Peace Studies Vs. Peace Research

April 13, 2009

[First published February 14, 205] When I fist started my studies of war and peace as an undergraduate in 1956 there was no peace studies or peace research generally identified as such. There were well known scientists and scholars working on war, international conflict, and peace (I will let war stand for all three related interests), however, such as Lewis Fry Richardson, Quincy Wright, Karl Deutsch, and Harold Guetzkow. In the early 1960s, their work and that of others began to form a critical mass that researches soon identified as peace research (or peace science). I was one of those that promoted this by my MA thesis, Ph.D. dissertation, and subsequent publications on the causes and conditions of war and violence. The idea was to apply to the study of war the scientific method that had been so successful in physics and medicine, conjoined with solid scholarship.

Peace research is now a concentrated field of study, with such excellent researchers and scholars as Bruce Russett, Nils Petter Gleditsch, and J. David Singer, and such rigorous journals as the Journal of conflict Resolution and the Journal of Peace Research. Much of our understanding of war causation and conditions have come out of peace research, as has the modern conception and empirical substantiation of the democratic peace. My web site is a peace research one.

However, peace is a political term, and a favorite among those on the far left. Now, I want to be careful here not to use too broad a brush. There are peace studies organizations, programs, and departments that are doing very good peace research. But they are in a small minority. Of peace studies as whole, however, it has attracted many of the anti-war, peacenik, and leftists who see peace as a flag in the struggle for ideological supremacy, or don’t know any better. Thus, much of what comes out of this group displays ignorance, and deep misunderstanding of war and international relations; or are diatribes and propaganda, largely against the United States. You know the mantras—American imperialism, war for oil, or murder of millions (Johan Galtung, a major organizer and entrepreneur of such peace studies has claimed that the U.S. has murdered six million); inequality the cause of war; capitalist hegemony; 9/11 was terrorists getting even; and so on.

Now, the peace studies industry has overshadowed peace research, as shown by the link below, and few outside of the field know the difference. This is too bad, but what I suppose one should expect, given that peace studies is imbedded in the left-wing academic culture. And I believe it will remain that way until American universities, as least, return to true academic freedom and political diversity of thought.

Link of Note

”Peace Studies’ War Against America” (4/30/03) By Greg Yardley

”Peace studies is hardly a mainstream course of study in America, but it just might be the latest academic fad. Over two hundred and fifty colleges and universities in North America offer ‘Peace Studies’ programs; many allow students to obtain complete graduate or undergraduate ‘Peace Studies’ degrees. If trends continue, more are on their way. That’s unfortunate – from the first major study of Peace Studies programs, a cutting pamphlet by human rights activist Caroline Cox and conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, these programs have been condemned as incoherent, incapable of being a serious topic of study, and loaded with political bias. . . .

“Unfortunately, these Peace Studies courses are nothing more than the academic bastion of the ‘blame America first’ crowd. America is presented as the aggressor in the Cold War, as a society founded on militarism, colonialism, and oppression, and as a society that sustains itself through racism, sexism, and class conflict. “

The “Peace” of Nuclear Nonproliferation

March 12, 2009

[First published August 2, 2005] Several days ago I came across such an egregious blindness to the democratic peace that I dragged the offending article to my desktop for its display on my blog. So I thought. But I can’t find it there or on the net.

So, from memory, a columnist obviously concerned about nuclear proliferation asked a presumed authority about the ahistorical peace in Europe since the end of World War II (ignoring the violence resulting from the breakup of Yugoslavia) and whether it was related to nonproliferation. The answer was yes, this was one of the reasons.

No, this peace couldn’t be because all Europe is democratic. Excuse me, but doesn’t France and Britain have nukes. And anyway, these weapons and the deterrent strategy of the United States surely were responsible for keeping the peace with the Soviet Union. The United States refused to declare no first use of its nukes so that they could be used defensively in case of a massive Soviet Invasion of Europe.

Here we have a strong case for the actual existence of nuclear weapons possibly saving us all from a nuclear War.

And since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the universalization of democracy in Europe, has nonproliferation in Europe beyond Britain and France kept the peace? No, and if one is going to be ridiculous, one could also argue that it is Britain’s and France’s arsenal that has kept the peace since then.

Truth to tell, I have to throw up my hands in frustration. How can the role of democracy be missed? It goes beyond something in the water. It must be an ideological unwillingness to accept this truth, much like the left’s unwillingness to accept the power of the free market.

Link of Note

“Al-Qaida nukes already in U.S.” (7/11/05) From WorldNet

It says:

According to captured al-Qaida leaders and documents, the plan is called the “American Hiroshima” and involves the multiple detonation of nuclear weapons already smuggled into the U.S. over the Mexican border with the help of the MS-13 street gang and other organized crime groups.

Al-Qaida has obtained at least 40 nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union – including suitcase nukes, nuclear mines, artillery shells and even some missile warheads. In addition, documents captured in Afghanistan show al-Qaida had plans to assemble its own nuclear weapons with fissile material it purchased on the black market.

Democratic Peace

The UN and Humanity’s Hope — Peacekeeping

February 11, 2009

[First published March 7, 2005] I have posted blogs on the UN and human rights , and now want to say a few words about UN peacekeeping. I am sure that for most us who were optimistic about the UN, we especially thought it would help resolve international disputes and prevent or end war. This did not happen in its first decades, which many then assumed was due to the Cold War. When this ended, we thought that UN peacekeeping now would take center stage. It did not.

Some facts:

  • The UN is without a standing army and relies on volunteer troop contributions for its peacekeeping missions.
  • Since 1946, the UN has undertaken 60 peacekeeping missions, or about 19 percent of the 311 arms conflicts of all forms 1946-2004. Even in this small number of carefully selected missions, they have largely failed.
  • Over 1,580 UN peacekeepers have died during these missions.
  • The peacekeeping budget for 2004-2005 is $2.8 billion (26 percent paid by the U.S.).
  • The UN has underway 16 peacekeeping missions (in Cyprus, Georgia, East Timor, between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, between Ethiopia and Eritrea, among others), with a big one in southern Sudan upcoming. It will involve 10,000 soldiers and 700 police officers in a huge country as big as Western Europe (but will not involve the deadly conflict in Darfur). This will bring the peacekeeping deployment to about 85,700 personnel.
  • Peacekeepers come from 103 nations, of which Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Ethiopia are the top providers, together totaling over 28,000 personnel. China contributes over 1,000 peacekeepers, while for the U.S. it is 428.
  • Most peacekeepers lack experience, training, equipment, and good officers.
  • Some of the failed operations have been in the Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo mission began in 1999 to stop a war involving six nations, and now involves about 17,000 peacekeepers. So far, they have been unable to stop the killing or democide, which in the last 3 or 4 years had amounted to about 3 million dead.
  • Some of the more successful operations have been in Cyprus, El Salvador, Liberia, and East Timor
  • Peacekeepers have sexual exploited and raped children and adults in their missions to the Ivory Coast, Haiti, and Burundi, and investigators expect to find more cases in other missions.
  • Although not strictly peacekeeping, the 1996-2003 UN oil-for-food program in Iraq during which thug Saddam Hussein paid bribes and kickbacks has cast a cloud over all the UN’s political activities.

In spite of a few successes in relatively small peacekeeping operation, overall the UN’s peacekeeping has failed. This was the conclusion of the important UN Brahimi Report, linked below, and is now increasingly the subject of serious study and commentary. See for example, the book Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict by William Shawcross.

The problem is with the fifteen member Security Council. The UN Charter explicitly empowers it to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and “make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken . . . to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Each of the five permanent members of the Council, the U.S., France, United Kingdom, Russia, and China can veto any proposed action of the Council. China is still a communist dictatorship, and Freedom House now rates Russia as unfree. Either one of these countries by itself can scuttle any UN attempt to keep the peace and prevent or deal with aggression, terrorism, or democide.

