PEACE in Action

Let's Wage Peace; Our "Wars" Aren't Working

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Working for International Peace
Let's Wage Peace; Our "Wars" Aren't Working

In November 1985, I wrote an Agenda for Peace in the first issue of PEACE in Action. I pointed out that superpowers and smaller nations were seeking madly for national security, thereby fueling arms races that were making them all more insecure. In the process, they were using (misusing) financial and human resources that were needed to deal with environmental preservation, nonrenewable resource preservation, and overcoming economic, political and social injustices. Those unresolved injustices have contributed to violence in many developing countries and to current day terrorism.

In April 1986, Brigadier Michael N. Harbottle, OBE, a retired British military officer who had been involved in and studied a number of conflicts, presented a paper in which he listed some of the many unsolved conflicts in place at that time. He posed and answered a question that we would do well to consider: "Why is it that the highly sophisticated, well-trained and equipped, numerically superior military forces of the 'elite' powers are unable to defeat the irregular and numerically smaller opposition? It is because the enforcement acts as a spur to the resolve and determination to resist, not only by the fighters but also by those who support them, feed them, and sympathize with their cause. The enforcement process deals only with the manifest violence, not with the structural social, economic, and elemental grievances which are at the root of the manifest violence. Enforcement attacks the symptoms and exacerbates the causes."

In articles in PEACE in Action and in books he subsequently published, Dr. John W. Burton has elaborated on the results of a number of conflicts and their resolutions and developed techniques for conflict resolution and conflict prevention. He also emphasized the importance of analyzing conflicts or potential conflicts, and the importance of having an outside facilitator who can help protagonists fully understand the feelings and positions of each other (or each other's group). As he stated in the article Conflict Resolution as a Political System (PEACE in Action, February 1989): "Universal needs and values include security, identity, recognition, and development. Unless they are met, no political system can be stable."

For too long, we have defined peace as a lack of war. Finally, this is changing. In July 1989, the Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men, while meeting in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), elaborated the concept of a culture of peace and urged the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to "construct a new vision of peace by developing a peace culture based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights, and equality between women and men."

In response, UNESCO held a series of meetings and developed a Culture of Peace program, which it set forth in a monogram in 1995 entitled UNESCO and a Culture of Peace—Promoting a Global Movement. Besides describing a number of peace programs around the world, the UNESCO booklet defined a culture of peace.

The Fall 2000 issue of PEACE in Action, which elaborated on the UNESCO view of the process of establishing a culture of peace, also carried The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century which had been elaborated at the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in May 1999. This document, which reflects the collaboration of hundreds of civil society organizations from many countries, offers 50 areas for international action organized around four main themes: 1) Root Causes of War/Culture of Peace; 2) International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law and Institutions; 3) Prevention, Resolution, and Transformation of Violent Conflict; and 4) Disarmament and Human Security. To review the 50 areas for action, see the Fall 2000 issue of PEACE in Action or The Hague Appeal for Peace website.

As a result of an appeal by all living Nobel Peace Laureates, the UN General Assembly in 1998 proclaimed 2000 The Year for the Culture of Peace and the decade 2001-2010 the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World. In the Spring 2004 issue of PEACE in Action, we had an article on how a group of committed citizens in Houston, Texas (USA) established The Decade of Nonviolence—Houston chapter. We hope to hear about other cities and countries that have taken seriously the challenge to build a culture of peace and nonviolence. We include some articles in this issue about some individual actions for peace and understanding; we also have a Resources section to assist those seeking additional ideas for positive actions to promote peace.

Peace is Everyone's Responsibility

Building a culture of peace is everyone's responsibility. Every day, each of us has the opportunity to build a culture of peace—or weaken such a culture—by how we relate to those with whom we come in contact and by what organizations we choose to support. Unfortunately, how we relate to others frequently is based on erroneous or inadequate information, and this has affected our beliefs and perceptions. Even worse, our beliefs lead us to perceive those things that tell us the beliefs are correct. If we believe that certain people are hostile toward us, we will be particularly sensitive to any action that can be interpreted as hostile.

These beliefs may also be self-limiting, leading to thoughts such as: "There is nothing I can do about…," "I'm not qualified to…" There are also unquestioned assumptions about defense and warfare: "It is unrealistic to think that nuclear weapons can be reduced or eliminated," "more weapons provide more security," and "nuclear war is winnable."

However, we do not have to accept these beliefs as dictators and limits of our worth and our capacity to make our environment more peaceful. We can exchange these beliefs for ones that are more empowering and help us to promote a culture of peace. In his Changing our Mind Set article (PEACE in Action, November 1985), Willis Harman made the above points, drawing on a book by Roger Walsh—Staying Alive: The Psychology of Human Survival (New Science Library, 1984). Dr. Harman, who was the president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, also challenged us to think how we would feel if:

  • the fear of nuclear holocaust was no more, because the weapons themselves had been obliterated;
  • war and preparation for war had no legitimacy;
  • effective worldwide peacekeeping forces and conflict resolution teams had been accepted by the majority of nations and were supported by worldwide public opinion;
  • major conflicts were settled by nonviolent means; and
  • there was international cooperation toward solving the most vexing of the global problems.

