We Still Aren’t Meeting the Needs of Female Veterans

Mar 29, 2012Lily Roberts

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a recognition of the need to improve the care of our women who serve.

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a recognition of the need to improve the care of our women who serve.

Upon his retirement in January, General Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of the U.S. Army, told reporters that prohibiting women from serving in combat was anachronistic. Female soldiers, he claimed, were essentially already seeing combat. "I have felt for the longest period of time that on a nonlinear battlefield there are no safe jobs," he said. "Everyone is in a situation where they are, in fact, in harm's way. There is this mistaken belief that somehow that through prohibiting women in combat jobs we can protect them. I would rather have standards that we apply across the board."

Chiarelli's comments come at a time when the implications of the roles women play in the U.S. military affect more veterans and families than ever. Over the past decades, women have joined branches of the military at higher rates than ever before, comprising 14.6 percent of active duty forces. On top of this, women comprise 13 percent of the veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.

While official policy mandates that women do not serve in combat roles in the U.S. military, women still suffer from physical and psychological injury. In 2009 and 2010, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypertension, and depression were the three conditions diagnosed most frequently among female veterans. In addition, approximately one in five women seen by Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals respond "yes" when screened for military sexual trauma (assault or harassment experienced while in the military).

While significant cuts to the VA budget in 2009 slowed programming in 2010 and 2011, the prioritization of female veteran health care was increased in 2010 with the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. The Act created the first comprehensive study in recent years of barriers to health care for female veterans, designed pilot programming for group therapy for female veterans no longer on active duty, and created a two-year pilot program to assess the feasibility of offering childcare to veterans.

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

In addition, in early February the military began slightly easing restrictions on the roles female soldiers can play in combat zones. About 14,000 combat positions will now be open to women, although 283,000 positions, nearly all of them in the Army and Marine Corps, will remain closed.

These numbers, however, don't reflect the reality of American military service, in which even those in "non-combat" roles may find themselves embroiled in violent confrontations. And while there have been recent improvements in services, not all of the needs of women who have served in the military are being met.

It is vital that the VA adapt to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of female veterans. While VA services in recent years have increased their emphasis on mental health, logistical aspects of many hospitals can make accessing care challenging for patients, particularly for women. An important example is that women may be barred from group therapy sessions dealing with issues of PTSD because spots are reserved for those who saw combat. Even female veterans decorated for their performance in combat may be prohibited from group therapy for this reason. While appeals processes exist, they are slow and unknown to many veterans. Making these groups available to all veterans diagnosed with PTSD will increase the speed with which veterans access group therapy services.

VA hospitals may also not be physically laid out to provide comfortable access to mental health services. Creating specific exam rooms and separate clinic entrances for women attempting to access female health services (i.e. gynecological services) or mental health services may prevent the harassment and discomfort they experience when they must walk through wards of physical care services full of older, largely male veterans. In addition to the provision of childcare, these minor policy changes will make health care more accessible to female veterans and will ease their search for treatment.

The simplest solution to gaining access to therapy for all those facing post-combat trauma would be for the military to acknowledge that women deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have already experienced combat, regardless of official policy. The VA should amend therapy eligibility to include all patients diagnosed with "combat-related" PTSD, which would include female veterans whose combat experience is unofficial. Individual hospitals should create separate waiting rooms, entrances, and exam rooms for female veterans, particularly when their diagnosis may be more sensitive (i.e. mental health services or sexual trauma). No veteran should face harassment or roadblocks in his or her search for treatment.

Lily Roberts is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is the coordinator of the Eleanor Roosevelt Policy Initiative for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

Share This

Sponsoring Study Abroad: The Most Cost Effective Foreign Policy Tool

Mar 28, 2012Tahsin Chowdhury

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a call to make studying abroad more affordable as a way to improve America's image in the world.

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a call to make studying abroad more affordable as a way to improve America's image in the world.

