Peace is Everybody’s Business, Nobody’s Job

by Bill Benzon and Mary Liebman

Colorful-peace-sign-clipart-9T4AL8jTEOn April 27, 2016, Donald Trump opened a foreign policy speech by declaring that he would “develop a new foreign policy direction for our country – one that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace.” He closed by assuring, “American will continually play the role of peacemaker.” If he is serious, then if elected he should create a Peace Office in the White House, an office specifically charged with developing peaceful solutions to foreign policy problems.

For that matter, why doesn't Hillary Clinton hold Trump's feet to the fire and make a peace office a prominent part of the Democratic Platform? Why doesn't Barack Obama beat them to the punch and earn his Nobel Peace Prize by creating such a White House office while he's got the power to do so? Now's the time!

As you may know, the idea was first proposed by Benjamin Rush, one of the founding fathers, in 1793. You may not know that legislation proposing a Department of Peace was before Congress through much of the previous century. That history has been told by Frederick L. Schuman in Why a Department of Peace?, originally published by Another Mother for Peace in 1969. Mother’s efforts were complemented and amplified by the Peace Act Advisory Council (PAAC, which then became Council for a Department of Peace, CODEP). Sitting at her kitchen table with a manual typerwriter and smoking countless cigarettes, Mary Liebman wrote PAX, the group’s newsletter, between 1970 and 1976.

Working with Charlie Keil and with Becky Liebman, Mary’s daughter, I have compiled these and other documents into a pamphlet, We Need a Department of Peace: Everybody’s Business, Nobody’s Job. In the rest of this post I present section six, “Peace is Everybody’s Business, Nobody’s Job”(Mary’s mantra), from the pamphlet. All of the quoted passages are from the newsletters that Mary Liebman wrote.

From Rush to the 91st Congress

In 1966 Mary Liebman read Benjamin Rush’s 1793 proposal for a Peace Office in the United States. It made sense. “A peace office might help modern man beat the Last Neanderthal to the switch,” she wrote in one of the newsletters she wrote in the 1970s as part of a considerable effort to have a Department of Peace established in the federal government.

When she and her colleagues began working they didn’t know that the idea had been brought before Congress several times earlier in the century nor that other groups had begun mobilizing support for a Department of Peace. But they soon found out:

The most vigorous effort was directed by a California-based organization, Another Mother for Peace, which in February 1969, brought a large number of well-trained citizen-lobbyists including many Hollywood celebrities, to the Capitol to dramatize the presentation of bills by Senator Vance Hartke and Representative Seymour Halpern. Shortly thereafter, at the suggestion of the sponsors, a Peace Act Advisory Council was formed, to coordinate the activities of groups favoring the bills. Peace people, political scientists and other academicians, and representatives of every religious denomination joined the Council, but as it turned out, the volunteers of the peace brigade had their hands full fighting their own fires [remember, this was the height of the Vietnam War]; campus concern took a totally different direction; and a year later it was still possible for a clergyman in Minnesota to publish an article in The Churchman, calling for a Department of Peace in the Cabinet without either author or editor knowing of the existence of the Hartke-Halpern bills.

On February 7, 1969 Senator Vance Hartke (D-Indiana) and Representative Seymour Halpern (R-New York) had introduced bills into the 91st Congress to create a U.S. Department of Peace – S.953 in the Senate with 14 sponsors and HR.6501 in the House with 67 sponsors respectively. The Peace Act Advisory Council (PAAC) met for the first time in November of that year:

Most members were nominated by voluntary organizations working in programs related to peace, international cooperation, and foreign affairs. The Council is not trying to build a large membership but hopes to reach all associations, large and small, national and regional, which share these concerns, and through these associations, their members.

