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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Hollie Nyseth Brehm

Social factors shaped who rescued people in Rwandan genocide

We tend to think of heroes in terms of a psychological profile: brave, altruistic, strong.

But a new study suggests that for at least one kind of heroism, it takes a village to save a life.

Through in-depth interviews, researchers examined what motivated some members of the majority Hutu population in Rwanda to risk their own safety to save persecuted ethnic Tutsi during the genocidal violence of 1994. The violence claimed up to 1 million lives, eliminating much of the Tutsi population.

“We started this study thinking we would identify the individual characteristics that motivated rescuers, because that’s what most previous research had pointed to,” said Mershon affiliate Hollie Nyseth Brehm, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

“But we realized very quickly that most people who rescued weren’t doing this alone. It was a form of collective action. The social dynamics and situational context were key factors in determining whether someone decided to rescue.”

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Richard Herrmann

When the United States ended the draft and moved to an all-volunteer military in 1973, most political and military leaders assumed that the nation would reactivate the draft in the event of another major war. Instead, the U.S. fought long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with an all-volunteer force.

How well has this military model worked, and will it work in the future? Is it fair, efficient and sustainable?

On March 29, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies will host a symposium exploring these questions with input from national policymakers, military officers and academic experts. Students attending the conference will be asked to break into working groups to discuss the issues raised and generate solutions, which they will present to a panel of experts.

Rick Herrmann, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, sheds some light on some of the pressing topics that will be discussed at the event.

>> Read more and register at go.osu.edu/FutureofAVF

Why did the U.S. move to an all-volunteer force?
The U.S. abandoned the draft in 1973 due to the mounting unpopularity of the Vietnam War, moral and economic objections, a lessening demand for manpower and a general desire for change.

When did the idea of conscription first originate?
The idea of a nation state, where people from the society fight for the country, is a relatively modern idea and it really comes from the French Revolution and Napoleon’s success of selling the idea of a French nation. The troops he was able to mobilize in France around the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity — they fought harder. They seemed to have more motivation than the armies of other regimes that were still fighting for kings, emperors and tsars. The people who founded democracies believed there should be a close connection between citizens and the common defense.

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Sangbeom Yoo

The Mershon Center has a new visiting scholar starting in January 2018: Sangbeom Yoo, associate professor in the Department of Security Policy and director of the Office of Research Planning at the Research Institute for National Security Affairs at Korean National Defense University.

Sangbeom Yoo is author most recently of "The Trump Administration’s Foreign Policy toward the Asia Pacific Region" (RINSA Forum, 2017); "The Pattern of North Korea's Local Military Provocations" (Korean Journal of International Studies, 2017); and Prediction of Three Major Security Threats on the Korean Peninsula 2017 (co-authored) (RINSA, 2016).

During his time at the Mershon Center, Sangbeom Yoo will conduct research for "Threat Perception and Alliance Robustness," which is about how the degree of people's perception toward threat is related to the perception of the alliance coherence. He will also work on his book project on the concept of dilemma -- for example, security, prisoner, or rebel dilemma -- and types of solutions.

Sangbeom Yoo has a bachelor's in chemistry from Korea Military Academy (1994), a master's in international relations from Korea National Defense University (2005), and a doctorate in political science from State University of New York at Binghamton (2012).

Each year, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies holds a competition for Ohio State faculty and students to apply for research grants and scholarship funds.

Research Grants

Applications for Faculty Research and Seed Grants and Graduate Student Research Grants must be for projects related to the study of national security in a global context. We are also interested in projects that emphasize the role of peace-building and development; strengthen the global gateways in China, India and Brazil; relate to campus area studies centers and institutes; or address the university's Discovery Themes of health and wellness, energy and the environment, food production and security, and the humanities and arts.

In recent years the center has funded several dozen faculty and graduate student research projects with grants for travel, seminars, conferences, interviews, experiments, surveys, library costs, and more. To learn more about the types of projects funded, please see faculty project summaries on the Mershon Center website under Research and graduate project summaries in past Annual Reports.

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