Is a PhD a possibility for me?

So I am preparing for my Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies at Lancaster University and reviewing my plan.  My intention was to get a Peace Studies MA then a job in conflict prevention somehow such that I could do my bit to stop the UK starting any new wars by providing evidence-based arguments that there are better alternatives.

A few people have – in jest? – asked if I am intending to do a PhD or suggested I do one.  Having looked again at the university I have chosen – a “triple top ten university” with a joint top best research library and one of the top 3 research universities in the UK – and it seems I have chosen well.  One that prides itself on the quality of its research.  I wonder if that applies to the social sciences too, specifically the politics and international relations?  If so, I would be in the right place.

I had an idea the other day regarding modelling of the kind done in IT, physics and maths: are there models for conflict resolution?  If not, fame and fortune awaits if I invent the first.  If so, there is the opportunity to learn about them and apply them in the workplace.  But an academic view might be to review them, compare them, evaluate them – that could be what I do with this MA.

But there is a further opportunity. I am a practitioner by nature, not an academic.  I have been seeking ‘the learned journal for peace’, the professional body for peacemakers, the text books, the methodologies, the best practice for the people working in the field.  Do these things exist?  If not, they need creating and there is the scope for a PhD.

If I could create or document a framework for peacemongery such that practitioners could take it off the shelf and use it, that would be a heck of a legacy.  If I could form a ‘professional body’ or a methodology, that would also be a great contribution.  Even creating something so that when someone says “There is no alternative to war”, I can say “Yes there is, I wrote the book!” would be an immense move forward.

I shall keep pondering on this idea…

 

Empowering nonviolence – so much to learn

I need to read more information from War Resisters’ International.  They have so much useful information on nonviolent campaigns in opposition of war, that it is overwhelming, so I have not looked at it at all.  It is hard to know where to start.

Web sites:

Books:

Loads of articles:

Potential employers for me:

The USA is happy with itself as it is: frightened

Having wasted most of the weekend online arguing with pro-gun people in the USA, I have given up.  I have tried this before and keep coming to the same conclusion: they are happy as they are.

They believe the level of violence and gun-related deaths is quite low compared to other causes of death, and so is quite acceptable.

They believe there is a huge threat to society waiting to get them and, unless there is a ready civilian militia armed to a military standard, it could get them at any time.  They need to be ready.

They believe that people being armed is why their society is so peaceful, that it is only unarmed people that are victims of crime, and it is their own fault for not being armed.

It is a belief system.  Facts and statistics are immaterial and disregarded.  You cannot argue using logic against a belief system.

Essentially what they have developed is a Gun Faith.  Guns are worshipped, adored, protected by the constitution and idolised.  ‘Idolised’ being the operative word.  Some people carry a St Christopher, some wear a cross, some carry a picture of Mary and some wear a birthstone crystal.  In the USA people carry a gun for the same reason: faith it will protect them.  Despite the factual evidence to the contrary.

A funny thing about religions is how people take it to extremes to prove their faith: growing a couple of locks of hair really long, totally covering their women, refusing to shave.  In the USA Gun Faith the extremists carry semi-automatic rifles simply as symbols of devotion.  The NRA is the church of this religion.  I get all that now.

That’s why people have started referring to the pro-gun lobby online as The American Taliban.

Scientists for Global Responsibility

At some time in 2016, for rather convoluted reasons to do with supporting the Peace Tax Seven,  I started getting emails from a Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) mailing list.  Today’s was a job ad for them.  I can’t apply because I don’t have the essentials in the person spec., but their web site is interesting.

The ethics around the technology developments required of modern warfare are a major part of their raison d’etre, and they were formed from peace groups merging.  They are affiliated with a number of peace organisations, each of which I need to investigate as both sources of information and as potential employers.  They are concerned about the military influence on science and technology research.  They have information booklets on ethical careers.  They have a list of potential ethical employers in the peace sector.  They have resources on security and disarmament.  They produce reports and briefings including security.  They have dozens of newsletters I need to go through.

I have joined their mailing list proper.  I have joined their LinkedIn group.  Today I post my membership off to them.

Their Wikipedia page is a bit thin.  Here’s someone else’s words about them.

