Peace Studies

Peace Studies


Peace Studies programs purporting to teach how international conflicts can be resolved without violence are currently offered at several hundred universities across the United States. In a sympathetic overview of these programs, professors Ian Harris, Larry Fisk, and Carol Rank state that it is difficult to determine precisely how many such programs exist nationwide—partly because they often go by such labels as “security studies” and “human rights education”; partly because many “professors who infuse peace material into courses do not offer special courses with the title peace in them”; and finally because “several small liberal arts colleges offer an introductory course requirement to all incoming students which infuses peace and justice themes.”

Norwegian professor Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later, is the recognized founder of Peace Studies as a field of academic inquiry. His pro-communist, anti-capitalist, anti-American politics have been the predominant hallmarks of the discipline ever since its creation. Galtung himself visited China during the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong and gave glowing reports about what he observed there. Similarly, in the 1970s Galtung praised Fidel Castro’s Cuba for “break[ing] free of imperialism’s iron grip.” On other occasions, Galtung has characterized the “structural fascism” of the West as “our time’s grotesque reality”; derided the United States and Western Europe as “rich, Western, Christian countries” that historically have waged war in order to secure their control over natural resources and foreign markets; depicted capitalism and imperialism as flip sides of the same proverbial coin; and described the United States as a “killer country” of “exploiters” and “dominators” guilty of “neo-fascist state terrorism” that has caused “unbearable suffering and resentment” around the world.

Galtung’s worldview is shared by an overwhelming majority of the professors who run university Peace Studies programs today. For example, the director of Purdue’s program, Harry Targ, is coeditor of Marxism Today, a collection of essays that praise socialism as an economic system. The director of Cornell’s program, Matthew Evangelista, has asserted that “the United States intends to continue its military domination of the world,” and warns that “the other major powers should be concerned about U.S. pretensions to act independently of any international legal constraints.” The chairman of Brandeis’s program, Gordon Fellman, declares: “If [the War on Terror] is about terrorism and terrorism is the killing of innocent civilians, then the United States is also a terrorist.”

Galtung’s inspiration is on display as well in David Barash and Charles Webel’s Peace and Conflict Studies, a textbook that is widely assigned in Peace Studies classes across the United States. Rather than 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, Peace and Conflict Studies is a leftwing screed whose clear purpose is to indoctrinate students in anti-American worldviews shared by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.

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.” In other words, poverty is caused by the private-property system and free-market capitalism which results in economic inequality and the exploitation of the poor. “The greed of agribusiness shippers and brokers, plus control of land by a small elite leaves hundreds of millions of people hungry every day,” Barash and Webel write. Their recommended remedy is socialism which redistributes income.

Throughout Peace and Conflict Studies, the authors justify Communist policies and actions while casting those of America and Western democracies in a negative light. In its account of the Cold War generally, the book treats the Soviet Union as a sponsor of peace movements while depicting 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 attacks on the United States. The section begins by telling students that “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, Barash and Webel imply, a case can be made for characterizing the American founders as terrorists. To emphasize the point, the authors explain: “Often one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter.’” Barash and Webel also quote, approvingly, Osama bin Laden’s claim that in the eyes of many “disempowered” people, “Americans are the worst terrorists in the world.”

According to author Bruce Bawer, Peace Studies programs as a whole are founded on a pair of planted axioms: (a) “The Western world’s profound moral culpability, arising from its history of colonialism and economic exploitation, deprives it of any right to judge non-Western countries or individuals”; and (b) “The non-West has suffered so much from exploitation that whatever offenses it commits are legitimate attempts to recapture dignity, obtain justice, and exact revenge.”

Additional Resources:

The Peace (Studies) Racket
By Bruce Bawer
September 5, 2007

The Thin Line Between Peace Education and Political Advocacy: Towards a Code of Conduct
By Gerald M. Steinberg
February 22, 2004

Postcolonial Theory and the Ideology of Peace Studies
By Gerald M. Steinberg

Conflict Research Avant la Lettre
By A.J.R. Groom
December 11, 2012

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