Thank you very much for the most generous welcome and indeed the very generous words from everybody. It is really great to be here, because, as Sandy says, I do have a long association with George Mason even though this is actually my first visit to the University and especially to S-CAR. I think you are in a wonderful place. You know the research that goes on here is really very important in the field of conflict and peace research. And I would say for international politics actually, so I’m very much looking forward to our interactions this evening. What I want to do is not to be so theoretical this evening, but nevertheless you’ll see that the theory and the conceptualizations that I work with are very much there in the journey that I am going to take you through.
Now what is that journey? As you know and as you have seen from the publicity for this lecture, the title is Human Rights, Sovereign Rights, and the Potentials of Conflict Resolution. In a sense I see a challenge that’s being presented to us now in the 21st Century and that challenge is that we are witnessing the extremes of violence going on across the world. The challenge is, how do we respond intellectually and, if you like, praxiologically? How do we respond?
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Scholar and author Vivienne Jabri recently gave a fantastic lecture at The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution on the relationship of critical theory to the contemporary practice of conflict resolution and humanitarian intervention. Jabri discusses the contributions of Kant, Habermas, Foucault, and Arendt to the pressing issues of intervention today, specifically in the cases of Western visions for Afghanistan and Syria. Her remarks make apparent the necessity of critical thought to the field of peace and conflict studies, and we at Unrest Magazine look to Jabri as one of the few thinkers within the field who champion the conversation we have tried to help further. Unrest contributor and renowned author/scholar Richard E. Rubenstein is part of the Q&A session in the second video. Rubenstein presses Jabri on the contributions of Marx and materialism, which Jabri connects to the neoliberal project and the need to support post-colonial resistance movements within the above mentioned conflicts. Jabri’s lecture begins around the 16:50 mark of the first video.
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Welcome to Issue Seven of Unrest Magazine. Issue Seven emerges days before the 2012 elections in the United States. Unrest presents its own form of election coverage by offering three pieces (Michael Loadenthal, Tara Ruttenberg, and Jay Filipi) on voting and the potential for either candidate to change the direction of U.S. policy. Richard E. Rubenstein puts a different spin on the election by examining the impact of theological disputes within the Republican party. As the conflict in Syria rages on, Adan E. Suazo offers an analysis of the failure of the Annan Plan and possible next steps for the international community. In our Banter section, Ramlath Kavil explores human rights abuses in India, while Sramana Majumdar reflects on the impact of the struggle for autonomy in the Kashmir. Cerelia Athanassiou and Michael D. English analyze the consequences of militarism and Sarah Rose-Jensen closes the issue off with a reflection on the personal challenges of doing conflict work. In short, we are thrilled to bring you another issue of Unrest Magazine!
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The Annan peace process that tried to halt hostilities between the rebels and Bashar al-Assad’s government put in place several conventional tools that did not account for the multifaceted political reality of the conflict. This work will propose that the Syrian conflict suffers from three different levels of political deadlock, which have thus far stalled the peace process. Much emphasis has been placed on easing hostilities at the Syrian national level in an attempt to prevent any further bloodshed, and to help maintain the social and political structures that are still standing in Syria. While these structures would inevitably serve as a potential base for a smooth and peaceful democratic transition, a holistic analysis of the obstacles faced outside of Syria needs to be initiated in order to understand the highly complex nature of the conflict’s political substance.
My most recent journey outside the United States was to Syria. Syria, as you may recall was one of the states added to the “axis of evil” by John Bolton in a speech cleverly called “Beyond the Axis of Evil.” The fact that Bolton has a history of questionable activities that includes blocking information and using forged information to invade other countries (Iraq) did little to stop many Americans from remembering that speech, or fearing Syria and its people. Furthermore, due to this back story, I was asked before going two major questions:
Why are you going? (To study and learn from Marc Gopin.)
And are you scared? (No.)