Then there is France, of whom one can expect that it would veto any involvement by the U.S. that would heighten its prestige or international role.

The General Assembly elects for two-year terms ten members of the Security Council. Each has one vote, and nine votes, absent a veto by a permanent member, are required to pass a substantive resolution. The importance of this cannot be overstated. For 2005, the Security Council’s elected members were (with freedom ranking on civil and political rights by Freedom House in parentheses, where F = free, PF = partly free, and NF = not free) Algeria (NF), Argentina (F), Benin (F), Brazil (F), Denmark (F), Greece (F), Japan (F), Philippines (F), Romania (F), and Tanzania (PF). Of these, then, there is an 8 to 2 split in favor of the free democracies, the best prodemocratic ratio I’ve seen in the Council. Adding the US, United Kingdom, and France, the three permanent members rated free, to carry a resolution these 11 democratic members must first persuade China and Russia to at least abstain rather than exercise their veto (given France goes along or abstains).

However, most often in the past, even when China and Russia abstain or agree, one or more thug dicators on the Council had to be persuaded to go along. This was a frustrating diplomatic effort (perhaps entailing bribery — grants, economic aid that can be skimmed, favorable trade deals, silence on his crimes, and so on). The achievement of nine votes becomes even more difficult if any democracies abstain. Thus, Saddam Hussein, the bloody dictator of Iraq, could defy Security Council resolutions and kick out UN weapons inspectors at no cost. Finally, with Resolution 1441, the fourteenth resolution of the Security Council against Iraq, Hussein defiance posed too great a perceived danger to wait any longer and the United States led a successful military coalition against him.

On human rights, on stopping democide, especially that called genocide, and as we have seen, on peacekeeping — the peacekeeping that was the post-World War II hope of humanity — has failed. But, some would say, the UN has many functions, and surely some of its other agencies, like UNICEF and WHO provide nations with important aid and services, advancing the cause of welfare, health, development, and so forth. I will deal with this in another blog.

Link of Note

Report of the panel on UNITED NATIONS Peace Operations (August 2000)

This is the so-called Brahimi Report (named after the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi who chaired the panel) on UN peace operations.

The United Nations was founded, in the words of its Charter, in order “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Meeting this challenge is the most important function of the Organization, and, to a very significant degree, the yardstick by which it is judged by the peoples it exists to serve. Over the last decade, the United Nations has repeatedly failed to meet the challenge; and it can do no better today. Without significant institutional change, increased financial support, and renewed commitment on the part of Member States, the United Nations will not be capable of executing the critical peacekeeping and peace-building tasks that the Member States assign it in coming months and years.

How To Make Peace—Understand Freedom

January 7, 2009

The arts of peace are great, And no less glorious than those of war.

William Blake, King Edward III

[First published March 6, 2006] To begin, understand that peace is not an absence of something; not a void, a negative. It is a specific achievement — a social contract. And we create peace, it does not just happen. The Peacemaking Principle is this.

We make peace by balancing powers

Conflict between people, groups, or nations is a confrontation of what each wants, can, and will do (The Conflict Principle). It is a balancing of our different powers (The Power Principle). To make peace, then, is to achieve a balance of powers — an interlocking of mutual interests, capabilities, and wills (the Second , Third, and Fourth Master Principles). One’s means to accelerate, ease, or facilitate this process must therefore be focused directly on the balancing of these elements or the conditions influencing them.

Now, of course, one’s conflict is a unique event. It involves unique individuals in a specific situation resulting from the breakdown in their particular expectations (The Gap Principle). Peacemaking then will be a balancing particular to the life histories of those involved and probably little appreciated or understood by outsiders. Nonetheless, there are certain common aspects to peacemaking, as there are commonalities to one’s conflict and expectations. And these allow us to define a variety of common means to reduce the intensity of conflict, accelerate the achievement of peace, and make the resulting interpersonal, intergroup, or international peace more enduring.

These means are diverse and involve a number of considerations, which I have organized into the nine-peacemaking subprinciples listed in Table 27.

I will discuss them in the order shown.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 1: Clarify The Conflict Situation
Conflict is a dispute over something, whether it is a teenager’s curfew, who washes the dishes, a new work contract, the role of religion in governing a state, or the location of an international border. All such conflict is within a situation defined by four aspects: each party’s underlying goals and beliefs; the actual facts involved; the mutual perception of these goals, beliefs, and facts; and the mutual communication about them.

Now, conflict itself is a process of communication — an engagement of fields of expression. Passions and beliefs become evident; the nature and intensity of hidden interests surface. Mutual perceptions rub against each other and assumed facts are engaged (The Conflict Principle). In the process of achieving a new structure of expectations, conflict integrates these hidden goals and mutual perceptions into a balance among the central interests at stake, the relevant capabilities, and the will of each (The Cooperation Principle). This balancing process can be shortened, the intensity and possible antagonism lessened, and the resulting expectations made more realistic by following in the beginning four rules for clarifying the conflict situation.

1. Uncover the underlying or hidden goals and beliefs. Look beneath the conflict. A dispute really may be not over a teenage daughter coming home late, but about parental authority. A contentious dispute in a legislature over people’s democratic right to create a new law through the initiative and referendum may really be over the status quo dominated by a union-business coalition. And democratic rule may not be the real aim of guerrillas trying to take over a dictatorship in Africa, but a cover for trying to impose an Islamic regime.

A conflict may simply reflect latent beliefs about who should dominate a marriage, the relative role of husband and wife in raising their children, the feeling of sexual inadequacy, the fear of union or business power, or the hatred of capitalism. Or the conflict may manifest the hidden, perhaps even unconscious, belief that the other threatens one’s self image, job, status, or country. Whatever, one should be always sensitive to the two possible levels of conflict: the surface issue, and the hidden issue.

2. Determine the facts. Fact-finding is an essential part of resolving conflicts, for often conflicts are generated by a misperception or misunderstanding of the facts involved (The Subjectivity Principle). Moreover, an objective assessment of the facts often can provide a basis for resolving a conflict. It is especially helpful if fact-finding is a mutual effort, for involving all parties makes the conflict more a rational and mutually collaborative, and less an hostile and emotional process.

3. Put oneself in the other’s shoes. Try to see the conflict through the other’s eyes. How does the other see the facts? What are the other’s interests? Especially, how does the other see one’s demands or offers? Resolving conflict is partially developing an ability to empathize with the other, to be sensitive to the other’s frame of reference, and to see oneself as a field of expression (The Communication Principle).

4. State the other’s argument and demands. Miscommunication and misperception can play a large role in conflict. One way to reduce them is to seek mutual agreement on the issues and arguments. And this requires one to phrase to the other’s satisfaction their position and justification. Simply mutually stating and accepting the issues and arguments will often cut through layers of misunderstanding and help establish firmer expectations.

These four rules — look underneath, look at the facts, look at oneself, and look at the other — alone will not make peace. But these help focus on the real issues and reduce the emotional content.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 2: Define A Yesable Interest
Peacemaking partially involves separating what we want the other to do from the self-assertive and emotional aspects of a conflict. True, strength, and intensity of expression, our assertiveness, communicate our true feeling and interests (The Conflict Principle). But this should not confuse those involved in conflict about each other’s specific demands, requests, or desires. Moreover, unless the conflict is simply a contest of force rather than wills, each side should know what the other wants. And the best way to communicate this is to phrase our wants (interests — see The Intentionality Principle) in such a way to elicit a simple “yes.”

“Do you really love me?” “Will you help me with the dishes?” “Will you give me a raise of $50 a month?” “Do you officially recognize our revolutionary government?” “Do you agree to mediation of our border differences?”

