The world today is more globalized than ever, and perhaps the single biggest lesson of the 9/11 attacks is that what happens “over there” doesn’t necessarily stay “over there.” It has never been more important for businesses and organizations to have a global mindset when it comes to their operations. Drought in Somalia or a war in Syria or a revolution in Thailand can all impact you and your organization in ways that can be difficult to comprehend and anticipate.
That’s where Brian can help. Brian has been a student of international affairs from the mid-1990s, when he took college-level history classes even while still in high school and sought to understand the hows and whys of some of the world’s most complex international situations, from the outbreak of World War I and the Russian Revolution and how their aftermaths led to World War II, to understanding the establishment of the United Nations, to understanding the Reformation and the bloody Wars of Religion in Europe hundreds of years earlier, to understanding the causes of the American Civil War and the American and French Revolutions. Even at that early age, Brian sought to understand the most complex events in in history and how they were still important today, and to understand all sides, no matter how difficult that can be. His years as an undergraduate only saw these studies deepen as a Politics and History double major at Washington and Lee University. Brian took courses there that helped him understand the modern histories of China, Russia, and Japan, as well as their earlier Imperial periods. He studied the Vietnam War and the French Revolution, Muslim movements in the Middle East in the modern era, and in the course of his classes on the U.S. presidency, American foreign policy, and terrorism, engaged in repeated analysis of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as they began and continued during his time in college. He studied Japanese politics and studied abroad for four months in Japan. And he began learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the Second Intifada broke out when he was a freshman.
In between degree programs, Brian volunteered for the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, where one of his main duties was to accompany the international diplomats who were guest attendees. Brian also spent time interning and volunteering for political campaigns, including an internship in then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s office, where he did informal work with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Brian was able to serve a liaison between the Committee and a Lebanese military attaché, and his efforts helped to accelerate the delivery of a shipment of Humvees to the Lebanese government. During this time, Brian also learned more about the Middle East and began a deep exploration of ancient Roman politics and history. He took a class about al-Qaeda and one on international relations that focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis before beginning his graduate school studies.
In graduate school, as a candidate for a Master of Science in Peace Operations at the George Mason University School of Public Policy, he engaged in a deep analysis of peacekeeping, international security, humanitarian, and international development operations, examining all actors and angles to understand how and why these operations succeeded or failed and to what extent they did so. He even studied and evaluated an active United Nations peacekeeping mission in the field in Liberia, and explored the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the ground in a class that took him to Israel and the West Bank. His other graduate studies examined the Rwandan Genocide, the so-called "Africa’s World War" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Georgia-Russia-Abkhazia-South Ossetia-conflict, compared police reform during the American occupation of Japan to police reform during the American occupation of Iraq, and analyzed unique ancient Roman military interventions that had similarities to modern peace operations.
Since graduate school, Brian has engaged in a scholarly book project that further explores policy lessons that ancient Rome, particularly the Roman Republic, can offer modern policy makers, and has self-published one chapter of this project as a standalone piece (see book project section). Brian has also authored dozens of published articles, including many on current international affairs.
In an unstable world, where war and conflict and massive natural disasters seem to occur faster than people can even keep up with being aware that they are happening, humanitarian and relief operations are vital to saving the lives of millions of people around the world every year.
There are few things in the world as complicated as bringing life-saving assistance to people caught in war zones, the aftermath of natural disasters, or to people who have had to flee their homes for fear of their lives. So even as this dynamic and growing field is becoming ever more present in our troubled world, there are few who can understand the challenges faced by those working in and being served by such a field. Brian’s unique academic background makes him one of the few who does. Whether it is in the aftermath of a hurricane, the aftermath of war, or the aftermath of civil violence, people are going to need basic services, protection, food, shelter, and medical care in the short run. In the longer run, as communities take the time to rebuild or refugees wait for the fighting to stop so they can return home, people will still need to educate their children and find ways to support themselves. Countries and communities hosting the displaced will also face challenges, and even when refugees and the internally displaced are able to return home, it is often to a dramatically altered landscape of new realities, one to which they must adjust in challenging ways. As if those problems were not enough, the organizations assisting the victims and the displaced will also face a whole host of their own problems and challenges in interfacing with the victims and displaced, host communities, governments and organizations, other aid organizations, and even within themselves.
Brian is familiar with these problems, having studied them as both an undergraduate and particularly as a graduate student in his Master of Science in Peace Operations program. This program specifically centered on such challenges in a way virtually no other academic program does. Not content to just study a wide range of materials and case studies regarding such operations, Brian opted to take two abroad classes that showed such operations in action, in the field. Firstly he was a guest of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Liberian government for a class there, studying these problems as they are dealt with by an active United Nations peacekeeping operation. Secondly, he took a class in Israel and the West Bank looking at how the Israel-Palestinian/Arab conflict was playing out on the ground at the time of his class, particularly the environmental and geopolitical aspects of this conflict. He saw firsthand how Israel, the Palestinian government, and international donors such as USAID and the German government were engaging with various actors on the ground.
Brian is very capable of being involved in current humanitarian/relief operations and is eager to put his years of study and observation to professional use in the field with an active operation.
As more and more nations demand and attempt to enjoy the benefits of today’s globalized economy and community, international development is a field which will only grow larger and become more difficult to understand.
