Sunday, December 04, 2005

Published in Volume 4, Issue 3, December 1, 2005
Peaceful Solution
Is it time to give a National Department of Peace, a chance?
by Steve Patterson <>
 On any given whim, our country has the destructive power profound 
enough to utterly obliterate any other nation in the world. But 
just because we can, doesn't mean we should.
 Bernard K. Doyle, Jr., a retired U.S. Army officer, served 27 years as 
An infantryman. Although he gives his full support to the military and
sympathizes with the men overseas, Doyle said he no longer condones 
war as a solution. "I am aware of lobbying and movements at present 
and in the past that have been developed to end war, something that 
will not catch on quickly in this nation and other nation states,
" said Doyle. "However, it appears to me that the loss of women, 
children, old people and institutions such as churches, museums, 
power plants water sources and the likes make the people of a 
country suffer beyond the aims of war."
We, as Americans, are protected by the most powerful military on the 
planet. A comforting thought? Many are beginning to think not. 
Throughout MSU and across the nation, Americans are crying out to 
the U.S. government for an alternative method for handling conflict 
- many Americans are crying out for peace. "Our national constitution
 is built on equality and fairness. We need to be reminded of that.
We need to develop peaceful alternatives to conflict."
--Gwen Hill
The state of Michigan has become one of several focal points for the 
Peace mission and the suggested Department of Peace. Gwen Hill, the 
Department of Peace's Congressional Team Leader for the 9th district 
of Michigan does her part everyday to spread the word about what the 
proposed organization would, and does, stand for.
"This is legislation that is meant to last longer than any one war 
or administration," said Hill. "We live at a time when we all see 
the level of violence that permeates our lives and our communities. 
One glance at the headline stories on TV news reports is enough to 
understand that violence threatens to overtake our intentions. It's 
wearing us out."
 And the movement isn't just about that war overseas. "Many people 
Believe that the movement for a Department of Peace is a response 
to the war in Iraq," said Hill. "This is incorrect."
Hypothetically, the war serves as an arena for the Department of 
Peace movement itself. What would the Department of Peace do to 
help the situation? While certainly the proposed department's 
attention span isn't limited to war situations including the 
controversial one in Iraq, it gives a good launching pad for 
discussion on just how the Department of Peace would respond.
 Doyle, having served time for his country, expressed his concerns 
about the current situation. "I believe that now, deeply ensconced 
in a war we are extending ourselves beyond our means and dollars," 
the veteran said. "People are now beginning to question the validity 
of this war and its toll of more than 2,000 of our young men and 
women. People are unsure of the outcome -withdrawal when and how, t
he timing - when will it stop?"
 Some wonder if a Department of Peace could have kept the war from 
Escalating to 2,000 deaths. "If a Secretary of Peace had been a 
part of the Cabinet prior to the Iraq war, we might never have 
entered a war of these proportions," said Hill. "We might have 
had a clear, exit strategy that promoted peace between our nations. 
We might not be creating four new terrorists in the families of 
every one terrorist that we kill. There might be fewer people in the 
world who hate us for our disrespect of cultural norms and our 
violent aggression toward countries whose cultures are not 
westernized to our liking."
 Despite the lack of anything that resembles a peace department in 
our nation's contemporary government, this is not the first time a 
concept of this nature has been announced. In fact, propositions of a 
governmental peace agency have dated back to discussions among 
framers of the Constitution. Throughout American history, the 
notion of having something on this scale has been brought up 
several times, resurging in the minds of revolutionary officials 
but having no real momentum.
 That is, until now.
 Dissipating poll numbers are beginning to show a growing unrest 
towards the war in Iraq, while peace protests and anti-war 
demonstrations litter the nation each year. More importantly, 
the rest of the world grumbles with a critical tongue and glares 
with a disparaging eye. When did America become the evil empire?
 The first formal proposal for the establishment of a U.S. 
Department Of Peace dates to 1792, when architect/publisher 
Benjamin Banneker and physician/educator Dr. Benjamin Rush proposed 
the idea. The initiative was for a "Peace Office" that was to be 
equal with the "War Office," however the concept never received 
proper footing.
 On July 11, 2001, Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 
legislation to create a cabinet level agency dedicated to 
peacemaking and the study of conditions that are conducive to peace. 
Hill said that progress was being made in getting the bill passed
through congress. She further explained that there are now 60 
Congressional co-sponsors of this legislation. There is a bill on 
the floor of the House (House Bill # H.R. 3760) and within the past 
few weeks, a similar bill was introduced on the floor of the Senate 
(Senate Bill # S.1756) by Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota. There are 
activist groups in more than 280 Congressional Districts in 48 states 
and now activist groups in every Congressional District in Michigan.
 This is the potential Department of Peace: a theoretical executive 
branch cabinet that would handle all matters in foreign and 
domestic conflict resolution. The bill also provides for a Peace 
Academy that would train people in peace and peacemaking strategies, 
just as our military academies train students in military strategies.
With conflicts and crisis around the world, the proposed organization 
Would act as an alternate solution for the loss of U.S. casualties 
in a wartime situation. Many are wondering why nothing like this 
had never been done before. Why has it taken America, the world's 
foremost "superpower," to think of a peaceful organization in times 
of conflict resolution that is commonly solved by the gun?
