Aaron Stein is a research associate at the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul, where he works on security and proliferation issues in the Middle East. He is currently a PhD Candidate at King’s College London researching Iranian and Turkish nuclear decision-making. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of San Francisco and an M.A. in International Policy Studies with a specialization in Nuclear Nonproliferation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Describe the impact on foreign policy you have made in your current/past positions.
My work at the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies and my research for my dissertation at King’s College London has allowed me to clearly understand and articulate Turkey’s approach to regional issues. My work therefore has tended to focus on framing Turkey’s approach to regional issues for an American and Western European audience. In many cases, Turkish actions are lost in translation.
What personal contribution to foreign policy are you most proud of?
In 2012, Sinan Ulgen and I launched Turkey’s first nonproliferation and disarmament program at the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. The website is the first comprehensive collection of scholarly articles covering all aspects of Turkey’s nuclear program and policies. It is a useful guide for Turkey-watchers keen to understand Ankara’s approach to issues ranging from export controls to drones. I wrote ten policy briefs on Turkey’s nuclear program, as well as a chapter in an edited volume about Turkey’s transition to nuclear power. Together, they explain past and present Turkish nuclear decision-making, in order to help predict the future.
What is your vision of foreign policy in the 21st Century?
American foreign policy practitioners need to move beyond the oft-repeated talking points about exceptionalism and clearly articulate policies based on a careful assessment of interests and capabilities. There has been a tendency to over-inflate American power, which has led to a number of disastrous foreign policy decisions in the past.
What challenges need to be overcome to create better foreign policy? What leadership traits are needed for this?
Foreign policy makers in the United States rarely have the opportunity to spend significant time in the countries most critical to American foreign policy objectives. Thus, there is a tendency to fall back on cliché and simplistic explanation for world events. Future leaders need to create opportunities for practitioners to travel to countries of interest and engage deeply on issues that are of concern to U.S. foreign policy interests. A leader therefore will have to be receptive to new ideas that do not fit within the mold of traditional policy approaches, as well as nimble enough to adjust to a rapidly changing global environment. Neither will be easy, but both are vital to maximize the effectiveness of foreign policy.
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