Supporting Post-9/11 Military Veterans in Higher Education

By Corri Zoli, Daniel Fay, Sidney Ellington, and David Segal

(Re-published from Military Times | July 27, 2017)  A question: “How many active and former service members are there in the United States today?” What’s your best guess? It may surprise that for an accurate answer, you won’t be able to turn to the Veterans Administration (VA), the US Department of Defense, nor the Department of Education or the Census Bureau — these agencies can’t reliably or consistently answer this question either.

“Why is there not a greater push to help student veterans seeking educational support?”

Likewise, despite the well-established role of the GI Bill in transitioning veterans to civilian life, we do not know how many veterans take advantage of this hard-earned benefit. Nor do we have a good handle on how well veterans do in school, which degree programs they choose, or whether they achieve success in post-service careers.

“Big data” — the tracking of our lives and habits — might be one of the buzzwords of the moment, but when it comes to keeping demographic track of service members and veterans, big data is still in its infancy.

Why should we care about such data?

Because without it, it is nearly impossible for Americans to ensure that veterans are getting a good return on taxpayers’ $14 billion-a-year investment in their education and whether they are successful transitioning out of service.

Furthermore, despite our own research and some important new efforts by the Student Veterans of America, lack of information can easily become a lack of concern for an important generation of Gulf War and Post-9/11 military veterans.

Making matters worse, colleges and universities are not asked whether they actually help veterans get the most out of the GI Bill on campus and beyond. For instance, the Obama administration’s 2012 executive order (establishing “Principles of Excellence” for schools) had no reporting metrics, and even though more 250 campuses registered for the “8 Keys to Veterans Success” (a 2013 Department of Education and VA initiative), this program also included no follow-up assessment or metrics. Some schools are exceptions, like Syracuse University, Columbia University, and perhaps new efforts at Wesleyan.

What we do know is that half of all veterans choose not to use their hard-earned GI Bill benefits, and that many veterans who do go to university face cultural and bureaucratic barriers, even discrimination. Yet our research also indicates that, given service members’ training and professionalization, many veterans are “pre-qualified” for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers, among other professions. However — again with some exceptions — few pipelines exist inside the academy to match veterans’ skillsets to degrees and jobs.

Distressingly, elite universities that should be leading the way for others are falling down on the job. Most Americans don’t realize how few veterans are enrolled at top colleges. GI Bill recipients comprise nearly 5 percent of the national collegiate student population, yet less than 1 percent of top 20 universities. Moreover, Inside HigherEd’s Wick Sloane notes that among the Ivy League, only Columbia University stands out, with 375 student veterans in 2016. Other Ivies enrolled just 62 service members total in 2016, with just one veteran at Princeton and three at Harvard.

Yet we know that universities can rally quickly to serve populations they deem “underserved.” Nearly 50 campuses, including the entire Ivy League, signed a letter opposing President Trump’s Jan. 27, 2017, immigration order, which academic leaders claim undermines support for vulnerable foreign, immigrant, and undocumented students. Although most universities advocate for “diversity,” this concept rarely includes student veterans, despite the fact that the military is the most demographically diverse institution in American life.

So why is there not a greater push to help student veterans seeking educational support? How long will veterans on and off campus remain demographically “invisible,” thanks to federal data research priorities, or underserved in higher education, thanks to lack of oversight and a narrow understanding of “diversity”?

To read the full article, click here.

Photo: Senior Airman Jasmine Helm-Lucas working with data in June 2017 at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. (Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam/Air Force)

“Added Flexibility”: Corri Zoli Addresses Expanded Military Footprint in Iraq & Syria with Al-Monitor

Pentagon wants to build new US facilities in Iraq, Syria

(Al-Monitor | July 13, 2017) The Donald Trump administration is pushing Congress for the authority to build new “temporary” facilities in Iraq and Syria as part of the US-led campaign against the Islamic State.

“It looks to me like what they’re trying to do is get a little more maneuverability to create some infrastructure for deepening the fight beyond Raqqa and Syria.”

In a policy statement released Tuesday night, the White House argues that US troops are hamstrung by legal restrictions on their ability to expand US military infrastructure “in both Iraq and Syria.” The administration wants lawmakers to extend existing authorities that only cover the “repair and renovation” of facilities to also encompass “temporary intermediate staging facilities, ammunition supply points, and assembly areas that have adequate force protection.”

“These facilities, supply points, and assembly areas will enable the pursuit of [IS] into the Euphrates River Valley and help improve the security of Iraq’s borders,” the statement reads. “Current authorities … severely limit the coalition’s maneuverability and its ability to respond quickly to changing operational conditions.”

