On September 13, 2004 – as it happens just two days after the third anniversary of 9/11 -- FrontPage magazine published student Brett Mock’s account of a class he took in “Peace Studies” at Ball State University in Indiana. The class was billed as a course in the causes of war and peace (“the study of methods of achieving peace within communities and among nations; history of peace movement and the causes of conflict; and analysis of principles to resolve conflict using case studies”).
Enrolling in the course, Mock discovered, to his dismay, that far from being an academic examination of these issues, the class was a recruitment and training course in leftwing politics and anti-American attitudes. Its lectures and texts without exception guided him and his classmates to views of America as an enemy of global peace, and to a sympathetic understanding of the terrorists who have attacked us. Among the “methods of achieving peace” recommended by the course was a menu of radical organizations that students were encouraged to join, including PeaceWorkers, which is part of a coalition that includes the pro-terrorist Muslim Students Association and the Young Communist League. Students who joined the lobby to oppose America’s war to topple the Iraq dictatorship were given academic credit; those who supported their country were not.
To add insult to these injuries, moreover, the head of the Peace Studies program at Ball State and Brett Mock’s teacher, Professor George Wolfe was academically incompetent to teach the subject, with its broad-ranging forays into all of human history, geopolitics and global economics. George Wolfe is a professor in the Music Department at Ball State whose expertise is the saxophone.
Mock’s FrontPage article was followed by a letter from the National Director of Students for Academic Freedom to the president of Ball State, expressing concern about the nature of the course and its failure to observe basic educational standards. Ten days later the Ball State administration replied through its Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Beverley Pitts. In her letter, Pitts announced that she had investigated Brett Mock’s claims (without interviewing Mock himself) and concluded that they were mistaken -- that the course met academic standards and was not one-sided. Addressing the issue of how a professor of the saxophone was academically qualified to discuss the social, economic and cultural causes of war and peace, the Provost wrote: “Dr. Wolfe has a doctorate in higher education from Indiana University; has received mediator training; is on the advisory board of the Toda Institute for Peace, Policy, and Global Research at the University of Hawaii; and has taught and published in the area of peace studies.”
A doctorate in higher education, however, covers none of the subjects that would form the basis of a course in the causes of war and peace, while a training session in mediation would only do marginally better. The Toda Institute, on whose board Professor Wolfe serves as an advisor, is run by the Soka Gokkai, a zen Buddhist cult, which believes that world peace can be achieved by persuading the world’s inhabitants to chant “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.”
As to Mock’s complaint that the course involved indoctrination rather than a disinterested examination of the subject matter, Provost Pitts asserted: “Dr. Wolfe’s class emphasizes critical thinking with respect to peace issues. The primary text for the class is Barash and Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Sage Publications, 2002), which presented various sides of peace- and war-related issues.”
This view of Peace and Conflict Studies would come as a surprise to the authors of this widely used text in the field of peace studies. In the preface to their book, Barash and Webel write: “The field [of Peace Studies] differs from most other human sciences in that it is value-oriented, and unabashedly so. Accordingly we wish to be up front about our own values, which are frankly anti-war, anti-violence, anti-nuclear, anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, pro-environment, pro-human rights, pro-social justice, pro-peace and politically progressive.” (p. x)
In other words, Peace and Conflict Studies makes no pretension to being an academic exploration of the complex issues of war in peace. It does not explore the many possible views of world problems that might lead to conflict, or the various assessments that might be made of the history of peace movements. It is, in fact, a leftwing screed whose clear purpose is to indoctrinate students in the radical view of the world shared by “progressives” like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Michael Moore. On the other hand, no indication is provided to the uninformed student that these might be extreme views, or that there might be other reasonable ways to look at these issues and events.
Peace and Conflict Studies discusses the problems of poverty and hunger as causes of human conflict, but it approaches these issues exclusively through the eyes of Marxists (and obscure ones at that) such as Andre Gunder Frank and Frances Moore Lappe. The only academic credentials the authors themselves possess are in the fields of psychology and philosophy. Nonetheless, their text is bold -- not to say reckless -- in its pronouncements on these complex issues.
