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Five keys to tackling violence: advice for the Biden administration




America is back means President Biden faces a host of foreign policy challenges as he changes the course of US national security. From the confrontation with the Russian president Vladimir PoutineVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPutin targets a congressional-funded news company: how will the United States react? EU says Russia could face new sanctions for Navalny to jail Germany, Poland and Sweden expel Russian officials in diplomatic tit-for-tat READ MORE on cyberattacks on the American public to compete with Chinese ambitions under Xi Jinping in search of a path to honest diplomacy with Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Rouhani, times like these can lead to great and important changes.

With years of experience in the field of national security (from war zones to the United States Senate to federal law enforcement), I have learned that the easiest and most effective way to understand The complexity of these moving moments is to treat these issues as businesses and entrepreneurs operating in competitive markets.

To change the behavior of a criminal, terrorist or tyrant, offer something in return. Offer good money, political support, market access, etc. or poor kinetic force from the army or law enforcement, trade sanctions, denial of access to currency or banking, etc. The key idea is to think of Putin, Xi and Rouhani and their critical supporters as humans, and not just as a country.

To help make this shift towards markets, by considering heads of state as entrepreneurs at the head of companies in competitive markets, I propose a framework of five vectors for the development of national security policies:

  1. Goals

People want the best for themselves and for their people, defined less and less as family, communities and nation. People tend to base their participation in an activity on the hope that participation will somehow produce what they want. Entrepreneurs can run business or political organizations and make resource allocation decisions for that organization. The organization can be called a business: a state, an insurgent organization, a mafia. Whether it is a president, a criminal, a terrorist, a tyrant or a president engaging in a crime, the first rule to follow is this: every human being seeks to optimize personal goals.

  1. Resource constraints

Resources like wealth can limit the behaviors a person chooses for a given set of goals. A tyrannical power can be limited by the wealth it can pay to its internal police forces, for example. The increase or decrease in the wealth available to a leader / entrepreneur often has an effect on human behavior. Department of Treasury sanctions, United States Department of Commerce and Trade Representative (USTR) trade promotion, and USAID development assistance have proven to be powerful tools in the past and should be considered. in the context of incentives to change the behavior of entrepreneurs such as Xi and Putin.

  1. Institutional constraints

Institutions are the set of human-made rules and the associated application of those rules that further constrain or enable human behavior. Laws and standards of behavior promoted by institutions such as the Financial Action Task Force, the World Customs Organization or the World Bank may set standards of behavior and practice or moral persuasion such as whistleblower policies and shame on the treasury who identify those who provide financial support to terrorists. .

  1. Information asymmetries

Information feeds a person’s expectations, and leaders, like all other people, make decisions based on expected results. But leaders make decisions with imperfect information, so their decisions can be wrong.

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Osama bin Laden orchestrated attacks on people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Pablo Escobar bombed a commercial airliner, but each of the three probably did not expect to be killed shortly. time after these actions.

Over the coming year, the Biden administration should communicate clearly with our friends and adversaries around the world to avoid information asymmetries. What consequences could Iranian leaders expect to suffer if they violate the arms deals? If President Biden cannot provide convincing information to his Iranian counterparts of the real negative consequences, then the deal will have no positive impact.

  1. Time

Time horizons act as a catalyst or a constraint on the decision making of leaders. This time horizon may be different depending on age, health or expected political mandate. An elected official can expect a four-year term, but a dictator can expect a life term and the ability to hand power over to his heirs.

Anyone who would threaten public safety and the safety of the American people are people, so this framework of the economy can inform our national security protections and countermeasures. Viewing global threats as businesses run by entrepreneurs operating in competitive markets makes it clear that national security is not just a job for the military and law enforcement. All the levers of American power (kinetic, financial, commercial, cultural, diplomatic, etc.) include the tools of national and internal security. The development of US foreign policy in terms of the market provides the framework for regaining balance after a shift in priorities.

Gary M. Shiffman, Ph.D., former chief of staff at US Customs and Border Protection, is an assistant professor at Georgetown University. He is the founder of Giant oak and They advise and the author of The economics of violence: how behavioral science can transform our view of crime, insurgency and terrorism.

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