Publications by Type: Web Article


It is very rare for an official biography to be also a revisionist biography, but this one is. Usually it’s the official life that the revisionists attempt to dissect and ­refute, but such is the historical reputation of Henry Kissinger, and the avalanche of books and treatises already written about him, that Niall Ferguson’s official biography is in part an effort to revise the revisionists. Though not without trenchant criticisms, “Kissinger. Volume I. 1923-1968: The Ideal­ist” — which takes its subject up to the age of 45, about to begin his first stint of full-time government service — constitutes the most comprehensive defense of Kissinger’s outlooks and actions since his own three-volume, 3,900-page autobiography, published between 1979 and 1999.

A review of Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert reveals that while Britain abolished the slave trade in the early 19th century, 50 years later its cotton industry still depended on American slave-labour.

Beckert, Sven. 2015. “Cotton, A Global History: Spinning tales.” The Economist. Publisher's Version Abstract

Good economic history tells dramatic stories of ingenuity and aspiration, greed and national self-interest. Sven Beckert writes good economic history. But why cotton? Mr Beckert’s answer is that for 900 years, until 1900, it was the world’s most important manufacturing industry. Cotton is relevant now because the story explains how and why an industry goes global. It is a story of wildly fluctuating fortunes, from stunning wealth to dire social disasters.


Probing the work of C. P. Cavafy has been intriguing for me, not only because he is one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century European aesthetic culture, but also for another reason: as Cavafy records in his diary of his first trip to Greece in 1901 (written in English), he was positively predisposed toward the work of Georgios Roilos, an influential late nineteenth-early twentieth-century Greek painter, among the first to introduce impressionism in Greece, a professor and mentor of, among other artists, Giorgio de Chirico. In his diary entry for June 28, 1901, Cavafy reports that he visited Roilos in his studio and enjoyed his painting "The Battle of Pharsala": "At 4:30 I took the direction of the Polytechneion. The first person I met in the Odos Patision was Tsocopoulo [sic], who accompanied me to the Polytechneion and conducted me to the painter Roilos's study to see this artist's great picture 'The Battle of Pharsala.'" That encounter of the poet with the painter is one of the stories often narrated at home when I was a childstories that later determined my scholarly attachment to cultural history and art.

Dryden-Peterson, Sarah, Elizabeth Adelman, Vidur Chopra, and Bethany Mulimbi. 2014. “Exploring the Links Among Universal Education and Good Governance.” Brookings Institution. Publisher's Version Abstract

This week, the Global Partnership for Education meets in Brussels with the hope of raising $3.5 billion for the education of the world’s most marginalized children. The countries furthest from Education for All (EFA) goals and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are settings of fragility. These countries have traditionally been challenged to attract funding, with overseas development assistance (ODA) channeled primarily toward “good performers” with strong records of good governance. The assumption has been that investment in education is only wise once good governance has been established.

The Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) new investment strategy, however, turns this assumption on its head. The number of fragile states funded by GPE, for example, grew exponentially, from 1 in 2003 (when GPE was called the Fast Track Initiative) to 22 in 2013. Can investment in education strengthen governance? The GPE’s investment suggests a belief in this pathway. What does the evidence say?

A Dynamic Relationship

Today at the GPE replenishment meetings in Brussels, director of the Brookings Center for Universal Education Rebecca Winthrop will present our exploratory analysis of the connections between universal education and good governance. We have found unmistakable relationships between universal education and good governance. The direction and strength of these relationships, however, remain murky. Does good governance lead to universal education? Does universal education lead to good governance? The answer, in both cases, is likely yes.

The direction of causality is still uncertain, but our exploratory analyses show a stronger relationship between high levels of education in the mid-1990s and good governance in recent years than vice versa.

It appears that there are multiple relationships between universal education and good governance, and that they may be cyclical and mutually reinforcing. Of particular interest are the characteristics of education systems and the content of education, which may mediate the effects of universal education on governance.

How Might Education Improve Governance?

