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The Peace Racket
An anti-Western movement touts dictators, advocates appeasementand gains momentum.
If you want peace, prepare for war. Thus counseled Roman general Flavius Vegetius Renatus over 1,600 years ago. Nine centuries before that, Sun Tzu offered essentially the same advice, and its to him that Vegetiuss line is attributed at the beginning of a film that I saw recently at Oslos Nobel Peace Center. Yet the film cites this ancient wisdom only to reject it. After serving up a perverse potted history of the cold war, the thrust of which is that the peace movement brought down the Berlin Wall, the movie ends with words that turn Vegetiuss insight on its head: If you want peace, prepare for peace.
This purports to be wise counsel, a motto for the millennium. In reality, its wishful thinking that doesnt follow logically from the history of the cold war, or of any war. For the cold wars real lesson is the same one that Sun Tzu and Vegetius taught: conflict happens; power matters. Its better to be strong than to be weak; youre safer if others know that youre ready to stand up for yourself than if youre proudly outspoken about your defenselessness or your unwillingness to fight. Theres nothing mysterious about this truth. Yet its denied not only by the Peace Center film but also by the fast-growing, troubling movement that the center symbolizes and promotes.
Call it the Peace Racket.
We need to make two points about this movement at the outset. First, its opposed to every value that the West stands forliberty, free markets, individualismand it despises America, the supreme symbol and defender of those values. Second, were talking not about a bunch of naive Quakers 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. It is also waging an aggressive, under-the-media-radar campaign for a cabinet-level Peace Department in the United States. Sponsored by Ohio Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich (along with more than 60 cosponsors), House Resolution 808 would authorize a Secretary of Peace to establish a Peace Academy, develop a peace education curriculum for elementary and secondary schools, and 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.
The Peace Rackets boundaries arent easy to define. It embraces scores of peace institutes and peace centers in the U.S. and Europe, plus several hundred university peace studies programs. As Ian Harris, Larry Fisk, and Carol Rank point out in a sympathetic overview of these programs, its hard to say exactly how many existpartly because they often go by other labels, such as security studies and human rights education; partly because many professors who infuse peace material into courses do not offer special courses with the title peace in them; and finally because several small liberal arts colleges offer an introductory course requirement to all incoming students which infuses peace and justice themes. Many primary and secondary schools also teach peace studies in some form.
Peace studies initiatives may train students to be social workers, to work in churches or community health organizations, or to resolve family quarrels and neighborhood disputes. At the movements heart, though, are programs whose purported emphasis is on international relations. Their founding father is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later. Invariably portrayed in the media as a charismatic and (these days) grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom. In 1973, he thundered that our times grotesque reality wasno, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the Wests structural fascism. Hes called America a killer country, accused it of neo-fascist state terrorism, and gleefully prophesied that it will soon follow Britain into the graveyard of empires.
No fan of Britain either, Galtung has faulted Anglo-Americans for trying to stop the wind from blowing. If the U.S. and the U.K. oppose a dangerous development, in his view, were causing troubleMiloević, Saddam, and Osama are just the way the wind is blowing. Galtungs kind of thinking leads inexorably to the conclusion that one should never challenge any tyrant. Fittingly, he urged Hungarians not to resist the Soviet Army in 1956, and his views on World War II suggest that hed have preferred it if the Allies had allowed Hitler to finish off the Jews and invade Britain.
Though Galtung has opined that the annihilation of Washington, D.C., would be a fair punishment for Americas arrogant view of itself as a model for everyone else, hes long held up certain countries as worthy of emulationamong them Stalins USSR, whose economy, he predicted in 1953, would soon overtake the Wests. Hes also a fan of Castros Cuba, which he praised in 1972 for break[ing] free of imperialisms iron grip. At least you cant accuse Galtung of hiding his prejudices. In 1973, explaining world politics in a childrens newspaper, he described the U.S. and Western Europe as rich, Western, Christian countries that make war to secure materials and markets: Such an economic system is called capitalism, and when its spread in this way to other countries its called imperialism. In 1974, he sneered at the Wests fixation on persecuted elite personages such as Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. Thirty years later, he compared the U.S. to Nazi Germany for bombing Kosovo and invading Afghanistan and Iraq. For Galtung, a war that liberates is no better than one that enslaves.
His all-time favorite nation? China during the Cultural Revolution. Visiting his Xanadu, Galtung concluded that the Chinese loved life under Mao: after all, they were all nice and smiling. While repressive in a certain liberal sense, he wrote, Maos China was endlessly liberating when seen from many other perspectives that liberal theory has never understood. Why, China showed that the whole theory about what an open society is must be rewritten, probably also the theory of democracyand it will take a long time before the West will be willing to view China as a master teacher in such subjects.
