Just this month, the long-shot Democratic Party presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich proposed a new cabinet-level department in the executive branch of the federal government: the Department of Peace. Forty-six other Democrats (and exactly zero Republicans) agreed to co-sponsor his proposal, which would create a 'Secretary of Peace,' charged with preventing both domestic and foreign violence through enlightened social policies. This department would operate in conjunction with and get its ideas from a government-run Peace Academy, set up to offer four-year 'peace studies' degrees. The department would also provide grants for peace studies departments in universities throughout America, and encourage peace studies cirricula in secondary and elementary schools.
Peace studies is hardly a mainstream course of study in America, but it just might be the latest academic fad. Over two hundred and fifty colleges and universities in North America offer 'Peace Studies' programs; many allow students to obtain complete graduate or undergraduate 'Peace Studies' degrees. If trends continue, more are on their way. That's unfortunate - from the first major study of Peace Studies programs, a cutting pamphlet by human rights activist Caroline Cox and conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, these programs have been condemned as incoherent, incapable of being a serious topic of study, and loaded with political bias.
The first Peace Studies program in America was established at the beginning of the Cold War in 1948 at Indiana's Manchester College, established and run by the pacifist Brethren, but the first major expansion of Peace Studies took place only with the Vietnam War. The next expansion came during the Reagan administration, when the President advocated a strong defense against the Soviet Union. Even a Peace Studies advocate like George Lopez, Senior Fellow and Director of Policy Studies at the University of Notre Dame's Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, is aware that these programs appear during times of increased American resolve, writing that this 'tendency' has 'provided some celebrated and heated debates on campuse.' (source: The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science, v. 504: Peace Studies: Past and Future, p. 9).
Go figure - when programs pop up in response to external political situations, people dismiss them as politically motivated. It's fair to say that throughout its history, Peace Studies has been a response to attempts by the West to defend itself from attack. Accordingly, we should expect a new expansion of Peace Studies in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and our self-defense, the war on terrorism. For instance, Kansas University established a new peace studies minor in February of this year, and several large state universities have discussed establishing programs. The University of Texas has a student group, 'Students for Nonviolence,' devoted to bringing Peace Studies to campus, and has sponsored a national Peace Studies conference to get a feel for the discipline. And the existing Peace Studies institutes, like the above-mentioned Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, have been extremely busy since 9/11, working to spread their message immediately after the attack by publishing editorials, interviewing for radio and television programs, and hosting panel discussions and conferences. (source: "Notre Dame institute gains prominence in wake of attacks," The Observer (Notre Dame), Oct. 30, 2001) And now, Kucinich's proposal, an attempt by Democrats to prop up Peace Studies programs nation-wide. But what are these Peace Studies programs about?
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Peace Studies programs primarily focused on the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union, and the weapon that held the Soviets at bay, the nuclear warhead. Almost universally, academics in Peace Studies called for unilateral nuclear disarmament, leaving the Soviet Union as the only nation with nuclear weapons. (Presumably they would then feel compelled to do likewise, out of concerns for fairness and the goodness of their Communist hearts.) Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, one would think Peace Studies programs would have relatively little to do. However, Peace Studies was never truly focused towards the Soviet Union - in the 1980s Cox and Scruton analyzed Peace Studies curriculums and found them woefully lacking on all things Soviet. (source: Cox & Scruton, pp. 12-13.) In fact, Peace Studies programs have never looked at America's enemies - they didn't focus on the Soviets then, and they don't study terrorism now. Instead, they study America.
