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CIS scholars offer advice, new ideas to Obama

In response to the immense global challenges facing President-elect Barack Obama, scholars affiliated with MIT's Center for International Studies (CIS) have produced a document of succinctly stated fresh ideas and suggestions for the new president's consideration.

The 23 essays contained in "Advice to President Obama" cover topics such as security strategy, the financial crises and human rights.

"While we know there are many efforts among scholars to offer advice to Obama, we wanted to offer some very specific ideas in a short form," said John Tirman, CIS executive director and principal research scientist. "We left it to our experts to decide what they wanted to offer, and the result is gratifying -- a kaleidoscope of concrete ideas, ranging from Asian security to aid to the Mideast to peace building."

Tirman, for example, suggests that the world can "frustrate terrorists" by disrupting slowly forming networks of disaffected youth, rather than by relying on large-scale military attacks, which inspire more terrorism. Richard J. Samuels, CIS director and Ford International Professor of Political Science, contends that the United States must shore up and transform its alliance with Japan; only then can the two countries stabilize power in northeast Asia and counter perceptions about U.S. decline in the wake of China's ascendancy.

Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of CIS's Security Studies Program, outlines a plan for having a European, rather than an American, fill the role of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe. This would increase the European stake in NATO actions and signal that the United States is no longer willing to shoulder alone most of NATO's costs, he believes.

James J. Walsh, research associate in CIS's Security Studies Program, suggests the president consider appointing a special envoy to Iran, while Fotini Christia, assistant professor of political science, argues that the new administration should be willing to negotiate with various Taliban groups in Afghanistan. William J. Fallon, the Robert Wilhelm Fellow and former commander of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command, slams "consumer-oriented behavior," saying the country needs a better-educated population redirected from self-interest to the common good.

"These policy ideas are brief enough so they're easily digestible. They stand in the great MIT tradition of utilizing knowledge to solve problems, and we hope some will be taken up as such," Tirman said.

"Advice to President Obama" is available at

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