Transitions: Captain – Professor

Posted on November 15, 2012

Today’s Foreign Policy blog by Micah Zenko spoke to the heart of my PhD admissions essay. When referring to an exchange about cooperation between defense and diplomacy, Gen. David Petraeus noted: “…when it comes to the conflict prevention, that one I have to put my thinking cap on and figure out.”

Where is the bridge between my PhD admissions essay and this statement? At the pinnacle of U.S. national security strategy education, the National Defense University, there is not a single faculty member who holds a degree in conflict analysis, conflict resolution, conflict prevention, or peace studies. The faculty charged with developing future leaders in high-level policy making hold degrees in political science, international relations, diplomacy, strategic studies, and regional studies. Therefore, I submitted, that to change that dynamic and fulfill an unrealized potential for conflict resolution and the promotion of peace in the development of future strategic leaders a portion of the faculty ought to be credentialed to understand, exploit, and deliberately establish the peace.

My transformation from a student first of economics then national security studies to a defense policy practitioner to a scholar of conflict analysis and resolution may be seen as disruptive. I believe my professional experience and academic credentials foster a capacity to learn and adapt, be resilient, and connect with a diverse network of other practitioners and scholars. As a former military officer I served along a spectrum of conflict from peacekeeping in Kosovo to combat in Iraq. As a civil servant I again served during peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Bosnia and serve at the peak of policy and strategy development in the Department of the Army and the Joint Staff.

I am proud of my military service. Yet, since I shed my uniform after service to the Nation in Iraq and Kosovo, I often reflect on renowned British historian Sir Michael Howard’s conclusion: peace is not the absence of conflict but is a condition that must be consciously and deliberately established. This compels me to become a practitioner-scholar so that I may shape future leaders to discern when military force is not necessary and to help them embrace the concept that lasting peace is plausible.