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Monday, August 20, 2007

Peace Studies
Maimon Schwarzschild

Bruce Bawer, in the indispensable City Journal, has an important piece on the "Peace Studies" phenomenon gaining momentum at universities around the country.  He calls it "The Peace Racket":

Peace studies initiatives may train students to be social workers, to work in churches or community health organizations, or to resolve family quarrels and neighborhood disputes. At the movement’s heart, though, are programs whose purported emphasis is on international relations. Their founding father is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later. Invariably portrayed in the media as a charismatic and (these days) grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom. In 1973, he thundered that “our time’s grotesque reality” was—no, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the West’s “structural fascism.” He’s called America a “killer country,” accused it of “neo-fascist state terrorism,” and gleefully prophesied that it will soon follow Britain “into the graveyard of empires.”...

Peace studies students [are taught] to think in terms of “deep culture.” How to prevent war between, say, the U.S. and Saddam’s Iraq? Answer: examine each country’s deep culture—its key psychosocial traits, good and bad—to understand its motives. Americans, according to this bestiary, are warlike and money-obsessed; Iraqis are intensely religious and proud. Not surprisingly, the Peace Racket’s summations of deep cultures skew against the West. The deep-culture approach also avoids calling tyrants or terrorists “evil”—for behind every atrocity, in this view, lies a legitimate grievance, which the peacemaker should locate so that all parties can meet at the negotiating table as moral equals. SUNY Binghamton, for instance, offers a peace studies course that seeks to “arrive at an understanding of contemporary violence in its ideological, cultural, and structural dimensions in a bid to move away from ‘evil,’ ‘inhuman,’ and ‘uncivilized’ as analytical categories.”

For the Peace Racket, to kill innocents in cold blood is to buy the right to dialogue, negotiation, concessions—and power. So students learn to identify “insurgent” or “militant” groups with the populations they purport to represent...

The recipes for peace that flow from such thinking seem designed not only to buttress oppression but to create more of it. For if democracies consistently followed the Peace Racket’s recommendations, what they’d eventually reap would be the kind of peace found today in Havana or Pyongyang.

In short, it’s America that is the wellspring of the world’s problems. In the peace studies world, America’s role as the beacon of opportunity for generations of immigrants is mocked, its defense of freedom in World War II and the cold war is reinterpreted to its discredit, and every major postwar atrocity (the Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, genocide in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan) is ignored, minimized, or—as with 9/11—blamed on the U.S. itself.

Students in these programs are often not encouraged to consider a range of serious views:

[S]tudents find themselves graded largely on their willingness to echo [their professors' political views]. For while the peace professor argues that terrorist positions deserve respect at the negotiating table, he seldom tolerates alternative views in the classroom. Real education exposes students to a range of ideas and trains them to think critically about all orthodoxies. Peace studies, as a rule, rejects questioning of its own guiding ideology.

Take the case of Brett Mock, who writes in FrontPage Magazine that a peace studies class he’d taken in 2004 at Ball State University—“indoctrination rather than education,” as he puts it—had been “designed entirely to delegitimize the use of the military in the defense of our country.” The teacher, George Wolfe, “would not allow any serious study of the reasons for the use of force in response to an attack,” and students were expected to “parrot . . . back views we did not agree with.” To get full credit, moreover, Mock reports, students had to “meditate at the Peace Studies center,” “attend Interfaith Fellowship meetings,” or join Peace Workers—a group that Wolfe founded and that, according to Sara Dogan of Students for Academic Freedom, “is part of a coalition of radical groups that includes the Muslim Students Association . . . and the Young Communist League.” Kyle Ellis, another Ball State student, added that “Wolfe has required students to attend a screening of the antiwar propaganda film Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the War in Iraq, without material critical of the film and representing the other side.”

As Bawer reports, "peace studies" are well funded, and are appearing at universities and colleges around the country, almost always with a heavy and all-too-predictable political slant.  Read the whole thing.

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Maimon Schwarzschild


Is this stuff really "gaining momentum at universities around the country"? The university where I studied some twenty-five years ago had such a program, and I don't think it was particularly unusual in that regard.

In fact, I get the impression that the end of the Cold War put a serious dent in the popularity of this sort of thing, and if recent events are creating a bit of a "peace" renaissance, I strongly doubt that it's anywhere near as vibrant as the whole anti-nuke surrender industry of the seventies and eighties. Ein chadash tachat hashemesh, you know....

Posted by: Dan Simon | Aug 20, 2007 4:20:14 PM

Aren't people who give money to universities the ones responsible for this sort of nonsense? I certainly don't give anything to my almae matres (Yale and Cal), or any other university for that matter. If everyone did as I do, the whole racket would quickly collapse.

Posted by: y81 | Aug 27, 2007 8:17:40 PM