Search for Common Ground
Interviewed by Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess — 2006
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Q: This is Heidi Burgess. Today, we're talking with Chip Hauss, of Search for Common Ground, also a political scientist at George Mason University, as part of our continuing Beyond Intractability series of interviews with people doing work on intractable conflict problems. First, Chip, could you tell us a bit about your background, and how it is that you got into this field?
A: Well, it's an interesting and complicated story that reflects the fact that I'm old. As an undergraduate in the late 1960s, I was deeply involved in the anti-war movement, but I was never really comfortable being one of those people who screamed and yelled and protested and burned draft cards and things like that. But it took another 15 years, into the early '80s, before I found conflict resolution as a field, when I was teaching at Colby College in Maine. I was involved then in something called the Beyond War movement, which tried to get people to think about the relationship among nuclear weapons (this was the height of the Cold War), interdependence (which we now call globalization), and taking personal responsibility for the world that we lived in. We led the people we talked with to think about conflict resolution in your daily life as a way of bringing all of those things together. I kept working on that through the '80s. Then I moved to Washington. I still did it part-time as an academic. We spent three years in England, and I spent some of that time working with Palestinian young people - young professionals - introducing conflict resolution ideas to them. I came back from the last of those, and had a call from an old college enemy and good friend (political enemy, personal friend), who had been hired at Search for Common Ground to develop a U.S. policy project for an organization that had worked exclusively in the Third World before then, and I've been there ever since - since about this time in 2000.
Q: Great. What we're especially interested in is the work that you've been doing to promote cooperation between civilian and military people who are dealing with peacebuilding challenges around the world. Could you talk about that?
A: As people who know me know, there's always a story. I published a book on international conflict resolution in 2001. (Instead of talking with you, I should probably be working on the next edition, which is due in about a week.) The launch date for the book, in the U.S., was September 13, 2001. Not a good day to launch a book about peace and conflict resolution, and all things great and wonderful. On September 12, we had an emergency meeting at Search about what we wanted to do. Our office is right down on Dupont Circle - downtown Washington. I went in on the Metro, convinced we had to call off the book launch party for the 13th. As I watched people on the Metro glower at anyone who looked like he might be South Asian or Middle Eastern, and as I got off the Metro and walked the five blocks between the Metro stop that I use - which is right by the Whitehouse - to my office, and saw Humvees, military police, and just a general state of fear and panic, I realized that we not only had to do the book launch, but we had to continue our work. I invited somebody [to the book launch] that I had known since nursery school - since 1950, maybe '51 - who is a career military officer, and had been asked by the Pentagon to help them create an organization to help them think outside the box... He and I ended up answering the questions about my book together. There was no difference between this career pacifist and this career Navy officer, in what we had to say. We had been working together, through Search and through his office and independently, to find ways for security folks and people in the conflict resolution community to work together. As you know from the meeting that we were at a few months ago, there's pretty much widespread agreement in our field that there are places where we can't work with the military. They're not going to ask us to help them drop bombs; that might provide them with humor, since we don't know anything about doing that. But as they need to figure out how to prevent conflict and rebuild societies after a war ends, they're turning to us. So the event that Dick and I did really was a turning point for me. I think I'm the only member of our community who wears a Pentagon-and-American flag lapel pin on my suit coat, when I go to meetings where I have to wear a coat and tie (which now is almost all the time).
Q: So could you tell us a bit about how you're approaching this, and what your near-term objectives are?
