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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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ABA Podcast: 1L Meghan Steenburgh Discusses National Security Concerns with Professor William C. Banks

Critical Issues in National Security Law

(ABA Law Student Podcast | April 20, 2021) In the daily onslaught of news from all corners of the globe, it is sometimes difficult to decipher the implications of current events within our own country.

From the pandemic, to cybersecurity, to international relationships, linking current events and national security interests to law helps us understand our country’s responses to the things we see in the media. ABA Law Student Podcast host 1L Meg Steenburgh talks with Professor William Banks of Syracuse University about the most critical national security issues facing our nation both at home and abroad, including China tensions, nuclear weapons concerns worldwide, the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, and more.

William C. Banks is a Syracuse University College of Law Board of Advisors Distinguished Professor and Emeritus Professor at the College of Law and the Maxwell School as Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs.

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Professor Robert Murrett Discusses Afghanistan Withdrawal with WAER

SU Professor Weighs In on President Biden’s Plan to Remove Troops from Afghanistan

(WAER | April 16, 2021) A Syracuse University International Affairs professor says there is reason for concern after the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan this fall.

President Joe Biden announced yesterday the United States will fully remove troops from Afghanistan starting September 11th, exactly 20 years after the conflict began. Maxwell School Professor Robert Murrett also served in the navy for over 30 years. He says the US’ biggest focus now will be monitoring the Taliban’s activity in the country.

“The continued territorial gains which are likely by the Taliban forces, the continued viability of the Afghanistan government and challenges with the Taliban make it to them: whether it’s some sort of shared governing model or one that’s not shared at all in the case of significant territorial gains by the Taliban.” said Murrett …

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Military Times Speaks to Professor Robert Murrett About China’s Navy

China’s navy has more ships than the US. Does that matter?

(Military Times | April 9, 2021) Exactly if and when the increasing antagonism between United States and China will boil over into full-on conflict remains anybody’s guess.

But for now, one thing is as clear as the aqua-blue waters that lap up on the shores of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea: Beijing’s naval fleet is larger than that of the U.S. Navy.

Citing the Office of Naval Intelligence, a Congressional Research Service report from March notes that the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, was slated to have 360 battle force ships by the end of 2020, dwarfing the U.S. fleet of 297 ships.

Such numbers are hard to pinpoint because the PLAN doesn’t release public reports on its future shipbuilding efforts like the U.S. Navy does …

… When it comes to fleet size, Robert Murrett notes that China’s fleet largely remains in its backyard, while a good number of the U.S. force is underway around the world, making a number-to-number assessment incomplete.

There’s also a tendency to view any maritime conflict between the United States and China as a two-party affair, which sidelines the significant role America’s allies in the region would likely play, Murrett said.

Japan, Australia and South Korea all sport robust navies in the region, and the United States is increasingly working to bring India into the fold as that country deals with its own Beijing-related rivalries.

“We just take for granted the incredible network of allies we have around the world,” Murrett said. “The view from Beijing in terms of maritime partners is pretty bleak. They don’t have any that are worth mentioning” …

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Professor Robert Murrett Talks to Fox News About Russia’s Arctic Build-Up

Putin so upset over Biden’s killer comments he moved 28,000 Russian troops to Ukraine border, report

(Fox News | April 8, 2021) Vladimir Putin was reportedly so angered when President Joe Biden called him a “killer” in his first sit-down interview after taking office, the Russian president left his quarantine, got a COVID vaccination and moved 28,000 Russian troops to the border with Ukraine.

“It was really a shock. And it changed his behavior a lot,” argues Pavel Baev, a senior researcher at Norway’s International Peace Research Institute in Oslo.

Russian Bear bombers went into action, forcing NATO to scramble 10 jets to intercept the Russian warplanes flying over the North Atlantic Ocean last week, a rare show of force near the Arctic. On Monday, Putin quietly changed Russia’s constitution to allow him to stay in power until 2036. He would be 83 years old …

… Vice Admiral Robert Murrett is the deputy director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University and served as the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency for four years overseeing the Pentagon’s top secret spy satellites until 2010. He says Russia is developing a series of weapons that are very concerning to the U.S. military.

“The Arctic is a terrific shortcut, whether you’re in an aircraft, whether you’re underneath the surface of the ocean and also for intercontinental ballistic missile, this goes back to the Cold War,” said Murrett, who has spent his career watching Russian military movements.

