Grantee Spotlight: Jeffrey Lewis and the Middlebury Institute for International Studies

Clearheaded and factual analysis on North Korea’s nuclear program is critical to reducing the nuclear threat

Ploughshares Fund’s immediate goals in North Korea are twofold.

First, we work toward freezing North Korea’s nuclear program where it exists. Kim Jong-un has already accelerated his country’s capabilities; development must be halted to contain its growth and prevent its spread to other nations.

Second, we seek to avoid any military conflict on the Korean Peninsula that could escalate to nuclear war. A new war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic, with Pentagon planners estimating that the first 90 days of a war on the Korean Peninsula could produce between 300,000–500,000 South Korean and American military casualties along with hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. And that’s if the North Koreans don’t retaliate with any of their nuclear weapons. But the truth is that any conflict with North Korea, no matter how limited in scope, could easily escalate into the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.

Jeffrey Lewis and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ (CNS) work at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies is critical to our mission.

When North Korea launches another missile, or conducts another nuclear weapons test, CNS’s analysts are the ones sought out for their technical expertise and public communication talents. They provide objective, nonpartisan, factual information about North Korea’s nuclear program, which aids in developing realistic assessments of emerging nuclear and missile capabilities.

In this regard, their work is invaluable in our efforts to find a realistic approach to resolving the North Korean nuclear program. Jeffrey Lewis, the director of CNS’s East Asia Nonproliferation Program, maintains a high profile, steady stream of interviews and public-facing analyses, and serves as the lead contributor to his influential nuclear policy blog Arms Control Wonk. Lewis and CNS’s opinions are valued by journalists, policymakers and the public for their ability to communicate highly technical issues in ways that nonexperts can understand.

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CNS provides expert analysis that informs not only those in dialogue with North Koreans, but other decision-makers, media outlets and citizens all over the world. Lewis and his team’s analyses are featured frequently in The Washington Post, The New York Times and on CNN, critically informing the debate and arguing for diplomatic engagement with the DPRK.

To most Americans, North Korea is a black box, and belligerent rhetoric only serves to clamp down the lid.

That’s why it’s imperative that Ploughshares Fund supports the work of Jeffrey Lewis and CNS. Clearheaded and factual analysis, paired with media engagement, are our best tools for debunking fear mongering and shedding light on what North Korea’s actions actually mean. They’re our best hope for stepping back from the precipice, and making progress to a nuclear-free Korea.

The work of @ArmsControlWonk and @CNS_Updates is key to resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis.

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Photo: Monterey Bay from the terrace of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Flickr (cc) / Michael Theis