IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

More post-grading thoughts

I just finished grading another set of graduate essays on conflict and post conflict reconstruction.   While this is a completely non objective way to assess things, still if you read enough of these things over time you get a sense for how the “typical” student’s world view might be changing.  Here are a couple of things which I (subjectively and with my peace-oriented agenda which I do not make any attempt to hide in this blog :-)) noticed.

1.  At least moderately well informed people (ie graduate students in international relations) seem a bit less resigned to the idea that people and states are inherently violent and that’s just the way it is.  They seem to be edging toward that view that “this is unacceptable, this is intolerable, the suffering is too great…and something has to be done”.

2.  A just dawning understanding that if the United Nations is not working adequately to deal with conflict, this is probably because the interests of powerful states are preventing it from developing the necessary capacity to do so.  More are asking questions like:  how much should humanity suffer to maintain a narrow notion of national sovereignty?

3.  An awareness that the current conflict in Afghanistan (obviously on everybody’s mind right now as an important decision about American involvement looms on the horizon) has deep roots (going back maybe to the British and the “Great Game”, if not farther) and is probably not going to be “fixed” over the short term.  In this regard, I have seen in the essays an understanding of the complexity of what I like to call the “conflict formation” in that region, which includes the economic and social issue of the drug trade as well as the whole issue of Islamic fundamentalism, foreign intervention, etc…

4.  Lastly, for now, some case studies show that it is possible to get beyond conflict (Northern Ireland was one case studied).  However, even here it is clear that enormous effort, commitment and perseverance was/is necessary to make even nominal progress.

So, at least this term, I see some signs that my students are getting out of the “resigned, inevitability” (term that comes, I think, from Richard Falk) school of thought about violent conflicts in world affairs, and are starting to grope toward a search for the underlying causes and possible paths to resolution and elimination of these tragedies.

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November 24, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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