On Wednesday, January 9, The Browning School hosted “On the Front Line: War and Conflict in Iraq and Syria,” a conversation with Browning parent Janine di Giovanni, who is a celebrated award-winning war reporter, and History Department Chair Dr. Gerald Protheroe and fellow Browning history teacher Omar Qureshi.
Dr. Protheroe, in introducing Ms. Di Giovanni, remarked that the Browning boys of 2019 live in a very different world from that of the Browning generation of 1989-90, and what was truly a challenge was to explain how the era of optimism, which was such a feature of the ’90s, had degenerated into the international anarchy of the current era. Ms. di Giovanni had not only lived through this, she had worked in some of the most dangerous war zones of the previous 25 years in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and most recently in Syria in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
Ms. di Giovanni gave a gripping and harrowing account of her work during these years, in particular her reporting from Syria and the great dilemma which has faced the West in that country over the last eight years, and how the Western desire to overthrow the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad has become sidetracked by the desire to combat the rise of the Islamic State. In response to Mr. Qureshi, she reaffirmed her support for humanitarian military intervention, mentioning the British government’s intervention in Sierra Leone as a model. She was also fiercely critical of President Obama’s failure to curb Assad’s attacks on his own people in the early stages of the conflict. Ms. Di Giovanni sometimes provided a heartbreaking account of how war impacts children in Syria and how little we in the West have done to mitigate this. She drew extensively on the evidence provided in her award-winning work, “The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria,” which was named one of the best human rights books in 2016. Ms. Di Giovanni is currently a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and is a former editor of Middle Eastern Affairs at Newsweek.
The event was well-attended by Browning parents and students, which included Ms. Di Giovanni’s son Luca, who is a freshman in the Upper School. Browning was very pleased to be able to host such an important figure in the world of international relations as Ms. di Giovanni. The School thanks her for shedding a firsthand light on the brave, dangerous but necessary world of war reporting.