Connecting the DOP Dots

Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger. -- Nazi commander of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Goering

Back in the 1940s B.G. (Before Goering) they used to call it the War Department. Now, it's the "Defense Department," which is kinda ironic considering that our current SecDef is presiding over a pre-emptive war launched under false pretenses against a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11.

It was one big Neo-Con job with Scooter the latest "friendly-fire" casualty of Bush hawks out-of-balance world view. All yin. No yang.

And no Department of Peace (DOP), as Thomas Jefferson's homies, Benjamin Banneker and Benjamin Rush, were calling for way back in 1782.

Banneker, a celebrated African-American inventor and scientist, and Rush, a medical doctor who signed the Declaration of Independence and helped expedite the Lewis and Clark expedition, proposed a Peace Department, while the first GW talked about the need to establish a West Point-like Peace Academy.

A century and a half later, Dr. King posed two prophetic questions. Nonviolence or nonexistence? And, where do we go from here? -- which, was the title of his last book and a powerful critique of the war of his time.

Last week, I said not enough peace advocates are focusing on the details of the most important war-and-peace question: how do we get from 'here' to 'there?'

Thankfully, there's organizations like The Peace Alliance, made up -- not of mere idealists -- but forward-thinking realists who support Congressman (and presidential candidate) Dennis Kucinich's legislation to establish a DOP.

The basic idea is to "establish nonviolence as an organizing principle of American society, providing the U.S. President with an array of peace-building policy options for domestic and international use," explains Matthew Albracht, managing director of The Peace Alliance.

If you're not familiar with long and successful history of nonviolent methods or just love chugging down gallongs of Hater-ade, you'll be rolling your eyes and asking questions like: Aren't there existing agencies whose duties include components of the DOP legislation? - as if that weren't true of the Department of Homeland Security before Bush created it.

The Peace Alliance short answer to these ahistorical inquiries is: "The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency by Richard Nixon did not begin our commitment to the environment, yet it raised it to a much higher level of national priority. And so should it be with the interests of peace."

Another red-herring is the claim that the DOP is really a ruse to replace the military with peaceniks. Congressman John Conyers, a DOP bill co-sponsor, points out that "sometimes force is needed to protect our vital interest ... a Peace Department would be a partner, not an alternative, to the Pentagon."

In fact, a DOP would train peacekeepers to deal with the aftermath should war be necessary, "creating teams on the ground to help rebuild an emotional and psychological foundation to create a stable system in the war-torn region." Military strategists are talking about the same things, though they use different jargon.

In Thomas P.M. Barnett's "Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating" -- a far cry from pie-in-the-sky pacifism and well-received among wonks and military officers -- he analyzes the "Core" states, like the U.S., and "failing" states who fill "the Gap."

"When a military intervention does occur, these adversaries simply do their best to lie low and wait out our mighty blow, knowing that they can do little about its impact ... in this way, they conserve their resources for the real fight ahead: our subsequent halfhearted attempts to impose peace and civil order."

That's what Gen. Petraeus was talking about last week when he said: "any student of history recognizes that there is no military solution to a problem like (guerrilla insurgencies) in Iraq."

Though I have deep disagreements with Barnett, he does offer some important observations. "As we take on new nation building challenges with regularity, our manpower requirements for waging peace will skyrocket."

If folks are serious about "shrinking the Gap" and winning this global war on terrorism, Barnett argues, then what he envisions as "our SysAdmin force" (peace-waging force) will have to "dwarf our Leviathan (traditional military) force."

Check out the question Barnett is raising: "Where will we find the civilians to join this SysAdmin force -- this pistol-packin' Peace Corps?... I seriously doubt that, absent a dedicated cabinet-level department, America's effort to shrink the Gap will succeed over time."

This "waging peace" talk also has striking parallels with Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen's 1999 book arguing for the need to see "development as freedom" in dealing with nations filling Barnett's "Gap."

Connect the dots. Shrink the Gap. Development as Freedom. Department of Peace.
That's how to get from 'here' to 'there.'

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