The United States faces many obstacles in foreign policy, but major one is growing anti-American sentiment. Studies show that global opinion toward the United States has plummeted since 2002. But we can address this problem through soft power diplomatic approaches like international education. Global education has been a neglected component of U.S. foreign policy and should be a driving force in moving forward to build bridges with other countries, breaking down cultural barriers, acting as preventive national security, and better equiping the American youth to be the diplomats of the future.

American students are in desperate need of a more international education. Studies by National Geographic show that American students' geographical literacy is below average, and students have trouble locating nations like Iraq and Afghanistan. It also shows that 21 percent of young Americans believe it isn't important to be aware of the geographical aspect of current events; 38 percent believe that learning another language is unimportant. A NAFSA report shows that 73 percent of Americans believe that our lack of global education will diminish Americans' advantage in competing in the global economy. Yet many American students, like me, lack the financial accessibility to a study abroad program, and this prevents millions from gaining access to the opportunity to forge relations with civil society abroad and establish cultural sensitivity.

In order to understand the importance of global education, I asked fellow classmates about how study abroad programs affected them. Dairanys Virgil and Monica Siu are two undergraduates at the City College of New York majoring in international studies who studied abroad in the winter session of 2012. Dairanys is a senior who studied abroad in Morocco and Monica is a junior who studied abroad in China. Dairanys told me:

During my stay in Morocco, I developed a great amount of respect for Muslim culture. The Moroccans' way of living, such as their family structure, friendships, education, food, and behaviors derives from what the Koran has taught them. Also, I have a better understanding of the hijab. Before I saw it as a tool of women's subjugation, but today I understand that in their culture it empowers women.

Dairanys believes that academic institutions should play a stronger role in promoting cultural awareness through international education programs.

Check out the new special issue of The Nation, guest-edited by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

Monica Siu had a similar experience in her trip to China. She told me:

Since I was raised in a predominantly Peruvian household, I grew up with little knowledge of China and its culture. I wanted to learn about China first-hand. A history class can only do so much, but culture can be perceived and understood through physical observations. Were it not for the study abroad department, I would never have had the opportunity to travel to China.

In both stories, Monica and Dairanys had established misconceptions about the culture they were about to explore, but in both experiences, they became aware and educated as to why these cultural norms exist. They learned about life outside of the cultures they grew up with along with phrases in other languages. These experiences better equip them for representing America positively.

Study abroad programs can be a cost-effective and beneficial policy for the United States' image abroad. This soft power diplomacy of international education saves more money than hard power diplomacy through the military. The cost of increasing the amount of troops in Afghanistan for 2011 came to $30 billion for the entire fiscal year, or $1 million per soldier. Conversely, sources indicate that the average foreign exchange program costs $10,000 plus pocket expenses. If agencies such as the Department of State or the Department of Defense sponsored an exchange program as a means of foreign policy, it would cost an estimated $1 million to sponsor 100 students. It is 100 times more expensive to sponsor soldiers in war than sponsor students in international education. Congress has caught on to this idea. As of 2009, Congress had introduced the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, which is an initiative to encourage American students to study abroad and seeks to get one million students to study abroad within the next ten years.

Reports and statements from the U.S. Department of State also indicate that our government is looking to build connections beyond the state level and reach out to the grassroots level. The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review by the State Department outlines how the entire agency plans to improve the public and community diplomacy between the United States and societies abroad. This report indicates that it is important to build bridges with civil society in order to prevent terrorism, expand people-to-people relations, and better inform policymaking. Hillary Clinton launched a Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society in order to empower civil society abroad and forge relations between other countries, the United States, and the various institutional players in the world in order to help fight anti-Americanism abroad.

It is crucial for federal government agencies like the State Department and Defense Department to recognize international education as not just an initiative, but foreign policy. Opportunities to study abroad empowered the cultural awareness of Dairanys and Monica and helped them forge relations abroad. We should look to empower more Americans. The United States will gain back the positive world image it once had by sponsoring international education.

