“The people of the world genuinely want peace. Some day, the leaders of the world are going to have to give in and give it to them.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower
A cabinet-level Department of Peace is a fundamentally conservative idea. Peace in America and throughout the world has become an urgently practical mainstream goal for generations of Americans wishing to conserve lives, resources, good will, money, health, our American ideals, principles, and values, our traditional way of life, our environment, and our talents, time, energy, and property.
There is no reason why the long-held American dream of “peace in our time” should not be the business of government. According to our Constitution, a good government supports domestic tranquility, a more perfect union, justice, the common defense, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty. Without a citizenry and leadership skilled in non-violent resolution of conflict, all these goals are doomed to failure.
If we don’t stand for peace, what do we stand for?
What better way to show our heartfelt appreciation and support for our troops’ past and future selfless service, what better way to express our debt of gratitude, than to give them a Department of Peace charged with partnering with our military, diplomatic, and political leadership to insure that American soldiers never again march into ill-planned unnecessary wars?
Department of Peace legislation could be the unifying, groundbreaking, even visionary legacy needed by the Bush presidency.
Most importantly, a Department of Peace promises an effective new approach for solving our nation’s biggest and most costly problem—domestic and international violence.
Despite our many prisons, laws, and police forces, despite our huge nuclear and conventional arsenals, our vast military and seemingly limitless expenditures for espionage, we are less safe with every passing day.
America cannot shoot its way out of a world full of angry, well-armed enemies and criminals. Growing cycles of hatred, injustice, and violence increasingly threaten the very survival of mankind. Even with pre-emptive action, military solutions to global conflict are insufficient to keep even our own small part of the world safe and stable, unless we add to our military technologies the many equally sophisticated, powerful, and field-tested “technologies” of non-violent conflict resolution and pro-active peace-building.
Cooperative, harmonious relationships, rather than being a religious or utopian ideal, are a practical goal critical to our national security. The enormous costs of domestic and international violence—to our children, American society, and the world—are unsustainable. The World Health Organization estimates that the effects of domestic violence in the U.S. annually cost us over $300 billion. Annual defense expenditures in the U.S. top $600 billion. Roughly 100 million lives have been lost during the 20th century to war. We can sustain neither a desirable standard of living nor our beloved freedoms at our current levels of spending.
Yet the problems we face in a violent, unstable world relentlessly compound.
A cabinet-level Department of Peace, established with the equivalent of 2% of the annual budget for the Department of Defense, will analyze the root causes of violence including war, giving credibility and voice to non-violent, relationship-building conflict-resolution methods—resulting in less crime and war, fewer criminals and enemies, and thus, money to spend (or save!) for other urgent priorities like environmental protection, education, and health care.
To be sure, human conflict will always be a natural, even beneficial part of life, offering challenges necessary to growth and change. On the other hand, violent responses to conflict are nearly always inadequate and harmful in the long run. We can learn (and teach) different responses to conflict as readily as we have taught and learned destructive ones. War and violence are not inevitable. In fact, they are arguably the greatest threat to our nation and to mankind. The causes of violence, like the causes of disease, can be culturally eradicated one-by-one.
Our present approach to national defense is not working. We are very strong in conventional military operations, but weak in alliance-building (win-win negotiations and diplomacy) and very weak in the use of the many innovative non-violent peace-building technologies already available for addressing both domestic and international conflicts.
The common goal of all security departments—Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Peace—is to insure peace and stability. Their primary differences lie in their different strategies for achieving their common goal. A strong military force can be a deterrent, but without a cabinet-level Department of Peace, political leaders of all stripes too often allow war profiteers to rush them unwittingly into wars of aggression, greed, and domination, or turn too quickly to military forces to resolve political problems. A Department of Peace offers a strong counterweight to such commonplace misuse of our vast military might.
In this dangerous world, strong U.S. leadership can be invaluable in keeping the peace. Instead of arrogance which costs us allies, we can show the world through our support for a Department of Peace that our highest ideals and intentions lie in playing a peacekeeping role.
A Secretary of Peace can nurture a growing culture of peace both nationally and internationally, partnering with the President and his cabinet to provide cultural information and alternative strategies for every possible conflict area in the world, asking hard questions when war seems inevitable, and preventing, reducing, ameliorating, and de-escalating conflicts before they boil over into deadly violence. An Academy of Peace equivalent to our highly-respected military academies will research, evaluate, and teach alternative non-violent responses to conflict.
Domestically, a Department of Peace will support and disseminate best practices originating in neighborhood and faith-based programs, addressing drug and alcohol problems, crime, incarceration and recidivism, the spread of weapons, school bullying and violence, gangs, racism, ethnic and homophobic intolerance, child, elder, and spousal abuse, immigration pressures, and other domestic violence problems, through proven programs of peer mediation, violence-prevention counseling, restorative justice, and other successful non-violent approaches. Such grassroots efforts will, in turn, inform and inspire national policy.
Scattering leadership for peace-building and diplomatic efforts over various departments has not worked. Why not? Because peace-building technologies require the serious institutional heft, importance, and backing of a national platform.
Americans who hate war and who want to leave to future generations the same land of plenty, possibility, and freedom they have been privileged to enjoy have an opportunity to work with our many peace professionals—whether military, diplomatic, Republican, Democratic, or Independent—to institutionalize the pursuit of peace promised in our founding documents by urging the passage of H.R. #808 establishing a Department of Peace.
Peace-building through non-violent responses to conflict, like other historical grass-roots movements (e.g., civil rights, women’s suffrage, emancipation of slaves, etc.) may not have seemed obvious at first, but it is America’s best hope.
“Through our scientific genius we have made of the world a neighborhood,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Now through our moral and spiritual genius we must make it a brotherhood.”
In today’s small, interconnected world, that which we do to others will always come back to help us or to harm us, as we have chosen. We cannot avoid all injustices, but we can seek to avoid adding to their sum. We no longer have the choice of changing or not changing. Our choice now is whether to change for the better, or for the worse. We have risked war. It is time to risk peace.
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