Overall, we see the potential of universal education—for which we use primary net enrollment and primary survival rates as proxies—to act on three elements of governance: voice and accountability, control of corruption, and political instability and violence. These are the three elements of the World Bank’s Good Governance Indicators that we find to be most relevant to education. Across these domains, there are three key mechanisms by which universal education might promote good governance:

  1. The development of a more informed citizenry promotes voice and accountability. Education can be essential for citizens to access and act on information. The ability to access information relates not only to literacy rates; it also relates to other school-acquired knowledge required to comprehend and analyze information and to act civically. For example, math skills allow citizens to understand if their schools are being cheated out of funds, and general knowledge of a political system enables citizens to understand how best to influence it.
  2. The socialization into norms, including attachment to the state, helps control corruption. Education socializes citizens. It can do so in ways that lead both toward and away from good governance. It can lead people to feel greater attachment to the nation state. This greater attachment brings with it greater expectations for honest government, which is associated with increased state capacity, or strong institutions. These strong institutions are less likely to exhibit corruption (and they also feed back into strengthening education). On the other hand, the content of education can serve to distance citizens from the nation state: curriculum can reveal explicit or subtle discrimination toward particular ethnic, religious, or political groups and can increase social distance between diverse groups, while rationalizing or reproducing intergroup grievances. In this way, education can build greater mistrust within government institutions thereby perpetuating weak governance.
  3. Increases in economic equality can reduce political instability and violence. Education can lead to greater productivity, which in turn can create conditions for economic equality. Greater economic equality leads back into more demand for education, which in turn leads to stronger demands on the state by more citizens and decreased elite power, resulting in lowered corruption. Greater economic equality is also associated with political stability and lack of violence. Unequal access to education or lack of access to quality education, however, does not increase economic equality.

Not All Universal Education Is Created Equal

Across all three mechanisms, the nature of both the structure of education systems and content of teaching and learning are critical. In particular, education that is inclusive and relevant may have positive effects on governance, while education that alienates or marginalizes individuals and groups or that lacks relevance to the aspirations and possible livelihoods of students may have negative effects on governance. For example, the content and skills about which a citizenry is “informed” through education determine whether and how individuals have voice, seek accountability and counter corruption. Similarly, the inclusivity and relevance of the norms into which citizens are socialized appear to form a dividing line between strong and weak governance. Further, increases in economic equality by definition reflect inclusion so that all citizens can have voice, seek accountability, counter corruption, and work to support rule of law and against political instability and violence.

Overall, in our exploratory analyses, we see stronger correlations between governance indicators and education indicators in the mid-1990s than we do now. An important difference between these two times periods may be the quality of universal education. There is clear evidence that remarkable progress in increasing access to education since 2000 has often happened at the expense of quality. Indeed, not all universal education is created equal. Does the weaker correlation between universal education and good governance more recently reflect tangible differences in the quality of education? A research agenda going forward should be focused on determining the content and structures of education that are most likely to produce pathways to good governance.

Harvard University’s Semitic Museum, lately undergoing an exciting resurgence, was founded in 1889 by Professor David Gordon Lyon. A southern Baptist from Alabama, Lyon was a charismatic scholar of ancient Mesopotamian scripts, and one of Harvard’s more dynamic and vital figures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Kalout, Hussein. 2014. “Beirut's Center Cannot Hold.” Foreign Affairs. Publisher's Version Abstract

Lebanon is again on the precipice of civil war. With the conflict in neighboring Syria spilling over its borders, Lebanese society finds itself bitterly divided between two distinct camps—one that backs the regional Sunni alliance led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the West, another that supports the alliance between Iran and the Syrian government. Tensions between these two groups are worsening by the day in Lebanon, and as a result, the country is on the brink of destabilization.


