Author Archives: Diana Wueger

Notes from the Underground (Mailbag)

A couple interesting opportunities/notifications have landed in my inbox lately, so I thought I’d share those here while I procrastinate think about my finals.

Call for Papers: War in the Digital Age

The Stanford Law & Policy Review is soliciting articles for its upcoming symposium on “War in the Digital Age.”  The Stanford Law & Policy Review is a widely-cited academic journal at Stanford Law School that explores current issues at the nexus of law and public policy. In our upcoming volume, which will be published in the spring of 2014, we will address the challenges and opportunities that emerging technologies present for 21st century conflict. Our framework is purposefully broad, and we are looking for submissions that address novel issues or approach the topic from a new perspective.  We are particularly interested in including the following topics in the “War in the Digital Age” symposium, but this list is not exhaustive:

  • What norms and laws surround the acquisition and use of information in modern conflict, and what norms and laws do we think should apply?
  • How does 21st century conflict implicate issues of government discretion and accountability?
  • Decisions about modern warfare take place at the intersection of state, federal, and international law. How do we balance these regimes?
  • How are technological changes bringing warfare to civilians, and how will this accelerate in the future?
  • When can we hold governments accountable for the actions of their citizens, who may use technology to engage in conflict in new ways?
  • Most analysts focus on the problems that technological innovation causes for the laws and norms surrounding traditional warfare. But do emerging technologies present any new solutions to problems of traditional warfare?

If you are interested in submitting to the symposium, please submit a one-to-four page proposal to us on or before July 1, 2013. Depending on space constraints and other considerations, we may be able to extend you a pre-approval offer of publication.  The earlier we receive a proposal, the greater the chance we can extend a pre-approval offer.  We will accept full article submissions until September 1, 2013.  Note that you are not required to submit a proposal or obtain pre-approval in order to submit an article for publication, although doing so is recommended.  Articles should be between ten and thirty double-spaced pages, not including footnotes and citations.  Articles, proposals, or questions can be directed to Christina Black, Lead Articles Editor, at cblack@stanford.edu.

CTBT Diplomacy and Public Policy Course

The CTBT Diplomacy and Public Policy Course, entitled, “Proven Treaty, Political Challenge: The CTBT and Multistakeholder Security”, will be held from 15 to 19 July 2013 in Vienna and live streamed online.

Special guest lecturers will include:

  • Professor Siegfried Hecker, Senior Fellow and Professor, Stanford University, Director Emeritus, Los Alamos National Laboratory;
  • Dr Daniel Pinkston, Deputy Project Director, North East Asia, International Crisis Group;
  • Dr James Acton, Senior Associate, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment.

The course will cover political and diplomatic aspects of the CTBT, its history and current challenges and prospects for its entry-into-force and universalization. Participants will cover the basics of the Treaty and its verification regime through a series of e-learning modules to be completed prior to 15 July, which will then be followed by a live lecture component from 15 to 19 July in Vienna. The live lecture component will feature CTBTO expert staff, guest lectures and panel discussions, as well as an interactive simulation at the end of the week. In addition, a Legislation Workshop directed specifically to national implementation measures will take place within the framework of the course. To register or receive more information on this workshop, please contact Legal.Registry@ctbto.org .

Participants can take part in the course in Vienna or follow online, by watching the live stream or archived videos. Participants who complete all of the course requirements will receive a certificate of successful completion. The course is free-of-charge and open to all interested parties. Registration and further information are available here.

The course is part of the CTBTO’s education and outreach activities, aimed at inspiring the next generation of experts in all aspects of the Treaty. Further information on this effort is available here.

Invisible Armies Insurgency Tracker

My policy and stylistic writing differences with Max Boot aside, this database of insurgencies that goes along with Boot’s latest book is kinda neat, and you might enjoy poking around it. Or maybe not. I’m not gonna try to tell you what to like. If you don’t like this, go play GeoGuessr.

Posted in Announcements | Comments Off

Gunfight and Glock: Book Reviews

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been able to bring myself to read much about Sandy Hook. I know roughly what happened, but that’s as far as I can get, because this is such an abominable failure of a society to keep its most vulnerable members safe. That’s not just Sandy Hook, of course – it’s every massacre. And nothing ever happens in the aftermath – no real efforts to curb gun violence, nothing that expands mental health care – and I’m with the Onion here.

But maybe I’m being too cynical and defeatist. Maybe this, this finally, is what will mobilize America to demand change from ourselves and our leadership; to undercut the grip the gun lobby has on politics; to recognize that there is a middle ground between arming everybody and total disarmament. So for those who are getting going on this issue and need some good background reading, and also because G&L is collecting Best Books We Read in 2012 (contribute on Twitter with #bestbooks!), I wanted to post two book reviews/opinions I’ve been sitting on for way too long.

NB: these are snarky reviews, as serious book reviews can be found in other places, and nobody reads serious book reviews, and I actually think Gunfight is worth reading, and if I can convince you to read it by being flip, then it was worth it. But I do not take the issue of gun violence lightly, and I hope this will not be read as making light of the tragedies of the past week/month/year/decades (gun violence is epidemic, and it is vital not to decontextualize any one incident).

Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms In America, by Adam Winkler (2011, W. W. Norton & Co.).

Should I ever be asked to explain the history of America’s relationship with guns, I intend to hand over a copy of Adam Winkler’s outstanding Gunfight. On the surface, Gunfight is the story of the 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, which ruled DC’s ban on handguns unconstitutional and settled the question of whether the Second Amendment is an individual right or not. And while I find the term ‘legal thriller’ to be an oxymoron, Winkler gives life to the characters involved in the DC v. Heller case as it worked its way to the Supreme Court. So that’d be reason enough to read Gunfight; the strategic maneuvering around the case is pretty interesting.

But more usefully, Winkler traces the history of the tension between gun control and gun ownership in America, using the 2008 case as a backdrop. He gives a very readable, founding fathers-onward march through America’s weird love affair with guns. He covers the extensive regulations around guns in the colonial and post-colonial periods, providing an alternate (and well-researched) history that undercuts many of the “but the founding fathers said we could have guns!” arguments that seem to still hold water these days. Because it’s not just that the guns of yesteryear were slow to load and broadly inaccurate; they were also locked up most of the time. Likewise out in the Wild West; you gave your guns to the sheriff when you got to town, and you got them back on your way out.

