Updates: National Security

This fall, the Tobin Project released a new volume, titled The Prudent Use of Power in American National Security Strategy. Co-edited by Stephen Van Evera (MIT, Political Science) and Sidharth Shah (The Tobin Project), this compendium of ten essays from leading scholars in the field examines the utility of non-military power in U.S.

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As part of the Tobin Project’s National Security inquiry into "Power through its Prudent Use," scholars Deepak Malhotra (Harvard Business School) and Jeremi Suri (University of Texas-Austin, History) traveled to Washington, D.C. in July to share their research with members of the policymaking community.

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In December of 2009, the Tobin Project hosted its second National Security conference on "America & the World: Power Through Its Prudent Use," exploring the controversial and timely issue of how to balance military force with the use of non-military tools to advance U.S. interests abroad. Participants included political scientists, diplomatic historians, and legal academics, as well as think tank researchers and policymakers from the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. 

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The Tobin Project is pleased to share that the Carnegie Corporation of New York has announced a new multi-year grant to support Tobin’s National Security initiative. 

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Today’s doctoral students will shape the intellectual paradigms that influence our public policy in the future. Yet this larger project can be obscured by career concerns and an attendant need to not stray too far from a discipline’s intellectual orthodoxies.

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Two generations ago, American policymakers and scholars developed a U.S. national security strategy that offered a lasting and coherent response to the threats that emerged after World War II. In the late 1940s George F. Kennan, then a diplomat serving in Moscow, developed the strategy of containment. This strategy became the cornerstone of America’s successful effort to address the threat of Soviet expansion.

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On June 22, 2007, members of the National Security working group met to discuss U.S. Iraq policy. With seven discussion pieces to ground their conversation, the scholars considered politics inside Iraq, U.S. force posture in the Mideast, managing al-Qaeda, the humanitarian mission in Iraq, preventing the spread of conflict, and the response from Washington.

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In the Spring of 2007, three new Tobin Project working groups came together to discuss fundamental unanswered questions in their field and set an agenda for future research and engagement. These early working group meetings included Macroeconomics (with Representative John Spratt, Chair of the House Budget Committee), Health, and Retirement Security.

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On April 21, 2007, the National Security working group convened to explore a series of questions that will drive the initiative forward:

  • What should the national security research agenda be?
  • What theories are missing from the field?
  • What are concrete steps or projects the group can undertake?

To ground the discussion, a group of scholars presented short, idea-generating papers.

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In 2006, the National Security working group published How to Make America Safe (The Tobin Project), a compilation of scholars' papers on the topic. The papers advocate a broad strategy that combats terrorism on all fronts - not only on the battlefield - and that directs our resources toward the unique threats of the post-9/11 era. Such a strategy would, at a minimum, accomplish five key objectives:

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