Tahsin Chowdhury is in his junior year as an undergraduate in City College majoring in International Studies. He serves as the Policy Director for Defense and Diplomacy in the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's City College Chapter.

Share This

Redefining NATO's Role for the 21st Century

Mar 27, 2012Daniel Pitcairn

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a proposal to create a coherent grand strategy for NATO as the only international coalition with the power an

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a proposal to create a coherent grand strategy for NATO as the only international coalition with the power and legitimacy to act as a global enforcer.

In 1949, a military alliance was forged between the United States and its allies in the North Atlantic region with the clear purpose of deterring Soviet expansion and aggression in Europe. As Lord Ismay, the first Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, put it, NATO was founded to "keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." However, despite the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed over two decades ago, and with it the threat of conventional warfare in Europe, this transatlantic security relationship continues to exist. The question then arises: what role, if any, should NATO play in a world absent the conditions that provided it with its founding purpose and justification?

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has slowly adopted a more global perspective.  As the threat to the physical security of NATO members diminished, the organization shifted its focus to broader and more geographically diverse threats. While enlarging its role within Europe through expansion to Eastern Europe and intervention in the Balkans, NATO also began building institutionalized partnerships with states in the former Soviet Union (Partnership for Peace), the Middle East (Istanbul Cooperation Initiative), and North Africa (Mediterranean Dialogue).  In the 2000s, NATO expanded its partnerships, particularly within the Middle East, and embarked on an extensive military operation in Afghanistan.

Increasingly, the importance and relevance of NATO for the alliance members lies in the fact that it provides the U.S. with legitimacy for its foreign interventions and that it allows European nations to project hard power abroad. Thus, even prior to NATO's historic decision to militarily intervene in Libya on behalf of the Libyan people and at the behest of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the transatlantic alliance was clearly shifting its focus. NATO's new Strategic Concept, published after the Lisbon Summit of 2010, acknowledges and embraces this shift, stating that when the alliance identifies threats beyond NATO borders, the organization will "engage where possible and when necessary to prevent crisis, manage crises, stabilize post-conflict situations and support reconstruction."

Although this statement marks a significant departure from NATO's foundational mission, it does not constitute a coherent grand strategy for the future. NATO's out-of-area interventions and missions have largely been ad hoc operations that have stimulated tensions within the alliance about its appropriate role and caused confusion about the place of NATO interventions within the broader community of international security institutions. NATO's Operation Unified Protector in Libya is both another example of such ad hoc operations and a potential stepping stone to developing a coherent grand strategy. While the organization received a clear mandate from the UNSC and international public opinion to protect the Libyan people from Colonel Gaddafi, NATO faced internal challenges and discord over whether NATO was the appropriate tool. Notably, Germany dissented and only slightly more than half of the Alliance members (14) contributed directly to the conduct of the operation. This reality demonstrates the need for a clear and coherent strategy for NATO involvement in out-of-area conflicts.

At the same time, NATO's decision to intervene in Libya and its success in doing so points to such a future grand strategy. This new strategic role is based on two premises. The first is that the international community lacks a clear and sufficient enforcement mechanism for the growing consensus behind the "Responsibility to Protect" norm, the notion that a state that seriously fails to protect its people or actively seeks to injure them forfeits its sovereignty and is therefore liable to intervention by the international community. While the UNSC was originally understood as the global enforcer of peace and security, the UNSC is not currently capable of fielding conventional military operations. Distrust between the veto-wielding members of the council (U.S., UK, and France on one side and Russia and China on the other) will preclude this possibility for the foreseeable future. The result is that even when the UNSC can generate the necessary votes to sanction military intervention, the council must rely on individual member states to take on the burdens of action.

