Dr. Justin Barrett, professor and director of Fuller’s Thrive Center for Human Development, spoke at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels, Belgium last week as part of a briefing for a research project which brings together the work of military experts and social scientists to advise some of NATO’s future activities. This was Barrett’s fourth meeting as part of the project.
The October 10, 2013 briefing on the topic of “Human Aspects of the Operational Environment” was the capstone event of a multi-year research project initiated by NATO’s Human Intelligence Centre of Excellence in Oradea, Romania. The project was in response to NATO leaders who recognized future activities would largely be security-stability operations in partnership with local populations instead of invasion-conquest operations, Barrett explained.
The main aim of the project is to encourage NATO decision-makers to better understand and cooperate with local populations so that traditional use of military force to kill and destroy can be minimized. As a result, the Human Intelligence Centre of Excellence reached out to military experts and social scientists to collaborate on a report and resource document.
“I was persuaded to participate because I saw an opportunity to save lives of civilians and oursoldiers, and to improve peacemaking strategies,” said Barrett, who was recruited to the project while he was a faculty member at the University of Oxford. “I am cautiously optimistic that this project will make positive differences around the world in the decades to come.”
Barrett, who is regarded as one of the founders of the cognitive science of religion field and is researching cognitive approaches to the study of culture and archaeology, served as the leader for a research panel concerning the basic drivers and motivators of human action. The resulting paper included contributions from Fuller students Christian Keys, Matthew Jarvinen, and Ross Lisman, and explored the subject of fundamental physiological and psychological needs, and how they are shaped by social, moral, and religious dynamics. The paper was then combined with six others into a resource document for NATO leaders.
Barrett noted that the work done on the project also resounds with the mission of Fuller’s Thrive Center, which serves to identify what allows young people to develop into thriving adults, and translates that research into tangible resources.
“We have tried to persuade NATO leaders that security goes beyond physical safety and includes promoting an environment that allows for basic social, religious, and moral expression, as well as biological needs,” Barrett said. “In short, if people do not have space to thrive, they aren’t truly ‘secure’. And the thriving of young people is at major risk in traditional warfare, whether they are violence-produced orphans or 19-year-old soldiers.”