A growing movement is pushing a worldview that ignores history's lessons about strength and appeasement.
By Bruce Bawer
September 2, 2007
'If you want peace, prepare for war," counseled the Roman general Flavius Vegetius Renatus more than 1,600 years ago, echoing the sage advice given nine centuries earlier by the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu. But in a film I saw recently at Oslo's Nobel Peace Center, this ancient wisdom was turned on its head: "If you want peace," it said, "prepare for peace."
This purports to be wise counsel, a motto for the millennium. In reality, it's wishful thinking that doesn't follow logically from the history of war, the real lesson of which is the one that Sun Tzu and Vegetius taught: Conflict happens, power matters, and it's better to be strong than to be weak. Human history has demonstrated repeatedly that you're safer if your enemies know you'll stand up for yourself than if you're proudly outspoken about your defenselessness or your unwillingness to fight. Yet this truth is denied not only by the Nobel Peace Center film but by the fast-growing, troubling movement that the center symbolizes and promotes.
I'm not talking here about a bunch of naive Quakers or idealistic high school students, but about a movement of savvy, ambitious professionals that is already comfortably ensconced at the United Nations, in the European Union and in many nongovernmental organizations. The peace racket, as I've come to think of it, embraces scores of "peace institutes" and "peace centers" in the U.S. and Europe, plus several hundred peace studies programs at universities such as UC Berkeley and Cornell.
What's more, this movement is also waging an aggressive, under-the-media-radar campaign for a Cabinet-level "Peace Department" in the United States. Sponsored by Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (along with more than 60 co-sponsors), HR 808 would authorize a secretary of Peace to "establish a Peace Academy," to "develop a peace education curriculum" for elementary and secondary schools, and to provide "grants for peace studies departments" at campuses around the country. If passed, the measure would catapult the peace studies movement into a position of extraordinary national, even international, influence.
All this sounds lovely, of course. Decent people prefer peace to war, life to death, nonviolence to violence. But they also prefer freedom to tyranny -- and the peace studies movement, all too often, promotes a mentality that plays directly into the hands of despots.
The founding father of the global peace movement is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959. Invariably portrayed in the media as a charismatic and (these days) grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact nothing of the sort. He's called the U.S. a "killer country," accused it of "neo-fascist state terrorism," and gleefully prophesied that it will soon follow Britain "into the graveyard of empires." In the 1970s, he wrote admiringly of Mao Tse-tung's China, and his consistently leftist, anti-Western tune has not changed. Recently he called for the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Iraq -- to address not the crimes or atrocities perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and his murderous Baathists, but those he attributes to the United States!
The people running today's peace studies programs at American universities give a good sense of the movement's illiberal inclinations. Brandeis University's peace studies chairman has justified suicide bombings as "ways of inflicting revenge on an enemy that seems unable or unwilling to respond to rational pleas for discussion and justice." The director of Purdue University's program is the author of the book "International Relations in a World of Imperialism and Class Struggle." And the University of Maine's program director believes that "humans have been out of balance for centuries" and that "a unique opportunity of this new century is to engage in the creation of balance and harmony between yin and yang, masculine and feminine energies."
America's leading peace racket institution is probably the University of Notre Dame's Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies -- endowed by and named for the widow of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's, the ultimate symbol of evil corporate America. (It was the Kroc Institute, by the way, that in 2004 invited Islamist scholar Tariq Ramadan to join its faculty, only to see him denied a U.S. visa on grounds that he had defended terrorism.)
What's taught in peace studies departments around the country generally remains faithful to Galtung's inspiration. Many professors emphasize that the world's great evil is capitalism -- because it leads to imperialism, which in turn leads to war. And many students acquire a zero-sum picture of the world economy: If some countries and people are poor, it's because others are rich. They're taught that American wealth derives from exploitation and that Americans, accordingly, are responsible for world poverty.
As for America's response to terrorism, David Barash and Charles Webel tidily sum up the view of many peace studies professors in "Peace and Conflict Studies," their widely used 2002 textbook: "A peace-oriented perspective condemns not only terrorist attacks but also any violent response to them." How, then, are democracies supposed to respond to aggression? Should we open an instant dialogue? Should we make endless concessions? Should we apologize? Neville Chamberlain's 1938 capitulation to Hitler at Munich taught -- or should have taught -- that appeasement just puts off a final reckoning, giving an enemy time to gain strength. But the foundation of the peace racket's success lies in forgetting this lesson. What its adherents learn is the opposite: If you want to ensure peace, appease tyranny -- and there will be no more war.
That's the message in a nutshell -- and students find themselves graded largely on their willingness to echo it. Take the case of Brett Mock, who wrote in Front Page magazine about a peace studies class he took in 2004 at Ball State University, which he called "indoctrination rather than education" and which he said was "designed entirely to de-legitimize the use of the military in the defense of our country." To get full credit, Mock reported, students had to "meditate at the Peace Studies center," "attend Interfaith Fellowship meetings" or join PeaceWorkers -- a group for which the teacher, George Wolfe, served as faculty advisor.
