Joshua Rovner

SMU’s Tower Center hosts prominent experts to discuss ‘The Rise of ISIS’ at a public event Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015

'Black Flags, The Rise of ISIS' book coverISIS conquered vast stretches of territory in Iraq and Syria during the past year. The Iraqi Army dissolved in its path, despite years of training and billions of dollars of U.S. aid, raising a series of questions:

  • Why did ISIS succeed where other terrorist groups have failed?
  • Why was Iraq unable to stop it?
  • What are the consequences for U.S. national security and strategy in the Middle East?

The authors of two compelling new books will discuss “The Rise of ISIS” at a public discussion at SMU Thursday, Nov. 5. The free event, sponsored by the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, takes place 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall. To RSVP, e-mail the Tower Center.

> Follow the Tower Center on Twitter: @SMUTowerCenter

Joshua RovnerTower Center Distinguished Chair of International Politics and National Security Joshua Rovner, author of the award-winning book Fixing the Facts: National Security and the Politics of Intelligence (Cornell University Press 2011), will serve as event moderator. Rovner calls the guest speakers “superstars from journalism and academia”:

Joby WarrickJoby Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and investigative reporter for The Washington Post, who is an expert on intelligence, diplomacy and security in the Middle East and South Asia. His new book, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (Doubleday 2015), chronicles the rapid rise of a strain of militant Islam, born in a remote Jordanian prison and spread with the unwitting aid of two American presidents.

Warrick also is author of The Triple Agent (Doubleday 2011), the true story of an al-Qaeda spy who led the CIA into a deadly trap at Khost, Afghanistan, in 2009.

> Listen to Joby Warrick talk about Black Flags on NPR’s “Fresh Air” audio or podcast

Caitlin TalmadgeCaitlin Talmadge, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she is an expert on national security and military operations. Talmadge also has been a Council of Foreign Relations fellow and a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense.

'The Dictator's Army' book coverHer ground-breaking new book, The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (Cornell University Press 2015), offers an important new argument about why authoritarian militaries sometimes fight very well — or very poorly. Talmadge also is co-author of U.S. Defense Politics: The Origins of Security Policy (Routledge 2008).

For more information, visit the Tower Center website or call 214-768-3954.

Visit the Tower Center on Facebook: facebook.com/towercenter

– Denise Gee

U.S. ‘pivot to China’ takes the spotlight at SMU’s 2014 Tower Center National Security Conference Nov. 5-6

Map of China courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

Map of China courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies will examine the rise of China, and the U.S. response, during its 7th annual National Security Conference Nov. 5-6, 2014.

“How does China factor into U.S. strategy? No question matters as much for the future of U.S. national security,” says Joshua Rovner, the Tower Center’s director of studies. “During this year’s conference, we are bringing together a stellar lineup of speakers from the policy world, the U.S. Department of Defense, the intelligence community and the military as well as some of the nation’s smartest and most provocative scholars specializing in China, East Asia and U.S. foreign policy.”

> Rovner in The Dallas Morning News: Never mind ISIS and Putin – Asia matters more to U.S. strategy

The conference opens Wednesday, Nov. 5, with a keynote dinner address by Thomas Fingar, former chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council and Oksenberg-Rohlen Distinguished Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He is the author of Reducing Uncertainty: Intelligence Analysis and National Security (Stanford University Press 2011). Fingar’s address, “China, Intelligence and U.S. Grand Strategy,” will delve into what the U.S. “pivot to Asia” means in terms of intelligence and foreign policy.

> More information on the Tower Center National Security Conference opening dinner

The second day of the conference, Thursday, Nov. 6, will feature three panel discussions. Panel one will examine grand strategy and the rise of China. Experts on Asian politics will assess how China and the United States view each other, as well as how regional states view the “pivot.” The second panel will explore the military dimensions of a conflict with China, including the possibility of nuclear escalation. The final panel will close with a discussion of defense industry implications.

