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Regional Wars and the Peace Process

Regional Wars and the Peace Process

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Comprehensive Unit
132 pages
Grade Level: High School – Community College
Published 2004

Regional and civil wars have been a feature of the world order since human societies developed the capacity to organize combatants to wage war. The implications of these wars for political, economic, and social development have changed dramatically with the emergence of new military technologies that permit greater and farther-reaching damage. The rapid emergence of these new technologies in the 19th century ushered in new forces that facilitated the circulation of weapons and the capacities to wage and sustain regional wars. With further advances in warfare technologies, the potential for regional and civil conflicts to evolve into global ones has dramatically increased and has made the need for conflict resolution ever more pressing.

The end of World War II led to the decline of colonialism and the realignment of the world in the context of Cold War rivalries. While the Cold War exacerbated regional wars, it did not necessarily cause them. Regional wars typically grow out of local and regional grievances and conflicts. However, given the continued easy access to weapons, both small arms as well as weapons of mass destruction, regional wars increasingly have global implications. Failures to resolve these local conflicts before they evolve into regional wars can potentially have devastating effects. This reality makes regional and civil wars an international security concern more than ever before.

Citizens of the United States have typically lived with a false sense of security, feeling safe because most of the world's conflicts are occurring on continents far away. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States underscored the fallacy of this assumption. The attacks now serve as a reminder of how the concept of security is changing in light of globalizing forces.

Regional Wars and the Peace Process introduces students to the complex topics of regional wars, globalization, and the peace process.

Lesson One helps set the context for the unit by introducing students to these topics. Through a series of class, group, and individual activities, students discuss the general causes of war, identify current UN peacekeeping operations around the world, and investigate some commonly debated issues regarding the role of the international community in conflict intervention.

Lesson Two presents three case studies of regional and civil wars—Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kashmir. Because each of these wars is so complex, the lesson has been designed so that students focus on only one case study for the duration of the lesson and remainder of the unit. In this lesson, students examine the war's historical roots and context, its regional and global implications, as well as its response to various intervention and resolution strategies. Students work in small groups to dissect the war by identifying its key players and their roles.

Lesson Three presents Stanford University professor Stephen Stedman's conflict scoring system, which is used to determine the nature of a peace agreement's implementation environment. Students learn how to use this system and apply it to the case study of the civil war in Guatemala, as well as the case study from Lesson Two. This lesson also introduces students to peace agreements and peace implementation, enabling them to examine and analyze the peace process of Guatemala and the case study from Lesson Two.

Unit Goals

The lessons in this curriculum have specific learning objectives listed. The following are larger goals for the curriculum unit as a whole. Students will

  • learn about contemporary world events and conflicts;
  • recognize the importance of studying about these events and conflicts;
  • appreciate the complexity of the peace process; and
  • be able to apply acquired skills to other world events and conflicts.