Given the heat the NRA’s taken in the last week, it’s particularly instructive to look at the organization’s history, and Winkler does an excellent job here (and for those with short attention spans, so does Toobin). Once upon a time, the NRA wasn’t the trade association it’s essentially become (okay so technically the National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association. But the NRA’s funding comes mainly from gun manufacturers, and the NRA’s lobbying wing is the most active in the industry, and if there’s one thing gun manufacturers want, it’s to sell more guns, which means loosening laws and creating fear that those laws will be tightened ANY MINUTE BUY NOW OBAMA WANTS TO TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY! It’s… weird. And really effective.)

Anyway! Once upon a time! Back in the 1930s! The NRA wasn’t like that. They actually lobbied for gun control. Karl T. Frederick, a past president of the NRA, was a conservationist and a crack shot who once said, “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” (210-211) Madness! And none of the NRA’s advocacy was about the Second Amendment, because it wasn’t seen as a particularly strong argument against gun laws. Ah, the glorious 30s. Except for the Great Depression and the start of World War II, that was a real good decade, I tell you.

And then the 1950s came along (whatever, 1940s, nobody loves you), and the soldiers came home and there were just lots of cheap guns left over after WWII, and while there were purchasing restrictions, they weren’t that onerous, and that’s when proliferation in America really kicked off. And then we had the 1960s, with the social upheavals thereof, and crime started to rise, and people started to arm themselves more for self-defense than for hunting. The NRA’s membership started to shift from hunters and recreational shooters to self-defense-oriented folks.

And then, in 1976, the executive vice president and de facto head of the organization decided to relocate the NRA headquarters out of Washington, DC, and get out of the lobbying business in favor of outdoorsman activities and environmental awareness programs. This did not sit well with the self-defense crowd. Harlon Carter, the head of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, and Neal Knox, who thought the assassination of MLK, Jr. was a government plot to advance gun control, engineered a coup that turned the NRA into the organization that it is today. Oops. Moral of the story: know your bylaws.

Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, by Paul M. Barrett

For my birthday, some very dear friends bought me Paul Barrett’s new book, Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun after we wandered into his talk at Politics & Prose. And I wanted to like it, because hey, birthday present! Books about guns! This has been a winning combination in the past. But unless you care a lot about marketing strategies or are really into reporters’ notebooks, just borrow this one from the library.

Unfortunately for Mr. Barrett, the history of Glock, Inc. doesn’t span centuries, as American Rifle does, or involve global domination, as The Gun does, so there’s just not that much to write about that hasn’t been well-covered elsewhere. Here, I’ll sum up Glock:

  • In the early 1980s, a hard-working Austrian named Gaston Glock comes up with cheap semi-automatic pistol that holds 17 rounds at the same time American law enforcement begins to realize that revolvers are a pain to reload, especially when you’re getting shot at. Smith & Wesson fails to notice that revolvers are on their way out of law enforcement.
  • Glock hires a really, really good sales guy, Karl Walter. Really Really Good Sales guy is really really good. Boy, is he good. Strippers! Free training! Discounts for law enforcement and Hollywood!
  • Hard-working Austrian and Really Really Good Sales Guy manage to get their guns in the hands of law enforcement. The rest of the firearms industry, by contrast, twiddles their thumbs and looks sad.
  • Gun control advocates kick up a big fuss over the magazine size, light trigger pull, alleged undetectableness, whatever else they can find. Gun nuts buy them by the boatload. Some more pouting happens on the part of other manufacturers.
  • Really Really Good Sales Guy gets fired for being too good. Another sales guy is hired who eventually hires somebody to kill Gaston Glock. Assassination attempt fails. Exeunt.

There. That’s the book (okay, maybe there’s more, but I gave up around p200). It’s an interesting story, but it’s not 267 pages worth of interesting, and the writing isn’t particularly compelling. In short, Glock is synonymous with gun in America for the same reason Xerox is both a brand and a verb: good marketing and slow-footed competition. Glock holds this special place in the American psyche simply because it hit the ground running with a novel product and some smart business practices in the 80s; it captured the law enforcement market early in its existence, giving it a way to quickly scale up production and a stamp of approval for other marketing efforts.

Glock seems to be the work of a reporter who thought it’d be cool to write about guns and needed an excuse to do some research. And there’s a lot of research. To his credit, Barrett did his homework, and he’s got a lot of facts and figures and dates to report. Oh, and anecdotes. So very many “and then I talked to this other random person” anecdotes. There’s also the irrelevant story of Barrett learning to shoot by… entering a competition? Okay, whatever. There’s just so much fluff, but I suppose that at 267 pages with wide margins and large font, any editing for fluff would’ve made this too short to be worth publishing as a book.

Glock tries to situate itself in the pantheon of Definitive Books About Guns, but it’s better suited to the business section. Pass.

***

I know Americans aren’t a particularly history-oriented bunch, by and large, but the history of gun laws in America is one that needs to read and internalized. Many of the proposals and op-eds I’ve read in the last week are, frankly, rehashes of history. This is not to dismiss them; rather, I simply encourage anybody writing or reading or lobbying or agitating or whatever you’re doing around the effort to curbing gun violence and/or proliferation to do your homework. Start with Gunfight. Skip Glock.

PATRICK KASTNER/DISPATCH
Posted in Book Reviews, GunsGunsGuns, Small Arms | Comments Off

You Don’t Have to Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here: A Review of Last Men Out

I grew up hearing fantastical stories about the fall of Saigon from my dad, who witnessed the terrifying and chaotic final days of South Vietnam as a young foreign service officer. Panicked South Vietnamese parents, having heard horror stories about the brutality of the approaching North Vietnamese Army, tossed infants over the U.S. embassy gates in the hopes they’d be taken to safety. Rich politicians and their wives demanded that their gold-bar-filled luggage and prized dogs be allowed on board the tiny helicopters, even though space and weight were already at a premium. Helicopters were pushed off flight decks of Navy ships into the South China Sea so more could land. Stories like these seemed absurd and unbelievable to me, so when I was offered a copy of Bob Drury and Tom Clavin’s Last Men Out to review, I jumped on it, if only to get some independent verification of these tales. Who knows? Maybe my dad made it all up.

Not pictured: My dad (he’s behind the cameraman).

