What the Academy Doesn’t Know About the Vet: Exploring the Top Five Oversights

By Corri Zoli, Rosy Maury, Danny Fay, & Nick Armstrong

(Re-published from Thomas Ricks’ Best Defense blog, Foreign Policy, Nov. 23, 2015) Tom recently asked us to address this question: “What the academy doesn’t know about the vet?” The bad news and simple answer is “a lot.” The good news — albeit almost 15 years after the Post-9/11 wars began — is that it’s getting better. We will try to explain why.

“[T]oday we’re in a different national moment and mood — with a minority all-volunteer force whose experiences and perspectives are MIA.”

At the core of the problem is servicemembers’ “missing perspectives” on college campuses and in public discourse. This “finding” might seem odd, given overwhelming public support for the military since the 1980s — outpacing the church (see graph below). In the post-9/11 period, such support is now both pervasive and individualized: ordinary Americans give up seats, buy drinks, and incessantly “thank” veterans for their service.

But scratch the surface and one finds less deep public interest in understanding veterans’ actual experiences in the Post-9/11 wars — what it meant to be fighting them, how they changed the trajectory of a life, families, whole communities, or what these experiences mean for larger national discussions of service and security. As Sebastian Bae has written in these pages, “‘thank you for your service’ represents the banality of society’s understanding of the nation’s wars and the men and women who fought them.” Phil Klay calls this civilian-military distance a failure of imagination — too often vets as stoic warriors “fetishize their trauma as incommunicable,” remaining “forever” separated “from the rest of mankind,” and civilians play along, despite the consequences we all pay when “civilians are excused or excluded from discussion of war.”

Ideally, the academy should be a space for such discussions.  But we academics have too followed suit: we’ve lagged behind our colleagues from the past who used to know a lot about World War II, Korean, Vietnam, even Civil War vets. Aside from health and wellness studies, Gulf War I and Post-9/11 veterans — a cohort facing some of the most complex battlefields, unprecedented multiple deployments, and some of the highest service-related disability rates — have received less attention by social scientists, in education data efforts, or in programing on college campuses (with some emergent key exceptions). Neither the VA, nor the Departments of Education, Defense, and Labor — federal agencies responsible for collecting this data — have fully modernized their collection efforts to be compatible and to show how veterans are doing in military-to-civilian transition (school, careers, their families). Most telling, we do not have an executive-level study of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, like the seminal post-World War II Veterans’ Benefits in the United States: Findings and Recommendations, undertaken by Executive Order (No. 10588) in 1955. We do not even have a formal “after action review” of the Post-9/11 wars and their implications for servicemembers and the all-volunteer service — a normal institutional and policy-level learning process undertaken after war, even Vietnam. A lack of in-depth and data-driven inquiry on servicemembers has thus become common — despite robust traditions of interdisciplinary social science research on veterans from previous wars.

Yet, veterans pour onto campuses: the new Post-9/11 GI Bill has helped increase servicemembers in school — nearly 800,000 students took advantage of the benefit in 2014. The Bill itself was designed to replicate the rich benefits and success of the original GI Bill of 1944, that policy mechanism, to use social science terms, that helped create the famously “civic” greatest generation, the American middle class, U.S. global economic advantage, and the democratized university. Syracuse University, where we work, embraced the academically-untested World War II veteran. Chancellor Tolley opened the school’s doors wide — more than doubling the population — intuitively “getting” what student-veterans could mean for the school, New York, and the nation. Historical research, as mentioned, later backed him up.

But today we’re in a different national moment and mood — with a minority all-volunteer force whose experiences and perspectives are MIA. Without their input, stubborn myths — some new, some holdovers from past wars — persist (i.e., veterans are undereducated, maladjusted, a homogenous group, etc.). Despite the nuanced picture emerging from veterans-authored writing, the idea of veterans as “broken heroes” persists. Too little academic research has challenged such myths with facts, matched media narratives with data-driven analyses, or asked universities to explore what veterans offer to college campuses. Part of the ‘good news’ is that campuses, including our own are working hard to change that.

Here are five “take-aways” from our research for the academy:

  1. Post-9/11 veterans (from our nonrandom sample of 8,400 servicemembers) feel their decision to join the armed services was a good one (70 percent), their military experiences were mostly positive (58 percent), and they learned valuable, durable skills in service useful for university and life — despite personal costs and war outcomes. There is, furthermore, a correlation between positive military experience and the pursuit of higher education — that means somehow service is encouraging, selecting, or preparing veterans to go to school. One respondent summed this up by saying: “higher education is on the frontline of a successful transition process” …

To read the complete blog, click here.

Corri Zoli is INSCT Director of Research/Research Assistant Professor; Rosy Maury is Director of Applied Research and Analytics, SU Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF); Daniel Fay is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Mississippi State University; and Nick Armstrong is IVMF Senior Director of Research and Policy.

