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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

At GWU: The best weapon is human

Professor Mary Kaldor last week at George Washington University/Patricia Leslie

In the “Distinguished Women in International Affairs” series at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Professor Mary Kaldor from the London School of Economics and Political Science talked last week about her newest book, The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon: Human Security and the New Rules of War and Peace, which she co-authored with Lt. Col. Shannon Beebe, a former adjunct professor at GW.

The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon by Mary Kaldor and Shannon Beebe

The book is about the futility of using conventional weaponry when conflict outcomes now are determined by efforts to restore and protect citizens' basic needs.  Those who make people feel safe and secure become the victors.

At the beginning of her presentation, Dr. Kaldor, director of LSE's Centre for the Study of Global Governance, spent several minutes describing Beebe's talents and skills, and she talked about the evolution of her friendship with him, who was the senior Africa analyst for the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence.

Last August Beebe died in a private plane crash with his girlfriend in Fauquier County, Virginia.  Members of their families joined the mostly student audience.

The best tools a nation has to defeat an enemy, Professor Kaldor said, is to safeguard citizens' rights and provide people with security and basic necessities, such as protection from violence, poverty, environmental degradation, and bomb attacks.  For citizens to obey laws, they must be able to trust their government, and they must believe in a legitimate authority. 

Without trust that government can protect them and provide a general feeling of security, doors open to let in terrorists who have an interest in violence to create fear and hate, Professor Kaldor said.
Many citizens are seized by fear. 

Professor Mary Kaldor last week at George Washington University/Patricia Leslie

“I think people nowadays do feel very insecure” Professor Kaldor said.  If citizens cease believing that their government can keep them safe, the situation becomes “very, very dangerous.” 

Syria is an example of one nation with “massive violation of human rights.”  People must be free from attacks by their own government.

“No one really knows how to address” the “persistent conflicts” in Somalia, Kenya, Yemen, Syria, and Libya.  In Iraq and Afghanistan “we've used conventional weapons [and] have made the situations much worse.” 

Events in Afghanistan illustrate "more than ever" the importance of civilian command and leadership, necessary to gain citizens' respect for authority. 

Professor Kaldor criticized drone attacks and asked the audience if a terrorist were known to be hiding in Washington, would drones be released to take the person out?  No.

She said she used to think state security and human security could co-exist, but she has changed her mind.  “Of course, the state must be protected” at the expense, sometimes, of international security.  (Think border protection.) 

Her quiet and friendly manner suggested her classes must be popular among LSE students.  At GW they listened intently to her remarks.

The Elliott series, sponsored by Jack and Pam Cumming, bring "renowned women leaders" to GW to talk with students about international issues. 

The occasion was also the fifth annual Banville Forum, presented in memory of GW alumnus, Robert Banville.  Receptions preceded and followed the event.

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