> Find a complete list of 2014 Tower Center National Security Conference speakers and topics

“The United States has already declared that it wants to ‘pivot’ its attention from the Middle East to Asia, and it has increasingly focused on overcoming Chinese military innovations in the event of a crisis or war,” Rovner says. “But what the pivot means, and what it requires from the military are still unanswered questions. The armed services are struggling to determine whether to prepare for confrontation with a traditional power like China, or continue investing their time and energy in counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and small wars.

“The defense industry needs to determine what kinds of technologies to invest in and what kinds of weapons to build. Finally, the White House needs to answer basic questions about what to buy, where to send it, and how to support local allies without encouraging them to needlessly provoke China.”

The conference is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the SMU Tower Center blog.

> Visit SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies online at smu.edu/towercenter

Tune In: Tower Center’s Joshua Rovner talks national security after al Qaeda on ‘Think’ Sept. 11, 2014

Joshua RovnerJoshua Rovner, director of studies in SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, will discuss U.S. national security strategies in a post-al Qaeda landscape on KERA 90.1 FM Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Rovner will appear on “Think with Krys Boyd” during the 1-2 p.m. hour with Hal Brands, assistant professor of public policy and history at Duke University.

Tune in at www.kera.org/listen

Rovner and Brands are also among the speakers in tonight’s Tower Center Forum, “After al Qaeda: The Future of American Grand Strategy.” Joining them will be Barry R. Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the Security Studies Program at MIT. The discussion, moderated by Rovner, will explore American “grand strategy” of the past, present, and future for maintaining national security.

The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 in the Great Hall, Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall. It is free and open to the public; reservations are required. RSVP to the Tower Center.

Learn more about SMU’s Tower Center online

Calendar Highlights: Nov. 19, 2013

A Conversation with the NSA: The current debate surrounding the NSA is coming to SMU, Tuesday, Nov. 19. There will be a panel discussion focusing on whether the NSA undermines civil liberties in pursuit of national security or that their efforts after 9/11 are effective for counter-terrorism. The panel will include one of the NSA’s senior leaders, John DeLong, who is the Director of Compliance at the NSA. Prior to the NSA he worked as the Deputy Director of the National Cyber Security Division at the Department of Homeland Security and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a degree in physics and mathematics.

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Panel from L-R: John DeLong, Jeffrey Kahn, Joshua Rovner, Jeffrey A. Engel

In addition to DeLong, panel members include SMU’s Jeffrey Kahn, Joshua Rovner and moderator Jeffrey A. Engel. Kahn is an associate professor of Law at SMU and visiting fellow-in-residence at McGill University; his research and writings focus on different governments and human rights. Rovner is the John Goodwin Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security and Associate and Director of Studies at the Tower Center for Political Studies; his research and writings focus on intelligence. Engel is an award-winning American history scholar and director of the Center for Presidential History at SMU; his research and writings focus on U.S. presidential and American diplomatic history. The panel starts at 6 p.m. in the Vester Hughes Auditorium of Caruth Hall; registration is required.

MJO Fall Concert: The Meadows Jazz Orchestra will have their fall concert Thursday, Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. The show will include traditional and new works, including pieces by student composers. The MJO is directed by Akira Sato, who received a Master’s degree in jazz arranging from UNT and plays the trumpet. The fall concert will also include vocals from Morgan Wood. The concert is free of charge in the Bob Hope Theatre of Owen Arts Center.

Days of Fire: Senior correspondent for The New York Times and author Peter Baker will be at SMU on Thursday, Nov. 21. Baker is speaking at SMU on his new book, Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White Housewhich explores the controversial eight years of the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney White House. Baker researched for five years and conducted more than 200 interviews to write the book; focusing on how the duo was confronted crisis by crisis for two terms and strived to protect the country and remake the world. The event starts at 6 p.m. in McCord Auditorium and includes a light reception, lecture and book signing. Admission is free but registration is required.