In making a yesable demand (request, offer, appeal, claim, and the like), there are five helpful rules.

1. Focus on the decision to be made by the other. In conflict, and with the exception of using force, one is working through the other’s mental field (The Power Principle). One is trying to get the other to do or not to do something. That is, one wants the other to make some kind of decision. One should therefore clarify and focus on this decision in a way to allow for a simple “yes” response.

Of course, in some conflicts trying to elicit a verbal yes may create more heat or difficulty than necessary, especially where saying yes may concede a moral victory to the other, or involve pride or esteem. Therefore, a yesable response need not be verbal: it may only involve the other clearly doing or desisting from something. Thus, a request that our son start coming home in time for supper may require no verbal yes. Only that he henceforth be home in time. A demand that a state refrain from aiding rebels in a neighboring country may get no official “yes,” but the rebels may clearly stop getting supplies.

2. Clarify the outcome of a decision. We should not only focus on the other’s decision that is required, but also on its outcome (The Expectation Principle). What will happen if yes? Or no?

In coercive situations, an unambiguous threat should make clear the outcome of a no as well as the consequences of a yes. “You will be fired if you botch another contract, but if you hook a big one you can expect a ten percent bonus.” “Continue to picket against the housing development, and you will be arrested; but if you desist a park will be included in the development.” Indeed, a demand is more effective if coupled with an offer — an inducement to respond yes.

In a bargaining situation, an explicit promise, an offer, should make clear the result of a yes response. If the offer is accepted, then an exchange will occur. However, what is often neglected is to make clear the consequences of a no response. Such may be done, and without making this outcome seem a threat. “If you don’t buy the television set before the sale ends next week it will cost $100 more.” “If you don’t sell us this military equipment, for our own security we must seek them elsewhere.”

3. Divide a big interest into smaller ones. In some conflict situations it is easier to agree on a number of small issues than on a big one. Concessions on some issues can then be traded off for a yes on some others. And smaller, separable interests are less likely to raise resistance than a big one.

For example, a family dispute may be over whether to move into another house closer to work (or to shopping, or to the city) — clearly a big issue. If the new house is only a means, however, and not an end in itself, the issue might be resolved by considering a number of smaller questions. Perhaps a new, more comfortable car, a change in work hours to avoid the worst traffic, or remodeling the present house may satisfy the original interest and still provide sufficient compromises for agreement among family members.

4. Avoid making principle an issue. It is less conflictful to make concrete demands or requests that involve specific behavior or things, than to push for an agreement on a principle. A husband likely will be more amenable to helping with the housecleaning, cooking, and dishes, if the wife simply asks for help at a particular time, than he will be to accepting the principle that men also should do the housework. It is easier to pass a law providing the aged, disabled, and poor with free medical care, than one which asserts the right of all to national health care. The most intense, social, and international conflicts — the bloodiest massacres, revolutions, and wars — have occurred over religious and ideological principles.

5. Leave self-esteem intact. Whatever our demand or request, it should be phrased such that the other’s self-esteem is not affected. Demands that lower the other’s self‑esteem, such as any which would implicitly concede our superiority or demean the other, invite intense and antagonistic opposition (The Self-Esteem Principle). Offer enough money and people will happily sell many things, including the shirt off their back — but usually not their self-respect. Nations may fight a bloody war to the very end rather than suffer ignoble defeat. If esteem related, yesable demands must be made, these should be coupled with face-saving yesable offers.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 3: Invoke Overriding Interests
The presence of an overriding interest between parties in conflict tends to reduce it, and make what conflict that does occur easier to resolve. Two rules are helpful.

1. Invoke a paramount common loyalty.

2. Invoke a superior common goal.

A paramount loyalty may be to family, to church, to country. This loyalty is especially powerful when our common family, group, or nation is under threat or attack. A common goal serves the same functions as loyalty. The more important this goal, the more likely conflict that might hamper it will be suppressed or avoided. Thus, the communist Soviet Union and capitalist Great Britain and United States allied to defeat Hitler’s Germany in World War II.

The identification of individuals with their group and with common purposes is a major psychological force. Self-esteem becomes imbedded in the group or invested in a common goal; we become sensitive to what other members think of us or our efforts; keeping up group appearances and not letting others down becomes compelling. Thus subordinating an issue to a common goal and purpose dampens a conflict’s tendency to escalate and helps resolve it. A family dispute over the husband accepting a new position in faraway New York may be resolved by linking such a move to the future stability and survival of the family. A faculty fight in the history department over a tenure decision may be rapidly resolved by pointing out that the continued independence of the department from intervention by the dean is at stake. As dictators know so well, they may end anti-regime unrest and agitation by raising (or creating) the threat of foreign intervention. Arguing that the team’s ability to win can be compromised may end a fight with a teammate. And a union may finally agree to a lesser contract if the company shows that the union’s demands will put it out of business.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 4: Focus On An Exchange
Ultimately, we will achieve more by the carrot than the stick. Two rules help in this:

1. Seek to make attractive offers.

2. Reward agreement.

These rules define an exchange (The Exchange Principle) — both parties to a conflict are satisfying their interests. This allows for a contractual or friendly resolution to a conflict. And it will provide a more durable balance of power for subsequent cooperation. The best assurance of peace is mutual satisfaction.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 5: Emphasize Legitimacy
Legitimacy is the base of authoritarian power (The Power Principle). The more we can establish some legitimate reason, explanation, or justification for the decision we want another to make in a conflict situation, the more likely to induce a yes. Not because the other fears the consequences of a no; nor because the other desires what we promise for a yes, but because the other believes a yes is right. It is proper.

Of course, not all issues can be resolved by invoking legitimacy. Nonetheless, emphasizing legitimacy can influence a conflict and help avoid harmful confrontation and escalation. Three rules should be useful.

1. Seek precedent for a solution. If we can show that what we want or will settle for has been agreed to before by the other, or by those the other respects in a similar conflict situation, then this tends to make our demand or request legitimate. Precedent can exist in previously made formal decisions (as in judicial settlement), previous agreements (as in contracts), or in previous behavior (as in previous practices or procedures). My two daughters were skilled at this way of settling an argument with me. “But Dad,” Dawn would respond to my “no.” “You went to see Lei’s soccer game last week. Why can’t you go to see my volleyball game?”

2. Recognize a conflict’s legitimacy. Consider the First Master Principle: each of us is an individual; each of us sees things in our own way and has our own interests. It does no good to scorn, ignore, or ridicule another in a conflict. To say or imply that the other’s demands or requests are meaningless or silly is unnecessary and intolerant. It raises the heat of conflict and may prolong it. Recognize that what the other will argue or fight about is important to them. Accept the legitimacy of the issue. And accept the legitimacy of the other.

3. Consider a legitimate third-party. A third party can help in objective fact finding, surfacing hidden interests or beliefs, clearing up misperception and miscommunication, and proposing compromises. In marriage counseling, labor-management disputes, and international conflict the value of third-party help is well recognized. They can provide conciliation, mediation, arbitration, or judgment. Even a pool of trained conciliators and mediators has been developed within the United States, and marriage counseling has become a profession. Whether one seeks help from professionals, however, or from a mutual friend, parent, aunt, boss, priest, or a neutral outsider, the mutual acceptance of a third-party playing some legitimate role and the process of clarifying the issue is often a first and second step towards conflict resolution.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 6: Keep Issue And Power Proportional
We do not threaten to break our child’s arm the next time we catch him in the cookie jar. Nor do we threaten to resign from a tenured faculty or civil service position if we do not get the parking space we want. Nor do we threaten to wipe out another state’s cities with nuclear weapons if it commits aggression anywhere. That is, not if we wish to be believed and to avoid having our threat called. Extreme promises, threats, or appeals to authority can weaken one’s credibility and defeat their use when, indeed, a vital issue does come along that merits extreme power. And even if successful, excessive power may only by an expensive, temporary victory, creating resentment and sullen acceptance.

