishing that from the ones that are going to happen is an ongoing problem that I doubt is going to be solved because it isn’t a technological issue. It resides in the structure of human organizations and the way the human mind operates to filter out extraneous and focus on important sensory information, and human cognitive processes aren’t changing radically and human organizations aren’t either. So at the strategic level I don’t see transformation coming soon. Then we’ve got the battlefield problem of what about intercepted communications, for example, which have changed the historiography of World War II in an important way. We’ll note that that didn’t cause the Allies to defeat the Germans in 1944, right? I mean, the Allies cracked the German and the Japanese codes long before the war ended and, yet, the war continued, and this gets back to this question of how militaries adapt to the availability of information about them on the other side. At sea where there’s not a lot of terrain for cover and concealment, right, then these kinds of communications intercepts were more important and as a result the Japanese navy was, largely, swept from the Pacific long before the war ended in 1945. But wars are ultimately usually about what goes on on land, and on land even if you intercept people’s communications if they’re covered, concealed, dispersed, and in depth being able to read German communications, which we could do in 1944, didn’t enable us to quickly break through, rapidly drive to Berlin and end the war three months after the Normandy invasions. In spite of the fact that we could read the communications traffic we couldn’t do those things because the communications traffic is only part of success and failure on the battlefield. So if that was the case in World War II where we had, you know, unusually good comment and usually good ability to break the enemy’s codes and read their message traffic, again, I would argue that improvements in intelligence technology today were certainly helpful, and they’re worth having and we should pursue them and use them, but it’s not likely to transform combat outcomes in a theater of war any more than—to a radically greater degree than it did when we had that kind of information in 1944. FASKIANOS: So I’m going to combine the next two questions because they’re about innovation from the Marine Corps University and Rutgers University: You mentioned over innovation. Can you explain what that is and how it can be detrimental? And then are you concerned that the Department of Defense R&D program could be at risk of being out of balance by over emphasizing advanced technology versus getting useful technology deployed and into the field? BIDDLE: I think that’s one of the most important implications of this war is that the United States has historically chosen to get way out on the envelope of what technology makes possible for weapon acquisition, creating extremely expensive weapons that we can buy in very small numbers that we evaluate and we decide to buy because of their proving ground potential because what they can do against targets that haven’t adapted to them yet. What the record of adaptation in Ukraine, I think, shows is that the actual lethality of very sophisticated weapons is not as high as it looks on a proving ground because the targets are going to be noncooperative and the real-world performance of extremely expensive sophisticated technologies is normally less than it looks, and if that’s the case we are probably overspending on very sophisticated, very expensive weapons which we can only buy in very small numbers and which if they don’t produce this radical lethality wouldn’t be worth the expenditure that they cost. And if the adaptation of the target is going to reduce their lethality and increase their vulnerability, which is certainly what we’re observing in Ukraine, then we’re going to have a dickens of a time replacing them when they get lost, right, because very sophisticated high technology weapons, among other things, require a supply chain of materials that are often quite scarce—rare earths, cobalt, lithium. One of the reasons why the American Defense Industrial Base has had a hard time responding rapidly to the demands that the expenditure rate of things in Ukraine has created is because of these complicated supply chains that we can manage when we’re building things in small numbers, which we think is sufficient because we’re expecting that each one of them is going to be tremendously lethal. If we now realize that they’re less lethal in practice than we expect them to be and therefore we need larger numbers of them, how are we going to get the materials we need to do that? And the experience in Ukraine has been that the kind of revolution in military affairs expectation for the lethality of high technology just hasn’t been realized. Yes, weapons are very lethal in Ukraine, but not orders of magnitude differently than they were in 1944, right, and so I think this ought to suggest to us that the historical post-World War II U.S. strategy emphasizing very high technology at very high cost in very small numbers to compensate for small numbers with radical lethality may very well be misguided. It works well when you’re fighting an opponent like the Iraqis who can’t handle the complexity of cover and concealment, combined arms, and all the rest. They’re exposed and the weapons have the kind of proving ground effect that you expect because the targets are not undercover. Not clear that it has been producing that kind of results in Ukraine and it’s not clear that it would produce those kinds of results for the United States in a coming great power conflict. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going take the next question from Genevieve Connell at the Fordham graduate program in international political economy and development. How much does successful military strategy rely on stable domestic economic systems to fund it or is this less of an issue when one or both sides have strong geopolitical support and aid? BIDDLE: War is very expensive, as the Ukraine war is reminding us, right? This isn’t news. The expenditure rates in modern industrial age warfare are massively expensive to maintain and that in turn means that the strength of the national economy is a fundamental foundational requirement for success in modern great power warfare. This, of course, leads to the set of tradeoffs that are fundamental in grand strategy, right? Grand strategy, as opposed to operational art, military strategy, or tactics, integrates military and nonmilitary means in pursuit of the ultimate security objectives of the state and one of the more important of the nonmilitary means is the economy. So you need a large GDP to support a large expensive war effort. The way you maximize GDP is with international trade. International trade makes you vulnerable to cutoff in time of war through blockade. Therefore, if we just maximize GDP in the short run we run the risk—we increase our vulnerability in time of war or blockades. We say: Oh, no, we don’t want to do that. Let’s reduce the amount