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In Memoriam: Montgomery Meigs, Retired General and Former Bantle Chair

Gen. Montgomery Meigs
Gen. Montgomery Meigs (Ret.) at the 2013 Defense Strategies “Staff Ride” to Gettysburg.

Montgomery C. Meigs, a retired four-star general who commanded U.S. Army forces in Europe and served as the Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business and Government Policy at the Maxwell School, died on July 6, 2021, in Austin, Texas. He was 76.

Meigs joined the Maxwell faculty in 2004, one year after it partnered with the College of Law to form the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT)–now known as the Institute for Security Policy and Law. He served as a senior faculty advisor for INSCT, where he taught History of American Strategic Practice, a cornerstone of its certificate programs.

In a 2006 interview, Meigs said the institute creates a “focus for students interested in this important new branch of national security studies, and for faculty seeking sponsorship for related research projects.” He added, “It’s also crucial as a place for alumni and for foundations who recognize the importance of these issues and who are interested in contributing direct support to this type of study.”

William Banks, professor emeritus of public administration and international affairs at the Maxwell School and College of Law Board of Advisors Distinguished Professor, was the founding director of the INSCT. He says Meigs was of “tremendous importance” in guiding the Maxwell School’s role in the partnership.

“Upon his arrival in Syracuse, Monty and I quickly recognized our shared interests, became friends, and worked hard to stitch together the interdisciplinary partnership in national security studies between Maxwell and Law,” says Banks. “Together, Monty and I orchestrated INSCT-Bantle symposia on cutting edge counterterrorism topics, developed a lasting partnership with the Interdisciplinary Institute in Herzliya, Israel and planned and delivered advanced coursework for graduate and law students interested in obtaining certificates of advanced study in our field.”

Adds Banks, “Monty was energetic but wise and prudent in his judgments and recommendations. He was of tremendous value to me as a mentor, colleague and friend.”

Not long after his arrival at the University, Meigs was named director of the Department of Defense’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force, a role that had him reporting to the deputy secretary of defense. In 2005 he took a one-year leave from Maxwell to return to the Pentagon to develop ways to detect and destroy improvised explosive devices.

A West Point graduate with a doctorate in history from the University of Wisconsin, Meigs served in the U.S. Army for more than 35 years. He commanded armored units in Vietnam and during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. At the time of his retirement in 2003, he was Commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, charged with the oversight of 60,000 soldiers and commanding NATO’s peacekeeping force in Bosnia. His awards included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

In addition to Syracuse University, Meigs taught at the University of Texas and Georgetown University. He also worked as a military analyst with NBC and MSNBC. He published various articles on military policy and leadership, as well as a book, “Slide Rules and Submarines” (National Defense University Press, 1990). From 2010 to 2013, he was president and chief executive of Business Executives for National Security, a nonprofit organization that tries to bring awareness of strategic world problems to senior business leaders.

Meigs is survived by his wife of 53 years, Mary Ann Mellenbruch Meigs; sons, William Meigs and Matthew Meigs; and three grandchildren.

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Vaccines for Servicemembers? Professor Mark Nevitt Speaks to VOA News

(VOA News | July 17, 2021) With the rate of Americans fully vaccinated for COVID-19 stalling at close to 50%, a growing number of U.S. public schools, colleges and private companies have turned to a controversial legal tool to get more people immunized: vaccine mandates.

Nearly 600 colleges and universities will require students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, while some public school districts are mandating teachers and administrators to provide proof of vaccinations. Many private businesses have also announced vaccination requirements for employees.

With experts saying 70% or more of Americans need to be vaccinated or immune to COVID in order for the country to achieve “herd immunity,” mandatory vaccination has emerged as a weapon in the fight against the deadly coronavirus variants …

… President Joe Biden pledged that he would not make vaccinations mandatory in the military. However, that could change depending on circumstances, and he could waive an “informed consent requirement” for members of the military, according to Mark Nevitt of the Syracuse University College of Law …

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Trump’s Secret Subpoenas: Professor William C. Banks Discusses with Bloomberg Law

Trump DOJ Secret Subpoenas Crossed Line

(Bloomberg Law | July 15, 2021) National security law expert William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, discusses the controversy over revelations the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump had secretly subpoenaed records from House Democrats, former White House counsel Don McGahn and members of the media.

