Just a quickie…

I’m still a bit flooded with day job duties, so it may be month or so before I’m back at this full time.

In this entry, I just want to pay homage to a conflict photographer whose work is truly unforgettable. Recently killed, his images and story are an inspiration. http://news.yahoo.com/chris-hondros-testament-photography-140524541.html

Chris Hondros, you will be missed.

Incidentally, if you aren’t familiar with PROOF: Media for Social Justice, check them out. Leora Kahn, the woman behind the magic, is an amazing person who is passionate about life and people. The group handles quite a bit of conflict and post conflict related projects. http://proof.org/


Kids Again

Very few advertisemens can vlaim a higher purpose than pure sales. Considering that the job which actually pays me – vice my academic love for the study of political violence – involves knowledge of sales and marketing techniques, I understand the mechanisms behind modern commercials.

And yet,  the Save the Children Syria Campaignstrikes me as amazing – it offers an educated glimpse into the toll of warfare on children. And it does more in under three minutes than some books do in 300 pages.

Mind = blown.

If you don’t want to see the ad part, but would love to see how they get the message across, just skip the last ~15 seconds of the clip.

I never imagined myself posting a commercial on this blog, but trust me. It’s worth seeing.

Voices from Maidan, Ukraine

Looking for on the ground accounts from Ukraine? The organization behind these videos is run by a friend of a friend. An expression of the diaspora’s involvement, they are also being used to counteract Russian propaganda attempts in the region.




Children at War

Living with a toddler, I’m inclined to think that my house resembles a war zone most of the time. And then I remember work. Child soldiers were the hot topic of the mid-late 1990s and the early 2000s. Books on their experiences, autobiographies, biographies, movies, and pop culture brought the phenomenon of child soldiering to the forefront of public interest.

There’s just one problem.

When examining the role of child soldiers in conflict, data is scarce. Most research has centered on the psychological, social, and political ramifications of child soldier use during conflict. Another clump of research looks at how and why children were recruited or forced into service during civil wars.

We’re on the verge of the 20 year anniversary of Rwanda’s civil war. The conflict left a damaging impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. As do all civil wars. Rwanda was also one of the first conflicts to call attention to the role of child soldiers in conflict.

I’ve yet to hear of a single paper that covers child soldiers as a variable on duration of a conflict, despite numerous reports of child recruitment and participation in political violence. For that matter, I’ve yet to read a paper that treats children as a variable in civil war. The data is scarce, which is one part of the problem, but a larger question is looming.

Are we failing to research children as a variable in civil war because the idea is disconcerting? Is it easier to ignore the concept of child soldiers as being relevant to a conflict’s duration or outcome?

The reality of child soldiering isn’t decreasing. In fact, we’ve seen child soldiers in conflict of all sizes for hundreds of years, but their use in civil war has increased in the past few decades. From abducted children being forced into slave-like conditions in insurgent camps to kindergarteners being trained as future suicide bombers, the role of the child in warfare and terrorism is unmistakeably important.

The effects on the children themselves, on their society, and on the creation of a lasting peace and the cessation of conflict are all variables worth evaluating. Just as the questions surrounding women in conflict is difficult to address due to the lack of reliable data, the same can be said of children in conflict.

Does  anyone know of a dataset with reliable information on special actors in civil conflict and political violence? If so, share the wealth. Comment below.

If not, isn’t it time to start one?

For more information on children in conflict, see the following resources:























You can tell that I’m passionate about this topic, right?

Location, location, location…

If you thought the only neighborhood that matters is the one you live in, you’re mistaken. You see, neighborhoods make a drastic impact politically, too.

Let’s take a closer look at the situation. Take, for example, two people who are good friends. Both are married. When one’s marriage starts to fall apart, the other person may begin to identify. To take on the problems themselves, and project them onto their own relationship.

This happens. So often, in fact, that the recent divorce of a close friend or loved one is one of the key predictors that a couple will divorce.

In international politics, we can conceptualize divorce as occuring between opposing sides within a country during civil war or political unrest. Only, in this case, often times the “problems” that are taken on are actually people – refugees seeking shelter, and rebels seeking a secure base outside of their government’s grasp.

The result is, much as you might expect, messy. Refugee camps are dangerous, often hot beds for crime and recruitment into extremist politcal movements. Violence begets violence.

Spill-over conflicts are statistically verifiable. The level and likelihood of these conflicts varies based on the social and political embeddedness of insurgent groups, which Sarbahi suggests influence the trajectory of peripheral civil wars. The presence of political neighbors in conflict often leads to political conflict. That’s known.

It’s also often forgotten. When we look at the situation in Syria, let’s not forget that the Middle East at present looks like  a game of “Lights Out”.  The conflict isn’t without domestic AND international provocation, however. Which begs another question. When we study civil wars, do we draw the line on national borders, or are the wars in neighboring states that originate from the same causes actually part of the same war?

For convenience, we often use political borders. But does that shrink our understanding of the entire problem of insurgency? Are we cutting off our theoretical hand to spite our face?

Maybe not. But it’s still something to keep in mind…

For more on political violence in countries whose neighbors are unstable, see the following:







Please share any comments, complaints, suggestions, or questions!