of international trade we do, make ourselves more self-sufficient. Now GDP growth rates go down and now the size of the military you can support in steady state goes down. There’s a fundamental tradeoff involving the interaction between classically guns and butter in the way you design the economy in support of the grand strategy you have in mind for how you’re going to pursue your security interest in the international system at any given time. So, yeah, a productive expanding economy is essential if you plan to be able to afford the cost of modern warfare. The implications for what that means for things like international trade, though, are complicated. FASKIANOS: Great. I’ll try to sneak in one last question from David Nachman. Q: Thank you. Thank you for this really interesting presentation. I teach at the Yale Law School, nothing related to the topic of today’s submission and discussion. I’m just wondering, and you captured it towards the end here where you said something about wars are won and lost on land. With the advent of cyber and all the technological development that we’re seeing in our armed forces is that still true as a matter, you know, and are we—is the Ukraine and even Gaza experience sort of nonrepresentative of the true strategic threats that the United States as opposed to its allies really faces at sea and in the air? BIDDLE: Yeah. Let me briefly address cyber but then extend it into the sea and the air. One of the interesting features of cyber is it’s mostly been a dog that hasn’t barked, at least it hasn’t barked very loudly. There were widespread expectations as Russia was invading that cyberattacks would shut down the Ukrainian economy, would shut down the Ukrainian military effort, or vice versa, and neither of those things have happened. So I don’t—there have been plenty of cyberattacks, right, and there have been plenty of efforts at break in and surveillance and manipulation. So far none of them have been militarily decisive and it’s an interesting and I think still open question for the cyber community about why that has been so and what, if anything, does that tell us about the future of cyber threats to national military projects. But so far it hasn’t radically—it hasn’t produced a result that would have been different in the pre-cyber era. Now, when I say wars are won on land what I mean by that is that people live on the land, right? People don’t live in the air and people don’t live on the surface of the water. People live on land. Economies are on land. Populations are on land. That means that usually the stakes that people fight wars over are things having to do with the land. That doesn’t mean that navies and air forces are irrelevant. We own a large one. I’m in favor of owning a large one. The Navy—my friends in the Navy would be very upset if I said otherwise. But the purpose of the Navy is to affect people who live on the land, right? In classic Mahanian naval strategy the purpose of the Navy is destroy the opposing fleet, blockade the enemy’s ports, destroy the enemy’s commerce, and ruin the land-based economy and it’s the effect of the land-based economy that causes surrender or compromise or concession to the opponent or whatever else ends the war in ways that you hope are favorable to you. What this means then is that especially where we’re dealing with large continental powers like Russia, classically—China’s an interesting sub case but let’s talk about Russia—the ability to influence the Russian decision-making calculus that leads to an end to a war or the beginning of a war without affecting the life of people on land is very limited. Cyber has not proven able to do that. Air attack historically has not been a good tool for doing that. Navies do that by affecting the land-based economy and I don’t see that changing rapidly anytime soon. FASKIANOS: Well, Steve, thank you very much for this really insightful hour. I’m sorry to all of you we couldn’t get to the questions, raised hands, so we’ll just have to have you back. And thanks to all those of you who did ask questions. I commend to you, again, Steve Biddle’s Foreign Affairs piece, “Back in the Trenches,” and hope you will read that. Our next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday, November 8, at 1:00 p.m. (EST) with José Miguel Vivanco, who is an adjunct senior fellow here for human rights, to talk about human rights in Latin America. So, Steve, thank you again. BIDDLE: Thanks for having me. FASKIANOS: And I—yes. And I’d just encourage you all to learn about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at Our tenured professor and our fellowship deadlines is at the end of October. I believe it’s October 31, so there’s still time. And you can follow us on X at CFR_Academic. Visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Thank you all again for being with us today. (END)
  • Africa Program
    Academic Webinar: Africa on the Global Stage
    Landry Signé, senior fellow in the global economy and development program and the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution and executive director and professor of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, leads the conversation about Africa on the global stage. FASKIANOS: Thank you and welcome to today’s session of the Fall 2023 CFR Academic Webinar series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, And, as always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Landry Signé with us to discuss Africa on the global stage. Dr. Signé is a senior fellow in the global economy and development program and the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings Institution. He’s also a professor, executive director, and the founding codirector of The Globalization 4.0 and Fourth Industrial Revolution Initiative at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, and distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies. He serves as chairman of the Global Network for Africa’s Prosperity and is also the author of numerous scholarly publications and several books. His most recent is entitled, Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution. And it was published by Cambridge University Press this summer. So, Dr. Signé, thank you very much for being with us today. I’m going to throw you a very big question, and you can take us in the direction you would like, by talking about the important challenges and opportunities facing countries across Africa. SIGNÉ: Hello, everyone. And thank you so much, Dr. Irina, for so kind an introduction. It’s a pleasure to be with all of you today. So when it comes to Africa, I want to highlight a few key trends why Africa is playing such an important role in the global sphere. So the first thing that I want to share to everyone is Africa’s transformation is more substantial than what most people will think. And this is for many reasons. One is that, especially pre-pandemic, trade and in and with the rest of the world have grown for about 300 percent, which exceeds the global average of a little bit less than 200 percent. So that is a key dimension to highlight. And this is