A: I think there are three areas where we can work. One I'm not going to talk about, because it's already underway and I'm not involved, and that is to look at what the long-term response to terrorism is. We have first responders, who are the police, the firefighters, etc., who go in and deal with the immediate stuff. The second response is the military, where we fight - for good or ill, and I think unfortunately, both - the war on terrorism, where...we "whack the bad guys." The third stage is, "What do we do in the long term? How do we keep people who might become terrorists from doing so?" I'm not directly involved in that initiative, so let's let that one sit. There are two other areas that seem to me to be extremely important, in which the Defense Department, State Department, USAID and others are actually reaching out to us more than we're reaching out to them. The first is the one that you know better, and that is working on education and training. If you're an officer in the U.S. military, and you put in your 30 years before retirement, you will spend five or six or seven years, on average, getting education. That includes, "How do I shoot my [weapon] better?" But even more importantly, "How do I lead?" "How do I understand the world that I work in?" "How do I (now increasingly) do conflict prevention and reconciliation work?" Some of that takes place in the military; some of that takes place in regular institutions. So, the friend who did this event with me at the book launch has two MAs, and I think five years of civilian education beyond his BA. But that also holds for enlisted personnel. We now talk about the "strategic corporal," someone who is on the ground right now, in Iraq, and has to make split-second decisions that he or she can't clear with the commanding officer. That strategic corporal also gets training and education. And what we're trying to do is introduce conflict resolution principles into what they're trained - and not just principles, but practices. Not to get too complicated, here, but there's something called the Defense Department Directive 3000.05, which was issued at the end of 2005. It says that conflict prevention and resolution will be as important as combat operations in the military for the next four years. For them to do that, they need to learn about conflict prevention and resolution, which is not...part of their original skill set. So they're reaching out to us to help develop education and training materials for everyone - again, from the strategic corporal up to people who are being groomed for command at the highest level. That includes everything from, "How do you deploy people to Iraq? How much Arabic can you teach them in a one-month course? (The answer is "not much," but "not much" is better than none.) Up to gaming scenarios, in which senior commanding officers can work with us to figure out how to help defuse tense situations, of which there are plenty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all of the other places that we're likely to end up. The other area that I'm actually more interested in - although our work is much less well-defined - is, "How do we work on the policy level? How do we help keep our policy-makers from making what a book that I'm reading now calls "predictable surprises?" In retrospect, what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan was totally predictable, but we didn't see the signs. My guess is that we would point policy-makers toward indicators that would help them see those signs better, and would help them work things out better if and when we do in fact have to go in, and I think we did have to go into Afghanistan. Oddly, the best examples we have of how best that can be done come not from the kinds of conflicts that you and I are interested in, but from natural disasters. So I think we learn more about how civilians and military folks can cooperate from the tsunami than from anything else. To make a very long story short, what apparently happened after the tsunami was that a bunch of doctors sent - I'm told - over 300 e-mails to policy-makers in the Defense Department, saying, "We have to do something." Eventually (and again, I don't know the details), Secretary Rumsfeld sent the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its support ships to the area around Bandeh Aceh, which also happens to be a conflict-laden zone, and what they learned was that the military and the NGOs have to cooperate in settings like that. ...When my colleagues showed up off the Abraham Lincoln, they didn't know anything about Aceh. But on the ground were these NGOs that had been there for, in some cases, 20 years. But what the military brought was capacity - for communications (nobody else could actually communicate out), and the capacity to bring stuff in. The Abraham Lincoln has 6,000 military personnel in its crew, which is the same number of people that the State Department has as foreign service officers. It can turn 100,000 gallons of salt water or wastewater into drinkable water in a day, every day. So the military can do things on a scale of magnitude that we just can't do. What we've been trying to do is develop exercises where military and civilian folks can figure out how they can work together, develop forums where we can talk with each other, but mostly just kind of hanging out with each other, breaking down the cultural barriers. I've spent far more time in the Pentagon, with Pentagon people, then I ever imagined. I have this stack of Pentagon visitor badges that keeps growing. Part of the challenge there is to find the places where we can work together, and where we can't, and - this is going to take a long time - find out how we can help form foreign policy in this country. Again, for those of us who grew up in the 1960s, that's not an easy thing to envision. In fact, it's a pretty scary thing. I grew up thinking that the military were - to use a phrase that's very much not conflict resolution-oriented -- the "bad guys," and we were the "good guys." But as I said at a meeting...at the Naval postgraduate school a few weeks ago, sometimes I think that we and the military are, in fact, on the same side most of the time. I would not say that about the decision to go into Iraq, but I think that for what's going on right now - and we're in the summer of 2006 - we are pretty much trying to do the same thing. "How do we stabilize the situation?" "How do we move forward?" "What can we do to really help those poor people who are stuck in the middle of this?" There's this amazing picture in this morning's New York Times, about a luxury store in Baghdad that has been bombed out - in part, because it is the rich elite. That's just crazy. The military can't solve that problem on its own, we can't solve that problem on our own, so how do we work together?