Tuesday’s Statement of Administration Policy, which the White House uses to present its views on pending legislation, takes the House Armed Services Committee to task for not including the change in its annual defense authorization bill released last month, although it is not clear if lawmakers had received the request from the Pentagon in time. The Senate Armed Services Committee draft, released this week, does, however, include the requested change. The House began floor consideration of the bill Wednesday.

The added flexibility would enable the Defense Department to go on the offensive to root out IS safe havens in Iraq and Syria, according to Corri Zoli, the director of research at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism.

“It looks to me like what they’re trying to do is get a little more maneuverability to create some infrastructure for deepening the fight beyond Raqqa and Syria,” Zoli told Al-Monitor. “It’s kind of an attempt to create a lily-pad structure in the Levant to go after [IS] and their entrepreneurial efforts to start miniature caliphates in the region.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis, Zoli added, “is thinking a couple steps ahead. He wants to win the peace, stabilize the region and militarily pressure Iran. If he can do it with logistics all the better.”

But detractors say the effort could further draw the United States into Syria’s complex civil war, even as Congress continues to resist launching a full-fledged debate over updating the 2001 use of force authorization that remains the main legal justification for US involvement in the region …

To read the whole article, click here.

 

“Armed Conflict and Compliance in Muslim States” with Corri Zoli Now Online

Although many empirical studies have explored state conflict behavior by a range of factors, relatively few studies have examined the conflict behavior of Muslim-majority states. Even less research systematically examined the role of state compliance with international humanitarian law as a variable in such conflict behavior.

This work builds a new dataset based on an international humanitarian law definition of war, and provides an overview of modern armed conflict behavior and compliance with international law governing armed conflict for Muslim states from 1947-2014.

PARCC Conversations in Conflict Studies 2017.

“Proliferating Attacks”: Corri Zoli Discusses Paris & London Terrorism with CNYCentral

Counterterrorism expert talks violent streak abroad

(CNYCentral | June 20, 2017) A day after terror tore through the heart of London yet again, terrorism experts here at home say it’s a reminder that this fight is far from over.
Corri Zoli, a counterterrorism expert at Syracuse University says while the U.S. remains a target, it’s more frequent overseas.

“We’ve had attacks, of course, Orlando for instance, San Bernadino, others. But we haven’t had the kind of proliferating attacks that Europe and Britain have had,” Zoli explained.

Zoli says there are a few reasons why we don’t have them as frequently here in the U.S.

Police here have a better handle on terror threats compared to Europe and the U.K.

“Law enforcement has been on it’s back foot instead of really leaning in to this issue,” said Zoli, “I think it has to do with the present government and the last government reducing the size of law enforcement significantly, which is a huge mistake in the current climate.”

It’s also a matter of geography.

“We have an ocean on either side of protecting us so we have a kind of luck of geography that helps with our security that other European nations do not have,” explained Zoli …

To read the full story, click here.

 

It’s Time to Address the Real Motive in Westminster, Manchester, and Now London: Sectarian Hatred in Our Own Back Yards

By Corri Zoli

(Re-published from The Huffington Post | June 9, 2017) Within 12 hours of the London Bridge attacks on June 3, 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May finally said “enough is enough” and called for an explicit, unapologetic focus on Islamist extremism, which is being incubated in far too many British enclaves—in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and elsewhere.

Admitting what British-based security critics have long known—that “there is far too much tolerance of extremism in our country”—May even asserted “the superiority” of pluralistic British civic values. Better late than never, perhaps, but it is still worrisome that it took the UK government three attacks in under three months, with 30 dead, 10 of whom were under 20 years old, to remember that this (and most) nation’s civic values are better than the jihadists’.

Our prevailing logic—exemplified in the The New York Times—has been exactly backwards. After terrorist attacks, victims of terrorism need not exercise “maximum vigilance” lest we all fall prey to “divisive ethnic, racist and religious hatreds.” It’s extremists who promote and use violence and who are beset by hatred. Salman Abedi killed British teenagers because he views them through a prism of prejudicial hate—their “Western” ethnicity, British nationality, assumed religious beliefs, and secular lifestyles (young girls enjoying music in public). ISIS made this case in Dabiq, “Why We Hate You & Why We Kill You,” just as London Bridge attackers fanned out from their low-tech terrorist van, as per ISIS instructions, to murder pedestrians on the open street. Such bigotry is thus operationalized not only to spread hatred but to kill.

It is time to name the sectarian hatred—against Western culture, minority religions, ethnic groups, gender and sexual identities, and others—that motivates much global terrorism and defines thousands of Islamist organizations. Policymakers who tell us “we will not be divided” are like Alice in Wonderland’s white rabbit—too late. Each attack brings officials who have tumbled down the rabbit hole of confused logic and policy, imploring the public that the best response to murderous hate is unity—something victims never contested. Suspects are scooped up by law enforcement in a brief frenzy, while weaponized systems of sectarian hatred in neighborhoods and networks are left to fester.

