THE BLOG
02/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Whatever it Takes

Open Letter to President Obama from Conflict Analysis Professionals for Enduring Security

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.

Severe trauma on both sides, fear, envy and humiliation, and anger (towards ingroup and outgroup), 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" we mean killing those who threaten you and destroying their community, then we must be prepared for long term violence and suffering. If we support Israel's overwhelming military reaction, believed by many Israeli Jews to be in "self defense," we will terrify, enrage and embolden widening circles of witnesses, and strengthen extremists- having the opposite effect. People are more dangerous when afraid. Their descendents may reenact a globalized version of the Hatfields and the McCoys.

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 and be pro-coexistence, and establish a 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 discourse concerns the use of violence to defeat enemies, it is important to educate the public about 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 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.

CONFLICT ANALYSIS PROFESSIONALS FOR ENDURING SECURITY

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 AbdulHadi-Jadallah, Ph.D, Part time faculty, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution

3. Cary D. Adkinson, Department of Criminal Justice, Fayetteville State University

4. Anne Anderson, LICSW, Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Washington, DC and former Coordinator of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

5. 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

6. Dr. Trudy Bond, psychologist, Toledo, Ohio, Member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Coalition for an Ethical APA

7. Nike Carstarphen, PhD, Co-founder, Alliance for ConflictTransformation (ACT); Independent Consultant

8. 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..
9. Claudia CIano-Boyce, Ed.D, Licensed Psychologist, Professor of PsychologyWestfield State College

10. Andrea Cousins, Ph.D., Psy.D., Anthropologist, Psychoanalyst, Northampton, Mass.

11. Candis Cousins, Ph.D. -- Clinical Psychologist; Board Member, Teach with Africa; Associate Editor, Educational Therapist; Editorial Board, Board member, Ann Martin Children's Center
12. Leila F. Dane, Ph.D, Executive Director, Institute for Victims of Trauma

13. Frances Delahanty, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. Psychology and Director, Peace Studies Minor, Pace U. Pleasantville, NY, Transcend

14. Dr. Kelly Denton-Borhaug, Assistant Professor of ReligionMoravian College, Bethlehem, PA

15. Michael J. DeValve, Ph.D.,Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice Fayetteville State University

16. Joseph J. Fahey, Ph.D., Catholic Theologian, Manhattan College

17. Gordon Fellman, Chair, Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies, Brandeis University

18. Elsa First, PhD, associate professor of psychology, NYU Postdoctoral Program
19. Paula Green, Ed.D. Director, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding; Professor of Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training (SIT); Director of the CONTACT Peacebuildng Institute at SIT.
20. Alan E. Gross, Ph.D. social psychologist, mediator, conflict resolution trainer
21. Amr El Gendy Fulbright scholar from Egypt, masters student, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, American University

22. Dr. Ruth Hooke, retired professor, University of Massachusetts. Member, Middle East Peace Coalition and Episcopal Peace Fellowship

23. Abbie Jenks, MSW, Professor of Peace and Social Justice Studies, Greenfield Community College, Chair of New England Peace Studies Associatio

24. Yves-Renee Jennings, CCSA, MSc PhD. Student, George Mason University Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) Arlington, Virginia

25. Louis Kriesberg, Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies, s
Syracuse University

26. 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

27. Dal LaMagna, Transcend, Executive Producer, War Child, Founder, ReelU Films, citizen diplomat - worked to neogotiate a cease fire between the Iraqi Insurgents and Coalitions Forces

28. Marilyn Langlois, community mediator in Contra Costa County, California, Transcend Member

29. Mishy Lesser, Ed.D., Consulting Services for Peaceable and Prosperous Communities, Boston, MA

30. Stewart L. Levine, Esq., Resolutionary, Author: Getting to Resolution The Book of Agreements The Cycle of Resolution in The Change Handbook
31. David Lotto, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Pittsfield, MA
32. 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, Past Associate Director, Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict
33. Rachel M. MacNair, Ph.D. Author, The Psychology of Peace: An Introduction

34. Kathleen Malley-Morrison, Department of Psychology, Boston University, Director, Group on International Perspectives on Governmental Aggression and Peace

35. Frank Marotta, PhD ABPP Diplomate in Psychoanalysis

36. Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility 2007-2008, author, professor

37. Caridad Martinez Echevarria, BA History and Theatre University of Puerto Rico; Student of Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training, Vermont.

38. Tarek Farouk Maassarani, J.D Peace and conflict resolution educator and human rights attorney

39. Michael Nagler, Founder, Peace and Conflict Studies Program, teacher of nonviolence, meditation and other courses, Professor emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature

40. James O'Dea, Fellow, Institute of Noetic Sciences

41. Bradley D. Olson, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Social and Community Psychologist, Co-Founder Coalition for an Ethical Psychology

42. 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

43. Julie Oxenberg, Ph.D. Co-founder, Psychology of Peace Program, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology; Executive Director, Tikkun Institute.

44. Lynn Perlman, PhD, Certified Psychoanalyst

45. Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, The University of California, Professor, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, Transcend

46. Mary Pipher, Clinical Psychologist and author of 8 books, including one on refugees, The Middle of Everywhere

47. Evelyn Pye, clinical psychologist and a psychoanalyst

48. Steven Reisner, PhD, psychoanalyst; Faculty, New York University Medical School; Co-Founder, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.

49. 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

50. Marc Howard Ross, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor, Department of Political Science

51. Floyd Rudmin, Professor of Social and Community Psychology, University of Tromsø, Norway

52. Richard E. Rubenstein, University Professor of Conflict Resolution and Public Affairs, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

53. Stephen M. Sachs, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, IUPUI, Coordinating Editor, Nonviolent Change.

54. 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.

55. Dennis J.D. Sandole, Ph.D. Professor of Conflict Resolution and International Relations, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) George Mason University

56. William Scheurer, Editor of Peace Majority Report

57. Lisa Schirch, Phd Professor of Peacebuilding Eastern Mennonite University..

58. Milton Schwebel, 
Emeritus Dean and Professor, 
Rutgers University

59. Ingunn Skre, Doctor of Psychology, Institutt for Psykologi, University of Tromsø, Norway

60. Andrew C. Smith, MA, International Peace and Conflict Resolution, American University

61. 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

62. Stephen Soldz, Director, Center for Research, evaluation, and Program Development, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis; Co-founder, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology

63. James M. Statman, Ph.D., Chief of Party, Zimbabwe HIV & AIDS Partnership Project.

64. Olivia Stokes Dreier, MSW, MPA, Associate Director, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding

65. Kenneth Suslak,Ph.D. Professor Union Institute and University, smember 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

66. Bill Taylor, retired political science professor, Oakton Community College, facilitator at Seeds of Peace and Hands of Peace.

67. Adin Thayer, MSW, Associate Director, Graduate Certificate Program in Peacebuilding,, Conflict Transformation Across Cultures Program,, School for International Training, Brattleboro Vermont

68. Judith Thompson, PhD, Research Associate, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding; Facilitator, Israeli/Palestinain Mutual Acknowledgment Project

69. Nick Totton Editor, Psychotherapy and Politics Internationall

70. 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

71. Barbara J. Wien Professor of Peace and Justice Studies The Catholic University of America

72. Rothlyn P, Zahourek, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, AHN-BC, Coordinator for Research American Holistic Nurses Association, Councilor, The Council for Healing