also driven by the competition between emerging countries, such as, of course, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, China, and more established and industrialized nations such as the United States, France, and others. So that is one of the key trends that I want to highlight. So Africa is richer and is transforming much more than what most people will be thinking. So the second trend that I also want to highlight, why Africa is so important in the global sphere, is that by the end of this century Africa could reach about 40 percent of the global population. Listen, I said 40 percent. So this is incredible, especially as the continent represent now only about 17 percent of the global population. So that is a key dimension to take into consideration when speaking about Africa, how Africa engages with the rest of the world. A third trend that I also want to highlight is really the rise of global partnerships and the competition, as I highlighted, between emerging and established powers. So, as a matter of fact, between 2006 and 2016, for example, China trades with Africa surge with imports increasing by 233 percent, and exports increasing by about 53 percent. This is a substantial growth in engagement. And if we compare—so with Russia, for example, it was about 142 percent of change in imports from Africa and about 168 percent change in exports with Africa. So in comparison, and with the rest of the world was only about 56 percent for change in imports and 18 percent for change in export. So this is another key trend. And a country like the United States still needs to expand and to do much more in terms of those engagement. This also apply with—to the countries in the European Union in general. So another trend that I want to highlight is really the, let’s say, fast urbanization that we see on the continent. So the continent will be growing from about five cities—will reach about five cities of more than ten million inhabitants, in comparison of only three in 2015. And will exceed fifteen cities of more than five million inhabitants, in comparison of about five to six in the recent year. So another point, when people speak about Africa, I want to speak about industrialization in Africa. Of course, we have to acknowledge the diversity of the continent. Some would say fifty-four member states, because we have about—those other ones recognized by the United Nations. But don’t be surprised if you also hear people mentioning instead fifty-five countries, because the Western Sahara is also consider as a member of the African Union. So when speaking about industrialization, people may—some people may consider Africa as deindustrializing. But that is because they’re not looking at one of the things that we call at the Brookings Institution industries without smokestacks. Those industries are important because they have similar characteristic when they compare to traditional manufacturing. And those similar characteristics include, for example, the tradability, they are labor intensive, and the store—they absorb a high quantity of moderately skilled workers. But they are also—they also have a high level of productivity. Irina, you mentioned my book on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I want to connect, because when people speak about digitalization, innovation, they will mostly think about the Silicon Valley. They will think about some of the emerging nations—Israel, India—in addition to the U.S., of course. A key dimension to highlight is that in the 1990s New York City had more mobile phone subscribers than the entire continent of Africa, where now the continent has hundreds of millions of mobile phone subscribers. So in addition, we have disruptive innovations such as mobile banking, with M-PESA, for example, which is a digital application allow—which allow to provide banking services, digital banking services, to African citizens. This is another illustration of the important dynamics with Africa. Let me finish with about two or three additional points, and I’m looking very much forward to the conversation. I will highlight the critical importance of regional integration. We have, for example, the African Continental Free Trade Area, which was adopted in 2018, ratified by a sufficient number of country in 2019, and was officially launched in January 2021. And that is an incredible speed from the signing to the coming into force of the second-largest trade organization in the world, or let’s say trade area in the world, after the World Trade Organization, of course, in terms of number of countries. So this is a key dimension. And another trend to highlight, despite some of the challenges that we see in many African countries in terms of democratic retreat. The overall trend is that African citizens want democracy. So they want accountability. But they also want democracy to deliver. And let me finish with a trend related to business. The combined consumer and business spending in Africa will reach or exceed $16 trillion U.S. dollars by 2050, and about $6.7 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030. So Africa really is a place with phenomenal opportunities, despite the challenges that we see. Climate change affects Africa more than other regions, for example. Some of the most vulnerable countries in terms of state fragility. We have, as I also mentioned, some democratic recession. But despite those challenges, the continent is really growing and is really transforming at a very important pace. And I enthusiastically look forward to engaging, to answering your many questions. Thank you so much. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. That was a great overview. Obviously, this is such a big topic. So now we’re going to go to all of you for your questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) Alright, so the first question we’re going to take is from Pearl Robinson. Pearl over to you. Q: Hello. Very pleased to meet you. I have a question, something I’m going to ask you to do. I’m at Tufts University. FASKIANOS: Thanks, Pearl. Q: Can you use this wonderful, optimistic introduction, and connect it with a discussion of the wave of coups in the West African Sahel? Because I find myself having to talk about both. And I thought that you began with the last decade’s narrative of Africa’s growth and opportunities. And today, everybody is talking about democratic decline and all of these coups in the context of everything. So I’d like you to put your talk onto an introduction for me to talk about the coup situation. SIGNÉ: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the question. So I have studied the—also the democratic situation in Africa from the—from the independence to the last decade. And one of the reasons, of course, when you have democratic interruption, there are serious reasons to be concerned. And this is mostly related to the ability of democratic governance to deliver. Typically when democracy is promoted with many of the Africans, one of the key argument which was chose is that democracy allows citizens to have a better standard of living, deliver economic