News reports suggest that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, upon the recommendation of Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, could shut down the U.S. Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI), a unique American asset that has enjoyed wide support for decades.
For minuscule savings—the cost of two or three Tomahawk missiles—this would be a great loss for the country and the world.
PKSOI’s mission is to provide training and information to military and civilian personnel. In this age of asymmetric warfare, the armed forces play an essential role in preventing the outbreak of armed conflict, de-escalating violence and stabilizing post-conflict situations.
The Army has used PKSOI to train personnel from an extensive practical knowledge base of best practices, and has saved lives and treasure in the process.
Peace and security
Every year, governments from all over the world send men and women to the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for this vital and wide-ranging training that covers areas such as peace and security, mass atrocity response, village stability operations, stability policing and police reform, anti-terrorism, reconstruction planning, gender-based violence, disaster relief, internally displaced persons, and demobilization, disarmament and reintegration.
PKSOI is a unique resource for the U.S. armed forces and our allies. It is also a valued partner of civilian institutions such as the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. It makes an important contribution toward limiting violence and preserving world peace.
Some speculate that the threatened closure is a result of a desire to shift greater responsibility for peacekeeping to aid organizations.
Based on my international experiences, I can say unequivocally that aid organizations are not equipped with the strong peacekeeping, logistics and rapid response capabilities needed in emergency and conflict situations.
I have seen what happens when highly trained professionals are not available during a humanitarian crisis.
I was president of the American University in Nigeria for seven years in the midst of the Boko Haram insurgency. We faced an influx of 300,000 refugees fleeing violence. No one in the local and state governments and local armed forces was prepared to respond effectively.
The university and the Adamawa Peace Initiative (a group of religious and community leaders) filled the void by feeding the refugees, helping farmers return to their land, and developing programs that helped Muslims and Christians work together toward peace.
Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has worked with PKSOI for nearly a decade. Since my arrival at Dickinson last year, I have come to admire the rigor and commitment of the U.S. Army War College, its professionalism, and its dedication to creating a less violent and more humane world.
The peacekeeping function of our military should by now be settled practice. To the extent that there are still some people in the Army who believe otherwise, the Secretary of Defense needs to send a strong message: The U.S. has the best fighting force in the world and that force must play a vital role in recovery after the battle is won.
Now is the time to boldly advance, not retreat.
Margee M. Ensign is president of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which has a nearly decade-long internship and faculty sharing partnership with the U.S. Army War College and PKSOI.