Prof takes war expertise to Oxford

Rarely will one of the most prestigious universities in western Europe ask a Kansas University professor to explain to a group of instructors that they’re all, well, wrong.

But anthropology professors Felix Moos and Bart Dean will lead a study group Tuesday at Oxford University that will address changes in modern warfare.

The Nature of War conference, which runs from Sunday through Friday, will examine how warfare has changed since the end of the Cold War and the rise of global terrorism.

“Many Oxford historians believe that not much has changed in war. We’ve given war different names, but war is still war,” Moos said. “Some of us in the United State are arguing that war that is now being fought has changed its focus.”

Moos, a former member of the military and longtime researcher on intelligence and warfare, said that modern wars aren’t about territory or resources, but rather because of differences in human ideas. Moos said this means warfare has moved into the “fourth generation.”

“This is not a war of organized states and forces,” Moos said. “The consequences are difficult to predict. We can no longer look for explanations of war using historical contexts.”

Dean, a graduate of Oxford, agrees in large part with the position that Moos has staked out.

“We could go to many parts of the world and people would respond to us very negatively, without knowing anything about us,” Dean said.

Dean said battles now are being fought because people disagree with the beliefs of others.

“There are larger processes here that we are only beginning to understand,” Dean said. “Local conflicts are taking on global proportions.”

Dean said the British have a misunderstanding of what’s going on in the United States, post-9/11. Through this conference, Dean and Moos hope to bring some context on America to their international colleagues.

Moos and Dean said they hoped to make the case that the world has never been at peace and that the reason for some of the worst foreign policy blunders has been a lack of cultural understanding. As anthropologists, the two professors believe they can promote cultural understanding.

“It’s a great honor to be invited to Oxford to talk on 9/11,” Moos said. “The essence of the honor is that they’re looking for a different voice to speak at Oxford.”