Books Worth Reading
  • Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    by Robert C. Orr
  • Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    by Ashraf Ghani, Clare Lockhart
  • The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    by Rupert Smith
  • Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    by John Robb
  • Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    by Paul Collier
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    by Francis Fukuyama
  • When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    Princeton University Press
  • Building States to Build Peace
    Building States to Build Peace
    Lynne Rienner Publishers
  • Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    United Nations University Press

Entries in Education & Training (3)


International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance @ Fordham

The last month was very educational.  With 40 others I spent around 200 hours learning about the many issues surrounding humanitarian assistance, from its history and the principles behind it, to dealing with refugees and internally displaced persons, to camp management, disaster response, food security, health issues, gender considerations, logistics, ethics, and a variety of other related topics.  We also delved into a series of case studies on the world’s major humanitarian emergencies, both past and present, which were described to us by those who actually participated and played key roles in the relief efforts. 


Some of our instructors were superstars in the field humanitarian aid.  Our lead instructor was one of the most senior UN representatives in Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict and later set up Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp.  The number two guy was in charge of UNHCR ops in Pakistan during the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s and negotiated with “warlords” with whom the U.S. still deals with today.  These were men who built and managed camps with tens of thousands of people and coordinated huge logistics operations to bring in supplies in incredibly difficult and resource-constrained operating environments immersed in conflict.  Others were senior officials within the UN, or large international NGOs.  Unlike myself, many of the students had substantial experience in places like Somalia, Sudan, the Congo, Haiti, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, with many stories to share.  It was one of the most interesting and beneficial months I’ve ever spent in academia, in part because I didn’t just learn new things about a subject, but because I learned a lot about myself as well.


The first week we spent a lot of time being lectured on group dynamics and took a psychological test on what type of personalities we had and how these various types play out in a group setting.  This was followed up with actual group work that reinforced what we learned, and was quite amazing for me at least, as the experience showed how accurate the test was in terms of interactions among differing personality types.  It helped me realize some issues I need to be cognizant of when working in teams or leading them.  Previously, I had always thought that people who talk issues to death were somehow arrogant and disrespectful of other people’s time, as opposed to just being hardwired in a manner where they feel best solving problems through long, drawn out discussions.  That is something that tends to tire and frustrate me, especially when dealing with minor issues.  For them it is energizing and the best way to get the job done.  I would rather be accomplishing tasks and not waiting until the last minute when a time crunch occurs to be solidifying plans.  Yet I'll likely always be working as part of a team so understanding how to get along better with, and be able to be more productive in such a group, was a good learning experience. 


We also did a mental health class where a psychologist led us through sort of a group session where we explored the mindsets of the people who work humanitarian aid and how to respond to stress and trauma in the field.  Some of my colleagues had some pretty intense experiences, and it was useful for everyone in better understanding why it is we work in war zone or dire relief situations and how to cope with the challenges one will invariably face.


The final big learning experience was a session on our futures, where we were asked to complete an individual exercise laying out everything we wanted in our personal and professional lives five years from now, and then do it again in five year increments until we were 60.  We then had to highlight those things we most wanted in one color and then in another those things we might have to give up to get what we wanted most.  After that we had to make a list of decisions that we needed to make to get what we most wanted and when we had to make them.  This was a useful planning exercise and caused many of us to take a hard look at who we were and what we wanted and whether or not we were willing to make the tradeoffs necessary to get there.


I have a series of posts on humanitarian that I’ve prepared and will let loose every couple of days for the next week or two.  I will say the experience gave me a new respect for “humanitarian” aid workers, considering the type of jobs they try to do in the environments they do them in.  At the same time, I’ve become more skeptical of those who call themselves “humanitarians,” both in terms of their competency levels and motives.  There were some who on the surface exhibited a cult-like behavior surrounding their principles and were arrogant towards military involvement in the “humanitarian space,” yet were quick to chuck those principles out the window when it suited them.  And while some were obviously highly competent individuals, others weren’t.  On the whole, I left with a better understanding of the field and a greater appreciation for those working in it, in addition to making some new friends who I’m sure I’ll be meeting again in the future.


But for now, I have to say, as I’ve said before, if you’re interested in this type of work, this course is something you MUST take.  The program also has numerous other related courses in areas like humanitarian logistics, disaster management, and other topics.  Perhaps best of all you can take these courses during vacation times, and once you’ve done enough of them, can earn a Master’s in Humanitarian Assistance from Fordham University.  Had I known about this years ago before started my graduate degree, I probably never would have left working and would have just done this program instead.  


Back to Iraq

Over a month ago I published my most recent blog post and since then a lot has changed.  In December I was at Duke’s Sanford School and studying for a Master’s in International Development while consulting for a start-up called Statecraft.  Now I’m in Fort Benning, Georgia, and getting ready to fly to Iraq where I’ll be working as an instructor at the U.S. military’s Counterinsurgency and Stability Academy in Baghdad.


