A World Perspective

A World Perspective
Although I agree with Maya Angelou about the inappropriate paraphrasing of the "drum major" quotation, this quotation makes sense to me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Passing of a Compassionate, Committed Scholar in Beirut

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Randa Antoun, who was a dedicated member of the faculty of the American University of Beirut and leader of MEPI's "Tomorrow's Leaders Program (http://www.aub.edu.lb/news/2014/Pages/antoun.aspx). Thank you, Randa, for your scholarship,contributions, and kindness to Lebanon and friends of Lebanon throughout the world.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A telling graphic...

With thanks to Khalil Sehnaoui and his post on Facebook, picked up by Anne O'Leary, a friend and colleague.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The publics are coming! The publics are here! The corporations are coming! The corporations are here!

A variation on the 1966 film "The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming" speaks to a steady pattern in international relations whose origins could be arguably be dated to the emergence of the nation-state but certainly is vivid today. Global publics are increasingly powerful, and we know that private firms are, too. This piece in The Atlantic - http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/the-real-reason-saudi-arabia-doesn-t-want-friendlier-us-iran-relations/281013/?utm_source=feedburner&&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher#When:01:52:20Z (hat tip to the USC Public Diplomacy Center RSS) is only my most recent reminder of the commercial drive for profit in nascent or re-emerging markets, whether or not governments are ready for it. Where do the meanings of "public" and "governmental" and "private" begin and end? Ever boundary-spanning diplomats have to navigate and mediate between and across the overlapping interests and identities of civil society ethnic groups, co-religionists, unions and political activists (to mention just a few), their budget- and turf-conscious embassy and home ministry colleagues as well kick-start entrepreneurs and corporate giants. How? Public-private partnership -- a proliferating organizational patchwork with which scholars and government actors can barely keep up -- at our peril. In spite of the rise of independence-through-information and de- and self-regulation, these three dimensions of global society are interdependent and people still crave the rule of law and credible institutions. PPPs are coming! PPPs are here!  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thirty years of loss to a family, a country, the world

I hold this Marine and his family in my heart, as I do others who suffered or perished in Beirut in 1983, and I continue to hope that we listen and learn together to emphasize inclusive listening, dialogue, and non-violent collaboration in our international relations.


Beirut 30 years later: James Island family remembers lost Marine father

  • Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2013 12:01 a.m., Updated: Sunday, October 20, 2013 2:20 p.m.
Jason Williams receives the flag that covered the casket of his father Scipio Williams during his father’s funeral in November 1983. Scipio Williams was killed in a truck bomb attack on an American barracks in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983. Buy this photo

Janet Williams prayed that her husband had gone jogging that morning.

If you go

What: 30th anniversary memorial of the bombing of the Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut
Where: Jacksonville/Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Beirut Memorial is at the intersection of Lejeune Boulevard and Montford Point Road.
When: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday
Events: This is the cooperative, base-and-town event that is open to the general public. Other groups are holding smaller, mostly closed memorials during the week as well.
She knew his habits, so it was still a possibility. Besides being a tough Marine master sergeant, Scipio C. Williams Jr. was an early riser and a dedicated distance runner.

By the numbers

On Oct. 23, 1983, a truck packed with explosives attacked U.S. barracks in Beirut, killing U.S. servicemen. The dead included:
220 Marines
18 sailors
3 soldiers
A list of the victims is available at defense.gov.
But the early images on her 1980s television set weren’t giving her much hope. The video was a before-and-after shot of the four-story Marine Corps barracks in far-off Lebanon. The first scenes were of a fully intact building with guards out front. The cut-away was to dust rising from unrecognizable rubble.
Stretchers were lifting away bloody, wounded Marines.
For the next several days Williams watched and waited for any snippet of news of her husband — “so handsome, so good-looking,” she said of the man everyone outside the military called “Scip.”
Just after the children left for school, a station wagon pulled up in front of her James Island home. Four somber
officers, one of them a chaplain, stepped out.
“I was standing in this room here,” she recalled from her dining room table. “And I heard the car doors slamming.”
In the next hours, “MIA” would become “KIA” after Williams’ body was recovered.
Thirty years ago this week, the United States became the victim of its first mass suicide bombing. Shortly after 6 a.m. on Oct. 23, 1983, a truck packed with thousands of pounds of explosives rammed into the U.S. barracks compound in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. servicemen, most of them Marines, and wounding many others.
At least four of the losses came from South Carolina, including Scipio Williams, 35, a lifelong resident of Charleston.
In the aftermath, Janet Williams tried to be tough. She had two children to raise: a son, Scipio Jason, 8, and a daughter, Keysha, 13, both of whom attended their father’s funeral at the small Payne Reformed Methodist Church on rural James Island.
A photograph of young Scipio receiving a folded American flag that day would splash across newspapers and television screens. For years afterward, including at memorials for the families of the bombing victims — and during his own future career as a Marine — those who had served under Master Sgt. Scipio J. Williams would stare at the boy’s face.
The likeness to his father was that strong.
Married on 9/11

