As a student of political science and anthropology with a focus in armed conflict, I have had the opportunity to take an in-depth look at the horror of warfare, to try to understand why we kill each other, and to learn how it can be prevented.
As the son and grandson of veterans, I was able to learn through the experience of my family how horrible and senseless war can be. Now, as a student, I’m able to apply that learning to the millions of people all around the world and right here in the U.S. who are suffering from current and past wars.
What is most heartbreaking to me is that most of the conflicts around the world today could have easily been avoided if the peacekeeping organizations of the world had been given the proper resources. Those resources enable them to do the lifesaving work they take on every day.
Organizations like the U.S. Institutes of Peace (USIP) haven’t just stopped conflict from breaking out across the world, they have aided the U.S. military in the field when violence is absolutely necessary. The diplomats and mediators of the Institute of Peace have saved the lives of American troops in the field for years and they have helped ensure that peace remains long after American troops have gone home.
A professor once told me that it’s a well-established rule of modern warfare that troops can almost never pronounce the names of the places to which they are deployed. Often, this lack of understanding between soldiers and locals leads to misunderstandings at best, and hostilities at worst. Time and time again, I’ve read about simple misunderstandings in warzones in Iraq or Afghanistan, which could have been resolved by a mediator but ended in the death of an American soldier or innocent civilian.
For me, supporting USIP boils down to doing things that may seem difficult, but that are significantly preferable to the suffering that stems from war. Understanding people’s motivations and convincing enemies to settle their differences without violence is one of the hardest tasks in the world, but nothing worthwhile was never easy. America also has an abundance of people who are skilled and knowledgeable enough to tackle a world full of conflict. All we need to do is give them the support they need.
About the U.S. Institute of Peace
In a world where violent conflict, terrorist attacks, fleeing refugees, and sectarian violence is in the headlines every day, the mission of USIP is more important now than ever. However, some in Congress think the $35 million spent on these programs each year is wasteful and that eliminating USIP would help alleviate the country's debt problem.
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This could not be more wrong! Preventing violent conflicts from escalating saves the United States billions of dollars by eliminating the need for costly military intervention. In addition, the Institute of Peace’s work supports the goals of our military by creating more stable environments in areas where they are currently deployed. Finally, we have a moral obligation as the leaders of the free world to help prevent conflicts instead of contributing to their escalation.
The USIP already conducts effective programs on a very limited budget. For a fraction of the U.S.'s military budget (.00007% to be exact) the USIP runs the following successful programs:
In Afghanistan, USIP helped shape U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts with research on traditional Afghan systems of justice. With Afghan universities, it is developing courses in conflict resolution and helping the government apply a more effective system to resolve land disputes.
In Colombia, USIP is supporting the peace process that promises an end to 50 years of civil war. USIP provides local organizations with technical and financial help and has enlarged the role of women and youth in the peace process. It serves as a trusted liaison among all parties.
In Nigeria, USIP is convening government officials—notably the country’s influential state governors—with civic leaders and scholars to build consensus on how to reduce the root causes of radicalization and the Boko Haram insurgency.
Across Africa and the Middle East, USIP’s Generation Change program builds the capacities of emerging youth leaders working for peace in communities from Uganda to Tunisia to Sudan.
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