Syracuse University: Between the Traditions of War and Peace
by Horace G. Campbell

From the time that President Lyndon Johnson made the infamous Gulf of Tonkin Speech at the opening of the Newhouse School of Communications in August 1964, the campus of Syracuse University has been caught between the traditions of militarism and war on one side and peace and reconstruction on the other. Two of the premier schools of SU, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and the Newhouse School of Communications, have been sites for the training of military personnel competing at the national level for contracts from the Department of Defense (DOD). In the process, hundreds of students are ensnared into the defense/intelligence and information gathering infrastructure for waging wars. Over this same period, students, faculty and staff from SU have been advocates for peace, reparations and justice. Though small in number and lacking the kind of resources that have been invested into programs such as the National Security Studies Program (NSS), the peace activists on the campus have opposed militarism whether in the form of the Viet Nam War, the apartheid war machine or the fabricated Global War on Terror (GWOT). It is the tenacity of this small group of activists that has served to educate the wider community of the tensions within the University surrounding the militarization of the society and the ways in which the barons of the military/information-industrial complex seek to deepen their influence there.
The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) held a camp-out on the quad in 2003 to protest the NSS. Photo: SEAC

National Security Studies Program
In the insensate frenzy of raising research funds, certain administrators have been very energetic in linking the University to the GWOT. In competing with other major institutions the administrators successfully registered their long-term linkages with the DOD by landing the National Security Studies Program. Under these so-called "integrated courses of academic and practical instruction providing sophisticated leadership training and development," over 800 senior military personnel attended courses on National Security at the Maxwell School. In advertising the benefits of the NSS for the military, the selling point seems to have been the justification that "using simulations, complex case studies and small-group decision making exercises, participants confront the same challenges with which they must wrestle in real life as national security managers and leaders. Each brings his or her own unique experiences to the program, which further enriches the classes for everyone."

Accompanying this NSS program was another program within the Newhouse School to train military technicians in propaganda at the Military Motion Media Studies Program and the Military Photo Journalism Program. In the process, SU supported psychological warfare against US citizens in what is called "Manufacturing Consent." The photo journalism program began when journalism as a profession was being degraded by journalists who were embedded in the US military and could not independently report on the realities of the warfare in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Propaganda and Terrorism
Ideological coercion of US citizens to support the military-industrial complex has been most manifest in the propaganda war over terrorism. Since 2001, the drumbeat on terrorism has led a number of institutions to establish training centers on counter-terrorism. Soon after the Bush administration launched the GWOT, intellectuals at SU sought to curry favor with those propagating the idea that terrorism represented the number one threat in the world by establishing the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT) at SU. As a backup and follow-up of the NSS, INSCT sells itself on its web pages as "an academic program at Syracuse University that engages in interdisciplinary teaching, research, and conference and workshop programming in the fields of security and counterterrorism." The same virtual representation declares that, "our mission is to study how governments can confront threats to their citizens posed by terrorism while safeguarding constitutional liberties and human rights."
Protestors in the Philippines see how the US military props up oppressive economic policies imposed by organizations like the World Trade Organization (September 2003). Photo: Associated Press

Missing from INSCT is a rigorous analysis of what constitutes terrorism. Out of more than six billion persons on the Planet Earth, four billion complain of "economic terrorism" meted out by transnational corporations. Samir Amin argued against economic terrorism and plunder in the book, The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World.

In the main, academics and scholars have given up their role as thinkers, and it is important that peace activists present a definition of terrorism that is different from the definition of the capitalist class. Eusi Kwayana defined terrorism in this way:

The placing of human beings in a situation in which they are without hope, space, adequate defense, means of escape and survival or means of overcoming actual or threatening danger, menace or oppressive force is the very definition of terror, which has not only a physical but also a mental element.

Regrettably, sections of the peace movement have been on the defensive on the issue of terrorism so that the academic space has been dominated by organs such as INSCT. The general direction of INSCT can be gleaned from the conferences, speakers and seminars that are held and the collaborators in other countries. The intellectual managers of this project understand that there is a peace community within the University; hence, the Director published a statement seeking to clear up "misunderstandings" on the true role of INSCT within the University.

This clarification of misunderstandings speaks for itself in so far as it is not clear to peace activists why one of the few places in the world where there is collaboration in the field of antiterrorism is in Israel. Moreover, the same Institute has held a series of conferences where Pentagon and US military top brass come to rationalize their strategies for expanding war to maintain "homeland security." One major conference of INSCT in 2006 was "A Nuclear Iran: The Legal Implications of a Preemptive National Security Strategy." It is clear that this conference, focusing discussion on the wrongs committed by Iran, was called at a moment when the Bush/Cheney administration was seeking the climate to launch a war against Iran. Activists within SU who have been painstakingly opposing the war attended and sought to expose the duplicity of those supporting the overt militarism of the Bush administration. The agenda for this conference was framed in such a manner that the entire discussion was on the wrongs committed by Iran and the feasibility of US military strikes on it. Universal disarmament (including dismantling the nuclear arsenals of the US and other great powers) was not on the table. The discriminatory theme of "non-proliferation" (which allows the US and other possessors of nuclear weapons to escape scrutiny) was preferred over the much more urgent task of disarmament.

Fund Raising and Research Priorities
The general direction of the academic programs in Maxwell and Newhouse raises a larger quandary about ostensibly disinterested and objective scholarship serving to rationalize patriotic chauvinism and repression. Ido Oren writes in his book Our Enemies and Us about how, starting from the 1950s, the US political science profession became "enmeshed in the state to an unprecedented degree" and scholars responded to the Cold War demand for "psychological and ideological warfare expertise" (p. 13). Since the end of the Cold War, cooperation between professors and US intelligence agencies is "now very much to the fore. The war on terrorism may result in further retightening of the relationship between American Political Science and the American government" (p. 171).

The peace movement, including professors and administrators within SU, must oppose this integration between the intelligence organs and the University, and other academic institutions nationwide. Revisiting the war crimes of the 1970s via Winter Soldier will provide the necessary reminder of the crimes of sections of the military. And the new Winter Soldier revelations taking place now in Washington, DC remind us that these war crimes continue.


Horace is a professor of Political Science and African-American Studies at SU and serves on the Peace Council Advisory Committee.