SPL Blog

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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The Centaur’s Dilemma Reviewed by APSA Law and Politics

By Tobias T. Gibson, Department of Political Science, Westminster College

Judge James E. Baker, Director of the Institute for Security Policy and Law and Professor of Law at Syracuse Law School, begins THE CENTAUR’S DILEMMA with two truisms. The first is that artificial intelligence (AI) is widespread and will only become more ubiquitous. The second is that law is rarely, and perhaps never, in line with the technology that it is supposed to govern.

As described by Baker, the approaching dilemma is that of decision making, especially in the realm of national security, that will combine human and machine—like the half human, half horse centaur of mythology. Yet, while this is imminent, and in some ways a current issue—think of your reliance on the Waze app—Baker’s stated goal of this book is to allow generalists, including policymakers, to debate and design a legal framework. The time is now because allowing time for debate, including a wide variety of stakeholders, will allow lawmakers “to make informed, purposeful, and accountable decisions about the security use of governance of AI” (pp. 5-6).

The first four chapters of the book establish the problems and provocations of artificial intelligence in a national security setting. To be sure, uses and issues related to AI will certainly arise in areas of policy spaces related to traditional national security spheres, such as military and intelligence. Fighter pilots, autonomous vehicles—whether air based “drones,” or increasingly land and water-based ones—and international surveillance tools and data collection all will be enhanced by cooperative work between human and AI. Baker’s work is focused on establishing a protocol of law and policy that will not allow the cooption of decision making by the coming, and many would argue present, AI revolution.

However, he also adds that the use of AI in everyday items, the so-called Internet of things, also needs to be governed to prevent excessive action on the part of the government and corporations that build smart cars, smart toasters, smart coffee makers, smart refrigerators, and smart phones. As Baker notes, a series of recent Supreme Court cases, discussed below, have led to bright lines in the ways that collected data is used by law enforcement. However, there is much to discern and develop, as AI technology advances beyond Facebook and Amazon algorithms and becomes far more ubiquitous.

That said, however, some of the most directly applicable and, quite frankly, most developed portions of the proposed framework are found in case law, much of which is seminal …

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Fashion Looks to Paris (Agreement): Professor Mark Nevitt Speaks to WWD

What Rejoining the Paris Agreement Signals to Fashion

(WWD | Jan. 21, 2021) While the U.S. rejoining the Paris Agreement is just the beginning of a bold rush into environmental stewardship, the action should not be overlooked because of the message it signals to fashion.

“I think there will be more focus on all industries that contribute to climate change, to include fashion.”

Why does this brush of the penstroke matter?

A Cross-Industry Sustainability Push

“Rejoining the Paris Agreement is a signal to the world that the U.S. ‘is back’ on the international climate stage,” said Mark Nevitt, an associate professor of law and expert in environmental and climate change law at Syracuse University’s College of Law. “The U.S. is the world’s largest historical greenhouse gas emitter, and U.S. leadership is crucial for making international climate progress and reducing our emissions. As the Senate is 50-50 and there is a slim Democratic majority in the House, passing bold climate legislation will be challenging.”

It is a 30-day process that began Wednesday for the U.S. to officially rejoin the agreement, but the process of undoing previous environmental rollbacks and rewriting law to realize the bold pledge of making the country carbon-neutral by 2050 is more daunting.

Nevitt believes the Environmental Protection Agency will be the main lever under the Biden-Harris administration “to push [Biden’s] environmental agenda,” both in communication and action. And as for the largely unregulated and highly polluting fashion industry, Nevitt foresees it in the mix of broader industry overhaul.

“I think there will be more focus on all industries that contribute to climate change, to include fashion. Look for the new Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Michael Regan, to push broad sustainability policies across the U.S. economy. For fashion, this will likely highlight the need to reuse clothing, streamlining supply chains to reduce the carbon footprint,” he said. “While only so much can be done by law or regulation, look for a broad push via public communications on sustainability across all industries, to include fashion and its environmental impact” …

What Rejoining the Paris Agreement Signals to Fashion

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Professor Mark Nevitt Asks Four Questions About Capitol Hill Riot

Tragedy at the Capitol: Four Questions that Demand Answers

By Mark P. Nevitt

(Just Security | Jan. 9, 2020) How can the U.S. Capitol, surrounded by one of the largest concentrations of law enforcement and national security personnel in the world, be so quickly overrun by Trump insurrectionists hell-bent on “stopping the steal,” halting our cherished democratic processes, and potentially harming lawmakers?

This tragedy and breach of the Capitol Building on Wednesday is a failure of leadership and planning at the highest levels. A full and comprehensive investigation will be conducted. And it is important not to jump too quickly to conclusions without having a full understanding of the events and decisions that took place that day and the days leading up to it.

