Petra, Jordan

Maj. Mark Jacobsen

I am a U.S. Air Force officer, a C-17 instructor pilot, a Middle East specialist, a writer, and an entrepreneur.  This is a blog about my wide-ranging interests in foreign affairs, leadership, innovation, good books, writing, language, religion, and culture.  If there is one common thread, it is my personal mission of “building peace”–learning about the world and its people, and employing this knowledge in the service of building a better world.  I view myself as a lifelong student, and my goal at Building Peace is to multiply the impact of my ongoing education by sharing with others.


I graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 2002 with a degree in Astronautical Engineering and spent four years flying the C-17 Globemaster III at McChord AFB, WA. In 2008 I was selected for an Olmsted scholarship to Amman, Jordan.  I spent eight months studying Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA then moved with my family to Amman for two years.  I continued to study both Modern Standard Arabic and Levantine Arabic and earned a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution from the University of Jordan.  My master’s thesis was on different discourses about Islam within the United States.  I also spent two months studying basic shariah and tajwiid (Qur’an memorization and recital) at an Islamic school.  I traveled extensively within Jordan, as well as to Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.  The Arab Spring began during my second year in the region.

I returned to the C-17, then spent a year studying strategy at the Air Force’s School of Advanced Air & Space Studies (SAASS). I wrote my SAASS thesis on strategy in fragmented wars, with an emphasis on Syria. I am currently a doctoral student in Stanford University’s Political Science program. My research focuses on the formation and evolution of armed groups in Syria.

You can reach me at jacobsmd at stanford dawt edu or www.twitter.com/jacobsenmd.

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