ISIS Terrorism: A Q&A with Faculty Experts

(Re-published from SU News, Nov. 20, 2015) Last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, along with earlier ones in Beirut and other places, have shaken the world. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, claimed credit for those attacks, and subsequently threatened to attack other targets, such as Washington, D.C., and New York City. Four Syracuse University professors who are experts in terrorism gave their views on the attacks and how the world should respond. Mehrzad Boroujerdi is chair of the political science department in the Maxwell School and the Provost Fellow for Internationalization. Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at Maxwell and a research director for the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC). Isaac Kfir is a visiting assistant professor of law at the College of Law and a research associate at the Institute for National Security and Counterrorism (INSCT) and assistant director of the Global Black Spots project in the Moynihan Institute of the Maxwell School. Corri Zoli is a director of research/research assistant professor at INSCT and a courtesy member of the political science faculty in the Maxwell School.

Q. What seems to be ISIS’ goal in the attacks on Paris?

Mehrzad Boroujerdi
Mehrzad Boroujerdi

Boroujerdi: With the use of a bomb to bring down a Russian plane and the attacks on Paris, ISIS seems to have entered a new phase in its atrocious operations. It is retaliating against states that are fighting it in Iraq and Syria, and is showcasing its ability to inflict pain. A secondary goal behind these operations may be to recruit new members from the ranks of the marginalized and disgruntled communities in Europe and elsewhere.

Elman: As with the attacks of Sept. 11, it may be some time before we are fully able to determine the Islamic State’s goals in the Paris attacks. That said, we can hazard several motivations for why the Islamic State is now adopting the methods used by al-Qaida—complex, multi-pronged and meticulously planned attacks carried out by well-trained cells. First, successful mass casualty attacks are a useful way to market the Islamic State’s brand and score propaganda victories. These acts of terror advertise to its fighters, rivals and would-be recruits that the organization remains a powerful force to be reckoned with, despite recent setbacks and territorial losses. Second, the Paris terror attacks, along with the Oct. 31 downing of a Russian jetliner after its takeoff from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, can be seen as retribution for France and Russia’s expanded military intervention against the Islamic State. Lastly, it’s important not to discount the Islamic State’s barbaric and apocalyptic jihadist ideology. Paris and other European cities are attractive targets not only because they are easy to reach from the Middle East. They are also symbols of the reviled and “infidel” West.

Kfir: The stated goal was to retaliate for the French decision to participate in the aerial campaign against ISIS. There is, however, a different way to look at the attack. First, to manage a five-target operation, across Paris, carried out by seven or eight (possibly more) terrorists, shows sophistication. Such an operation underlies the presence of an effective network, especially if these guys are spread out across the continent—contrary to popular belief it is not easy to smuggle people into Europe and even harder to smuggle weapons and explosives. Indeed, it is important to note that those that committed the atrocity did not enter Europe with the recent deluge of refugees. The Abdeslam brothers, for instance, were born in Belgium. Second, some of the targets were “soft” ones such as the restaurants, but an attack outside the French national stadium at a time when the French president was in attendance is hard to carry out. The message, however, that the terrorists wanted to send is that nowhere is safe, even a stadium where the national team was playing. Third, the operation suggests that ISIS is expanding its base of operations, i.e., it is taking the fight to what bin Laden would have called the “Far Enemy.” In other words, ISIS could be seeking to increase its presence beyond its initial base of operation, Northern Iraq and Northern Syria. Notably, three days before Paris, ISIS carried out an operation in a predominantly Shi’a area in Beirut that left 43 people dead and injured more than 200 people. In October, it carried out a bombing in Ankara that left 10 people dead and it seems that it was responsible for the bringing down of a Russian plane in the Sinai. When looking at Beirut, Ankara and Paris one could argue that ISIS is determined to fight on two fronts, near and far, and also engage in a campaign against Christians and Shi’a. An alternative explanation, however, is that the Paris bombing is a campaign of desperation, i.e., that ISIS is trying to take the fight to Europe and thus get European public opinion against further Western intervention. It is important to remember that terrorism is designed to elicit fear among the public in the hope of changing government policy.

Miriam F. Elman
Miriam F. Elman

Zoli: Scholars—not to mention policymakers and intelligence analysts—are divided on this issue. The responses often fall into two broad categories:minimalist and maximalist interpretations. Some, including President Obama, see ISIS as limited, confined regionally, a JV team, not a real existential threat—especially to core U.S. national interests. Others see this group and the conflict trends it represents as global. The civilian attack in Paris seems to point toward a broader, more offensive strategy. In any case, there is no question that ISIS’ goal is to use terrorism to destabilize state authorities by showing they can’t protect their people, maintain security and govern, or by sowing such internal division that societies collapse—obviously that’s easier to do when governments are weak, brittle, repressive or illegitimate, as in Iraq and Syria. But it is also important to take ISIS at their word on their goals: they intend to spill the blood of all nonbelievers, mostly Muslims who reject their theocratic views, re-establish a global caliphate and advance an ISIS army to defeat crusader nations from the inside, especially those who have attacked their territory. All of this entails exerting power in its most raw and brutal form—targeting the most vulnerable populations and flaunting all traditional rules and norms associated with any form of governance, Islamic traditions, human rights and international law.