Check out the new special issue of The Nation, guest-edited by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

This brings the discussion to the second premise, that NATO has unique legitimacy and capacity to respond to international crises such as the one in Libya. NATO confers a tremendous amount of political legitimacy to military interventions, particularly when operated in consultation with its institutionalized partnerships. Furthermore, as the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO points out, in contrast to weakly structured, ad hoc coalitions that "rely disproportionately on a single nation to bear the brunt of security burdens," NATO provides the "common command structure and capabilities necessary to plan and execute complex operations." The NATO allies also maintain the world's most technologically advanced militaries and together make up almost 65 percent of global defense spending. NATO's actual and potential military capabilities are simply unparalleled. Thus, NATO is uniquely qualified to react to and militarily intervene in international crises like the one in Libya in 2011. With the rising global demand for a clear and reliable mechanism for enforcing the "Responsibility to Protect" and the unique capacity and political legitimacy associated with NATO, NATO should embrace the role of global enforcer for the international community, using occasional targeted military interventions to fulfill international mandates.

This potential new role for NATO on the global stage would provide a coherent purpose and strategy for the organization in the 21st century. This role should, however, be limited to conflicts that seriously threaten international security or appear egregious from a humanitarian perspective. Moreover, because the NATO charter acknowledges "the primary responsibility of the [UN] Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security," NATO must only intervene when sanctioned by the council (Article 7). UNSC Resolution 1973 calling for the use of all means necessary to protect the citizens of Libya demonstrates that such sanctions are not impossible to come by in the Security Council. Moreover, a clear and established role for NATO as global enforcer might encourage an otherwise more unwilling Council to act more assertively when serious international crises arise. For this to be the case, however, NATO must enhance communication channels with the UNSC and in particular seek to improve its relationship with Russia, perhaps by further opening dialogue via the Partnership for Peace and slowing the rush to incorporate Georgia and the Ukraine into NATO.

What makes this significant pivot toward global threats to the international community possible is the development of Europe's own multilateral defense network absent U.S. support. The European Union's Common Security and Defense Policy has matured immensely over the last decade. It has deployed 27 significant military and civilian missions since 2003 and has successfully operationalized its Battle Group Concept, whereby two battle groups are continuously ready for immediate deployment in Europe at any time. Despite fears associated with decreasing European defense spending, the CSDP is on the rise and the capacity of the EU to defend Europe is an increasingly realistic proposition.

The fears of certain NATO allies that NATO is losing its defensive, transatlantic perspective can be assuaged by this development within the EU. Thus, NATO can lessen its focus on ensuring the physical security of Europe and concentrate on its capacity to project hard power abroad on behalf of the international community. The implication here is that a tight-knit relationship between NATO and the CSDP must be forged to delineate responsibilities and ensure close cooperation. This substitution of the CSDP for NATO in terms of Europe's own security would not happen overnight, but hashing out agreements over their respective future roles within and without Europe would allow NATO to begin its process of re-definition for the 21st century.

There is a clear need for NATO to meaningfully redefine itself for the 21st Century. Acknowledging its new global perspective is not sufficient. A new grand strategy is essential for NATO to remain relevant and to solidify its role in the post-Cold War world. The narrative and strategic recommendation proposed here is a compelling possibility for the alliance, but it is only one opinion. In order to gauge the opinions of many more interested college students on this topic and thereby ascertain how the next generation of American leaders views NATO and the transatlantic security relationship, the Yale chapter of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, via its Security and Foreign Policy Center, is generating a poll to distribute to colleges nationwide. NATO is at an important crossroads in its history and it is crucial that the opinions of the next generation of American leaders related to this alliance are heard. At the upcoming Chicago Summit, NATO must undertake to reevaluate its international role. In this process, the views of those soon to take the mantle of leadership must be considered.

Daniel Pitcairn is a member of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and a student at Yale University where he studies international security and American foreign policy as a Global Affairs major.

Share This

The Millennial Plan to Defend a World With No Borders

Mar 26, 2012Ahmad Soliman

world-hand-200The next generation of foreign policy makers understand the need for new strategies in a global community that's more interconnected than ever.

world-hand-200The next generation of foreign policy makers understand the need for new strategies in a global community that's more interconnected than ever.

