Time for US Department of Peace?
By Bill Moore
|There's a Department of Interior, Department of Housing and Urban Development, an Energy Department, a Defense Department, and now a Department of Homeland Security -- so why shouldn't there also be a Department of Peace?||
That's what some 40 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives are proposing in the form of House Bill HR 2459, led by the iconoclastic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich (D, Ohio). Few in the US Congress give the bill any chance of advancing given the bellicose mode of the nation and Republican control of both the House and the Senate.
Still the idea is worth looking at especially since one of its provisions, the Office of Technology for Peace, would deal with transportation and energy technologies that "encourage the conservation and sustainability of natural resources in order to prevent future conflicts regarding scarce resources."
The rationale for the measure is summarized in the tenth "finding" of the bill. It reads as follows...
"We are in a new millennium, and the time has come to review age-old challenges with new thinking wherein we can conceive of peace as not simply being the absence of violence, but the active presence of the capacity for a higher evolution of the human awareness, of respect, trust, and integrity; wherein we all may tap the infinite capabilities of humanity to transform consciousness and conditions which impel or compel violence at a personal, group, or national level toward developing a new understanding of, and a commitment to, compassion and love, in order to create a `shining city on a hill', the light of which is the light of nations."
A lofty aspiration, indeed, though one that could be too easily dismissed as so much "new age" hokum, especially in the light of the current cult of militarism in America. One potential objection, that the bill was introduced to protest White House chauvinism, can be quickly dismissed. Kucinich originally introduced the bill in Congress July 11, 2001, two full months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Given the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and then in Afghanistan and most recently in Iraq, maybe it is time to think differently about what peace is. Maybe it is time to think outside of historic paradigms, especially since those paradigms of violence and retribution cost 100,000,000 lives in the twentieth century, according to seventh finding of the bill .
HR 2459 would establish a cabinet level position identical to the newly created Homeland Security Department but whose charter would be to "study of conditions that are conducive to both domestic and international peace." The mission of the department is as daunting as that of Homeland Security. Here are just some of its responsibilities.
The Department of Peace shall "endeavor to promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights; strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking; promote the development of human potential; work to create peace, prevent violence, divert from armed conflict and develop new structures in nonviolent dispute resolution; and take a proactive, strategic approach in the development of policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful resolution of conflict and structured mediation of conflict".
To accomplish all this, the Department would include:
- Office of Peace Education and Training. This would include a Peace Academy on a par with the current five military academies in the US.
- Office of Domestic Peace Activities. This office would involve activities like drug rehabilitation, ethnic diversity and crime prevention.
- Office of International Peace Activities. Graduates of the Peace Academy would be active in international conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction and demobilization of war-torn societies.
- Office of Technology for Peace. This includes sustainable transportation and energy, as well as communications. This office would study the impact of new technologies on domestic and international peace.
- Office of Arms Control and Disarmament. Responsible for negotiating arms limitations and nuclear disarmament treaties and agreements.
- Office of Peaceful Coexistence and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution. This office would be largely a public outreach arm of the department, as well as studying the impact of war on the world's children.
- Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights. It's role would be to recommend nonviolent means of addressing issues of human rights and economic abuses both domestic and international.
The odds of such a department being created seems remote, especially given huge federal deficits, but the appeal of the department is its proactive, anticipatory nature, rather than reactive. At some point, America will realize that international cooperation makes more sense politically, economically, morally and ethically than unilateral coercion and intimidation.
A department whose mission is to think differently about what peace is, not that it's just the absence of war and conflict, would be a welcome change from the status quo. It would certainly send a different and far more constructive message to the world about that America is about, then our current policies, which seem to more closely resemble the politics of the fictional Corleone family of "Godfather" infamy than the enlightened Republic established by the likes of Washington, Jefferson and Madison.
The drafters of HR 2459 remind us of this heritage in their findings, citing phrases from the preamble of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence such as, "we hold these truths to be self evident" as the underlying moral justification for promoting Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. In the fifth and sixth findings they write, "The Founders of this country gave America a vision of freedom for the ages and provided people with a document which gave this Nation the ability to adapt to an undreamed of future.
"It is the sacred duty of the people of the United States to receive the living truths of our founding documents and to think anew to develop institutions that permit the unfolding of the highest moral principles in this Nation and around the world."
Of course cynics will argue that there are already enough government bureaucracies looking out for these interests and that the last thing we need is another one. But as we enter what appears increasingly like the century of terrorism and resource conflicts, taking a proactive role for peaceful dispute resolution may not be all that farfetched. There certainly appears to be plenty of support for this outside America, if not inside, as witnessed by the massive peace movement around the world in the months and weeks leading up to the attack on Iraq.
It is doubtful the current Administration, despite its affections of Christian principle and ideals, will support HR 2459. It will take a far more visionary President, Congress and citizenry before such an unorthodox proposal is truly understood, much less endorsed.
Still, there was a time when electric vehicles and hybrids and fuel cells seemed impossible.
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