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Powerful Peace: A Navy SEAL's Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War Paperback – August 1, 2012
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Powerful Peace is a logical arrangement of brief topics on conflict. Four progressive sections (Body, Mind, Heart and Soul) each contain a dozen, easily-digestible but hard-hitting chapters. Each chapter builds on the one before it in leading the reader to first understand that force is sometimes necessary, that persuasion is more powerful, and that some conflict is unnecessary and preventable.
The goal of Powerful Peace is to open the reader’s mind about other cultures to comprehend that different does not have to mean wrong, and that an individual’s life can be richer and more enjoyable by trying out some of the concepts contained in Powerful Peace.
Powerful Peace is unique and appealing. Never before has a book been written by a SEAL with the intent of reducing conflict and its painful consequences for innocent victims.
Powerful Peace addresses the hot topic of American fatigue from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, today’s political environment is souring many citizens' confidence in the direction of our national leadership. Powerful Peace offers hope that real solutions are available.
About the Author
J. Robert DuBois is a security advisor who was once labeled a “smart power authority” while assisting U.S., British and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. A multilingual Navy SEAL with experience in more than thirty nations, he retired from service in 2006…then headed back into Iraq and Afghanistan to support commanders facing complex threat situations. Robert has provided his “Think like the Adversary” workshop to units in combat zones, companies to include Lockheed Martin, and government entities like the National Counterterrorism Center. He is currently a staff officer on the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s four-person Senior Integration Group (SIG), and chairs the National Security Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Foundation of America. Robert’s articles on cultural awareness and security assurance have appeared in The Counterterrorist magazine and the Compass of the National Language Service Corps, among others. He is the founder of VoDuBo Consulting and author of the blog at PowerfulPeace.net.
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The body of Mr. DuBois' book is divided into Body - Mind - Heart - and Soul and each section is divided into short chapters that further open with a succinct Mission Statement of sorts and an applicable quote. This format maintains a conversational tone and provides an immediate connection to the author and his experiences. Indeed the book is written as a window - an introspective window, into Mr. DuBois' experiences and desires for The People. You're not being lectured by a journalist or academic - Mr. DuBois is inviting you to the geopolitical and physical battlefield, into the homes of enemies and friends, through the military and political processes of War, and into the minds of the many men and women that serve in the Armed Forces.
Consider the opportunity here.. you have, in effect, an ideal man to take you through the whole process and history of - there isn't a word for it even... Of an organization, a culture, a point in history of remarkable consequence - at a unique intersection of culture, technology, religion, and history. To use analogies Mr. DuBois has been the engineer, the shop blacksmith, middle management, the consultant, the diplomat, and now a Professor of Powerful Peace. You simply don't get these opportunities often - and when they come about they have the ability to resurrect a dying cause or organization.
The content itself, from my viewpoint, really attacks two broad problems pervasively:
1) The sources of hatred among and between people
2) The "solutions" to hatred that do not work
The second point is key here - Mr. DuBois isn't providing an academic survey - he is providing a real effectual narrative based on first-hand observations in (easily) the most conflict prone and conflicted theatre of ideological, military, and political battle since World War II.
Powerful Peace isn't an absolute proponent or doesn't absolutely condemn any course of action - he merely, and compellingly, asks the reader to consider their actions in a new light. And this is the ultimate strength of the book in my opinion - he isn't forcing the reader to "choose a side" other than that of humanity. And that type of neutrality to all views (Hawks and Pigeons alike) makes this a great - GREAT - book to build a sense of pride and urgency upon. You can simultaneously be embarrassed and Proud - entirely Proud - entirely embarrassed but whatever feeling you want to take away - or even agonize over - Mr. DuBois leaves you with hope and an urge to action.
Here are some highlights from the book:
(1) "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
And so Robert DuBois shows the plausibility of peace by reminding us to take that first step.