Q. What should the response be, not only by France, but by other Western countries, such as Britain and the U.S.?

Boroujerdi: I expect many more sorties against ISIS positions by France and other Western powers in the coming weeks and better information sharing between these states to deal with this fringe cult. However, this will not be enough. If we want to address the root causes of the ISIS phenomenon, we have to try to end the war in Syria, we have to put pressure on some of our “allies” like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to make the fight against ISIS a priority, we have to beef up support for Kurdish forces and others who are fighting them on the ground. But we should also realize that you won’t be able to defeat an ideology with sheer use of force. The survival of the Taliban should have taught us that lesson.

Elman: France and other European countries will need to undertake both short- and long-term measures in response. While there is no 100 percent defense against Paris-type terror attacks, in the coming weeks and months European governments will need to address ways of reducing the continent’s vulnerability to them. As more information about the attacks on Paris emerges, it’s becoming increasingly clear that what transpired was a colossal failure of French intelligence, stemming in large part from the continued lack of adequate cross-border coordination. This enabled the Islamic State to use Belgium as a staging ground for the attack. So in the short term, French and European authorities will need to quickly improve law enforcement’s surveillance capabilities and cross-national intelligence gathering. Efforts to work with local communities will also need to be stepped up in order to disrupt the ability of Islamic State terror cells to communicate, travel, and raise and move money. In the long term, France and other Western countries will need to launch an aggressive military campaign with local partners to destroy the Islamic State’s center of operations in Syria and Iraq and end its hold on territory there. In the Middle East, the West will also need to find ways of addressing the Sunni Arab sense of persecution, which helped give rise to the Islamic State as a defender of Sunni interests. In Europe, the growing radicalization of Muslim youth in places like Brussels’ Molenbeek neighborhood will also need to take center stage. Alienation, discontent and grievances over Europe’s failed multicultural project should never be used as an excuse or justification for terrorism. But it’s important to better appreciate how Islamic State recruiters feed off of, and exploit, disaffected populations.

Isaac Kfir
Isaac Kfir

Kfir: We need to address the crisis in Iraq and Syria. This requires recognizing that Syria is also a battleground between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There is a proxy war happening within the Muslim world that the West simply does not understand, appreciate or recognize. We see this conflict in Yemen, Nigeria, East Africa, etc. Consequently, without a resolution to the Sunni-Shi’a divide, any resolution to the ISIS problem is unlikely to occur. Syria and Iraq are quintessentially Arab World problems; groups fighting in Syria are supported either officially or unofficially by the Gulf States or people in the Gulf States who furnish weapons and money. Therefore, until the flow of financial support is closed, we are unlikely to see a resolution. From the Western perspective, the worst thing we can do is send ground troops. This is not a fight that the West can win because the laws of war do not seem to apply to such entities as ISIS, which means that we either throw the rule book out the window (which is not possible nor desirable) or continue with contained warfare, which has not been effective.

Zoli: A holistic, international response is necessary—and sorely overdue—one that robustly involves civil society. France, of course, has the inherent right of self-defense in the face of these attacks, codified (Article 51) for all nations in the Charter of the United Nations. But insofar as these attacks are part of broader jihadist violence trends across Europe, the Mideast, Central and South Asia and Africa, the exclusive use of military force to defeat extremist movements and ideologies will not succeed. We know both from recent history in the post-9/11 wars and social science research on conflict and political violence that transnational nonstate violent actors and nontraditional wars are on the rise. Even if some analysts are right that the Paris attacks signify a weakened and desperate ISIS, its fall will not shake this transnational ideology, its many geographic prongs, offshoots and groups that align with ISIS or other jihadist organizations, many now entrenched in transnational criminal networks involving corruption, political organizations and trafficking. The durable appeal of this violent ideology is apparent in the 30,000+ foreign fighters—many from Western nations with comfortable upbringings—who have voluntarily joined ISIS. In this case, it is essential for impacted states and communities to push back against the root causes and drivers of these conflict dynamics.

Q. How seriously should we be taking ISIS’ stated threats against American targets, such as Washington, D.C., and New York City?

Boroujerdi: I think America is less vulnerable to Paris-type attacks thanks to its geographical distance, prowess of its intelligence/security establishment and the like. However, this is not to say that the chances are non-existent. One can expect a lone wolf attack somewhere in the U.S. to instill a sense of insecurity among the public. Targeting American embassies or cultural offices in vulnerable settings may be another way in which ISIS will try to punish the U.S. Let us not lose sight of the fact that a media/propaganda war is going on here as well. The fact that the three questions posed here all revolve around attacks and threats is an affirmation of the agenda-setting ability of ISIS.

Corinne Zoli
Corri Zoli

Elman: While this threat to the U.S. homeland shouldn’t be minimized, large-scale Paris-like terrorist attacks are less likely to be successfully orchestrated in the U.S. For one, unlike Europe, which doesn’t yet have a continent-wide investigative agency, America has the surveillance capacity of the FBI, which makes it much more difficult for any terrorist organization to pull off a sophisticated multi-location, high-casualty assault. For another, security personnel in Europe are currently overwhelmed trying to handle the huge influx of refugees and migrants, making it difficult to weed out potential terrorists. In addition, compared to the roughly 1,550 French who have joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, there are only 200 Americans believed to have traveled there, meaning far fewer returning foreign fighters that U.S. authorities need to monitor. To be sure, the threat presented by these foreign fighters who have now returned home is real, as are the security challenges that will be posed by an anticipated mass refugee and migration resettlement program. Still, for the time being the risk here in the U.S. is likely to continue to come from the independent initiatives of Islamic State-inspired “lone wolves.”

