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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Hollie Nyseth Brehm

Mershon affiliate's study examined testimony of defendants in Rwandan violence

The men who were tried for their role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed up to 1 million people want you to know that they’re actually very good people.

That’s the most common way accused men try to account for their actions in testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a new study has found.

Researchers examined more than 10,000 pages of testimony from 27 defendants at the ICTR to determine how these men tried to explain their involvement in the genocidal violence.

They found that an “appeal to good character” was used by defendants more than all other explanations combined to say why they weren’t guilty of the horrible crimes they were accused of committing.

“Genocide has been called the crime of crimes, and these accused perpetrators very much understood that,” said Mershon affiliate Hollie Nyseth Brehm, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. 

“They were trying to protect their reputation. Rather than acknowledging their role, they emphasized what good people they were and talked about their good deeds and admirable character traits.”

Brehm's research on perpetrators of genocide has been supported by grants from the Mershon Center in 2014-15 and 2017-18.

Nyseth Brehm conducted the study with Emily Bryant of Boston University, Emily Brooke Schimke of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota. Their results appear online in the journal Social Problems and will be published in a future print edition.

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Dakota Rudesill

How a two-day simulation is preparing the next generation of national security professionals

Sitting around a large Mahogany block “O” shaped table, a handful of people type furiously away at their computers. Some are conversing in small groups, others flip quickly between a series of windows on their laptops before uploading a breaking news announcement that appears behind them on a large screen.

At the front of this ad hoc control room, Dakota Rudesill, professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, stands at a small podium with his laptop in front of him. After a quick glance down at his notes, he turns his gaze to the rest of the room and casually asks the group, “Who wants to play the president of Russia?”

While the question may seem slightly odd, it fits neatly within the role playing capacity of The Ohio State University National Security Simulation, a two-day intensive exercise that gives students and faculty from Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, and School of Communication, along with other graduate, military, and international studies students, the opportunity to experience what working in the national security field is like in the real world.

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Peter Mansoor

The U.S. military has had a checkered record of success in wars waged since 1945. Part of the explanation behind the failures (Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan) lies in the failure of military organizations to adapt to the type of wars in which they found themselves engaged.

Cultural predilection towards major combat operations has shaped the mindset of the officer corps and stifled creativity, resulting in failed approaches to conflicts that refused to conform to established norms. The armed forces of other nations have experienced similar issues, sometimes resulting in catastrophic or near-catastrophic defeats (e.g., Soviet Union in Afghanistan from 1979-1988).

Organized by Peter R. Mansoor, Gen. Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair of Military History, the Culture of Military Organizations conference will explore the impact of the culture on the development of effective military organizations and therefore its impact on security from 1861 to the present. It will take place Friday, September 29, through Saturday, September 30, at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, 1501 Neil Ave.

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Erik Nisbet

Study suggests Putin has developed a ‘psychological firewall’

The Russian government has persuaded many of its citizens to avoid websites and social media platforms that are critical of the government, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzing a survey of Russian citizens found that those who relied more on Russian national television news perceived the internet as a greater threat to their country than did others. This in turn led to increased support for online political censorship.

Olga Kamenchuk

Approval of the government of President Vladimir Putin amplified the impact of those threat perceptions on support for censorship, according to the study.

The success of the Russian regime in persuading citizens to self-censor their internet use has troubling implications, said Erik Nisbet, co-author of the study an associate professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“This is actually more insidious. The government doesn’t have to rely as much on legal or technical firewalls against content they don’t like. They have created a psychological firewall in which people censor themselves,” Nisbet said.

“People report they don’t go to certain websites because the government says it is bad for me.”

Nisbet conducted the study with Olga Kamenchuk, a visiting assistant professor, and doctoral student Aysenur Dal, both from Ohio State. Their results appear in the September 2017 issue of the journal Social Science Quarterly.

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