Wouldn’t it be great if children could see different sides of a standoff and resolve their own disagreements? Emily de Schweinitz Taylor wrote an interesting book that does just that.
Rather than assume our children will learn collaborative problem-solving, perspective taking, and empathy in a vacuum, as parent mediators, we take an active stance in teaching our children how to work out their more intense, recurring conflicts with each other. Over time, our children gain the ability to collaboratively problem solve without our oversight. In short, our input of direct communications training during our children’s younger years will help us raise a generation of mediators prepared to handle the conflicts our children will naturally encounter throughout their lives.
Speaking out can cost you politically. Consider Chas Freeman, a career foreign service officer who served as DCM in Beijing and Bangkok, PDAS for African Affairs,and US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
In 2009 he was nominated as chairman of the National Intelligence Council in the Obama Administration, but the appointment was scuttled due to fierce opposition owing to his views on the Arab/Israeli conflict.
Chas Freeman’s selection … is notable not just for his surprising (and, to some, disturbing) even-handedness about the Middle East. The man is one of a rare breed: He is a Washington insider, and yet he is also a ferociously independent thinker, a super-realist, an iconoclast, a provocateur and a gadfly. He has, as I wrote in a Niemanwatchdog.org article about him in 2006, spent a goodly part of the last 10 years raising questions that otherwise might never get answered — or even asked — because they’re too embarrassing, awkward, or difficult.
For him to be put in charge of what Rozen calls “the intelligence community’s primary big-think shop and the lead body in producing national intelligence estimates” is about the most emphatic statement the Obama Administration could possibly make that it won’t succumb to the kind of submissive intelligence-community groupthink that preceded the war in Iraq.
The thesis, “militarization of [fill-in-the-blank]” has become rampant, isn’t new. In State vs. Defense, Stephen Glain explored how the traditional functions of diplomacy have become subsumed by the military-industrial complex, with mixed outcomes for U.S. foreign policy. And writing in 2012, Franz-Stefan Gady muses that militarized diplomacy “distorts assessments of U.S. influence and obscures national interest.”
Equally illuminating is her examination of the resentment that the military has generated by expanding its role, assuming responsibility for all manner of unlikely projects. In its efforts to stamp out future generations of terrorists, the Pentagon has sponsored peace concerts in Africa, distributed soccer balls with anti-extremist slogans in Iraq, trained judges in Afghanistan — anything to shore up stability in volatile nations. It drives State Department personnel and aid workers — the people who would ordinarily be charged with such efforts — nuts.
“You’ve got these kids,” one Agency for International Development worker told her, “these 30-year-old captains who’ve spent their lives learning to drive tanks and shoot people, and they think they know how to end poverty in Afghanistan, in six months.”
History allows us to look back and create convenient categories, rightly or wrongly. One such set of bookends could include the 19th century’s run of peace and cooperation ending with the Great War in July 1914 and starting in Vienna, 1814.
Was this party in Vienna such a game changer? Some sigh with apathy–or debate the notion, but as Stephen Walt writes in ForeignPolicy.com, many rightly see this as a key turning point in global affairs:
After the Napoleonic Wars, diplomats and officials from all over Europe convened in Vienna to negotiate a peace settlement to resolve the various issues that had arisen after over two decades of war. Sure, there was a lot of hard-nosed haggling over borders and other arrangements, but historical accounts of the Congress also make it clear that the participants also engaged in months of energetic revelry, much of it of a decidedly lubricious sort. Historians who regard the Congress as a great success might argue that all this frivolity helped; those who believe the Congress left many critical issues unresolved probably think the assembled plenipotentiaries should have spent less time partying and more time on their work.
Follow this animated map of 19th century Europe through the Congress to WWI to see how events evolved in the aftermath of Napoleon and how power was maintained by the victors, with clear losers being nationalistic aspirations and French revolutionary ideals in Poland, Belgium Norway, Italy, Germany, and among Balkan Christians (Serbs, Christians, Greeks, and Bulgurs).