Fortunately for anyone interested or engaging in international development, this is something that Brian has studied since his days as an undergraduate, and his unique combination of other studies related to it, including (and especially) his Master of Science in Peace Operations, make Brian uniquely suited to understand this very complex and rapidly changing field in a way few others can.
While the term “international development” and its field as currently constituted are only incarnations of a very recent nature, Brian is one of the few people who understand how central international development is to other fields and how ancient a field it really is. Even in the year 2014, few entities can match the record of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire when it comes to international development. The Romans could (not that they always did) bring peace, stability, excellent roads, (mainly) free trade, running water, sanitation, and voluntary and enthusiastic cultural meshing and assimilation faster than even the United States of America was able to in recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan (not that the U.S. incapable of this, but in many ways its execution fell far short of this or many would say it virtually did not even happen at all regarding some of these issues).
While both our technology and our own understanding of the field itself have changed greatly since the days of ancient Rome, and while the international development field is today changing as rapidly as almost any other field, the same basic keys to success that existed in the days of Julius Caesar are the same basic keys to success today. One of these is that development always works better when implemented as part of a broader security, political, economic, and social strategy. Another is that both top-down and bottom-up approaches are generally required, and this is quite similar to another point: that the more integrated local elites and locals in general become in the entire international development process, and the more they take ownership of it, the more likely long-term success will be achieved. Rather than a foreign imposition, then, or a simple dumping of resources, international development is all about partnerships—foreign and local, elite and grassroots, private and public—and bringing people into a system as more or less equals, empowering them in the process, rather than simply dominating them. Unlike many other empires, this approach is why Rome, unique among major empires until the U.S. in its inclusiveness, succeeded for so long where so many others either failed or only achieved short-term success, success so remarkable that former enemies often became willing allies and eventually even Romans themselves, often adopting Roman culture voluntarily while still retaining aspects of their own cultural identities concurrently and for long after they fell under Roman jurisdiction.
Today, those same ingredients are just as important and remain the core foundations of most successful international development projects. Currently, international development is increasingly not largesse handed out by big government programs, but partnerships among governments, among international and local actors, among private and public and non-profit institutions, and among different swaths of all the societies involved. And all these types of actors will also further interact with the other types. International development is increasingly led by governments but carried out by non-government actors; budgetary resources go less to governmental aid agencies, and are increasingly directly awarded by these government agencies to contractors and local actors of all sorts. The field is almost unrecognizable compared to a decade ago, and though there is more unpredictability today in it because of this, it is more collaborative and inclusive than ever before, with a larger number of partners and actors providing input and shaping the outcome than in years past. This more organic and local approach is already leading to better results, both in terms of outputs and outcomes, and even how success is measured is rapidly changing. All this means that it can be harder than ever to understand what was already a complex field as it becomes even more complicated.
Furthermore, it has become increasingly clear that international development is an essential component of and/or a complementary item to a whole host of other activities. Today, few military operations can achieve long-term success without a competent development component. Today’s globalized world means that if an area falls into poverty, violence, and chaos after a largely successful military operation, those gains become quickly undermined as the instability spreads to other regions, including, potentially, whichever region carried out the “successful” operation. Hard won battles can become a victory in vain almost overnight, then. The same is true with political aims and public policy, which can easily become stymied if populations are not themselves empowered and become stakeholders in stability, order, and prosperity in a region. Economic success on paper can easily be undermined, too, if that success leaves out the local base of society and ends up sustaining or increasing inequality instead. So in terms of the developing world, without successful international development operations it is hard to see how any kind of major international operation, partnership, or relationship can succeed at all in the long run. A simple look at the perpetual and increasing headaches the underdeveloped parts of the world create for themselves and the whole planet—no matter how many strong but narrow, non-comprehensive operations take place there—should make this obvious. This is why today the U.S. Government stresses the “Whole-of-Government” approach and the United Nations stresses its “integrated missions.”
Thus, in the end, neglecting relationships or failing to understand how incredibly interdisciplinary development as a field truly is dooms a project from the start. Successful development is about establishing deep, genuine, and steadfast relationships with an enormous variety of actors and embracing an approach that takes into account how everything involved in and surrounding development projects can affect those projects and how those projects, in turn, will effect everything they touch and surround, and all over time. Those who understand this can emerge as successful development professional as we progress into the twenty-first century, while those who do not will experience only failed projects, wasted resources, and dashed hopes.
Good thing that Brian has spent almost a decade-and-a-half looking at these operations in-depth. Brian even had the unique experience of being a guest of and evaluating in person an active UN integrated peacekeeping mission in Liberia as part of his Master of Science in Peace Operations program. He also had the experience of interfacing in the field with various organizations in Israel and the West Bank engaged in development projects there. Whether we’re talking about ancient Rome or UN peacekeeping missions, USAID or new, grassroots Palestinian organizations in the West Bank, Brian has examined a wide range of international development projects and organizations in detail, making him a valuable asset to any international development project or anyone seeking to understand this challenging yet necessary professional field. He understands the challenges to both those implementing and those intended to benefit from international development projects, has seen the challenges and operations in the field, and understands how crucial the relationships between various actors engaged in these operations are to ensuring long-term operational success. He knows the changes the field is undergoing and why, and his knowledge and skills can benefit both a seasoned expert and someone totally outside this field alike.
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Majority of photos are the work of Corinne Rucker