Vol. 54, No. 4

In this edition

“There are some things you don’t want to be right about.” That was Mac Thornberry’s response when he was asked following the 9/11 terrorist attacks how it felt to have introduced a bill to establish a Homeland Security Agency six months before…

The Fight Against COVID-19 and the Lessons of 1918

A Conversation with John Barry about his 2005 book regarding the Great Influenza pandemic 102 years ago and the lessons that can be learned today.

Better Connecting Rural America

If we can communicate with humans on the moon, surely we can find a way to deliver reliable broadband here on Planet Earth.

When a Pandemic and an Epidemic Collide

Since the pandemic began, more than 40 states have reported increases in substance- related deaths.


From the Republican Revolution of 1994 to the global pandemic of 2020, the Texas Republican 26 and retiring lawmaker reflects on some of the more notable developments over his 26 year congressional career.


According to the Nebraska Senator, dangerous activity by Russia and China underscores the importance of enacting the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

Transatlantic Relations in Flux

We are at an inflection point after three post-Cold War decades, and the choices confronting the U.S. when it comes to its relations with Europe will shape transatlantic relations going forward.

Seven Years into China’s Belt and Road

American officials have criticized the program as “debt trap diplomacy.” While it is hard to find evidence of debt trap diplomacy, there are real concerns about debt sustainability.

Outcompeting China: A Roadmap for the U.S.

Rather than decoupling the two largest economies in the world, there is a smarter approach to confronting legitimate problems posed by China’s economic model.

The Importance of India and the Growing Chinese Threat

Amid rising tensions with China, the relationship between the U.S. and India has been transformed from one of estranged democracies to engaged democracies.

U.S. Foreign Policy After the Pandemic

While conflict prevention has long been a focus of foreign assistance, the intersection of conflict prevention with other global challenges should be at the forefront of America’s response.

Ripon Profile of Ann Wagner

Ann Wagner discusses the issues facing America’s suburbs and how she’s working to address them.

U.S. Foreign Policy After the Pandemic

Four challenges that will need to be addressed

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed previously unrealized security challenges, ranging from food insecurity to vulnerable supply chains. The pandemic also provides an opportunity to address existing gaps to help ensure that future crises remain under control.

With this in mind, U.S. foreign policy needs to better reflect the interconnected nature of the big issues facing the world and respond to challenges posed by future pandemics, technology gaps, migration, climate adaptation and armed conflict.

Global response to pandemics
Despite the United States’ effective response to public health crises such as HIV/AIDS and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, COVID-19 has provided ample evidence that the United States is highly vulnerable to viruses that emerge abroad. The United States needs to tackle public health challenges when and where they emerge to protect the health and security of its citizens.

Foreign assistance programs can help other countries prepare for future pandemics by improving the detection of outbreaks and bolstering public health responses in countries with weak healthcare infrastructure. This helps protect Americans. As the re-emergence of previously eradicated diseases such as polio and measles shows, no one is safe until everyone is safe.

Overcoming technology gaps
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted lockdowns around the world which demonstrated how access to technology shapes a range of outcomes, from business adaptability to healthcare delivery. The impact of technology gaps is far reaching, particularly when it comes to education.

U.S. foreign policy needs to better reflect the interconnected nature of the big issues facing the world.

At its peak, the pandemic forced 1.6 billion children out of the classroom. While distance-learning proved challenging even here in the United States, 600 million people lack access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa and just 28% have regular internet access. Globally, only one in three students are expected to return to classrooms this fall. Because of technology gaps, millions of children are losing out on key skills, including digital literacy, that they need to reach their fullest human potential. This will have a long-term social and economic impact in developing countries.

Foreign assistance, particularly technical assistance and support for private investment, remains essential in extending access to broadband internet, cellular telecommunications, and clean energy to the world’s poorest and most remote regions. Attention to how technology gaps affect service delivery and outcomes should be a key part of U.S. foreign assistance programming.

India’s lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic saw an estimated 40 million migrant workers return to their home villages in the Indian countryside. Many were forced to crowd on trains or walk for days, only to be turned away from villages weary of the virus’s transmission.

Mass migration prompted by disease outbreaks or natural disasters add greater complexity to a refugee system that was designed to deal with persons displaced by armed conflict. Migration is also a problem that is likely to worsen if the underlying challenges, including physical and economic insecurity, are not proactively addressed.

Climate adaptation and conflict prevention
While we can hope that climate scientists’ worst-case projections regarding sea-level rise or warming temperatures will not come about, in the coming decades both wealthy and poor nations will face the reality that people on nearly every continent will no longer be able to live or farm where they currently reside.

While conflict prevention has long been a focus of foreign assistance, the intersection of conflict prevention with other global challenges should be at the forefront of the United States’ response.

America needs to get ahead of this by working with governments to create incentives for relocation that will help minimize economic disruptions and conflicts that could impact the United States’ economy and security. Climate adaption is most pressing in parts of the world that are already fragile and prone to the outbreak of war and the emergence of terrorism. While conflict prevention has long been a focus of foreign assistance, the intersection of conflict prevention with other global challenges should be at the forefront of the United States’ response.

A properly directed foreign assistance program remains a vital instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Global and local crises, whether they stem from pandemics or mass migration, will continue to contribute to armed conflict and slow economic growth. The United States must draw on non-military tools such as foreign assistance to shape these outcomes, in coordination with other major donors.

Focusing on these pressing issues — and the connections between them — will help bring coherence and cross-sectoral thinking to America’s international outreach while engaging the United States in solving challenges that confront all of humanity. 

Jessica Trisko Darden is an Assistant Professor of International Affairs at American University’s School of International Service. She is author of Aiding and Abetting: U.S. Foreign Assistance and State Violence (Stanford University Press, 2020).