Thursday, December 31, 2009

Leave your trauma at home!

The other thing I've been wanting to discuss is PTSD and war trauma. I was reading a series of articles in the Foreign Service Journal from 2008. Civilians, soldiers, and most directly, regular citizens in situations of war experience shock, trauma and loss.

In conversations with military friends, they admitted to something of a double-standard. Yes, the military encourages those with problems, but as commanders, they'd be nervous about soldiers who have problems and might not be in top shape. The Foreign Service Journal described similar double standards and experiences where they were encouraged to keep a 'stiff upper lip' about their issues.

I'm not a therapist, psychologist or even well read on this subject, but I am very frustrated with US institutional and social treatment of war trauma. Also, this trauma extends to the host population. One of the reasons the Afghan and Iraqi people speak a different language than their American counterparts is that they've lived in three decades of war, sanctions and extremely difficult life-conditions. Counter that with refugees, IDPS, and multiple-tour soldiers and you have many groups of people, whom, if not engaged properly, their issues will spill over into greater problems. A great example of this is the relationship between soldiers, chemical dependency and homelessness.

The only real advice I can give is to ask people about their experiences, help them talk about things--because as we've seen in numerous situations, such as the shooting at Fort Hood, and the recent young Nigerian man in Detroit, mental fears, trauma and instability can be dangerous.

If you have thoughts, I'd love to hear them!

Send in the drones! Happy 2010!

Well, I was advised to write a new years blog, and here it is:

First, some issues I've been wanting to tackle, at least initially. I'm assuming most of you read the articles showing that AQ and insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan have tapped our unmanned spy drones that we use to spy on them. DoD has known about this weakness for a decade, but did nothing about it because they 'assumed adversaries would not be able to exploit it.' Wrong, obviously. But what is worse, is the assumption.

The 'enemy' is smart. Terrorists are smart. Criminals are smart. Sure, one side of terrorist groups and criminal organizations is just the 'grunts' and may not have a lot of sophisticated training, but assuming your enemy is not as smart as yourself is...less than smart. Terrorists have proven over and over that they are adaptive and proactive. In fact, we're almost always at a disadvantage, because the government is big, slow, bad at sharing information and so we are always reactive.

I'm going to continue in another blog post, just to keep things simple.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Don't go to war unless you can commit.

This is going to be a bit of an opinion piece. I'm sure I can find articles to support my thoughts, but this is one of the things I really learned in my ISP (International Security Policy) concentration at SIPA.

As Dr. Betts would say every year as he met the ISP incoming class: War is a serious business. It's about life and death. If you're not a serious person, get out and don't join ISP. At the time I thought he was just trying to scare off people who might waste his time. Now, I tend to agree with him.

I'm a pacifist, first and foremost. I generally think that violence is the tool of the desperate and unimaginative. Violence is easy to commit, easy to do, easy to justify. Nonviolent solutions to conflicts are difficult, hard to manage, confusing and require a pretty strong belief in the capacity of mankind.

US (and many other countries') leaders seem to approach war in a piecemeal fashion. Let's send 10,000 troops...which will take a year from order to boots-on-the-ground...and haggle over how many copters, what kinds of guns, etc. Bombing campaigns are popular and expensive. Like sanctions, they 'send a message' and don't cost a lot at home in terms of political support.

Fighting a proper war requires sacrifice, commitment, political will, lots of money, lots of imagination, lots of planning (and a clear set of goals!!), a well-trained military, civilian counterparts who understand something about war and clear communication. If you are haggling about troop numbers, I feel like you don't truly realize that you have to commit totally (i.e. fighting a total war to win even a limited war). If you aren't willing to commit, don't go in the first place, because the costs and realities of war will drag you to give more and more than you expected and then you'll be stuck fighting a total war anyway.

So, I'm in a funny place as a pacifist. Don't go to war, don't use violence. Ironically, my study of war reinforced my pacifism, since its clear that the costs of war escalate unless you have a lot of factors and will in your favor. So, don't go unless you're going 100% and are willing to pay the price in deaths, casualties, money, popularity and moral confusion.

(note, this is not an argument for increased violence in war, just better preparation. Fight smarter, not more brutally (brutally is counter-productive and just legitimizes and galvanizes your enemies)

I'll write more later that relates to others' analysis. I look forward to counter-arguments! :)


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thank goodness for MinneSNOWTA

I looked at the weather report this morning (5am) as I prepared to go to work, 20 degrees, clear, windy and cold.

Immediately my brain went through my wealth of winter options, picking out a long undershirt, a turtleneck, a larger turtleneck/sweater, tights, slacks, my warmer boots, hat made by grandma and my poofy coat.


As I looked sympathetically at my boyfriend (he's from much warmer places), shivering next to me at the bus-stop, I thought:
Thank goodness for MinneSNOWta.

I spent 3 years in Minnesota, part of my attempt to 'discover America' and get to know the country of my birth after college. I learned many things there.