Except… turns out he didn’t. In roughly 270 pages, Last Men Out covers the finals days of April 1975 when, in the face of General Van Tien Dung’s push towards Saigon, the United States finally closed up shop after 25 years in Vietnam and rocked a helicopter-based evacuation called Operation: Frequent Wind. Last Men Out narrates the fantastical evacuation through the lens of the Marine Corps Security Guards (MSGs) posted to the embassy at Saigon and a few other provincial capitals, and it’s all there – thrown babies, gold and dogs, the disposal of perfectly good helicopters into the sea.

The authors do not, of course, mention Afghanistan, but the parallels are hard to miss.* The heroes and villains are clear: the MSGs are the very portrait of Real American Heroes, while the CIA, the State Department, and Washington come out covered in mud. Sound familiar? The narrative of America in Afghanistan is that the troops are doing their best with the policies and information available to them, while the politicos and policymakers that are to blame for the way things are going.

Interestingly, NVA’s General Dung, who (SPOILER ALERT) conquers Saigon in the end, is treated generously for refraining from attacking the city until Americans had left. The calculus behind his decision to wait for the Americans to evacuate gave me pause. While Dung certainly wanted to punish the U.S., he chose not to close on the city lest the Americans come back en masse to rescue or avenge their countrymen. I’m hardly suggesting we’ll see Kabul encircled by the Taliban on the day we finally close up shop – merely noting that the enemy has a say in how that day goes. Looking past the end of major combat operations in Afghanistan to the idea of a small advisory mission that will continue to help the Afghan National Security Forces, Last Men Out makes clear that as the number of U.S. troops declines, the risk to those still on the ground grows. The twin pressures of weak and fearful local allied forces and an enemy emboldened by fewer troops and the reduced likelihood of open hostilities could put any advisory mission in jeopardy.

In their treatment of the South Vietnamese, the authors display a frustrating tendency to stereotype – the politicians are corrupt, the civilians are childlike and helpless, the local security forces are sullen and liable to turn on their allies. Scattered moments of heroism and agency are all the more notable for their scarcity. The final moments of chaos in which the Vietnamese attempt to get to the roof to catch the last helicopter out make them seem like animals or barbarians – not frightened human beings who know what will happen when the NVA arrive. Again, this tracks with current popular understanding of the Afghans – politicians corrupt, civilians can’t help themselves, green-on-blue killings becoming endemic, etc. – with little attempt to understand the war from the Afghan perspective.

Honestly, it’s hard to read Last Men Out as straight history. It reads somewhat like a historical novel, like the war nerd’s version of The Other Boleyn Girl, and it’s a gripping story, especially if you’re not familiar with the intricacies and dramatis personae of Frequent Wind. You’re not sure who will live or die, whether the NVA will enter Saigon before the MSGs get out, or who gets left behind.  If you can suspend disbelief a little bit it makes for a real page-turner (the level of detail suggests some liberties were taken with the dialogue and descriptions, but the authors address this in the endnotes, so I’ll forgive them that).

But it also makes for some sobering reading when read with half a mind to the next war we’ll leave unfinished. Though the parallels are not perfect, it’s especially worth considering how we treat – and leave – our local allies, both civilian and military, and how they’ll perceive themselves to have been treated. The image of 400 non-Americans patiently standing in the embassy courtyard waiting for a helicopter that never came is haunting, much like the stories about Iraqi interpreters left languishing in visa application purgatory. While we can’t save everybody, and we can’t and shouldn’t stay forever, we should take care not to offer false hope and to do what we can where we can.

* NB: I’m not arguing that Afghanistan is Vietnam 2.0, nor am I suggesting analogical thinking is particularly valuable in this instance. I’m merely noting the elements of this narrative that led me to consider their modern parallels.

Posted in Afghanistan, Book Reviews, Iraq, Military, War | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Growing Threat to Saudi Intellectuals: The Case of Hamza Kashgari

This guest post is by Lauren Morgan, a writer and analyst from Indiana whose research primarily focuses on regional politics in the Middle East and homegrown terrorism. Since 2009, Lauren has worked as an analyst with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. She holds a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and is a former resident of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She can be reached via Twitter @lemorgan.

Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi writer and poet, created a firestorm of controversy on Milad an-Nabi, the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, when he took to his personal Twitter account, which has since been deleted, and said the following:

  • On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.
  • On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.
  • On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

Despite the obvious poetic nature of his comments, they enraged conservative Saudi clerics who declared him an apostate and called for King Abdullah to execute the twenty-three year old. Kashgari fled the Kingdom and entered Malaysia on February 7. Two days later, as Kashgari was preparing to leave Malaysia for New Zealand, Malaysian authorities detained him and subsequently deported him to Saudi Arabia, where his fate remains uncertain.

Kashgari made his initial court appearance on March 7 and entered his tawbah (repentance) to the Saudi court system, according to Fadiah Nadwa, the representative for Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) who was contacted by Kashgari’s friend and traveling companion to try to halt Kashgari’s deportation from Malaysia. The courts, however, have given no indication whether his tawbah was accepted, and Nadwa notes that there are cases where defendants, despite entering their tawbah, have remained in detention for years without trial. Since his arrest, Kashgari reportedly has been kept in solitary confinement and denied access to his attorney, renowned Saudi human rights lawyer Abdulrahman Allahim, though Arab News reports that Allahim and Kashgari’s family attended the initial court appearance.

Media attention has been minimal and broadly inaccurate, but the importance of Kashgari’s case as a precedent for similar free speech cases in the Kingdom cannot be overstated. In the past month alone, another Saudi resident, Mohamed Salama, has been accused of apostasy, with many parallels being drawn between his case and Kashgari’s. In addition, well-known Saudi human rights activist and lawyer Walid Abu Al-Khair was banned from traveling to the U.S. at the end of March; he is accused by the religious establishment of being influential to Kashgari. The State Department has issued a statement saying they are “seeking clarification” on the travel ban.

Was Hamza Kashgari Targeted for Arrest?

Since his arrest, rumors have swirled online that the government targeted Kashgari for arrest long before he tweeted the now infamous words about the Prophet. Muath Aldabbagh first met Kashgari four years ago at a gathering led by Abdullah Hamiduddin, a scholar of Yemeni descent known for opinions that differ from the standard Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. After becoming acquainted through Hamiduddin’s circle, Kashgari and Aldabbagh met weekly with a small group to discuss philosophy at coffee shops and homes across Jeddah.

