The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC
My summer internship was in the Brookings Institute Foreign Policy Department where I was assigned to the Security and Strategies team. My supervisor, Michael O’Hanlon, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and focuses on issues pertaining to international security and American grand strategy abroad. Despite being virtual, I felt that I truly did get a lot out of the experience.
My main responsibility was to update the Iraq and Afghanistan Indices, statistical compilations of reconstruction efforts in both countries which had not been updated in the past ten years. Each Index contained a variety of indicators such as American and Coalition Troop Strength by year, Internally Displaced Persons by year, and GDP Per Capita by year. Through the use of publicly accessed data like the CIA World Factbook, UNHCR, and the World Bank, I was able to find up-to-date information on each indicator. I then wrote a blog discussing the findings and the prospects for each country. To my surprise my supervisor was able to get our Iraq blog published by the Wall Street Journal, a phenomenal way to end the summer.
In regards to the Iraq Index, we were able to find very promising data that speaks to the country’s future. Since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, there have been huge ups and downs. Recently, however, there have been modest signs of progress in the land of the two rivers. Per capita gross domestic product has increased to nearly $6,000 today from less than $4,000 two decades ago (in constant 2010 dollars). Oil production is up from about 2.5 million barrels a day in the latter Saddam years to about 4.5 million barrels now, and export revenues from oil have at least tripled, on average, since 2002. With the defeat of ISIS—an achievement that involved far more Iraqi than American forces—the annual rate at which Iraqis have been displaced internally has dropped by more than half since 2014-15. Life expectancy is up from 67 in 2002 to about 73 today. Estimated civilian fatalities from political violence now total in the low thousands annually—still too high in a land that remains restless and unstable, but reduced 10-fold from the ugly years of the early to mid-2000s, to say nothing of the bloodiest times of Saddam’s rule. To be sure, if Iraq is on a better path these days, it still has a long way to go to be stable politically and economically.
In addition to this project, I was able to sit in on numerous calls with the Brookings Scholars in the Foreign Policy Department discussing their work and current affairs. I can’t think of a better way to have prepared myself for a future in foreign policy than listening and receiving advice from these scholars. I cannot thank the Estate of George Mead or the ’68 Center for Career Exploration enough for allowing me to have this invaluable experience this summer.