My view: Peace on earth: one way to go about it

By HUBERT KAUFFMAN, PH.D.

A Department of Peace? What’s that? It is the best-kept legislative secret in the nation. There are 75 members of the House of Representatives who are co-sponsors of H.R. 3760 and two co-sponsors in the Senate, S. 1756.

The history of proposals for a Department of Peace goes back to 1792, when Benjamin Banneker supported the idea of an Office of Peace. From 1955 to 1968, 85 bills were introduced calling for a Department of Peace. More recently in September 2005, Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota introduced bills in their respective chambers.

A Department of Peace would be a department of the executive branch, like the Department of Defense or the Department of Education. It would work with both of those departments to foster peace programs domestically and internationally. The Secretary of Peace would be a member of the cabinet and answer to the President.

We must study peace as we have studied war. The legislation proposed for a Department of Peace includes the creation of a United States Peace Academy that would work collaboratively with the U.S. Military Academy to develop practical plans to examine the root causes of war before war occurs. In the present context of worldwide conflict, the Peace Academy would teach strategies that would offer effective alternatives to violence.

It would be easy to dismiss the idea of a Department to Peace as a na´ve pipedream. But in fact there is plenty of precedent for peace initiatives that have had a profound influence on the course of history.

When World War I ended, the Allies left a defeated Germany in turmoil economically, socially and politically. Despite the recognition that Germany would not recover viability as a nation if heavy reparations were demanded of them, such reparations were imposed. The result was an increasingly disgruntled and desperate populace that became ripe for the plucking by Hitler and the Nazi Party, eventually leading to World War II.

In contrast, the Marshall Plan was a new idea that changed permanently the way the nations of Europe relate to one another. At the end of World War II, it was clear that if Europe’s needs were not met, and quickly, the entire world would suffer. The United States offered $20 billion for relief—on condition that the countries of Europe could get together and plan how the money was to be used.

It was brilliant. For the first time, the countries of Europe would have to cooperate with one another. The current European Union is a direct outgrowth of the Marshall Plan. It is now difficult to imagine the ancient rivals, England, France and Germany, going to war against each other.

The contrast of the Marshall Plan with the Treaty of Versailles could not be greater. It is mind-boggling to wonder what would have happened if post-World War I Germany had been offered a Marshall Plan. Would a prosperous Germany have allowed Hitler to come to power? If no Hitler, no Holocaust? If no Holocaust, would an Israeli state have been created in Palestine?

A Department of Peace would seek ways to cooperate with the European Union to develop Marshall-like plans for debilitated countries of the world. Just think what the possibilities could have been if such a plan had been offered to displaced Palestinians in the wake of the creation of Israel.

We have never had real peace in human history. We need to be re-educated about violence. We need to understand that violence was essential to survival at one time, and that the ability to become violent is a part of our genetic equipment. But the human race can also mature to the point where it can reflect on this truth about itself, and go beyond it. A Department of Peace would work with the Department of Education to help young children learn how to find better ways to express fear and anger.

A Department of Peace is an idea whose time has come. We need a groundswell of popular support to make it happen. Contact your elected officials at all levels of government. Write letters to the editors of local newspapers. Contact Dennis Kucinich of Ohio in the House of Representatives and Mark Dayton of Minnesota in the Senate. Contact the Peace Alliance for a list of sponsors of the legislation. Let them know of your support. They will appreciate it.

( Hubert Kauffman, Ph.D. is a retired psychologist. He welcomes your replies at kaufhubert@aol.com )