Whatever sanctions, threats, offers, or promises are made, they should be in line with the demand or request. That is, they should be consistent with the interests involved. Two rules formalize this important means for establishing legitimacy and justice, and easing conflict resolution.

1. Make power proportional to the interests at stake.

2. Make power relevant to the interests at stake.

So, when we catch our child with his hand in the cookie jar, we should explain why he ought not eat cookies without permission, and that the next time he will get no cookies for a week. So to deter another state from aggression in a protracted conflict, we should make sure that it knows we are willing and able to respond with forces sufficient to defeat its aggression where it occurs and that by initiating aggression it has legitimatized (opened the door to) a similar move on our part in the same or similar area. (Thus, another North Korean invasion of South Korea should not only be repelled, but should legitimatize a counter invasion of North Korea.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 7: Display Commitment
Attention to how another sees our will is essential in a conflict (The Conflict Principle). Whether the other believes our promise or threat, questions our legitimacy, or accepts our intellectual credentials, will help determine their yes or no. Three important rules in this regard help to avoid unnecessary escalation and misunderstandings.

1. Be credible. Make the basis of a demand, request, or offer believable. Our threat or promise should be clearly within our will and means to carry out. If we are depending on our authority or credentials, these should be unambiguous.

2. Protect our reputation for power. The image of power we project in a conflict is essential to the manner and speed of its resolution. We should not make demands, requests, or offers that call our power into question; remember that the strength and duration of the resulting peace and the nature of future conflicts depend in part on the image of power that we foster in conflict now.

3. Show a readiness to react or respond to the other’s decision.

If, for example, a state has threatened to coerce another into removing its troops from a disputed border area, it can cancel leaves, partially mobilize troops, and reinforce opposing units in order to display commitment. If the state also has made an offer to provide financial or technical help after the conflict is resolved, then it can display preparations to provide such help.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 8: Consider Creating Distance
Creating distance in space between disputants or antagonists and distance in time from a conflict can help to resolve it. Two rules are appropriate.

I. Consider withdrawal. In some situations temporary withdrawal may be the best way to cool a conflict to get a better perspective on the issue and the decisions we want. In a family fight, for example, it is sometimes wise to simply leave the house for a long walk or go to a movie. Of course, in collective social or political conflict and violence withdrawal can concede moral and physical ground to the other side, and can seriously endanger our interests. When an army garrison has mutinied or one’s border is attacked, withdrawal except to regroup and counterattack can mean defeat. But where the sides are relatively equal, a mutual withdrawal may be workable. In this case, a ceasefire in place may be negotiable or a third party may be invited (such as United Nations peace-keeping forces) to interpose itself between the belligerents.

2. Weigh separation. When conflict or violence explodes, separating the parties may help. Thus, when the rough and tumble of a football game turns into a first fight between two opposing linemen, team members will immediately separate the two. Separation and divorce are often the only solution to irreconcilable differences between family members, as well as the means of resolving fundamental conflicts between minority racial, religious, ethnic, and nationality groups and a majority. Groups should be free to form their own communities, and independently pursue their own interests. Self-determination for minorities is not only a principle of freedom, but also a way of resolving protracted and possibly violent conflict. For this reason voluntarily formed racial or cultural neighborhoods, ethnic reservations, or autonomous regions can serve a peacemaking function.

Separation as a technique of conflict resolution has worked well in my family. When teenagers, each of my daughters had her own bedroom over which she was sovereign — a sanctuary. By their late teens they seldom had big fights (The Helix Principle), but when they did have heated arguments that were getting too intense or disturbed the peace and harmony of the household, my wife and I would send them off to their rooms. A couple of quiet hours away from each other usually ended the dispute. Note, however, that we did not impose a solution. They were free to continue the fight later and less noisily.

In sum, conflict may be resolved simply by allowing it to fade out or by eliminating the conflict situation (as in divorce). This is achieved by withdrawal or separation of the parties, which allows the “heat of battle” to cool, perspectives on the issues to develop, the underlying interests to change; or which now gives each an opportunity to satisfy independently those interests that were in conflict.

Peacemaking Subprinciple 9: Resist Aggression
The actual solution of a conflict may involve a negotiated settlement, mediation, a third party award to one side, or another. Or the conflict may fade away or be eliminated, as from withdrawal or separation. Or, and this has yet to be mentioned, one side may overpower — conquer — the other.

Conquest can involve beating up another, terrorizing the other into submission, physically overcoming the other, or as in the case of revolution or war, utterly defeating the opposing forces. Now, aggressive conquest as a means to conflict resolution is often wrong: using force to impose one’s interests (values and goals) on another, aside from its immorality, can only create a resentment, grievance, and hostility that will fuel greater conflict and violence later. Where a deep dispute over a status quo exists, some kind of negotiated compromise should be worked out.

But there are situations in which the only resolution possible, desirable, or moral may be through conquest: a test of strength and the unambiguous defeat of the other side — as of Hitler, the Taliban, or Saddam Hussein. If our family is attacked by a teenage gang at a remote camping site, flight or fight may be the only alternatives and flight may be blocked. If a communist coup in a democratic country is attempted, violent defeat of the rebels may be the only choice other than surrender. And aggression against one’s country should usually be resisted. To believe that conflict should always be resolved through negotiation, mediation, and compromise invites an aggressor to assume that what is his is his, but what is ours is negotiable.

On this, I do not want to be misunderstood. Resisting aggression does not necessarily mean meeting aggression bomb for bomb, tank for tank, or even slap for slap. What defense measures are taken and how aggression is discouraged depends on the situation and the victim’s resources. Even a nonviolent response to violent aggression may be appropriate and effective.

In any case, standing up to aggression brings conflict to a head by forcing a test of interests, capabilities, and will — if the aggressor so wants it. And this may be a faster, ultimately less conflictful, less violent way of resolving conflict than conciliation or appeasement. Taking on the bully in the school yard may yield a black eye, but if we put up a good fight, he and others who saw the fight are likely to leave us alone thereafter; we may even become friends. And by not rewarding aggression, we make it easier to apply the other subprinciples of peacemaking.

Implicit in this discussion are two rules.

1. Gauge different power responses. Do not automatically respond to aggression in kind. The most effective response is one that shifts the power to bases that we can employ more effectively (The Power Principle) and lessens the risk of violent escalation. Thus, in the American South during the early 1960s, civil rights demonstrators met police and White violence with nonviolent, peaceful protests, sit ins, marches, and economic boycotts. The sheer number of the protestors involved and their leaders’ manipulation of the media to create favorable, national publicity for the demonstrations, eventually defeated the violence, ended segregation, and won major improvements in the conditions of Blacks.

2. Respond in measure. Respond proportionally, although not necessarily in kind. To meet aggression in equal measure is legitimate. Overreaction risks escalation and a more extended and intense conflict; under reaction appears weak and risks continued aggression and defeat.

• • •
Such are major subprinciples of peacemaking.
In sum, conflict is an engagement of what we and others want, can, and will do in a situation in which current expectations are irrelevant or no longer suitable. Perceived situations, expectations, interests, capabilities, and will are the elements of our conflict and peacemaking. Objective things — money, sex, weapons, words, land — are only the tools or objects of conflict. And material conditions, like the distance between two people or a mountainous border between two states, only frame and physically limit conflict. The essence of conflict is an opposition of minds (Chapter 2); the arena of conflict is the mental field. The principles and rules for its resolution are psychological.

