In response to Steven Gould’s post, On Confirming My Stupidity, Andrea wrote:
This definition of peace has been bothering me for weeks. Just as love sometimes means denying loved ones, and liberty includes the freedom to set limitations, can peace come from actions which initiate strife? What does it look like fully formed, and how do we reconcile ideas of what we’re striving for?
I think this is a very important question. When somebody puts forth the proposition that war always perpetuates the cycle of violence, someone who puts their faith in war will often respond with an example like that of World War II, which was supposedly a just war. This example is then used to argue that other wars can also be just wars. It’s difficult to argue against this example because victory finally ended the holocaust that was going on in the death camps.
But World War II didn’t just happen, for no reason. There’s not even a lot of controversy over why it happened. And it’s very clear that the Holocaust was the result of a culture of racism and hate absent which no such atrocities could occur. So when we talk about these problems solely in terms of what to do once they have occurred, we are ignoring the fact that they were at least theoretically preventable.
There was a wonderful story on NPR last year on the topic of predicting genocides before they happen. It turns out that they can be anticipated. What is lacking, then, is not the ability to prevent them, but rather the will to do so.
This is why the idea of a Department of Peace is so important. For all its faults, the United States is an amazing country. When we set our minds and hearts on a goal, we find a way to get to it. But we have never set out to have an explicit goal of proactively preventing wars. We have never, as a country, made a science or an industry of figuring out what causes war, identifying incipient causes of war, and fixing them before war actually breaks out.
So yes, it’s an interesting academic question whether or not the definition of peace can include some kind of war that leads to peace. But at this point I don’t think we are qualified to say because, as a culture, we have only ever systematically tried war.