In the interim, a couple cool things have happened. . .


My friend Paul Miller published a piece in Foreign Affairs on how to “Finish the Job” in Afghanistan.  We’ve known each other since our time as undergrads at Georgetown and happen to share very similar career paths.  He’s the only one of my friends from college who does the kind of work I do.  He also blogs on Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government and teaches courses on state-building at the National Defense University. 


The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review was also released.  For those of you tracking issues related to stabilization and state-building, plus humanitarian aid and international development, this is a very important event, though what actual impact it will have is up in the air.  The QDDR is the State Department’s and USAID’s version of the Quadrennial Defense Review, which the Pentagon uses to guide its operations and express its thinking about current and future conflicts.  As expected, the best commentary comes from the folks at the Center for Global Development and the numbers crunchers at the Stimson Center’s blog The Will and the Wallet.  Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy also has a good summary of the document and can be relied on for updates on all things development and diplomacy related.  The QDDR is about a month old, but something folks planning on working for the U.S. government foreign policy positions should get to know, especially if they’re involved in D3. 


As for me, I plan on returning to Duke, most likely for the spring 2012 semester.  My teaching job is supposed to last until August, but rather than going back for the fall, I’ll see if I can hop over to Afghanistan.  If not, I’ll spend the rest of my time in Central or South America where I’ll travel, surf, write, and learn as much Spanish as I can.    


I hadn’t planned on taking a leave of absence and heading back to Iraq, especially since I was enjoying living in the U.S. again.  In the middle of finals the position came up and I realized the experience of teaching and traveling the country (when classes aren’t in session we visit units on the ground to evaluate operations, local conditions, and what lessons can be learned) is something I can’t pass up, especially since the U.S. military presence in Iraq is supposed to end later this year.  While I’ve enjoyed my time at Duke studying international development, I’m looking forward to spending some time with a group of people whose lives revolve around thinking about things like stabilization, counterinsurgency, and state-building. 


Plus, for some weird reason, I really do love being in Iraq.



Post-Conflict Stabilization Doctrine and Training Resources

Here are two interesting resources available for you to further develop your knowledge and skill sets when it comes to post-conflict stabilization and state-building . . .


The first is a joint venture from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute to develop a manual for those involved in post-conflict stabilization.  The 244 page document  is entitled “Guidelines for Stabilization and Reconstruction,” and is available for download here




It is not unlike the recent cooperation between the U.S. Army and Marine Corps on Field Manual 3-07: Stability Operations, and before that, Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency Operations, which is much more famous.  Together, these three documents should be considered the key texts when it comes to U.S. government policy as it relates to post-conflict stabilization and stability operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. 


Ambassador John Herbst, who is the State Department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, wrote about the Guidelines in his office’s Winter 2009/2010 newsletter, calling it “doctrine” for “civilian planners and practitioners involved in peacebuilding missions.”


According to Herbst:


[The] manual offers two important contributions: 1) a comprehensive set of shared principles and 2) a shared strategic framework. Both rise directly from the enormous wealth of knowledge and experience that has accrued across the global peacebuilding community over the last two decades. The development of the manual involved intensive vetting and consultation sessions with NATO planners, British stabilizers, UN peacebuilders and other key partners. It also involved a thorough review of hundreds of doctrinal documents produced by the very institutions that have toiled in these difficult environments. [Emphasis mine]


The second resource is a set of courses you can take from USIP that deals directly with post-conflict stabilization.  The only issue is they are all based in Washington, DC.


Below are descriptions of two sample courses being held in June . . .


Peacebuilding Organizations and Institutions

Covers the missions, cultures, operating procedures, and other essential characteristics of key international organizations, regional organizations, government organizations, militaries, and nongovernmental organizations in peace operations and stability operations. Inter-organizational planning, communication, and coordination in hostile environments are also addressed.


Economics and Conflict

Participants explore the analytical links between economic activity and conflict as well as the practical constraints and rewards of using economic instruments of conflict management. Case studies and simulations set in Kosovo, Haiti, and Sudan encourage participants to formulate economic instruments within a strategic framework for economic development in vulnerable and conflict-affected states.


Those who wish to work in post-conflict stabilization often find it difficult to get their foot in the door unless they’re already a U.S. government employee and deployed into one of these areas, or have worked for an NGO in another area and brought in.  Those who already work in this area find there are not many training opportunities and most of what you learn is either on the job or through self-study.


In both cases, by internalizing the above manuals and taking some of these courses, individuals can better position themselves for finding positions and working successfully in conflict and post-conflict environments. 


Eventually, USIP says all the courses will be online.  Three are already up and are available for free.  I’ve taken their online certificate course in conflict analysis and thought it well worth the time.