SATSA & The Professionalization of War on Campus

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Student Association on Terrorism and Security Analysis (SATSA)

by Vani Kannan -

On February 27-28, 2015, the Syracuse University (SU) Student Association on Terrorism and Security Analysis (SATSA) held its yearly conference on campus,  entitled “The New Global Threat: Emerging Issues in National Security.” SATSA publishes The Journal of Terrorism and Security Analysis, and is oriented towards the policy and legal implications of military action. Students contribute to the journal to increase their marketability for jobs such as National Security Attorney. Broadly, this conference is geared towards training students so that they have the tools to advise military personnel and military contractors on what authority they have, and how to use the law to justify military operations.

A coalition of students and local activists affiliated with the Syracuse Peace Council attended the conference to intervene in the keynote address by Bill Smullen, the Director of National Security Studies at SU. For a group of activists committed to resisting militarism, this conference offered an opportunity to improve our understanding of how students at a major research university are being encouraged to pursue jobs that justify imperialism. The following rhetorical moves witnessed at the conference reveal the violence of the “profession” of war.

1. Linking the International Criminal Court to Military “Client” Well-being. In “Legal and Policy Challenges in a Theater of Operations,” Col. Richard Whitaker and RADM Jim McPherson discussed “challenges for military commanders” around laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law. These speakers described themselves as legal advisors to “clients” (e.g., military contractors). Their role is to give “legal ‘reads’” of situations where operations (e.g., killing, torture) might be carried out; carry out covert operations and “detainee ops,” and prioritize their “client’s career, operational opportunity, and Congressional funding.”

While it is not surprising that a lawyer prioritizes the needs of their clients, this priority is disturbing when a military contractor’s “client interest” invariably means escalated violence. For example, referencing a talk from the conference (discussed shortly in this article) about the potential for a US-backed “regime change” in Iran, Whitaker noted that “operational lawyers would immediately say, “how can I weaponize or operationalize that?” Similarly, the speakers’ legal concern with the International Criminal Court (ICC) was grounded entirely in the interests of military personnel and contractors. When asked how much they think about the ICC in their work lives, McPherson said, “A lot! Particularly when figuring out where our bosses can travel. For example, Kissinger has arrest warrants out in a bunch of different countries.”

Further, United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was framed by Whitaker as “a global combatant commander with personnel in 82 countries doing ‘all sorts of neat things’ and making ‘innovative legal arguments for four-star commanders.’” “Innovative,” here, means that SOCOM is finding new and improved ways to justify force. SOCOM’s presence in 82 countries—undeniable evidence of militarized imperial expansion—is framed as a good thing, a site that students should look to as a site of innovation.

2. Pushing for military/police collaboration. At the Friday night keynote, Rear Admiral (RADM) James McPherson, 39th Judge Advocate General of the US Navy, invoked a history of “domestic terrorism” in the US (tracing it to the US post-Reconstruction, the 1920s, the 1960s, Timothy McVeigh, and 9/11) to argue for more collaboration between military and police: “The FBI has open terrorism investigations in all 50 states. We need a hybrid between law enforcement and military. How would we do this as policy makers?”

It is important to consider the context in which this call is being made. In response to the brutal crackdown on protests in Ferguson following the murder of Mike Brown, the Black Lives Matter movement has called for the demilitarization of the police. Additionally, there have been several recent exposes on FBI entrapment schemes, where undercover agents profile Muslim communities and produce many “domestic terrorism” cases. By arguing in favor of military/police collaboration, McPherson is supporting an infrastructure that profiles, detains, incarcerates, and murders people of color in the US and around the world.

3. Framing deregulation as moral. Whitaker and McPherson explained that when military operations are contracted out, the US government is not directly held accountable for human rights violations. For example, the speakers explained that legally, Blackwater’s Nisour Square killings in Iraq represent an “individual violation of the Geneva Convention” because Blackwater had been contracted to “augment” US operations.” Thus, the US government has no accountability for the actions of Blackwater.

What, then, is holding private military and security contractors accountable for human rights violations? Apparently, it is the market. In a talk on Somali piracy, a graduate of the SU College of Law argued that, although private security firms have been accused of “excessive force,” these firms should not be regulated: “Critics say there needs to be regulation. I argue that self-regulation by market incentives to keep clients has been successful. There is evidence that there is higher participation in regulatory agencies and compliance with international law when companies are concerned about keeping clients.”

In other words, he suggested, we should let the market decide whether these companies are the best option, rather than take a stand against “excessive force.” The speaker legitimized “excessive force” through a violent and dehumanizing portrayal of the people on the receiving end of the force: “Somali pirates are often treated with a ‘catch and release’ philosophy that’s usually reserved for trout.” (This elicited a loud laugh from the room.)

While capitalism is often tied to moral good in political rhetoric, it was deeply troubling to see the market-as-inherent-good argument applied to privatized war, particularly in an educational setting.

