Sarah Chayes

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Sarah Chayes
Born (1962-03-05) March 5, 1962 (age 52)
Washington, D.C.
Alma mater Harvard University
Occupation Journalist; Arghand cooperative
Parents Abram Chayes
Antonia Handler Chayes

Sarah Chayes (b. Washington, D.C., March 5, 1962) is a former reporter for National Public Radio. She is currently a senior associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is also a former special advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1]


Sarah Chayes is the daughter of law professor and Kennedy administration member Abram Chayes and his wife Antonia Handler Chayes. She graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover, in 1980, and Harvard University in 1984, with a degree in history. She later served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, returning to Harvard to earn a master's degree in history and Middle Eastern studies, specializing in the medieval Islamic period. She has lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan since 2002, and can speak the Pashto language.


Chayes began her reporting career free-lancing from Paris for The Christian Science Monitor and other outlets. From 1996 to 2002, she served as Paris reporter for National Public Radio, earning 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards (together with other members of the NPR team) for her reporting on the Kosovo War. She has also reported from other nations.

She is the author of The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (ISBN 1594200963), published in August 2006.

Her analysis of the current dilemma in Afghanistan, along with a plan for its resolution, is Comprehensive Action Plan for Afghanistan, written in January, 2009.

Chayes wrote an op-ed published in the International Herald Tribune July 10, 2007 arguing that NATO was not to blame for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. "When things go wrong, it is typical to blame the equipment, or the help. In the case of the unraveling situation in Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has become the favorite whipping boy of American officials. In fact, after watching rotation after military rotation cycle through here since late 2001, I see NATO as an improvement over its American predecessors."[2]

In a 2011 op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times, Chayes decried the "rampant public corruption" in Afghanistan, asserting that the country "is controlled by a structured, mafiaesque system, in which money flows upward via purchase of office, kickbacks or 'sweets' in return for permission to extract resources ... and protection."[3]

She was a guest on PBS's Bill Moyers Journal February 22, 2008[4] and December 19, 2008.[5]

In a 2012 op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times, Chayes argued that the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" video may well not be protected under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment free speech guarantees. Specifically, she maintained the film may have "the intent and the likelihood of inciting imminent violence or lawbreaking", which is the specific standard laid out in the 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio U.S. Supreme Court case for placing some limits on free speech. This opinion met with fierce criticism from within and without the United States, being labelled as "ill-conceived" and as a call to "illegalize blasphemy" by domestic press. Outside the United States, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel weighed in, emphasizing, "He is allowed to do this." Opposition to her opinion is rooted in the 1952 United States Supreme Court Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson case which is generally regarded as the beginning of the end of motion picture censorship in the United States. She noted that such a Constitutional interpretation ought not be construed as excusing or condoning physical violence as a response to any kind of words.[6][7][8]

More recent interviews are: Terri Gross on Fresh Air on February 4, 2009, Charlie Rose on May 8, 2009, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC (available on YouTube) on June 29, 2009, Jane Lindholm/Vermont Public Radio on November 16, 2009, and Leonard Lopate of WNYC on April 12, 2010. The Rachel Maddow interview has some very positive comments from Ms. Chayes about the US military presence in Afghanistan.

Advisor to Joint Chiefs of Staff[edit]

In 2010, Sarah Chayes became a special adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. In this capacity, she contributed to strategic US policy on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab Spring.[1]


She has lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan since 2002. Having learned to speak the Pashto language, she has helped rebuild homes, set up a dairy cooperative. In May 2005, she established the Arghand Cooperative, a venture that encourages local Afghan farmers to produce flowers, fruits, and herbs instead of opium poppies. The cooperative buys their goods and from them produces soaps and other scented products for export. The cooperative is an associate member of the Natural Perfumers Guild [9] She wrote Scents & Sensibility an article detailing the story of the Arghand cooperative and her extreme difficulties with the 'incompetence' of the American aid establishment, which appears in the December 2007 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Sarah Chayes". 
  2. ^ Chayes, Sarah (10 July 2007). "NATO didn't lose Afghanistan". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 20 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Chayes, Sarah (25 September 2011). "Government by crime syndicate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal: Sarah Chayes". Public Affairs Television. 15 February 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2008. 
  5. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal: Sarah Chayes". Public Affairs Television. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2008. 
  6. ^ Chayes, Sarah (18 September 2012). "'Innocence of Muslims Does Not Meet Free Speech Standards'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  7. ^ Taranto, James (19 September 2012). "'Vive la France'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  8. ^ Hudson, John (19 September 2012). "'A Really Bad Idea: A World Tour of 'Innocence of Muslims' Screenings'". Atlantic Wire. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Natural Perfumers Guild [1].
  10. ^ Chayes, Sarah (December 2007). "Scents & Sensibility". The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 20 December 2008. 

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