Aldabbagh explained in an interview that Kashgari had recently abandoned the strict religious dogmatism that permeates Saudi society. He emphatically defended Kashgari against critics’ claims that he is an apostate, however, saying that Kashgari is “still within religion, trying to appreciate it in his own way.” Aldabbagh believes Kashgari’s youth and popularity as a newspaper columnist has made him an ideal target for a religious establishment that has become increasingly nervous about the rise of Saudi intellectuals in recent years. He notes that “different groups, such as mine and other groups, have been discussing intellectual matters and taking knowledge into our own hands.” In a country where free thought and critical thinking are not welcomed by the religious establishment, attending groups like the one that Kashgari and Aldabbagh frequented puts these intellectuals at risk for retribution.

The repeated deceptions committed by officials involved with the detention and deportation of Kashgari further validate Aldabbagh’s suspicions that Kashgari was targeted. Malaysian authorities have been intentionally deceptive on multiple occasions about the arrest of Kashgari. Malaysia’s Home Minister intentionally deceived reporters by stating that Kashgari’s detention was at the request of Interpol; Interpol has since strongly denied this claim. Fadiah Nadwa of LFL spoke with me at length about the chaotic scene that developed at the airport in Kuala Lumpur as she and other LFL representatives tried, unsuccessfully, to halt Malaysian officials from deporting Kashgari. She said that lawyers served papers to airport officials to stop the deportation, but police and authorities deceived them in order to prevent the court order from being enacted. In addition, Nadwa claims that when LFL asked to check Kashgari’s immigration report, Malaysian immigration officials claimed there was no record of Kashgari ever entering the country. LFL has since issued a statement and photograph confirming Kashgari’s entrance into the country.

A New Witch Hunt?

Kashgari’s case has evoked a renewed sense of fear amongst activists who have been utilizing social media, and Twitter in particular, to speak openly about rights issues in the Kingdom for the past few years. That Kashgari was arrested just months after Crown Prince Nayef’s ascension is not lost on Saudi activists. If Kashgari was targeted for arrest, it confirms the fears expressed by liberal Saudis following the ascension of Prince Nayef to the position of Crown Prince in October 2011. Then, Saudis took to Twitter to tweet #NayefNightmares – the fears (some real and some humorous) they had about his increased power and influence in the country due to his reputation as a social conservative with strong ties to the religious establishment.

Indeed, more than one activist I interviewed agreed to speak to me only on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. According to one, “the fear for many liberal Saudis isn’t to be labeled an activist anymore. The fear is that you are labeled an atheist.” Aldabbagh echoed this claim, noting that the religious establishment recognizes that “liberal has now become mainstream. Their enemy right now is atheism. Anyone who is against them, they label him as being an atheist.” He admits he has received numerous threats following Kashgari’s arrest from individuals who have warned him “you’re next”.

Conclusion

Kashgari’s case could set a dangerous legal precedent for free speech in Saudi Arabia. It also illustrates the far-reaching influence of the Saudi regime. As Saudi activist Hala al-Dosari notes, “We’ve never had someone brought from overseas to be prosecuted for speaking against Islam.” It is troubling that Kashgari was deported back to Saudi Arabia despite the Kingdom not having an extradition agreement with Malaysia and despite Kashgari having broken no laws in Malaysia.

Equally troubling is the lack of legal movement on Kashgari’s case within Saudi Arabia. Despite publicly retracting his comments and entering tawbah to the Saudi courts, Kashgari’s detention continues.  But Nadwa remains optimistic, saying “the fact that he’s not been tried yet is a good indication for us. I think the pressure is really working.” Still, others fear that the government, under pressure from the religious establishment, will try to make an example out of him. “We fear that he will be a scapegoat,” said Saudi activist Hala al-Dosari in an interview.

The only acceptable conclusion to this case is Kashgari’s immediate and unconditional release from custody. To ensure that the regime does not bow to clerics’ calls for Kashgari’s execution, the international community must demand that the Saudi regime release him at once.  Many Saudi activists agree that the Saudi regime is sensitive to international pressure and does not want negative publicity; Fadiah Nadwa emphasized the urgent need for international attention to Kashgari’s case, saying, “It’s very important for us to step in now and increase the pressure so that they won’t step in and execute him. I think we have to be fast in our actions.”

I would like to give special thanks to Hala al-Dosari, Hasan Radwan, and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross for their assistance in bringing this article to fruition.

Posted in Human Rights, Middle East, Saudi Arabia | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Women on Top

A week ago, Micah Zenko asked me to contribute to a blog post that would address the question “Women are significantly underrepresented in foreign policy and national security positions in government, academia, and think tanks. Why do you think this is the case?”

Turns out, that’s not an easy question to answer – the scope is broad, and the problem isn’t confined to this field. Women are underrepresented at the top in a lot of fields – economics, journalism, medicine, business, etc – which suggests there’s a cultural component to this. And indeed, a friend of mine is working on a psych PhD on why women aren’t seen as effective leaders. I’ve been after her to write about this for G&L, but it boils down to  the traits that Americans associate with being an effective leader are, broadly speaking, not the traits that we associate with women. If we don’t see women as effective leaders, why would we promote them to leadership roles?

But I think the problem for women starts much earlier, long before biases about women’s leadership potential kick in. I think the problem starts when women first enter the workforce (actually, it probably starts earlier than that, but I can’t solve the education system):

There’s a gap in the types of tasks women and men are assigned early in their careers. Intentionally or not, women tend to given more administrative or support work rather than policy or research work; path dependence takes over from there. I recall a prominent scholar regularly asking his female research assistant (RA) to pick up his dry cleaning and take his car to the shop—things he didn’t ask of male RAs.

So women writ large aren’t doing the right work to gain the knowledge, experiences, and networks necessary to move up. How to fix that? Employers, pay attention to what assignments you give your staff, both female and male. Your male interns need to learn to greet guests at events just as your female interns needs to learn to take meeting notes. Sure, the work needs to get done, but make sure you’re assigning work fairly. It should not be up to your female staff to decline assignments that aren’t appropriate.