Q: As our colleagues have learned about the work that you've been doing, there's a lot of soul-searching going on. "Should we be doing this, or are we being co-opted?" There are folks that say that we've viewed the Pentagon as the "bad guy" for so long that we're finding it hard to break down our own stereotypes. We're not even sure that we want to break them down, because maybe they're right. What thoughts do you have on the moral dilemmas that people in our field are facing...in a sense, whether to join the administration or whether to actively oppose it?
A: My boss at Search for Common Ground...often says, "There are two sides to this question. I believe in them both very strongly." I think that there are two answers. We have colleagues who think that in light of the 2000 election, in light of 2001, in light of Iraq, our challenge is to go back and recreate the Left that I helped create in the 1960s. I have never voted for a Republican, and I doubt that I ever will. I'm 58 years old, and this would be an Earth-shattering event. My mother would probably have a heart attack and die on the spot. So I would like to see a more effective Left that addresses peace issues better than it does now. That's not what I do well. I talked about my friend saying that the Pentagon's skill set does not include peacebuilding. My skill set does not include going out and holding banners, picketing, and marching on the World Bank that way I did 35 years ago. I don't think my values have changed terribly, but what I can do - and this is the second strategy - is build bridges. Your neighbor, Bill Ury (who is really one of the stars of our field), ran a pilot radio project a year or so ago. Talk radio in this country is typically either-or. "I scream at you. You either accept my idea or I'll bash you." What Bill and his colleagues were talking about was a model that says, both-and. We can disagree. I certainly disagree with my colleagues in the Pentagon about many things, including Iraq. But there are places where we can, should, and do cooperate, and my skill set is to build those bridges. When I walk into a meeting...no one will confuse me for a Republican. But when I treat them with respect and say to them, "Gee, I'm really glad to be here. What can I learn from you?" then everything kind of opens up, and we can do things together. I guess my best example of this...is something I was not involved in: In the spring of 2005, West Point (the United States Military Academy) ran a course called "Winning the Peace," for seniors majoring in the social sciences. It was an introduction...to things like peacekeeping, military strategy, but also conflict resolution. And I've gotten to know two of the officers who were on the faculty at the time and who taught the course. They talk about things like firing guns and going hunting and jumping out of airplanes (none of which appeal to me whatsoever). But on the kinds of issues that they taught about, there's...a lot of common ground.
Q: Could you try to imagine how this would work in a more specific situation? There's a certain sense that we're talking in general terms about collaboration...but have you run into a concrete case where doing this and this really combines the skills of our field and those who approach security issues from the harder side of the continuum, to actually produce something that's better than each of us could produce?
A: Let me give you two examples, both of which were supposed to not be written about in the press, but both of which were; therefore, I can talk about them. My friend from the book launch runs this group of seminars, where he brings together roughly 30 people - half of whom are from the military, half of whom are from elsewhere - and we've done two very interesting things in the last year and-a-half. The first was a conference on the ways that the military and NGOs can work together for peace. My friend is a remarkably talented, weird thinker. What he did was to take over something that was a combination of a bed-and-breakfast and a luxury hotel near Gettysburg. The first thing we did was to tour Gettysburg with Jim McPherson, who is a leading historian of the Civil War and on the board of Gettysburg. Jim and his wife came back to have dinner with us. After large quantities of wine were consumed, we sat around for about four hours, and Jim guided us through a discussion of how reconstruction after the Civil War did and did not parallel what we were trying to accomplish in Iraq. You could see the eyes of three-star generals essentially light up and say, "Oh. We're here for a long time, aren't we?" And Jim said, "Well, how long did it really take to reconcile the Civil War?" One of them said, "Civil Rights Act of 1964? A hundred years." How that translates into their commands or into what we're doing in the NGO world, I'm not quite sure. But it was - to use a religious term - an epiphany. The second event we also did just about a year ago: The president, in his State of the Union address in 2002, talked about the "Axis of Evil" - Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. We went into Iraq on the assumption that it was sort of a monolith, and that everybody was lock-stock-and-barrel in support of Saddam. It turns out it wasn't that way. Iran is far more complicated, far more complex, sociologically and politically, than Iraq. Any notion of Iran being a homogenous axis of evil made no sense. So what we did was to get a series of Iranian films. (For whatever reason, Iran plays good soccer and makes good movies.) What we did was to take half a dozen of them, and boil them down into about five-minute clips, and show them to a group of senior Pentagon folks (you can imagine, upper-middle-class white guys wearing business suits and American flag lapel pins). The most grabbing film for me was...an officially sanctioned film made essentially with government approval, that poked tremendous fun at the mullahs, at the clergy, who are of course the people running the country. ...For some reason, a mullah and a prisoner were at a prison hospital. The mullah takes off his robes, goes to take a shower. The prisoner, who's about to get sent back to prison, puts on his robes and walks out. He tries to get a cab. No one will pick him up, because he's a mullah. Finally, someone picks him up and drives him eleven miles in the wrong direction and drops