Meadows Weekend Events:

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  • SYZYGY: The SYZYGY New Music Ensemble will have a concert Friday, Nov. 22. They will perform 11 songs with the accompaniment of winds, strings, harp and percussion plus the vocals of Cecily Gordon. The concert will start at 8 p.m. in Caruth Auditorium.
  • Composers’ Concert: On Saturday, Nov. 23 there is an Emerging Sounds Composers’ Concert. The night includes world premiere performances of student works from the Meadows School music composition program and the works cover diverse genres of music. Past works have gone on to win awards and national/international recognition! The concert is at 8 p.m. in Caruth Auditorium.
  • Chamber Music: The Chamber Music program invites you to their first Sunday afternoon concert on Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. Enjoy the camber’s string, wind, and piano sounds in the intimate setting of O’Donnell Auditorium (room 2130).
  • World Music Ensemble: The WME is performing Sunday, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. in the Bob Hope Theatre. The WME explores music from cultures around the globe; it combines exotic instruments with Western orchestra for a unique melodies and original compositions. The performance will include Meadows students and internationally acclaimed guest artists.

Tune In: Tower Center’s Joshua Rovner on ‘Think’ Oct. 30, 2013

Joshua RovnerJoshua Rovner, director of studies in SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, will discuss how U.S. strategy in national security and defense is affected by budget restrictions on KERA 90.1 FM Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Rovner will appear on “Think with Krys Boyd” during the noon-1 p.m. hour.

> Tune in at kera.org/listen

Rovner’s “Think” appearance ties in with the Tower Center’s 6th annual national security conference Oct. 30-31. The proceedings will emphasize emerging regional threats and national security under conditions of budget austerity.

“The Tower Center National Security Conference brings together a stellar group of senior military officers, policymakers and academic security specialists who can speak to the big picture as well as the nuts and bolts of the defense budget,” says Rovner, who also serves as the University’s John Goodwin Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security. “We hope to encourage a serious discussion about the future of international security, the range of U.S. strategic responses and the difficult choices that will be necessary under fiscal austerity.”

> Learn more about SMU’s 2013 Tower Center National Security Conference

2013 Tower Center conference examines defense under austerity

soldierEmerging regional threats and national security under budget austerity. will be the hot topics during a 2013 national security conference Oct. 30-31 at SMU. It is the 6th annual conference hosted by the University’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

“The Tower Center National Security Conference brings together a stellar group of senior military officers, policymakers and academic security specialists who can speak to the big picture as well as the nuts and bolts of the defense budget,” said Joshua Rovner, director of studies for the Tower Center. “We hope to encourage a serious discussion about the future of international security, the range of U.S. strategic responses and the difficult choices that will be necessary under fiscal austerity.”

The conference will open Wednesday, Oct. 30 with a keynote address by Gordon England, president of E6 Partners, LLC and the 29th U.S. deputy secretary of defense. His address, “The Changing Intersections of Technology, Culture and Leadership,” will examine the evolution of technology and its effect on markets, cultures, countries, companies and workers.

England served as the 72nd and 73rd secretary of the Navy and as the first deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to joining the federal government, England served as president of the General Dynamics Fort Worth Division (later Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company); as president of General Dynamics Land Systems; and as corporate executive vice president of General Dynamics Information Systems and Technology Sector, Ground Combat Systems Sector and the International Sector.

On Thursday, Oct. 31, the conference focuses on national security under budget austerity featuring three panel discussions and a keynote address by Peter Feaver, Duke University professor of political science and public policy and director of the Program in American Grand Strategy. He also is director of Duke’s Triangle Institute for Security Studies. From June 2005 to July 2007, Feaver served as special advisor for strategic planning and institutional reform on the National Security Council staff at the White House, where his responsibilities included national security strategy, regional strategy reviews and other political-military issues.

All three panel discussions will seek to combine an objective assessment of emerging regional threats with a discussion of defense spending in a time of fiscal austerity. Panel one will examine national security threats and opportunities. The second panel will discuss national security capabilities and choices, and panel three will close with a debate on money and politics as it relates to national security.

“Debates about national security need to take budget realities into account,” says Rovner. “At the same time, debates about defense spending can’t just be about number crunching. Instead, they must start with a broad understanding of national interests, threats to national security and the menu of possible strategic responses.”

> Visit SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies online