Established in 1957 in Vienna, Austria, the International Institute for Peace (IIP) “pursues the objective of contributing to the maintenance and strengthening of peace through its research activities and ensures that the results of these activities are available to the international academic community, politicians and decision makers.” IIP’s policy research invariably comports with the leftist worldview of its members, who include scientists, scholars, and government officials from Russia, the European Union, the U.S., Croatia, and Latin America. Accordingly, IIP has staked out positions denouncing military action, which its members view as an always-illegitimate alternative to “political solutions.” In addition, IIP derides trade liberalization as a bane to developing countries.
In recent years, IIP has increasingly positioned itself as a champion of the European welfare state. In a November 2001 policy brief, for instance, the Institute’s president, Erwin Lanc—a former Austrian minister of foreign affairs and a self-avowed socialist—lashed out at what he called some European Union member countries’ “dismantling of the obligatory state welfare institutions.”
That same month, IIP vice president Klaus von Dohnanyi, a longtime member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, lamented that “we live in increasing international competition—a competition that crosses borders with growing intensity, which means that the classic notion of the state as protector of its inhabitants loses ground.” He nevertheless concluded that the Western European welfare state was “unquestionably” superior to, and “more successful” than, the American “Anglo-Saxon” model.
An unwavering foe of military intervention, IIP instead touts what it calls an “alternative understanding of security.” On March 17, 2004, the Institute convened an International Symposium on the International Legal Order, whose mission was to “replace the old-fashioned idea that security can only be achieved by arms.” At this event, IIP president Erwin Lanc argued that military interventions, specifically by developed countries, serve only to embolden terrorism. “Isn’t it an encouragement,” he mused, “or even a confirmation, to fundamentalists that there are no limits to their acts of violence as long as states develop their means of offensive and defensive warfare without international legal restrictions?” Lanc further claimed that the very fact that Western countries possessed technological and industrial development made them the targets of terrorism:
“The different positions in Third World countries have one [thing] in common; they feel powerless. Some of them, even those with an income that ordinary people in the United States or in Europe can only dream from [sic], feel their pride hurt by what they call the West. This is the [breeding] ground for Bin Ladens.”
Positions like these have attracted the notice of such leftists as the anti-nuclear activist David Krieger, founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and currently a member of IIP’s advisory board. The chairman of that advisory board is Norman Birnbaum, a socialist professor at Georgetown University who has also served as an advisor to the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Birnbaum repeatedly espouses what may be described as IIP’s unofficial agenda: its hostility to Israel. In a June 2004 article published on the IIP website, for instance, Birnbaum claimed that the Iraq War was being orchestrated by a scheming, pro-Israel Jewish lobby. He added, however, that even in the absence of such a lobby, opponents of the U.S. military effort would do well to raise the specter of Jewish treachery. Reasoned Birnbaum:
“The difficulty is, even if there were no Israel lobby, the imperial party in the U.S. would remain in command. Indeed, that party could at any time disembarrass itself of the Israel lobby by raising the issue of the dual loyalty of American Jews—forcing the supporters of Israel on the defensive.”
In a 2003 missive titled “Open Letter to the British, Czech, Danish, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish Prime Ministers,” Birnbaum singled out for condemnation those countries that backed the U.S. military campaign in Iraq. The piece berated those governments for failing to appreciate what he described as “the threats to world security entailed in the increasing brutality of Israeli rule in Palestine.”
Birnbaum’s anti-Jewish and anti-Israel views are well within the mainstream at IIP. In an article on the IIP website titled “The Palestinian Cause: How to Achieve Peace,” Erwin Lanc attacks the United States for accepting Israel’s right to exist. His account of Israel’s founding includes the following assessment:
“The most important and unique motivation for a Jewish state were the violent persecutions (pogroms) of Jews in former czarist Russia, Poland and other east European states. Other motivations have included the rejection of Jewish endeavors at assimilation all over Europe, growing nationalism such as the unification of the German states, claims for ethnically-based nation-states among practically all nationalities in the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy with the deliberate ostracizing of Zionism, etc.”
Absent from Lanc’s history is any mention of the Holocaust.
In a November 29, 2004 speech, Lanc spoke of the “legitimacy of Palestinian resistance” and denounced the “Israeli State terrorism [that began] by stealing land for illegal settlements in West Bank and Gaza.” He attributed the Jewish state’s alleged unwillingness to negotiate for peace to “the umbrella of U.S. support for Israel’s economy and army [with] billions of dollars every year, and U.S. veto power in the Security Council.” And he claimed, without evidence, that Arab countries had recently “expressed their readiness to recognize Israel if the Palestinians get their own state.”
IIP has been accorded consultative status at ECOSOC, which coordinates the work of 14 United Nations specialized agencies, and at UNESCO, which describes itself as “a laboratory of ideas and a standard-setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues.”
To disseminate its message as widely as possible, IIP sponsors symposiums where issues of world peace and economics are discussed. Moreover, it publishes books, papers, and a quarterly journal titled Peace and Security.