Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, October 18, 2007

USIP holds discussion on international conflict management

The United States Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion Tuesday to discuss the book “Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World.”

Daniel L. Byman, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, began the discussion by arguing that we tend to forget the positive things that are going on in the world. He pointed out a few examples, including stability in Europe and the number of democratic countries has increased significantly over the past 50 years.

Byman also discussed U.S. military power. “We are dominant in air, space, land and sea and we have the power to send troops all around the world,” he said. On terrorism, he added: “terrorism is just a cheap weapon,” saying that if one nation does not sponsor the terrorists they will simply move somewhere else.

To address the terrorist issue, Byman called for enhanced training efforts for the military and police in countries where terrorism is a major concern. He also pointed to the utility of diplomatic pressure.

Chester A. Crocker, a strategic studies professor at Georgetown University, pointed to the need for statecraft and diplomacy. “Statecraft is all the forms of power, also hard power,” he said. Adding, “we need to use all tools of state craft, we need to connect the dots.”

Crocker said that the U.S. tends to do a good job of connecting the military dots, but asserted that all aspects of statecraft must be utilized. He also said common misinterpretations of the nature of U.S. dialogue with other nations, saying that in reality, “we might tell them: ‘what do you need from us to behave better?’”

Crocker also said that “we need to redefine the global war on terror.” Even if the terrorist is intent on war against the U.S. it does not mean that the U.S. needs to declare war against them, he said, adding, “we should use our brains as well as our guns.” Crocker also said that we should be paying more attention to failing states instead of just focusing on the global war on terror.

Barbara Slavin, a reporter with USA Today, agreed with Crocker and Byman – especially Crocker’s comments on using the whole statecraft tool kit. Slavin has made six trips to Iran and she said that “the situation is complex and there are challenges, but there is also hopes and opportunities.” She noted that there have been talks about military intervention in Iran, which she said would not be good.

Slavin recounted that “we had high-level talks with Iran in 2000-2001 in Paris.” However, the situation was a lot different then, she said, with the U.S. in a more favorable situation with regards to Iraq, a different president in office in Tehran, and the nuclear issue not yet a major concern.

To help address tensions with Iran, Slavin said that regional integration is key. “I cannot see how the U.S could stabilize Lebanon, Syria and Palestine without Iran,” she said. She added that, “instead of using a sledgehammer, maybe we should try something that might work, work together.”

The final panelist, Andrew Mack, director of the Fraser University’s Human Security Report Project, focused on statistics such as the decline in battle death rates and the decline of armed conflicts. “Conflict prevention has been failing and peace building is what is particularly important,” he said. Mack also stressed that preventing wars from restarting is imperative and that this is also the best way to achieve peace.


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