Nevertheless, several key questions and themes are beginning to emerge. These must be addressed prior to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

These questions center around the difficulty in swiftly coordinating a response across overlapping federal, state, and local jurisdictions. Despite being surrounded by the nation’s vast national security and law enforcement apparatus, the U.S. Capitol response appears to have been plagued by and not taking the threat of right-wing extremism seriously. This was further exacerbated by different chains of command, overlapping legal authorities, and complex jurisdictional issue.

I highlight four initial questions to focus on:

  1. Was the District of Columbia National Guard properly deployed and resourced?
  2. What prevented other state National Guards from being expeditiously deployed?
  3. What role do other federal law enforcement have and why did the DC police have to play such a critical role in the Capitol’s defense?
  4. What other assets may have assisted? …

Tragedy at the Capitol: Four Questions that Demand Answers

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Professor William C. Banks Explains Martial Law in UK’s The Daily Express

US election re-run: Right-wing leader demands ANOTHER vote – with martial law in place

(The Daily Express (UK) | Dec. 5, 2020) Tom Zawistowski, leader of We The People Convention, is championing “limited martial law” to complement a re-run of the November election. He described Joe Biden as “an illegitimate president”, adding: “We are not asking for the president to contest the current election results because they are so fraudulent no one can figure out which votes count and which ones don’t because that is exactly what the Democrat/Socialists wanted.”

These claims are disputed and numerous legal challenges put forward by US President Donald Trump have failed …

… Speaking to Express.co.uk, professor William C. Banks of Syracuse University College of Law said: “There is no provision in the US for martial law, and it has not been declared by a US official since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

“It is widely understood to be available only in the event of a complete breakdown of civil institutions” …

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“Preposterous:” Professor William C. Banks Speaks to Military Times on Calls for Martial Law

Calls for martial law and US military oversight of new presidential election draws criticism

(Military Times | Dec. 2, 2020) The idea that the U.S. military would oversee a new nationwide presidential election — ordered under martial law by President Donald Trump — is “insane in a year that we didn’t think could get anymore insane,” a defense official tells Military Times.

“Martial law has no place in the United States.”

Yet retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn promoted that exact idea Tuesday evening when he tweeted a press release from an Ohio-based conservative political organization …

… The idea is “preposterous,” said Bill Banks, a Syracuse University professor with expertise in constitutional and national security law.

“Apart from the fact that state and now federal investigators have found no evidence of election fraud that would change the election outcome, martial law has no place in the United States absent a complete breakdown of civil governing mechanisms,” he told Military Times.

Martial law, he added, “simply has the military in charge, subject only to military orders, not civilian law.”

It has not been invoked in the U.S. “since the attack on Pearl Harbor, and there is no likelihood or justification for martial law now,” said Banks. “Our civilian institutions have, in fact, revealed themselves to be resilient in responding to unprecedented partisan attacks on election administration and vote counting in state and local systems across the United States” …

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Professor Mark Nevitt: Climate Change, National Security, & the New Commander-in-Chief

(Just Security | Dec. 2, 2020) President-elect Joe Biden is 50 days away from assuming office as commander-in-chief. He has committed to taking bold, historic action on climate change and has named climate change one of the four crises facing the United States. He has also pledged to integrate climate change into national security decision-making. This stands in stark contrast to the Trump administration, which questioned the underlying climate science and deleted “climate change” from the National Security Strategy.

What are the president’s authorities as commander-in-chief to “combat” the national security threats posed by the climate crisis?

At the same time, Biden may ultimately face a GOP Senate, depending on the outcome of the runoff elections in Georgia. This would strike a blow to his boldest climate ambitions—and may undermine the passage of comprehensive climate legislation. If this comes to pass, executive branch action will take on heightened importance. Regardless of any legislative effort, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other administrative agencies will likely reinstitute and strengthen Obama-era regulations to address climate change under existing legal authorities such as the Clean Air Act. But what are the president’s authorities as commander-in-chief to “combat” the national security threats posed by the climate crisis?

In addition to regulatory action under the Clean Air Act and similar authorities, Biden possesses broad constitutional authorities independent of Congress to address the climate-security impacts. I highlight four below, to include:

  1. appointing key personnel that prioritize climate change as a security issue;
  2. reducing our carbon emissions across the federal government;
  3. safeguarding critical national security infrastructure; and
  4. responding to climate-exacerbated conflicts and natural disasters at home and abroad.

Appointing Climate-Security Expertise: Personnel as Policy

First, the Constitution grants Biden broad, Article II appointment powers. His recent appointments of key personnel to national security positions—many of which do not require Senate advice and consent—highlight the growing merger between climate change’s impacts and our national security interests. For example, Biden just announced that former Secretary of State John Kerry will serve as the nation’s first special presidential envoy for climate change (the so-called “climate czar”). Kerry has unique climate experience. As a senator, he played a leadership role in the Senate’s last attempt at climate legislation in 2009. As secretary of state, he played a leadership role in the successful Paris Climate negotiations. Kerry’s new position, which does not require Senate confirmation, will also have a seat on the National Security Council—a historic first. This reflects a mature acknowledgment that climate change serves as both a “threat multiplier” and “catalyst for conflict” that requires integration across national security planning …

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Professor William C. Banks Discusses Presidential Transition on Lawyer 2 Lawyer

On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, host Craig Williams is joined by William C. Banks, professor and former interim dean from the Syracuse University College of Law and professor Leslie Gielow Jacobs, director of the McGeorge School of Law Capital Center for Law & Policy, as they explore the practical impacts of a delayed transfer of power from an uncooperative incumbent administration, both for the incoming administration and the American people. They’ll discuss what lessons we can learn from the past, and what options the Biden administration may have going forward.