They do get articles published like this one in the Guardian.

I firmly expect a bunch of committed scientists can provide me with loads of data for evidence-based peace.

I had not heard of SGR before – this highlights the problem I found at the start in 2012: where is the peace industry? The arms industry has a fantastically high profile, the peace industry is barely mentioned other than to criticise white poppies.

Bias regarding fear of war allowing wars to happen

As creatures, we are very poor at assessing risk.  This knowledge was reinforced by what I learned in the Open University module DD210 Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary.  I suspect that is one of the reasons we allow wars to happen.

On the same theme The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters by Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther may be a relevant and useful read.  It looks as though they consider why we allow things to happen.  They highlight six behaviours:

  1. Amnesia bias: only focussing on recent experience so we forget the experience of past wars.
  2. Optimism bias: we are optimistic by nature and although know wars happen, believe wars will not happen to us.
  3. Single action bias: it is enough to make one small act of protest thinking that will be enough to protect us.
  4. Myopia: only considering the short term, that war won’t happen soon so it will never happen.
  5. Inertia: it is too hard to face the problem and tackle it, when it might not even happen, thereby allowing it to happen.
  6. Herding: doing what we perceive everyone else to do, which is nothing, so nobody does anything.

But that list does not tell us what to do about them; perhaps the rest of their book does.

Optimistic about water wars

I have often heard it suggested or assumed that the next wars will be over water.  The International Water Management Institute is not so pessimistic.  Their article ‘Promoting cooperation through management of transboundary water resources‘ says:

Research is challenging the conventional wisdom that conflict over water leads to war.  The water wars hypothesis has its roots in earlier research carried out on a small number of transboundary rivers such as the Indus, Jordan and the Nile…because they had experienced water-related disputes.  Specific events cited as evidence include Israel’s bombing of Syria’s attempts to divert the Jordan’s headwater and military threats by Egypt against any country building dams in the upstream water of the Nile.  However, while some links made between conflict and water were valid, they did not necessarily represent the norm.

and

while it is true that there has been conflict related to water in a handful of international basins, in the rest of the world’s approximately 300 shared basins the record has been largely positive.

War is not inevitable.

This paper is an example of research into alternatives to international conflict over a specific resource resulting in evidence-based cases of violent conflict not being required to resole international problems regarding resource issues.  So if someone says to you “The next wars will be about water” you can now say “No, they won’t.  Water may be involved but we now know it is more likely to result in international co-operation.

What is the learned journal for peace?

I started writing this in August 2015 and got stuck.

I’ve been wondering something for a week or two.  If I want to do research into alternatives to war, and there is such a thing as Peace Studies, then there must be a relevant learned journal.  The place where relevant articles are published for peer review.  I should have subscribed to it ages ago.  But what and where is it?

Courtesy of Google I see there is more than one. Searches I have tried:

  • “learned journal” “peace studies”
  • “peer-reviewed journal” “peace studies”

Searches I need to do: The OU library.

Results…



Title: Conflict Management and Peace Science
ISSN: Digital: 15499219 Print: 07388942
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
URL: http://cmp.sagepub.com/
Desc’n: A peer-reviewed journal. Contains scientific papers on topics such as: international conflict; arms races; the effect of international trade on political interactions; foreign policy decision making; international mediation; and game theoretic approaches to conflict and cooperation. Features original and review articles focused on news and events related to the scientific study of conflict and peace.
Began: 1973
Frequency: 5 times per year (supposedly)
Cost: One article: £18. Either one issue or one year: £69
Comment: About 5 articles per issue. Only abstracts available online. Looks more like war studies than peace studies.



Title: Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal
ISSN: Electronic: 1911-9933 Print: 1911-0359
Publisher: The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS)
URL: scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp
Desc’n: A much-needed forum for discussion. Fosters awareness of the atrocities linked to genocide while promoting the necessity of prevention. This peer-reviewed journal publishes articles on the latest developments in policy, research, and theory from various disciplines including history, political science, sociology, psychology, international law, criminal justice, women’s studies, religion, philosophy, literature, anthropology and art history.
Began: 2006
Frequency: 3 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 10 articles per issue.