Also at issue is mentorship and sponsorship:

Young women have trouble finding men willing to act in that capacity because there are few mechanisms to develop the rapport that underlies a good, productive mentoring relationship.  Conversely, men may be concerned about how a mentoring relationship will be perceived and shy away as a result. But mentors are vital for opening doors and offering suggestions and feedback about career choices—efforts that are particularly valuable in the foreign policy world.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to find some fantastic men to act as mentors, among them my co-bloggers Daveed, Jon, and Sky. They help me navigate the terror of writing publicly, they offer suggestions for managing my career and educational choices, and they tell me when I’m being too hard on myself or when I’m not trying hard enough. Their honest feedback and support has been invaluable.  Which is not to say we don’t also need female mentors – I don’t know where I’d be without Eve Sandberg, Stephanie Carvin, Erin Simpson, or Laura Seay – but in a field where the old boys’ network is still real, we need men too.

But where do young women find male mentors? That’s a problem I’m not sure how to solve, and I’d love to hear suggestions for how to overcome it, because I think this is a huge, huge deal. I found mine organically, through a year’s worth of inconsequential chatter and afternoons spent at happy hours that built into the rapport necessary for honest feedback. But I also initiated a lot of that contact, asking for help and insisting they pay attention to me, which is not something women generally feel comfortable doing, and which has the potential to aggravate wives and girlfriends (Amy, Bethany, and Julia – thank you for being awesome). So… let’s hear it. How do we bridge this gap?

All this is not to deny that women may also have some difficulty moving from the middle to the top of the national security and foreign policy world. There are real challenges to managing that transition as well, as Jolynn Shoemaker, Director of Women in International Security, highlights:

Work-Life Concerns: Inflexible schedules, unrelenting travel, and constant pressure to be in the office are common features of these jobs.  Many women are looking for opportunities to contribute meaningfully but also have more control over their personal lives.  They perceive that the foreign policy field is unaccommodating to flexible arrangements or detours from the traditional advancement track, and they feel pushed out.

Career Burn-Out:  Mid-level women point out that the 24-7 schedules and constant pressures are leading to more women opting out of leadership opportunities.  Whether they have families or not, younger women are re-examining the established definitions of success, and in some cases, concluding that the personal sacrifices are too high.

Lack of Sponsorship:  Women recognize that they need “sponsors” –powerful advocates who will open doors for them – but that male colleagues are benefiting much more from this support.  Women also point to an underlying sense of competition, ineffectual mentoring approaches, generational divides, and different views on work-life balance as obstacles to building these relationships with senior-level women.

So yeah. I highly recommend you read the entire post, then spend 10 minutes thinking about what you can do to help your female staff or friends or Twitterbuddies to advance in their careers. Then go do it. Invite somebody to lunch, or ask them to help with a research project, or whatever. Or stay home with your kids and let your wife go to her office happy hour. This is partly a numbers game, and the more women with the experience, knowledge , and networks necessary to get to the top, the better off we’ll all be.

***

Apropos of nothing except that this is a pink-but-not-sickly-sweet drink, here’s my new favorite cocktail (courtesy of Drinksnob). Happy International Women’s Day, everybody!

Blood and Sand

1 oz Scotch (I used Tomatin 12 – no call to go too high-end here)

1 oz blood orange juice

3/4 oz cherry brandy (I used bourbon that had had cherries soaking in it for a few months, but Cherry Heering is fine)

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

Turn off Twitter. Shake everything over ice. Strain into glass. Be happy.

Posted in Careerism, Cocktails, Gender | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Anti-Piracy Business – Warning Shots and the Rules of Engagement

I’ve had an interest in the private maritime security industry and the international regulations thereof ever since a friend’s ship was taken by pirates a couple years ago, so when friend of the blog Jay Fraser* approached us about doing an interview with his friend who runs a maritime security company, we jumped on it. I hope you find it as interesting as I do! – DW

Many of us grew up with pictures of swashbuckling pirates and images of Errol Flynn in movies like “Captain Blood” and “The Sea Hawk.” [ed: and some of us grew up with Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook...] In school, we learned about the Barbary Pirates attacking American and British shipping vessels off the Northwest Coast of Africa, near Tripoli and Algiers, and President Thomas Jefferson’s naval responses.  More than two hundred years have passed, and while the locale has shifted to the northeast coast of Africa, the problem piracy remains. Today, piracy is focused primarily in the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.  Pirates are live firing against merchant vessels, sometimes attempting to board the ships, and are using violence and ransom as a means to an end.

As noted in a recent update published by Stratfor, with the end of the monsoon season and the return to calmer water in the region, the piracy season is “back on.”  One of the more recent trends is the emergence of companies hired by the shipping companies to place armed personnel on the commercial vessels in efforts to discourage and limit the success of these pirates.

I’m privileged to know and to call a friend a man who operates one of these private security companies, Jim Jorrie of Espada Logistics and Security Group (San Antonio, Texas).  I interviewed Jim for an audio spot for ThreatsWatch about three years ago and he and I recently talked about doing an update.  Thanks to my friends at Gunpowder & Lead, here is the interview we did just a few days ago.

Jay Fraser: Jim, when we spoke back in April 2009, it was right after some pirates in the Gulf of Aden had overrun the Maersk Alabama.  The ship’s captain Richard Phillips was held captive after the rest of the crew was released.  The incident ended when Navy sharpshooters were able to take the kill shots.  But this incident brought to the attention of many Americans the problem of piracy on the high seas, and especially off of the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.  Today I would like to cover a lot of ground in a short time and have you explain how the piracy problem has evolved in the last three years.

Jim Jorrie: Thank you Jay for this chance to give an update from our last interview.  Yes, the last three years have been very interesting and things have really changed out there.

JF: Since G&L is a new audience, can you give us a quick bio and then a capsule version of how you got into the pirate fighting business?

JJ: I started out in 1983 enlisting in the Navy and moved on to receive a commission in the Army with a focus on Defense support to Civil Authority missions.  As a civilian I have worked in the intelligence community and held the post of Homeland Security Coordinator for San Antonio and the surrounding areas.  I have also had the privilege of being involved in several National Response Plans such as the Pandemic Influenza response plan.  Around 2004 I was asked to provide some security assessment work for private oil exploration in Colombia.  This bloomed into multiple security projects and was really the genesis of ESPADA.  About 3½ years ago we had an opportunity to assess the emerging piracy problem in the Gulf of Aden.  Since one of our core competencies is providing logistics in austere locations, providing anti-piracy security services was a natural fit for our company.