No less than Henry Kissinger, the realpolitik living dean of international relations cut his teeth on the Congress of Vienna, writing his dissertation on Metternich the statesman. But an exciting new book on the topic by historian Adam Zamoyski takes on Kissinger’s conclusion directly, as noted in this Guardian book review:
For those who believe that jaw-jaw is more interesting than war-war, this is an exhilarating book. Zamoyski starts with the exhausted emperor hustling back to Paris after the retreat from Moscow to try to keep French domination of Europe alive. He finishes with a demolition job on Henry Kissinger, whose doctoral thesis on the diplomat Metternich praised the Congress of Vienna for giving Europe a century of peace. Zamoyski has no time for Kissinger or his Austrian hero, Metternich.
The system that came to be called the Concert of Europe, Zamoyski writes, “imposed an orthodoxy which not only denied political existence to many nations; it enshrined a particularly stultified form of monarchical government; institutionalised social hierarchies as rigid as any that existed under the ancien régime; by excluding whole classes and nations this system nurtured envy and resentment, which flourished into socialism and aggressive nationalism.”
Worry about warfare? Yes, that’s important. But if you are concerned about being the victim of armed conflict or what a new UN global study on homicide calls “collective violence”, you are more likely top be facing what some might consider ‘street crime’ as a more likely scenario.
Homicide and acts of personal violence kill more people than wars and are the third-leading cause of death among men aged 15 to 44, the United Nations said Wednesday in a new report.
Around the world, there were about 475,000 homicide deaths in 2012 and about six million since 2000, “making homicide a more frequent cause of death than all wars combined in this period,” the report states.
No society today would accept such a horrendous casualty count. At the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, on July 1, 1916, the British Army suffered 60,000 dead and wounded — in one day. It was arguably the worst butcher’s bill in military history, of army versus army. There is a very real sense in which the modern world — our world — was born between 1914 and 1918. Something changed in human sensibility. Soldiers wouldn’t be willing to engage in such slaughter. Toward the end of the First World War, even, tolerance for past norms had begun to end. In 1917, much of the French Army mutinied and refused to attack. They would defend but not attack. The days of cannon fodder were over forever as a result of that war, which is a further reason artists try to re-imagine it constantly.
Can a scientific approach to understanding conflict accurately conclude that we are not destined to perpetual war?
A survey I carried out for the show “RadioLab” was typical. I approached a score of pedestrians on the streets of Hoboken, where I teach, and asked them if humans would ever stop fighting wars. I got three tentative Yeses and seventeen immediate, adamant Nos. “No,” replied Mark, a sixty-year-old dentist, “because of greed, and one-upmanship, and the hierarchy of power, in which everybody wants more.” War “is a universal law of life,” agreed Patel, a twenty-four-year-old computer scientist. “To get something, you have to fight for something.”
Young people seem especially fatalistic. I teach a course called “War and Human Nature” at my university. One assignment requires my students to ask ten or more classmates: “Will humans ever stop fighting wars, once and for all? Why or why not?” More than 90 percent of the four hundred or so respondents said “no.” The justifications were diverse: “We’re naturally evil” was especially common. “People are always going to hate and try to destroy ‘inferiors.’” “Monkeys fight with each other and because humans are animals too, we follow that pattern.” “Men are power crazy and women are not in power.” “People would just get bored with no war.
Could it be that male dominance is the problem? Would a world run by women solve this problem? Horgan isn’t optimistic on this solution.
Is this approach a pie-in-the-sky, peacenik pipe dream? Isn’t war part of human nature? David Barash writes in the Chronicle’s Brainstorm blog the following:
The End of War is neither unrealistic nor unadulterated Pollyanna; Horgan looks hard at a variety of explanations for war, concluding that to some extent it has become a nasty meme, a cultural tradition, and a self-fulfilling prophecy. “We kill and torture,” he suggests, “because we’re sheep, not psychopathic wolves.” He gives ample attention to the “bad barrel” theory recently elaborated by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford Prison Experiment fame, along with homage to Stanley Milgram (“obedience to authority”) and the hopeful aspects of the justly renowned Robber’s Cave Experiment, conducted by Muzafer Sherif.