One thing I learned about was winter. It gets to -40 degrees. That's 40 degrees Farenheit AND Celsius (they're the same at that number) BELOW zero. My last job involved driving all around MN, in all weather, staying with my lovely volunteers, most of whom prefer winter over other seasons.

As a result, I own...approx 6 short coats of various windproofings and warmth, dozens of undershirts to provide consistent lack of skin, 2 long coats, 1 Chinese Communist coat that could easily be a sleeping bag or a small tent (its big, stuffed cotton, basically a large green comforter with arms), gloves, hats and mittens that can be worn at 15 below zero while snowmobiling at 60mph on a frozen lake in Ely or International Falls.

I learned many other things in MN, but I definitely learned about winter. Let me know if you need advice on winter clothes, pitfalls, or just stories about winters that are so cold that you can drive on the ice, have to plug in your car's engine so it doesn't freeze and have to be covered up so that you don't get frost bite or freeze to death.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Searching for ‘Disaster’

When I look for jobs on the internet, whether through Devex, or FPA’s nice job list, I search for important words that describe what I want to do:

Conflict (prevention)
Disaster (management)
Genocide (prevention)
Conflict (early warning)
Conflict (management)
Peace (creating, keeping, etc)
(counter) terrorism
(anti) narco-trafficking, human trafficking, small arms trafficking
(anti) black markets
(helping) refugees, internally displaced persons
(trying to resolve) entrenched conflicts
(preventing, healing and resolving) gender based violence…etc

Strangely, the second part is always implied and I’m startled when people ask if I study genocide to commit genocide…I always forget to say ‘prevention.’ Funny how I forget also that it’s a bit weird to google ‘genocide’ and ‘conflict’ all the time.

What are your key words in your job search?

what happens when i search for conflict and then get it? :/

Monday, December 14, 2009

Women in the Military


Just a quick link to a story that caught my eye:
Back from combat, women struggle for acceptance

Anyone have thoughts on this? I'm also a member of Women in International Security, which has a network, a Ning site and is a good place to discuss the challenges of women in conflict, security and this field in general.

Hope all is well,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hurry up and wait

Hurry up and wait

I chose this title for my first blog because I am an international security policy professional who has been actively looking for a job since December 2008. Job-hunting, especially in this recession, is a mix of frantic activity and patient waiting, which usually just becomes subdued frustration.

Frantic activity:

I have applied to roughly 1-2 jobs a week, and networked with someone perhaps 2-3 times a week since then. I networked in New York, DC, Geneva, Palermo, Paris, and soon, Beijing. I’ve generally been a fan of the ‘cast a wide net’ philosophy of job hunting and have applied to numerous thinking-outside-of-the-box jobs. I’ve applied to part-time, full-time, short-term, contract, long-term, internships, fellowships, etc. I live in my parents’ basement with my employed boyfriend and we regularly refer to ourselves as trolls. (This is meant in humor, not to garner sympathy)

Subdued, frustrated waiting:

I really appreciate companies and organizations that tell you quickly if you’re not going to be considered. That greatly reduces my stress—the first few rejections are not as fun—but it becomes a relief to not be sitting and waiting and wondering. I applied to one job in Feb of 2009, they called me in August, interviewed me in September, and then they told me they’d talk to me in December. It’s December now. If they say ‘yes!’ then comes the security clearance process. So, maybe I could have a job by…July or August 2010? A full year and a half after I applied.

Advice to other job-seekers:

Network. Obviously you’ve heard this before, but I’ve found people to be endlessly helpful and generous with their time. Networking got me a great short-term job (read: weekend) that introduced me to dozens of people who actually can help me find a job. Always ask for referrals. Also, tell people you’re looking, and what you’re looking for. Yes, you’ll get some fairly repetitive advice, but sometimes you’ll get a gem. Also, have a plan for looking for both long-term and short-term jobs. What do you do until you get a ‘serious’ job? So, think of both, because in the best of economies, it still takes 2-3 months to get a job.

Also, network with HR professionals, not just people who have the job you want. The people who have the jobs that you want don’t necessarily know how they got them. HR people know what gets your resume taken off the pile and how to avoid it. They also have a constant source of short-term jobs and ideas.

Advice to those still in school:

Apply now. When you start your MA, start applications to government related jobs (if you have any interest) because it will take roughly a year and a half (if you’re lucky) to get through the time lag and paperwork. Find a way to get a security clearance for your summer internship. It will save you a lot of time and make you a lot more marketable.

Advice to friends of marginally/unemployed people:

Be nice. Don’t make jokes about how it must be nice to have so much free time. It is not. That said, encouraging friends by helping look at cover letters or introducing them to people who might help them gain insight and ideas is helpful.

And that concludes my first blog. Let me know if you have ideas for topics, things I should include in my blog, and things that relate more directly to humane security :)