Peace Studies' War
Some real knocks on the Peace Studies discipline and otherwise. One can
actually respond at the website if desire to
Peace Studies' War Against America
By Brian Sayre
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 30, 2003
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
curricula 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 campus.'
(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
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:
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.
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,
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:
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.