Articles by Sarah Chayes
Recent Articles and Analysis by Sarah Chayes
Sarah Chayes publishes opinion and analysis in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Politico, Foreign Policy, Defense One and other publications.
THE ATLANTIC • FEB 18, 2016
Preparing for the Collapse of the Saudi Kingdom
It can’t last. The U.S. better get ready. By Sarah Chayes and Alex
DEFENSE ONE • January 13, 2016
The Right Way to Fight Boko Haram — and How the U.S.Should Help
Nigeria’s new president is wrong to separate his terrorism problem from his corruption problem
Unpublished Op-Ed • June 22, 2015
On May 18, Yale University awarded an honorary doctorate to outgoing Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, will get red carpet treatment on a state visit to Washington on June 30. In both cases, the distinction is startling. What these women share, apart from their public stature, is years spent at the sulfurous edges of massive corruption scandals. Their celebration by U.S. institutions indicates how dangerously confused we Americans remain about the true costs of corruption -- and about our own values and standards.
Article • CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT • June 20, 2015
How to Reverse Nigeria’s Oil Curse
The inauguration of Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, sets the stage for an unprecedented alliance of public- and private-sector actors to perform something close to a miracle: reverse the ravages of the so-called oil curse.
Feature • WORLD POLITICS REVIEW • April 28, 2015
Thunder God: Values, Corruption and Nigeria’s Election
Nigerians’ profound discomfort with the grossly corrupt nature of their politics, and with their own ambiguous behavior in light of it—helps explain the results of last month’s remarkable presidential election. It also helps illuminate the emergence and endurance of the radical Boko Haram insurgency that has terrorized northern Nigeria. Both developments reflect the understanding that corruption is not only a problem of governance, but a profound moral challenge for Nigerian society.
Op-Ed • LA TIMES • APRIL 4, 2015
5 hope-and-change take-aways from Nigeria's election
By SARAH CHAYES, CHAYENNE POLIMÉDIO
You probably saw the headline — a successful transfer of power in Nigeria. For the first time since its independence, Africa's most populous and economically powerful country voted an incumbent president out of office, defying all expectations. At a time when democratic good news is hard to come by, what went right in Nigeria?
THE NEW REVIEW Q&A •THE GUARDIAN • MARCH 15, 2015
Sarah Chayes: on living in Afghanistan and sleeping with a Kalashnikov
Interview by Tim Lewis
The central idea of Sarah Chayes’s radical new book, Thieves of State, is that corruption – be it bribes, vote-rigging, embezzlement, nepotism or any of its many forms – unsettles local populations and directly threatens global security. The US author saw this happen in Afghanistan – where she lived for almost a decade after 9/11 – and believes the same patterns operated during the Arab spring, in the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria and, more recently, in Ukraine.
OPINIONS • WASHINGTON POST • MARCH 12, 2015
Extremist movements exploit a justice deficit
“He would have kept my house for himself if it wasn’t for the Taliban. They were quick and fair.” Thus did a resident of Kandahar, Afghanistan, recently describe Taliban justice to the New York Times.
Such words sound jarring to Western ears. Taliban courts may be called quick and brutal in Western accounts, but never quick and “fair.” Yet this observation provides some explanation for the emergence and staying power of extremist movements, from Afghanistan to the Middle East to Nigeria.
ANALYSIS & OPINION • REUTERS • FEBRUARY 3, 2015
One (difficult) step to curbing extremism
Why did nearly half of Iraq open itself to Islamic State, a militant group seen as one of the most psychotic on record? Why have Boko Haram militants gained a solid foothold in northern Nigeria? Why aren’t the ranks of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula thinning, despite regular drone strikes in Yemen? Do these disparate countries have some trait in common? They do: the rampant corruption of their ruling elites.
OP-ED • LOS ANGELES TIMES • JANUARY 30 , 2015
Nigeria's in-your-face corruption may be fueling Boko Haram terrorism
Nigeria's in-your-face corruption was never sustainable; with Boko Haram militants razing whole villages in the north, its dire consequences are only intensified. For security reasons as well as ethical ones, the United States should stand by its anticorruption rhetoric, applying sanctions and other leverage against members of what many have called Nigeria's most kleptocratic administration ever.
OP-ED • DEFENSE ONE • JANUARY 25, 2015
This Is America’s Best Shot To Fix the Relationship With Saudi Arabia and Fight Terrorism
The U.S. should use the transition in Riyadh to correct course, adjust its relationship with Saudi Arabia and fight extremism.