Kfir: It is always important to take threats seriously. The security and intelligence establishment has enormous skill and capabilities to assess threats; what is often needed is corporation. The U.S. intelligence community is vast, with a huge budget and very capable people. However, it is also important not to overreact. One of the key things that we as a society must embrace is resilience, recognizing that our greatest strength lies in not falling prey to prejudice, bias, and xenophobia, which only divides us as a nation and a people.

Zoli: There is no question the motivation and political will to strike U.S. targets—by ISIS and other jihadist organizations—is real. What is harder for law enforcement and federal defense agencies to assess is capability. This is one reason why foreign fighters are such a concern because, as recent reports show, few of the Western fighters who traveled to Syria or Iraq are in government custody. In this case, it will take a coordinated response—on the part of our domestic law enforcement and judicial systems, in our foreign policy that emphasizes supporting international coalitions, addressing protracted conflicts, power vacuums and failing states in the Middle East, and by ordinary citizens who reject religious and other forms of discrimination at the same time that we insist upon robust traditions of civil inclusivity and pluralism.



ISIS in the West: The New Faces of Extremism

By Courtney Schuster (L ’13), David Sterman, & Peter Bergen

“An unprecedented number of the militant recruits are female, young (with an average age of 24), and active in online jihadist circles.”

Who exactly are the estimated 4,500 Westerners drawn to join ISIS and other militant groups in Syria, and how great of a threat do they pose?

In the wake of Friday’s harrowing terrorist attacks in Paris, New America’s Peter Bergen, INSCT alumna Courtney Schuster (L ’13), and David Sterman have published “ISIS in the West: The New Faces of Extremism,” a new report reviewing what is known about the Westerners drawn to Jihadist groups.

New America has collected information about 475 individuals from 25 Western countries who have been reported by credible news sources as having left their home countries to join ISIS or other Sunni jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq.

The report finds:

  • Western fighters in Syria and Iraq represent a new demographic profile. An unprecedented number of the militant recruits are female, young (with an average age of 24), and active in online jihadist circles. This is quite different from Western militants who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s or Bosnia in the 1990s.
  • Many have familial ties to jihadism. One-third of Western fighters have a familial connection to jihad, whether through relatives currently fighting in Syria or Iraq, marriage, or some other link to jihadists from prior conflicts or terrorist attacks.
  • The likeliest threat to the US comes from ISIS-inspired violence. Returning fighters from Syria pose a limited threat to the US, while the threat from returning fighters to other Western countries is greater.
  • Few of the Western fighters who have traveled to Syria or Iraq are in government custody. Only one-sixth of Western fighters in New America’s dataset are in custody and more than two-fifths of the individuals are still at large.
  • The wars in Syria and Iraq have proven deadly for Western militants. Almost two-fifths of Western fighters in New America’s dataset have been reported as dead in Syria or Iraq. Almost half of the male foreign fighters and six percent of female militants have been killed.
  • The majority of Western fighters have joined ISIS. Only one-tenth have joined Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, and only six percent have joined other smaller groups.
  • The most popular route to Syria is through Turkey. Forty-two percent of the Western foreign fighters made their way to Syria or Iraq via Turkey.

To read the full report from New America, click here.

INSCT alumna Courtney Schuster (L ’13) is a program associate for the International Security Program at New America. David Sterman is a senior program associate at New America and holds a master’s degree from Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies. Peter Bergen is Vice President; Director of Studies; and Director of the International Security, Future of War, and Fellows programs at New America and a frequent contributor to CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.

What Can Be Learned from Paris’s Black Friday the 13th

By Boaz Ganor

(Re-published from The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 15, 2015) On Friday, France, Europe and the whole world experienced a significant escalation in the international terror campaign being waged by the Islamic State organization. The biggest terrorist attack to hit Europe in years, which caused a terrible bloodbath during the course of which hundreds of innocent people were killed and wounded, requires a precise investigation of the series of events before and during the attack; the policies of France, Europe and the rest of the world; as well as a probe of the current doctrine for countering terror in the West.

“The terrorists who executed the attacks Friday night might have been part of a sleeper cell of European Islamist ‘foreign fighters’ who returned from Syria and Iraq and maintained contact with ISIS as its operators in France.”
From this perspective, it appears that France marks the misconception and Western failure when it comes to the way many European and Western countries deal with terrorism.

It is interesting to note that most of the terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic-jihadist militants in Europe recently focused on France or have some connection with France. Take, for example, the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris, and even the one on the Belgium Jewish Museum in Brussels, carried out by the terrorist Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman who crossed the border to Brussels and then returned to France.

All signs point to ISIS terrorists carrying out the simultaneous attacks on Friday night, even though they reflect a change in the modus operandi usually adopted by the organization and an adoption of the methods used in the past by al-Qaida in complex, multi-faceted, meticulously planned attacks carried out by well-coordinated cells.

