I spent this Christmas with friends and family near Plymouth, MA, the historical beginning of a long series of the Great American Experiment revolting, rebelling, and ultimately separating from the governing authority. During this season, I spent time with several folks attempting nation-building within the boundaries of the continential United States through Americorps and other non-profit organizations. Their purpose, the hope, drive, and method, is to force better governance and better opportunities for their nation and its citizens. It reminded me of a lot of the work in today's small wars.
In the realm of modern small wars, we often discuss counterinsurgency and military options as it pertains to Iraq and Afghanistan. The scope of the problem ranges from combat advising to partnering with host nation forces to us playing the role as the primary counterinsurgent. Within these measures, the outliers are often the green berets quietly conducting advisory missions in the Phillipines, Horn of Africa, and Central and South America.
Simply put, we continue to talk and debate military intervention techniques as the broad stroke of government options. Are there other considerations to seriously deliberate?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her 2010 QDDR, took a different approach suggesting that the United States Foreign Policy must be Civilian Led. Part of this effort stems as an effort to rebuild the State Department after years of neglect following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. The other part builds from the neoliberalist thought that peace must be measured and ensued outside of the violence of the military option. This path is based on the unconditional belief in the power of capitalism and the modern nation-state as the solution for the world's problems in governance.
Typically, the State Department, along with the IMF and UN, promote top-down driven levels of reform with historically mixed results. Concurrently, there are others working on the individual level. Most notable among our readers remains the work of Greg Mortenson and Mohammed Yunus.
For the past two years, I've followed a retired couple out of San Mateo, CA who thrive towards measures of conflict resultion. As they look at the world as it is not as they wished it could be, they determined that the only acceptable course of action in the hope for peace in our time is to force differing factions to sit down and determine common ground through mutual respect and dialogue.
This couple is Libby and Len, whom we will interview next year in full. They work the gambit from gangs fighting turf battles to Jews and Palestinians in Israel and the occupied areas. Recently, they returned from a venture in Nigeria where they coordinated communication between Muslims and Christians.
They asked me for my feedback. Honestly, their actions are so far removed from my own experience in small wars that I was unsure how to respond.
I want to turn the question over to the readers of SWJ. What is your feedback to Libby and Len? How do you feel about their attempts to bring peace to Nigeria?
So, what say you?
Michael Few is the Editor of Small Wars Journal.