The presentation of these principles and rules may have created some misunderstanding, three of which are especially important to clarify.

Misunderstanding 1: “Peacemaking is Good.”

Focusing on peacemaking may imply that our best and immediate response to conflict is trying to resolve it. This inference is wrong. No doubt, some conflicts are unnecessary. Moreover, some are needlessly intense and long lasting. But there are conflicts that are a real and necessary clash of vital interests, only through which we can protect or further our goals and also achieve a more satisfactory and harmonious peace.

The war against Hitler’s Germany from 1939 to 1945 illustrates this. It cost tens of millions of lives. But consider the greater misery, the terror, the executions, and the cold-blooded murders if Hitler had consolidated his control of Europe and had been victorious in his invasion of Russia. No numbers can adequately measure the agony he inflicted on his captive people (including many Germans), but the killing of 21,000,000 people, including almost 6,000,000 Jews, by his henchman before and during the war is an indication of what to expect had he ruled Europe unchallenged. Said John Locke:

If the innocent honest man must quietly quit all he has, for peace’s sake, to him who will lay violent hands on it, I desire it may be considered, what kind of peace there will be in the world, which consists only in violence and rapine, and which is to be maintained only for the benefit of robbers and oppressors. (Second Treatise of Government, 1690)

We can always end a conflict when we want. By total surrender. After all, one can have the peace of the slave or prisoner. Or peace may be bought by appeasing an aggressor or tyrant. That is temporarily, until our self-esteem can no longer suffer the increasing demands and indignities.

There are things more important than peace, then, like dignity, freedom, security. Peacemaking is not necessarily our highest goal in a conflict. Achieving our interests with the least cost in the least time and creating a better and more enduring peace is the general aim. The peacemaking principles, subprinciples, and rules then ease this process. They help avoid pointless escalation and aggravating conflict interaction. They speed up the trial and error adjustment of opposing interests. And they help establish a more acceptable, more stable peace.

Peacemaking is a means, not a goal

Misunderstanding 2: “Peace is constructed.”

I have used the term “peacemaking” here, since it is well established. Unfortunately, the verb “make” may imply that peace is laid out and constructed, as a house is planned and put up brick by brick, a bridge engineered, or a highway designed and built. This implication is especially seductive in this age when society is generally seen as man-made (rather than to have evolved) and many accept the illusion that communities can be centrally planned and managed.

But peace is not made as one constructs a bridge. Peace emerges from the balancing of individual mental fields. What we honestly believe, actually want, truly are willing to get, or are capable of achieving is unknown to others. And perhaps only partially to ourselves. Nonetheless, only we can make best use of the information available to us to justly satisfy our interests. Therefore, for us or anyone else to try to construct in the abstract a peace involving us is foolhardy. We will make only an uncertain peace, forestall the necessary trial and error balancing, and perhaps even create greater conflict later. Peace is an outcome of balancing among the parties involved. At best, peacemaking eases the process.

Misunderstanding 3: “It takes two to make violence and war, but one to make peace.”

Pacifists believe that violence and war cannot occur if people will lay down their arms and refuse to fight. If, of course, all parties do, then by definition no violence can occur. But, the pacifist belief that freedom from violence is achieved by one side refusing to use violence, or submitting to the other, ignores unilateral violence. If in an argument the other person becomes belligerent, we can refuse to fight. We can try to calm the other. Humor them and pretend to agree with them. But they may still beat us up. Threatened by another state, our leaders may try to avoid war by accepting its demands. The result may be enslavement, systematic executions, and the elimination of leaders and “undesirables.” In other words, to avoid violent conflict we might submit to the far greater unilateral violence of a tyrannical conqueror.

Certainly, in some conflict situations, nonviolence may be an effective strategy for waging conflict, as in the successful Black civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s, or the successful nonviolent, civil disobedience movement for Indian independence from Britain begun by Mahatma Gandhi in 1922. Moreover, in some other situations refusal to fight may avoid unnecessary escalation and ease peacekeeping. However, there are also situations, especially involving tyrants, despots, and other such oppressors, in which freedom from violence or a satisfactory resolution of a dispute are not bought by trying to escape violence. But one can make a down payment on such a peace by accepting the possibility of violence and by a willingness to meet violent aggression in kind, if necessary.

How To Keep The Peace—Understand Power

January 2, 2009

It’s a maxim not to be despised ‘Though peace be made,
yet it’s interest that keeps the peace.
—-Cromwell. Speech, September 4, 1654

[First published April 1, 2006] Born out of conflict, the labor of mutual adjustments to change, peace is a new social contract. Its spine is a balance of powers; its organs, expectations. But peace eventually ages and, overcome by change, dies as it entered this world: in conflict. And of its life, cooperative and productive, its offspring, experience, will remain.

Thus the question: how to assure peace a long and healthy life, and to minimize the burden of its inevitable passing. The Peacekeeping Principle underlies the answers. It is this.


Its subprinciples are given in Table 28.1, and will be discussed in order (if you do not see the Table, it is because of a formatting problem that affects some versions of Windows — it comes out clear on the Mac, and here).


We should begin with things as they are, the here and now, not some past situation or some future hope. But this assumes knowing what is presently important for keeping the peace. And this requires understanding the nature and basis of peace.

It will not help, and may even contribute to conflict and violence if we simply see peace as the absence of any conflict behavior; and peacekeeping as avoiding any provocative, assertive, aggravating, contentious, antagonistic, or hostile behavior—in short, any behavior that may upset another. The first rule is:

1.Understand peace. The principles presented in this book provide a relevant understanding of peace. To review, each of us is an individual (The First Master Principle); each group to which we belong is unique. We come to live together in all our individuality and subjectivity through a trial and error process of learning to read each other’s field of expression (The Communication Principle), and of mutual adjustment to what each will, can, and wants to do. Conflict is the noise of this adjustment (The Conflict Principle), out of which mutually reliable expectations are developed.

These expectations underlie interpersonal and social order, cooperation, and harmony. For reliable expectations enable us to achieve our interests, and satisfy our needs. A structure of expectations is then a reliable ordering of expectations to which individuals have implicitly or explicitly agreed because of their mutual adjustments. It may be composed of laws and norms, of contracts and misunderstandings. It defines how each will react to the other’s behavior. And it reflects the most acceptable balance among the interests, capabilities, and wills involved. This is the balance of powers, which supports the structure of expectations. For as long as expectations are aligned with it, those involved have an interest in maintaining the associated order (The Cooperation Principle).

But this balance is at a moment in time. Its components will change, but unequally. Expectations will change with the psychological inertia of habits and norms, while interests, capabilities, and wills can change rapidly. A gap thus may develop between what others expect of us and what we are able, willing, or interested in continuing to do. This would produce a strain, a growing instability in associated relationships, a disposition towards a breakdown of expectations, conflict, and the development of a new structure of expectations (The Gap Principle).

Peace is a structure of expectations, a social contract (The Second, Third, and Fourth Master Principles). Peace will be kept so long as all of us involved, for whatever reason, find it in all our intersecting interests, capabilities, and will to do so. Thus, these additional rules follow.

2. Know what kind of peace. Peacekeeping must have in mind a specific peace—a particular structure of expectations. If we want to keep the peace, therefore, we should know what specific structure of expectations we want to maintain. Is it a marriage, the harmony of the household, or the division of household tasks? Is it a constitution, the laws regulating conservation, or the rights of the press? Is it multilateral trade arrangements, a security treaty with an ally, or the status quo in the Middle East? Peacekeeping must be shaped and fitted to the structure of expectations of concern.