Nor has Galtung changed his tune over the decades. Recently he gave a lecture that was a smorgasbord of wild accusations about Americas refusing to negotiate with Saddam, Americas secret plans to make war in Azerbaijan, Nazis in the State Department, the CIAs responsibility for 6 million covert murders, and so on. Galtung called for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Iraqto treat Americas crimes, not the Baathists.
Galtungs use of the word peace to legitimize totalitarianism is an old Communist tradition. In August 1939, when the Nazis and Soviets signed their nonaggression pact, the same Western Stalinists who had been calling for war against Germany did an about-face and began to praise peace. (After Hitler invaded Russia, the Stalinists reversed themselves again, demanding that the West help Stalin crush the Third Reich.) The peace talk, in short, was really about sympathizing with Communism, not peace. And it continued after the war, when Stalins Western supporters whitewashed his monstrous regime and denounced anti-Communists as warmongering crypto-fascists. Peace conferences and friendship committees drew hordes of liberal dupes, who didnt grasp that their new friends were not ordinary Russians but the jailers of ordinary Russiansand that the committees were about not friendship but deception, exploitation, and espionage.
The people running todays peace studies programs give a good idea of the movements illiberal, anti-American inclinations. The director of Purdues program is coeditor of Marxism Today, a collection of essays extolling socialism; Brandeiss peace studies chairman has justified suicide bombings; the program director at the University of Missouri authorized a mass e-mail urging students and faculty to boycott classes to protest the Iraq invasion; and the University of Maines 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. (Such New Age babble often mixes with the Marxism in peace studies jargon.)
What these people teach remains faithful to Galtungs anti-Western inspiration. First and foremost, they emphasize that the worlds great evil is capitalismbecause it leads to imperialism, which in turn leads to war. The account of capitalism in David Barash and Charles Webels widely used 2002 textbook Peace and Conflict Studies leans heavily on Lenin, who maintained that only revolutionnot reformcould undo capitalisms tendency toward imperialism and thence to war, and on Galtung, who helpfully revised Lenins theories to account for Americas indirect imperialism. Students acquire a zero-sum picture of the world economy: if some countries and people are poor, its because others are rich. Theyre taught that American wealth derives entirely from exploitation and that Americans, accordingly, are responsible for world poverty.
If the image of tenured professors pushing such anticapitalist nonsense on privileged suburban kids sounds like a classic case of liberals throwing stones at their own houses, get a load of this: Americas leading Peace Racket institution is probably the University of Notre Dames Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studiesendowed by and named for the widow of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds, 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 the grounds that he had defended terrorism.
Peace studies students also discover how to think in terms of deep culture. How to prevent war between, say, the U.S. and Saddams Iraq? Answer: examine each countrys deep cultureits key psychosocial traits, good and badto understand its motives. Americans, according to this bestiary, are warlike and money-obsessed; Iraqis are intensely religious and proud. Not surprisingly, the Peace Rackets summations of deep cultures skew against the West. The deep-culture approach also avoids calling tyrants or terrorists evilfor behind every atrocity, in this view, lies a legitimate grievance, which the peacemaker should locate so that all parties can meet at the negotiating table as moral equals. SUNY Binghamton, for instance, offers a peace studies course that seeks to arrive at an understanding of contemporary violence in its ideological, cultural, and structural dimensions in a bid to move away from evil, inhuman, and uncivilized as analytical categories.
For the Peace Racket, to kill innocents in cold blood is to buy the right to dialogue, negotiation, concessionsand power. So students learn to identify insurgent or militant groups with the populations they purport to represent. A few years ago, a peace organization called Transcend equated the demands of the Basque terrorist group ETA with the desires of the Basque peopleas if a people were a monolithic group for whom a band of murderous thugs could presume to speak. The complaints that Transcend made about the Spanish governments blockade positionsits refusal to cave to terrorist demandsand the Spanish medias lack of objectivitytheir refusal to take a middle position between Spanish society and ETA terroristsare standard Peace Racket fare. Similarly, during Saddams dictatorship, peace scholars wrote as if Iraq were equivalent to Saddam and the Baath party, entirely removing from the picture the Shiites and Kurds whom Saddams regime subjugated, tortured, and slaughtered.
The recipes for peace that flow from such thinking seem designed not only to buttress oppression but to create more of it. For if democracies consistently followed the Peace Rackets recommendations, what theyd eventually reap would be the kind of peace found today in Havana or Pyongyang.
The Peace Racket maintains that the Western worlds profound moral culpability, arising from its history of colonialism and economic exploitation, deprives it of any right to judge non-Western countries or individuals. Further, the non-West has suffered so much from exploitation that whatever offenses it commits are legitimate attempts to recapture dignity, obtain justice, and exact revenge. Have Third World terrorists taken Americans hostage? Dont call the hostages innocent victims. After all, as Americans, theyre complicit in a system that has long inflicted structural violence (or structural terrorism) upon the Third World poor. Donald Rothberg of San Franciscos Saybrook Institute explains: In using the term structural violence, we identify phenomena as violent that are not usually seen as violent. For example, Western economic domination.
