The views expressed here neither represent nor are affiliated with the US DOD, US Navy, FAO association, MGM Studios, Time Warner, Sony, RCA Recording or Hostess. Now, "relax and take notes . . . "
"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Below is a paper I wrote arguing on a multi-pronged approach to resolving ethnic conflict--one that accepts short term violence for the sake of long-term reconciliation. My complete collection of grad school notes and paper can be found here.
Resolving Ethnic Conflict: Creating a New I Am
For most Americans more comfortable with the concept of civic nationalism, ethnic conflict is a difficult concept to understand comprehensively. This contemporary American mindset cannot (and should not) mask, however, the bloody primordial relationship between ethnic nationalism and global conflict. If one is to believe structuralists such as Mueller, these ethnic conflicts will be a regular (if not increasing) occurrence throughout the 21st century as third world nations continue to modernize. A united international community with unlimited resources might be able to prevent many of these conflicts, however, fiscal realities—and a public reticent to intercede—more often dictate post-conflict recommendations than pre-emptive military action. What then is the best way to resolve these ethnic conflicts? Is total resolution an impossible ideal? How does one define the term best way, as well as its parameters? In this essay I argue that the best way is an approach that takes the long view—that accepts a short period of violence and instability for the sake of long-term peace and reconciliation. The approach best suited to do this is a multi-pronged one that emphasizes a liberal democracy tailored to respond to real or perceived ethnic grievances, and an intentional peace-building process that recognizes the nature of group identities as dynamic and incorporates them in the creation of a new worldview. I begin by discussing the importance of an ethnic conflict’s origin as well as the state’s role in responding to it in determining a solution. Then I discuss modernity’s role in state formation and its relevance to conflict resolution. Finally, I analyze the roles of a liberal democracy, civic nationalism and psychocultural interpretation in creating an enduring cessation of ethnic conflict.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Below is paper I wrote examining the methods by which a multi-ethnic democratic state can reconcile different identities during after ethnic conflict arises. My complete collection of grad school notes and paper can be found here.
Juliet's Lament: An Argument for Partition
Were the terms state and nation always synonymous there might be far fewer
incidences of intrastate ethnic conflict. International conflict, of course, would still flourish but
it would not stem from ethnic heterogeneity within a state. This observation is offered to
demonstrate the myriad challenges of state governance. With few exceptions, most states
contain multiple ethnic identities that compete for power and control. A state’s primary duty
remains the maintenance of its sovereignty (its stateness) through the governance of its territory.
When ethnic conflict arises, this governance comes down to choices—of reconciling lines on a
map to accommodate realities on the ground, or reconciling the identities of the population on
the ground to the arbitrary lines on a map. Poor choices in this process have caused millions of
deaths—sometimes intentionally but often as an after effect of well-intentioned state responses.
In examining the reconciling of a state’s options, one must ask how a state can best respond to
problematic ethnic populations? Is there an ideal best response? Does it address the origins of
the conflict? In this essay I argue that democratic multi-ethnic states must balance the
requirement for their own self-preservation with the needs and rights of its people. Ideally, the
most comprehensive and widely employable balance for a state can be found in partition. This
method addresses the primordialist origin of ethnic conflict. Ethnic bonds are not something that
can be easily broken through assimilation or integration. Respecting the innate nature of ethnic
affiliation produces an approach that seeks to preserve ethnic identity. This approach must be a
holistic one—while it must originate within the sovereign state—it then requires cooperation
(not intervention) by the international community in ensuring that refugee relocation does not
turn into ethnic cleansing, nor is it perceived as indiscriminate expulsion. I begin the essay by
distinguishing between nationalism, nations, and states, as well as between partition and
secession. Then I describe that which is never a viable option—genocide—highlighting
preconditions that a state must avoid to guard against it. Next, I provide a brief analysis of
common criticisms of partition. Finally, I address the advantage of partition as well as the
supplementary responses necessary once a state makes the decision to make a fresh cut.
Friday, February 7, 2014
Below is a short paper I wrote examining the origins of nations and ethnic conflict. The first paragraph is below and the entire paper is embedded afterwards. My complete collection of grad school notes and paper can be found here.