There is another aspect to knowing what kind of peace. There are not only different structures of peace, but also different levels of peace. Does one want to avoid all conflict? Intense nonviolent conflict (yelling, extreme words, boycotts, sanctions)? Violence? Or, just extreme violence (injuring another, revolutions, war)? The significance of this question is that different levels of peace are interrelated, and trying to keep the peace at one level may destroy it at another. Trying to avoid all conflict may put a lid on adjustment, cause pressure for change to build up, and risk an outbreak of violence. Indeed, avoiding war in a particular situation may require a willingness to engage in low-level violence. As will be discussed below, therefore, one peacekeeping subprinciple is to accept some conflict now in order to avoid more intense conflict later.

3. Recognize the interdependence of expectations. While we must keep specific expectations in mind when trying to keep the peace, we also should recognize that structures of expectations are interdependent. Our relations with others are a totality, a whole that divides into overlapping and nested structures. Our efforts to keep one kind of peace may spill over onto other kinds of peace, perhaps even creating conflict. Our accommodations on the job to keep peace with our boss, such as working overtime, may cause family quarrels; or a government’s desire to avoid an open clash with strikers may communicate weakness and encourage a general rebellion. Therefore, while we must have a certain peace in view, we should also take into account the effect of our peacekeeping measures on other kinds and levels of peace. By avoiding one fight, we may create two.

4. Keep in view the balance of powers. Basic to a specific peace is its associated mutual balance of interests, capabilities and will. How this balance changes will increase or decrease the likelihood of conflict. Starting from the existing balance of powers, therefore, we must have a sense for the nature of this balance and any changes in it.

Particularly, we should assess the relevant change in powers. Is there a change in the specific interests involved in a structure of expectations? Have relevant capabilities altered? Has the will of one or more parties changed? For example, through diverse conflicts and crises during the 1950s and early 1960s, the United States and Soviet Union developed a balance of powers and associated understandings and treaties that allowed them to coexist with a minimal danger of war. However, for a number of reasons (such as the Vietnam War, generational turnover, fear of nuclear weapons, and a tactical Soviet emphasis on peaceful coexistence) the interests of Americans then shifted from primarily opposing Soviet expansionism to avoiding nuclear war. American capability to fight a war declined, and the will to oppose communism weakened. During this time, Soviet rulers continued to pursue their primary aim of a Soviet led, global communist victory and continued to increase her military capability to support this goal. Much change therefore occurred in the Soviet-American balance of powers relevant to the possibility of a Soviet-American war. This dangerous imbalance was not righted until Ronald Reagan became President. He strengthened American conventional and nuclear capability, initiated the development of a nuclear missile shield (called “star wars”), and well displayed firm resolution in confronting Soviet power. This did much, not only to make a Soviet-American war more unlikely, but as it became obvious to Soviet rulers that they could not compete economically and militarily with the U.S., it led to the collapse of the whole communist system.

Also, we must not only assess what is the relevant change in powers, but also what relative changes there are. The change in the interests, capabilities, or will of one party may be offset by changes in the other. Through disarmament or arms control treaties, two states may reduce the number of weapons and hold constant their relative quality. Two states also may mutually increase their armaments, with one maintaining a rough superiority. In the case of the United States and Soviet Union, from 1968 to the late 1970s the former had been in effect unilaterally disarming while the latter had engaged in a rapid build up. Thus in relative terms, the disparity in military capability during this period had been changing more rapidly than would be clear from looking at either’s capabilities alone.

Peacekeeping Subprinciple 2: GUARD THE BALANCE OF POWERS

A particular balance of powers is essential to its associated peace. This balance is a matter of what psychological relationships have developed between individuals or groups. Knowing or sensing this balance is one aspect of peacekeeping. Maintaining this balance is another. Two rules apply here.

1. At least maintain relevant powers.

2. At least maintain relative powers.

We should know what interests, capabilities, or will are relevant to a specific peace; and their relative balance. At least, then, the relative balance of the relevant powers should be maintained to keep the peace. This, however, may be a temporary effort until any significant gap that has developed between expectations and powers can be lessened.

For example, peace and harmony in a family may have been established (The Conflict Helix) through years of living in the same neighborhood (allowing stable friendships to develop) and evolving a satisfactory balance between housework, recreation, outside employment, and the family budget. Maintaining this peace, were this the dominant goal, would then mean avoiding any radical changes in the conditions that would significantly alter what family members want, can, and will do. It probably would mean staying in a neighborhood, with no radical change in job (such as working night shifts, which could require new family adjustments), keeping relatively the same division of labor (such as the wife not starting a separate career), avoiding relatives moving in, and so on.

Of course, such changes may be desirable and the resulting conflict a worthwhile adjustment. I do not argue in the abstract for peacekeeping above all, or even as a major goal. We have many interests to satisfy. And the weight peacekeeping should be given against, say, starting a new career, depends on our values and judgment. Nonetheless, watching the balance of powers helps us to better manage our life. On this, a third rule is important.

3. Watch the status quo challenger. The status quo is the core of any peace. It defines rights and obligations—who gets what from whom—and is based on a particular balance of powers.

Now, a party to the balance may not like or want the status quo, but has accepted it because they lacked the power to get more. They may be dissatisfied, however, and simply be waiting for a favorable change in the balance of powers to challenge the status quo. Because the issues are so crucial, a resulting conflict over the status quo can lead to intense violence and war (The Violence and War Principles). Therefore, it is vital to recognize a status quo challenger (such as a person who wants our mate, job, or status; or assert control over our life, group, or country); and to know the particular balance that maintains the status quo against the challenger. Usually a status quo is stable when the challenger is weaker in power (interests X capabilities X will). Peace is then a matter of maintaining the relative power of those who support the status quo.

For example, the status quo in Europe so bloodily fixed by World War I and the 1919 Versailles Treaty depended on maintaining a politically and militarily strong Great Britain and France, and a relatively weak Germany. This was bitterly resented by many Germans. And when Hitler centralized and united Germany politically in the early 1930s and began to rearm, and when Britain and France subsequently showed confused interests and a weakness of will in keeping the status quo by appeasing Hitler’s territorial demands, the balance of powers clearly shifted toward the challenger. The status quo became ripe for disruption, the situation ripe for war. It came in 1939.

4. Be alert to warning signals. Often we need not be a social scientist or seasoned observer to recognize that a balance of powers and expectations are becoming unaligned. We are all familiar with the signs: tension, growing hostility, insecurity, dissatisfaction, irritability. These are atmospherics whose precise source may be obscure and do not consist of any specific behavior. Something is wrong, things are not right in our relations with another, and we cannot put our finger on it.

Tension, insecurity about another, growing dissatisfaction and the like, usually reflect a growing gap between our balance of powers and a central structure of expectations. These feelings tell us that a significant gap exists.

We must not try to avoid tension or hostility, nor should we treat such symptoms directly; rather we must try to seek their source. What expectations or status quo are involved? Has there been a relative change in relevant interests? Have associated relative capabilities shifted? Is the will to maintain expectations still there? Perhaps we are no longer interested in doing household chores or commuting to and from work three hours a day. Possibly the middle class is no longer willing to shoulder the burden of inflation and taxes. Maybe a new regime believes that it can now realize its historic national goal of extending its border to the ocean.

Or, a wife could have “outgrown” her husband intellectually through her career; shifting populations and upward mobility may have weakened the power base of a political machine; or change in relative military capability may have emboldened the status quo challenger. Or, conceivably a husband may have lost that will to work and career ambition that his wife had admired; members of a radical political movement may no longer be determined to risk jail and even death to achieve their revolutionary aims; or a state may no longer have the will to do what is necessary for its own defense.


If a particular balance of powers and specific expectations get out of alignment, associated conflict likely will occur. To reduce this risk, if indeed we do not want to take it, four rules are helpful.