JF: When we spoke earlier this week, you and I talked about the changing nature of the Somali pirates and specifically about their levels of aggression, the fact that they are better armed and that they now use tactics like kidnapping.

JJ: Three years ago the piracy was conducted by two major clans in Somalia.  Since that time, organized crime syndicates have joined the enterprise increasing the technology, intelligence gathering and execution of piracy.  Also, there emerged confederations from other countries that expanded the pirate network.  For example, vessels that are overtaken in the lower Red Sea may now be taken by Eritrean or Yemeni criminal confederations that will in turn transfer the ship to the Somali clans that in turn negotiate for the ransom.  The same is true on the east coast of Africa where you may have Kenyan and Mozambican confederate criminal organizations that cooperate with the Somali pirate clans.

We continue to see the use of RPGs and AKs in most attacks, but there have been a few attacks where the pirates have used crew-served weapons such as the PKM.  Other than that, the major change in operating tactics has been the actual use of the hijacked vessels as mother-ships.   They use cranes that are on the ships to lift the pirate skiffs onto the deck of the ship and then take the hijacked vessel far out at sea to launch their attacks.

JF: Some people aren’t really aware of the rules of engagement your company and others must operate under.  Can you explain a bit of what has to be done in order for you to operate and perform your security functions (restrictions, still not permitted to fire on sight or have to wait and return fire?).

JJ:  This continues to be an interesting source of debate.  The International Law of the Sea that covers piracy is several hundred years old.  And it is very clear on what rights a ship’s Captain has to defend his ship from a pirate attack.  Of course in recent years lawyers have gotten further involved in crafting specific, eloquent language that restates rules from the Barbary pirate days.  For example, if a pirate vessel fires on a ship the ship’s master may use any means at his disposal to safeguard his ship and crew.  For a security team, this means we can fire warning shots to communicate to an approaching or menacing vessel that he is approaching an armed ship.  However, if the security team fires on an approaching vessel without the command of the master in defending the ship, then the master/team/owner etc. are liable for the actions.  Most engagements will begin and end at approximately 300 meters from the vessel.  At this distance the pirates either begin firing at the ship or the warning shots communicate the potential danger of them proceeding. To many people, having to wait until a heavily armed pirate boat is within 300 yards of the vessel and – more importantly – until it has fired on the vessel before the vessel’s security team can respond is an uncomfortably short distance, but those are the rules of the game in antipiracy security.

JF:  I think one of the more interesting things people need to hear is about the practical business issues of running a company like Espada.  The other day you mentioned some points about the need for rapid deployment.  Can you add to that?

JJ:  Unlike a traditional contract, our services are hired ad-hoc.  This presents some extreme logistics and personnel challenges for us.  It is very expensive to fly people back and forth halfway around the world, so you have to have facilities in the Area of Operation in which to house them.  A normal notification of a request for our services comes with about 48 hours advanced warning.  Paying the security team members doesn’t stop, so scheduling them for follow on transit work and reducing their down time is of key concern. The cost of insurance for this sort of business is, as you can imagine, astronomical. And on top of these challenges is the fact that many of the countries know that the ship owners and security team can work out of their designated transfer points.  So at times, just getting a bus ride from the airport to the boat with equipment can cost over $10K USD.  With all of the deposits, insurance, working capital requirements, and emerging regulatory requirements I would hate to try to start a business like this now as it would be very hard.

JF: One of the comments you made struck me when you mentioned about weapons regulations.

JJ:  While I am a firm believer in the accountability of firearms, US companies have been put into a competitive disadvantage to their British and European counterparts with regards to regulatory compliance and authorization in marine security.  We spent a lot time early on asking different government departments the proper way to export weapons for the exclusive use of our security personnel.  Unfortunately, not having the resources of some of the other large defense contractors, we made a few missteps in the handling of the reporting. The British and Europeans, in contrast, received active support from their governments, even to the extent where they were able to get letters of endorsement for their business from the government. Clearly this is something the US government does not do.  I do think that the US regulatory agencies are starting to come up to speed with understanding the commercial requirements of the marine security industry.  And is my hope that they will continue to work with legitimate maritime security organizations to help facilitate and not restrict their business.  Bottom line, the more successful we are the more Americans we put to work.

JF: I guess one final question is about the “soldiers of fortune” that you encounter in theater and the problems they are creating for you and your company.

JJ:  This turns out to be a classic example of one or two organizations that have no business being out there in the first place, screwing something up and the rest of us having to deal with the whiplash of new rules.  Whatever happened to the old adage that if you stepped on the foot of your date, you weren’t invited back to the dance?  Weapons authorizations, terrestrial logistics, and the other aspects of operating in a marine security business are serious and complex.  This is not an arena that a group of hunting buddies needs to venture out into carelessly.  Very few problems have come from the larger more established companies.

JF: Jim, is there anything else that you’d like to add before we wrap this interview?

JJ: I think I will leave you with two comments.  One, there is a lot of good combat veterans out there that are unemployed.  And I would put out there to you that this line of work is something they should consider, as we strongly prefer to hire veterans because of their training and professionalism.  Lastly, in all my travels over the last 3 years setting up our maritime security operations I have gained a renewed appreciation for being an American.  It is easy to get caught up in the political rhetoric and other problems in our communities.  But when you spend time in other countries dealing with their politics, their regulations, their lack of a constitution and civil liberties, it gives you a new perspective that maybe this 300 year experiment that we call America isn’t that bad after all.

*Jay Fraser is a technology entrepreneur currently operating two ventures, one of which is involved in counterfeit detection and covert surveillance technologies.  He serves as Principal Investigator for this company’s Department of Defense contracts, and has also coordinated sensitive international special projects. His responsibilities include strategic direction, operations, managing programs with federal agencies and National Labs, negotiating licensing and R&D agreements, and dealing with potential commercial partners & customers.  The second company, newly formed, is involved in the information sharing environment with the ability to enable seamless exchange of information across and among a network of authorized users.  Until recently he wrote about issues related to homeland security, policy implications, and technologies used in the Global War on Terror for ThreatsWatch.Org.  Mr. Fraser is an experienced public speaker and often lectures on technology strategy and technology transfer.

Posted in Small Arms, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Walsh Exchange: An Undergrad IR Research Conference

Hey undergrads and people who know undergrads!