More than words: An Argument for Primordialism
Records of these conflicts span as far back as biblical times in the book of Genesis when God
gave the Jewish leader Jacob the name Israel, telling him, “a nation and a company of nations
shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” Much of the remainder of the Old Testament is the bloody story of this nationalist struggle told through the guise of
ethnic conflict. This intersection of nations and ethnicity continues to be one rife with conflict
today. Academics have devoted entire careers to the study of the origins of nations, producing
an expansive array of explanations from primordialist to constructivist. Which school best
explains where nations come from? Does one theoretical approach provide better insight into the
base origins of ethnic conflict? In this essay I argue that while some schools may have limited
utility, only primordialism offers a comprehensive explanation for the origin of nations and their
associated inherent ethnic conflict. Understanding primordialism can help prevent future ethnic
conflicts through the identification of common mobilizing catalysts. I begin by discussing the
definitions of nations, nationalism, ethnicity and ethnic conflict. I then provide a brief analysis
of the prominent theoretical schools. Finally, I closely examine primordialism, in particular
showing its utility in identifying the origins of ethnic conflict.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Having arrived in country a few months ago to a location that did not previously have a dedicated Office of Security Cooperation, I can say that the task of starting one is at times overwhelming, frightening, exciting, and bewildering (often all in one day).
A few days ago I came across an amazing article in the DISAM Journal by a fellow OSC Chief. It was so good I knew I needed to share it in its entirety here. Incidentally, you should add the DISAM journal to your RSS feed--a lot of useful articles in there: http://www.disamjournal.org
Reflections of a Security Assistance/Security Cooperation Officer by LTC Michael McCullough, USA
While waiting in the office of my Senior Defense Official (SDO) I came across
a hardcover copy of the DISAM Annual, Vol 2. In it there was an article on
security cooperation programs which caused me to reflect on my 2 tours as a
Chief of Security Cooperation and motivated me to write this article. Below are
some thoughts, advice and observations that I hope may help newly minted
Security Assistance Officers (SAOs) and or cause the many professional SAOs with
knowledge in this field to add their own experiences.
“Six Principles for Effective Military Cooperation”
#1: Create a program that is “Simple, Predictable and Nimble.” This has been
my guiding principle through two SAO assignments and as the operations officer
in the USAREUR G3 Multinational Training Division (MNTD).
#2: Develop A Plan…Put it in Writing
- Keeping it simple does not allude to making things basic. I suggest that a
program that is easily understandable by your staff, the Country Team (CT) and
most importantly the Partner Nation (PN) is extremely important. You can lose
valuable time trying to explain the intricacies of budgets, plans and policies
when you should be executing engagements. An SAO (note: now referred to as a
SCO- Security Cooperation Office/Officer) should be able to explain a vision,
goals and objectives in easily understandable sound bites/bullet comments.
- Predictable. Developing an annual plan and distributing it to the Embassy
and to the Partner Nation facilitates organization and alignment of resources.
You will inevitably receive calls of short notice changes or opportunities. It
will be your job to manage this. Don’t put your country in a position of
declining unplanned events. This will create unnecessary friction and hardships.
Do what you can to
- keep the training providers on a timeline in accordance with
- Technique: Construct an “Activities List” that captures every event,
seminar, training opportunity and IMET course that your program offers. Review
that with your PN primary contacts regularly. This list will become invaluable
to your staff, the multiple desk officers and country team as it lays out the
significant amount of investment that the US/DoD is contributing to military
- It’s okay to say “no”. It is better to execute a clear and well organized
plan than to take every last minute offer. Because of vetting requirements,
logistics and country team clearance last minute opportunities can be more
destructive than productive as your staff, the PN and the CT will likely suffer
ripple effects for something that was not originally planned.
- Nimble. Partnership implies that there are at least two sides to a
relationship. Try and incorporate your PN goals into the CT and numerous country
engagement plans. Military Cooperation is meant to be a win-win situation for
both the US and PN.
#3: Communication. This is traditionally a weakness in engagement programs.
It takes extra effort but will pay off if you are tenacious and consistent.
- One of your first priorities as an incoming SAO should be to review all
plans (State, DoD, USAID, US Embassy, Component, and State Partnership Program)
related to your country. You should find overlapping priorities and gaps in
these documents. This is where YOUR plan can re-enforce overlapping objectives
and fill critical gaps.