A large proportion of Peace Studies courses in America are in fact 'America studies' courses; these courses, which focus on both American foreign policy and American domestic conditions, are almost uniformly critical. Take the current course offerings for the Peace and Conflict major at the University of Berkeley. In this semester alone, courses are being offered on "War, Culture, and Society," examining the role of war in forming the American identity; "American Foreign Policy," focusing on 'alternate perspectives'; and "Nonviolence Today", with an emphasis on the protests against Vietnam War and globalization. (source: Berkeley's Online Schedule) None deal with terrorism or the Middle East. Or look at the titles of the three senior seminars offered by Robin Cook, a professor of peace studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, are also squarely centered on America - "Violence in America," "Nonviolence in America," and "From Prejudice to Justice" (the last syllabus, while containing a few readings on other nations, primarily deals with America and the actions of Americans.) (source: http://csf.colorado.edu/peace/syllabi/syllabi.html)
Unfortunately, these Peace Studies courses are nothing more than the academic bastion of the 'blame America first' crowd. America is presented as the aggressor in the Cold War, as a society founded on militarism, colonialism, and oppression, and as a society that sustains itself through racism, sexism, and class conflict. A recent study performed by, once again, the researchers at the Peace Studies Institute of Manchester College reveals the field's leftist bias and disdain for America starkly. Seeing that personal violence in America had declined considerably between 1995 and 2001, the research teams turned to American 'societal violence,' a factor they manufactured from a variety of indices. Air pollution. Homelessness. Hate crimes. Infant mortality. Job discrimination. Poverty. Workplace injuries. Executions of criminals. The list goes on. Most of these are problems, but almost none are what ordinary Americans would call 'violence.' Only by adopting the leftist maxim, that poverty equals violence, can most of this list of factors be justified. Some, like the inclusion of capital punishment, are blatantly partisan - as was the exclusion of abortion rates, rejected by the research team as nonviolent. When asked whether their 'societal violence' index was intended as a rhetorical tool for increased social spending, psychologist Neil Wollman replied "It happened to come out that way" (source: "Researchers Devise Gauges of Personal and Societal Violence," The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 12, 2001, p. A14).
Sure it did, Neil. The manufacturing of such 'societal violence' is a favorite ploy of Peace Studies academics, who can then argue that peace isn't just the absence of conflict - it will only come about through a transformation of America society. And therefore Peace Studies cannot just 'educate' its students about America; it must also train them to act. Informed by radical pedagogues like the Brazilian Marxist Paulo Friere, educators see Peace Studies as 'education for social change,' a way to not just inform, but solve society's problems, primarily through bigger government and socialist programs. This is what Rep. Kucinich has in mind when he wants to get at the 'root causes' of violence and war, placing the blame on anything but terrorists and the nations that support them.
"Education for social change" is already offered at many universities. For example, the University of Colorado at Boulder's Gaia Mika has repeatedly offered a course on "Facilitating Peaceful Community Change." Her syllabus, posted for review on the Internet, is a sobering read (source: http://csf.colorado.edu/peace/syllabi/pacs3302.html). The contents of the course, from start to finish, are little more than instruction on hating America - all the better to transform the student into a professional agitator. One week is devoted to American "cultural imperialism;" readings that week criticize "the religion of consumerism." Other weeks focus on oppression - in particular the oppression caused by whites and males. At least half the readings are devoted to practice rather than theory; that is, they train students to participate in left-wing protest organizations. With weeks devoted to 'Power/Empowerment', 'Leadership', 'Solidarity Work', and 'Building Alliances', Mika is setting up her newly indoctrinated students to stop learning and start organizing.
Some peace studies programs contain more intellectual rigor than others, drawing on the insights of business negotiation and social psychology, but even the most rigorous sounding programs on peace studies aim not just at peace, but a leftist vision of social transformation. Take Columbia University's International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, which declares on its web page (source: http://www.tc.columbia.edu/icccr/default2.htm) that "there is an intimate connection between conflict and justice." So far, so good, but the professors lose us when they claim that "destructive conflict gives rise to injustice," a completely counter-historical assertion. 'Destructive conflict' can often give rise to justice. Look at the Second World War, which successfully crushed German fascism and halted their ongoing genocide. Look at the recent conflict in Iraq, which freed the political prisoners and closed the torture chambers. The International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution goes on to state that "societal issues such as racism, sexism, and class conflict must be openly and effectively addressed" in order to "demonstrate non-violent means of fostering social change and building a peaceful culture." Similarly, the Peace and Conflict Studies major at the University of California at Berkeley prepares students to contribute to "the creation of more just and peaceable conditions in the world." (source: http://www.ias.berkeley.edu/iastp/pacs/pacs.html) Unfortunately, no amount of attention to our own imperfect but free and democratic society will do a thing about totalitarian regimes, religious fanaticism, or nuclear proliferation.
This hostility to America stems from a particularly tired chestnut, the belief that any differences in prosperity between America and other countries are somehow America's fault. Therefore Gordon Fellman, the chairman of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Brandeis University, can write in Peaceworks Magazine that we need a series of massive public inquiries, showing to the world the evils of the West, "in the centuries when Western powers assaulted and tragically exploited and damaged cultures throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America" (source: "September 11 and the Field of Peace Studies," Oct. 31, 2002). The world's past history is often bleak, true, and we must not whitewash it, but those centuries are over. Americans today are not to blame for the actions of a Spanish Cortez. In fact, the West can be proud - while the type of barbarity Fellman decries was a feature of all cultures, the West was the first and only to halt it and replace it with liberty.
