IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Post grading thoughts

Hello again, and sorry for not being around much the last few days.  I am a university teacher, and I was swamped with grading.  I teach international relations and related courses, and I often read the views of students about many of the topics I’ve mentioned in this blog.  This round of grading got me thinking about some of the conceptions/misconceptions that my students regularly express in their exams and research papers:  conceptions/misconceptions that reflect, IMHO, where some of the obstacles to world peace lie.  UNESCO is founded on the idea that war begins in the minds of men (their gender bias, not mine), and I think one could also turn that around and say that peace (also) begins in the minds of people.  So, here is a first list of some of the ideas that my students produce regularly, that are–again IMHO– problematic for peace.

1.  State sovereignty is, or should be, sacrosanct.  Comment:  while this might have been the case in the past, it isn’t anymore.  The Security Council can intervene, even in regard to what are more or less purely domestic matters.

2.  The United Nations is “weak”.  Comment:  this may be true, but what seems to escape most people is that if the U.N. is somehow weak, it is because the membership, and the Security Council permanent members in particular, don’t want it to be any stronger.  Nothing stops that from happening, except the lack of will to make it happen.

3.  Collective Security has not, and can not work.  Comment:  actually, every time the U.N. has decided on sanctions against a member, that is Collective Security in action.  This has happened several times.  Of course, what people are thinking about is the generally limited commitment that major states have to the idea that security is indivisible.  It is true, that if that commitment is lacking, collective security cannot really function.

4.  The War on Terror, is a “clash of civilizations” as exposed by Samuel Huntington, and can also be seen as a conflict between the U.S./West and all Middle Eastern/Muslim nations.  Comment:  it is true that a few countries have been involved, but the GWOT is more against a transnational movement of extremism.  There is no clear geographical “fault line” that divides “us” and “them”.  It’s a whole lot more complicated than that; even if we would like it to be simpler.

Most of my students are Americans, but most have some international experience (of one kind or another), and are better informed than many of their countrymen.  However, some of these “old” ideas seem deeply anchored, and I am always impressed by how they persist despite being more and more out of date.

I may come up with a few more in the days to come.

IGbarb says:  all the best!

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October 13, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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