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Professor Mark Nevitt Publishes “Is Climate Change a Threat to International Peace and Security?”

Is Climate Change a Threat to International Peace and Security?Michigan Journal of International Law, 42 (2021).

The climate-security century is here, writes Professor Mark Nevitt. Both the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA) recently sounded the alarm on climate change’s “super-wicked” and destabilizing security impacts.

Scientists and security professionals alike reaffirm what we are witnessing with our own eyes: The earth is warming at a rapid rate; climate change affects international peace and security in complex ways; and the window for international climate action is slamming shut.

 

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Bonhomme Richard Fire Inquiry: Professor Mark Nevitt Discusses with Military.com

One Year After the Bonhomme Richard Fire, Questions Remain Unanswered

(Military Times | July 12, 2021) … There could be several reasons for the silence and delay, according to Mark Nevitt, a former aviator and judge advocate attorney in the Navy, who spoke with Military.com about the investigation. Nevitt is now a professor at the Syracuse University College of Law.

Aside from the usual privacy and national security redactions, Nevitt said that pending criminal charges can delay an investigation.

“If you have a recommendation that is related to training, to readiness, to how watch is done, you don’t have the same sort of criminal law due process concerns associated if [you] charge a Navy sailor with a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” he explained.

Nevitt also noted that the Navy may have already taken some administrative action, “which could be non-judicial punishment,” away from the public eye.

“Firing people … removing people from the watchstand, or having people administratively separated for some kind of underlying administrative misconduct” are all things that could have already occurred, he said.

“It seems likely to me that, if there is a formal court-martial, that would take place following the completion of the investigation and the endorsements by the [Pacific Fleet] commander,” Nevitt said.

Jeff Houston, a spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS, said that its investigation into the fire remains ongoing. Houston added that no charges have been filed at this time.

“Out of respect for the investigative process, NCIS does not comment on or confirm details relating to ongoing investigations,” he said in a statement.

More broadly, Nevitt argues that the wait is understandable given the scope of the incident …

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Professor William C. Banks Speaks to Bloomberg Law About Secret DOJ Subpoenas

Trump DOJ Secret Subpoenas Crossed Line

(Bloomberg Law | June 15, 2021) National security law expert William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, discusses the controversy over revelations the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump had secretly subpoenaed records from House Democrats, former White House counsel Don McGahn and members of the media.

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Mike Flynn and Military Law: Professor Mark Nevitt Speaks to The Washington Post

Why the Pentagon isn’t heeding calls to prosecute Michael Flynn under military law

(The Washington Post | June 5, 2021) When Michael Flynn, a retired three-star general, appeared to back calls for a coup last week, critics accused him of defying military deference to civilian authority, a tenet that is central to the ethos of the armed forces.

Speaking at a QAnon-themed conference in Texas, Flynn was asked why a coup similar to one that occurred in Myanmar could not happen in the United States. Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, has remained a vocal supporter of the former president and the false assertion he won a second term in office.

“I mean, it should happen here,” Flynn responded to the questioner, a man who identified himself as a Marine. “No reason.”

While Flynn subsequently disavowed any support for a coup on social media, saying his words had been misrepresented by the media, the comments intensified calls from some lawmakers and other critics for the military to prosecute the former officer, who receives a military pension, for sedition …

… According to Mark Nevitt, a former military lawyer who teaches law at Syracuse University, most of the instances in which the military had used the UCMJ to hold retirees accountable have had a “clear military nexus,” for example when an incident occurs on a military base or involves a military victim …

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The Climate Challenge: Professor Mark Nevitt Interviewed by Yale Climate Connections

Revitalized U.S. urgency on climate change and national security

(Yale Climate Connections | May 7, 2021) “An urgent national security threat.” That’s the phrase U.S. Director of National intelligence Avril Haines used in describing climate change at the White House Climate Summit on Earth Day a few weeks ago.