Mock is the exception -- a student who raises questions. More typical are the students whose glowing testimonials many programs have posted online. In them, one encounters essentially the same story over and over: the privileged upbringing; the curiosity about other cultures; the visit to the Third World, where the poverty shocks, even transforms, the student; and, finally, the readiness to swallow the professors' explanation for it all -- namely, that it's America's fault.
George Orwell would have understood the attraction of well-off young people to the peace racket. "Turn-the-other-cheek pacifism," he observed in 1941, "only flourishes among the more prosperous classes, or among workers who have in some way escaped from their own class. . . . To abjure violence it is necessary to have no experience of it."
If so many young Americans have grown up insulated from the realities that Vegetius and Sun Tzu elucidated centuries ago, and are therefore easy marks for the peace racket, it's thanks to the success of the very things the peace racket despises -- American capitalism and American military preparedness.
As for the peace racket's recommendations, if democracies consistently followed them, they'd eventually reap the kind of peace found today in Havana or Pyongyang.
Bruce Bawer is author of "When Europe Slept." A longer version of this article appears in the summer issue of City Journal.
The peace racket
'If you want peace, prepare for war,"
This is the worst lie ever perped on the human race.
There have been some necessary wars. The only war that is necessary is directly defending your land from invasion/conquest. The US has never been involved in such a war. If you want to point out WWI and II I might be ok with that. Helping allies protect themselves could be necessary. Esp to prevent further imperialistic action by another country.
All war the US has been involved in since 1945 have been imerialistic wars of conquest.
Everyone wants peace and happiness. Unfortunately, 'everyone' also have ambitions, greed and need/want more power, more resources etc, and don't mind taking it from their neighbor if necessary.
In a perfect world there would be perfect peace all the time, but there will always be a few who "ruins it for the rest of the class".
And so a country has to be prepared to defend itself if provoked, just like anyone would defend their family from harm from an intruder.
Sorry about stating the obvious above, but I unfortunately believe peace will only be short periods of time between wars and conflict.
And so a country has to be prepared to defend itself if provoked
Do you believe any soldier of the US armed forces has fought this kind of war since 1945?
Rich men make wars and poor men fight them. My grandfather was as at Dunkirk and evacuated off the beaches, later he fought in Egypt and came home with shell shock.
IP, you say the only war that is necessary is a defense against invasion. Assuming we buy this presumption, does not preparing for war include preparing for defense? How is this in any way a contradiction to the statement you claim is a great lie?
Peace through superior firepower.
Do you believe any soldier of the US armed forces has fought this kind of war since 1945?
I don't really want to put my foot into that hornet's nest, but since you asked me directly, I think I'll say.... "well - not really". They had the chance - and did to some extent - after 911, with the campaign in Afghanistan which was an attempt to fight Al Quaida over there, but they soon turned their sights on Saddam and Iraq (again), and he didn't really have anything to do with 911, and wasn't much of a threat to the US either, as it turned out.
Argh... I just put my foot in it anyway, didn't I?
I don't like that subject too much, 'cause there's the official story, and then there's a whole lot of unofficial ones, from wild conspiracy theories to more believable stuff, and I'm not sure where I stand on it.
Hi John Doe,
You are a smart guy. Im sure you understand the context of that quote. Perhaps not. Do some research on the Roman military machine and Flavius Vegetius Renatus and get back to me. Mmmkay?
The US has never been involved in such a war. If you want to point out WWI and II I might be ok with that.
The constitution is not ok with it . Accordingly you may not use the US military as a mercenary militia . I can agree we fight these wars mainly for the war profiteers and nothing else . They obviously tax the hell out of the poor in order to pay for feeding the beast , it's almost as bad as when imperialist british started taking what they wanted even tho we now have representation but they are crooks , no question about it .
Very good post, JD, thanks.
Is sec, before you get all condescending about JD learning some roman history, shouldn't you reconsider your statement that the US has never had a war where we defended our actual land from invasion?
The war of 1812?
The White House whas burned.
Just saying is all, mmmkay?
as to all the wars we have been involved in since WWII being unjustified imperialism, that is a load of twaddle if I ever heard one.
Stalin killed 20 million people and lowered an iron curtain over half of europe, and was trying to extend his dominion to our allies as well, he made Hitler seem like a schoolyard bully.
Fighting the spread of communism fits your own definition of 'defending our allies against imperialist invasion.'
After the bloodthirsty hippy peacenicks made us pull out of viet nam, pol pot killed half the country while Noam Chomsky did his PR work calling him an 'agrarian reformer.'
I suppose all those bodies were to fertilize the fields?
ignorance of the facts.
I really think liberalism is about feeling good, but that often entails niavete and closing one's eyes to reality.
Conservatism isn't perfect either, but at least we try to make sure our nations enemies are room temperature instead of serving them tea and crumpets.
If you want peace, make it a bad bet to attack you. there will always be those who desire what you have, or to take you down a rungs. We have a responsibility to our children to ensure that they are safe, and the biggest threat we currently face is islamic fascism, communism might be staging a comeback, and the neocommunism of today's hard left poses a fifth collumn danger right within our walls.
This is no time for feelgood catch phrases that mean nothing like 'rich men start wars, poor men fight them' and 'war profiteers.'
I've started about a zillion of these, this is the part where I agonize over whether to click submit...
Oh hell, here it goes,