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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/30/09

Letter to President Obama from Conflict Analysis Professionals for Enduring Security

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Message Diane Perlman


Dear President Obama,
Congratulations on your election. We look forward to working with you to heal our country in every way we can.
We are interdisciplinary conflict analysis professionals including psychologists and other social scientists devoted to the study and practice of violence prevention, tension reduction, conflict transformation and reconciliation. Like you, we are deeply concerned for our friends, colleagues, relatives and all citizens of Israel and Gaza. We fear the consequences of this cyclical violence and failure to respond appropriately to the devastating damage. It will require expert intervention to heal wounds and reverse cycles of violence.
You recently said, “If my daughters were living in a house that was being threatened by rocket attacks, I would do whatever it takes to end that situation.”
In conflict, it can be difficult to remember that “whatever it takes" includes caring for basic human needs - food, water, warmth and protection, allaying fears, and providing safety, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What if “whatever it takes” requires supporting legitimate political goals, addressing just grievances, and allowing life with dignity, self-determination, prosperity and freedom? People prefer to get their needs met by decent means, and resort to violence when thwarted.
Our children would be safer if we could empathically bear equal witness to each historical narrative and rise above both sides to gain a true perspective of cause and effect, and the dynamics of asymmetrical power.
We have two traumatized peoples, gripped by fear and moral outrage, who have spiraled into escalating reverberating reactions of mutually provoked traumatic reenactment, endlessly ricocheting back and forth. In this malignant process, each side draws people into believing the need to destroy the other. However, many on both sides work for peaceful coexistence.

On both sides, severe trauma, fear, anger (towards ingroup and outgroup), envy and humiliation, make it critical to provide a massive infusion of healing interventions demonstrated effective. Please lead us in healing wounds, compensating losses, and using principles of restorative justice rather than punitive approaches which only fuel instability, as history has repeatedly shown. Time doesn’t heal wounds, people do.
Doing  “whatever it takes” to create conditions for a viable and just coexistence, addressing the desires for self-determination of all people, will reduce desires for revenge and give hope for the future. Then you, the Israelis, and the Palestinians will sleep safely.
However, if by "whatever it takes" you mean killing those who threaten you and destroying their community, then we must be prepared for long term violence and suffering. People are more dangerous when afraid.

As conflict analysts, we recognized that Israel's overwhelming military reaction, supported by the US, understandably believed to be in "self defense" would have the opposite effect.  We predicted that military action taken to eliminate a threat, would inevitably terrify, enrage and embolden widening circles of witnesses, and strengthen extremists. Their descendents may reenact a globalized version of the Hatfields and the McCoys – unless we address profound historical wounds.

We are aware of political pressures to take positions falsely framed as so-called “pro” or “anti” Israel or Palestinian. This zero sum thinking has no endgame. The only way to be more secure is to make your enemy more secure. We must rethink what it actually means to support Israel. We can be pro-coexistence, and establish a new policy of “Mutually Assured Survival” and mutually supported flourishing.
A rich body of knowledge, not well known outside academia, describes methods demonstrated to reverse cycles of violence. We are beginning to understand how terrorism ends and how extremist groups become nonviolent and productive through participation in legitimate political processes — and also what causes radicalization and drives people to extremes (as, in this connection, when Hamas won in a fair election, they were prepared to form a coalition with Fatah, until they were punished and threatened).
Since the dominant public mindset believes in the use of violence to defeat enemies, it is important to educate the public about more effective, tension-reducing strategies, and a balanced rendering of historical narratives. People must be mature enough to realize that by focusing on blame, which is easy and automatic, we can always get to be right (and so can they) but we will never get to be safe.