outcomes, education, health, security, good governance, less corruption, among others. And many of the countries which have faced a coup are countries—when you think about Mali, we think about Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, among others—there are countries where citizen are facing serious economic—a serious economic situation, deteriorated by the pandemic, of course. They are not the only country but deteriorated by the pandemic. You also have a question—the security question in the Sahel especially, with violent extremism. But I want to put things in perspective because democratic development is a slow-moving process. And although it is very unfortunate some of the development that you are seeing in terms of coups, when you look at Africa in the long-term perspective, when I was looking, for example, in the 1980s, almost the entire continent was red. Red, meaning authoritarian. But now the majority of African countries have elections. More than half of those country have free, fair, and transparent, meaningful elections. They are able to choose their government. And this so I’d just highlight those point, to say I classify those countries—I had them in four categories. So one was the uninterrupted democracy. So the countries which once they become democracies, they remain uninterrupted democratic. And those countries are outperforming overall, economically speaking and with many of the other benefits of democracy that I’ve mentioned. But the countries which are interrupted are mostly the countries where democracy is not necessarily delivering wealth. But will that change the broader trend on the continent? I don’t think so. So I think, yes, we have to acknowledge those challenges. We have to act vigorously to address them to reduce the negative impact. But those are not necessarily—I don’t think that that makes Africa a hopeless continent, as depicted by the Economist in the early 2000s, as discussed before. I’ll pause there. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take a written question from Tanisha Fazal’s student Jack Drouin, and they’re at the University of Minnesota: Will Africa as a whole ever compete at the same level as the United States and China in international trade and production? SIGNÉ: So the idea behind the African continental trade area is to make Africa stronger internationally when dealing with the rest of the world, while unlocking also the potential of trade within Africa. For example, when African countries trade with one another, more than 40 percent of products exported are manufactured products. Which mean that they create jobs and opportunities for young people, for women, for the economy. They accelerate industrialization. And when African countries trade with the rest of the world, about only 17 percent of those countries—of those—of the products exported are manufactured products. So the idea really behind the African Continental Free Trade Area is not just to grow African trade with—and improve countries’ trading with one another. But it is also really to make Africa stronger when engaging with other countries. As a matter of fact, Africa still represents less than 3 percent of global exports. So this the reason why when I engage with some leaders, some are wondering if whether the AfCFTA was really needed. There is no doubt that the African Continental Free Trade Area was needed, because partnering and coming together to engage with them makes the continent stronger. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’ve never seen so many questions. So I’m going to go next to Fordham IPED. They have their raised hand. It’s the International Political Economy and Development Program at Fordham. Q: Hi. My name is Julisha. I’m a student here at Fordham in the IPED Program. And thank you for your presentation, Landry, if I may call you that—I’m sorry, Professor. My question is—and I come from the continent. My question to you is, you seem very optimistic about Africa, as we call it. But why exactly? What gives you this optimism, given the fact that different countries have varying problems, and also we’ve got different levels of infrastructure and productive capacities? And then also, we haven’t had that much success in relation to the regional FTAs. So why optimistic specifically about this one? Should we focus more on maybe building stronger regional bodies and then come together as one consortium? SIGNÉ: Thank you so much for your question. I don’t think that it is either/or. And you have to put in perspective also, again, when—I like to look at things from a historical perspective, putting things in context. And when we put things in context—again, I mentioned, for example, before, in less than a couple of decades Africa went from being a continent almost full of authoritarianism, to a continent where in perhaps the past six, seven years you have had an incredibly important number of countries which where the incumbent lost the election or was changed through an electoral process. So those are important gains not to overlook. When we also speak about poverty, for example, so we are also seeing positive—although, and I published an article at Brookings about it—why, despite the fast economic growth just before the pandemic, the continent had an important number of poverty. The key dimension here was poverty in terms of percentage of the population went down, but the continent is also growing at a fast rate, the population of the continent. So which means that even if you’re in relative number you have a reduction of poverty, in absolute number we can still have an important number of poor. But if you also put that further in context, by removing—of course, you could not remove them—but by considering Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo, which are countries with the highest concentration—not the highest, but an important number of poor, the picture related to poverty on the continent will be very different. Another reason of my lucid optimism is that Africa—more than 50 percent of the African—close to 60 percent of the African population is below the age of twenty-five. So what this means, that everything is possible in an incredibly short duration. You probably know what we have named the Cheetah—what George Ayittey has named the Cheetah Generation. So the generation of young Africans who are dynamic, they are innovative, in opposition to the elephant who are moving slowly. So this is also another characteristic. When you look at innovation and you look at entrepreneurship, the general entrepreneurship survey globally, when you compare Africa to the rest of the world, the percentage of optimism, of interest in innovation, in entrepreneurship, of willingness and of respect for the field is also higher in general. So, again, I understand why most people will be focusing on challenges versus opportunity. But you also know, like me, that when in 2000 the Economist wrote that article about a hopeless Africa, in 2011 they wrote another issue about Africa rising, apologizing about their previous assessment. Because six to seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies in the first decade—the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century, were located in Africa. So yes, we have numerous challenges. But most countries, which were at the level of development of many of the African countries, have also had challenges. So. yes, we have to address those challenges. And that is also part of what my work does with the Brookings Institution—identifying how to bridge the gap between the policy intentions and the implementation outcome. And a part of doing that is also to shift the mindset from looking exclusively at the challenges that Africa is facing, to also think about what are the opportunities? How can we identify those opportunities? How can we transform those opportunities into reality, into positive outcomes? Because the young generation in Africa deserve it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Dayanara Miranda, who’s an undergraduate student at Lewis University: My question is, besides agricultural and mineral resources, what other markets can African countries enter to grow their economies? SIGNÉ: So, that is another extremely important question. And let me say, overall Africa—so, it depends as to whether we are speaking about the consumer spending, household consumptions, or whether we are speaking about business spending. In terms of household consumption, by 2030 the continent will receive about $2.5 trillion U.S. dollars of household consumption or consumer spending. And some of the largest sector include food and beverage because people need to eat, but also include housing, healthcare, financial services, transportation, and education. So to put things in perspective, African countries will be growing faster in some of those sectors compared to the growth of other developing economies. Now, if I also think now about the business-to-business spending, so the continent will be home of about—of more than $4 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030. Of course, the largest area for that spending will include agriculture and agri-processing. But we will also have manufacturing, construction, utilities, transportation, wholesalers, and retailers in terms of resources. So, yes, a place—Africa is an important business destination for people who are, again, open to identify opportunities and to manage the risk. Of course, have risk, but those risks also exist in Latin America, exist in the Middle East. exist in the broader—in the broader Asia, and also in the—in some of the advanced economies. So, again, I think, like, a change of mindset is important. One of the reasons why China become the first trade partner of Africa, the first investor in infrastructure amount order, is because while other countries were looking at the challenges that Africa is facing, China and other emerging countries were looking at opportunity and how to manage their risk amount order. Of course, that is not to say that the Chinese model of engagement is necessarily the right one, but it’s just to say that the difference of mindset may explain why some country may be identifying more opportunities than other. But I’m also very happy to highlight the fact that recently, the U.S. administration has also been very much active—much more active in terms of engaging with Africa from an economic perspective, from an opportunity business perspective, including the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Dorian Brown Crosby. Q: Yes. Hello. Thank you, Professor Signé, for this discussion. I’m from Spelman College. And I do have a question regarding remittances. Can you speak to the current impact of remittances that those in the diaspora are sending to African countries? And how is that affecting Africa’s economic trajectory? Or even speak to a specific country. Thank you. SIGNÉ: Absolutely. Thank you very much for the questions. Remittances are playing a key role in Africa. In some of the countries they are exceeding even, let’s say, the official development assistance. So that is a key point to highlight. Perhaps the nuance that I want to bring is that most of the remittances are sent for consumption, for family consumptions, among others. A shift that we may want to see happen is to turn—(inaudible)—to increase perhaps those remittances, and especially the category of remittances, shifting only from consumption, for productive use, for economic use, for entrepreneurial activities, as well on the continent. But, yes, remittances are key for development. They are extremely important. They are making a difference. And I connect with that question with the notion of diaspora. The rising role of the diaspora is also one of the key trends. Of course, I didn’t—I wanted to be brief in my preliminary comments, but diaspora are really playing a key role in fostering the relations between Africa and the rest of the world. They play the role of investor. You have also the remittances, as you have just mentioned. They are diplomat. In addition of the higher representation that we are also seeing of people of African origin in international organizations, whether we speak about the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Finance Corporation, among other. So there’s really a trend where the diaspora playing a key role, both financially to remittances and have an increased demand, also for investment. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to combine two questions, two written questions, because they are along the same lines. One from Thomas at Oklahoma State University and Kihoa from Adelphi University, and it has to do with China: China’s trade with—China’s aid to Africa, is it purely altruistic? Should African states be receiving Chinese aid? And should Africa be giving aid to historically authoritarian regimes? And then the second question is to have you talk a little bit about the Belt and Road Initiative, and how that initiative is influencing trading partners with other Western countries. SIGNÉ: Absolutely. Thank you for the important question. So let me—to further speak about China in Africa, some key trends to highlight is that, first, you have an exponential growth of exports to Africa, increase imports from Africa, substantial lending to African countries. So China is already one of those, the major lending on transport, power, and mining, the Ex-Im Bank is really leading the way in terms of loans. I do prefer to speak about development versus assistance, development finance instead of developing assistance, or on the longer term, a growing trend in terms of FDI. So China is dominating also the important investment on the continent. You have an important presence of Chinese workers, and forgot—not to forget the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which remains critical to an action of the multiplication of the of the Confucius Institutes on the continent. Despite that important presence, a key element you mentioned is that per Afrobarometer survey, African citizen still prefer the U.S. model of development to the Chinese one. So this is an important dimension that I want to highlight. And whether China is