him off. So the whole film is about the divisions over the role of religion in Iran. As in Gettysburg, you could see these generals essentially saying to themselves, "Hmm. I need to think more about this." We did it through film, because these folks don't have time to read a lot, so if you give them "the eleven books that one should read about Iran," it's not going to get done. But three hours with popcorn in a movie theater worked. None of these things are going to lead to profound changes in American public policy by Thursday. But what they're doing is changing the way people - on their end and on my end - think about the way things are done. Maybe the best way to finish answering your question is that I've changed. Not only have I learned to speak military (and I think there should be a book called "Military English for Dummies," because they speak a totally different language from me), but there's a huge cultural divide. So I've been kicking around things like, "What does it mean for me to be a patriot?" It's not going to be for me that I'm going to join the military (and luckily, they won't have me) and start blowing things up. But how -- from my perspective as a peace worker for 40 years -- how do I become a bridge builder? ...
Q: One of the other things that I know you've been exploring, that parallels this, is ways of bridging the divide between the right and the left sides of the political continuum.
A: We've done this at Search in a lot of different ways. We've taken on a bunch of different issues, including the president's faith-based initiative, healthcare, terrorism, AIDS, some local issues like prisoner reentry, and tried to figure out how we can get people who normally scream at each other on the Sunday morning talk shows to talk with each other and build consensus. We're using a model that's been used in a bunch of states, the most impressive of which are North Dakota and Montana, whereby state consensus councils bring the stakeholders to an issue together. Because they get them behind closed doors, because they get them to stay away from the TV cameras in particular, over the course of six months or a year...they work out an agreement. It gets passed because all of the interest groups - which is a pejorative term for stakeholders - are onboard. What I've been working on is what I think, for the next 20 years, is going to be the most important domestic division in this country, and that's between the secular Left - of which I'm certainly a part -- and evangelical and other Christians who get lumped into the label of religious Right. Again, for me, there's always a story. The best way to open this discussion (and we haven't gotten very far with this yet) is to describe a trip I took to Wheaton College in Illinois about three years ago. I was on my way, in fact, to see you in Boulder, and we had just finished a project on the faith-based initiative. Wheaton...[is] one of the most conservative colleges in the country, [and] my boss said, "Why don't you go there and see how these ideas fly?" Wheaton had been formed by the same set of people who founded Oberlin, where my boss, Roger, and I had both gone. Except, as Oberlin veered way to the left, Wheaton veered way to the right. It was very difficult for me to even be invited to campus, because I'm Jewish. But we worked that out, and in a class I taught the first night I got there, a student [gave me a book and] said, "Read this. We'll talk about it at breakfast." She said, "A lot of us evangelical Christians do the same kind of work that you do." I said, "no," and she said, "yes." ...So I agreed. I went back to the Wheaton guest house, which barely has CNN (mostly it has sermons on its cable), and I read this piece by Miroslav Volf, who was a professor of systematic theology (at the time, I had no idea what that meant), on reconciliation. And indeed, it was exactly what we do at Search, [but] with scripture. Being Jewish, New Testament scripture was not easy for me to work around, but it was absolutely fascinating. So we brought this young woman in for an internship. ...After about a week of trying to figure out what she should do, I sent her off with a few hundred dollars to go to the Christian bookstore (she had already identified where they were in Washington). She brought back stuff she thought I should read, and we're working toward developing a project in which Oberlin faculty (and as you know, Oberlin folks dominate the secular conflict resolution world...) and Wheaton folks, who dominate the evangelical conflict resolution world, will write a book together. And not just [a group of five people from each faculty writing papers], but writing chapters in pairs. The goal is not to write a book... What I want to do is begin to break down the divide between the religious Left and the religious Right in this country, and it's not easy. One of my favorite self-deprecating stories is that I was at a training I really didn't want to be at. Someone said, "How would you resolve a conflict about whether the ten commandments can be displayed in a public setting?" And I said, "It's simple: Put five of them up." These kinds of [conflicts] -- what our friend Jay Rothman calls "identity-based conflicts" -- don't get settled that way. There's got to be something that allows us to respect each other, and [we need to] figure out what we can and can't do together. I think that actually, for us to deal with the religious Right is going to be more difficult than dealing with the military, because our fear of them and their fear of us is palpable. As we do this, we're sitting inside the infamous beltway in northern Virginia. If you go about 20 miles west of here, there's a college called Patrick Henry College. It only accepts Christian students; it only accepts students who have been to Christian high schools or who have been home schooled. It's explicitly training the next generation of conservative Christian leaders. They won't talk to people like me, and most of my colleagues in our field can't understand why I think we should talk to them. To kind of sum up what you've been asking me so far...my response to dealing with people I disagree with is simple: You ask me to go to the Pentagon [or] Patrick Henry College; I ask three questions: "When, where, and what do I wear?" (and it's the "what do I wear" question that's the most difficult to answer).