PAAC alternated meetings in New York and Washington and costs were paid out of pocket. By July 1970 PAAC had attracted the following individual sponsors, most of them with national, if not international, reputations:

• Kenneth Boulding, University of Colorado
• Norman Cousins, President, World Association of World Federalists
• Morton Deutsch, Columbia University
• Jerome Frank, Johns Hopkins University
• Arthur Goldberg, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
• Ernest Gruening, Former U.S. Senator
• Seymour Halpern, U.S. Congressman
• Vance Hartke, U.S. Senator
• Mark Hatfield, U.S. Senator
• Theodore Hesburgh, President, Notre Dame University
• Roger Hilsman, Columbia University
• Townsend Hoopes, Former Undersecretary, U.S. Air Force
• Arthur Larson, Director, Rule of Law, Research Center Duke University
• Harold Lasswell, Yale University
• Paul Moore, Jr., Bishop Coadjutor, New York Diocese
• Hans Morganthau, Director, Center for the Study of American Foreign Policy, University of Chicago
• Henry Reuss, U.S. Congressman
Frederick Schuman, Portland State University
• Gordan Sherman, President, Midas International Corporation
• David Shoup, Former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps
• Gloria Steinem, New York Magazine
• Alan Westin, Columbia University
• Jerome Wiesner, Provost, MIT
• Harold Willens, Business Men’s Educational Fund
• Herbert York, University of California

In a Playboy interview in May of 1970 Senator Hartke noted: “When we speak of a Department of Peace we are discussing the means by which the idealism of the United States can be reconciled – not compromised – with the exigencies of political life. […] A nation must defend those interests that are essential to its survival; but the creation of a Department of Peace will symbolize our realization that first among those interests is the preservation of the nation’s sense of moral responsibility.” The effort was fundamentally practical. As Liebman argued:

This is a nation, not of philosophers, but of inventors, engineers, builders: a working people. Through some terrible displacement of energy, a kind of cosmic computer error, a whole generation of Americans has been programmed to work for war, and being the kind of people they are, have produced the biggest and best there is. It would strike de Tocqueville as typically American to perfect a doom machine and refer to it as “hardware.”

What are the chances of harnessing this innovative, pragmatic national genius, and the resources of the richest country in the world on behalf of peace? A lot of doves don’t believe that a government persuaded by its own ideological cant, and convinced of its own military invincibility, will support an office that challenges both. They insist that a federal peace agency would be no more than another storefront behind which the corrupt establishment could do business as usual; private peace efforts would be co-opted; the triumph of double-think would be complete.

What’s the alternative?

We are trying to halt a juggernaut in our spare time, with marginal energy and with our own money; between sales meetings, trips to the orthodontist, weddings, funerals, lectures on drug abuse, balancing the bank statement, coaching Little League, preparing for bar exams and mowing early hay ¬– and while simultaneously serving on the school board and the civil rights committee and saving the environment. Quite a job for even the most dedicated volunteer brigade. It’s discouraging to remember than on Monday morning, after our march disperses, thousands of employees will show up in the Pentagon (decent husbands and fathers all, with their own problems, crab grass, confused kids, etc.) ready to put in another productive week in the service of the juggernaut; paid by us.

Supposing we are able, with our smudgy mimeographed appeals to conscience and our amateur guitar music, to get together politically, the job will still be just begun. We have to dismantle the juggernaut, piece by piece, and then to construct effective new machinery with which to deal with the real hostilities of a real world.

[…] Our commitment is the wedge, the fulcrum, on which the power of government can be deployed for peace.

By that time PAAC had spent about $10,000, most of that in services contributed by less than twenty members. For most peace activists of the time opposing the war in Vietnam was more pressing than establishing an on-going Peace Department.

Back to the Drawing Board: the 92nd Congress and After

Alas, the Peace Act died with the adjournment of the 91st Congress in January 1971:

No hearings were held, and all of us who supported the legislation are disappointed that it did not receive fuller consideration, though few of us were so sanguine as to expect early enactment.

“May you live in interesting times,” says the old Chinese curse, and the months that followed the introduction of the Peace Act were wildly interesting. While millions struggled in the terrestrial mud, four Americans strolled on the mmoon. Proponents of the Act saw the NASA triumph as a spectacular example of what this country can do when it commits its best brains, its superior technology, and its vast wealth to a challenge. […]

Our inability to spread the word far enough, fast enough, is the simple explanation for inattention to the Peace Act. The normal problems of any education-and-promotion program were vastly complicated by the pace of events in these “interesting times”, and with our exertions it’s unlikely that we reached more than one of every thousand Americans.