Contrary to past attacks carried out by ISIS in Europe and France, which were for the most part executed by lone wolves or a small group of relatives or friends inspired by Islamic State but without receiving operational aid from the organization, this time the attacks probably were carried out by a cell that was enlisted, trained and given support and operational instructions from the organization.

The terrorists who executed the attacks Friday night might have been part of a sleeper cell of European Islamist “foreign fighters” who returned from Syria and Iraq and maintained contact with ISIS as its operators in France. According to French security sources, there are many dozens of such ISIS operators in France who fit this description.

Another possibility is that the attacks were carried out by a cell that infiltrated into France from outside with the express purpose of executing them (on the model of the 9/11 attacks in the United States). In this case, it is possible that the terrorists came from Syria, Iraq or other countries under the guise of the recent mass wave of migration to Europe.

The attacks in Paris indicate a very high level of planning, preparation and execution capabilities. They involved coordination of massive attacks in a simultaneous or gradual fashion at six different locations, during which separate cells carried out attacks at around the same time at different areas of Paris.

In this case, the terrorist cells integrated shooting attacks, mass killings, suicide bombings and hostage-taking, while on the face of it, the terrorists all planned suicides rather than negotiating over hostages.

The very fact that the terrorists included in their series of dramatic plans “the classical suicide attack,” signals that this was an organizational terrorist attack and not an independent initiative of a lone wolf. (In this context, it is worth noting that all the suicide attacks carried out in different parts of the world in which terrorists carried bombs and detonated them to kill as many people as possible were dispatched by organizations and not lone wolves …

To read the full article, click here.

Dr. Boaz Ganor is Founder and Executive Director of INSCT Partner Institution the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and Ronald Lauder Chair for Counter-Terrorism and Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel.

Constructive Conflict Applications in Obama’s Foreign Policies

By Louis Kriesberg

(Re-published from Foreign Policy in Focus, Nov. 11, 2016) President Barack Obama’s foreign policies have had important successes that demonstrate creative applications of the increasingly recognized constructive conflict approach. However, Obama is widely attacked as if he were responsible for the many ongoing terribly destructive foreign conflicts. Criticisms of Obama’s administration have usually come from the political right in the United States and others committed to opposing Obama. They attack him for being naïve and insufficiently tough. Even analysts sympathetic to Obama’s foreign policies are sometimes critical of his failure to rely more on coercion and military force.

“Obama has had notable foreign policy successes by acting in accord with the constructive conflict approach.”
Indeed, Obama appears to minimize US resort to violence, while narrowing the targets and drawing upon multilateral support. In addition, he has used diplomacy to restructure conflicts and taken into account how adversaries view a conflict so as to maximize the effectiveness of non-coercive inducements. These qualities are central in the constructive conflict approach, which synthesizes conflict resolution and peace studies, fields contributing empirically grounded knowledge about ways to reduce destructive conflicts. Indeed, Obama has had notable foreign policy successes by acting in accord with the constructive conflict approach. Furthermore, some seeming failures might well have been averted, not by more militancy, but by more prompt and consistent use of constructive conflict strategies.

Importantly, in accord with the constructive conflict approach, Obama recognizes that conflicts are rarely zero-sum, such that what one side wins is at the expense of the opposing sides. In constructively transforming conflicts, it is useful to recognize that both sides can make some gains, even if not equal ones. Furthermore, Obama understands the usefulness of considering the interests and concerns of opponents and their supporters in a conflict.

These and other considerations are applicable in Obama’s fresh break from the harsh US policy toward Cuba. Certainly, with the end of the Cold War, Cuba posed no direct threats to US interests. The US policy of a trade embargo did not isolate Cuba from good relations with other countries and allowed Cuban officials to blame economic sanctions for their own failures. The new policy enhances American soft power, expanding the appeal of its values and practices. This can be expected to increase US influence in the world and to be more effective in changing Cuba.

China’s growing economy and military power increases its competition with the US, but not necessarily the likelihood of military conflict. Obama’s trade and investment policies enhance economic interdependence, a barrier to hostilities. The US administration recognizes the great complexity of interlocked conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region, which generates tensions; but it also recognizes the opportunities that complexity provides for diplomatic tension reduction. Furthermore, the many confidence-building security measures and joint military exercises and exchanges can help prevent misunderstandings and accidents. Even cooperative and shared actions with mutual benefits have been achieved, as in the case of reaching agreements on countering global warming …

Read the entire article here.

Louis Kriesberg is professor emeritus of sociology and Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies at Syracuse University. He is the founding director of the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts and past president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. He is the author of Realizing Peace: A Constructive Conflict Approach and other books.

US Cyber Command Moves Towards “Lethal Cyber Weapons”

By Christoper Folk (J.D./M.A. in Forensic Science Candidate, ’17)

US Cyber Command $460 million Cyber Project

In a follow-up to a recent cyber round-up, according to NextGov an upcoming $460 million project at US Cyber Command will outsource a number of offensive cyber capabilities to the private sector.  NextGov reports that these new weapons that will be developed will give the US military the ability to launch logic bombs which would be capable of causing critical infrastructure to essentially self-destruct.  The article quotes the head of Raytheon’s Government Cyber Solutions Division, Ret. Adm. Bill Leigher “When I use ‘cyberwar’, I’m thinking of it, in a sense of war …  [s]o yes, war is violence.”