For many Americans, the recent events in Ferguson raised disturbing questions. But not all Americans were equally disturbed, or disturbed by the same things. Surveys and polls conducted since Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, reveal a stark divide between whites and blacks. Whereas a clear majority of African-Americans consider the conduct of the police outrageous and typical, most white Americans were far more critical of the disorder that followed Brown’s death. Fox News and its ilk dwelled on “looters” rather than on the sources of African-American alienation. Americans seem to be stuck in an endless repetition of 1968, the year that many African-American communities erupted in anger after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., and many white Americans responded fearfully to that anger and protest by voting for Richard Nixon.

von Soest, Christian, and Michael Wahman. 2014. “The Underestimated Effect of Democratic Sanctions.” E-International Relations. Publisher's Version
Dryden-Peterson, Sarah, and Maysa Jalbout. 2013. “Back to School: Even in Syria, Education Is About Hope.” Huffington Post. Publisher's Version
Kelly, Catherine, and Jason Warner. 2013. “Why the U.S. Military Should Care About African Opposition Parties.” Council of Foreign Relations. Publisher's Version Abstract
Sub-Saharan Africa is an increasingly important theater of operation for the U.S. military. From al-Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Ansar Dine, the Department of Defense is recognizing that Africa will be a vital strategic battlefield in the next century. Yet in discussions of future African security policy, the potential role of opposition political parties in Africa has received virtually no attention. Following are three reasons why the Department of Defense should pay close attention to African opposition parties. 1) Opposition parties can be barometers of domestic opinion about foreign presence. Opposition parties’ rhetoric on US foreign policy and intervention—when it exists—can reveal local attitudes that incumbent governments may not openly share. This is especially helpful in countries such as Djibouti, Niger, and Ethiopia, where the U.S. military is currently engaged in a wide range of activities including military training, crisis management exercises, drone activities against al-Qaeda, and operating the United States’ only military base on the continent; Camp Lemonnier. Foreign policy debates tend to have scant prominence in African elections, precisely because of the limited range of choices available to some of the world’s weakest states. But major opposition party leaders almost invariably have more social and cultural capital than foreign diplomats, and thus have the potential to function as intermediaries between the US government and the wider African public on potentially contentious issues. 2) Today’s opponents could be tomorrow’s incumbents. Being cordial to (and even cautiously supportive of) opposition parties is deeply important in states where regime changes—electoral or otherwise—are likely. The absence of such a contingency plan in the event of a regime transition limits US policy options. In late March 2012, for instance, the United States offered few critiques as Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, repressed supporters of the Union for National Salvation (USN) opposition coalition. Were the USN ever to control the presidency, the United States could potentially face expulsion from the U.S. military base Camp Lemonnier. Given Djibouti’s geographic proximity to volatile and strategically important countries in the Horn of Africa, the loss of such a geostrategic foothold would profoundly undermine the United States’ already modest security assistance capabilities throughout the region. 3) Certain opposition members are potential interlocutors on issues of conflict and terrorism. Major opposition party leaders can play integral roles in local conflict resolution efforts, and often exhibit the capacity to encourage or stem particular antagonistic behaviors among the populace. For instance, the leaders of six major opposition parties in southern Sudan recently joined rebel groups in “endorsing peaceful and armed opposition to Sudan’s government;” and in Kenya’s 2007 elections, ethnic violence, allegedly fueled by certain ruling and opposition party leaders, reduced regional stability and inflicted devastating human costs. Although opposition leaders in these contexts can at times exacerbate delicate security situations, their social networks could also potentially facilitate the resolution of other US security concerns. To this end, Eritrea’s opposition parties—some of which apparently launched an unsuccessful coup attempt in January 2013—could be the key to the United States acquiring domestic leverage on President Isaias Afewerki, a known source of regional instability in the Horn of Africa. This said, although opposition parties might have some role in mediating security outcomes, opposition leaders are almost never the most central players involved in such instances, nor are they necessarily tied to insurgencies that serve as the core security concerns of most African regimes. Nevertheless, cultivating opposition leaders as potential participants in peacebuilding, transparency, or counterterrorism measures could indeed increase the quality of human and state security on the continent. In summary, although democratization is not yet the norm in Africa, the trends towards greater political opening across the continent signal new opportunities for U.S. military engagement. As such, though it is the Department of State that invariably shoulders the responsibility for crafting US diplomatic policy regarding opposition parties, the Department of Defense—a silent observer on the political front—should be deeply cognizant of the security implications bound up in the politics of African opposition parties. Indeed, given the unavoidable US reliance on a mix of authoritarian and democratic allies for security-related initiatives in Africa, an effective US security strategy must continue evolving to take heed of the unique roles played by opposition parties on the continent.
Mullainathan, Sendhil, and Glenn Loury. 2010. “Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity.” Publisher's Version Abstract
Glenn Loury of Brown University and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University discuss new social science thinking about poverty.Link to the New York Times Video
Miller, Manjari. 2008. “Call for the Vote.” Huffington Post. Publisher's Version Abstract
Along with the rest of America, I've been breathlessly following the caucuses. I cringed when Huckabee won Iowa, shrugged when Obama did, sniffed sympathetically with Hillary Clinton, cheered for McCain in New Hampshire and sorted out my mixed feelings over Romney's Michigan win. And no, I'm not an independent. In fact, I have no voice in the American presidential election at all. I'm not a US citizen. And yet, like millions of other non-Americans, most of whom do not even reside in this country, I care deeply and passionately about who the next commander-in-chief is going to be. This is, therefore, my formal request for the extension of universal adult franchise in the presidential elections of the self-titled global champion of democracy, to every non-American. In this age of American empire (albeit an empire in denial as Niall Ferguson famously put it), it is a call to separate US citizenship from the right to vote. Admittedly, my dissatisfaction with my disenfranchised state was fostered on more petty grounds. I married an American citizen and promptly lost the benefits of a nifty Indo-US tax treaty which allowed me to save most of my graduate student fellowship. Thereafter, like clockwork every April, my husband and I engage in a battle of the taxes. Rebelliously muttering "no taxation without representation", I tout the advantages of tax evasion and just as strongly (and unreasonably), he insists on filing the entire details of our meagre income. But the domestic and foreign policies of the Bush administration post-9/11, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo, have not only polarized Americans, they have starkly highlighted the incredible reach and the consequences of American power for a global audience. Suddenly, pax americana seems more real than just the tentacles of Hollywood culture, the evils of multinational (mostly American) companies and the general nuisance of having a sole busybody superpower around. Growing up in India, Kenya and the UK, I was familiar with anti-US exasperation (and its paradoxical companion, anti-US envy), which is very different from today's discussions of anti-US hatred. The US always stuck its nose in where it didn't belong—this was a well-known fact. But you got over it—presidents like Bill Clinton for example, a thorn in India's side during his presidency, acquired the status of a superstar after his term. But it all changed post-9/11. The "with us or against us" slogan lent a menacing edge to that interference. Clearly, in the wrong hands, the hegemon unleashed could be terrifying. Sovereignty and individual rights now seemed violable—Iraq today, your country tomorrow. And the disquiet has only grown. This explains why the other day I found myself in deep discussion with a friend about the candidates over lunch—he's not American either but is just as deeply concerned. An Israeli, he worries about the Middle East and the commitment of the candidates. And this is evident in the Christmas email that my husband's distant German cousin, living in a remote part of Germany, sent to my mother-in-law (outraging some of her more conservative relatives in the process): "we all look forward to 2008 when you will elect a new President. Will it be Hillary or Obama? Anyway it can't be worse than now. This President did so much damage in Europe and all over the world, and that takes time to heal." And it explains why newspapers and magazines all over the world are scrutinizing the US primaries down to the last detail. In the last elections, The Economist, a British magazine, declared it a choice between "the incompetent and the incoherent" and plaintively urged Americans to elect Kerry. The sense of outraged helplessness was and still is, palpable. So here's a way to advertise America's benign intentions, floor the detractors and truly spread democracy around the globe. It's simple and it's brilliant. Give us non-Americans the vote. Keep every other benefit of citizenship. Every empire has held out lures to those it's governed. Under pax romana, citizenship was a reward to be doled out to individuals who met the criteria. Pax britannica held out the theoretical option of non-Britishers joining the powerful civil service. Pax americana has its coveted citizenship of course, but the country is constantly divided on the issue of immigration. Separate the vote as a tool of diplomacy, however, and in one stroke, you spread your core values, enhance your image and appease critics without stoking domestic fears of a huge influx of foreigners. And it would go a long way towards bringing back the days of happy exasperation. In the meanwhile, I will continue obsessing over elections news and attempting to swing my long-suffering and apolitical husband's vote in the right direction.