In the process, of course, criticisms were voiced. Among them was the idea that the Secretary of State could adequately fulfill the functions of a Secretary of Peace. However,

the existence of nations implies the existence of national interests, and in the event of conflicting interests, every nation has a man charged with seeing to it that his people don’t get pushed around […] For the present, and for as far as we can see into the future, there ARE American interests that can and must be protected, honorably promoted, actively pursued, and the State Department is the office to single-mindedly consider those interests. The cynical response to American policy which has been described as “credibility gap” is invoked when we require the Secretary to dissemble, to call national interest by some other name.

It might of course happen that the Secretaries of State and Peace would by opposed in some specific matters. What then? Well, what? There’s nothing new about dissension, even at the Cabinet level. Of course the policy-making importance of the Cabinet varies from one administration to another, but Cabinet posts are always visible. Liebman continues:

Then, say the critics, you want this Department primarily as a rallying symbol for the peace movement? Not primarily, we reply [noting that there is a] cogent case for the administrative aspect, for the clearer planning and more efficient administration of our scattered peace programs. We intend and expect this to be a working office. However, in a country where almost every high school band is costumed as for the Charge of the Light Brigade, where churchgoers sing of Mighty Fortresses and Christian Soldiers, were almost every public festival is celebrated with military display because we have not yet invented another vocabulary for patriotism – in that kind of country, the symbolic value of a Peace Department should not be quickly dismissed.

On a more mundane level, since the Peace Act had expired, the PAAC could no longer call itself the Peace Act Advisory Council. It dissolved in and re-incorporated under a new name: The Council for a Department of Peace (CODEP). PAAC leadership continued with CODEP.

The initial effort had been covered in a wide variety of publications, including, among others, McCall’s, The New York Times, True, The Federalist, The Churchman, Playboy, Washington Post, The New Republic, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Sun Times, Los Angeles Times, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and the San Francisco Monitor. Notice how very many of these are mainstream publications.

Further bills were introduced into Congress as follows:

• 92nd Congress, January 3, 1971 to January 3, 1973: HR208, by Rep. Spark Matsunaga (D. Hawaii), January 22, 1971; an identical bill, HR6281 introduced by Rep. Henry Helstoski (D. New Jersey), March 17, 1971; S2621, introduced by Sen. Vance Hartke (D. Indiana), September 30, 1971; and an identical bill HR12600 introduced by Rep. Seymour Halpern (R. New York), with 56 co-sponsors, January 25, 1972.
• 93rd Congress, January 3, 1973 to January 3, 1975: HR 1096, Rep. Edward Roybal of California, January 3, 1973; HR 4824, Rep. Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii, February 27, 1973; S 1024, Senators Vance Hartke and Jennings Randolph.
• 94th Congress: January 3, 1975 to January 3, 1977: S.1976, June 18, 1975, Senators Vance Hartke and Mark Hatfield introduced a bill for a Peace Academy.

Nothing came of these efforts and CODEP ceased operation late in 1976. The final issue of PAX (Fall 1976), the CODEP newsletter, was devoted to arguing, not for a Peace Department, but for the Peace Academy as proposed in S. 1976 by Senators Vance Hartke and Mark Hatfield on June 18, 1976. This is how Mary Liebman concluded that final issue:

When the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was set up in 1961, it had the support of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, their Secretaries of Defense, Ambassadors to the U.N., the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and an illustrious roster of statesmen, scientists, military experts, and legislators who agreed that traditional diplomacy and conventional military strength were not adequate to the challenge of the nuclear age. ACDA was directed to study the “scientific, economic, political, legal, social, psychological, military, and technological factors relating to the prevention of war.”

The momentum of this effort was lost in successive administrations. The failure of the ACDA to fulfill its broad mandate demonstrates several truths about the nation’s peace machinery. ACDA, and other peace agencies scattered through the executive branch, are underfunded, understaffed, underpublicized, and lack forceful advocacy in the White House and Congress – perhaps because they don’t have enough direct access to the White House and Congress. Certainly they lack direct access to the American people, who never knew enough about the ACDA to the give the agency any political base, and never had any opportunity to monitor its performance.