The mindset produced by these Peace Studies programs leads to the most ridiculous predictions. No surprise, really - if you believe America is the evil aggressor, and American culture is to blame for the violence of this world, you've got a rather poor model of reality to work with. Take Jerry Sanders, a lecturer in Peace Studies at Berkeley. On September 24, 2001, he predicted race riots if America retaliated against the terrorism of 9/11, as Americans lashed out with 'war psychosis'. Jack Glaser, another Berkeley professor, claimed warfare would legitimize hate crimes at home. Diane Clemens feared a return to internment camps for suspect nationalities. (source: "U.C. Berkeley Profs Say Hate Crimes Could Rise During Wartime," Daily Californian, Sept. 24, 2001) Now, of course, these claims are revealed for what they truly were - hysteria, brought about by a spectacularly low regard for Americans.
The solutions offered by Peace Studies professors are equally cringe-worthy. Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, a Peace Studies professor at Notre Dame, wrote in the Times Higher Education Supplement that we needed dialogue with Osama bin Laden, not violence. By discussing what the terrorists who murdered three thousand Americans really wanted, and dealing with them, we'd be better off than entering a war on terrorism she feels is 'ultimately unwinnable'. Our reluctance to do so is because of our post-9/11 'patriotic machismo' (source: "Why I Believe We Need To Talk To Extremists," July 12, 2002). This brilliance was topped by the above-mentioned Gordon Fellman, who wrote that "the once-victorious nations" - that's us - need to agree to participate in "the most massive reparations process in history." In short, we can prevent terrorism by putting the world on welfare. (source: "September 11 and the Field of Peace Studies," Oct. 31, 2002) Kucinich's 'Department of Peace' might better be called the 'Department of Surrender.'
The blatant defeatism, the anti-Americanism, the discreet ignoring of evil abroad - it's no wonder the students and teachers of Peace Studies form the shock-troops of the anti-war movement. The South Bend (Indiana) Tribune noted that most of the people from Manchester College attending an anti-war rally several states away were from its Peace Studies program (source: "Students travel to NYC to attend anti-war rally," Feb. 13, 2003).
In Minneapolis, the Peace Studies program at the University of St. Thomas has been active in anti-war organizing, with Peace Studies students leading many of the local protests. (source: "Peacemaking today a matter of degrees," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dec. 27, 2002) A Peace Studies professor at the University of Missouri spammed an entire campus with protest propaganda, calling for students to cut class. (source: "Mass e-mail at university encourages participation in anti-war protests," Associated Press State & Local Wire, Feb. 28, 2003) Even in the conservative climate of Orange, California's Chapman University, the Peace Studies program has hosted talks by Edward Said, a scholar known for throwing rocks at Jews, and Scott Ritter, a weapons inspector and pedophile. Peace Studies students there have spearheaded the small anti-war opposition in Orange County. (source: "Chapman Seniors Stand Proudly Behind Their Flags," Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2003)
Sadly, it seems Peace Studies hasn't progressed an iota towards respectability and objectivity since Cox and Scruton wrote their pamphlet, almost twenty years ago. The same criticisms they made are repeated today. Katherine Kersten, senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, states that "the programs are dominated by people of a certain ideological bent, and thus hard to take seriously from a scholarly point of view." And Robert Kennedy, a professor at the University of St. Thomas, said that his own university's Peace Studies program employs professors "whose academic qualifications are not as strong as we would ordinarily look for" (source: "Peacemaking today a matter of degrees," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dec. 27, 2002).
Dennis Kucinich's proposals for a Department of Peace have as much chance of succeeding as his presidential bid - none. He might be the favorite son of the Democratic Party's lunatic fringe, but ordinary Americans aren't buying. That said, his proposal for a government-run academy for radicals is nothing more than a larger version of already-existing departments in our universities - and Americans shouldn't be buying those, either. Departments of Peace Studies are rife with bias. Until its students and professors understand that there is such a thing as a just war, that not everything in the world is America's fault, and that the university is not their ideologically-driven playground, Kucinich and other proponents of 'peace studies' should be treated as nothing more than bald propagandists.