1. Redress the balance of powers. If we can locate relative interests, capabilities, and will that are unbalanced, then we can try to recover the original balance. Or, if it is a matter of the other having changed, we might make compensating changes in what we want, can, and will do.

2. Negotiate incremental changes in expectations. It may be easier to reduce a gap between expectations and power by appropriately changing expectations. Contracts can be redrawn, understandings discussed and redefined, and practices altered. Diplomacy can be defined as the art of keeping international expectations in tune with the changing balance of powers among states. In interpersonal and social relations as well, we all can be diplomats.

3. Adopt tacit changes in expectations. Negotiating changes in expectations requires the agreement of all the parties involved, and is difficult to achieve in the absence of conflict (which sharpens interests and communicates intent and resolution). Sometimes, however, it is in our power to make gap-reducing, unilateral changes in a structure of expectations. If the other tacitly agrees by not opposing or adopting the changes in their own behavior, then an adjustment in expectations has been accomplished.

Much of the change in parents’ expectations that occur as children grow into adults involves the parents allowing rules that the children have outgrown to fall into disuse—violated without notice. On the law books of every American city and state government are old laws no longer enforced, such as one requiring automobiles to be preceded by a man with a lantern at night, or another making kissing in the public park punishable by thirty-days in jail.

Peacekeeping Subprinciple 4: ACCEPT SOME CONFLICT NOW

Peace occurs along many dimensions and at many levels. There may be peace over a status quo while there is an intense dispute over some practice, such as who is responsible for replacing the toilet paper in the bathroom, an income reporting law for Congressmen, or landing rights for foreign airlines. There may be a peace from violence as lower level conflict rages, with diplomatic and economic sanctions employed; warnings, threats, and accusations exchanged; but no war. Part of the problem of peacekeeping is knowing what peace is worth preserving and at what level, as the first subprinciple points out.

The recognition of this complexity of peace is a prerequisite to understanding how to use conflict, violence, and war to keep the peace. Foresters create controlled forest fires to burn off competing underbrush, help the germination of new trees, and protect the forest against more severe fire. Fire to fight fire. Through inoculation, physicians introduce into the body weakened forms of disease producing viruses or bacteria in order to strengthen the body’s defenses against the disease. Disease to fight disease. And herds of wild deer that are overcrowding food supplies are often protected against mass starvation by systematically killing a proportion of the herd. Killing to prevent greater death.

To fight something by purposely introducing that which one wants to avoid certainly is paradoxical, at first thought, and selective burning, inoculation, and herd thinning were not readily accepted practices. Similarly, to maintain a higher peace often requires engaging in lower level conflicts, sometimes even violence. Here I am tempted to use the analogy of a safety valve, but lower level conflict does more than simply allow pressure to escape. It also enables a readjustment of expectations and power. Thus, accepting some conflict now produces the needed, continual adjustments to change in a relationship. And thus avoids that large gap that by its size and the adjustment required can break down into much more extreme conflict and violence.

Enabling such continual adjustments is one of the values of the exchange society and liberal democratic political system. Freedom creates a variety of relationships and rapid change. But, accordingly, freedom also creates a variety of conflicts. Were these conflicts prevented, as individual powers push against outmoded expectations, the inevitable changes would eventually create wide scale disorder, rebellion, and internal war, as in nondemocratic societies. But the freedom of people to conflict brings about the necessary adjustments incrementally; and the prevalence of cross-pressures dampens any tendency for these conflicts to escalate (The Polarity and Freedom Principles).

While we may agree that lower level conflict helps prevent more intense confrontations, we may find it harder to accept that limited war may prevent a large scale or more general war. War to keep peace? Unfortunately, social calculations are often painful and difficult. We are often caught between two undesirable alternatives: accepting some pain or loss now to forestall more grief later; or avoiding the pain now because the possibly greater future grief is only a probability and may not occur. We face this to a minor degree in accepting the discomfort of a dentist chair to have our teeth filled or cleaned, even though we have no immediate toothache.

In local, national, and international societies, some groups always will want change. If they challenge the status quo in minor ways and are not resisted (but are appeased) then this may invite a wholesale attack later. Such resistance is part of maintaining one’s reputation for power—one’s credibility (The Power Principle). Thus, the United States fought a war in Vietnam mainly to maintain the credibility of (I) American alliance and treaty commitments, and (2) of communist containment as the major American foreign policy. American leaders believed that the loss of this credibility would increase the risk of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Simplifying to essentials, the Vietnam War largely was fought by Americans to maintain a stable nuclear peace (whether they were in fact correct in the particular application of this policy is beside the point here).

Surely, the principle of fighting now to avoid a bigger conflict later does take precedence over other peacekeeping principles. There is a time for redressing the balance of powers, a time for tacitly adopting changes in expectations, and a time for confrontation. Perhaps the United States should have let the North and South Vietnamese fight it out themselves. What is timely and appropriate is, however, a matter of context and good sense. The only point made here is that a larger peace may call for accepting some conflict, violence, or war now.

Two rules sum this up.

1. Vent pressure for change in expectations. Pressure for change increases with a growing gap between expectations and power. This pressure can be reduced before it reaches dangerous levels through lower level conflict.

2. Allow necessary mutual readjustment. It is often better to let conflict take its course, for the parties to work out their own adjustments, than to impose an artificial peace simply in order to avoid conflict. This applies to siblings, relatives, groups, and states. A problem in applying this is that it appears to violate the peacemaking rule about separating parties to a conflict. If a conflict is a spontaneous, emotional response, as between strangers bumping each other on the sidewalk, or two opposing football linesmen coming to blows, they are not working out basic expectations and separation is appropriate. Moreover, if two intermingled racial-cultural groups are engaging in protracted conflict over basic values and beliefs, then territorial separation also may be the best solution. Or the intensity of a conflict may far exceed the importance of the issues involved. The cure then may be more dangerous than the disease and intervention and separation may be appropriate. Again, peacekeeping is contextual.


Successful violence breeds more violence. If violence produces what we want, this not only encourages us to use this successful method again, but also encourages others to do likewise. Not only will this increase the general level of violence, but we may also find that our own interests are defeated by others using violence more effectively against us. Many who live by the sword do, indeed, die by the sword.

Two rules help us avoid violence.

1. Seek nonviolent alternatives. I do not urge pacifism. Sometimes violent aggression can only be met in kind to defend higher values than peace, such as family, freedom, and dignity. But violence may be also unnecessary, and indeed, counterproductive in developing a stable peace. I have already discussed under the peacemaking principles many nonviolent alternatives, such as separation and nonviolent resistance.

2. Avoid rewarding violence. While nonviolent alternatives may be desirable, these should not reward the instigator of violence. For this simply encourages more demands. Avoid violence without seeming to reward it. But if this is not possible, then violence may have to be met by strong and swift counteraction, as the community should suppress the violence of criminals through police action when other means fail.

* * *

These, then, are five subprinciples of peacekeeping. We should know and start from things as they are, not from ideals or hopes. We should guard what balance of powers exists, and reduce any gap between expectations and power. But, in order to do this we may have to accept some conflict now. In any case, we must try not to reward violence.

So far, I have discussed making and keeping peace. The final concern is fostering peace, which I will consider after attending to some possible misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding 1: “Avoiding conflict keeps the peace.”

This is true by definition—at one level of peace and regarding a specific structure of expectations. But peace is complex and conflict involves many levels of behavior. Avoiding nonviolent conflict may actually encourage violence; avoiding low-level violence may encourage intense struggle and warfare. We may buy peace and pay later in blood. Peacekeeping is partly a matter of relation and proportion: that between the present and future, between various kinds of peace, and various levels of conflict.

Misunderstanding 2: “Preparing for war makes war.”

