When I was a student, the words peace and the military were rarely uttered in the same sentence. I was for peace. That meant I wanted nothing to do with the military. When it came time for the draft, I became a conscientious objector. Fifty years later, I talk about peace and the military together a lot. In fact, I spend a good bit of my time building bridges with current and former members of the American military. It started out on a quirky way. I reconnected with a childhood friend who had been a career officer and ran a think tank to help people in the defense community think outside the clichéd box. We realized we had a lot in common and ended up doing the q and a session at a launch party for one of my books two days after 9/11.
As I get read to write about where the peacebuilding world has to head next in finishing my textbook, I find myself thinking about the business world. There are groups like the Norwegian based Business for Peace which are trying to draw explicit links between the corporate and peacebuilding worlds. That’s obviously important. However, I think it’s even more important that we take some management ideas from that world and apply them to ours.
This week, my friend Doug Irvin-Erickson is off in Norway for a conference on genocide prevention, so I get to teach his class on the nature of conflict. Since he actually covered much of that topic the first session, I decided to cast a very broad net to set the analytical and political agenda for the course—and for the rest of the students’ lives.
This week begins a new school year in which I’ll be playing a small part in teaching an introductory course on conflict in our world at George Mason University. I’m not the lead instructor, and I’ll mostly be listening and learning, looking for material to use in the textbook I’m writing with Doug Irvin-Erickson, who is the actual instructor. Still, I can’t NOT worry about the challenges and responsibilities that come with teaching about peace and conflict studies now that we are almost two years into the Trump administration. Some of the questions I ask are the same ones that have been around since I was on the other side of the professorial desk in the 1960s. Some of them are new.