On Feb. 26, the University’s Departments of Political Science and Criminal Justice hosted a speaking event featuring four stars General Bryan Doug Brown. He spoke to a gathering of students and members of the community on the subject of the U.S. military and NATO’s role in the pursuit and preservation of world peace. He cites the role as “incredibly complex, often criticized, seldom understood by anybody, and incredibly important.”
Brown retired in 2007 following four decades of military service: including time in Vietnam, founding the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment), which headed various missions such as Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served as the Commander of the U.S. Special Operations from 2003 until his retirement. He currently resides in Lake Jovita and has served as a commencement speaker for the University several years ago.
Brown identified two factors in the way peacekeeping efforts work. The one that most people think of is what he terms the direct approach, involving direct military interference, but this approach is not what is most important to establishing stability and lasting peace. It is the indirect approach that Brown spent most of his time discussing.
The indirect approach refers to efforts at changing the lives of individuals living in an unstable country, training the country’s forces to be able to protect themselves, improving the civil structure of the government, and introducing healthcare and other aid to help make life easier for the citizens living in the communities. Ultimately, the indirect approach focuses on eliminating the suffering of the people and turning chaos into order from the inside out. The indirect approach is more humanitarian in its efforts, and involves knowledge of a people’s language and culture or a willingness to learn.
“Peacekeeping is not always as simple as everyone thinks,” said Brown.
While the indirect approach is key to such efforts, it is often underemphasized in military tactics. This is what makes NATO coalitions so important to preserving peace: they bring relevant cultural knowledge to the table.
The general presented a picture of a young man in uniform, gun set aside as he kneeled down on the dusty ground to hold out his hand to a young girl. Brown said the man in the picture was a highly trained American soldier with deadly aim and accuracy. But that was not the side of his training that the picture captured. Instead, it was a picture showing the importance of building positive human relationships with others, no matter how different they may be.
Peacekeeping is more complex than many believe it to be. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. As Brown said several times during his presentation, the role, although complex, is a worthy one.