We offer any assistance in analyzing conflict dynamics, working with you to design strategies for healing and detraumatization, and guiding the delicate work of reconciliation needed to rebuild viable social and political institutions and reach equitable solutions to this historic tragedy. There are many creative strategies of conflict transformation, beyond dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation, beyond carrots and sticks, and even beyond Smart Power. Wise Power can address complex ecology of interacting forces and events within the depths of human experience. Understanding principles of conflict studies, psychology, and other social sciences will go along way to help produce conditions for viability and enduring security and a lasting, just peace.
We appreciate your thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas, and hope we can help political leaders, the media and the American public to understand this new security paradigm that is capable of reversing cycles of violence.
Contact Diane Perlman, PhD,
Convener of CONFLICT ANALYSIS PROFESSIONALS FOR ENDURING SECURITY, (CAPES) and Primary Author, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Co-Chair, Initiative on Global Violence, Terrorism, and Nuclear Disarmament, Transcend, Abolition 2000, Global Council

Diane Perlman, PhD    
dianeperlman [at]


1. Diane Perlman, PhD, Convener of CAPES and Primary Author, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Co-Chair, Initiative on Global Violence, Terrorism, and Nuclear Disarmament, Transcend, Abolition 2000, Global Council
2. Alma Abdul Hadi-Jadallah, Ph.D, Faculty, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
3. Mohammed Abunimer professor of Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University, Director of Peacebuilding and Development Institute, and Director of Salam: Peace and Justice Institute.
4. Cary D. Adkinson, Department of Criminal Justice, Fayetteville State University
5. Anne Anderson, LICSW, Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Washington, DC and former Coordinator of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.
6. Jessica Benjamin,PhD, psychoanalyst, Director, The Acknowledgment Project, dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian Mental Health Professionals, co-founded with Dr. Eyad el Sarraj of Gaza
7. Dr. Trudy Bond, psychologist, Toledo, Ohio, Member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Coalition for an Ethical APA
8. Martha Bragin PhD LCSW, Associate Professor Hunter College School of Social Work, The Graduate Center
9. Nike Carstarphen, PhD, Co-founder, Alliance for Conflict Transformation, Independent Consultant
10. Marilyn Charles, PhD, ABPP, Austen Riggs Center, Co-Chair, Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society
11. Dan Christie, Past President of Peace Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association and Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Professor Emeritus, Ohio State University, Series Editor, Peace Psychology Book Series, Springer Publications, Editor, Encyclopedia of Peace Psychology, Wiley-Blackwell
12. Claudia CIano-Boyce, Ed.D, Licensed Psychologist, Professor of Psychology, Westfield State College
13. Nina Cohen, PhD, clinical psychologist specializing in issues of loss, bereavement, chronic illness and trauma.
14. Joanie V. Connors, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist. Psychology Adjunct Professor, Board Member, Peace & Justice Studies Association
15. Andrea Cousins, Ph.D., Psy.D.,  Anthropologist, Psychoanalyst
16. Candis Cousins, Ph.D. -- Clinical Psychologist; Board Member, Teach with Africa; Associate Editor, Educational Therapist; Editorial Board, Board member, Ann Martin Children's Center
17. Jamie Damon, MA, Conflict Transformation, Community Consensus Director, National Policy Consensus Center, Portland State University
18. Leila F. Dane, Ph.D, Executive Director, Institute for Victims of Trauma, Past President, American Psychological Association Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence
19. Frances Delahanty, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. Psychology and Director, Peace Studies Minor, Pace U. Pleasantville, NY, Transcend
20. Dr. Kelly Denton-Borhaug, Assistant Professor of Religion, Moravian College
21. Dr. James Deutsch, Child Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, Director, TorontoYouth Crisis Centre
22. Judith Deutsch, M.S.W. Psychoanalyst, President of Science for Peace Canada
23. Michael J. DeValve, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice Fayetteville State University
24. Ava Maria Evans, MA Candidate Peace and Conflict Studies, European University for Peace and Conflict Studies
25. Joseph J. Fahey, Ph.D., Catholic Theologian, Manhattan College
26. Gordon Fellman, Chair, Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies, Brandeis University
27. Elsa First, PhD, associate professor of psychology, NYU Postdoctoral Program
