Think Tank Round-Up: Unconventional Ways Edition.

Today, TTR looks at our national priorities through an international lens, wonders how to tell if we've won in Afghanistan and Iraq, considers recent missile defense policy changes, and reports the latest public opinion survey of the Religious Left.

  • Spending tells us what we care about. [PDF] The Center for American Progress links public spending patterns across OECD countries with their national priorities. U.S. spending patterns stand out from Europe: Americans spend the most on defense, 12 percent of the budget, and the second lowest on social protection, 19 percent. The U.S. is also the only country that spends the highest share of its budget on health. CAP argues that higher spending on social protection demonstrates a commitment to economic protection and equality; in the coming years, these numbers could indicate whether or not the recession has an impact on the role of government and in the U.S. -- PL
  • Measuring the unmeasurable war. [PDF] The Brookings Institution asks an important question this week - how do we know if we're winning a counterinsurgency campaign? With efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it's essential for the U.S. to size up it's successes and adjust for failures. The author poses a number of unconventional ways to measure these unconventional wars, focusing on metrics within Afghanistan. Unfortunately, measuring state building is not yet a science. -- JL
  • Missile defense is not the best defense. A Carnegie Endowment study backs President Obama’s decision to reconfigure our missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Given the current unlikelihood of an Iranian nuclear attack, the unproven technical capabilities of the U.S. missile defense system, and the grave setbacks that such an installation would cause to the U.S.-Russian relationship, the proposed installations would have contributed little to European and American security. Obama’s move demonstrated not weakness, but strategic intelligence. -- LL
  • What the religious Left believes. The Center for American Progress surveys progressive religious activists. Religious progressives rank their top priorities as poverty alleviation and environmental issues, and hold a collective view on health care, with almost 80 percent advocating national health insurance. That’s opposed to only 6 percent of their conservative counterparts, who rank abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage as their key concerns. Both sides support a role for religion in public life, but differ strongly when it comes to what form it takes: 81 percent of progressives support a strict separation of church and state, as opposed to 21 percent of conservatives. -- MH

-- TAP Staff

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