Since 2005, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for International Studies has produced user-friendly "audits of the convention wisdom" that boil down some extremely complex problems into a few pages of print.
This year MIT is also making the audits even more accessible to a television-attuned generation. Some audits are now being presented in video format.
Don't tune in looking for a global version of Jon Stewart. These are more akin to brief televised academic lectures. But they live up to the basic goals of the audits when they were launched -- to challenge the conventional wisdom, the easy (and sometimes false) assumptions that often inform foreign policy-making. In the first audit in 2005, for example, Professor Richard J. Samuels, an Asia expert who is director of the center, and MIT political science Professor M. Taylor Fravel took on the conventional view that the United States commanded unchallenged influence in Asia when in fact US influence had been steadily waning in several key aspects.
The initial video audits come from Jim Walsh, a research associate at the center and an international security specialist, assessing the current standoff between Iran and the West over its nuclear program (and not acscepting the conventional wisdom that Iran is definitely trying to build a nuclear weapon); and from Fotini Christia, an assistant professor of political science, on the political wrangling in Afghanistan and its implications going forward.
Another is from Anat Biletzki, analyzing President Obama's speech in Cairo and its view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Biletzki, a longtime peace activist in Israel and a visiting fellow at MIT's center, is sharply critical of what she views as US tolerance of Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas as the primary obstacle to progress.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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