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Abstract: We have learned a great deal about Iraq since the fateful decision to invade the country in 2003. Given academic research on Iraqi society and politics over the past 16 years and hard won lessons from U.S. intervention in Iraq, what what are the lessons learned for contemporary U.S. policymakers? And, crucially, what role should Iraq play in current U.S. foreign policy and its regional strategy toward the Middle East?
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Colin H. Kahl Co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, the inaugural Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and a Professor, by courtesy, in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University.
Brett McGurk Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute and Center for Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.
With moderator: Lisa Blaydes
Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Colin H. Kahl is co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, the inaugural Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and a Professor, by courtesy, in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University. He is also a Strategic Consultant to the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
From October 2014 to January 2017, he was Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President. In that position, he served as a senior advisor to President Obama and Vice President Biden on all matters related to U.S. foreign policy and national security affairs, and represented the Office of the Vice President as a standing member of the National Security Council Deputies’ Committee. From February 2009 to December 2011, Dr. Kahl was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East at the Pentagon. In this capacity, he served as the senior policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense for Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, and six other countries in the Levant and Persian Gulf region. In June 2011, he was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service by Secretary Robert Gates.
From 2007 to 2017 (when not serving in the U.S. government), Dr. Kahl was an assistant and associate professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. From 2007 to 2009 and 2012 to 2014, he was also a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a nonpartisan Washington, DC-based think tank. From 2000 to 2007, he was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. In 2005-2006, Dr. Kahl took leave from the University of Minnesota to serve as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he worked on issues related to counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and responses to failed states. In 1997-1998, he was a National Security Fellow at the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.
Current research projects include a book analyzing American grand strategy in the Middle East in the post-9/11 era. A second research project focuses on the implications of emerging technologies on strategic stability.
He has published numerous articles on international security and U.S. foreign and defense policy in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Security, the Los Angeles Times, Middle East Policy, the National Interest, the New Republic, the New York Times, Politico, the Washington Post, and the Washington Quarterly, as well as several reports for CNAS.
His previous research analyzed the causes and consequences of violent civil and ethnic conflict in developing countries, focusing particular attention on the demographic and natural resource dimensions of these conflicts. His book on the subject, States, Scarcity, and Civil Strife in the Developing World, was published by Princeton University Press in 2006, and related articles and chapters have appeared in International Security, the Journal of International Affairs, and various edited volumes.
Dr. Kahl received his B.A. in political science from the University of Michigan (1993) and his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University (2000).
Brett McGurk is the Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute and Center for Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.
McGurk’s research interests center on national security strategy, diplomacy, and decision-making in wartime. He is particularly interested in the lessons learned over the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump regarding the importance of process in informing presidential decisions and the alignment of ends and means in national security doctrine and strategy. At Stanford, he will be working on a book project incorporating these themes and teaching a graduate level seminar on presidential decision-making beginning in the fall of 2019. He is also a frequent commentator on national security events in leading publications and as an NBC News Senior Foreign Affairs Analyst.
Before coming to Stanford, McGurk served as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State, helping to build and then lead the coalition of seventy-five countries and four international organizations in the global campaign against the ISIS terrorist network. McGurk was also responsible for coordinating all aspects of U.S. policy in the campaign against ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and globally.
McGurk previously served in senior positions in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, including as Special Assistant to President Bush and Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan, and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and Special Presidential Envoy for the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State under Obama.
McGurk has led some of the most sensitive diplomatic missions in the Middle East over the last decade. His most recent assignment established one of the largest coalitions in history to prosecute the counter-ISIS campaign. He was a frequent visitor to the battlefields in both Iraq and Syria to help integrate military and civilian components of the war plan. He also led talks with Russia over the Syria conflict under both the Trump and Obama administrations, initiated back-channel diplomacy to reopen ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and facilitated the formation of the last two Iraqi governments following contested elections in 2014 and 2018.
In 2015 and 2016, McGurk led fourteen months of secret negotiations with Iran to secure the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezain, U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and Pastor Saad Abadini, as well as three other American citizens.
During his time at the State Department, McGurk received multiple awards, including the Distinguished Honor Award and the Distinguished Service Award, the highest department awards for exceptional service in Washington and overseas assignments.
McGurk is also a nonresident senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
McGurk received his JD from Columbia University and his BA from the University of Connecticut Honors Program. He served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Denis Jacobs on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit, and Judge Gerard E. Lynch on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.