Title: The International Journal for Peace Studies
ISSN: ?
Publisher: The International Peace Research Association (IPRA)
URL: www.gmu.edu/programs/icar/ijps
Desc’n: An educational research journal with articles on the causes and solutions to the social, cultural, and ethnic conflicts in the world.
Began: 1996
Frequency: 2 issues per year
Cost: Free
Comment: All articles are available online



Title: Journal of Conflict Resolution
ISSN: Digital: 15528766 Paper: 00220027
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
URL: jcr.sagepub.com
Desc’n: Peer-reviewed, provides scholars and researchers with the latest studies and theories on the causes of and solutions to the full range of human conflict. Focuses on conflict between and within states, but also explores a variety of inter-group and interpersonal conflicts that may help in understanding problems of war and peace.
Began: 1957
Frequency: 8 times / year, supposedly.
Cost: £17 for an article. £107 for, probably, a year.
Comment: About 8 articles per issue.



Title: Journal of Peace Research
ISSN: 00223433
Publisher: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
URL: jpr.sagepub.com
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary and international peer reviewed bimonthly journal of scholarly work in peace research.  Strives for a global focus on conflict and peacemaking.  Encourages a wide conception of peace, but focuses on the causes of violence and conflict resolution.
Began: 1964
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Cost: £80 per something.  Probably a year.
Comment: Can download a few articles.  Can subscribe to the Table of Contents.



Title: Journal of Peace Studies
ISSN: ?
Publisher: International Centre for Peace Studies
URL: www.icpsnet.org/journal.php
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary approach and aims at promoting peace and understanding among societies of the world in general and South Asian societies in particular.
Began: 1993
Frequency: Quarterly
Cost: ?  I cannot see how to obtain it.
Comment: Produced by the International Center for Peace Studies



Title: Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies
ISSN: 0008-4697
Publisher: Menno Simons College, Canadian Mennonite University
URL: www.peaceresearch.ca
Desc’n: Canada’s oldest and primary scholarly journal in its area.  Distributed internationally.  Publishes broadly on issues of conflict, violence, poverty, just peace and human well-being. Peace and conflict studies holds peace as a value, and peaceful methods as the most desirable form of conflict transformation.
Began: 1969
Frequency: Twice a year
Cost: $US 60 / year
Comment: Can download a few articles from 2007 to 2013 for free.



Title: Peace Studies Journal
ISSN: 2151-0806
Publisher: Central New York Peace Studies Consortium
URL: peacestudiesjournal.org/about-psj
Desc’n: An international peer-reviewed scholarly open access journal in the field of peace, conflict and justice studies.
Began: 2007
Frequency: 4 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 5 articles per issue.



Title: x
ISSN: ?
Publisher: x
URL: x
Desc’n: x
Began: x
Frequency: x
Cost: x
Comment: x


Center for Peacemaking Practice, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University



Now in February 2017 it has just dawned on me to search the OU Library for journals with ‘peace’ in the name where they have the text available online and it is within the last 20 years and in English.  They hold ten items:

Title: Conflict management and peace science (Online)
Author: Peace Science Society (International)
Subjects: International relations — Research — Periodicals; Peace — Research – Periodicals
Publisher: Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications
Identifier: ISSN:0738-8942
Publication date(s): 1980-1999
Opinion: looks good.

Title: Journal of peace education (Online)
Author: International Peace Research Association. Peace Education Commission.
Subjects: Peace — Study and teaching — Periodicals; Peace — Periodicals; Peace; Peace — Study and teaching
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Carfax Pub.
Identifier: ISSN:1740-0201
Publication date(s): 2004
Opinion: looks really interesting and relevant.

Title: Journal of international peace operations (Online)
Author: International Peace Operations Association.; International Stability Operations Association, issuing body.
Subjects: Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals; Political science — Foreign relations — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations)
Publisher: Washington, DC : International Peace Operations Association
Identifier: ISSN:1933-8198
Publication date(s): 2006
Opinion: stuck in the weird OU ‘loop11’ loop.

Title: Global change, peace & security.
Author: La Trobe University. Centre for Dialogue, issuing body.; La Trobe University. Institute for Human Security, issuing body.
Subjects: Security, International — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Routledge
Identifier: ISSN:1478-1158
Publication date(s): ©2003-
Opinion: has some really interesting looking articles.