- Everything should have a strategic objective and be linked in your plan. To
include International Military Education and Training (IMET) funded events,
Foreign Military Financing (FMF), Humanitarian assistance (HA) etc. Showing
linkages will also facilitate obtaining greater funding because you will be able
to communicate why it is that you are conducting a particular program or
- Many US organizations will not have written plans or current plans on your
country - Do not let this hold you back. By making a plan you help others write
or adjust theirs. You may become a catalyst for a deeper discussion on
policy/engagement for your country.
- Time Management. Having a plan will also help you manage your time. Your
plan should outline short, medium and long term goals. By monitoring your
milestones you can evaluate which elements of your program are successful and
which areas need improvement. This can also help drive your budget process as
- Partner Nation. Nothing beats regular communication with your PN. If you do
not have regularly scheduled meetings - establish them. This facilitates
“predictability.” Eventually, your conversations can lead to a PN improvement
on planning and providing you valuable feedback.
- Desk Officers. You should know every desk officer from DoD, State, COCOM
and Component Commands that touch your country/program. They should be
receiving regular activity updates (or an activities list) from you. By pushing
information engagement becomes proactive and not reactive.
- Technique: Write your plan and have all the desk officers provide feedback
on the drafts. You may or may not receive anything but if you do it will help
you see engagement from another angle and make you a better Chief of OSC. It
will also keep your plan in alignment.
- Country Team. In addition to disseminating information among the different
offices in an Embassy, be particularly mindful of Public Diplomacy (PD). PD
serves many functions but they can help you get the “story” out into the press.
Regular press (Television, radio and print) coverage helps ensure your efforts
are communicated to the public and to key PN politicians. This will elevate
your influence along with the US Embassy.
- Technique: Invite the press to all closing ceremonies. If there are
exercises or skill application lanes and or maneuvers then have them attend and
- In the Congo, PD facilitated a “Face Book campaign” during a month long
exercise that OSC developed. This was a huge success.
- SDO/Attaches. Much like getting the press to cover your activities so should
you encourage observation by your Attaché colleagues both US and international.
Rarely are there any secrets surrounding SAO engagement activities. Why not
invite foreign Attaches to your events? They may reciprocate which would be
beneficial to both the SAO and DAO. Remember, more than likely there is an SAO
in that foreign Attaché’s country. Military cooperation is about dialogue and
networking. You can really make a difference by being inclusive.
- Miscellaneous: Write about your experience. In AFRICOM we have the Africa
Defense Forum (ADF) Journal. There are also trade related journals (medical,
engineering and international publications (print and online) that are always
looking for new material. Your experience living and engaging with another
government and culture should not be underestimated. Get the information out.
You have firsthand access and knowledge. The more you do it the easier it will
become. Our leaders make decisions based on information…it is all of our duty
to push the information out.
- By communicating frequently, you will foster an air of transparency which
will lead to trust. The US is often the source of negative communications and
conspiracy theories. You can be a piece of the solution by communicating
#5: Maximize Your Resources
- You are a salesperson whether you like it or not. First off, you are selling
US partnership. Depending on your program, you may be advocating US defense
contracts or participation in engagement. As a salesperson you need to have
regular positive contact with your partner nation. Always dress and present
yourself in a professional matter. Never let them see you get agitated (unless
you do it with an intent). Personality drives everything and your conduct will
have long term effects on those around you.
- Travel. Salesmanship requires travel. You need to get to all of the key
Headquarters in your country. The more you travel the more likely the US
message will be heard. Travel is not only in the PN though. It is very
important to take advantage of any opportunity to visit your desk officers in
person. Always carry your plan with you and distribute it. You should also
have a briefing that covers the basics of your country. Carrying your message
wherever you go will lead to open doors and expanding opportunities for your
office and your PN.
#6: Don’t Be Stingy.
- Don’t let a single dollar go to waste. Your budget should be absolutely
synched with your plan. You will inevitably be encouraged to take on an
engagement event that falls outside the “plan”. Ask the hard questions about
why it should be executed. If it does not fit try and have it swapped/traded
with another country.
- Technique: In an attempt to maximize Military to Military (M2M) events I
convinced component commands and State Department funded training program
managers to concentrate all activities during one month to facilitate a
“capstone” like event. By consolidating M2M events we ended up with what
appeared to be a month long exercise. The combined nature of the event made
planning with the PN less difficult, it was dynamic in nature due to the variety
of topics and created a significant PAO/PD venue. I highly recommend attempting
this in your country.
