Small Wars Journal

Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Men: Nigeria, Palestine, and Beyond

Sun, 12/26/2010 - 2:20am
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?

Most certainly.

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.


John T. Fishel

Sun, 12/26/2010 - 8:58am

Mike, I'm not sure whether my feedback is to Libby and Len or to you.
My experience has been working with Mexican villagers, Mexico City poor, Cleveland Ohio's Puerto Rican community, and Peruvian villagers - all as a civilian. I have also worked as a soldier with Title 10 HCA funds in development in Panama, Honduras, and El Salvador. Frankly, I never found these development activities to be much different no matter whose money was being used or who was administering it. The essence was the empowerment of local people - giving them the tools so that they could finish the job. Among those tools were lessons in how to get local and international bureaucracies to respond.
In Peru, I partnered with the mayor of the village I was working in and together we tapped Peruvian congressional funds and ministerial bureaucracies (his political expertise) and USAID funds (mine).
The bottom line for me is that development works best when the State (writ large) helps to empower the people of the villages and neighborhoods to help themselves.
The Libbys and Lens (and the Johns and Mikes) are best as enablers of this process.



JC (not verified)

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:11pm

A Holiday Thought...

Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates~


Anyone can break this cycle of violence! Everyone has the power to choose compassion! Please visit these websites to align your core values with life affirming choices: &

MikeF (not verified)

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:45pm


Concur. This post serves as a preview for some of the highlights for next year as we continue to explore the military and civilian interventions throughout the world.


Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 9:25pm

Hi JC,

And other folks would rather protect wild and domestic animals/fish instead of a human fetus or job. In nature, mammals are killing other mammals constantly, and I have yet to see an environmentalist or vegan try to change that animal characteristic. Why don't you go lecture the next lion you see on the Serengeti?

Of course we could all be scrawny, muscle-free vegans and let other meat-eating populations and terrorists dominate us because we can't fight or work. Suspect that would occur more rapidly than heart disease reduced by eating meat in moderation and exercising every other day. And besides, you wouldn't want us to live forever...that would violate end-of-life counseling provisions advocated in the new health care bill.

Now shall we talk about folks espousing the horrors of global warming while simultaneously rejecting nuclear powerplants, new cleaner refineries, clean coal, natural gas, and windpower/oil-drilling off their inflated real estate? And don't forget corn grown for fuel that deprives others of food...wouldn't want to provide more incentive, income, and jobs to grow that corn.

On subject, had an interesting conversation with our Nigerian Catholic priest on Sunday who wasn't speaking very Christian-like about Muslims in his country, and clearly has gotten a gut from eating too much meat in our country!;) I've also developed a recent interest in Sudan and its upcoming elections. Trouble coming.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 11:38pm

<em>Recently, they returned from a venture in Nigeria where they coordinated communication between Muslims and Christians.</em>

1. Who asked them to do so?

2. What did the people involved in the process think of "outsiders" taking part in such a dialogue? By what "authority" (or not) were they granted such involvement?

3. Were they viewed as outsiders or, as stated in a comment above, as helpful "enablers"?

Again, look forward to the follow-up. Really fantastic.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 11:25pm

It sounds like a wonderful individual effort but I wonder how such individual efforts link up to larger diplomatic efforts?

Regarding microcredit and the recent crisis in India:

<em>Indias rapidly growing private microcredit industry faces imminent collapse as almost all borrowers in one of Indias largest states have stopped repaying their loans....</em> - NYT

I asked an economist friend about how to think about the microcredit crisis and he said <strong>"that's what happens when big money follows little money."</strong>

How does remittence culture and development via immigrant diaspora fit into the efforts at promoting better governance in small wars? I ask because my only personal experience in "development" has been through the remittance culture of my immigrant childhood (and that only second-hand.)

I believe some private primary schools are developed this way in Gujurat. And there is this, too:

<em>So many private schools, some had beautiful names. Like Little Nightingale's High School, named after Sarojini Naidu, a famous "freedom fighter" in the 1940s, known by Nehru as the "Little Nightingale" for her tender English songs. Or Firdaus Flowers Convent School, that is, "flowers of heaven." The "convent" part of the name puzzled me at first, as did the many names such as St. Maria's or St. John's.

It seemed odd, since these schools were clearly run by Muslims -- indeed, for a while I fostered the illusion that these saints and nuns must be in the Islamic tradition too.</em>

Sorry if this is kind of scattered. I'm totally fascinated by this topic and the post. Very interesting. I look forward to the follow-up.