There’s a conference April 13-15 at Georgetown University called The Walsh Exchange, which bills itself as the first undergraduate research conference devoted solely to undergraduates studying international relations (I don’t fact check). You (or your students) should apply!

The Walsh Exchange will provide students the opportunity to gain wider exposure for their work as well as the experience of presenting their work in a formal conference setting. It’s being organized by a group of Georgetown undergraduate students with the support of several organizations within the university. The conference will follow the format of a professional research conference, with students presenting their work and receiving feedback from Georgetown faculty members. Also there’ll be a keynote speaker and a reception.

Also, they’ve got free coffee.

So if you or somebody you know is a PoliSci-esque undergrad with a research project, this sounds like a really cool opportunity. Any questions should be directed to the academic coordinators, Alex Henderson and Elizabeth Saam, at walshex@gmail.com

Event Description:

The Walsh Exchange is the first undergraduate research conference dedicated to international relations. The inaugural conference this spring will focus on papers that fall into one of three categories: international institutions, international politics and security, and area studies.

Schedule:

Students should arrive on Friday, April 13 for dinner and an informal social. Saturday will include presentations of papers and panel discussions, as well as a keynote speech and reception dinner. On Sunday awards will be given and students will be sent off.

Final schedule details will be forthcoming.

Submission Deadline: March 5, 2012.

Submissions should be between 25-45 pages (longer works may be adapted to fit the requirement), double-spaced, and typed in 12-point Times New Roman font. We are also happy to accept theses or works in progress, provided you can give explanation for where your research is headed. Please send submissions formatted for blind review (attach a cover sheet with your contact information but remove anything from the paper containing your name or school affiliation) to walshex@gmail.com.

In coordination with Georgetown’s International Relations Club and the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.

[note: G&L isn't actually affiliated with the Walsh Exchange - we just think undergrads are cool and should have as many opportunities to share their work as possible. And their Comms Director asked us to post this. And we are nothing if not obliging.]

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Thinking About Thinking About War

I spent January listening to the first half of Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August, in which she dissects the run-up to World War I. Tuchman describes conversations taking place across Europe in which generals and politicians alike are all, “We’re absolutely going to be home by Christmas. There is no possible way that couldn’t happen. The other side? Pushovers. Probably won’t even show up to fight. Also this is totally a great idea and we will get everything we want out of this war. EVERYTHING.”

We all know how well that worked out.

Reading the heated op-eds about the necessity of war with Iran and/or Syria, it strikes me that they’re nothing new. The strange overconfidence on display in the 1910s – that war would be quick, easy, and end favorably – was echoed in the run up to Iraq and is being rehashed today. This reminded me of the Rubicon Theory of War, a barely-noted article from last summer’s issue of International Security that offers valuable food for thought, particularly for those charged with thinking or writing about war. The authors address the overconfidence conundrum, namely, that people who should know better than to think war will be quick and easy often act like this is their first rodeo. The authors conclude:

When people believe they have crossed a psychological Rubicon and perceive war to be imminent, they switch from what psychologists call a “deliberative” to an “implemental” mind-set, triggering a number of psychological biases, most notably overconfidence. These biases can cause an increase in aggressive or risky military planning. Furthermore, if actors believe that war is imminent when it is not in fact certain to occur, the switch to implemental mind-sets can be a causal factor in the outbreak of war, by raising the perceived probability of military victory and encouraging hawkish and provocative policies.

Their research suggests humans are only rational actors until we make a decision – cross the Rubicon – at which point our mental apparatus will go through whatever logical leaps necessary to avoid questioning that decision. The authors frame this idea in terms of mind-sets – deliberative vs. implemental – to account for the full range of attendant biases, which they’ve laid out in a helpful table:

Essentially, when we’ve crossed the Rubicon, we are less likely to accept information that does not support our decision, and we’re more likely to believe we will be successful regardless of evidence to the contrary. This overconfidence leads to riskier war plans and a higher likelihood of going to war. As for the standard rational actor model, the authors suggest that rationality goes out the window once a decision is taken:

Early on in the decisionmaking process, a leader is more likely to be in a deliberative mind-set and may approximate a rational actor. Later during the crisis, the same leader is more likely to be in an implemental mind-set, and may display a range of biases that deviate from rationality.

This phenomenon affects the general public as well. Take Iraq:

For example, in 2003, regime change in Iraq might have been relatively straightforward, but postwar stabilization was likely to be difficult and protracted. Nevertheless, as the invasion drew near, Americans concluded that success in both of these objectives would be swift. … In the months leading up to the conflict, a majority expected “a long and costly involvement” in Iraq. But judgments switched immediately before the war, such that a majority now expected “a fairly quick and successful effort.”

Again, we know how well that turned out.

It should be noted that this decision needn’t be a conscious one, nor is it necessarily predicated upon a rational cost/benefit analysis. However, when one writes that the alternatives are narrowing, as Elliot Abrams did, and that some action must be taken, and then concludes that action must be military in nature, we can assume the die’s been cast:

If success were made of speeches and sanctions the Obama policy would be marvelous — and adequate. The problem is that Syria is at war, and one side or the other will win that war. It will be the Assad/Russia/Iran/Hezbollah side, or the popular uprising with its European, American, and Arab support. A deus ex machina ending is possible, wherein some Syrian Army generals push Assad out and agree to a transition away from Assad and Alawite rule. But such a step by the generals is far more likely if they conclude that Assad’s war is lost.

So we must make sure he loses. Directly or indirectly, the next step is to provide plenty of money and arms, training, and intelligence to the Free Syrian Army and other opponents of the Assads.

Abrams notes that there could be problems down the road, but dismisses them with a handwave: “All those questions will come with victory against the bad guys — but only with victory.” As though the path to victory will have no bearing on the eventual outcomes.  As though arming the opposition is a surefire way to win this war. As though there’s no way it won’t be over in days, not weeks or years.

An attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would also be challenging – which hasn’t hampered calls to go ahead and get on with it already. Polling suggests that Americans are in favor of military strikes if it meant preventing a nuclear Iran. Troublingly, the repetition of the expectation that strikes are imminent means we’re more likely to believe that it is true (psychological biases again), which sets up a feedback loop in which we perceive war as imminent – and thus cross the Rubicon.

