Another Road to Peace
How do you not like maverick Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio? As mayor of Cleveland he was fined for "mooning" his brother on the Interstate; and as a member of Congress he has consistently been on the losing side of nearly every issue. In 14 years he has authored just one minor bill that passed and became law. (Actually, I kind of like those qualifications). But love him or hate him, at 5' 7" and 140 lbs. he is a scrappy, honest little guy, and he has the patience of Job. As proof of that statement, every year since 2001 he has proposed that the United States establish a Department of Peace. Now there is an idea whose time should at least be on the horizon. Maybe the road to peace is as simple as setting up an office, proclaiming your principles to the world, and then going out and enforcing them! Dennis, you could be onto something!
Well, let's take a look at (now 65 year old) Dennis's proposal. Here is a summary of his vision from his website:
- The mission of the Department shall: hold peace as an organizing principle; 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.
- The Department will create and establish a Peace Academy, modeled after the military service academies, which will provide a 4 year concentration in peace education. Graduates will be required to serve 5 years in public service in programs dedicated to domestic or international nonviolent conflict resolution.
- The principal officers of the Department, in addition to the Secretary of Peace and Nonviolence will include; the Under Secretary of Peace and Nonviolence; the Assistant Secretary for Peace Education and Training; the Assistant Secretary for Domestic Peace Activities, the Assistant Secretary for International Peace Activities; the Assistant Secretary for Technology for Peace; the Assistant Secretary for Arms Control and Disarmament; the Assistant Secretary for Peaceful Coexistence and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution; the Assistant Secretary for Human and Economic Rights; and a General Counsel.
- The first day of each year, January 1st will be designated as Peace Day in the United States and all citizens should be encouraged to observe and celebrate the blessings of peace and endeavor to create peace in the coming year.
I think it's time to ask: Why not a Peace Department? For more than 50 years we tried singing "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war." That didn't work. When Winston Churchill sang that hymn aboard the battleship HMS Prince of Wales in 1941, he observed: “When I looked upon that densely packed congregation of fighting men of the same language, of the same faith, of the same fundamental laws, of the same ideals ... it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from measureless degradation.”
In 1982 Ronald Reagan named the M-X intercontinental ballistic missile the "PeaceKeeper." It was costly to build and difficult to manage. By 2003 it was eliminated as part of our offensive arsenal.
We continue to provide $3 billion annually to Israel to bring about peace with Palestine. If there is any evidence of peace breaking out soon in that region, we have yet to see the smokeless signals.
And, of course, if peace is merely the absence of war, and if it is built on a foundation of tyranny and injustice, then it is a false peace. And isn't that a more honest picture of the actual course of history? Peace at any price and in any form is not the answer.
No, Dennis has an idea that deserves to be explored further. A bureaucracy works well when it has a clear mission. When you strip it of guns and missiles, when you discard all the bellicose bellowing in favor of resolutions and good intentions, and when you lay out your intentions for all to see, how can it go too far astray? We all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but what about the road to peace? We would be on uncharted pavement to be sure. But at least we already know about many of those expensive efforts that have failed.
Sometimes philosophers can clear the waters that muddy tough issues simply and with few words:
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”