 "The problem isn't that peace is a bad idea...the problem is the 
Department of Peace would be completely ineffective."
--Dave Coogan
 "At the International level, the bill provides for a Secretary of 
Peace on par with the Secretary of Defense," said Hill. "When 
cabinet members meet to respond to an international conflict, the 
Peace Secretary would put peace options on the table for discussion 
and make recommendations to the President."
 Hill said that in a war situation, a Peace Secretary would provide 
Input from peace building experts on how to begin a war with peace 
outcomes integrated into the strategy. "In this way, we can show 
the world that a desire for peaceful coexistence is central to 
American operations abroad," she said.
The Department would not just be an agency on the international 
level but a worldwide organization that deals with many fronts, 
including state, local and domestic issues. Hill explained that on 
the domestic level, the bill provides for trained peace experts to 
present options for making and maintaining peace in response to 
conflict that occurs within our nation and at the local level, the 
bill funds a way to coordinate the application of best practices 
of the many local organizations that respond to violence and 
conflict in our cities and towns.
 "Imagine, for example, local police departments that are burdened 
with responding to domestic violence complaints would be able to 
easily initiate a coordinated community response that included 
family counseling, violence prevention strategies, conflict 
resolution strategies, etc," said Hill.
"Families with repeated domestic violence issues could be served in 
ways that can prevent serious injury, murder or jail time. The 
savings to our communities would be significant."
 While Hill's enthusiasm for a more basic solution is understandable, 
Many disagree that an organization is required for that purpose. 
Dave Coogan, the second vice chair of the College Republicans and 
international relations junior, is decidedly skeptical about this 
affair. "The domestic solutions the Department of Peace is supposed 
to provide are already handled at the local level," he said. 
"The Department of Peace is going to address problems like drug and 
alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse, civil rights, sister-city 
programs and animal abuse. I can assure you that your city and 
state government is going to handle these problems better than the 
federal government." Coogan is also weary of the financial costs 
the department would bring. "If I remember right, the Department 
of Peace budget would be almost $10 billion. I don't think that 
the United States government should be spending money on a 
Department of Peace," said Coogan. "The problem isn't that peace 
is a bad idea…the problem is the Department of Peace would be 
completely ineffective."
"This campaign gives rise to a renewed level of good citizenship.
Peace is what our citizens want."
  --Gwen Hill
The ultimate decision could rest solely on this pivotal matter. 
"The proposed budget for a Department of Peace and Nonviolence would 
be only 2 percent of the budget of the Department of Defense in 
any given year," said Hill. We know that effective, preventive 
measures save money. The war in Iraq is costing us approximately 
$1 billion each week. Without an exit strategy, who knows how long 
this astronomical drain on our economy will last?"
 Once aptly named the War Department before 1947, the United States
Department of Defense's budget exceeds approximately $425 billion a 
year(not including the tens of billions more in supplemental 
expenditures allotted by Congress) and since its birth has waged 
major campaigns in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. The Department of 
Defense includes the combined powers of Army, Navy, Air Force and 
Marines as well as non-combat agencies such as the National Security
 Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
 Coogan was adamant about his opposition to the proposed organization,
stating that most of the international issues that the Department of 
Peace will deal with are handled by the Department of State. "The 
Department of Peace being a counter to the Department of Defense…
not going to happen," he said. "Even if the Secretary of Peace was 
on the National Security Council, he or she would still be one of 
the President's supporters. They would not be bringing an 
alternative policy perspective to the discussion."
This is another problem facing the proposition…do we really need 
Something that could so easily be covered by another faction? While 
this is a major question, Doyle reminds us that there is no attempt 
at issues such as these. He said it could be to the nation's 
ultimate benefit to have one organization in charge of handling 
conflict decisions. "I do not see the Department of Peace 
conflicting with the Department of Defense but rather being 
an alter ego for it and the entire government," the former 
soldier said. "Our national constitution is built on equality 
and fairness. We need to be reminded of that. A Department of Peace 
would make that more evident. We need to develop peaceful 
alternatives to conflict."
 With all the praise and opposition, the Department of Peace is 
either a saving grace for world and domestic issues or a doomed 
ideological venture-and a costly one at that. "I think it would just
 be a costly government office that would make people like 
Martin Luther King Assistant Secretary to Civil Rights," said 
Coogan. "He would then be working in the government bureaucracy 
instead of creating change in the street."
 Expressing overall thoughts on who we are as a people and what the
organization could mean for us as a whole, Hill said, "It's you and
 me and our neighbors being responsible and responsive citizens.
This campaign gives rise to a renewed level of good citizenship. 
Peace is what our citizens want. The Department of Peace and 
Nonviolence Campaign gives ordinary citizens the opportunity to 
learn about how legislation get passed. It gives us a vehicle to 
make a meaningful contribution toward the kind of society Americans 
really want."
She continued, "What Americans are learning is that our democracy 
does not work without us. Our democracy is meant to be by the 
people, of the people and for the people. The 'people' is us."
 It is easy for any MSU student to get involved with the program. 
Go to and request to find a point person 
in your area. From there you will be permanently signed up on the 
Department of Peace mailing list and will receive e-mails from the 
leader in your area.
*Steve Patterson can be reached at
Copyright 2003-2005 The Big Green. All Rights Reserved.

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