Whether we should get into a war with/in Iran/Syria is outside the scope of this blog post. Rather, I want to make clear that there are unconscious psychological biases that come along with the acceptance of war that make it difficult to maintain objectivity and rationality – and that we must be on our guard against sloppy thinking. Once we’ve committed to the idea, we begin to assume things will go our way, and we avoid thinking about – and planning for – negative outcomes. If the actual decision about going to war is a determinant of our ideas about how that war will play out - and not, say, intelligence about an opponent’s military preparedness, or the potential negative consequences of war, or even the difficulty of executing the war – it’s crucial that we guard against overconfidence. And it’s not like we can’t fight against that inclination; it’s just that we often don’t.

At the end of every war, somebody says, “This. This is the end of war. Now, finally, it’s too expensive/too stupid/too wasteful/too destructive.” And indeed, it seems like the costs of war are rising and the benefits shrinking. But we seem incapable of the necessary in-the-moment questioning our cognitive processes to determine whether this war, just this one, will actually be easy, cheap, and rewarding, or if we just really want it to be.

It’s critical for leaders, intellectuals, the media, and the general public alike to understand consciously what mind set we are in and the attendant cognitive biases that brings. These sort of metacognitive tasks are admittedly difficult – our knowledge about how and what we think is limited, and gaining greater control over those processes is challenging (read Thinking, Fast and Slow for some great – and disturbing – examples of this). But it’s not impossible, and given the stakes, I’d argue that we are all responsible for knowing when we’ve cast our lots. Without the self-awareness and intellectual honesty to recognize when we’ve switched to an implemental mindset – and to then guard against the resultant surge of overconfidence – we’re doomed to the same debates and the same outcomes.

****

Post script: It was while chewing over all that that I made those sarcastic Go The Fuck To War prints. I’ve never been good at artist statements, so I’m going to assume y’all understand what they mean (to wit: once you start thinking war is an okay idea, you’re probably gonna be a little too enthusiastic about it). Anyway, I forgot that I was supposed to give two of them away last week, so! You get another chance: head over to this post and comment and you’ll be entered to win. Manage your expectations.

Posted in Analysis, War | 12 Comments

G&L v2.0: Better Faster Stronger

I’ve been biting my virtual tongue all week, trying to contain myself, but finally! The new, better, faster, stronger Gunpowder & Lead is here – cleaner look, better subscription services, and big plans for the near future.

And if that weren’t exciting enough, I’m thrilled to announce the newest addition to the G&L crew: Dan Trombly! He’s a scholar and a gentleman and if you haven’t been following his work at Slouching Towards Columbia, you don’t know what you’re missing. Fortunately, you’ve got a weekend to catch up – should be just enough time to get through the most recent post. If you read quickly.

Honestly, I cannot adequately express my gratitude for my co-bloggers or for you, our readers. I never expected to get this much enjoyment out of this blog, so thank you for making this so worthwhile. I have a quick favor to ask – can you go update your blogrolls and email subscriptions and RSS feeds right now please? I know it’s a pain, but I promise we won’t do this to you again. We’re here to stay.

In fact, to make up for the outrage, I’m giving away two Go The Fuck To War prints*! (because that’s how birthdays and blogging work, right? I give you stuff? … wait.)

They're only 9 x 11. They look bigger. Don't be fooled.

To enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post with a suggestion for blog features / post topics / sarcastic warmongering artwork you’d like to see. Deadline to enter is Wednesday, February 15 at 7:00 EST. One winner will be chosen at random and announced sometime on Thursday.

* There’s some explaining to be done around these, but in short: no, I’m not really mongering for war through art. More TK.

Posted in Metablogging | 26 Comments

Rape Is Not An Inevitability of War

Does your Wednesday needs some sobering research on rape as a tool of war? Well! The Women Under Siege Project launched today. I’m proud to have contributed some research on the Libyan conflict to this incredibly important endeavor, and I’d highly recommend you take some time to browse the site. Women Under Siege looks at the use of sexualized violence* in a range of conflicts in order to understand the commonalities and the prevalence – and it is horribly, horribly prevalent.

The employment of sexualized violence in conflict is often a choice and an explicitly or implicitly endorsed policy, not just a random crime. It is used intentionally to punish families and communities, not just individual women. And I mean, nobody’s laboring under some delusion that war’s suddenly going to get safer for women and children because we did some research. I get that bad things happen in war, but the intentionality is what gets me, and why I think this project is so important. Without attention, without outrage, without documentation, decisionmakers in conflict situations will continue to think they can get away with using rape as though it’s a legitimate use of force under the laws of war.

And I’ll be honest – I really struggled with the whole “what’s the point?” of this project. It feels Sisyphean – stopping sexualized violence in war? Really? But Gloria Steinem puts it in context in a Q&A:

LW: Does your work in the women’s movement give you encouragement that we can make headway on sexualized violence in conflict?

GS: Yes, absolutely. In my lifetime, we’ve shown that rape is not sex but violence, and changed the laws that required a virginal victim and a bystander willing to testify. In my high school, boys used to say there was no such thing as rape, that “you can’t thread a needle unless the needle holds still.” They’re not saying that anymore. Actually, I get letters from men in prison who really understand rape because, in the absence of women, they’ve been used as women. Sexualized violence, in and out of conflict, has been named and punishments codified. Now we have to get this off paper and into life.

LW: Do you think it’s ever possible to bring these atrocities to an end or at least significantly curb them?

GS: Yes, I do. To say otherwise would be to excuse them as human nature. We know there have been societies in which such crimes were rare or absent; they are not human nature. And even if they were, the most significant characteristic of humans—the one that allows our species to survive—is that we’re adaptable. Violence in the home normalizes violence in the street and in foreign policy. Because we genderize the study of childrearing as “feminine” and the study of conflict and foreign policy as “masculine,” we rarely see that the first causes the second. Of course, the goal is to stop war altogether. If we raised even one generation of children without violence and shaming, we have no idea what might be possible. But at least we can limit war to those who want to fight it.

So read. Be outraged. Be horrified. Don’t think it’s somebody else’s problem and it doesn’t affect you. Your silence makes it worse.

* I feel like I need to get into definitions here, but at minimum, we’re all clear that rape/sexual assault is about violence and control and really has nothing to do with sex, right? I use the term “sexualized violence” because that’s what Gloria Steinem uses. She explains why in the above-referenced Q&A.

Posted in Gender, War | Tagged , , | Comments Off