4. Equating military intervention with grassroots movements. Dr. Ivan Sascha Sheehan, PhD, of the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore, discussed the possibility of US intervention supporting “regime change” in Iran by invoking three grassroots movements. First, he argued that South Africa required “global assistance” to end apartheid. In another example, Sheehan suggested that “regime change” can happen “with covert/material help from the diaspora,” citing Che Guevara’s movement between various Latin American countries. Finally, he cited global use of Twitter/social media in the Arab Spring as “crucial” to the Egyptian Revolution

The US supporting and backing a coup/“regime change” in Iran is fundamentally different than a worldwide bottom up movement to topple apartheid, Che Guevara’s instrumental role in the Cuban Revolution, or global social media coverage/circulation of a grassroots revolutionary movement. Framing all these things as “external intervention” flattens the differences between imperial intervention and the tactics of people’s movements.

This is only a small slice of what was said at the conference. These speakers are high-ranking officials; they are people in power who interpret the law and make life-or-death decisions on the ground. They are offering this advice to students—who will go on to work the jobs that justify imperial military aggression in banal, everyday acts. Student and community activists must continue to stand against this blatant show of empire-building on campus.

Source: http://www.peacecouncil.net

Comments

From the September 2015 PNL #845

by Ben Kuebrich
Militarism, Entrepreneurialism and Austerity at SU
Ben Kuebrich
Ben is a teacher and organizer. Many members of THE General Body at SU 
contributed ideas to this piece.
In April 2008, a special issue of the Peace Newsletter analyzed the role of Syracuse University in maintaining and perpetuating US militarism and imperialism. This included discussions of the maliciously named INSCT (Institute of National Security and Counterterrorism), which began in the School of Law in 2003, and the Student Association on Terrorism and Security Analysis (SATSA). This issue continues with a similar analysis in the context of austerity, as militarism on campus has spread while education and necessary services and scholarship programs are cut.
While SU refines its mission and vision statements to reflect a sharp turn toward corporate and entrepreneurial schooling, it seeks to increase its numerous military entanglements. One of Chancellor Syverud’s recent “Fast Forward” working groups was named the “Leadership in Veterans and Military Affairs.” This group was charged with working to “ensure every aspect of SU is veteran- and military-friendly.”
The working group charge also describes how SU can “leverage our reputation... to attract funding for critical research programs that will positively impact the personal and professional lives of veterans and the military” and make SU “*the* greatest University for veterans during this time of significant opportunity.” 
As Professor Don Mitchell described in the April 2008 PNL, this parallel language between entrepreneurship and the military is hardly accidental. Mitchell describes “entrepreneurialism” as a “code word for a certain kind of neoliberal capitalism,” one that necessitates what David Harvey describes as “accumulation by dispossession.”
Accumulation by dispossession doubly links militarism and entrepreneurialism. On the one hand, the global exploitation of resources and labor requires at least the threat of violence and thus necessitates military might. On the other hand, the commonsense language of the market makes critique of these programs difficult. As Mitchell describes: “the growing cult of entrepreneurship is an increasingly important means by which US hegemony is projected, internally and around the world... the language of entrepreneurialism becomes a neutralizing language” and the “means by which imperial militaries are welcomed back into the university.” 
Look no further than the Whitman School of Management’s Defense Comptroller MBA Program, “a unique cooperative endeavor between Syracuse University and the Department of Defense,” for another concrete example of the insidious mix between the academy, the military, and neoliberal capitalism. With this mix so evident at US universities in the present day, it should come as no surprise that Dwight D. Eisenhower originally considered the phrase “academic-military-industrial complex” when he coined the “military-industrial complex” in 1961 (see The Imperial University). We hope this issue will renew and intensify the work of students, faculty, staff, and community in arguing for a university that supports peace through justice instead of submission through violence.
The articles in this issue explore militarism on campus from two angles: the normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine via various campus groups, and the rhetoric of empire as it is taught at a student-sponsored conference. Also in this issue is the perspective of a member of THE General Body at SU. The rest of this introduction describes the ongoing austerity measures at Syracuse University, through which we can understand the consequences of privileging military contracts over education. 
Health Care Cuts: In a brash move last spring, the university announced that it would bounce all graduate assistants and teaching assistants from the employee healthcare plan, resulting in healthcare cost increases in the thousands of dollars per year for many graduate student employees.
Scholarship Cuts: In 2014 Syracuse University broke its contract with the POSSE Foundation, a program that recruited student leaders from three US cities.
Service Cuts: In 2014 the administration unilaterally closed the Advocacy Center, a center for survivors of sexual assault that was committed to ending rape culture on campus.
Staff Cuts: In 2015, the university offered its employees the “voluntary separation incentive program” as a first step toward cutting down on staff. Now instructors are reporting that they have been fired, with multi-year teaching contracts no longer being honored.
Austerity Farce: While the university cuts vital student services, staff, instructors, scholarships, and healthcare in order to save money, it is evident that the university is both financially thriving and top-heavy with administration salaries.
A recent Syracuse Post-Standard article revealed that many upper-level administrators and coaches are making between $500,000 and $2 million per year. Meanwhile, a 2014 Bain Consulting report noted that 200 managers at SU oversee only one person. 
Further, while Chancellor Syverud describes a recent “budgetary shortfall” as justification for austerity measures, he fails to mention that the university’s endowment doubled between 2009 and 2014, from $500 million to over one billion dollars. 
For the peace and social justice community in Syracuse, the university is and will remain a crucial site of struggle. 

