This evening I attended a meeting of a local group working on the campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace. There is currently a bill before the House of Representatives to create such a department, which would “augment our current problem-solving options, providing practical, nonviolent solutions to the problems of domestic and international conflict.” The following excerpt from the website summarizes some of the key things this department would do:
The Benefits: International
The Department of Peace will:
- Advise the President, the Secretaries of Defense and State, and others on root causes of violence, plus practical ways to dismantle violence while still in a formative phase
- Support the military by:
- Providing cultural, ethnic and psychologically insightful information, education and technology
- Offering practical skills (conflict resolution techniques, and the like) for the amelioration of violence among adversarial factions
- Administer the training and support of civilian peacekeepers to participate in multinational nonviolent peace forces
The Benefits: Domestic
The Department of Peace will:
- Develop field-tested educational programs promoting conflict-resolution and peer mediation among school-age children
- Provide violence-prevention programs addressing domestic violence, gang violence, drug and alcohol-related violence, and the like
- Provide much-needed assistance for the efforts of city, county, and state governments in coordinating existing programs in their own communities, as well as programs newly developed and provided by the Dept. of Peace
Another thing the bill would do is establish a U.S. Peace Academy, which would be sister organization to the U.S. Military Academy.
I think that a Department of Peace is an important and necessary thing that should exist in our government. We spend so much time, money and effort on war in this country, without spending similar effort (and time and money) on working productively towards peaceful solutions to conflict. War is not a long-term solution and it is time we started turning some efforts towards other options. I am not just anti-war, I am pro-peace, and I think a Department of Peace is important in progressing beyond the anti-war mentality. We need to be constructive and creative about exploring peaceful solutions to conflict, and the existence of such a department would send a strong message that the United States is committed to doing this.
It turns out that there is already something called the U.S. Institute of Peace, which receives funding from Congress. However, the power of this organization is limited. Having it be a cabinet-level position is important for visibility, to act as an umbrella organization for many existing pro-peace and anti-violence organizations, and to have the power and authority to advise the President. In addition, the existing institute only addresses international issues, while the proposed Department of Peace would address domestic issues as well.
I am convinced that the Department of Peace is an important thing to work on, but I am not sure of what my role in this can be. I have never done anything related to politics, campaigning, or lobbying before, and I’m not sure it is something I am cut out for. However, it was inspiring to be with other people who think peace is as important as I do, so I plan to continue going to the meetings and getting involved as feels appropriate for now.