That armaments cause war is a popular but false, belief. From 1840 to 1941, there were 12 major arms races, only five of which ended in war. In fact preparing for war may be the best way to keep the peace, as a Status Quo Power maintains peace through dominance over a challenger. Armaments and war preparations are either aspects of a balance of powers that supports a peaceful order—in this case, they contribute to peace—or they manifest a growing gap between expectations and power. Whichever depends on the situation of conflict. And this situation determines whether armaments promote peace or war.

As mentioned previously, for example, while the Soviet Union engaged in an arms drive in the 1950s and 1960s, the United States in general had been unilaterally disarming during the late 1960s and up to the late 1970s. A clear dominance in American military power over the Soviet Union was then lost, and in conjunction with a confusion of national interests and weakness of will this had raised, not lowered, the risk of a third world war. What lowered this risk was President Reagan’s rearmament and firm resolution and credibility.

Misunderstanding 3: “Peacekeeping demands ignoring or avoiding power.”

Only total submission to others lets us keep the peace by ignoring or avoiding power. If, however, we want to assert some interests, maintain or enhance our self-esteem, and protect our freedom, then confrontation is inevitable. For we achieve our own interests by working out adjustments with others—a matter of balancing our various powers. This does not mean that we always or even often use force or coercion, for we have exchange, authoritative, intellectual, altruistic, and manipulative powers at our disposal (The Power Principle). Peacekeeping depends on understanding power and its proper, proportional use.

Sharansky—No Peace With Dictators

December 18, 2008

[First published January 13, 2005] Natan Sharansky (with Ron Dermer) has written an important and informative book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (New York: Public Affairs, 2004). I highly recommend that visitors to this website read it.

It is not my purpose to provide a book review. Here, I only want to hit the highlights that relate to this website. I add below more comments on the book by Cal Thomas.

Sharansky details his years as a dissident and prisoner in the Soviet Union, and especially focuses on what he learned after he was allowed to immigrate to Israel and participate in its government. But, this is not an autobiography. His personal background is only an introduction and context to his beliefs about democracy and the experiences he had in trying to persuade the West, especially the United States and Israelis, to act on them.

First, and most important, Sharansky well recognizes the democratic peace . He writes, “Democracies, it is often observed, do not go to war with one another.” This principle, now a law of international relations, is the foundation of the book. He provides no reference for it, and how he came to this principle remains an interesting question. I only was willing to assert it back in 1979 after tons of research and tests. Perhaps he came to it by observing history and international relations, which is quite possible once one thinks about it.

He presents a number of important ideas related to this democratic peace:

Promoting peace and security is fundamentally connected to promoting freedom and democracy. (p. xix)

“. . . awesome power of freedom.” (p. 10)

“No Peace With Dictators” (topic heading, p. 88)

“. . . nondemocratic regimes imperil the security of the world.” (p. 88)

“. . . the democracy that hates you is less dangerous than the dictator who loves you.” (p. 95)

“. . . it is the absence of democracy that represents the real threat to peace.” (p. 95)

Much of the book is concerned with how too many officials in the democracies are oblivious about this understanding. Especially, he shows how they are willing to accommodate and appease dictators. Stability, to them, is the heart of a foreign policy, and anything that upsets that is to be avoided — better the devil you know then what danger might arise from opposition to him.

Sharansky focuses on two ways this mentality has guided foreign policy. One was in the willingness to accommodate the Soviet Union, especially through détente. Reagan, he argues, threw this out, recognized the Soviet Union for the evil it was, and thereby hastened, if not caused, its collaspe.

Second, this mentality was shown in the democracies not only accommodating, but also working to strengthen and support Arafat’s creation of a repressive dictatorship over the Palestinians and making war on Israel. Sharansky’s description of the American State Department’s habitual cynicism about democracy in the Middle East, and specifically for the Palestinians, is what we see almost everyday in the American media.

His basic recommendation? He first describes how linking American trade benefits for the Soviet Union to its internal reforms and human rights helped down the communist system. Then, he argues that linking trade, aid, and other benefits is the way for democracies to do the same to promote human rights in the world’s nondemocracies. He also, as I have suggested , calls for the democracies to set up their own exclusive organization outside of the UN to help foster democracy.

Sharansky presents some useful concepts. One is that of moral clarity to see evil (p. xxii). We should clearly distinguish between the good of democracies and the evil of nondemocracies. In my terms, we should be willing to call a dictator a thug or murderer, which most are.

In pursuing this moral clarity, he introduces the characterization of nondemocracies as fear societies . This is useful, for it captures the basic ordering principle of nondemocracies. People obey for fear of the consequences. Opposite to this is the free society . And he sees this, appropriately, in black and white — there are only fear and free societies.

Finally, he tries to explain how fear societies work by the concept of doublethink . There is the very small minority of true believers who support a nondemocratic regime. There is also the small group of dissidents, who are willing to suffer imprisonment, and even torture and death, in order to speak out against the regime. And in the middle are the majority of doublethinkers, those who give their obedience to the regime, say and do what is demanded to them out of fear, while in their heart and mind they are dissidents.

Sharansky’s conclusion: “In the twentieth century, America proved time and again that it possessed both the clarity and courage that is necessary to defeat evil. Following that example, the democracies of the world can defeat the tyranny that threatens out world today and the tyrannies that would threaten it tomorrow. To do so, we must believe not only that all people are created equal but also that all peoples are created equal.” (p. 279)

The World’s Most Important Bibliography

December 16, 2008

[First published February 22, 2005] One of the problems that people have in writing about the democratic peace is understanding what it covers and the best sources for reading about it. Here are the five major empirical propositions of the democratic peace, which have been the basis of American foreign policy.

  • Democracies don’t make war on each other.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less its foreign violence.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less its internal violence.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less it murders its own citizens (democide).
  • Democracy is a method of nonviolence.

These are perhaps the most important proposition in contemporary social science, for they show that we have a solution to war and democide, and a way of minimizing political violence.

But, then, what are the sources? I just put on my website a comprehensive bibliography of pro and con papers, articles, and books on the first and second democratic peace propositions above (link here). [link also in sidebar] These propositions are usually considered the core ideas of the democratic peace, but narrowly define it. The other propositions generalize the democratic peace to domestic violence and have been much less investigated. Eventually, I hope to prepare a separate bibliography on them.

Following are among the most important books on the democratic peace.

Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace. 1795.

Moore, John Norton. Solving The War Puzzle: Beyond The Democratic Peace, Carolina Academic Press, 2004.

Ray, James Lee. Democracy and International Conflict: An Evaluation Of The Democratic Peace Proposition. Columbia, SC: University Of South Carolina Press, 1995.

Rummel, R. J. Power Kills: Democracy As A Method Of Nonviolence. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997.

Russett, Bruce, Grasping The Democratic Peace: Principles For A Post-Cold War World, Princeton U. Press, 2001.

Weart, Stewart, Never At War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another. Yale U. Press, 1998.

Singer, Max, and Aaron Wildavsky. The Real World Order: Zones Of Peace/Zones Of Turmoil. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers, 1993.

For an overview, which although outdated is useful for its coverage, see:

Ray, James Lee. “Does Democracy Cause Peace?” Annual Review Of Political Science, Edited By Nelson W. Polsby, 1998 (link here).

Anyone who wants to write an informed commentary on the democratic peace must at least be familiar with theses studies.

Link of Note

”Why Democracy” (2/11/05) By Victor Davis Hanson

“Yet for all its uncertainties and dangers in the Islamic Arab world, there remain some undeniable facts about democracy across time and space that suggest with effort and sacrifice it can both work in the Middle East and will be in the long-term security interests of the United States. So why exactly should we support the daunting task of democratizing the Middle East and how is it possible?”