Vanderbilt's New Faculty

Vanderbilt Law School welcomed five new professors in fall 2011: J.B. Ruhl, a nationally renowned scholar of land use and environmental law, who now holds the David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law; and four assistant professors: Rebecca Haw, who focuses on antitrust law; Vijay Padmanabhan, who focused on national security law at the U.S. State Department before joining the academy; Ganesh Sitaraman, whose current work addresses foreign relations law and counterinsurgency strategy; and Yesha Yadav, who focuses on financial regulation.

Studying "the Graduate Level of War"

Ganesh Sitaraman, Assistant Professor of Law

Ganesh Sitaraman

In summer 2009, Ganesh Sitaraman became one of the first civilian academic researchers at the Counterinsurgency Training Center at Camp Julien in Kabul, Afghanistan. Eager to improve the understanding of counterinsurgency strategy, tactics and operations, Camp Julien's commanders invited academics to use the center as a jumping- off point for research on counterinsurgency, which the Army and Marine Corps' Counterinsurgency Field Manual terms "the graduate level of war." Professor Sitaraman, who was studying legal issues during warfare, attended the training course and documented his insights in an October 2009 New Republic article, "Course Correction."

Sitaraman went from his research in Afghanistan to an assignment literally half the globe away: a stint as a special advisor to the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), headed by Elizabeth Warren, with whom he had worked closely as a student at Harvard Law School. The Oversight Panel was tasked with ensuring transparency and accountability in the administration of TARP bailout funds. Although his role presented an entirely different challenge from his research addressing the intricacies of counterinsurgency, Sitaraman saw a compelling similarity in the two assignments: Both require attention to how law interacts with practical realities.

“[T]he Army and Marine Corps' Counterinsurgency Field Manual opens with what has become a popular epigram: 'Counterinsurgency is not just a thinking man's warfare—it is the graduate level of war.' This more sophisticated style of warfare is now central to Afghanistan's future.” —Ganesh Sitaraman, "Course Correction," The New Republic, October 8, 2009

"My work is fundamentally about bridging the gap between the world of ideas and the world of practice," he said. "It is through law that we express our fundamental values as a people—our commitment to freedom, equality and democracy. But for these words to be more than ideals for philosophers, the law must connect them to practical realities on the ground." Sitaraman is both an Eagle Scout and a Truman Scholar, and he believes that integrating high-level scholarship with a "roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty" approach can be an important form of public service.

After earning his undergraduate degree in government at Harvard, Sitaraman studied political thought and intellectual history as the Lionel de Jersey Harvard Scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before returning to Harvard to earn his law degree. He then researched constitutional and international law as a Public Law Fellow and taught as a lecturer at Harvard.

In addition to publishing articles about counterinsurgency and foreign relations law, Sitaraman spent 2010-11 clerking for Judge Stephen F. Williams on the D.C. Circuit. He has worked on political campaigns; commented on youth politics, education policy, political strategy and Afghanistan policy for numerous publications; consulted at the World Bank's Inspection Panel; investigated terrorism with ABC News' Investigative Unit; and written opinion pieces for the New York Times, The New Republic and the Boston Globe. At Vanderbilt, he taught a short course on Presidential Power in fall 2011. He will be in residence at the law school in the 2012-13 academic year.

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