Conflict Resolution

Reflections on recent events

by mgopin on October 21, 2015 · 0 comments

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Originally posted here on Oct. 19, 2015.

I am starting to see very clearly that there are those people who have the moral and emotional intelligence to understand two sides of a conflict, two enemies at once, and there are those who need to demonize someone in every situation. There are those who can empathize with their own community and with another, and there are those who at every turn look to demonize one group and whitewash their own. These are two camps of humanity, one with an evolved mind, and one with a primitive mind. Educational levels and graduate degrees having nothing to do with these two camps.

I am horrified by the mob mentality, I am saddened by many people I have helped and defended, not from my own community, who the first chance they get, join virtual lynch mobs.

The fact is that it is easy to …

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Zionists and Islamists

by mgopin on January 1, 2015 · 0 comments

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At a minimum a Zionist is one who loves Zion, often a Jew, but sometimes a Christian. At a minimum, an Islamist is someone who loves Islam, usually a Muslim. I see no reason to use either term in pejorative or hateful way, as a curse or as a condemnation. Associated with Zionism has been all manner of crimes against the native Palestinian people for over a hundred years, associated with Islamism has been tens of thousands of victims of crimes across the world, mostly Muslim victims. But it is an empirical fact that thousands of Zionists and millions of Islamists repudiate the crimes associated with these respective labels. They claim this is not true Zionism or true Islamism. We should agree as a global community to recognize the existence of these people, in fact to honor them. We can disagree with their philosophy but we should not label and …

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There are important next steps being debated for what states can and should do to stop the current war, and set the stage for ending the current cycle of violence. That is not my subject. I thought recently that leaders are followers and followers are leaders, and neither knows it. The fact is that people and their individual initiatives have much more impact on the course of history than is acknowledged by government officials, by cynics, and by those too apathetic, too callous, or too fearful to act. If you are in that category, do not read forward. Just go back to Al Jazeera, Fox and CNN and choose a side. Or go back to Jon Stewart and have a good laugh.

Here is what is necessary, efforts that have worked before in history in changing the available information available to all parties so that more rational and more morally …

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http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/15/us-iraq-usa-security-idUSKBN0EQ0UH20140615

Graham last week said American air strikes in Iraq will be needed to halt the advance of militants.

His comments about Iran broach an even more sensitive topic – putting the United States in potential collaboration with a country it suspects of developing nuclear weapons and supporting its own militant groups in places like Lebanon.

Iranian officials, closely allied with Maliki and watchful over the Shi’ite population centered in southern Iraq, have also been alarmed at the sudden seizure of territory by the ISIL.

 

The logic of intending to bomb a country like Iran in one part of the year, and then contemplate an alliance in the next year to defend Baghdad really needs to be defined and exposed. On one level, it is perfectly reasonable. if a year ago, allies Israel and Saudi Arabia were convincing us that Iran is the primary mortal threat, then we decide to …

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Here is another of my recent Huffington Post articles.

It is my opinion that, on balance, the world is better off with Americans who are less prone to go to war than not. There is simply too much American firepower that can be unleashed that causes unpredictable amounts of damage never anticipated by military planners, and certainly not imagined by thoughtless armchair warriors and lobbyists.

We human beings are not just an amalgam of instincts for fight or flight. We have evolved astonishingly impressive systems of local and global governance, which become more sophisticated and elaborate with every passing year. We are using our powers of reasoning and planning to make a less-violent planet in which human beings are living longer than ever before in history, a sign of our success at the rational and compassionate embrace of human life from infancy to old age.

 

‘Less Violent’ Does

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Here’s an excerpt from my most recent article in the Huffington Post.  You can read the full article here.

A bloodbath of civilians, torture and murder of children, willful starvation of millions, forced displacement of a greater population such as the Middle East has never seen, a global jihadi festival. That is Syria today. In far less horrific environments, the world’s major powers demanded ceasefire for warring parties, but not here.

Why? Conscience demands it, but not geopolitics. War, as has been said so often, is a failure of imagination, imagination of alternatives. The major powers (I will not call them “great”) are backing opposite sides in this war, as is well known, with Russia and Iran the main allies of the Syrian regime, and Saudi Arabia, the government of Iraq, and especially Qatar backing the jihadi influx into Syria. To a tepid degree, the Western countries are backing

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I think it is interesting that in just a few days we heard from the daughter of Emir of Qatar that MENA radical intervention into Syria was turning into a ruination of a legitimate struggle because of the violence and barbarism of the religious extremists. Then we heard from the daughter of Khomeini, father of the Iranian Revolution, that the current leaders may be ruining the revolution and replacing it with a dictatorship. What’s up with the new daughters of MENA? These women are not radicalized hippie eighteen year old children of farmers from the countryside. They are from the top elite of each country’s leadership. What gives with these women’s preference for nonviolence? Could this be a kindler, gentler effect of the Arab Spring? Or perhaps the culmination of longer processes at work? 

The answer is that the slow and steady increase of women’s voices …

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A Guatemalan court on Friday found former dictator Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest phase of the country’s 36-year civil war.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison on the genocide charge and 30 years for crimes against humanity. It was the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country.

Rios Montt, 86, took power after a coup in 1982, and is accused of implementing a scorched-earth policy in which troops massacred thousands of indigenous villagers. He entered the court on Friday to boos and cries of “Justicia!” or justice.

Prosecutors say Rios Montt turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson to try to rid Guatemala of leftist rebels during his 1982-1983 rule, the most violent period of a 1960-1996 civil war in which as many as …

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Roger Fisher, one of the greatest luminaries in modern times of negotiation practice died at the age of 90 on August 25 of this year. Roger exuded that confidence of Harvard elites, and American leaders, that has both been admired and admonished globally, that has been a source of optimism in the face of impossible circumstances and also a source of alienation and distance between American thinkers and actors and others. I come from a side of the field of conflict resolution that has emphasized local cultures, religions, psychological issues, that is far more receptive and encouraging of approaches uniquely tailored to each situation, each set of cultural actors. I stand by those differences that I had with him. And yet I always loved him in some fashion.

I loved Roger’s courage coming out of World War II, the worst era of Western civilization’s capacity for human degradation, with a …

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Professor Roger Fisher, the most pre-eminent pioneer of mediation and negotiation, died this week at the age of 90, and here is a good obituary.

I especially like these excerpts:

Over his career, Professor Fisher eagerly brought his optimistic can-do brand of problem solving to a broad array of conflicts across the globe, from the hostage crisis in Iran to the civil war in El Salvador. His emphasis was always on addressing the mutual interests of the disputing parties instead of what separated them. As he would tell his students, “Peace is not a piece of paper, but a way of dealing with conflict when it arises.” It did not matter to Professor Fisher whether the warring parties reached out to him or not; he would assume they needed his help. “Most of the time he was not invited. He would invite himself,” Elliott Fisher said. “Our sense growing

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