On the problem of global hunger, for example, the text’s theme is socialist: “To a very large extent, the problem of world hunger is not so much a production problem, so much as it is a distribution problem.” (p. 498) This would be news to North Koreans, where recent famine caused by their government’s socialist policies has killed more than a million people. It would be equally surprising to citizens of the former Soviet Union, whose Marxist leaders attempted to make equitable distribution the center of their economic policy and wound up turning a country that had been the breadbasket of Europe into a nation of chronic food shortages until the collapse of the system.
The Peace and Conflict Studies text relentlessly condemns the economic inequalities that characterize market systems, even though these systems are responsible for prodigious agricultural surpluses and for raising billions of people out of poverty, facts the authors systematically ignore. The authors identify the culprits responsible for world poverty (and thus for the conflicts this suffering causes) in terms that would have pleased Lenin: “The greed of agribusiness shippers and brokers, plus control of land by a small elite leaves hundreds of millions of people hungry every day.” (p. 499) No wonder terrorists hate rich countries like the United States.
Since the authors believe that the greed of the ruling class is responsible for world hunger, Peace and Conflict Studies does actually endorse one kind of violence, and one kind alone. Not surprisingly this is the revolutionary kind. Here is Barash and Webel’s example of revolutionary violence that has led to good results:
Consider the case of Cuba. In the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, despite more than 40 years of an American embargo of Cuban imports and exports, infant mortality in Cuba has declined to the lowest in Latin America; life expectancy increased from 55 years in 1959 to 73 years in 1984; health care was nationalized and made available to all Cuban citizens at no or little cost; literacy exceeded 95%; and although prostitution, begging, and homelessness returned to Cuba in the 1990s (almost entirely for economic reasons due to the embargo and to the loss of support from the former Soviet Union), Cuba still has far fewer of these problems than virtually all other countries in Latin America. While Cuba is far from an earthly paradise, and certain individual rights and civil liberties are not yet widely practiced, the case of Cuba indicates that violent revolutions can sometimes result in generally improved living conditions for many people.” (pp. 14-15, emphasis added)
This is the entire portrait provided by the authors of Cuba’s Communist dictatorship. No mention is made that Cuba is in fact a totalitarian dictatorship in which every citizen is a prisoner in his own country, spied on by the ruler’s secret police. No indication is given that Castro is the longest surviving dictator in the world with a legendary record of sadism against his own supporters. Cuba’s wretched medical system is not evaluated; nor is the fact that while literacy is impressive Cubans can now read only materials approved by government censors. In 1959 when Castro seized power, Cuba was the second richest nation per capita in Latin America. After nearly fifty years of socialism it ranks near the bottom of Latin America’s 22 nations, above Haiti, but below Honduras and Belize. When the authors feel compelled to mention a deficiency in Cuba’s achievement – whether political or economic -- it is invariably blamed on the United States and its embargo, even though Cuba trades with every other nation in the world and its economic woes are attributable to the crackpot economic policies of its dictator. This one-sided promotion of a Communist dictatorship is typical of the text and an accurate sampling of the authors’ ideological point of view.
Throughout Peace and Conflict Studies, the authors’ justify Communist policies and actions and put those of America and western democracies in a negative light. This one-sided tilting to America’s totalitarian enemies is evident in its treatment of the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example. In 1962, the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev precipitated an international crisis and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war by secretly placing nuclear missiles in Cuba and lying to President Kennedy when confronted over them. In the Peace and Conflict Studies textbook, however (which Ball State Provost Beverley Pitts assures us presents “various sides of peace- and war-related issues”), the Cuban Missile Crisis is discussed without the authors ever mentioning the cause of the crisis -- the Soviet missiles. Instead, the crisis is described as having been caused by the American president’s alleged psychological insecurity and his consequent desire to act tough. This created a dilemma from which the world was rescued by the Soviet dictator. Here is the entire account of the Missile Crisis in this college text:
The Cuban Missile Crisis – the closest humanity has apparently come to general nuclear war – was brought about in part because John F. Kennedy had felt browbeaten by Soviet Premier Khrushchev at their 1961 summit meeting in Vienna and felt humiliated by the debacle of the failed American-supported invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The following year, Kennedy was determined that he wouldn’t be pushed around again by the Soviet leader; fortunately for the world, Khrushchev was able (perhaps due largely to insufficient military strength) to be willing to back down.” (p. 211)
Nor is this positioning of the Soviet Union on the side of peace when it is the aggressor unique. In its account of the Cold War generally, Peace and Conflict Studies treats the Soviet Union as a sponsor of peace movements and the United States as the militaristic and imperialist power that peace movements -- and thus the students of peace in the Peace Studies program – are supposed to keep in check.
A brief section of Peace and Conflict Studies, which was written in 2001, is devoted to the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11 of that year. It provides troubling insight into the impact courses like this may be having on American college students as their country faces the terrorist threat. The authors begin by telling students that, “Terrorism is a vexing term.” This is because, from the “peace studies” perspective, the moral aspects of the term are purely relative: “Any actual or threatened attack against civilian noncombatants may be considered an act of ‘terrorism.’ In this sense, terrorism is as old as human history.” (p. 80) Far from being criminal or evil, terror (according to Barash and Webel) is a last resort of the weak as a means of self-defense: “‘Terrorists’ are people who may feel militarily unable to confront their perceived enemies directly and who accordingly use violence, or the threat of violence, against noncombatants to achieve their political aims.” If you’re weak, then apparently it’s all right to murder women and children if it advances your cause. Terrorism, according to the authors, is also “a contemporary variant of what has been described as guerrilla warfare, dating back at least to the anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist struggles for national liberation conducted in North America and Western Europe during the late 18th and early 19th centuries against the British and French Empires.” (pp. 80-81) In other words, the American Founders were terrorists, and the terrorists in Iraq can be viewed as patriots (as Michael Moore has actually described them).
So that no one will miss the point, the progressive authors of Peace and Conflict Studies explain: “Placing ‘terrorist’ in quotation marks may be jarring for some readers, who consider the designation self-evident. We do so, however, not to minimize the horror of such acts but to emphasize the value of qualifying righteous indignation by the recognition that often one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter.’” (p. 81) The terrorists who killed 3,000 innocent civilians from eighty countries in the heinous attacks of 9/11 can thus be viewed as “freedom fighters” striking the oppressor.
Peace and Conflict Studies continues: “After the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. many Americans evidently agreed with pronouncements by many senior politicians that the United States was “at war” with ‘terrorism.’ Yet, to many disemboweled [sic] people in other regions, “Americans are the worst terrorists in the world” (according to Osama bin Laden in a 1998 TV interview with the American Broadcasting Company). Following the attacks, President George W. Bush announced that the United States ‘would make no distinction between terrorists and the countries that harbor them.’ For many frustrated, impoverished, infuriated people-who view the United States as a terrorist country-attacks on American civilians were justified in precisely this way: making no distinction between a ‘terrorist state’ and the citizens who aid and abet the state.” (ibid.) In other words, America is a terrorist state and the terrorists are liberators of the world’s oppressed.
There are two-hundred-and-fifty “Peace Studies” programs in America like the one at Ball State. They teach students to identify with America’s terrorist enemies and to identify America as a “Great Satan” oppressing the world’s poor and causing them to go hungry. There are equally many Provost Pittses, defending the fraudulent academic credentials of the political activists who conduct these indoctrinations and who are academically illiterate in the subject matter itself. The question is: how long can a nation at war with ruthless enemies like bin Laden and Zarqawi survive if its educational institutions continue to be suborned in this way?