Research

My general interests lie in the ethical dimensions of violence and conflict, particularly as they relate to the efforts of outside actors to transform conflict through efforts like counterinsurgency, humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.  I am also interested in military ethics, particularly the proper relationship between security forces and civilian populations.

I have more theoretical interests in care ethics, feminism, and the relationship between morality and cooperation that underly my approach to these policy issues.

Currently, I have two active research agendas, on the ethics of peacekeeping and civil-military relations in Ghana.

               
The Ethics of Peacekeeping

UN Patrol in Kibumba, DRC, November 2009 (photo: Michael Kniss)

For the past two years, I have been working on a large project on the ethical dimensions of peacekeeping (and related missions, such as peace enforcement).  While a lot of ink has been spilled on jus ad bellum issues related to military interventions to protect human rights, under the banner of "humanitarian intervention" and "the responsibility to protect," less has been said about how to conduct humanitarian military missions.  Peacekeeping, properly understood, is neither conventional warfare that happens to have an unusual aim, nor is it "post conflict," (and hence properly part of the burgeoning "jus post bellum" literature).  It is its own beast.

In general, my work on this issue has focused on elaborating a moral structure for peacekeeping that takes seriously the need for ongoing collaboration between third-party intervention and locals, including both nonviolent stakeholders and the parties to the conflict.  While practitioners are well aware of the need for "local ownership," conceptual clarity on ideas like impartiality and protection cannot be achieved so long as they are not considered to have an inherent connection to understanding peacekeeping as a collaborative project.

Members of the all-female Indian Formed Police Unit outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Monrovia, Liberia, June 2011

In particular, the power differential between peacekeepers and locals is often morally problematic and needs to be addressed.  This is especially clear in the case of civilian protection - many discussions of civilian protection do not take adequate notice of the fact that civilians are active participants in their own fates, not just passive victims in need of rescue.

I have published several papers on these issues (with more in the works) and am currently developing a book proposal.

My research on peacekeeping is a combination of philosophical reflection and field interviews.  I have had the good fortune to be able to discuss these issues with UN personnel at headquarters and in the field; with members of the Ghana Armed Forces and both trainers and students at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre; with active-duty peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; with members of the US Africa Command in Germany; with faculty of the US Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute; with members of the Rwanda Defense Forces; and, most recently, with members of women's civil society and peacebuilding movements in Liberia.

             
Ghanaian Civil Military Relations

My more recent project - and the subject of my Fulbright research - is on civil-military relations and ethics in the Ghana Armed Forces.  Ghana is distinctive for (at least) two reasons. 

First, despite decades of military rule, it is a beacon of stability in West Africa, and the only African nation to see a peaceful, democratic transfer of power between two civilian political parties.

Second, even during the period of military rule, it was a very active participant in both UN and African (ECOWAS) peacekeeping operations, and this focus on peacekeeping has shaped the Ghanaian military elite.

My research will investigate what effect, if any, the GAF's focus on peackeeping has had on the force's self-concept, civil-military relations, and military ethics.  I am also generally interested in learning more about and recording how Ghana and other African militaries approach military ethics training.