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Academic Engagement Notes: 2014 International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention

The annual convention of the International Studies Association (ISA) was held in Toronto, Canada, on March 26-29, 2014. The 55th annual convention theme was, “Spaces and Places: Geopolitics in an Era of Globalization.” This conference was a major academic gathering with 1,140 panels and round tables and over 5,300 participants drawn from North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and other countries from across the globe. In addition, an exhibition hall that ran concurrent with the convention contained over 100 book and journal publishers, government agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations that were showcased.

      Once again, the ISA conference presented an important and ideal academic engagement opportunity to help bridge the gap between academia and the military practitioner. It represents a unique opportunity to engage with thousands of international studies scholars in one venue, which not only supports the mission of the Academic Engagement Program of the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), but that of the broader U.S. Army War College (USAWC) community. This year’s USAWC representatives were Richard A. Lacquement, Jr. (Dean, School of Strategic Landpower); Robert J. Bunker (SSI); John R. Deni (SSI); William Flavin (Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute [PKSOI]); and Marybeth P. Ulrich (Department of National Security and Strategy). These scholars presented their own research, chaired or co-chaired panels, and/or acted as panel discussants on the following panels and roundtables:
      •    The (Re-)Making of Strategic Cultures;
      •    Shifts in Military Strategy and War;
      •    Geosocial Intelligence for Deviant Globalization: Analyzing the Spaces and Places of Organized Crime;
      •    Europe’s Security Order Between Geopolitics or Globalization?
      •    Security in the European Neighborhood;
      •    Masters of Peace: Civil Affairs Forces in the American Way of War;
      •    The Space Between: Closing the Gap between U.S. Civilian and Military Educational Communities.
 
      These panels were sponsored by the international education, international security studies, intelligence studies, Nordic international studies association, and theory sections of the ISA. They portrayed the integration of the USAWC participants across a wide array of subfields.
 
      Dr. Richard A. Lacquement’s paper, “The Influence of Landpower and (Recent) History,” examined the evolving role of Landpower in modern conflict. It considered diffusion of military capabilities (a key aspect of globalization) and the interaction of Landpower with military power in maritime, air, space, and cyberspace domains in redefining geopolitical concepts of military influence across time and space. Dr. Lacquement argued that Landpower is often the ultimate determinant of who controls territory and populations. In recent years though, the utility of Landpower has been increasingly challenged, particularly as it has been used by the United States and other developed powers. More specifically, difficulties in recent conflicts such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and numerous multinational peacekeeping or peace enforcement missions have illuminated limits of Landpower. Nevertheless, Landpower remains a crucial component in the achievement of the national security objectives that cannot be ignored or easily replaced by other elements of power.
 
      Dr. Marybeth P. Ulrich’s round table observations focusing on the differences between U.S. civilian and military educational communities highlighted the recent activities of the Mellon Foundation Project on Civil-Military Education Cooperation. The project brings together students and faculty from liberal arts colleges and military educational institutions in order to bridge the gap between military and civilian academia. The roundtable discussed the student simulation conducted the week prior in Carlisle, PA, at Dickinson College, and at the USAWC that brought together students from 11 participating schools in the project to role-play interagency actors and develop policy proposals for a simulated crisis in Syria. Eight USAWC students and Dr. Ulrich played key roles in the simulation, which the participants agreed did much to further the civil-military relationships between the participating institutions.
 
      Dr. John R. Deni’s paper, “Still the One: The Role of Europe in the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] and American Defense Strategy,” examined the recently released 2014 QDR report and the importance it places on working with and through European allies to achieve U.S. national security objectives. The conventional wisdom holds that Europe is not now, and will not be, militarily capable or politically willing to join the United States in the defense of common interests, thanks to defense budget cuts and differing threat perceptions. However, the reality is more complex than such generalizations, and Washington is reasonable in expecting its European allies to join in coalition operations. Nonetheless, there is risk in this American strategy, and Dr. Deni outlines some steps that Washington policymakers might consider to increase the likelihood that its European allies will answer the call for coalition partners in future military operations.
 
      Dr. Lacquement and Professor William Flavin presented observations as part of a roundtable on civil affairs forces and the American way of war focused on conflict transformation. Dr. Lacquement, commenting on a draft manuscript on civil affairs provided to the participants, lauded the effort to clarify and strengthen the contributions of U.S. Army Civil Affairs. He also emphasized the broader need for the armed forces—particularly its officer leaders—to retain the expertise in stability operations that has been developed throughout the course of recent operations. Professor Flavin’s paper and presentation examined the challenge of transforming conflict—looking at the methods that have been attempted and the means that are available. It also examined what the U.S. military’s role might be and the military’s relationship to the other agencies not only in the U.S. Government, but also in the international community.
 
      Finally, Dr. Robert J. Bunker delivered a paper in absentia for Dr. John Sullivan (Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department) on “Narco-Cities: Mexico and Beyond” based on their collaborative efforts over the last few years. Narco-enclaves in Mexico, Naples, Central America, and Brazil were highlighted, along with the need for “geosocial” intelligence analysis of the enclaves themselves, the criminal groups operating within them, and the enclaves’ relationships to the global network of illicit flows.
 
      Attendance at this year’s ISA conference benefitted both the USAWC generally, as well as the individual USAWC scholars who presented papers, engaged with colleagues, developed new contacts, and contributed to the evolving debate on U.S. national security. The USAWC representatives participated as panelists or audience members in a diverse array of panels, joining historians, economists, military and national security practitioners, political scientists, human rights practitioners, and peace studies researchers in engaging, lively discussions. At the same time, USAWC scholar attendance helped to bridge the civil-military divide by advancing the strategic dialogue with civilian academics and by showing that participation in the conference is of continuing importance and value to the U.S. Army.
 
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The views expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. This Of Interest piece is cleared for public release; distribution is unlimited.

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