altruistic, it’s important to mention when we speak about the commitment, they are not necessarily—China is a country with its own national interests. Perhaps the way of doing business is different, but they are not acting toward Africa, from my perspective, from an altruistic perspective. They’re really looking to achieve interest, whether from a geopolitical dimension, economic interest to secure especially energy, power, mining, oceans, agricultural lands for food security in China, among others. And many of the other countries in the world are doing the same. So I’m not—so, of course, we are speaking more about China, but most of the countries when they’re acting globally they are acting in alignment of their interests. And probably Jentleson, for example, has mentioned when we speak about the U.S. foreign policy as some of their drivers, which include what are the—of course, we have power, we have peace, we have prosperity, and we have principles. So foreign policy decisions are usually, let’s say, the result of a tradeoff between either power consideration, peace consideration, or security consideration, economic consideration, and principle consideration, which could include democratic development, and, of course, humanitarian intervention, and so on. So it depends on which country we are talking about. And to just connect it to the broader Belt and Road Initiative, I think that, of course, it is part from my perspective of China ambition to become the next global power. And in my conversation with many of the African leaders, their main concern—including head of states and head of governments—so their main concern is given the gap, the infrastructure gap that we have on the content, financing gap that you have on the continent, China is providing an alternative and China is acting quickly. However, many of the leaders with whom I’m engaging will prefer to deal instead with, for example, the United States. The United States is probably acting slower than some of the other players. But this is also because of the democratic process and the compliance mechanism, among others. But despite that, I think that there are still tools which can allow to be compliant, to respect the democratic principle, but also act faster, with more agility. And we are having conversations. I testified before the Senate on some of those questions, before the House of Representatives, before the U.S. International Trade Commission, sharing perspective on how the U.S. can further leverage its strength and the alignment to advance U.S.-Africa prosperity. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next oral question from John O’Toole. Q: Well, thank you, because my question directly kind of follows off of that. So that’s very fortunate. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Q: So my question was related to, like, Africa on, like, the global security scale. So, like you said, like, Russia and China are investing heavily, are—and becoming, like, major players, some might argue, in an attempt to be, like, first to market, in a way, in terms of being, like, colleagues with Africa. And you can’t really pick and choose who your partners are, especially if the people you want to work with, like the United States or the EU, aren’t moving as fast. But is there a concern that growing relationships with China and Russia could morph into a global security conflict? And that some African leaders might be afraid of becoming perhaps the next Lumumba where they’re characterized as, you know, perhaps a communist pawn, or something? Is that part of the thought process? SIGNÉ: Thank you for the important question. So it’s important to highlight a few considerations here. Typically, when many of the more established powers, whether you’re speaking about France, the United States, UK, when they are engaging with many of the African countries they take into consideration the principles that I mentioned before, whether we speak about democratic principles, human rights consideration, humanitarian consideration, among other. So those are really key dimensions that are taken into consideration with more traditional African partners, although it is not uniform. So you will also have the same country which will be trading both with some of the authoritarian countries. But when doing so, they will often bring the question of democratic governance, of human rights in the conversation. And the difference there with countries such as China or Russia, is they are decoupling trade, investment, and principle quotient of democracy—democratic quotients, human rights quotients. For obvious reason, when you look also at your level of democratic development, or at the situation of human rights in your—in your countries. So now, what are the potential risk for the continent? I think that the—many of the—we have seen the presence, whether in an official capacity or in an unofficial capacity of foreign forces in Africa, including from Russia. So to what extent are they influencing the political sphere? To what extent are they fueling or contributing to fuel some of the insecurity and conflict that we have, as we say, in the Sahel? Or to what extent are they helping those country to address some of the challenges faced? I think the growing support that we have seen for Russia, or China, or for some of the emerging countries is related to a narrative, which may not always be founded, but a more appeasing and more respectful narrative that they have when engaging with some of the African countries. But that doesn’t mean that they are acting in a way which better advance the interests of those countries. And African leaders are often in a complex situation where they don’t necessarily—some of them, of course, will be very clear in terms of their preferences for Western countries. And others, in between, where they want to be certain that they will not be dropped, if I can use the terms. And this is because historically, even some of the best partners of the West—and we look at the case of Niger, when the military coup happened, so despite some political discourses the West was not able to do much. So those are elements which create also a certain level of insecurity on the continent. So yeah, your question is extremely important. And I think that there are risks which are associated with the—with the growing involvement of those emerging powers, like China, especially as it is shifting or has shifted from the economic quotient to a more security, military quotient and cooperation. But some of the countries with which they are cooperating, or perhaps even most of those countries in terms of military engagement, are not necessarily countries with their reputation or leaders with the reputation of—or with the best record in terms of democratic progress or in terms of human rights. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Zachary Billot, a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas: How will increased environmental challenges related to climate change impact institution and governmental efficacy in Africa? Can Africa be expected to transition to green energy if there isn’t substantial foreign investment? SIGNÉ: Absolutely. It is extremely important. Thank you for the question. It’s extremely important to highlight the consequences of climate change on the continent, especially in the fragile countries, in the fragile regions, especially also when combined with governance challenges. So many of the conflicts in the Sahel—and I publish a—I co-published a report with Brookings on the question on how—on the nexus—on the climate change-security-development nexus. So many—if climate change doesn’t necessarily—the relation between climate change and conflict is not necessarily causal, but there is a strong correlation at least when it comes to exacerbating initial conditions in regions where you have poverty and where governance is already quite weak. So the question is, yes, climate change is increasing the likelihood of conflict, especially in an area where we already have bad governance, or poor performance. And how to address some of those questions? Of course, we have involved also in drafting the human development—the Sahel Human Development Report, where the topic is on using energy to unlock Africa potential to contribute to sustainable development, how we can leverage in a sustainable way. And, yes, I do believe that the continent has a path. So of course, I will not necessarily disclose the findings, because they will have to be officially launched by the United Nations Development Program later this year, early the next one. But there is a clear path for Africa to achieve a greener future, especially as the continent has, I would say, the luxury of learning from what has been done on the negative experiences of some of the advanced economies. But also on capitalizing on technology to achieve those goals. Now, you mentioned about investment. Yes, that is an area where global partners who have committed, including the United States, France, Canada, among others, to support a greener revolution, economic revolution, energy transition, industrial development on the continent also have to play their part. Of course the global community, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, among others. So Africa has the potential to achieve it, but not alone. With the collaboration of global partners, including some of the biggest polluters. FASKIANOS: Great, thank you. I’m going to go next to Alicia Hoffman. Q: Hello. How are you? I have a question regarding some previous legal agreements that were put forth between the ACP countries and the European Union. So my question is, I would like for you to highlight and discuss the role of the comprehensive legal agreements such as the Rome Agreement, that is now defunct, the Lomé Agreement, the Cotonou Agreement and now the post-Cotonou Agreement, which was just finalized last month, and get some of your opinions or your thoughts about the post-Cotonou Agreement in fostering the economic development of African countries. And also mitigating the issues dealing with migration and even human trafficking that kind of were not really addressed clearly in those earlier agreements, such as the Rome, and Lomé, and the Cotonou. SIGNÉ: Thank you so much for the extremely important question. So I think that to put things in context, as you mentioned, the Lomé Agreement, the Cotonou Agreement, and other agreement, when we look—again, I like to look from an historical perspective. So we clearly see that if a single agreement was almost having the impact of a magic stick, Africa will be in a different position now. So all those agreements, of course, and some of those agreements are benefiting, at least per the perspective of some of the African countries, they are benefiting more the European Union countries and France than perhaps, per se, in the absolute term, the African countries. Because many of the key players in those countries in industrial development, among others, are foreign corporations, which are originating from those countries. But let me instead speak in a in a broader perspective. I think that the responsibility for Africa’s development really lie primarily with African leaders and citizens. So it’s a notion that I think we should really come back to. Of course, when we discuss then the relation within Africa and the rest of the world, Africa has been historically in a situation where it was abused—from slavery, to colonization, and so on. But as you have seen in in my permanent record, I’m also part—most of my work consists not only at looking at those structural asymmetries that we can see on the continent, but at giving back the responsibility, accountability of the African leaders, despite the asymmetrical relation they may be having with some of the other part of the world, still have the power and the responsibility to better deliver for their citizens. So, yes, I think that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), as I mentioned, also represents an opportunity to address some of those challenges. But, of course, some countries will—we also have the political economy of the AfCFTA, in the sense that some country—and the ones which are the most advanced, economically speaking—the most enthusiastic about accelerating the implementation. But the beauty of the AfCFTA is that they also acknowledge some of the country we may potentially be left behind and have specific growth or special and differential treatments allowing the countries with more challenges to be—to be developed. So, again, I think that, yes, it’s extremely important for Africa when engaging with the European Union to really find a configuration which would unlock the industrial development of the continent, and not necessarily just rely on the primary goods, among others. FASKIANOS: So, thank you. I’m you’re going next to Charlotte Langeveld, who’s a lecturer at Ocean County College: To which identity do the young African people prefer to be associated with, ethnic or national identity? While national identity is superficial and ethnic is real, it has consequences for the future of the continent. SIGNÉ: So yeah, so that is probably a specific survey should be developed and in a systematic way to provide a definitive response to that question. But we have different, again, multiple belonging. Like some African citizens, especially young people, will want to be presented as African, even beyond your nation, or as global citizens. But it is clear that ethnic—the ethnicity continues to play a role on the continent, because although younger Africans speak less than the previous generation local dialects and languages, so it is important to also highlight that it is part of a broader cultural system. So I don’t think that it is either/or. So if you think also about citizens of the Africa—of the European Union, are French people considering more French than European, or more European than French? I would say it probably depends, but that multiple belonging remain valid. And although the comparison is slightly different, are Californians believing that they are more Californian than American or are more American than Californian? So, but understanding also the potential implication of the question is that it is extremely important to keep—in nation-building to go beyond the questions or the notions which are dividing, to focus on the common values, and systems. So I don’t think that’s a problem for young people to have multiple belongings or ideas of belonging. What is—what could be a bad thing is to use those differences for discrimination, for poor governance, among others. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Kimberly Pace. Q: Hello, Landry. It’s nice to see you. I have—my question is—hi, University of Alaska, Anchorage. My question is regarding women and girls. My question is, you know, given the role that violent extremism has had in Africa, what is the effect—what do you think is the effect on the economic and political opportunities for girls and women across African countries? Would love to hear your response. SIGNÉ: Absolutely. Hello, Kimberly. And so great to see you. And so I’m looking forward to following up after this session. So this is an extremely important question. There is no future of Africa without a full acknowledgement of the critical importance of women and girls, and not just economically speaking, politically speaking, in all the spheres of society. Just speaking economically, the gross domestic product of the content in some country could be increased by more than 50 percent with the full—or, about 50 percent—increase from 2 to 48, 49 percent with the full integration of women in society, in the economy, among other. So, and it is incredibly painful to see how in some countries, especially in situations of conflict, some of the first victim—the main victims, are girls, are women, or young people in as well, in general. So it is therefore extremely important, I think, to further empower women. But when you speak about empowering women, most people will think about empowering them politically, in particular. But for my conversation with many heads of state—former head of states, including President Banda or President Gurib-Fakim, so in our conversation it appear clearly that one of the best way to empower women politically is first to empower them also economically. Because when you’re empowered economically you can organize a campaign, you can be a fully contributing member, and you can be independent. So, yes, addressing conflict, human rights challenges, will be a way to further protect women, because when you have war, when you have civil conflict, they are typically the most vulnerable people and they are often the one who are the most abused by a protagonist. So yeah. So I fully concur to the fact that we have to act in a more vigorous way to protect women, to create opportunities for women, and to empower women. And some of my best models, not to say most, are women. And starting with my mother, my sisters, and yeah. So I couldn’t agree more with you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from William Decourt, who’s at Hamilton Lugar School at Indiana University: You mentioned surveys indicating widespread support for democracy across the continent. How have you seen public opinion in Africa responding to or shaping norms of liberal governance on the continent? And has it been affected by other challenges, such as the recent coups, influence from Russian mercenaries, and perhaps from increased Chinese investment too? SIGNÉ: So, just to be certain that I understand, and thank you so much for the important questions, is also about some of the trends on the continent related to democratic support, and the overall political situations. One of the reasons, and please, Irina, feel free to engage and follow up as needed. So one of the reasons why we have seen coups, of course, some—you have to put things in context. I mentioned that before. Many of the African citizens really want democracy to deliver. And not just democracy to deliver—if you live in rural contexts. At the origin of modern states is the social contract, which require that while a citizen will be giving up some of your fundamental—some of your rights, you will receive in exchange from states basic public services and goods, including security, economic opportunities, among others. But when those are not delivered, whether in a democracy or in a nondemocratic regime, that is when you have more challenges. Which could lead in some cases to a military coup, as we have seen, because then coup leaders may justify that—may justified their action by the imperative of restoring security or bringing about economic opportunities. So I think that is a point that I first want to highlight, to insist on the fact that, yeah, so the—those surveys show that on one hand, Africans want democracy. On the other hand, they want those democracies to deliver. And sometime even in democratic countries, some leaders are not necessarily governing in the way which is aligned with accountability. And those are the reasons why some coup leaders will also be supported by some citizens as an alternative, not to restore a long-term authoritarian system, but perhaps organize a transition. But from my perspective, it’s one of the reasons why I think that—for many reasons. But one of the key reasons why I think coups even in a very contested context are extremely bad is one of the best predictors of a coup is a previous coup. So once military got involved in politics, even after a successful short-term transition and return to power to the civilians, the likelihood of having another coup is high. So that is one of the reasons why I think it’s very important to invest in citizen, and invest in democratic development, and also invest in making democratic countries, African democracies, African democratic countries, deliver better for their citizens. FASKIANOS: Well, Landry, we are unfortunately out of time. And I apologize to all of you who had wonderful questions, we could not possibly get to them all, and raised hands. So we will just have to continue the conversation, and organize another conversation around these important issues. But, Landry Signé, thank you very much for being with us today. We really appreciate your comments and your analysis. And you can follow Landry on X, the app formerly known as Twitter, at @LandrySigne. It’s spelled S-I-G-N-E. And our next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday, October 25, at 1:00 p.m. (EDT) with Stephen Biddle, who’s an adjunct senior fellow here at CFR and professor at Columbia University, to talk about military strategy in the contemporary world. And in the meantime, I’d encourage you to learn about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at Please visit,, and We have been posting a lot of content there in light of the Israeli-Hamas conflict. So there are a lot of resources on our homepage that I commend to all of you. And again, Landry Signé, thank you very much for being with us today. SIGNÉ: Thank you so much, Irina. And thank you so much for the wonderful questions, conversation, and to the incredible team which has put everything together. FASKIANOS: Thank you. (END)
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