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan ordered 1,800 Marines to Beirut. It was new territory for many in America as the nation’s finest fighting force was sent to join a multinational peace-keeping mission in the sectarian-torn nation.
The goal was to stabilize Lebanon, by sheer presence of might, after years of fighting that had brought in factions from all over the Middle East, including Christian and Muslim militias, and the spillover between Israelis and Palestinians.
Not long into the mission, community anger began turning on the Marines, largely because Muslims began identifying their involvement as pro-Christian.
A first taste of what was to come surfaced in April 1983 when a van loaded with explosives struck the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 46 people. The Marines slogged on, even as the rules of engagement prevented them from heavily fortifying their barracks at the international airport. The image was not to appear “warlike,” according to media reports.
All that happened, though, long after Janet met Scip.
She was in high school at C.A. Brown on Charleston’s East Side. He was stationed at Charleston Naval Base. The attraction was strong. They were married on Sept. 11, 1971.
True to the military life, they traveled the world. He was a fully committed Marine who had served two tours in Vietnam. What he thought would be his last assignment was stateside with other Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It was close enough that he could come home on weekends to the one-story brick ranch the couple bought off of Fort Johnson Road on James Island.
When word came that he was being shipped off to Lebanon, Scip saw it as just another duty station in a 16-year career. He told her and the kids not to get out of the car or give him a hug or make a scene when it was time to go. He was like that.
“I don’t want you to tell me ‘Bye,’” he said to her. “I don’t want you to ever tell me bye. Just pull off.”
She did just that. And she regrets it to this day.
Marines in Lebanon

The peacekeeping aspect of the mission in Lebanon didn’t sit well with a lot of people. Marines would be limited on when they could carry weapons. In his letters home, Williams told his wife how uncomfortable the restrictions had made the men as they moved around outside the wire, seeing so many armed bands of militia members driving around on trucks and in a chanting frenzy.
He had been encouraged to wear street clothes in public. Photographs he sent hone showed him seated on the barracks roof dressed in a casual blue sweatshirt and pants, not his camos.
Eventually, the Marines became targets of rifle-toting snipers and attackers with other weapons. “I knew before the bombing he was ready to come home,” Janet Williams said.
She has talked to Marines who survived the blast, but she never got a good fix on what Scip was doing in the last hours of his life. She does know he got up and sang “My Girl” at a USO show before his final days.
Historians would later declare the blast the deadliest attack on the Marines since the landing on Iwo Jima during World War II,
The attack was pegged to Iran and the terror group Hezbollah. But the Marine leadership also faced sharp criticism for allowing a state of poor security that led to their massive loss of life. Reagan pulled the U.S. forces out of Lebanon four months after the blast.
Still, nothing would stop young Scipio from following in his father’s footsteps.
At James Island High School, the teen had been a member of the Air Force ROTC. But he admits the Air Force route didn’t feel like the right fit.
At school he would carry his dad’s Marine rucksack and wear his oversize combat boots. “They looked like clown shoes” on his smaller feet, he said. And he would sneak into his dad’s closet and put on his dress blue uniform jacket. He enlisted in the Marines, serving 11 years on active duty and in the Reserve; he now lives and works in Charleston.
Marines he met who had been trained by his father were always eager to talk and unload. “They’d tell me stories like, ‘I got the best ass-chewing of my life from him.’”
Keysha also felt drawn to serve but not in the Armed Forces. Today she is an assistant principal at Garrett Academy of Technology in North Charleston. The loss of her father is a story she tells students at the start of every school year.
‘My heart bleeds’