Q: What advice would you have for people who are thinking about following your model? Clearly, this kind of divide-crossing is something that's going to require widespread effort, involving a lot of people from our field. Probably not easy to do. You've been fortunate to have some very highly-placed natural connections at the Pentagon that are difficult for other folks to start with. Thoughts about where to start, and maybe some pitfalls to avoid?
A: Well, first, don't take any advice or predictions from me terribly seriously, because I'm often wrong. My wife and I have a Russian Christmas dinner every year, with people we've known since graduate school. One couple was added to the list in the mid-'80s, and [the husband] developed this game where we would make predictions for the next year. This was a group of people, almost all of whom were [experts on the Soviet Union]. Every year, from 1988 until 1991, we got everything that was going to happen in the Soviet bloc wrong. The best solution that we could come up with was not to ask this other couple back. So, take anything I say in terms of prediction and advice with a grain of salt. My guess is that I am, by nature, a political and intellectual risk-taker. I'm not a physical risk-taker. I don't walk my dog barefoot around the neighborhood; I don't jump out of airplanes; I don't do bungee-jumping, or things like that, nor would I if I were younger. But I think it's important for us to go out on political limbs. I didn't set out to do any of this intentionally - a lot of it just kind of happened - but now it is intentional.
I led a series of discussions about a group of films in a small town just past Patrick Henry College, where the bulk of the people were home schooling their kids and were...Christians. The head of the library where this was put on wanted to bring them together with the secular community, and I just kind of showed up and did my thing and everything worked out just fine. I think, if you show up in places and do it with integrity yourself, knowing where you won't go so you won't be co-opted (I won't be co-opted, I don't think) and look at the person on the other side of the table...as someone who really intrigues you because you have something to learn from him or her...usually the gaps disappear pretty quickly and pretty easily. I spend far more of my life than I ever expected to with people who are very, very different from me. At age 58, I don't want to hang out with people I agree with; I don't learn anything from them. But you've met some of my Defense Department friends, and you know, it's great fun. I guess my one piece of advice is, [wherever] you are, find people that you could work with, whom you disagree with. It's probably your neighbor. Our neighbor (who has just moved) and I didn't talk for the first ten years that I lived here. He flew POW/MIA flags, and during the 2004 election, he had anti-Jane Fonda (and therefore anti-John Kerry) bumper stickers on his car, but we talked in the week after 9/11. We had a neighborhood event. The scars that he bears as an army infantry sergeant in Vietnam and the scars that I bear as an anti-war activist during Vietnam are pretty much the same. You can talk, you can build, and you can grow. The question is, what can you do in the community that you're in, in ways that work for you? One of the things that I do when I drive to Oberlin for alumni events or when I drive to my mother's in Connecticut, there are what I call NPR black holes, where you can't get NPR on the radio. I listen to Christian radio stations, and I learn.