In June, the DoD released the “Law of War Manual.” NextGov reports that the chapter entitled “Cyber Operations” provides three potential actions that the Pentagon deems to be legal in cyberspace:

  1. Triggering a nuclear plant meltdown
  2. Opening a dam upstream from a population center
  3. Disabling air traffic control services

“[T]hese new weapons that will be developed will give the US military the ability to launch logic bombs which would be capable of causing critical infrastructure to essentially self-destruct.”
Furthermore, NextGov indicates that the stated role of the Pentagon in the context of Cyberspace is: (1) Prevent or block foreign hackers from targeting domestic systems, (2) providing assistance to U.S. combat operations overseas, and (3) the defense of military networks.  Accomplishing those mission objectives is no different from standard military operations in a conventional warfare setting, according to Ret. Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap, the executive director of Duke University’s Center of Law, Ethics, and National Security.  

In the article, Dunlap goes on to say that this essentially comes down to a balancing test with reasonable collateral damage on one side and the military objectives on the other; so long as the collateral damage isn’t disproportionately greater than the probability of military success, lethal impacts to civilians are acceptable in a cyber strike situation.

Analyzing the Uncertainty of the Scope and Duration of Cyber Weapons

CYBERCOM spokeswoman Kara Soules indicated to NextGov that it is vitally important to understand the success rate of any cyber weapons.  The concept of cyber joint munitions effectiveness indicates that a cyber weapon has been carefully evaluated such that there is an understanding of the rate of effectiveness against a given target, according to the article.  NextGov reports that Tim Maurer, a cyber policy researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, stated that outside the U.S., governments are also hiring private organizations to develop cyber munitions which include zero-day exploits.  

One issue which then arises is the fact that malware is not designed to self-neutralize and consequently the impacts can be far-reaching and of an unknown duration, reports NextGov.  For instance, in the case of the Stuxnet virus, which was first revealed back in 2010,  Microsoft was still dealing with the after-effects of this virus and issued yet another patch, (latest patch released March 2015), according to NextGov.  Consequently, statements that NextGov attributes to Cedric Leighton, a retired Air Force Intelligence and National Security Agency Director, are particularly vexing when Leighton states that the use of cyber munitions is like the strategic bombing campaigns of World War II, where we really didn’t fully understand the consequences of using nuclear weapons.

My Opinion

As our ability to wage war has continued to expand and our use of technology becomes pervasive we seem to be removing some of the human elements from the battlefield.  With weapons such as smart bombs and drones, we have enabled military actors to engage targets from locations far removed from the actual theater of operations.  While this likely has resulted in saving countless U.S. lives, the psychological impacts are vastly different from those engaged in direct line-of-sight hostilities with enemy combatants …

To read the full article, click here.

INSCT Faculty Discuss Obama’s Announcement to Leave American Troops in Afghanistan Until 2017

(Re-published from The Daily Orange, Oct. 26, 2015) In a major reversal on his commitment to end the almost 14-year-old war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama announced some United States troops will stay in the country until the end of his term in January 2017.

In a statement made on Oct. 17, the president said about 9,800 American troops will engage in non-combat duties for much of 2016 and 5,500 of them will remain into 2017, characterizing the plan as a “modest but meaningful extension of our presence,” according to The New York Times.

“What the president can do successfully for the next 15 months or so of his administration, along with the others, is to maintain the sufficient level of assistance to the Afghan government, to the Afghan army, and the Afghan national police.”
The Daily Orange spoke to Christopher Ferrero, a post-doctoral fellow in the political science department in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; Robert Murrett, deputy director of Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT); and William Banks, director of INSCT and interim dean of the College of Law about Obama’s change of the Afghan strategy.

The Daily Orange: What was your reaction when you heard the announcement?

Christopher Ferrero: I was glad. I think it’s the common sense thing to do. The Afghan government wants us there. We are making progress against the Taliban; that does not mean that the threat has been eradicated … We do not sustain any strategic damage from maintaining 5,000 to 10,000 troops there. We could sustain strategic damage by withdrawing.

Robert Murrett: I was not surprised because of all of the discussions that have been taking place since the previous announcement that the president made this past spring … relative to the phase of withdrawal from Afghanistan because of the changing circumstances and the ongoing discussions we’ve had with the president of Afghanistan who, in relative terms, has been doing well and also because of the concerns relative to the recent activity by the Taliban. And moreover, [there’s] a broader concern which is voiced by the president and others in the administration about the need to have a longer presence not just in Afghanistan but also other parts of the region because of gains made by insurgents.

The D.O.: Are those numbers of troops specified by the president sufficient to accomplish the goal?

William Banks: It’s a hard question to answer because it’s impossible to know the dynamic of the conflict over the next year and a half. A couple of military assessments that I have seen in the light of his announcement suggested that number—5,500—would be the minimum that could protect the Afghan force, but it may not be sufficient if the Taliban strength continues to increase or if counterterrorism operations that they have to conduct there grow larger and more complex.