It’s the kind of language that national security interests have applied previously, but not since the Trump administration took office on January 20, 2017, and soon put the kibosh on such talk. Conversations about climate change and national security continued under the Trump presidency, but not so much in the open, and certainly not with the imprimatur of the Oval Office …

… While climate change and global security for some time have been a topic of policy deliberations, the Global Trends 2040 report brings climate change to the forefront more than any of its predecessors had done.

“It’s a pretty clear-eyed objective report,” [Professor Mark] Nevitt said. “There’s five different themes on the first few pages. And climate change is right there with the global challenges, right there with technology, disruption, disease, financial crisis.”

Sikorsky said the team putting together the report knew climate change would need to be emphasized more than in earlier years. The report, she said, is informed by data and models, and also through conversations with experts and qualitative research.

“The authors travel around the globe, and meet with people and talk to them about their experiences,” Sikorsky said. “And it’s impossible to have those conversations in a lot of the world without climate change being discussed as something that’s shaping people’s everyday lives already.”

Nevitt noted that he is pleased the report digs into areas like attribution science which is used to understand the role climate change plays in shaping weather events, and also explores the importance of feedback loops. “That’s sort of the cutting edge of climate science that’s being integrated into an intelligence document,” He said. “That shows me that there’s a real active engagement, it’s not passive.”

Nevitt’s only qualm? He is concerned the report may be overly optimistic about how much the international community can agree on a critical point: quickly reducing, and perhaps also eliminating, greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent exceeding 1.5°C of warming even earlier than the report expects …

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“A Specialized Society?” Professor Mark Nevitt Discusses Monitoring Military for Domestic Extremists in The Washington Post

The Pentagon wants to take a harder line on domestic extremism. How far can it go?

(The Washington Post | May 5, 2021) Pentagon officials are considering new restrictions on service members’ interactions with far-right groups, part of the military’s reckoning with extremism, but the measures could trigger legal challenges from critics who say they would violate First Amendment rights.

Under a review launched by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Defense Department officials are reexamining rules governing troops’ affiliations with anti-government and white supremacist movements, ties that currently are permissible in limited circumstances.

Austin, who has pledged zero tolerance for extremism, ordered the review after the events of Jan. 6, when rioters including a few dozen veterans — and a handful of current service members — stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the presidential election results …

Mark Nevitt, a former Navy lawyer who teaches at the Syracuse University College of Law, pointed to other cases in which courts have characterized the military as a “specialized society separate from society.”

“Federal courts will likely provide a healthy dose of deference to the military if challenged, particularly if the military can link the new definition to the underlying military mission and good order and discipline,” he said …

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Emergency Powers and Policing: Professor William C. Banks Talks to Rewire

How Emergency Powers Pave the Way for Police Brutality at Protests

(Rewire | April 21, 2021) When curfew hit at 8 p.m. on April 13 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, it felt like someone had flipped a switch.

Reporters on the ground say the protest outside the police department had been peaceful, full of speeches and songs.

But the environment quickly changed as law enforcement began to use more aggressive tactics, firing less-lethal rounds, tear gas and flash grenades at protesters in an attempt to disperse the protest …

… In 1878, The Posse Comitatus Act was passed to prevent the federal military from engaging in law enforcement activity. There was a desire for the military and law enforcement to be separate entities.

“They’re supposed to keep the peace, prevent disturbances, quell disorder, but not enforce the law. That’s for the cops,” said William Banks, professor emeritus at the Syracuse University College of Law.

But states aren’t burdened by that restriction.

“If the governor wishes, depending on how the state law is written, National Guard forces could enforce the curfew or engage in a search or make an arrest of an individual who’s violating the law,” Banks said.

In the past 20 years, the lines have further blurred. That’s because military-grade force doesn’t just come from the military.

Since 1997, federal programs have transferred surplus military equipment to local police departments. Police departments often respond to protests in full tactical military gear, with gas masks, shields and armored vehicles.

For instance, as NPR reported, St. Paul suburb Cottage Grove’s police department alone acquired $1 million in military gear during the Trump administration. The department received 39 bayonets in December 2019.

“That kind of a force, particularly if it’s made distant from the people by virtue of the equipment that they use and the paraphernalia that they wear, and the rules of engagement that follow, they’re no longer being responsive to the people,” Banks said …

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