Q: ...I have a couple of questions about the military discussion that you were having earlier. One is that we have colleagues who are very alarmed at the kind of thing that you do, and the fact that Guy and I seem to be starting down the same road. One of the assertions...is that the military carries guns, and there is no way that a person who is carrying a gun (or even who has carried a gun in the recent past) can pretend to try to build peace. They cannot walk into a house and pretend to be helpful, having done a no-knock raid on the house next door the night before. The assertion is made that the job of the military is to fight, and the job of the conflict resolution community is to build peace, and we should not get that confused. How do you respond to that?
A: Truth in advertising. We (Guy and Heidi and I) have spent the last week meeting with folks, almost all of whom are either in the military or are civilians working with the military. The questions that you ask, Heidi, are incredibly difficult for them, more than for us.
For us, we don't have any illusion that we're being asked to do things that will help them..."whack bad guys." They don't need our help. One of the people that I guess you haven't met, said, "Look. We don't need you to help us do that. We can pinpoint any building in the world through a global map, and drop a bomb that will take it out." And I said, "Yeah...but you haven't found Osama Bin Laden yet." He said, "We have our limitations. But you don't help us at all in doing that. You would hurt us. We're not going to ask you to do that because, 'a,' it doesn't help us, and 'b,' we know it violates what you believe in. We want you involved for what you bring to the table." The more difficult question is, how do they do it? We have a colleague, who...once said to me, "I have no problem being a warrior and a peace builder."
I know...people who have been both professional peacekeepers and professional war planners. I would find that very hard to do. But more importantly, on the policy level - and I've been thinking about this in my own writing - is how do we go in, as a country, and one day (or one month), blow things up, and then lead a peacebuilding operation? Intellectually, I suppose, it can be done. My colleague, Tom Barnett, who wrote The Pentagon's New Map, suggested we actually split the military, so that we have one wing (which would be small, because nobody can touch us militarily) that would go into an Iraq or into an Afghanistan, [and] win the war (what the president called "major military combat operations.") But the much larger military...[which would include] peacekeepers [and] stabilization folks, would be primarily a rebuilding operation. But they would be separate. Even more importantly, this says to me that we should be doing all of this much more internationally. We can't go into a place like Iraq like we did, running a "coalition of the willing," which was really us, and then run the stabilization and reconstruction which has a somewhat larger group of countries but would still be us, and hope to pull it off and get the support of the folks on the ground. So I think they have a much harder job than we do. Part of the discussions that I've been having with folks in the Pentagon is, in essence, how do they hand over the long-term construction - whether physical or political - to the NGOs and the locals, [and do it] faster, better, and easier than they've done so far? The bottom line, for me, is that the folks that I've been working with, some of whom you've met, are as committed to peace as we are. One lieutenant colonel and I were walking from a meeting to the Metro to go to brief an assistant secretary of defense one day. He said, "You know, Chip, the best audience that you have for conflict resolution are soldiers who have seen combat. Once you've done that, in this environment, you never want to go back."
Q: So should those soldiers be trying to do the conflict resolution themselves, or should they be backing out so folks like us can go in and play that role?
A: I think the answer is, both. What the military is realizing is that...we're not going to be able to go in, kick some butt, and pull our troops out almost immediately. That's not going to happen anymore. Therefore, the military has to learn some of the skills that we're developing (and I say "developing" because we're a new field). But they can't simply hand off the peacebuilding side of things to us, because...we can't go into Iraq or Afghanistan and do the kind of work that Search has done in many other places. It's not secure. The U.N. isn't even really in Iraq in large numbers yet. Therefore, the military has to do some basic, early-stage peacebuilding activity, and I don't envy them that challenge, because I don't see how you can do that easily. What General Krulak called "the three block war," where I'm fighting insurgents, I'm peacekeeping, and I'm rebuilding a country physically, within three blocks of each other, at the same time, all the time. That's a hell of a task for those folks to take on. Most of the folks who are doing that on the ground are between 19 and 21 years old. We are sitting here...a few weeks after the revelations about the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by Marines, a totally unacceptable event if the stories are true (and they certainly seem to be). But these are kids...they're your children's age. [They're] on their third tour in Iraq in a year and-a-half. Are they able to control their emotions? I know I couldn't have at that age. And another example that may or may not help answer this question: I was at a conference about a year ago, and there was a Marine colonel civil affairs officer about my age, who'd been called up and decided that his law practice was shot, and he'd just stay in the Marines until he retired. He talked about one of his patrols going out in a convoy to move stuff around, and an IED (an improvised explosive device) [went] off. A few Marines [were] killed. They [saw] the person who planted the IED, and they [shot] him. He [was] nine years old, [and] an orphan... He did this to have enough money to buy food. He was brought back to the American hospital, because we treat Iraqis as well as our own, and miraculously the kid was saved... Military law being military law...because he had done this, because he had put the IED down, he was declared an enemy combatant and was sent to Abu Ghraib. The colonel who visited...Iraqi patients, went to visit the kid, got a Navy doctor to come in and say, "Oh, no, no. This boy needs far more healthcare than he's gotten so far." They got him out of the prison, and then they got him out of the country. Those are the kinds of challenges that face our fighting men and women, and frankly they're much more difficult than what we face.
