David P. Barash

David P. Barash


* Professor of psychology at the University of Washington
* Teaches course called “Psychology of Peace”
* Co-author of _Peace and Conflict Studies_, a text that is widely used in peace studies classes
* States that “often one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter’”
* Praises what he depicts as the accomplishments of Castro’s Cuba

David P. Barash has been a professor of psychology at the University of Washington (Seattle) since 1973. He has “a long-standing [personal] interest in . . . Buddhism and existentialism,” and a strong professional interest in what he describes as “the underlying evolutionary factors influencing human behavior, a discipline sometimes called ‘evolutionary psychology.’” Since the early 1980s he has actively researched and taught in the field of Peace Studies.

Barash is the co-author, along with philosopher Charles P. Webel, of the 2002 book Peace and Conflict Studies, a text that is widely assigned in peace studies college classes nationwide. In the preface to their book, Barash and Webel write: “The field [of Peace Studies] differs from most other human sciences in that it is value-oriented, and unabashedly so. Accordingly we wish to be up front about our own values, which are frankly anti-war, anti-violence, anti-nuclear, anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, pro-environment, pro-human rights, pro-social justice, pro-peace and politically progressive.”

Peace and Conflict Studies does not explore the many possible views of world problems that might lead to conflict, or the various assessments that might be made of the history of peace movements. It is a leftwing screed whose clear purpose is to indoctrinate students in anti-American worldview shared by the likes of Noam Chomskyand Howard Zinn. No indication is provided to the uninformed student that these might be extreme views, or that there might be other reasonable ways to look at these issues and events.

Peace and Conflict Studies discusses the problems of poverty and hunger as causes of human conflict exclusively through the eyes of Marxist writers such as Andre Gunder Frank and Frances Moore Lappe. The text’s view of these problems is socialist: “To a very large extent, the problem of world hunger is not so much a production problem, so much as it is a distribution problem.” What the authors mean by this is that poverty is caused by the private property system and free market capitalism which results in economic inequality, and that its cure is socialism which redistributes income.

The Peace and Conflict Studies text relentlessly condemns the economic inequalities that characterize market systems, identifying the culprits responsible for world poverty in the following terms: “The greed of agribusiness shippers and brokers, plus control of land by a small elite leaves hundreds of millions of people hungry every day.”

Since the authors believe that the greed of the ruling class is responsible for world hunger, Peace and Conflict Studies does actually endorse one kind of violence — the revolutionary kind. Barash and Webel write, for example: 

“Consider the case of Cuba. In the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, despite more than 40 years of an American embargo of Cuban imports and exports, infant mortality in Cuba has declined to the lowest in Latin America; life expectancy increased from 55 years in 1959 to 73 years in 1984; health care was nationalized and made available to all Cuban citizens at no or little cost; literacy exceeded 95%; . . . While Cuba is far from an earthly paradise, and certain individual rights and civil liberties are not yet widely practiced, the case of Cuba indicates that violent revolutions can sometimes result in generally improved living conditions for many people” (emphasis added).

That is the entire portrait the authors provide of Cuba’s Communist dictatorship. In those rare instances when they do mention a deficiency in Cuba’s achievement — whether political or economic — it is invariably blamed on the United States and its embargo.

Throughout Peace and Conflict Studies, the authors justify Communist policies and actions while casting those of America and Western democracies in a negative light. This one-sided tilting to America’s totalitarian enemies is evident in the book’s treatment of the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example. In 1962, the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev brought the world to the brink of nuclear war by secretly placing nuclear missiles in Cuba and lying to President Kennedy when confronted about them. In the Peace and Conflict Studies textbook, however, the Cuban Missile Crisis is discussed without the authors ever mentioning the cause of the crisis — the Soviet missiles. Here is the entire account of the Missile Crisis in this college text:

“The Cuban Missile Crisis – the closest humanity has apparently come to general nuclear war – was brought about in part because John F. Kennedy had felt browbeaten by Soviet Premier Khrushchev at their 1961 summit meeting in Vienna and felt humiliated by the debacle of the failed American-supported invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The following year, Kennedy was determined that he wouldn’t be pushed around again by the Soviet leader; fortunately for the world, Khrushchev was able (perhaps due largely to insufficient military strength) to be willing to back down.”

In its account of the Cold War generally, Peace and Conflict Studies treats the Soviet Union as a sponsor of peace movements, and the United States as the militaristic, imperialist power that peace movements try to keep in check.

A brief section of Peace and Conflict Studies is devoted to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States. The authors begin by telling students, “Terrorism is a vexing term” whose moral aspects are purely relative: “Any actual or threatened attack against civilian noncombatants may be considered an act of ‘terrorism.’ In this sense, terrorism is as old as human history. … ‘Terrorists’ are people who may feel militarily unable to confront their perceived enemies directly and who accordingly use violence, or the threat of violence, against noncombatants to achieve their political aims.”

Terrorism, say the authors, is also “a contemporary variant of what has been described as guerrilla warfare, dating back at least to the anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist struggles for national liberation conducted in North America and Western Europe during the late 18th and early 19th centuries against the British and French Empires.” In other words, the American Founders were terrorists.

To emphasize the point, the authors of Peace and Conflict Studies explain: “Placing ‘terrorist’ in quotation marks may be jarring for some readers, who consider the designation self-evident. We do so, however, not to minimize the horror of such acts but to emphasize the value of qualifying righteous indignation by the recognition that often one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter.’ … [T]o many disemboweled [sic] people in other regions, ‘Americans are the worst terrorists in the world.’”

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