The transition of presidential power is the process during which the president-elect of the United States prepares to take over the administration of the federal government of the United States from the incumbent president. The peaceful transition of government has long been a hallmark of American democracy.

In what has become an unfortunately common refrain, 2020 has proven different. For weeks following the election being called for Joe Biden, the Trump administration refused to begin the transition process. It was in these circumstances that this episode was recorded. However, since then, the General Services Administration has decided to release funds to the incoming Biden administration to facilitate a transition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a smooth transition is here.

The possible impact of the delays, continuing refusals to concede defeat, and ongoing litigation disputing the results in multiple swing states give rise to concerns regarding national security, the economy, and the government’s ability to properly address the effects of the Coronavirus.

Transition of Power

 

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Professor William C. Banks Optimistic About Successful Transition for Biden Despite Delays

(WAER | Nov. 24, 2020) A Syracuse University Law School Professor says President Elect Joe Biden won’t have a problem catching up three weeks after the election because his team has been preparing all along. William Banks says Biden’s planning began when he clinched the democratic nomination last summer. He thinks the delay by the Trump Administration to share information to Biden will be “negligible to none.” However, he feels it comes with other costs.

“I feel a great deal has been lost symbolically and I believe our democratic institutions have been severely beat up by the bruising battles that have been fought for no good reason.”

Biden’s team can now engage in daily national security updates and classified briefings with the Trump Administration. Banks says Biden’s cabinet is filled with diversity and experience.

“Some of them are from the Obama administration, so of them much further back, like John Kerry who will be a cabinet-level official responsible for climate change. It’s Kerry’s deep passion,” Banks said …

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A Higher Calling: Hon. James E. Baker Reflects on Veterans Day

Veterans Day
Hon. James E. Baker salutes after graduating from the Marine Officer Candidates School.

The Hon. James E. Baker has always known that he was meant for a life of public service. Growing up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he was raised—as his mother once told him—to be a teacher. But he had other plans.

“I always think about the people who served who didn’t come home. They hold a special place for all of us on Veterans Day.”

“I came to the conclusion at a young age that anybody who had the educational opportunities I was given had an obligation to perform public service,” says Judge Baker, a professor in Syracuse University’s College of Law and director of the Institute for Security Policy and Law. “Teaching is public service, but I embraced the concept of the citizen-soldier.”

Baker joined the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 18 after spotting several recruitment brochures on the floor of the college post office. “I was looking for the hardest thing I could do and found it on the floor of the post office,” he says. He started his military career as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps and subsequently joined the staff of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, a federal civilian court that hears military justice appeals, for 15 years before retiring in 2015.

It was Sen. Moynihan who urged him to go to law school, an idea that Baker initially wasn’t crazy about but eventually warmed to. “I do love the concept of rule of law. I want to live in a democracy and in a country that’s governed by law. Having the opportunity to support and defend the Constitution, I think, is as high a calling as you can have as a lawyer,” says Baker, who is partial to all corps such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. “It is also the oath that service members take defining their ultimate duty: ‘to support and defend the Constitution.’”

Baker has taught at several law schools around the country and says Syracuse University’s commitment to veterans is one of the things that distinguishes the school. He says he encountered only a single veteran on the faculty of the other law schools where he taught. “College campuses tend not to be places where there’s a lot of military experience, and one of Syracuse’s strengths is that they value and embrace that experience,” he explains. “In academics, we recognize diversity as an educational value and a democratic principle. The military is the most diverse institution I have ever been associated with, which is likely one reason it puts so much emphasis on character, commitment and competence as virtues—not where you are from, your school or who your parents are.”

One of the ways the College of Law has been particularly helpful to active duty students is through its online law degree JDinteractive, Baker says. Many of the program’s students are active duty service members, veterans or military-connected. “Syracuse University and the College of Law provided the platform for these students, who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to attend law school.”

As the Orange community celebrates Veterans Day, Baker reflects on those who have served a greater good. “I always think about the people who served who didn’t come home. They hold a special place for all of us on Veterans Day.” Three years ago, Baker started a tradition of the law school holding its own Veterans Day commemoration. “I wanted to make sure that, even at a university like Syracuse that genuinely values military service, its law school also made that connection and celebrated this mission of supporting and defending the Constitution.”

https://www.syracuse.edu/stories/professors-reflect-veterans-day/

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