28. Amr El Gendy, Fulbright scholar from Egypt, masters program, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, American University
29. Paula Green, Ed.D. Director, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding; Professor of Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training (SIT); Director of the CONTACT Peacebuilding Institute at SIT.
30. Alan E. Gross, Ph.D.  Social psychologist, mediator, conflict resolution trainer
31. Jean Golden, MSW, Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist, CONTACT Program participant, School for International Training
32. Edouard Gusman, Cross-border Program Coordinator between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Intercultural communication teacher, State University of Haiti
33. Dr. Ruth Hooke, retired professor, University of Massachusetts. Member, Middle East Peace Coalition and Episcopal Peace Fellowship
34. Abbie Jenks, MSW, Professor of Peace and Social Justice Studies, Greenfield Community College, Chair of New England Peace Studies Association
35. Yves-Renee Jennings, CCSA, MS, PhD. Student, George Mason University Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR)
36. Louis Kriesberg, Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies, Syracuse University
37. Christos N Kyrou, PhD, Assistant Professor, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Peace Ecology, American University. Founder and Former Director of the Program on Environmental Peacemaking, Maryland University. Member of the Research Board of the Center for International Relations, in Washington DC, 2008
38. Dal LaMagna, Transcend, Executive Producer, War Child, Founder, ReelU Films, citizen diplomat - worked to negotiate a cease fire between the Iraqi Insurgents and Coalitions Forces
39. Marilyn Langlois, community mediator in Contra Costa County, California, Transcend Member
40. Ned Lazarus, Adjunct Professor and Ph.D. Candidate, School of International Service, American University ,Program Director (1996-2004), Seeds of Peace Jerusalem Center for Coexistence
41. Mishy Lesser, Ed.D., Consulting Services for Peaceable and Prosperous Communities, Boston, MA
42. Stewart L. Levine, Esq., Resolutionary, Author: Getting to Resolution The Book of Agreements The Cycle of Resolution in The Change Handbook 
43. Arnon Levy Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanthropologiist. Past Chairman of the Israel Association for Psychotherapy, Past member of the International Society for Political Psychology. Founder of Psychology based Coaching, Studying Program. Tel Aviv University. Israel.
44. Jancis Long, Ph.D., President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Secretary, International Network of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, psychotherapist
45. David Lotto, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Pittsfield, MA
46. Ian Lustick, PhD, Bess W. Heyman Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, Member, Council on Foreign Relations and Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Past Associate Director, Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, author and editor of dozens of books and articles on Middle East politics and Arab-Israeli relations, and Trapped in the War on Terror
47. Rachel M. MacNair, Ph.D. Author, The Psychology of Peace: An Introduction
48. Kathleen Malley-Morrison, Department of Psychology, Boston University, Director, Group on International Perspectives on Governmental Aggression and Peace
49. R. Averell Manes, Ph.D, Professor of Political Science and Conflict Management, Director, Conflict Resolution Project, Co-Chair/Coordinator, Hancock Student Leadership Program
50. Frank Marotta, PhD  ABPP Diplomate in Psychoanalysis
51. Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility 2007-2008, author, professor
52. Caridad Martinez Echevarria, University of Puerto Rico; Student of Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training, Vermont.
53. Tarek Farouk Maassarani, J.D Peace and conflict resolution educator and human rights attorney
54. Nancy Murray, Ph.D., Historian, President, Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Inc.
55. Michael Nagler, Founder, Peace and Conflict Studies Program, teacher of nonviolence, meditation and other courses, Professor emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature
56. James O'Dea, Fellow, Institute of Noetic Sciences
57. Bradley D. Olson, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Social and Community Psychologist, Co-Founder Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
58. Steve Olweean, MA, Clinical Psychologist, Director, Common Bond Institute, President, International Humanistic Psychology Association, Past President, Association for Humanistic Psychology, Co-founder of Annual International Conference on Conflict Resolution, Founder of Annual International Conference on "Engaging The Other:" The Power of Compassion
59. Julie Oxenberg, Ph.D. Co-founder, Psychology of Peace Program, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology; Executive Director, Tikkun Institute.
