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Michael V. Bhatia papers

Biographical note

Michael Vinay Bhatia was born in 1976 in Upland, California. He graduated from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 1999 taking his degree magna cum laude with honors in International Relations. He received the Scoville Peace and Disarmament Fellowship and a British Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford. There he received his masters from the Department of Politics and International Relations in 2002. He served as a visiting fellow at the Thomas J. Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and was a lecturer at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He died in Khost, Afghanistan in 2008 while serving as a social sciences consultant or academic embed for the United States Defense Department. He received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Defense of Freedom posthumously.

Bhatia's carefully directed his academic career to prepare him to participate in finding solutions for the problems in the hot spots of the world especially the Middle East. He served as an intern in the summer of 1998 with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). In the spring of 1998, he worked as a research assistant at the Watson Institute at Brown compiling a data base of 2,200 peacekeeping sources. From 1996 to 1998 he worked on a study with Prof. Thomas Weiss on the effectiveness of military-humanitarian intervention in Northern Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia, Rwanda, and Haiti. Bhatia took part in the Saharawan Aid Trust's humanitarian aid convoy in the fall of 1997 and he took that semester in the study abroad program in London at the School for Oriental and African Studies. He did research for the Overseas Development Institute, the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, The Small Arms Survey, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. He also did research in East Timor in 1999, Kosovo in 2000 and 2002 and the Western Sahara in 1998 and again in 2001 and made shorter field research trips to Bosnia and the Israel/Occupied territory as well.

Bhatia's written work also focused on conflict resolution. His senior honors thesis at Brown was on the Western Sahara region : Repatriation under a peace process : the case of the Western Sahara. He edited a volume entitled War and intervention : issues for contemporary peace operations which was published in 2003 and co-authored : Afghanistan, arms and conflict, armed groups, disarmament and security in a post-war society which appeared in 2008. He published articles in the periodicals Global Governance, Review of African Political Economy, The International Journal of Refugee Law, International Peacekeeping and Middle East Policy and guest edited a special issue of The Third World Quarterly with the separate title : The politics of names : rebels, terrorists, criminals, bandits, and subversives. This later appeared in book form under the title : Terrorism and the politics of naming. At the time of his death, Bhatia had nearly completed his dissertation : The mujahideen : a study of combatant motives in Afghanistan 1978-2004. This was based on the 345 interviews with combatants Bhatia conducted throughout Afghanistan as well as media and archival research. At the time of his death in Khost, he was helping to resolve intertribal conflicts on land rights as part of a pilot Human Terrain System (HTS) program. These programs assign 5-8 social scientists such as anthropologists, historians or sociologists to work closely with trained military personnel as well as the local populace to find solutions to local problems. It is estimated that these HTS units help save hundreds of civilian lives.