Millennials' foreign policy will be characterized by a distinct departure from the hegemonic dominance to which we have grown accustomed. It will be a foreign policy that emphasizes the building of democratic global institutions rather than nation building -- a foreign policy dedicated to cooperation toward inherently shared interests.

We believe in a foreign policy grounded in ambitious aspirations that resolutely bolsters our national security on the pillars of diplomacy and development for long-term security. We reject the notion that a strong national security strategy is based in wielding unilateral military strength. We believe that global human security is necessarily tied to our own national security.

The formative experiences of this "fourth turning" not only demonstrate the failures of past generations, but also serve as a reminder that democratic inspirations must be internally driven. In contrast to the Bush administration's democracy promotion in Afghanistan and Iraq, this generation saw the Arab revolutions live on Al Jazeera.

For the disconnected public and political honchos alike, perspectives are framed by their news sources. In the past, we were limited to a single narrative of international events. The continuously expanding sources of news and analysis in the form of blogs, alternative news channels, and social media sites contribute to a more holistic view of events. They give the new generation the option to reject privileged and static perspectives in favor of innovative and critically examined solutions to our problems.

The next generation of foreign policy makers will be much more inclined to understand the human hopes and fears of others -- a conscious shift from the otherization and vilification that characterizes past foreign policy. Due to the massive growth of immigrant communities, especially those of South Asian, East Asian, and Middle Eastern heritage, second generation Americans (or those who grew up as the friends and classmates of second generation Americans) will, for the first time, be our defense and diplomacy leaders. We see examples of this shift with the appointment of Rajiv Shah, the Indian-American Administrator of USAID, and Waco, Texas-raised Rashad Hussain, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Significant swings in the ideological direction of America are taking place. In 2008, Millennials, still too young to hold national political office, first realized and flexed their political muscle with a strength that propelled Barack Obama to the White House. And Baby Boomers are beginning to retire. Ideological yet pragmatic Millennials are sure to be the major source of influence in the coming era. There are more Millennials than Baby Boomers, their ranks are and over three times that of Generation X.

Check out the new special issue of The Nation, guest-edited by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

The next generation of Americans will not continue on the track of foreign policy grounded in brute protection of national interests because we will internally challenge it. Winograd and Hais argue in their book 2011 book Millennial Momentum that Millennials will shift away from the top-down approach to foreign policy in favor of a grassroots, community-based, and inclusive movement. As reflected in this year's 10 Ideas for Defense & Diplomacy, the future of American diplomacy will be characterized by equal and constructive diplomatic relations with our allies and adversaries -- relations based on understanding shared interests and respect for sovereign agency.

Tashin Chowdury, a student of the City College of New York, offers a novel approach in the exercise of American soft power. With the diplomacy of past generations wholly defined by top-down, personality-dependent hierarchies, Tahsin offers a refreshing alternative. His proposal exemplifies a bottom-up Millennial approach to global diplomacy.

Lily Roberts, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores a systemic yet overlooked crisis in our defense budget debates. In her engaging paper, Lily offers insight and realizable solutions to this problem, proudly advocating for the rights of neglected veterans.

Daniel Pitcairn, a student at Yale University, has been working on one of our most exciting projects. With his colleagues at Yale, Daniel has been working directly with NATO representatives to conduct a research study surveying the attitudes of Millennials towards NATO. Daniel writes about his findings and analysis in his thought-provoking article.

The ambitious, yet implementable, policy proposals of these three students represent progressive Millennial thought that will soon dominate the sphere of defense and diplomacy policy. In defense policy, this is manifested as a prioritization of urgently needed care for our veterans. For the future of U.S. diplomacy, this means building common understandings and shared experiences between communities and negotiations grounded in inherently shared interests. At its core, it is a movement driven by a collective understanding of the need for grassroots- and community-based change -- a movement defined by empathy for our own citizens as well as our fellow human beings.

Ahmad Soliman is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Senior Fellow for Defense and Diplomacy and a senior at the University of Michigan, where he studies business administration and political science.

Share This