I know there are many great military cooperation programs around the world
and I do not claim to have the sole solution for success. The “Principles”
written above are a result of several years of working with partner nations in
three AORs. I hope this creates a dialogue between the more experienced SAOs and
the junior SAOs in order to foster collegiality and help kick start some new
ideas in the field.
- As a US military officer you will more than likely be paid much better than
your PN equivalent. Though SAOs do not have representational funds, make the
effort to host PN officials at your home or a restaurant. The same goes for
your Locally Engaged Staff (LES). This will create camaraderie that will be very
useful during your tour.
- Develop a coin. Some may say it is cheesy, but almost everyone appreciates
them or wants one. As an SAO you will likely manage millions of dollars yet you
have no gifts. This is a fluke in our system that can be easily remedied. What
you gain in return from presenting a coin will far outweigh the minor costs
associated with the design and production.
- Technique: Try to include your LESs into the design phase. They are your
best advocate and this will build a more cohesive team. Make sure they all get
- Take the time to put your LESs in for an award. If you have a solid plan and
are proactive then your LESs should be very busy. They will earn the awards.
Conversely, if they are not up to par then counsel them. If they do not change,
fire them. Regardless of country there are bright, motivated people who would
work well in your program. The US generally pays the best salaries. There is
absolutely no reason to settle for mediocre performance in your
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
I wanted to include a poem I wrote for daughters on the passing on Madiba (i.e., Nelson Mandela). I maintain a family blog with my wife that captures our experiences while living in Madagascar. I am shifting to post more personal things there now and leave blog posts here for the more general.
The passing of such a giant, though, elevates above all categories and deserves widest recognition, rememberance and celebration.
Here is the original post:
The passing of such a giant, though, elevates above all categories and deserves widest recognition, rememberance and celebration.
Here is the original post:
I Want You To Know--A Poem On the Passing of Madiba
I want you to know sweet daughters
That a man lived, loved, sacrificed and forgave for his people.
I want you to know these words
Let these foreign syllables roll in your mouth like marbles
Know that this saying was embodied by a man:
I have crossed famous rivers.
I want you to know that the world you see was not always this way
Just when our country had defeated the evils of the Nazi Germany
Another hateful plague descended that we did not stop
From the streets of Johannesburg to the rolling countryside of the Transkei
African, Coloured, Indians and white were set apart
Men, women, and babies
graded and annotated like animals on
pieces of paper according to the shade of their skin.
No my sweet daughters,
This did not happen 150 years ago
but 60 years ago.
I want you to know that this evil was defeated
Not by armies, guns or atomic bombs—
But by bludgeoned bloody sacrifice
of gut-wrenching perseverance
And finally dealt its death blow by a forgiveness so
deep and wide
that it baptized an entire nation.
My sweet daughters,
I want you to know the story a man called
Madiba (his clan name),
and Tatomkhulu (grandfather),
Rolihlahla (the troublemaker),
(Nelson was just an English name his teacher gave him because she couldn’t pronounce his African one)
who walked this earth for 95 years.
Of those years, eighteen he endured breaking limestone
rocks on Robben Island
his eyes burned out
hollowed by the sun’s fired reflection.
It is not enough, though, to simply observe and remember
That he spent twenty-seven long years imprisoned.
My sweet daughters, we must count the years together out LOUD
For I want you to feel the weight of those decades on your tongues:
Twenty one years
Twenty two years
Twenty three years
Twenty four years
Twenty five years
Twenty six years
As those years wore on him like so many boulders
As the goliath death beckoned and demanded him
Madiba struck back and answered with the call of his proud father
Andizi, ndisaquala: I will not come, I am still girding for battle.
I want you to know,
That this man walked out of that prison
And left his hatred with his chains
I want you to know sweet girls
That the grace of love is more powerful than hate
But far more costly
And I want you to know
the most incredible thing:
Madiba’s long walk to freedom
was not just for those shackled but also for the oppressor.
His sacrifice liberated a nation
I want you to know this:
Forgiveness trumps evil and trounces hatred
In the end it was forgiveness that tore down apartheid
and built up a nation.
Finally my dear sweet Macee and Betty
I want you to know that on the 5th of December 2013
A mountain of man’s battle ended
And Madiba lay down his weapons
and crossed one last famous river.