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Commentary - A perspective on peace for the season

By Judith S. Rose, Alexandria, MN One of the topics in the "Great Decisions" foreign policy discussion series that was offered through the public schools Continuing Education program this fall was "Enhancing Security Through Peacebuilding." The s...

By Judith S. Rose,

Alexandria, MN

One of the topics in the "Great Decisions" foreign policy discussion series that was offered through the public schools Continuing Education program this fall was "Enhancing Security Through Peacebuilding." The study materials were prepared by Matthew Levinger, a senior program officer at the United States Institute of Peace and the former director of the Academy for Genocide Prevention at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

A quote, "How to facilitate, support and sustain peace are increasingly important elements of foreign policy and national security." While most peace activists tend to link peace to justice, our study materials focused on the link between peace and security.

Peace activists are generally philosophical types. This study, however, focused on the nuts and bolts activities of diplomats, UN Peacekeepers, NGOs, academic institutions, multilateral organizations, the United States Institute for Peace, R2P (Responsibility to Protect) and more.

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The most intriguing story of our prepared materials was about the Community of Sant' Egidio. Following, I am quoting the segment in full:

"One country that has made a successful transition from intractable conflict to stable peace is the Southeast African nation of Mozambique where a two-year mediation in the early 1990s ended a brutal 16-year civil war that had caused the deaths of more than 900,000 Mozambicans and the displacement of some 5 million civilians. Strikingly, this mediation process was led not by the UN or a major power, but by a little known Catholic lay organization called the Community of Sant' Egidio, which had been founded by a group of high school students in Rome in 1968. Sant' Egidio's approach to the mediation focused on listening patiently to all parties to the conflict, regardless of how heinous their past crimes were, and on 'shifting the goal from victory to peace.' Andrea Bartoli, now the director of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, served as a member of Sant' Egidio's mediation team. He observed that 'Sant' Edgidio was able to succeed as a conduit of negotiation because of the very weakness that made it such an unlikely leader.' Paradoxically, 'the weakness of the negotiation team reduced the possibility of imposing outside solutions (through coercive diplomacy, military threat and so forth), which forced the parties to negotiate for themselves.'"

An interesting concept outlined in our study was the 3D Security Initiative, which is directed by a professor, Lisa Schirch, at Eastern Mennonite University. The initiative advocates an integrated approach to U.S. security comprising development, diplomacy and defense. It promotes a "Unified Security Budget," which would establish a single account to fund all U.S. security spending overseas, including the Defense Department, the State Department and USAID. Lawrence J. Korb, who served as an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan Administration, and Miriam Pemberton of the Institute of Policy Studies publish a Unified Security Budget for the U.S. on an annual basis. Our materials reported that there was limited bi-partisan support for this idea (at least at the time of the writing).

Another concept presented that probably has a stronger chance of support was a congressionally funded Project on National Security Reform (PNSR), which restructured the Department of Defense to improve cooperation among the five branches of the military. This might not be the peace of our dreams, but one of the provisions of this reform was to include more robust funding for the U.S. diplomatic and development initiatives. All told, the PRNS moved toward enlightenment and away from belligerence.

There were interesting comparisons to consider at the time of the report. The Bush Administration budgeted nearly 16 times as much for defense spending (not including supplemental requests for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) as for aspects of global engagement such as diplomacy and development. A report published by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Joint Forces Command characterized this as "drastically unbalanced."

Our reading material cited several hopeful quotes by General Anthony Zinni, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, who stated, "For the U.S. to prosper in the 21st century, it must reassert its 'power and purpose' by engaging in a global 'battle for peace.' "

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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
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