The D.O.: Obama has about 15 months remaining in the Oval Office. What do you think the president can achieve in Afghanistan in the meantime?

R.M.: I think what the president can do successfully for the next 15 months or so of his administration, along with the others, is to maintain the sufficient level of assistance to the Afghan government, to the Afghan army and the Afghan national police in ways to provide a sufficient level of security and the path toward a long-term stability in Afghanistan with a central government that has a control of the most of the country.

The D.O.: What do you think of the future of Afghanistan?

C.F.: Afghanistan does not have to become a model democracy for it to be a modest success. As other regions of the Middle East descend into chaos and function as terrorist sanctuaries, I do believe that there is a value in maintaining the interest in the presence in Afghanistan if only to deny sanctuary to hostile forces whether they emanate from the east, which would be Pakistan, the north, which could be Russia and the west, which could be Iran or even Salafi-Jihadists associated with ISIL and al-Qaeda.


US-Israel Relationship Still Solid, Despite Obama

By Miriam Elman

(Re-published from Legal Insurrection, Oct. 18, 2015) For years we’ve been reporting how President Obama has been trying to insert as much daylight as possible between the United States and Israel.

“Israel is wildly popular among the American public. Americans recognize the shared values and common interests that bind the two countries together.”
But the reality is that the American-Israeli “special relationship” will weather the storm of this “needlessly combative” administration.

Israel is wildly popular among the American public. Americans recognize the shared values and common interests that bind the two countries together.

A congressional majority understands the threats Israel faces from the region’s oppressive dictatorships which routinely call for Israel’s destruction, and from political and religious leaders who incite their people to murder Jews.

A bill to ‘fix’ the disastrous Iran deal and shore up Israel’s security is now being considered even by those who supported the agreement. And according to media reports, momentum is building for a new congressional resolution that will condition U.S. tax-payer aid to the Palestinian Authority on its recognition of Israel’s right to exist and its efforts to curb incitement to violence.

America’s defense establishment also recognizes that Israel is obligated to defend its citizens, and appreciates its efforts to minimize the harm to civilians in combat zones.

Indicative of today’s close U.S.-Israeli defense relationship, U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford chose Israel for his first official overseas visit in his new role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gen. Dunford took on the job on October 1. Last night he landed in Israel and was welcomed with an honor guard at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv …

To read the full article, click here.

INSCT Faculty Member Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Terrorism Epidemic in Israel: What Can & Should Be Done in Order to Mitigate the Situation?

By Boaz Ganor (Re-published from The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11, 2015)

Terrorism is the deliberate use of violence against civilians to achieve political goals. Israel is in the midst of a wave of terrorist attacks caused by nationalistic and mostly religiously-motivated terrorists, who are fueled by incitement blaming Israel for attempting to profane the Aksa Mosque and change the status quo on the Temple Mount.

“This is (still) far from an intifada (popular uprising), and is rather a wave of terrorism.”
These inciting messages have been vocalized for a long time by Palestinian terrorist organizations and in particular by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), but they received additional impetus when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas joined the chorus of instigators calling for Israel to stop “contaminating the Temple Mount” and King Abdullah II of Jordan blamed Israel for undermining the status quo. These declarations served as catalysts that spurred young, incensed and impassioned protesters to hit the streets and take the law into their own hands by killing and wounding Israelis.

Israeli and Palestinian spokespeople repeatedly warn the Israeli public that the current escalation signals the onset of the third intifada. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in fact desires it to be officially declared the third intifada.

However, the scope of the riots is confined, and they are concentrated in very specific neighborhoods and areas in east Jerusalem and the West Bank – as is the case with the sporadic protests in Israeli Arab population centers. This is (still) far from an intifada (popular uprising), and is rather a wave of terrorism. Such waves usually occur against similar backdrops, in proximity to each other, and very often one attack influences the next as each attack serves as a role model inspiring more terrorists to carry out similar attacks. This state of affairs creates a terrorism epidemic.

The current wave is a conglomeration of attacks carried out by incited “lone wolves” who use “cold” weapons – knives, axes, vehicles, etc. These attacks are also limited in terms of the damage they inflict and the number of casualties they cause (in comparison to attacks involving explosives, firearms and suicide bombers), but are more difficult to avert due to lack of preliminary intelligence information warning of an impending attack.

In the case of traditional “organized terrorism” (terrorist attacks carried out by terrorist organizations), where there are usually a number of activists involved in the initiation, planning, preparation and implementation of the attacks, security forces are often able to prevent the attack before it occurs. However, in the present situation, we are experiencing a deluge of “self-initiated” attacks, each beginning and ending in the raging mind of an incensed young man or woman, and usually there are no other accomplices involved.

The escalation of the past few weeks should not surprise anyone, and we can even say that it was to be expected.

