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The Peace Racket

Bruce Bawer

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An anti-Western movement touts dictators, advocates appeasement -- and 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 it's to him that Vegetius's line is attributed at the beginning of a film that I saw recently at Oslo's 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 Vegetius's insight on its head: "If you want peace, prepare for peace."

This purports to be wise counsel, a motto for the millennium. In reality, it's wishful thinking that doesn't follow logically from the history of the cold war, or of any war. For the cold war's real lesson is the same one that Sun Tzu and Vegetius taught: conflict happens; power matters. It's better to be strong than to be weak; you're safer if others know that you're ready to stand up for yourself than if you're proudly outspoken about your defenselessness or your unwillingness to fight. There's nothing mysterious about this truth. Yet it's 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, it's opposed to every value that the West stands for -- liberty, free markets, individualism -- and it despises America, the supreme symbol and defender of those values. Second, we're 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 Racket's boundaries aren't 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, it's hard to say exactly how many exist -- partly 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 movement's 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 time's grotesque reality" was -- no, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the West's "structural fascism." He's 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, we're causing trouble -- Milosevic, Saddam, and Osama are just the way the wind is blowing. Galtung's 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 he'd have preferred it if the Allies had allowed Hitler to finish off the Jews and invade Britain.

Read the entire article on the City Journal website (new window will open).

Posted: 21-Aug-07



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