GCSP ITC-LISC Alumni: Where are they now? No. 4: Colonel (GS) Hans Eberhart

GCSP ITC-LISC Alumni: Where are they now? No. 3: Ambassador Jacques Pitteloud

GCSP ITC-LISC Alumni: Where are they now? No. 4: Colonel (GS) Hans Eberhart

A Swiss participant’s retrospective views on the GCSP’s first truly International Training Course for Security Policy (ITC), 1989-1990: A call for a humanised approach to peace and security

Colonel (GS) Hans Eberhart’s views on the first ITC are laid out below.


The first ITC had many long-lasting effects on my career. My short account of this process is neither intended to be objective nor to romanticise my experience, and attempts to unemotionally answer the question: What was the course about, and what could it mean for the future of the GCSP?


The historical setting at the end of the 20th century: The first thing to remember is the time period of the course. Within a year the small class of six European and three Swiss students found themselves caught up, among other things, in the turmoils of the revolution of 1989, the warning signs of the First Gulf War and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. We learnt by radio of the collapse of the Honecker and Ceaușescu regimes and the fall of the Berlin Wall. What would this mean for post-Cold War Europe, with its previously inbuilt assumption that the Eastern European communist regimes were here to stay? What, in turn, would the transformation of Europe’s eastern half entail for Western Europe and its newfound European Community? What could be the new challenges facing the remaining democratic superpower regarding the issues of regional and global security? Writing today about that odd and unfamiliar time, I feel inclined to connect it with our unprecedented COVID-19 situation. In early 2020 we were just starting to hear about this new virus and trying to understand what was happening. Applying the principle of mutatis mutandis to 1989, none of us anticipated how quickly a full-scale pandemic would blow up and dramatically change our world.


The enriching classroom: Under the leadership of a man of strategic sensibility, Curt Gasteyger (1929-2020), and his invigorating deputy, Fred Tanner, the ITC was a stimulating forum comprising insightful lectures, constructive debates and motivational experiences – and also hard work! Important figures in their profession such as Jozef Goldblat (1923-2012) or Victor-Yves Ghebali (1942-2009) taught us about the problems of strategy in the nuclear age and the necessity – as well as the limits – of confidence- and security-building in international relations. Examining the practices of international organisations in Geneva, where the course was presented, supplemented the curriculum. It was an enthralling introduction to international security policy and the diplomatic profession.


The relevance of culture: Furthermore, the ITC inspired us to undertake not only our own independent assessments of whatever we were confronted with, but also to familiarise ourselves with the views of others who had different degrees of erudition, taste and experience. Thus, it was a milieu that cultivated openness and had a civilising effect. But, probably even more importantly, it taught us to distinguish clearly among the selection of facts we might be faced with and nurtured the curiosity to address the issues of comprehensive security and the stability of other regions. It implanted the spirit of exploration and the quest for an open, questioning and adventurous mind.


Geography also matters: Lovely Geneva, the location of the ITC, shaped us no less than the teachers and colleagues we encountered. Its distinctive history of humanism and enlightenment and the spell cast by the landscape were also formative. As a worldwide centre for diplomacy and a home for people from all over the world, it was – and still is – a cogent example of how to respect diversity and practise tolerance, intercultural understanding and cooperation as an antidote to the clash of civilisations.


The need for humanised thinking in security policy: In the 35 years since the course’s inception, the ITC – and subsequently the LISC – have expanded both their interests and membership far beyond those unpretentious beginnings. The GCSP now recruits new members with a variety of views and interests from all over the world. But, at its core there should remain the existential question: In a world of sovereign states with differing ideologies and interests, how can conflicts, even if they cannot be peacefully resolved, at least be kept within bounds that prevent them from escalating to mass casualties? To remain focused on the ineffable goal of peace – a term that attracts so much goodwill, but begs so many questions – is certainly a duty of the Centre. But it is even more important to foster what necessarily precedes and conditions security and peace: Learning with thinking (which is an art, not a science), educating women and men with character, building trust in one another, and teaching the methods of cooperation. In an era in which everything can be fake, we need classical strategic and political thinkers and culture as the best defence against fakes and frivolity. Or, as John Chipman so convincingly expressed it at the IISS Manama Dialogue in 2019: “We live by the maxim that good strategy is conducted with a cool head, trusted information and a warm heart.”



Colonel (GS) Hans Eberhart has been the Swiss Defence Attaché to Singapore since August 2019, and is the first military representative to reside in the city-state. Before this assignment he was the Swiss Defence Attaché to Turkey (2015-2019), with cross-accreditations to Azerbaijan and Georgia; to the UK, including the Netherlands and Ireland (2011-2015); and to Pakistan, including Afghanistan and Iran (2006-2011). From 1999 to 2005 he was the Military Adviser to the Swiss OSCE Mission in Vienna. Col. Eberhart was drafted into the Swiss Army as a mountain ranger (infantry) in 1975 and served from 1977 to 1984 as NCO for one year and Second/First Lieutenant for five and two years, respectively, in a special forces unit (Third Mountain Corps). Before joining the Ministry of Defence/General Staff in 1989, he studied History and International Law at Zurich, Aberdeen and Rome universities; he also holds a PhD from Zurich University. He attended the 1989-1990 ITC and has been a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) since 1991. He also lectured on international security and strategic themes at Zurich University in 1999-2001.