University at Albany
Jonathan Arnett and his family enjoy a gondola ride in Venice.

From Montgomery to Albany to Ferrara... "An Amazing Race"

Jonathan and his son atop the ancient walls of
Ferrara, Italy

"Relieved," is how Jonathan Arnett describes the way he feels after wrapping up his doctoral studies at Rockefeller College this May. An Air Force Lieutenant Colonel currently stationed in Ferrara, Italy and the father of three young children, Jonathan doesn't exactly have a lot of extra time on his hands. So, achieving his personal goal of earning a PhD – in under four years, no less -- is a huge accomplishment and much to celebrate.

Jonathan came to Rockefeller from Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama where he was an instructor. There he had successfully competed for an Air Force-funded PhD assignment that led him to Rockefeller College. What initially attracted Jonathan to Rockefeller was the research on terrorism and insurgency being conducted by Professors Victor Asal and Karl Rethemeyer, the co-directors of the Project on Violent Conflict at the College.

"As a former personal staffer and strategist to General Petraeus and veteran of the Iraq War, I wanted to immerse myself in the scholarly literature and latest research in this area," explains Jonathan. "Professors Asal and Rethemeyer were using databases and quantitative analyses to derive explanations for important aspects of terrorism and insurgency. These explanations could have an impact on U.S. counterterrorism and counterinsurgency policy. There are so many articles, books and opinions on terrorism and insurgency that it can be hard to digest it all. Some of it is decent, but I wanted something firmer and more rooted in empiricism than ideology or this or that writer's personal experience in some combat zone."

The Arnett family in Ferrara, Italy
Once he arrived in Albany, Jonathan had only three years to complete his coursework, pass his comps and conduct research for his dissertation, which was entitled "An Explanation for States' Adherence to Noncombatant Immunity in Aerial Bombardment Post-World War II." From start to successful dissertation defense, it took 44 months. In addition to his "fanatical" drive to get the job done, Jonathan attributes a great deal of his success and ability to make it to the finish line so quickly to his dissertation committee, Victor Asal, Kathleen Deloughery and Bryan Early. He's particularly grateful for their "no-nonsense professionalism" and the fact that they, and all the Rockefeller faculty he encountered, were "so approachable." He is also thankful to Professor Asal for making his academic journey a little easier and more comfortable by providing office space where he could work.

In November 2013, already well on his way to completing his PhD, Jonathan returned to the Air Force and took an assignment with NATO in Italy. Today, he is Chief of Targeting for one of NATO's air operations centers. His primary peacetime responsibility is to train NATO military personnel on air campaign planning and execution. His wartime duties include researching, weaponeering and nominating adversary combatants and installations for attack in furtherance of NATO politico-military objectives.

After completing his NATO tour of duty, Jonathan plans to return to teaching national security strategy and air campaign planning as a military professor at Air Command and Staff College.