It is this mind-set that leads peace professors to accuse the U.S. of state terrorism, to call George W. Bush the worlds worst terrorist, and even to characterize those murdered in the Twin Towers as oppressors who, by working at investment banks and brokerage houses, were ultimately responsible for their own deaths. Barash and Webel, for instance, write sympathetically of frustrated, impoverished, infuriated people . . . who view the United States as a terrorist country and for whom attacks on American civilians were justified because one shouldnt distinguish between a terrorist state and the citizens who aid and abet that state. They also approvingly quote Osama bin Ladens claim that for many disempowered people, Americans are the worst terrorists in the worldthereby inviting students to consider Osama a legitimate spokesperson for the disempowered. Speaking at a memorial concert on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, George Wolfe of Ball State Universitys peace studies program suggested that we reflect on what we as Americans may have done or not done, to invoke such extreme hatred. The Kroc Institutes David Cortright agrees: We must ask ourselves . . . what the United States has done to incur such wrath.
In short, its America that is the wellspring of the worlds problems. In the peace studies world, Americas role as the beacon of opportunity for generations of immigrants is mocked, its defense of freedom in World War II and the cold war is reinterpreted to its discredit, and every major postwar atrocity (the Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, genocide in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan) is ignored, minimized, oras with 9/11blamed on the U.S. itself.
One peace studies motif holds that the U.S. intentionally preserves its enemies to justify military expenses. According to a 2000 article by Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, for instance, the Pentagon deplored the prospect of peace between the Koreas because it would erase the most menacing of our putative rogue state adversaries and thus imperil . . . future military appropriations. (For Klare, North Korea is only putatively a rogue state.) The director of Cornells peace studies program, Matthew Evangelista, blames the cold war on the U.S. Defense Department and claims that it ended only because a good-hearted, newly enlightened Gorbachev heeded the advice of transnational [peace] activists. You might think that no one could fall for such nonsense. But keep in mind that the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and that students starting college in 2007 arrived in the world a year later. They dont remember the cold warand are ripe targets for disinformation.
As for Americas response to terrorism, Barash and Webel tidily sum up the view of many peace studies professors: A peace-oriented perspective condemns not only terrorist attacks but also any violent response to them. How should democracies respond to aggression? Hold dialogue. Make concessions. Apologize. Neville Chamberlains 1938 capitulation to Hitler at Munich taughtor should have taughtthat appeasement just puts off a final reckoning, giving an enemy time to gain strength. The foundation of the Peace Rackets success lies in forgetting this lesson. Peace studies students discover that the lesson of World War II is the evil of war itself and the need to prevent it by all possible meanswhich, of course, is exactly what Chamberlain thought he was doing in Munich. What they learn, in short, is the opposite of the wars real lesson.
Warblogger Frank Martin described his visit to the military cemetery at Arnhem, in the Netherlands, where a teenage guide said that the Allied soldiers were fighting for bridges; how silly that they would all fight for something like that. Martin was outraged: I tried to explain that they werent fighting for bridges, but for his and his families freedom. That teenager articulated precisely the kind of thinking that peace professors seek to instill in their studentsthat freedom is at best an overvalued asset that can hinder peacemaking, and at worst a lie, and that those who harp on it are either American propagandists or dupes whove fallen for the propaganda. In March, Yusra Moshtat, an associate of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, and Jan Oberg, director of the foundation, wrote that words like democracy and freedom are deceptive, cover-ups or Unspeak. And in a 1997 speech at a Texas peace foundation, Oscar Arias, ex-president of Costa Rica and founder of his own peace foundation, described the American preoccupation with freedom versus tyranny as obsolete, oversimplified, and above all dangerous, because it could lead to war. In other words, if you want to ensure peace, worry less about freedom. Appease tyranny, accept it, embrace itand therell be no more war.
Thats the Peace Rackets message in a nutshelland students find themselves graded largely on their willingness to echo it. For while the peace professor argues that terrorist positions deserve respect at the negotiating table, he seldom tolerates alternative views in the classroom. Real education exposes students to a range of ideas and trains them to think critically about all orthodoxies. Peace studies, as a rule, rejects questioning of its own guiding ideology.