In the international arena, the United Nations has been created to help implement many of the things needed—see The UN at 60 articles later in this issue. While the UN needs strengthening, it needs most of all support from Member countries, especially from the most powerful and influential Members—the United States in particular.

As I write this, the big news is the launching of missiles by North Korea, and the discussions in the UN Security Council about what to do about it. So far, the discussions are focusing on the latest action, not analyzing the broader issues involved. Instead of threatening the North Koreans, use this time to do something positive for peace—as suggested by David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, in the following E-mail of July 5, 2006:

"The US government and the US news media have been describing the North Korean missile tests as "provocations." One must ask why the North Korean tests are provocative, while the US missile tests are just tests. Such language is reflective of the double standard lenses through which the Bush administration views the world. I agree that the North Koreans should not be testing nor developing long-range missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, but then neither should the US, Russia or others. Why not press for the US to provide some leadership toward a missile test ban that all nations would adhere to? If such a ban were in place, then a country that tested a ballistic missile could rightly be viewed as having acted provocatively. In the meantime, commentators and citizens should think seriously about the effectiveness of double standards, wherever they are applied. …"

"The North Korean missile tests underline the need for the US to take seriously its obligation under international law to achieve nuclear disarmament. Only the US has the ability, should it choose, to provide diplomatic leadership to the other nuclear weapons states to join in a treaty for complete nuclear disarmament; negotiations to this end are required under the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—which the United States has signed and ratified."

Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, Article VI:

"Each of the parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and international control."

Besides the foregoing suggestion for positive action, countries (and especially the United States) should take positive peace-building actions based on a number of articles in the Spring 2004 issue of PEACE in Action—.see our website: []

With regard to the situation in Iraq, the U.S. leadership would do well to read two other articles from the Spring 2004 issue of PEACE in Action: 1) Dr. Rubenstein's article An Exit Strategy from Iraq; and 2) Ambassador (Retired) McDonald's article Using Multi-Track Diplomacy to Deal with Ethnic Conflict. The discussions in the U.S. Congress have been shameful, particularly the efforts to call one group cowards who want to "cut and run." Our objective should be to respond to the felt needs of the Iraqi people. Leaving aside the fact that the U.S. broke international law by going in to Iraq, the U.S. should be planning to remove itself from Iraq as soon as possible, and it should be listening to the Iraqis about how best to help them.

The Courier magazine, published by The Stanley Foundation, reported recently on surveys in Iraq which found that Iraqis of all stripes want the occupiers out, even though they recognize their need for help. They also favored an international conference with the UN, European and Middle Eastern countries participating to develop plans, and offer assistance, for the reconstruction of their country. This would offer a graceful way for the U.S. and the United Kingdom and others to retire from the scene as occupiers, and it would also help pave the way for Iraq's rehabilitation. The recent announcement by the Iraqi Government and the UN of the formal launch of the International Compact with Iraq in late July 2006 should facilitate this action. The Compact is an initiative of the Government of Iraq for a new partnership with the international community and multilateral organizations to help Iraq achieve its National Vision.

Again the Israeli Government is over-reacting to terrorist attacks, ignoring the counsel of Isaiah not to go beyond an eye for an eye; it is also ignoring the experience of recent years.. Early in this article, Brigadier Harbottle has explained why this type of action is counterproductive. If they really want peace, it is time to stop behaving like the United States and start working with third parties to find solutions, to think outside the box of force. Perhaps they might even think about such radical ideas as: 1) making Jerusalem an international city, perhaps the headquarters for a regional UN organization; and 2) establishing an Israeli-Palestinian federation (like Cameroon in 1960—see Peace in Action, Spring 2004).

Very relevant to the current situation in Lebanon is the editorial "Violence is a False Redeemer" in the August 11 issue of the National Catholic Reporter. It cites the inconsistency of U.S. actions related to the violence, and it points out how innocent civilians are bearing the brunt of the war there. It also cites what Walter Wink, the Protestant theologian, calls "the myth of redemptive violence"—"it speaks for God; it does not listen for God to speak. … its God is not the impartial ruler of all nations but a tribal god worshiped as an idol. … Its offer is not forgiveness but victory. It is blasphemous. It is idolatrous—- but it is immensely popular." The editor adds "It is difficult to see the shining city on the hill when so much of our effort, treasury and youth is mired in blood-soaked sand."

Once again, there is a move to create a Department of Peace in the United States—a good idea for all countries. In the United States, there is a bill before both Houses of Congress (House Resolution 3760 and Senate 1756). Domestically, the Department would develop policies and allocate resources to effectively reduce the levels of domestic and gang violence, child abuse, and various other forms of societal discord. Internationally, the Department would advise the President and Congress on the most sophisticated ideas and techniques regarding peace-creation among nations. I hope American readers will contact their representatives to support the bills.

For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we need to encourage all countries to seek ways to promote peace!

The Editor

Observe Good Faith and Justice Toward All Nations. Cultivate Peace and Harmony With All.

George Washington

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