Promise of a peaceful future

Out of war, more sophisticated methods of conflict resolution have developed

Vicky Hawman, whose son Cody, 21, is an Army specialist, places flags at Greenmount Cemetery. The Blue Star Mothers routinely replaces the flags as a way to honor veterans. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Vicky Hawman, whose son Cody, 21, is an Army specialist, places flags at Greenmount Cemetery. The Blue Star Mothers routinely replaces the flags as a way to honor veterans.

Editors Note: This four-day series looks at the experiences of returning veterans and the challenges they face.

By Katie Burford

Herald City Editor

As the country copes with the aftermath of a decade of war, the question looking forward is: What have we learned?

The answer from some people close to the subject is, actually a lot.

We’ve learned that war isn’t just about fighting bad guys, but reversing the conditions that turn them against us.

Erik Juergensmeyer, coordinator of the peace and conflict studies minor at Fort Lewis College, put it this way: “It’s about positive peace, which is having the correct infrastructure to have stability, to have equality, to have less structural violence.”

Juergenmeyer said he sees the military as having learned the importance of a post-war plan.

The generals nowadays are more “interested in building the social structures conducive to peace.”

In his peace and conflict classes, he teaches students about finding solutions to intractable problems between opposing sides. This often begins with dispensing of the idea that one side must lose.

“It’s called the mythical fixed pie, and we expand the pie,” he said. “It’s all aboutsustainablereconciliation in divided societies.”

He said the concepts can be brought to bear on conflicts large and small.

“It’s complicated, but it’s really promising, exciting,” he said.

He said that even with the global war on terror, there are statistically fewer wars being waged than in the past.

“Ironically, it is a pretty peaceful time in the world,” he said.

But the world will never be conflict-free, nor should it be, because conflict is the vehicle for arriving at resolution.

“Gandhi was a fighter,” he said, smiling. “Gandhi was always up for a fight.”

So should any nation that considers itself just, said Eric Greitens, author of The Heart and the Fist, a book about his experiences as a humanitarian turned Navy SEAL.

“The basic fact remains: We live in a world marked by violence, and if we want to protect others, we sometimes have to be willing to fight,” said Greitens, who as a humanitarian witnessed the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

Greitens, whose book is being given to all incoming FLC freshmen as part of the Common Reading Experience, said soldiers today are expected to be more than just strong fighters.

In a phone interview, he enumerated the four attributes of “the complete warrior”: the worst enemy to have, the best friend to have, the most savvy diplomat in conflicts and the greatest role model in life.

“You put all four of those things together, and that’s what I call the diamond standard of what it means to be a complete warrior,” he said.

He argues it takes an army of such warriors to keep the world at peace.

“When you look back at history and you see situations where you have strong and confident nations, they’re able to create peace, and they are able to maintain peace without having to turn to the sword,” he said.

kburford@durangoherald.com