Why should Americans support a Department of Peace?
A violent response to violence should always be our last resort, which is difficult without a smart, sophisticated, and well-funded strategy for peace. Even in circumstances where the use of brute force is arguably needed, it is inherently limited and we will still need peacebuilding and peacekeeping skills and strategies after military operations end.
A Department of Peace will provide the institutional framework within which to research, analyze and create nonviolent solutions to domestic and international conflict. With this capability, the President and Congress will have immediate access to the expertise that is so deeply needed in our post-9/11 world; we make the study, creation and use of nonviolent solutions to conflicts a national priority; and we expand our ability to address the root causes of violence. Peace then becomes a tangible goal as opposed to a lofty ideal.
Won't a Department of Peace duplicate efforts of the Departments of State and Defense?
No. The Departments of State and Defense play important and pivotal roles in American policy and this legislation won't change that. The State Department interfaces with heads of state, implements the United States' foreign policy, and advocates for the rights of U.S. citizens abroad. The Defense Department provides the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country. While both include functions addressing nonviolent conflict resolution, they are typically underutilized and under-funded because they are subservient to these Departments' main missions. In addition, both work exclusively in the international domain.
The sole focus of a U.S. Department of Peace will be the prevention and reduction of violence. Thus it will augment and support other Departments' efforts by working proactively to provide nonviolent strategies and solutions to the many complex issues we face—both domestically and internationally.
While addressing the federal government's responsibility to adequately meet our national security needs in today's world, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in a November 2007 speech at Kansas State University, said that "[n]ew institutions are needed for the 21st Century, new organizations with a 21st Century mind-set." A Department of Peace is part of this new mind-set.
We have a huge deficit now. How will the Department of Peace be funded?
Funding for the Department of Peace is determined during the appropriations process, after the legislation creating the Department is passed. The present bill calls for it to be funded at the equivalent of two percent of the Defense Department's budget. Using existing budgets, a Department of Peace could be funded for as little as $10 billion annually. We currently spend more than that in one month on our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nonviolent strategies properly applied will help reduce the need for such activities and thus save money.
Is the Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace "anti-war" or "anti-military?"
The Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace is "pro-peace," not anti-war or anti-military. "Peace" is and must be seen as a strategic foreign and domestic policy objective, attainable through investing our time, energies and resources proactively addressing the underlying causes of conflict. This greatly decreases the potential for violence to occur in the first place.
"Nonviolence" and the use of force are not mutually-exclusive concepts, nor should they be considered opposites. It's not "either/or," but rather "both/and." What could be a greater aid to our military than a sophisticated effort to make active duty on the battlefield less necessary?
Given human nature, isn't violence inevitable?
Conflict is inevitable; violence is not. Violence is one way to respond to conflict, and like virtually all behavior, is learned. Just as we learn to be violent, we are equally able to learn to use nonviolent tools and techniques. We do not lack the ability, but the systems and structures to teach those tools. A Department of Peace will fill this void.
Isn't "peace" an ideal rather than a strategy?
Peace is far from a utopian ideal. It is a possibility that becomes ever more likely as we invest time, energy and resources into its strategic use. There are about 450 colleges and universities worldwide that offer courses in Peace Studies, and the majority of them are here in the United States. Experts consider "peace" a concrete strategy that provides measurable results rather than an unattainable ideal.
The strategic pursuit of that considered "ideal" can also create significant results. For example, while American automakers in the 1970's and 1980's were busy making cars with "acceptable" levels of defects, the Japanese were working with visionary industrialists (many of whom were from the United States) under the philosophy of "Zero Defects." While many dismissed this as naïve, unrealistic, and impossible to achieve, the Japanese quietly and swiftly proved that you get much closer to zero defects if you strive for that goal, and build systems of problem analysis and resolution toward that end. The same is true for peace.
We have no illusion that having a Department of Peace will be the panacea that brings forth a violence-free society. What is certain is that if we don't try, we will never even get close.
Here are some resources for those interested in learning more about peace as policy.