(2) "Anyone who casually declares that there will never be peace in the Iraqi or Afghan societies is simply not exercising his vision muscles hard enough."
As Americans, how could we possibly forget the growing pains of the Revolutionary War and the Wild West. We took those steps and should dare to assist other nations "down the path we've blazed."
(3) "An Iraqi man is fundamentally the same as an American man -- is the same as a Somali man -- is the same as a Japanese man -- is the same as an Uzbek man ... I know! I've lived and worked among them in almost three dozen nations."
This is why DuBois has gravitas. He provides numerous stories of his direct experiences in war and in life. His words have weight and substance. He's been there, seen it, and lived it. Woe to the casual commentator with an opinion who gets his information mostly from CNN or Fox News.
(4) DuBois described how in the middle of killings, assaults, and kidnappings, the Baghdad Zoo opened to Iraqi parents and children so they can have some normalcy and semblance of safety. Any warm-blooded American can relate to a sunny afternoon at the zoo with the family. This sort of human perspective often gets lost in the news covered by talking heads and their recycled statistics from government officials.
(5) "When I fast-sideways farther from my base, out beyond these 34 families, I see strangers for whom I have even less affection. I may coo at the baby in the passing carriage, but forget him a minute later. This general apathy demonstrates that I could be more attentive to people, even in my own community. I have room to grow in recognizing how precious each human is."
It is this kind of honesty and self reflection that I find remarkable about DuBois. All too often writers are blind to their own egos yet keen on other people's shortcomings. As a Navy SEAL, he had plenty to brag about but his stories lay bare his humbleness.
(6) The arguments are balanced as are the solutions. For instance, the quotes he provided were from both the political left and right (and in between). You won't find slanted and conforming perspectives here. Even when he gives you his position on a particular heated topic, I thought he made tremendous sense and thus the position stood on its own unique logic.
(7) "We read that the Titanic tragedy was another example of the finer qualities of humanity shining forth, when men of all classes unanimously assisted women and children onto a limited number of rafts with the sure knowledge that they themselves would perish. (Well, unanimously except for that one rich jerk who was trying to get Leonardo's girlfriend -- but we all saw that coming!)"
I laughed out loud when I read that.
(8) "Wouldn't it be nice to rise above our perpetual squabbling over crusts and focus instead on making truckloads of fresh pies?"
Yes! To the sentence and the pies.
(9) "When I hear such thoughtless obscenities as, 'We should just bomb the Middle East into a glass parking lot,' I sometimes ask if the speaker would be willing to travel back there with me so he can pick out the first little girl to die under the first bomb."
(9a) "They told us who they are: al Qaeda. And AQ said it speaks for all of Islam."
I want to highlight this seemingly simple point since how often have you heard viewpoints that blame Islam as the source of terrorism? How often do we link Muslims to al Qaeda members? These viewpoints make as much sense as linking Christianity and Christians to the Westboro Baptist Church and its members.
(10) "With a few more weeks or days at war, my advice might have still inspired a commander to take a slightly different course; that change might have resulted in one American life saved or one Iraqi child unharmed by a terrorist attack ... To bring just one more young husband home would be worth the cost of my entire career."
I can go on and on with more highlights, but I hope this last poignant thought should give you the gist of the book if you haven't gotten the gist already.
In summary, Robert DuBois wrote a masterpiece because Powerful Peace is a thoroughly insightful, honest, compassionate, and funny read. I enjoyed it tremendously. I can easily imagine this book to be the template and reference for leaders and students alike to make a watertight argument for reason and compassion in a world that is too often unreasonable and uncompassionate.
There are a good number of blurbs from famous people endorsing Powerful Peace. But I'll pick what I thought was the best endorsement and it wasn't even a blurb. It was from a bright, young yet mature Iraqi man who said to DuBois, "If more Americans thought like you, there'd be less wars in the world." Since the principles presented are universal and so inspiring I applied them to my own life. It was book money well spent, the value immeasurable.