The fact that the Israeli-Palestinian political process has been in a total deadlock for years – regardless of whether the Israeli government and\ or Palestinian Authority are to blame – has contributed to the rising tension in Jerusalem and the West Bank and to the creation of a highly explosive atmosphere. Thus, the diplomatic campaign against Israel recently launched by Mahmoud Abbas in the international arena, together with the riots at the Aksa Mosque that usually occur around Succot, did nothing to quell the tension in Jerusalem and its environs. From this perspective, the accusing finger should be pointed at both leaders – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas, who share the responsibility for creating conditions that enabled Hamas and other organizations to deteriorate the state of security in and outside of Jerusalem.

Despite his apparent support for the two-state solution (as he first announced in the “Bar-Ilan Speech” in 2009 and recently verified at the UN summit), Netanyahu with his present and previous governments has not offered any political initiative. Nor have they pushed for any feasible solution or even deflation of the conflict.

Abbas and the PA have invested most of their energy in hounding Israel from the rear at every possible international forum while raising real and bogus obstacles which prevent the renewal of political discourse between the sides.

This wave of “cold” attacks does not deliver the goods that the Palestinians expected and hoped for, as it is shedding more Palestinian blood than Israeli. Therefore, and due to the decision of Abbas to take measures to halt the terrorist attacks, it is safe to believe that this wave of terrorism will dissipate in a few days or weeks. The question remains whether it might be replaced with a more deadly wave of terrorism (suicide attacks or rockets), or a popular uprising in the West Bank, or alternatively whether the situation will be stabilized. The answer depends on the policies that will be adopted by the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships.

What can and should be done, then, in order to mitigate the situation and halt the deterioration? Just as the security deterioration began from a position of incitement, discouragement and a lack of political prospects, the solution is to end the incitement, and to get back on the track of productive discussion between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. As the Palestinian incitement was inducing conspiracy messages of alleged Israeli efforts to change the status quo in Temple Mount – Israel needs to publicly ratify the agreed details of the status quo on the Temple Mount …

To read the whole post, click here.

Boaz Ganor is Founder and Executive Director of INSCT partner the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), and the Dean and Ronald S. Lauder Chair in Counter-Terrorism of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel.

Is the Kunduz Hospital Strike a War Crime? Don’t Jump to Conclusions

By Laurie Blank (Re-published from The Conversation, Oct. 7, 2015)

A hospital bombed in the midst of intense fighting. Patients and staff killed and wounded, the facility destroyed. An unspeakable tragedy – and unfortunately one seen before in recent and current conflicts.

“The first question is whether the intended target of the airstrikes was a lawful target.”
The US airstrike that hit the Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on Saturday was a horrible tragedy. But was it a war crime, as the organization immediately asserted?

Bombing a hospital and killing doctors and wounded or sick persons may seem, on first glance, to be an obvious war crime. If it isn’t, one might wonder, what is? MSF’s outrage is understandable and genuine.

However, the reality of both the law and the facts is significantly more complicated. The Kunduz Hospital Strike highlights not only the challenges and tragic consequences of war in populated areas, but also the dynamic interplay between media coverage of military operations and the legal regulation of armed conflict.

The Law of War

The law of war – also called international humanitarian law or the law of armed conflict – governs the conduct of states, armed groups and individuals during armed conflict and seeks to minimize harm to civilians as much as possible.

War crimes are serious violations of the law of war. They include unlawful attacks on civilians and attacks on protected objects such as hospitals and religious or cultural property. Not all attacks that result in civilians dying or hospitals destroyed are automatically war crimes, however. The lawfulness of any attack will depend on both the intended target of the attack and the method of carrying it out.

So what do we know – or at least potentially know – right now about the incident in Kunduz?

The Kunduz Case

News reports state that the US airstrikes were in response to requests from Afghan forces under fire from Taliban insurgents. They were aimed at those Taliban fighters, with several strikes mistakenly hitting the hospital in the course of those attacks.

Other reports from Afghan sources asserted that the Taliban was using the hospital grounds to plot and launch attacks, including “firing rocket-propelled grenades from the property,” and the airstrikes were aimed at the perimeter of the hospital property to stop the attacks.

The hospital building suffered several direct hits. Twenty-two people were killed and many more injured.

Key Issues

The first question is whether the intended target of the airstrikes was a lawful target.

The law of war authorizes attacks against enemy soldiers, members of armed groups, civilians directly participating in hostilities and military objectives. Deliberate attacks on civilians or civilian objects (such as schools or residential buildings) are prohibited.

Hospitals enjoy special protection under the law of war and are immune from attack. Using a hospital for military activities, personnel or equipment is prohibited. However, when a hospital is used for military purposes, it loses its protection from attack and can become a lawful military objective.

As fighters in the enemy armed group, the Taliban insurgents were legitimate targets. If the Taliban were using the MSF hospital to launch attacks, then the Taliban violated the law of war by using medical facilities to shield military objectives, namely their personnel and their rocket-launchers. In addition, the hospital would have lost its protection from attack after due warning to cease the military activity, becoming a legitimate target for attack.

If, as reports suggest, the airstrikes were aimed at Taliban fighters near the hospital or Taliban fighters and equipment using hospital property and facilities to shield their activities, then the choice of these targets would not run afoul of the law.

But that is not the end of the story …

To read the whole article, click here.

Humanitarian law expert Laurie Blank is a Clinical Professor of Law at Emory University.