Q: Does our getting involved in training the military to do peacebuilding roles co-opt us? Are we selling out our principles and adopting the "good guy"/"bad guy" simplistic image that we ascribe to their side if we work with them and help them do their job better?
A: I hope not. In my own case, I've been a political scientist for 35 years, and I've been a political activist longer than that. I know what I believe in; it's internalized in my head, and in my heart, and in my gut. I don't compromise any of that. If you bring me onboard, I come as I am. I will change, I will grow, [and] I will learn. My wife tells me that I'm not as left-wing as I was when we first met in graduate school. One of my Oberlin classmates, at a recent alumni meeting, said I'm not as much of a jerk as I was when I was 18. But the group of us that I've known since I was 18 who are in our field - our views are not terribly different now than they were when we either had hair or when our hair color was not yet challenged. I'm hard to co-opt. If I were asked to work with the director of operations at the CIA, I wouldn't do it. I would sit down and have a nice lunch, but I wouldn't do that. Toppling poor, defenseless, third-world governments is not what I can accept or tolerate. I think that working with the military...means being of service not so much to the conflict resolution community, but to my country. I was a conscientious objector in 1970 and '71. I'm not sure I'd still be today, because I can see the need for military force in places like Bosnia and Kosovo, or Afghanistan...maybe even Darfur. Not Iraq. But some places. And the kind of military intervention that we're doing these days (Iraq aside) is intervention for the kinds of things that I believe in. How we pull that off is another issue altogether. I think that's a good thing. The other point to make is that we need to do this as a field, because if we don't, we are consigning ourselves to a position of being on the political margins. Two years ago, I would have said that we were going to have a Republican congress, at least until 2012 or the next round of redistricting. So if we want to be a player in the real world, I would have argued, we have to be able to work with Republicans. It isn't easy. When the looting of the museums happened in Iraq right after the fall of the regime, the secretary of defense's comment was, "Stuff happens" (which is the title of an apparently wonderful play, which is much more popular in London than it is here). That's not the kind of statement that I like. I don't like the kind of swaggering, wearing of military paraphernalia the way the president and the secretary of defense and the vice president do, but if I want to be more than some sort of 1960s left-wing, hippie, Vietnam-protesting relic...I think I've got to do this. Again, as I said before, no one's going to confuse me for Jerry Falwell, or a Republican of any ilk. But if I want to have an impact, I've got to do that. Let me give you one last story, which we talked about the other day. I was at a conference in...summer of 2002, on dialogue and deliberations. America Speaks, which is this wonderful participatory democracy organization, gave a presentation in which they did a cutesy electronic straw poll of the people in the room. They asked us how we had voted in 2000, totally anonymously. 6% were not Americans, and therefore hadn't voted. 65%...voted for Gore. 22% voted for Nader. 6% voted for Bush. Almost no one in the room thought there was anything wrong with that. I was appalled...
Q: This is probably ascribing far too much effectiveness to our field than is warranted, but if we were immensely successful in our efforts help the militarydo their job better, and over the long run (that being, say, ten years, which isn't very long considering your Gettysburg comment) Iraq becomes stable. Does that not then teach the lesson that we can go on further military adventures because look, it does work out? Are we not encouraging that sort of activity with our activity?
