Sarah Chayes

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Sarah Chayes
Born (1962-03-05) March 5, 1962 (age 53)
Washington, D.C.
Alma mater Harvard University
Occupation Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Parents Abram Chayes
Antonia Handler Chayes

Sarah Chayes is a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A former award-winning reporter for National Public Radio, she also served as special advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1]


Sarah Chayes is the daughter of the late law professor and Kennedy administration member Abram Chayes and lawyer and former Undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force Antonia Handler Chayes. She graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover (1980) and Harvard University (1984) with a degree in History, Magna Cum Laude. She was awarded the Radcliffe College History Prize. She then served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, returning to Harvard to earn a Master's Degree in History, specializing in the Medieval Islamic period. After more than a decade as a reporter, she lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan (2002–09, part-time through 2011). She speaks the Pashto language, is fluent in French, and speaks some Arabic.


Chayes began her reporting career free-lancing from Paris for The Christian Science Monitor Radio and other outlets. From 1996 to 2002, she served as Paris reporter for National Public Radio, covering France, the European Union, North Africa and the Balkans. She earned 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards (together with other members of the NPR team) for her reporting on the Kosovo War. After covering the fall of the Taliban and the early weeks of post-Taliban Afghanistan, Chayes decided to leave reporting and stay behind to try to contribute to the rebuilding of the war-torn country. She lived and worked in the former Taliban heartland, Kandahar, for most of the next decade. In 2005, she founded a small manufacturing cooperative, which produces high-quality natural skin-care products from licit local agriculture.[2]

Chayes is the author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security[3] and The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban.[4]

Since leaving full-time radio reporting, she has been a frequent contributor to the print media, contributing to the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and The Atlantic, among other outlets. An archive of her current writings can be found on Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.[1]

Her analysis of the dilemma in Afghanistan, ca. 2009, along with a plan for its resolution, is titled Comprehensive Action Plan for Afghanistan, written in January, 2009.[5]

In a 2011 op-ed 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."[6]

Chayes was a guest on PBS's Bill Moyers Journal February 22, 2008[7] and December 19, 2008.[8] She has also been interviewed by WHYY's Terri Gross, WNYC's Leonard Lopate, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, PBS's Charlie Rose, and others.

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." Her argument was that speech that is deliberately tailored in content and manner to provoke a violent reaction is different from speech that is merely offensive.[9][10][11]

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]

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace[edit]

At Carnegie, Chayes has launched a corruption and security initiative, which analyzes the structure of kleptocratic governments around the world, the other risk factors with which public corruption is interacting in specific countries, the likelihood of a significant security event resulting, and potential approaches available to different local and international actors. She conducts significant field research on this topic, hosts speakers and workshops, both in the U.S. and in relevant countries, and speaks and writes frequently.

Organizations and Awards[edit]

Chayes lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2002 - 2009. Having learned to speak the Pashto language, she helped rebuild homes and set up a dairy cooperative. In May 2005, she established the Arghand Cooperativ,[2] a venture that encourages local Afghan farmers to produce flowers, fruits, and herbs instead of opium poppies. The cooperative buys their almonds, pomegranate seeds, cumin and anise and artemisia and root dyes, extracts oils, essential oils, and tinctures from them, with which it produces soaps and other scented products for export. The cooperative is an associate member of the Natural Perfumers Guild.[12] Chayes wrote an article detailing the story of the Arghand cooperative and her difficulties with the American aid establishment, which appears in the December 2007 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.[13]

Chayes is the recipient of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Civilian Service medal, Tufts University's Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' inaugural Ruth Adams award for writing in international security, Oprah Winfrey's Chutzpah Award, and was ABC Television Person of the Week.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Sarah Chayes: Senior Associate, Democracy and Rule of Law Program, South Asia Program". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  2. ^ a b "Sarah Chayes, Founder". 2014-02-11. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  3. ^ Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. January 2014. ISBN 978-0393239461. 
  4. ^ The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban. August 2006. ISBN 978-0143112068. 
  5. ^ "Comprehensive Action Plan for Afghanistan". January 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-02-19. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  6. ^ Chayes, Sarah (2011-09-25). "Government by crime syndicate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  7. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal: Sarah Chayes". Bill Moyers Journal. 2008-02-15. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  8. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal: Sarah Chayes". Bill Moyers Journal. 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  9. ^ Chayes, Sarah (2012-09-18). "Does 'Innocence of Muslims' meet the free-speech test?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  10. ^ Taranto, James (2012-09-19). "Vive la France". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  11. ^ Hudson, John (2012-09-19). "A Really Bad Idea: A World Tour of 'Innocence of Muslims' Screenings". The Atlantic Wire. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  12. ^ "Natural Perfumers Guild Members". Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  13. ^ Chayes, Sarah (2007-12-01). "Scents & Sensibility". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 

External links[edit]