This weekly program features educators from across the University of Nebraska system.
"Friday Faculty Focus with Brandon McDermott” airs each Friday at 7 a.m. and noon on all-classical 90.7 KVNO, a broadcast service of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).
On Friday, Oct. 21, McDermott interviewed Michelle Black, assistant professor of Political Science at UNO, about how her military experience informs her current research interests and adds to classroom discussions.
Listen to their conversation here, or read the transcript below:
Brandon: Dr. Michelle Black, thanks for joining me on the show this week.
Dr. Black: Thank you for having me.
Brandon: Now, you worked as a government civilian in the Department of Defense for several years. Can you expound on your position there and what you worked on?
Dr. Black: I actually started in 2001. I was in the military as a psychological operations analyst where I did information campaigns while I was deployed. We worked on communicating to the public on operations, activities, working with the government of the host country and you can kind of define that as influence operations as well. So I did that in the U.S. Special Operations for about four years. I exited the military, and became a defense contractor for a few years for Booz Allen Hamilton, and then a government civilian, where I first started in budgeting in capabilities, then moved to planning and policy - specifically in adversary decision making and deterrence.
Brandon: Your research focuses on insurgency developing after war and deterring violent extremist organizations. Talk about the current state of things worldwide in a broader sense and the role that the U.S. plays.
Dr. Black: My research specifically focuses on Iraq as a case study. I looked at the insurgency developing after Iraq, in the sense of how the U.S. intervenes and what happens after the intervention. So, to look at it in a broader sense: what happens if we decide to go into another country? Will the people accept us as liberators or will they look at us as occupiers? My research hopes to be able to expand and understand when we enter a certain country what that action will be. So, from a bottom-up perspective versus the top-down. We always look at it from a very top-down perspective. What are our objectives as we go in? What do we want to accomplish? What I hope to do with my research is be able to tell a story or actually explain, on both sides, here we have objectives and so do the people in the domestic population. How can we prevent violence moving towards insurgency? You're always going to have violence after a conflict, but the point is to not upset that strategic level of violence and to move it towards more nation building and peacekeeping.
Brandon: How do historical concepts of deterrence and assurance - for example, approaches used during the Cold War - how does that apply in today's environment?
Dr. Black: Well it's kind of funny that you ask that because we work with STRATCOM quite a bit here in the Political Science Department. One of the big requests from STRATCOM is to look at how deterrence has changed over the years. Has it changed? Are we still in the Cold War mentality? Are we still looking at deterrence - specifically from a U.S. versus a Soviet mentality? Because we know the world has changed and as our adversaries have changed, their capabilities have changed. So, when you ask that question, we tend to think "Oh well, deterrence in the Cold War mentality." But, as I just explained with adversary decision making, we want to look at deterrence and assurance specifically in the new light. How has it changed over the years with the new capabilities and adversaries like I just mentioned? So, the theories that are now being argued are not necessarily just destruction. It's more, what are incentives? What can we do to influence an adversary to ensure that they have certain benefits and they understand their cost to the actions that they could be undertaking?
Brandon: You were deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. How did that help form who you are as an educator?
Dr. Black: It's given me a perspective of the operational level. When I walk into a classroom, there are lots of things that I've seen and executed as being a soldier, as well as being a defense civilian. So I bring those experiences into my classroom because I feel that application is very important. It allows the students to see how theories can be applied. Sometimes, specifically I think in our field, we talk a lot about theory, we talk about action too, but, when I was able to apply a lot of the theory and sort of sit back as an educator and make those connections, I really like to communicate that to my students.
Brandon: Dr. Black, thanks again for joining me.
Dr. Black: Thank you for having me.
Listen Friday, Oct. 28, for a conversation with Peter Wolcott, Information Systems and Quantitative Analysis Department Chair in the College of Information Science & Technology.
Want to be a future guest, or know someone who should be? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.