WP Design


The purpose of the Wielding American Power project, as discussed above, was to shed light on the the subject of American intervention. Its objective was to promote policy-relevant research and encourage public debate. Its design reflected this purpose. It was organized around a central set of questions: how best should American power be wielded, and when, why, how, and by whom is military intervention legitimate and likely to be effective? It had a research component and a workshop component.

Five teams of scholars were engaged in research as part of this project. They brought to bear unique training, experiences, and research interests on this critical issue. The four sub-projects focused on normative, political, and policy constraints. To ensure that their research reached beyond the academy, the researchers briefed policymakers, wrote op-ed pieces, and made radio and television appearances.

A series of workshops and conferences were organized as part of this project. The first of these, held in February 2004, provided feedback for the faculty members engaged in the research project outlined above. The second, held in February 2005, looked at mid-range policy and planning. It examined both the intellectual and organizational challenges of addressing these types of issues and explored specific foreign policy problems facing the United States. The third of these (held in February 2006) flowed from the discussion of the Human Face of War, and focused on “Casualties and Warfare.”

Research Project

The Wielding American Power Project included five individual research projects. These looked at different kinds of constraints:

Normative, referring to sources of legitimization
Political, referring to the interface of public opinion and foreign policy
Policy, referring to assessments of the effectiveness of key tolls of foreign policy
The initiative had three mutually reinforcing components. These looked at key questions along the normative, political, and policy dimensions. It is important not to treat these components in isolation because each is a function of the other. The political viability of a policy depends heavily on its perceived moral legitimacy and policy efficacy; the legitimacy of a policy likewise hinges on its efficacy and its political viability the logic of integration continues on. Nevertheless, each dimension provides a distinctive research focus with its own “subsets” of dilemmas within the broader debates about intervention and sovereignty. Each team was responsible for conducting the relevant research and analysis, and the work and review was shared across the entire group.

Each discrete project applied cutting-edge scholarly analysis to a question currently confronting American policymakers. Team-members started with data collection and analysis. They shared their findings with the media and policy communities, thereby enusring that they would receive the attention of policymakers who are responsible for setting U.S. policy in this area . he projects include:

Robert Keohane and Allen Buchanan, “Preventive War and Human Rights”

Ole Holsti, “The US and the World: How the US is Viewed Abroad”
Christopher Gelpi, Peter Feaver, and Jason Reifler, “The Human Costs of War”
Steve Wilkinson, “Economic Liberalization and Ethnic Conflict”
Bruce Jentleson, “Policy Relevance and the Carnegie Corporation” and “Force and Diplomacy”
Conferences/ Workshops

Working Conference: In February 2004, TISS and the Sanford Institute for Public Policy sponsored a working conference to review drafts of the projects papers. The conference and the associated opinion pieces and media availabilities were timed to inform the public debate surrounding the U.S. national elections. Agenda.

Strategy and Policy Planning Conference: In February 2005 TISS and Duke held a workshop in Washington DC. “The Agenda for Strategy and Policy Planning” conference was cosponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and took good advantage of the proximity of numerous persons engaged in policy planning. The workshop looked at issues “on the horizon,” the mid term challenges to American Foreign Policy that are longer term that the immediate inbox, but nevertheless well with the horizon of the new administration. The workshop consisted of six panels made up of speakers from Academia and the government. The first two panels looked at the intellectual and institutional challenges of mid range planning and the last four looked at specific policy problems: rogue states, coalition building and international institutions, casualty aversion, and anti-Americanism. Agenda.

Casualties and Warfare Conference: In February 2006, Alex Downes and Chris Gelpi hosted a two day conference which addressed the causes and consequences of both combatant and noncombatant casualties in warfare. The morning of the first day was spent considering the causes of civilian casualties and how the U.S. military nowadays tries to limit “collateral damage” to noncombatants. The afternoon panels shifted to how the military and the public react to casualties—both to their own forces and to civilians. Some presenters argued that the U.S. military’s sensitivity to each type of casualties has decreased its effectiveness by causing it to rely too much on stand-off precision strikes. The second day opened with an attempt to tackle the issue of estimating civilian casualties from war. Another panel examined the impact of international intervention and non-governmental organizations on conflict. The final panel focused on the media, and particularly on how the framing effects the public perception of casualties and support for war. Agenda.

Publications and Dissemination

The research projects are ongoing but a number of articles have been published since the beginning of the project was launched in 2003. The findings of the authors have been further disseminated via briefings, op-eds, and television and newspaper appearances. James Kitfield reported on the meeting at the 2005 conference. (Click here)

Our team is in fact bipartisan but our approach will be non-partisan so as to maximize the prospects of finding common ground for policymakers from both parties and thereby to maximize the potential impact of our findings. Accordingly, the project co-PIs will travel to Washington, D.C. as needed to brief selected policymakers from both sides of the aisle and in both the executive and legislative branches.