All three Williamses say they went through bouts of emotion in the months and years afterward as they tried to stay disciplined and busy moving forward with life. Still, they had questions that were never answered.
Why were the Marines left so exposed? Why wasn’t the terror threat immediately addressed with a heavy response force? Could the 9/11 terrorist attacks have been avoided if policies had gone in another direction because of the Marines’ final sacrifices?
“If more attention had been paid to these groups early on, maybe it wouldn’t be where it is now,” the married Keysha Williams Tolliver said of the confrontational state of the Middle East.
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the Williams family will attend 30th anniversary remembrances in and around Jacksonville, N.C., home to Camp Lejeune and the Beirut Memorial. Thousands are expected to attend.
Janet Williams still thinks about her former husband daily, even as she has moved on with her life, going to college and becoming a Charleston County teacher. And she sometimes sees glimpses of her younger self in the faces of today’s war widows whenever U.S. service dead come home.
“I sympathize with them a lot,” she said. “Anytime something like this happens and there’s a loss of life, and someone is left with a child, my heart bleeds. I walk with them.”
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 947-5551.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Global Relations and Plastic Blocks

This story by Public Radio International -- http://pri.org/stories/2013-10-11/building-peace-and-security-one-lego-brick-time?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+WhatsNewInPd+%28What%27s+New+in+Public+Diplomacy%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher#When:21:30:51Z  -- hits home for me. I need to go back through my files for a photo where, as a Fulbright program manager for the U.S. Information Agency, conducting outreach and recruitment, I used some of my son's Legos to demonstrate how individual fellowships, international visitor exchanges, speaker programs, American studies, and institutional partnerships can be coupled to build strong international relationships among global publics and private firms. As my study and teaching of public diplomacy become more oriented toward cross-sector, participatory peacebuilding, I have continued to use the Lego analogy, most recently this week, working with a community college expand their global humanities programs. The new UN Lego set is on my list for holiday gifts and a donation to my congregation's social justice and education programs!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New theory-building for better development practices!

Kudos to dear friend and colleague, Khaldoun AbouAssi:


New Research on NGO-Donor Relations Wins Prestigious Award

Dr. Khaldoun AbouAssi
October 1, 2013
Research by a professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University on relations between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their donors will be recognized by the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) with the prestigious Gabriel G. Rudney Memorial Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action for 2013. Dr. Khaldoun AbouAssi will receive the award at ARNOVA’s annual meeting in November.
“Hands in the Pockets of Mercurial Donors: How Three Theories Explain NGO Responses to Shifting Funding Priorities” demonstrates how volatile relationships between NGOs in developing countries and international donors can affect the missions and behaviors of NGOs. The research focuses on Dr. AbouAssi’s native country of Lebanon.
“I found that NGOs respond to changes in funding in a variety of ways.  I studied the response of four environmental NGOs to shifts in the funding decisions of two common donors,” said AbouAssi.  “The responses from the NGOs to the changing donor priorities ranged from suspending the relationship with the donor, to trying to reach common ground and maintain the relationship, to automatically executing the donor’s interests and adapting to the situation.  I then used quantitative data to show that these responses were influenced by NGO dependence on the donor and the ties NGOs have in local donor networks. Understanding how donors think and how their priorities can affect the important work of NGOs can be a key to increasing NGO effectiveness in critical areas of the developing world,” he added.
The Rudney Award selection committee cited AbouAssi’s dissertation for its attention to theory, contributions to the field of research, and relevance to both nonprofit organizations and the broader environment in which voluntary organizations participate. The committee also noted the research’s innovative approach and challenging field work and that it moved theory forward in a non-Western context.
“We’re delighted to see Dr. AbouAssi’s excellent work recognized with this prestigious award,” said Bush School Dean Ryan Crocker.  “It is yet another indication of the high quality of our faculty and the impact their research has on public policy around the world.”
AbouAssi holds a PhD in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.  He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.  He publishes extensively on NGOs and international development issues, and has trained civil servants and NGO executives on citizen participation, fund development, volunteerism, and collaboration.