Ordinary people are plotted against as “soft targets,” neighbors and family desperately report radicals to authorities that demur, and victims are lectured to by helpless politicians who defend failed policies as the new normal (it’s not). Meanwhile, pub and concert goers, tourists, and school teachers pay the price for authorities’ failed understanding, as they fight off strategic killers in public places with chairs and bottles, while forced to play battlefield medics, using shirts as tourniquets for mortally wounded compatriots.

Thankfully, this empty narrative and emptier policy response is eroding, largely due to public pressure …

To read the whole article, click here.

 

INSCT Experts Discuss Syrian Airstrike with The Daily Orange

Experts disagree over implications of recent U.S. airstrike in Syria

(The Daily Orange | April 18, 2017) Experts are at odds over the effectiveness and repercussions of a recent United States airstrike in the war-torn nation of Syria that was ordered by President Donald Trump.

“Elman said this lack of enforcement from the Obama administration was seen as a sign of weakness around the world.”

Trump ordered the strike in response to a chemical attack that occurred in northern Syria in early April.

The strike has affected the United States’ relations with regional powers in the Middle East such as Iran, and has escalated tensions with Russia. Some experts at Syracuse University have differing stances on how the strike will impact U.S. relations in the coming weeks, as the six-year conflict in Syria continues to drag on.

The use of chemical weapons is banned under international humanitarian law because once the weapons are released on the battlefield, there is the possibility civilians can indiscriminately be killed along with targeted combatants.

Some see the airstrike Trump ordered as a step in the right direction because it is retaliating against chemical attacks, said Corri Zoli, an assistant professor of political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Since World War I, international law has condemned the use of gas in warfare, Miriam Elman, an associate professor of political science from the Maxwell School, said in an email.

“In 1919, the Versailles Treaty forbade the use of poison gas; in 1925 the League of Nations approved the Geneva Protocol which bans the use of chemical and biological weapons,” Elman said.

This is the U.S.’s first direct military strike against the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime. Experts agree that the lack of direct military action until now might be due to decisions made by former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Zoli said the previous administration had a foreign policy aim of retreating from the Middle East. Even though atrocities were also being committed during that time, Obama had preferred to not intervene against a sovereign state in the region, she said.

Even though Obama had previously said that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would lead to serious consequences for the regime, no meaningful actions were taken against the regime, Elman said.

Elman said this lack of enforcement from the Obama administration was seen as a sign of weakness around the world. It also contributed to the erosion of international laws and norms because people stopped believing that members of the international community would put restraints on chemical warfare, Zoli added.

Zoli said rather than more direct military attacks in the future, she expects to see more work done behind the scenes to get local governments in the nation to help put the “Syrian pieces back together.” She added that the possibility of resettlement for Syrian civilians driven from their homes might more of a priority in the future …

To read the whole article, click here.

 

Resetting the International Norm: Corri Zoli Analyzes Syrian Missile Strikes With KCBS

Syrian Opposition Leader Hopes US Strike ‘Beginning Of The End’ Of Civil War

(KCBS (San Francisco) | April 7, 2017) A representative for the Syrian opposition says he hopes the cruise missile attack ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump against Syria helps bring about the end of a brutal six-year civil war.

“At its best, this strike resets the international norm against use of Chemical Weapons which the Obama Administration let lapse.”

“We see it as the beginning of the end of the Syrian war,” Najib Ghadbian told CBS San Francisco Friday. Ghadbian is the Syrian National Coalition’s U.S. representative and grew up in Syria before fleeing at the age of 19.

Ghadbian describes his job as a “troublemaker for the Syrian regime.”

The Syrian National Coalition was recognized by the U.S. and others in 2013. Ghadbian is also part of the United Nations High Negotiations Committee.
“Of course we welcome that,” Ghadbian said of the strikes carried out by the U.S. military Thursday (which was early Friday in Syria).

“It’s really the first response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said.
“Our hope is that it will not stop there … we hope it will progress into the protection of civilians … and lead to political transition without Assad,” Ghadbian said …

… Academics who have been watching the human rights abuses unfold in Syria for decades were fascinated by what appeared to be a lightning-fast foreign policy decision by the Trump administration …

… Dr. Corri Zoli with the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University told CBS San Francisco that most members of Congress who have been making public statements about the strike have supported the President, even Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-San Francisco)  and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who have been staunch critics of the Trump agenda. She said most U.S. allies have also come out in support of the U.S. missile attacks.

“At its best, this strike resets the international norm against use of Chemical Weapons which the Obama Administration let lapse, gives the beleaguered citizens of the Middle East hope that strong powers will not tolerate these outrageous human rights brutalities against poor civilians … At its worst, this strike could cause larger fights with Russia and Iran …” Zoli said …

To read the whole article, click here.