Take the case of Brett Mock, who writes in FrontPage Magazine that a peace studies class hed taken in 2004 at Ball State Universityindoctrination rather than education, as he puts ithad been designed entirely to delegitimize the use of the military in the defense of our country. The teacher, George Wolfe, would not allow any serious study of the reasons for the use of force in response to an attack, and students were expected to parrot . . . back views we did not agree with. To get full credit, moreover, Mock reports, students had to meditate at the Peace Studies center, attend Interfaith Fellowship meetings, or join Peace Workersa group that Wolfe founded and that, according to Sara Dogan of Students for Academic Freedom, is part of a coalition of radical groups that includes the Muslim Students Association . . . and the Young Communist League. Kyle Ellis, another Ball State student, added that Wolfe has required students to attend a screening of the antiwar propaganda film Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the War in Iraq, without material critical of the film and representing the other side.
Then theres Andrew Saraf, who in 2006 objected publicly to the one-sidedness of a peace studies course taught at his Bethesda high school by Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy. The class, Saraf complained, is headed by an individual with a political agenda, who wants to teach students the right way of thinking by giving them facts that are skewed in one direction. McCarthy shrugged off the criticism, having long ago admitted his courses bias: Over the years, Ive had suggestions from other teachers to offer what they call balance in my courses, that I should give students the other side. Im never sure exactly what that means. After assigning students to read Gandhi I should have them also read Carl von Clausewitz? After Martin Luther Kings essay against the Vietnam War, Colin Powells memoir favoring the Persian Gulf War? After Justice William Brennan and Thurgood Marshalls views opposing the death penalty, George W. Bush and Saddam Husseins favoring it? After a womans account of her using a nonviolent defense against a rapist, the thwarted rapists side? (Note, by the way, the facile juxtaposition of Bush and Saddam.)
Mock and Saraf are the exceptionsstudents who raise questions. One can begin to form a picture of the typical peace studies student by reading the testimonials by students and graduates that many of these programs have posted online. Essentially the same story occurs over and over in these accounts: the privileged upbringing; the curiosity about other cultures; the visit to the Third World, where the poverty shocks, even transforms, the student (I . . . would never be the same after experiencing what I did in Honduras); and, finally, the readiness to swallow the peace professors explanation for it allnamely, that its Americas faultand to work for revolutionary change. Many students make it clear that theyre ashamed to be American; one of them, listing her aspirations, writes, I envision myself American, not needing to be embarrassed of it. They view themselves instead as global citizens.
The more one considers oneself a global citizen, of course, the less one considers oneself an American citizen whose loyalty is to the Constitution and its freedoms. Each new global citizen, in fact, transfers his loyalty to the Peace Racket. No wonder these students often sound like cultists: I have pledged my passion, dedication, and undying energy to the World Peace Program and the ongoing fight for a more peaceful world for all people. They may think that theyve figured out the world (Global Militarism and Human Survival . . . has allowed me to analyze how the United States military agenda denies indigenous rights and crushes peoples hopes for social justice all over the world), but all theyre doing is regurgitating ideological clichés.
Reading these personal accounts, I remembered being 17. Id never been outside North America, but Id paid attention in history class and, being curious about the world, had read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Babi Yar, 1984, John Gunthers Inside series, several books about the USSR, and much else. I had an uncle whod been in a Nazi POW camp, a Polish-speaking grandmother who felt blessed to be an American citizen and not a Soviet vassal, and a Cuban schoolmate whose father, a journalist, Castro had tortured and blinded. I knew what totalitarianism was. The young people who get taken in by the Peace Racket, though, seem not to have had much of a clue about anything before visiting Haiti or Ghana or wherever. And their peace studies classes and international adventures dont exactly wise them up. A peace studies student at McGill University, recounting her internship with a Cuban NGO (as if there really were such a thing!), refers enthusiastically to her participation in the largest demonstration in Cuban history. She doesnt elaborate, but the reference is clearly to a government-organized protest against the U.S. trade embargo. This perilously naive young woman has no idea that she was the tool of a dictatorship.
For Canadian Davis Aurini, who in a May 2007 e-mail described himself as sorely disappointed by his peace studies experience, his naively socialist classmates were at least as problematic as the professors. One prof consistently ridiculed Western science and knowledge: every time he quoted a Western writer, he would mockingly add, So he told me, then clap his hands, then repeat, So he tooooold me! and clap his hands again. He thought he was some kind of native spiritualist, explained Aurini. The classes were nothing but a disjointed ramble against anything remotely military or Western. And the students loved it.
George Orwell would have understood the attraction of privileged 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. The real working class . . . are never really pacifist, because their life teaches them something different. 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, its thanks to the success of the very things the Peace Racket despises above allAmerican capitalism and American military preparedness.
Whats alarming is that these students dont plan to spend their lives on some remote mountainside in Nepal contemplating peace, harmony, and human oneness. They want to remake our world. They plan to become politicians, diplomats, bureaucrats, journalists, lawyers, teachers, activists. Theyll bring to these positions all the mangled history and misbegotten ideology that their professors have handed down to them. Their careers will advance; the Peace Rackets influence will spread. And as it does, it will weaken freedoms foundations.
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