Learning How to Win Without War
In the three short months since I began my Scoville fellowship at Win Without War I have marked some important “firsts” in my fellowship and career here in Washington, D.C. These include: my first time going to the Hill, my first time meeting an elected official from another country, and my first time meeting an international delegation that spoke at the U.N. Each of these “firsts” inspired and fueled my excitement and passion for the work I get to do every day. Scoville and Win Without War have provided me an opportunity to experience, not just read or write about, what I am most passionate about – international peacebuilding and diplomacy.
While I have been passionate about peace and conflict since a young age having become politically aware during the Arab Spring, my real passion for international peacebuilding and diplomacy was fostered through coursework at my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. I took as many classes as possible on the theoretical framework of conflict and peace, but as I approached graduation I felt the practical application of these theories was missing from my experiences. Looking to transition from college to the workforce I knew the Scoville fellowship would offer me just what I was looking for: practical experience in a field almost impossible to enter. When looking at organizations that partner with Scoville, I knew I wanted the opportunity to take the theories I had learned and apply it directly to policy and advocacy.
A mere ten days after I began my fellowship at Win Without War I was afforded the opportunity to go to the Hill for the first time and witness how the theories I had learned in college are put into practice. I helped organize the event highlighting previous Scoville Fellow Laila Ujayli’s report on the Pentagon’s budget and how to realign security spending to reflect progressive values. Even though I had just joined the team, I got to play an active role in the launch of the report. Editing the entire report meant that I got to learn about complex budgetary issues as well as some of Win Without War’s basic values when approaching foreign policy and national security. This introduction set me up for the future pieces I would write. I also got to play an integral role in the actual event by manning the front desk to greet press, congressional staffers, and colleagues from other policy/advocacy organizations and think tanks. My boss, Kate Kizer, along with a panel of experts, debated and defended the ideas in the report to promote progressive values and solutions to the demilitarization of foreign policy through cutting the Pentagon’s budget.
The entire event was one of the most inspiring and best ways to begin my fellowship. Not only did I get to see amazing women put together a report that congressional staffers took back to their bosses, but I also got to see what I will get to do as a Scoville Fellow here at Win Without War. Thinking to myself, “I get to write an entire report from scratch that Congress might read?” was truly the best way to begin my fellowship.
My opportunities to engage in policy and advocacy discussions continued when in October, my boss sent me to a round table discussion at the Friends Committee on National Legislation with Bastien Lachaud of the French Parliament. The roundtable focused on Yemen as the French government is continuing to sell arms that is fueling the humanitarian crisis. Not knowing anything about the French Parliament or really much about Yemen beyond the basics of the humanitarian crisis there, I was a bit nervous. Walking in I saw fellow progressive organizations leaders who I follow on Twitter like Code Pink and was excited to get the discussion underway.
The small group of individuals at the table spent the next hour to hour and a half discussing ideas on how to amplify voices like Lachaud, referred to as the French AOC, on the international level and in France itself. We drew comparisons to recent U.S. legislation passed on ending arms sales to Yemen to inspire our conversation. This was my first time witnessing how progressives can work internationally to demand accountability of governments for war crimes and irresponsible arms sales. The roundtable inspired me to think beyond U.S.-based efforts to shape national security and foreign policy and to identify where progressives can work across borders on common issues and goals.
There have been countless other times that have inspired me thus far in my fellowship including meeting with a delegation of civil society from South Korea who spoke at the U.N. and publishing my first ever op-ed. One of the most exciting aspects about this fellowship and especially doing this fellowship at Win Without War, is my ability to expand the work being done and make a real impact at my organization. Representing Win Without War at a meeting at the State Department really brought home that this fellowship is offering me the opportunity to grow as a leader and vital contributor to progressive foreign policies and ideas. The support and mentorship I have the privilege to enjoy both at my organization and through the Scoville fellowship has been invaluable to launching me into this field and I’m excited for what the rest of my fellowship has in store.
Caroline Smith is a Fall 2019 Scoville Fellow at Win Without War.