The common-sense case for a Peace Academy starts with our commitment to the vastly complex task of constructing a just and secure world order. Like any other gigantic undertaking, from building a dam to landing on the moon, the job will require knowledge, methods, skills. There is a desperate shortage of dedicated professionals who possess this expertise, but people can be recruited and trained for public peace service as we recruit and train scientists, doctors, and four-star generals. Public service will be obligatory for Academy graduates. Having fulfilled that obligation, they will move on into a variety of careers–many continuing in government, with legislative, administrative, and policy-making responsibilities; others in communications, law, education, labor organizations, business; but all equipped for enlightened decision-making in an increasingly interdependent human society.

War is not a natural disaster. It is a manmade disaster, directed and carried out by ordinary people, who are hired and paid by other ordinary people, to make war. It will stop when ordinary people decide that, whatever satisfactions and rewards war have offered in the past, the risk is now too high and the return too low. Children in Boston live with anxiety; children in Belfast live with terror; children in Beirut live with despair. On their behalf we ask our government to establish a National Peace Academy. Now.

A new organization was established in 1976 to advocate for this proposal, the National Peace Academy Campaign (NPAC). As a result of those efforts the U.S. Institute of Peace finally opened its doors in 1986. It is an open question, however, whether or not the institute is the kind of organization that Mary Liebman and so many others had worked for. In an article originally published in Z Magazine in the July/August 1990 issue Sarah Diamond and Richard Hatch remark “Under scrutiny, the supposed peace research sponsored by the federally funded U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) looks more like the study of new and potential means of aggression, though less in the conventional military realm and more in the vein of trade embargoes, economic austerity programs, and electoral intervention.”

A Proposed Declaration of Purpose for the Peace Act

The following paragraphs summarize the Declarations of Purpose accompanying each of the bills presented to the 91st and 92nd Congresses. Mary Liebman published them in PAX: The Peace Act Exchange, Vol. 2 No. 1, February 1972, p. 2.

* * * * *

“The Government of The United States is empowered by our Constitution to take all measures which will insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare of the people. The Government of the United States is committed by the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1929, the Nuremberg Charter of 1945, and the United Nations Charter, to a serious and continuing exertion on behalf of international peace.”

“Recognizing that the security and prosperity of this Nation is endangered by conditions of disorder, threats of violence, and acts of aggression within our own society and among the nations of the world, it is the purpose of this Act to implement the resolve of the Constitution and to fulfill our international obligations by the establishment of a Department to advance the cause of peace and the just resolution of conflict in this Nation and throughout the world. The Department of Peace shall. . .

“– continually advise the President with respect to the prospects for peace in this nation and abroad;

– develop and recommend to the President appropriate plans and programs designed to minimize the use of armed force in the resolution of conflict;

– exercise leadership at the direction of the President in co-ordination of all activities of this government which may advance the cause of peace;

– cooperate with the governments of other nations, and with national and international organizations, public and private, in the creation of institutions which will strengthen the cause of peace;

– devise and direct educational programs which will further among the people an understanding of the true meaning of peace, and support research into the nature, cause, and prevention of conflict; for this purpose an Education and Research Division shall be established;

– facilitate the exchange of ideas, and increase the opportunity for relationships of friendship and respect among our own people, and between the people of this and other countries; for this purpose a Human Encounter Division shall be established;

– encourage and extend programs to secure economic conditions conducive to lasting peace through: the maintenance of a sound peace-based economy in this nation; the expansion of trade and commerce on terms of mutual benefit; responsible stewardship for the natural resources on which human life depends; and the direction of those resources into a better quality of life for all men; for this purpose a Division of Peace Economics shall be established:

– support all efforts on the part of governments and private groups to promulgate concepts of justice and rules of law under which the interests of all men shall be protected and reconciled, and all programs which endeavor to extend to international relationships those ethical and moral principles upon which laws are based; for this purpose a Division of Human Equity shall be established.”