Title: Journal of aggression, conflict and peace research Elektronische Ressource
Publisher: Bingley Emerald
Publication date(s): 2009-
Opinion: Primarily about interpersonal violence, does have a few articles on international violence.

Title: The journal of peace, prosperity & freedom.
Author: Liberty Australia (Organization)
Subjects: Libertarianism — Australia — Periodicals
Publisher: Brunswick, VIC : Liberty Australia
Identifier: ISSN:2200-3037
Publication date(s): 2012]-
Opinion: Three issues and nothing of interest.

Title: International journal of engineering, social justice and peace.
Subjects: Engineering ethics — Periodicals; Engineering — Social aspects — Periodicals
Publisher: Kingston, Ontario : Queen’s University
Identifier: ISSN:1927-9434
Publication date(s): 2012-
Opinion: Can’t get to it online (it has moved) and it doesn’t look relevant anyway.

Title: Peace and democracy in South Asia .
Author: Stockholms universitet. Politics of Development Group.; Asiawide Network.
Subjects: Peace — Periodicals; Democracy — South Asia — Periodicals; South Asia — Periodicals
Publisher: Malaysia : Asiawide Network
Publication date(s): c2004-
Opinion: three issues.  Cannot see anything immediately relevant.

Title: Performance and accountability report
Author: Peace Corps (U.S.)
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.) — Periodicals; Peace Corps (U.S.)
Publisher: Washington, DC : Peace Corps
Identifier: ISSN:1930-1251
Publication date(s): 2004-
Opinion: Useless, broken link.

Advice on assessing a source

I have just read a free ebook and I cannot determine if it is factual or not.  If anyone else is familiar with it, or looking for a distraction, I’d appreciate another’s opinion edit: no need; I’ve worked it out.

Title: The Diary of a U-boat Commander

By: Sir William Stephen Richard King-Hall

Described on FeedBooks: http://www.feedbooks.com/book/4208:The diary of a World War One U-Boat commander. As well as being a fascinating glimpse of life on the German U-boats during the intense submarine blockade, this also reminds us there were humans involved – on both sides of the action – as we read too of the intimate thoughts and intense love of a man longing for his sweetheart.

It begins after World War One with a U-Boat commander requesting a British officer returns another U-Boat commander’s personal diary.  The British officer refuses and decides he will get it translated and published.  What follows is the German’s diary, with translator’s notes.

It is categorised in the ebook collections as non-fiction.  But reading it, it doesn’t feel right.  It feels like someone writing a fictitious diary designed to show what a horrid man a German U-Boat commander is, but who could not get it published before the war ended and published it as it is instead.  As if it was meant as propaganda: “Look what we found”.

It is by (note I am careful to say he is not the author) Sir William Stephen Richard King-Hall.  He was a journalist, politician and playwright, suggesting he may have made the book up.  But he was a naval officer until 1929.

Wikipedia lists this book against Stephen King-Hall link and suggests he was the translator, for what that’s worth.

On ManyBooks, it is listed under ‘Fiction and Literature’ and the reviewers conclude it is fiction, yet plausible.

A quick skim through  A North Sea diary, 1914-1918 by Commander Stephen King-Hall, does not refer to the incident of him getting access to a U-boat commander’s stuff.

A description on Archive.org suggests it is fiction – warning contains spoilers.  They have an online copy of the original, with one review which also cannot determine if it is fiction or not.

A search for the details of the U-boat commander, Karl von Schenk of U122 … gives me the answer.  Of course there are fanatics who trace every ship and its commanding officer, duh.  I knew that.  Should have done that first.  He never existed.

Now, having written all that, I’m going to post it anyway, just as a way of reinforcing the message to myself: do not automatically trust sources that say they are genuine, even when published by distinguished honourable gentlemen with titles, honours and military careers.  (After all, he was also a politician… thoughtful )


Advice given to me:

For what it’s worth, Simon, I tend to look for reviews of books about which I have doubts in academic journals. If no academics have reviewed the book then I start to wonder. Obviously with so many books being published, many will not be reviewed so that’s not the end of it. In this case, I would have wondered about the fact that the author also wrote plays, children’s books and for Children’s Hour. Again, no doubt there are excellent historians who also write or wrote fiction, but, again, it raises a question. However, I gather from the reader reviews that it becomes obvious as you reach the final chapters that the book you asked about is fiction.

