Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Create a Department of Peace

by Marianne Williamson
Published on May 3, 2006, by CommonDreams.org

"I cannot tell you with what weapons mankind would fight WW3, but I can assure you that WW4 would be fought with sticks and stones."
—Albert Einstein

There is currently a bill before both Houses of Congress to establish a United States Department of Peace (House Resolution 3760 and Senate 1756). This historic measure will augment our current problem-solving modalities, providing practical, nonviolent solutions to the problems of domestic and international conflict.

During the 20th Century, over 100 million people lost their lives to war -- most of whom were non-combatants. Now, at the dawn of the 21st century, the extent and current speed of nuclear proliferation makes the achievement of non-violent alternatives to war the most urgent need of the human race.

From the growing rate of domestic incarceration to increasing problems of international violence, the United States has no more serious problem in our midst than the problem of violence itself. Prison-building is our largest urban industry, and we spend over 400 billion dollars a year on military-related expenditures. Yet there is within the workings of the U.S. government, no platform from which to seriously wage peace. We place no institutional heft behind an effort to address the causal issues of violence, diminishing its psychological force before it erupts into material conflict. From child abuse to genocide, from the murder of one to the slaughter of thousands, it is increasingly senseless to merely wait until violence has erupted before addressing the deeper well from which it springs.

Following are answers to some frequently asked questions about the Department of Peace legislation.

Q: Why should the American public support the Department of Peace?
A: There is currently no organized approach by the U.S. government that aims at creating nonviolent solutions to domestic and international conflict. A violent response to violence should always be our last resort, which is difficult in the absence of a sophisticated, well-funded strategy for peace. While certain applications of brute force – from prisons to war – are arguably necessary, as a nation we should still be actively involved in a search for their ultimate end. By giving the interests of peace a full cabinet position, we make it a national priority. Peace becomes a national goal to which we aspire, as we analyze all domestic and foreign policy in light of its dictates. While the President and Congress remain the ultimate arbiters of our laws, with the Department of Peace they will have a higher level of consultation regarding nonviolent options to brute force.

Q: Does a Department of Peace duplicate the Department of State?
A: No. First, the Department of State handles only international matters, while the Department of Peace will operate both domestically and abroad. Second, the State Department deals exclusively with other "States," i.e. recognized governmental entities. While such an approach was adequate throughout most of the post WWII era, there is obviously now a greater need to deal creatively, if not diplomatically, with non-state agents. The Department of State plays an important and pivotal role in American diplomacy, and nothing in this legislation would change that. The Dept. of Peace, however, will augment the efforts of the Department of State, as well as the Department of Defense. Its work will go beyond “intelligence-gathering,” to a pro-active search for non-violent solutions. We should be as sophisticated in the ways we wage peace as we are in the ways we wage war. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, speaking of his leadership during the Viet Nam War, said, “We knew nothing about Vietnamese religion, psychology or culture – and we had no one to tell us.” With a Department of Peace, that would never be the case. This department would be actively involved in studying the most human aspects of conflict, and applying ways to resolve them peacefully.

Q: There are so many departments not getting the funding they need. Where is the money for the Department of Peace coming from?
A: The current bill calls for budgeting the Department of Peace at 2% of our defense budget. With over 400 billion dollars now spent on military-related expenditures, it should not be asking too much to spend the equivalent of two per cent of that amount on providing complementary problem-solving options. From our police departments to our schools to our fire departments to our military, we are dangerously overstretched in our capacity to respond to violence. Clearly, we should do everything possible to resolve conflict peacefully before it manifests violently. Beyond that, we are at a point in our history when we must consider the deeper costs of violence, including the increasingly dangerous possibility of nuclear war. There should be no amount considered too much to spend for the search for a nonviolent future.

Q: People have been violent forever. Isn't that just how people are?
A: While it can be argued that people have been violent forever, we have not had the proliferation of nuclear bombs at our disposal with which to express our violence. This is not like any other time in human history. We must evolve past war, or war will end our evolution. Today we have at our disposal, along with highly-skilled practitioners, techniques for conflict-resolution and peace-building that should be swiftly added to our national response systems. The Department of Peace would be the agent for the integration of these techniques into our governmental functioning both domestically and abroad.

Q: Why can’t work such as the Department of Peace legislation espouses be left to other agencies to integrate into their already existing efforts?
A: Obviously, peace work can be and in some cases already is a party of existing agencies. When such efforts are placed under one umbrella, however – such as in the establishment of our Department of Homeland Security – then they attain a higher level of synergy, effective co-ordination and influence upon the thinking of American citizens.

The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency by Richard Nixon did not begin our commitment to the environment, yet it raised it to a much higher level of national priority. And so should it be with the interests of peace.

These are some of the many reasons why we feel this legislation represents an important collective effort, as American citizens, to do everything we possibly can to save the world for our children's children. The legislation will pass from bill to law under one condition: that a wave of citizen interest rise up from the American people and make itself heard in the halls of Congress.

The Peace Alliance (www.ThePeaceAlliance.org) educates and inspires thousands throughout the country with the knowledge, skill and enthusiasm to become powerful citizen activists on behalf of the Department of Peace legislation. Our campaign has citizen organizers working in all 50 states. Local activists are mobilizing a mighty wave of momentum by working with their members of congress, writing editorials, doing local radio and TV interviews, organizing local talks and trainings, getting city council endorsements, visiting with Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, Military Officials, Prison Officials, Directors of Abuse Shelters, School Boards, etc. to share and discuss how a Department of Peace would benefit their community. There are currently 64 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 2 in the senate.

Join us now. Create a Department of Peace.

Marianne Williamson (www.marianne.com) is an internationally acclaimed author and Chair of The Peace Alliance, and the campaign to establish a U.S. Dept. of Peace. Her latest book is The Gift of Change. Marianne's newest professional venture is her own radio show, to be aired on the new XM Radio block called "Oprah and Friends," beginning in September 2006.

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2 Comments:

Blogger k said...

great Einstein quote!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing a Department of Peace could support would be organizations like
the Institute for International Mediation and Conflict Resolution, or Seeds for Peace.

Check them out:

http://www.iimcr.org/
http://www.seedsforpeace.org/

Personally I think the IIMCR symposia need to be run on a braoder scale. The more people that understand the roots of conlfict the less people that die. It is that simple.

Thursday, May 11, 2006 11:23:00 AM  

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