- a review of a book by Ben Hoffman,
reviewed for Peacehawks by Jamie Arbuckle
In my intermittent “tours” as a peacekeeper, I learned little of substance about peacekeeping. I had never opened the UN Charter, I knew nothing of the UN, and I neither understood nor thought much about peace. It was like the weather: if it was nice I enjoyed it, but I was preparing for storms. I became an NCO as the Berlin Wall was being built; I became an officer during the Cuban Missile Crisis – I thought my concerns well placed. If I had any knowledge of the principles of peacekeeping (and I knew a lot about the principles of war), my knowledge was limited to some self-evident truths, like
- Less is less;
- Missions creep;
- Nothing is impossible if someone else is doing it.
That complacency in ignorance was pretty typical of my generation of military officers – none of it was wrong, no one to my knowledge had any more mature principles to offer; peacekeeping was, after all, “no job for a soldier.”
Then, out of uniform for the first time since my teens, I went to work at the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Training Centre (the PPC), where the scales were gently but firmly struck from my eyes.
In my first experience there, I worked with Ben Hoffman on a course on mediation and negotiations for peacekeepers. I had, like most of us at that time, and not just those of us in uniform, been engaged in this sort of thing almost throughout my career – and, throughout my career, remained nearly totally ignorant of what I was doing, and how to set about doing it. In the next five years, mostly at the PPC and often working with Ben Hoffman, I learned more about peace than I had learned in the past nearly 40 years in uniform. Well, they say the first 50 years are always the hardest.
Just the sort of thing which should have been available to all of us in peace operations, is exemplified in this very small book by Ben Hoffman, The Peace Guerilla Handbook.