Ben is a teacher and organizer. Many members of THE General Body at SU contributed ideas to this piece.

In April 2008, a special issue of the Peace Newsletter analyzed the role of Syracuse University in maintaining and perpetuating US militarism and imperialism. This included discussions of the maliciously named INSCT (Institute of National Security and Counterterrorism), which began in the School of Law in 2003, and the Student Association on Terrorism and Security Analysis (SATSA). This issue continues with a similar analysis in the context of austerity, as militarism on campus has spread while education and necessary services and scholarship programs are cut.

While SU refines its mission and vision statements to reflect a sharp turn toward corporate and entrepreneurial schooling, it seeks to increase its numerous military entanglements. One of Chancellor Syverud’s recent “Fast Forward” working groups was named the “Leadership in Veterans and Military Affairs.” This group was charged with working to “ensure every aspect of SU is veteran- and military-friendly.”

The working group charge also describes how SU can “leverage our reputation... to attract funding for critical research programs that will positively impact the personal and professional lives of veterans and the military” and make SU “*the* greatest University for veterans during this time of significant opportunity.” 

As Professor Don Mitchell described in the April 2008 PNL, this parallel language between entrepreneurship and the military is hardly accidental. Mitchell describes “entrepreneurialism” as a “code word for a certain kind of neoliberal capitalism,” one that necessitates what David Harvey describes as “accumulation by dispossession.”

Accumulation by dispossession doubly links militarism and entrepreneurialism. On the one hand, the global exploitation of resources and labor requires at least the threat of violence and thus necessitates military might. On the other hand, the commonsense language of the market makes critique of these programs difficult. As Mitchell describes: “the growing cult of entrepreneurship is an increasingly important means by which US hegemony is projected, internally and around the world... the language of entrepreneurialism becomes a neutralizing language” and the “means by which imperial militaries are welcomed back into the university.” 

Look no further than the Whitman School of Management’s Defense Comptroller MBA Program, “a unique cooperative endeavor between Syracuse University and the Department of Defense,” for another concrete example of the insidious mix between the academy, the military, and neoliberal capitalism. With this mix so evident at US universities in the present day, it should come as no surprise that Dwight D. Eisenhower originally considered the phrase “academic-military-industrial complex” when he coined the “military-industrial complex” in 1961 (see The Imperial University). We hope this issue will renew and intensify the work of students, faculty, staff, and community in arguing for a university that supports peace through justice instead of submission through violence.

The articles in this issue explore militarism on campus from two angles: the normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine via various campus groups, and the rhetoric of empire as it is taught at a student-sponsored conference. Also in this issue is the perspective of a member of THE General Body at SU. The rest of this introduction describes the ongoing austerity measures at Syracuse University, through which we can understand the consequences of privileging military contracts over education. 

Health Care Cuts: In a brash move last spring, the university announced that it would bounce all graduate assistants and teaching assistants from the employee healthcare plan, resulting in healthcare cost increases in the thousands of dollars per year for many graduate student employees.

Scholarship Cuts: In 2014 Syracuse University broke its contract with the POSSE Foundation, a program that recruited student leaders from three US cities.

Service Cuts: In 2014 the administration unilaterally closed the Advocacy Center, a center for survivors of sexual assault that was committed to ending rape culture on campus.

Staff Cuts: In 2015, the university offered its employees the “voluntary separation incentive program” as a first step toward cutting down on staff. Now instructors are reporting that they have been fired, with multi-year teaching contracts no longer being honored.

Austerity Farce: While the university cuts vital student services, staff, instructors, scholarships, and healthcare in order to save money, it is evident that the university is both financially thriving and top-heavy with administration salaries.

A recent Syracuse Post-Standard article revealed that many upper-level administrators and coaches are making between $500,000 and $2 million per year. Meanwhile, a 2014 Bain Consulting report noted that 200 managers at SU oversee only one person. 

Further, while Chancellor Syverud describes a recent “budgetary shortfall” as justification for austerity measures, he fails to mention that the university’s endowment doubled between 2009 and 2014, from $500 million to over one billion dollars. 

For the peace and social justice community in Syracuse, the university is and will remain a crucial site of struggle.

Source: http://www.peacecouncil.net

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