BOOK REVIEW • WALL STREET JOURNAL • SEPTEMBER 26, 2014
Corruption in America' by Zephyr Teachout - Review by Sarah Chayes
Benjamin Franklin scandalized his contemporaries by accepting a diamond-studded snuff box from Louis XVI upon departing his post as ambassador in Paris.
OP-ED • LOS ANGELES TIMES • SEPTEMBER 22, 2014
New Afghan Government; Same Old Problems
The new Afghan government is unlikely to usher in much of a transition. Ghani and Abdullah or his appointee will preside over a contested and corrupt government, while Karzai will remain in the background.
OP-ED • DEFENSE ONE • SEPTEMBER 22, 2014
If There Is ‘No Military Solution’ in Iraq, Where is the Non-Military Solution?
For a successful U.S. strategy, military action must be tailored to support diplomatic efforts and goals. The United States needs to understand and reduce the motivations for people to join the Islamic State.
ARTICLE • DEFENSE ONE • SEPTEMBER 11, 2014, 2014
Inviting Arab States To Fight Terrorism is Just Short-Term Gain, Long-Term Pain
President Barack Obama, in his address to the nation on Wednesday, sought to conjure the conflicting pressures upon him from the rise of the Islamic State group and its gruesome butchering of two American journalists, and pledged to rally a coalition of Arab regimes.
ARTICLE • THE GLOBAL THINK TANK • SEPTEMBER 9, 2014, 2014
Corruption: The Priority Intelligence Requirements
As a bewildering array of convulsions rocks the globe, from Honduras to Nigeria, Iraq to Ukraine, there is increasing reason to believe that acute corruption contributes to international instability
OP-ED • POLITICO MAGAZINE • JUNE 18, 2014
Obama’s Dangerous New Terror War
It’s important to understand the limits of U.S. assistance: It can help build security institutions, but it cannot shape how those institutions are commandeered for personal, political, or communal aims.
PAPER • CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT • JUNE 6, 2014
Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security
Acute, structured government corruption impacts many of the West’s security priorities. But the role it plays in exacerbating international insecurity is often overlooked.
OP-ED • WASHINGTON POST • MAY 17, 2014
Nigeria’s Boko Haram Isn’t Just About Western Education
Amid the pressure to respond to the anguish, the United States is right not to overdo its counterterrorism assistance to Abuja. As has become an unfortunate pattern where terrorism is concerned, officials might reinforce the root of the problem in their impulse to hack off the branch.
OP-ED • DEFENSE ONE • MAY 16, 2014
How Corruption Guts Militaries: The Ukraine Case Study
Ukraine is a case study in one of the ways corruption threatens international security: it guts armies. It makes them useless for defending their borders and as allies.
OP-ED • DEFENSE ONE • APRIL 6, 2014
The Military Must Hunt Corruption, Not Just Terrorists
Acute and systemic corruption has taken hold in a number of countries and it is driving indignant populations, who are networked and communicating as never before, to extremes.
ARTICLE • CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT • APRIL 1, 2014
Does the Afghan Presidential Election Matter?
The upcoming election in Afghanistan marks neither the end of a long post-Taliban transition nor a crucial turning point for the troubled country.
OP-ED • LOS ANGELES TIMES • MARCH 27, 2014
Where Corruption and Insurrection Go Hand in Hand
Nearly every country facing an extremist insurgency is run by a kleptocratic clique. Corruption, in other words, has security implications.
ARTICLE • CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT • MARCH 27, 2014
How a Leftist Labor Union Helped Force Tunisia’s Political Settlement
Without the muscular involvement of a powerful labor union, it is unlikely that Tunisia’s remarkable political settlement would have come about.
OP-ED • WALL STREET JOURNAL • MARCH 7, 2014
Book Review: ‘The Tyranny of Experts’ by William Easterly
Why does poverty persist across so much of the world, despite billions of dollars in international aid and the efforts of armies of development professionals?
OP-ED • POLITICO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 27, 2014
The Money Pit
Over the past decade, corruption in Afghanistan has crystallized into a business of structured networks, with subordinates paying up the line for protection from repercussions.
OP-ED LOS ANGELES TIMES FEBRUARY 9, 2014
Hamid Karzai’s Cozy History with the Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s every word and deed of late seems designed to appeal to the Taliban leadership and its backers in Pakistan, and to fracture the partnership between Afghanistan and the American people.
OP-ED LOS ANGELES TIMES JANUARY 12, 2014
Robert Gates’ Failure of Duty
Robert Gates’ new book will go down as one of the most ill-tempered memoirs ever written by a former Cabinet secretary.
For articles from 2013 and earlier, please see the