A: Good question. I don't think so. I think the lesson that is being learned (and not being talked about publicly, because it can't be) is that the costs of Iraq, so far, are very high. And I think that even this administration (especially this administration) would not launch another..."expeditionary" mission lightly. As of this morning, I think the paper said that we have lost 2,537 people in Iraq. Somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 Iraqis have died. If you take the official figures, the war so far has cost us 300-400 billion dollars, maybe a little bit more by now. If you look at all the indirect costs (and that includes everything from interest on debt to the long-term cost of caring for the wounded), some people estimate it to be as much as 2-3 trillion dollars. If you just take the wounded thing, there are lots of people who were wounded in this war who would have died in Vietnam. Living in Washington, we get to see, on the nightly news, stories about disabled vets at Walter Reed hospital. The number of people who have lost a limb or two or three is huge. I met a senior Navy nurse at a conference, and he says it's just tragic. Lots of our colleagues and friends are convinced we're just chomping at the bit to go into North Korea or Iran, and there's no question in my mind that we'd "win" (as we "won" in Iraq), but I think there's a pretty clear understanding that either of them would be more difficult. They'd be worse. As I hear Pentagon folks talking about what we should be doing about places like Darfur, what they're really doing is saying, "Alright, let's look at the kinds of places that could blow up in the future. How do we address the problems there before that happens?" Darfur is kind of an intermediate case. We've lost a quarter of a million people in a genocide. But it has not yet turned into a war that will impact the region, although it's beginning to impact Chad. How do we get engaged there earlier than we did, to stop this from escalating to the point that it did...to stop it from getting to the point that the U.S. (or in this case, the African Union), has to send a gazillion troops in? I hear my colleagues (not just at the Pentagon, but at the State Department's office for stabilization and reconstruction) asking those questions and trying to figure out how we can avoid [another] Iraq. There's a cartoon in this morning's Washington Post that shows a cemetery, and the gravestones are "Bosnia," "Kosovo," "Darfur," "Rwanda," places where genocide has occurred. The best book on that is Samantha Powers' A Problem from Hell. A lot of my friends in the Pentagon have read it, and feel exactly the same way that I do. So I think, you know, we wish them God speed.
Q: What would [be your advice] to people going into this field (this field being the conflict resolution field)? Would you think that...people who are going into peacebuilding and international conflict resolution...should they work hard to form collaborative ties with people in the military, as you have done, or is this something that just a few people should do, while the others stay more mainstream?
A: ...No, I don't give that advice, because I think that people going into any field (including this one) have to find their own comfort level, and the things that work for them. I find doing this stuff fun. It's almost like it isn't work, though I must admit that I do get a little stressed at some of the meetings where I don't know the people going in. But I feel that way when I give a paper to an academic conference. I guess my advice...if you're going into this field...would be, find a job that will pay you enough money to buy a house, send your kids to college, be able to shop at Whole Foods, whatever it is that makes you happy, but that also puts you in a place where you work with people who are different from you. For me, it's defense folks and evangelicals. And that's not for everybody. The other piece of advice (and this is really aimed more at my colleagues who teach in the conflict resolution field) is to help our students who are interested in moving into the national security world... Let me give you two examples... At a meeting this week, we talked with a guy who is a retired Marine and is finishing a Ph.D. at George Mason's conflict resolution program, ICAR. As far as he and I can figure out, in the almost 25 years that that program has been in existence, there have been three people with a military background who have gotten Ph.D.s in the program. We may have found the fourth yesterday. That's not a lot. One of those people is serving in the office of the secretary of defense. We've got to get more of our people into that world. One way of seeing that is that Mason has two programs. One is ICAR, which is a classic conflict resolution program, which I don't teach at because it's like preaching to the choir. Everybody there already believes in what I believe in. But it also has a more heterogeneous program in the School of Public Policy, called Peace Operations Policy. Half of its students have military backgrounds. I find them much more interesting. If we can get the people who take our classes into the military, into the State Department, into the CIA, that's a good thing. You talked about someone who I think had been your student once, who was sitting in Iraq, trying to figure out what to do in a very difficult situation. He sent you an e-mail and said, "What do I do now? I've forgotten what I learned in my conflict resolution classes." If we can..."instantiate" ourselves into that community, that would be a very good thing. But it's not for everybody. Most of the people that you and I know [from] our generation wouldn't be comfortable. But what I find is that the younger folks (people say, under 35), don't have the ideological hang-ups that we do.
Q: Thanks, Chip, very much. This has been great.