IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Day Two: does peace have a bad name?

Have you noticed that, at least to some extent, “peace” has a bad name?  Isn’t that curious?  I remember being in a discussion of course selections for a small, now defunct, college, and I was a bit surprised to learn that peace and peace studies were  in the minds of many associated with anti government activity and generally, anti-establishment aging Hippies.  Whereas “conflict resolution” was associated with problem solving and was seen as a positive force.  Of course, this was being explained by a lawyer who was promoting Alternative Dispute Resolution as a kind of macro science of problem solving.  Anyhow,I think “peace” deserves better, don’t you?  If nothing else peace has a much longer history and a better pedigree than conflict resolution–there’s nothing in the sermon on the mount that I know of about “Blessed are the conflict resolvers”…:-)..just kidding.  We’ll probably have a chance to get back to how peace got a bad name, but for now I want to say a little about another curious matter:  peace is seen as Utopian.

What does that mean?  Well in international affairs, if something is called utopian, that is a very bad thing indeed.  It means that the matter under consideration is not attainable, and that it is potentially dangerous to believe it could be attainable, since that may distract you from the hard realities of surviving in a hostile world.  This makes a kind of sense.  However, it can also mask some key questions, such as:  “how do you know something is unattainable?”; or “when do you decide something is unattainable?”; or, maybe more importantly “why are you in such a hurry so say [this or that] is unattainable?”.    There has been a lot written about this, and I won’t go into the details.  For now, I’ll just say that nothing I’ve read or seen–no matter how horrible or discouraging–has convinced me that peace is unattainable, a kind of utopia.  Just one example:  the European Union is at political peace, and the likelihood of international conflict among the members is close to zero.  Hellooo!  This is Europe we are talking about here….100 years war, 30 years war, War of the Spanish Succession, Seven Years War, World Wars I and II, etc…  So, it can happen.  How, when and under what conditions are the more interesting questions.

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July 15, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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