But even that isn’t enough to discredit it. King-Hall was apparently awarded a gold medal by the Royal Institution of International Affairs for his thesis on submarine warfare and served in the 11th submarine flotilla in the First World War. There is a possibility, therefore, that the technical detail could be accurate.

On the whole, though, if I had been faced with this question I would probably have put the book aside on the basis that I’ve got too much information from reliable sources without getting bogged down in figuring out how good this is.


My response:

You’ve described the path I took very accurately.  I bounced up and down on that see-saw of doubt many times.  I would have put it aside as irrelevant but for an essay but I wanted to use to practise determining the veracity of sources.  I get the impression part of A327 is teaching us to think “just who really wrote this, and why?*

I particularly wanted to know because the main character is not at all likeable, but totally plausible.  As a Prussian Junker, he gave opinions that seemed to explain how Germany was led by the sort of people who would start a war of conquest as a matter of entitlement.  What made me suspicious was the main character got to do a couple of cross-service activities on short postings and that felt unlikely.

But it was the consequences of its accuracy that bothered me.  Either I was learning valuable insights about German society and culture from a painfully honest artefact written from the heart, or I was being misled by a disingenuous and fatuous work of propaganda or revenge from an embittered victor.

Upon reflection, now knowing it is fiction says more about its author than it does about the Germans.  Knowing it to be fiction being passed off as factual diary, one could use it as evidence to claim “Look how the British want to blame the Prussians for the war, rub Germany’s nose in their loss, obviously the British wanted revenge out of hatred, and would make up lies to show how bad the Germans were, no wonder the Germans complained about the reparations, the reparations must have been unfair, WW2 was the fault of the British“.  Same artefact, totally opposite potential interpretation of history from the one deviously intended by the author.

Was there much material like this?  Were loads of people putting out anti-German literature or was this unusual?  Did it influence the Paris peace talks and European relations in the next two decades?  Alternatively, would anyone reading it at the time have laughed it off knowing full well it was just a light-hearted jab at the nasty stereotypical Hun by another veteran letting off steam?  I don’t know, and it makes me wonder.  What I suppose I’d need for that would be reviews of the book written at the time.

* They are.  Learning outcome 4: The ability to identify, gather and evaluate historical evidence and the work of historians critically; to appreciate the qualities of different kinds of texts, images, audio and visual sources; and see the need to adjust your approach in line with purpose.

This is the sort of work I want: peace informatics

There is a group on LinkedIn called Peace Informatics describing itself:

This group brings together researchers, practitioners and other professionals who want to explore how Big Data can be applied in the field of peace and security. The group’s moderators provide regular updates with cutting edge information about related developments and aim to exchange views among network members about lessons learned, latest insights and potential collaboration.

Peace Informatics is initiated and run by the Peace Informatics Lab at Leiden University (Campus The Hague). The Peace Informatics Lab consists of a number of interconnected projects that explore new ways of Big Data methodologies in the field of peace & security.

I’m not convinced about the hype around ‘big data’ (my views come from decades of experience working with large databases, data analysis and business analysis rather than marketing bumf), but I am impressed with what I have seen of Leiden University, having done some of their MOOC courses.

But this could be a field where my IT experience would be very useful.  Now, how to get my foot in the door…?

Chilcot, briefly

At the most sympathetic interpretation, the second Gulf War was initiated on poor quality intelligence, incomplete intelligence, contrary to evidence-based failure to find WMDs, an overly-keen desire to initiate war, a premature decision to initiate war, a lack of collaborative decision making and not listening to objections and alternatives.

So, it should not have been initiated.

Tony Blair is a war-monger.

I don’t think we learned anything we did not know already.

There’s also no discussion going on about alternatives – which is what I have been feeling and saying for years.  Stop looking for reasons to go to war – which is what happened here – but instead look for evidence-based, properly-researched, alternatives.