Published in Volume 4, Issue 3,
December 1, 2005
Is it time to give a National Department of Peace, a chance?
by Steve Patterson <http://www.thebiggreen.net/info.php?staff=142>
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
government for an alternative method for handling conflict U.S.
- 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."
The state of
has become one of several focal points for the Michigan
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
," said Hill. "This is incorrect." Iraq
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
war, we might never have Iraq
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
, while peace protests and anti-war Iraq
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
become the evil empire? America
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
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
. There are Minnesota
activist groups in more than 280 Congressional Districts in 48 states
and now activist groups in every Congressional District in
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 that would train people in peace and peacemaking strategies, Academy
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
in a wartime situation. Many are wondering why nothing like this
had never been done before. Why has it taken
, the world's America
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."
"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
government should be spending money on a United States
Department of Peace," said Coogan. "The problem isn't that peace
is a bad idea…the problem is the Department of Peace would be
"This campaign gives rise to a renewed level of good citizenship.
Peace is what our citizens want."
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
is costing us approximately Iraq
$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
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 and Vietnam . The Department of Iraq
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
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 www.thepeacealliance.org 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
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