War-gaming Historian Named Democracy Fellow

May 3, 2010

War-gaming Historian Named Democracy Fellow

VALDOSTA -- Dr. John Dunn is a self-proclaimed eccentric historian who paints miniature figurines for relaxation, attends war games conventions and studies obscure corners of global history -- the military modernization efforts of Tibet’s Dalai Lama, for instance.

The specialist in Middle Eastern affairs is as acclaimed as he is peculiar. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a non-partisan policy institute headquartered in Washington, D.C., selected Dunn as an Academic Fellow for 2010-11. He will travel to Israel at the beginning of June for an intensive course about terrorism and, more specifically, democracy’s role in defeating the worldwide terrorist threat. Going to Israel, Dunn said, will equip him with background and context to provide his students with a balance of perspective when he addresses conflicts in the Middle East.

“For me, walking the street, listening, seeing, and even smelling are highly instructive,” said Dunn, who teaches Islamic World and World Civilizations III. “I have already visited Muslim nations like Turkey, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. These journeys gave me a sense of place and connections with individuals that make me a better instructor as I attempt to boil down the centuries into a broth my students can consume in one term.”

The fellows will be in seminars from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., listening to Israeli government officials, police officers, historians and political scientists share their views about Israel’s approach to the “war on terror.” Dunn, who has taught at VSU for the past decade, said he plans to spend his one free day walking well-preserved ruins in the city of Akko (pronounced Acre) -- the site of a famous Egyptian siege in 1831, which is the focus of a conference paper he plans to present in 2011.

Clifford May, President of FDD, said educating professors who directly influence the minds of the future is the best way to share various mindsets and approaches to quelling turmoil in this fragile region.

“Terrorism is the greatest threat today to the world’s democracies, including the United States and our allies around the globe,” May said. “To win the war against terrorism, we must win the war of ideas by promoting democracy and defeating the totalitarian ideologies that drive and justify terrorism.”
For more information about the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies or the Academic Fellowship program, go to www.defenddemocracy.org/ .


As if Dunn’s summer won’t be busy enough traveling to the cradle of civilization, he will spend four days in early July recreating history with figurines at HISTORICON -- a gaming convention that draws about 4,000 people from around the world. History enthusiasts descend upon Valley Forge, Penn., each year to recreate past military scenes, plausible future skirmishes, and even games that depict vibrant sci-fi and fantasy worlds.

“I was infected (with the war-gaming bug) during high school, and was an avid player of all types of simulation and role-playing games during the 1970s-80s. Graduate school closed that hobby, although I continued to paint miniature figures for relaxation,” Dunn said. “Four years ago, I attended a war games convention in Orlando, made some connections, and learned about Historicon.”

Dunn said he finds the exotic rewarding, and many Historicon junkies share his interests in the obscure. For instance, Dunn said, 32 Historicon attendees sat through his 45-minute presentation about the efforts at military modernization by Tibet’s Dalai Lama. At a traditional history conference, participation at the seminar would have been much less enthusiastic.

“When I discovered Historicon had an active seminar series, it sounded like a good way to expand my interest in military history and reconnect with my old hobby,” said Dunn, who speaks French and Arabic. “I now coordinate the seminar series and have obtained good feedback from speakers who were moved by the welcome attention their presentations received.”

Learn more about Historicon and view pictures of the miniature historical scenes at http://www.historicon.org/ .