PEACE WORKS – U.S. Peacebuilding Initiatives

June 17, 2019

Speaker: Ambassador Frederick Barton

   About the Speaker:   

Ambassador Rick Barton teaches at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, where he serves as a co-director of Princeton’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative and Ullman Fellowships.

Barton started USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, and was America’s ambassador to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York, the UN’s Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and the first Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations.

He led conflict management initiatives in over 40 crisis zones across the globe, from Haiti, Iraq, Nigeria, Burma, Pakistan to Turkey. Published in The New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, The Boston Globe, and numerous other international outlets, Barton is a guest on news shows ranging from NPR to all of the major networks.

His 2018 book, Peace Works: America’s Unifying Role in a Turbulent World [see below], uses a mix of stories, history, and analysis to offer an affirmative approach to foreign affairs through concrete and attainable solutions.

  Moderator: Dr. Matthew Shank:   

Dr. Matthew Shank became President of the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges (VFIC) in January, 2019. Prior to this, Dr. Shank served as the interim President of the World Affairs Council – DC.  Between 2011 and 2018, Dr.  Shank was Marymount University’s president, before stepping down down to become President Emeritus. 

In recognition of his work at Marymount, Dr. Shank received the 2012 Global Education Leadership Award from the World Affairs Council and the WAC– DC Global Educator of the Year Award in 2017.  He has also received the Robert Ball Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ballston Business Improvement District in 2018, the Edu-Futuro Community Partner Award in 2017 and earned the distinction of Visiting Distinguished Professor – National University of Public Service, Budapest, Hungary in 2016. 

Dr. Shank currently serves on a variety of non-profit boards such as Arlington Free Clinic; Arlington Public Schools; American University in the Emirates, Dubai; and others. An accomplished scholar, Dr. Shank has published numerous articles, presented at many conferences, and is the author of the book Sports Marketing: A Strategic Perspective (5th Edition). He has consulted with over 75 organizations in the areas of marketing research, strategic planning, and marketing strategy.

   Program Recording:   

NPR Radio recorded this Program and a streaming link from the WCVE Forum archives can be found here.

   Event Summary:    

Dr. Matthew Shank conducted an interview with Ambassador Frederick Barton discussing his experiences and take on U.S. Peacebuilding, as described in his new book, Peace Works: America’s Unifying Role in a Turbulent World.

Ambassador Barton answered many of our questions, such as those regarding life as an ambassador and the behind-the-scenes nature of the peacekeeping work. He voiced his view on what guidelines we should follow in order to decide to become engaged in a crisis situation and which U.S. procedures are involved. Also important was the question of how we measure progress in a post-conflict situation most effectively.

Rick Barton further elaborated on the importance of engaging the public and helping Americans become more knowledgeable in this area. He addressed if and how immigrant communities originating from those conflict zones, other activists and community leaders, but also young people, can play a constructive role. However, it seems to be specifically important to further engage the middle generation, since this is the group that is often most prominently missing, as is also shown in the example of the World Affairs Councils, which are mainly attended by students and retirees.

Excerpt of the interview:

Jimmy Carter is the only U.S. president to complete his term without war, military attack or occupation.
Carter said the U.S. has been at peace for only 16 of its 242 years as a nation. Counting wars, military attacks and military occupations, there have actually only been five years of peace in U.S. history — 1976, the last year of the Gerald Ford administration and 1977-80, the entirety of Carter’s presidency.

Carter then referred to the U.S. as “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” a result, he said, of the U.S. forcing other countries to “adopt our American principles.”

Not entirely disagreeing with this statement, Ambassador Barton nonetheless had a different perspective:

“I like to think of the United States as the most advantaged nation in the world. They don’t always invite the Russians into the room, or the Chinese… but the U.S. is often seen as having the potential to be a constructive force – which is a phenomenal advantage. And then, we also have the resources to do good things… so this book is not about non-engagement, but it suggests that we be much more thoughtful… more selective… and public communications is such an influential force right now, and we don’t use that.

The U.S. has been labeled the most warlike country, but the United States has really made a difference in a number of places that have shaped history…

I agree that we shouldn’t ‘force’ our principles, but in the recent conversation in America we have sort of put our principles in the back seat… It is our principles that are really most compelling. I love leading with our principles, but I do want to make sure we are faithful to them and we are actually living them.”

   Additional Ressources:    

“Peace Works: America’s Unifying Role in a Turbulent World”
By Frederick D. Barton, Rowman & Littlefield, 2018
312 pp.

“Immersed in more than 40 global conflicts over the past 25 years, Ambassador Rick Barton is among the world’s most skilled and experienced diplomats and peace-builders. His honest reflections and deep understanding of the lessons he learned challenges traditional approaches and defines smart new global options.”

– Senator George J. Mitchell

For a full book review, see here

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