The U.S. Air Force recently deployed 4 B-1 bombers to an Arctic base in Norway for the first time, another sign that Putin is getting the response he wants: attention and a diversion from his domestic opponents.

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Experts worry Russia is seeking a ‘new Cold War’

(Fox News | April 8, 2021) FOX News’ Jennifer Griffin reports Russia is expanding its military bases in the Arctic on ‘Special Report’ …

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Professor Corri Zoli Speaks to SCMP About Xinjiang, Global Brands, and Human Rights

UN panel warns that ‘well-known global brands’ may be linked to Xinjiang human rights abuses

(South China Morning Post | March 30, 2020) Scores of Chinese and foreign companies producing “well-known global brands” may be involved in human trafficking, forced labour and other human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, a United Nations working group said on Monday, calling more attention to an issue that Beijing is increasingly on the defensive about.

“Several experts appointed by the Human Rights Council said they had received information that connected over 150 domestic Chinese and foreign domiciled companies to serious allegations of human rights abuses against Uygur workers,” the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said …

Corri Zoli, director of research at the Institute for Security Policy and Law at Syracuse University in New York, called accounts of abuse in Xinjiang from groups including Human Rights Watch “increasingly reliable” and said they buttressed the UN working group’s investigations.

“These specific reports, data collection and outreach efforts are unifying international pressure from many angles,” Zoli said. “What we are seeing in this issue is the first-generation of the supply chain wars with complex information campaigns overlaid on these conflicts” …

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Professor Robert Murrett: China Has a Large and Growing Navy—What is the Rest of the Story?

By Robert B. Murrett, Deputy Director, Institute for Security Policy and Law

(Military Times | March 22, 2021) There is a good deal of interest these days in the growth of the Chinese navy, known officially as the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Most of the discussion tends to focus on the steady and significant increase in the inventory of PLAN ships and submarines, as well as the gradual expansion of the operational reach of these ships.

However, the other dimensions of seapower that constitute the real effectiveness of any navy are not always sufficiently considered. In the case of China, an assessment of strategy, operational proficiency, regional and global naval power, and leadership deserve additional emphasis.

The PLAN “order of battle” — the total number of ships, submarines, naval aircraft and supporting infrastructure continue to make gains, which will likely continue in future years. With this as a baseline, the strategic, operational and tactical proficiency of the Chinese navy has also made progress in parallel, with varied results. At the strategic level, the Chinese navy has attempted to strike a balance between regional focus on the western Pacific and adjoining waters, and other, sustained operations in distant waters.

While it is accurate that the Chinese navy has expanded the scope of their operations over the past decade, they do not have sustained global presence and reach. Concentrating maritime power in areas such as the East China Sea and South China Sea has certain advantages, although the cumulative impact of years of at-sea time and tough challenges in the world’s oceans is an important barometer of capability. The PLAN will achieve the proficiency associated with extended maritime employment in time, but a strategy which allows both a regional and global deployment posture has yet to be fully realized.

As China’s strategic naval posture is dealt with, operational-level skills associated with complex warfare challenges are a second important standard. Integrated anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-air operations are fundamental and can only be gained by hard experience. These warfare basics should be viewed in the context of operational-level integrated joint and combined command, control and communications, and a sober assessment of Chinese capability and experience in this area cannot be overemphasized …

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Hon. James E. Baker to Speak at CSIS Civic Education and National Security Event, March 12, 2021

March 12, 2021 | 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

More Information

As part of its Strategic Dialogue on Civic Education as a National Security Imperative, CSIS invites you to a conversation with FBI Director Christopher Wray and national security lawyers to get their perspectives on why civic education is a national security issue.

Why is it important for the American public to understand the role of national security institutions and the rule of law in our democracy? Why is it important for individuals operating within these institutions to come in with a strong understanding of these concepts? And how does civic education play a role in rebuilding that trust, maximizing security, and strengthening our democracy?

Following opening remarks from Director Wray and a fireside chat with Suzanne Spaulding, Senior Adviser for Homeland Security at CSIS, CSIS will host an expert panel co-sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security.

PANELISTS

  • James E. Baker, Director, Institute for Security Policy and Law, Syracuse University; Former Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
  • Steve Bunnell, Chief Legal Officer, Diem Association; Former General Counsel, DHS
  • M. Tia Johnson, Visiting Professor, Georgetown Law; Colonel (ret.), U.S. Army JAG Corps
  • Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, Former General Counsel, NSA and CIA
  • Jennifer O’Connor, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Northrop Grumman; Former General Counsel, DoD
  • Christopher Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
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