60. Lynn Perlman, PhD, Certified Psychoanalyst
61. Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, The University of California, Professor, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Transcend
62. Mary Pipher, Clinical Psychologist and author of 8 books, including one on refugees, The Middle of Everywhere
63. Evelyn Pye,  clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst
64. Steven Reisner, PhD, psychoanalyst; Faculty, New York University Medical School; Co-Founder, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.
65. Brady Rhodes, Program Director, Critical Mass Leadership Education - a non-profit conflict resolution and civic engagement group that works with teenagers from communities in conflict around the world
66. Marc Howard Ross, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor, Department of Political Science 
67. Floyd Rudmin, Professor of Social and Community Psychology, University of Tromsø, Norway
68. Richard E. Rubenstein, University Professor of Conflict Resolution and Public Affairs, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Transcend
69. Stephen M. Sachs, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, IUPUI, Coordinating Editor, Nonviolent Change.
70. Ambassador Muhamed "Mo" Sacirbey former Foreign Minister, Ambassador to United Nations, Agent to International Court of Justice and Vice Chair for ICC Prep Com & Rome Conference Signatory on behalf of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Tulane University BA and Doctor of Jurisprudence, Columbia Business School MBA. Board of GMRF
71. Andrew Samuels D.H.L, Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex, UK. Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis,  New York University. Founder, UK Psychotherapists and Counselors for Social Responsibility. Author The Political Psyche and Politics on the Couch.
72. Dennis J.D. Sandole, Ph.D. Professor of Conflict Resolution and International Relations, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) George Mason University
73. William Scheurer, Editor of Peace Majority Report
74. Lisa Schirch, Phd Professor of Peacebuilding Eastern Mennonite University
75. Milton Schwebel, Emeritus Dean and Professor, Rutgers University, Founding Editor, Peace and Conflict, Journal of Peace Psychology
76. Ingunn Skre, Doctor of Psychology, Institutt for Psykologi, University of Tromsø, Norway
77. Andrew C. Smith, MA, International Peace and Conflict Resolution, American University Rev. David Whitten Smith, S.T.D., S.S.L., Emeritus Professor of Theology, Emeritus Founding Director, Justice and Peace Studies, University of St. Thomas
78. Stephen Soldz, Director, Center for Research, evaluation, and Program Development, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis; Co-founder, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
79. James M. Statman, Ph.D., Chief of Party, Zimbabwe HIV & AIDS Partnership Project.
80. Olivia Stokes Dreier, MSW, MPA, Associate Director, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding
81. Kenneth Suslak, Ph.D. Professor, Union Institute and University, member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Peace Psychology division of American Psychological Association, and Global Board of the Humiliation and Human Dignity Network, International consultant on trauma and reconciliation
82. Bill Taylor, retired political science professor, Oakton Community College, facilitator at Seeds of Peace and Hands of Peace.
83. Adin Thayer, MSW, Associate Director, Graduate Certificate Program in Peacebuilding, Conflict Transformation Across Cultures Program, School for International Training
84. Judith Thompson, PhD, Research Associate, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding; Facilitator, Israeli/Palestinian Mutual Acknowledgment Project
85. Nick Totton Editor, Psychotherapy and Politics International
86. The Rev. Dr. John R. Van Eenwyk, Clinical Director, The International Trauma Treatment Program
87. Charles Webel, Ph.D. Professor and Director, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of New York in Prague, Fulbright Senior Specialist in Peace and Conflict Studies. Transcend
88. Barbara J. Wien Professor of Peace and Justice Studies The Catholic University of America
89. Rouba Youssef, MA, Lebanese-American, psychologist and researcher at Brown University, recent co-author to Lebanese views on governmental aggression and human rights after the Hezbollah war in summer 2006
90. Rothlyn P. Zahourek, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, AHN-BC, Coordinator for Research American Holistic Nurses Association, Councilor, The Council for Healing

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Visiting Scholar Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution George Mason University

Diane Perlman is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce (more...)

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