This is the eleventh month of the year, on the eleventh day of which, at the eleventh hour, the world pays homage to those who died in the first great war in the century of wars.
Before coming to Tokyo, I used to be director of the Peace Research Center in Canberra. The Australian National University also has a Strategic and Defense Studies Center. When people asked me for the difference between the two, I used to reply jokingly that we were on the side of the angels.
The serious point of the question is still relevant to my present position. The central problem for peace research is violence: the nature, causes, consequences, management and resolution of conflict. It seeks not just to understand violence, but to eliminate or tame it. Its task is to challenge the basic tenets of the conventional analyses of violence and offer critical alternatives. The most important point is that our primary motivation is to improve the human condition, to aim for a better life in a safer world for all.
At any given time, most of the countries in the world are ready to go to war if necessary. Yet most of them are also at peace and long to keep it so. Therein lies the key to the difference between peace research and strategic studies.
As a general rule, strategic studies is infused with realist assumptions. International politics is seen as a struggle for power. The primary actors in world affairs are autonomous states engaged in power-maximizing behavior. National security is the ultimate and overriding goal, and force is the principal instrument. In such a realist paradigm, violence is seen as endemic, inevitable and an instrument of conflict resolution. The task of strategic analysts is to predict courses of action that will enable states to maximize their own power while neutralizing or minimizing the national power of opponents so that the conflict is resolved on one’s own terms and not that of the enemy.
Peace research changes the focus from the welfare of the state to that of individuals and the world community. Strategic studies focuses on the successful use of violence; peace research is concerned to reduce the frequency of latent and manifest use of force by human beings. Strategic studies accepts and refines the instrumentality of violence; peace research questions and rejects it.
From the perspective of strategic studies, the most critical lesson of the interwar period (1919-39) is that pacifism and appeasement do not work against the Adolf Hitlers of the world. Few peace researchers would dispute this. But most would point to the injustice and inequity of the Treaty of Versailles, and the subsequent treatment of Germany from within the realist paradigm, as having spawned Hitler in the first place.
For an Indian strategic studies analyst, the key question on Kashmir is how best to secure the province against the threat from Pakistan. For a peace researcher, it is equally legitimate to ask how best to protect the people of Kashmir against killings by terrorists and extrajudicial killings by Indian security forces. The threats posed by the agents of the state — whether India, Pakistan, Serbia, Bosnia or any other country — to individual and group rights are conceptually alien to strategic studies. They are central to peace research.
During the Cold War, the logic of realist analyses produced policy prescriptions of containment of the evil empire through a sustained posture of armed strength. The peace-research community grew in strength, conviction and numbers in opposition to the logic of confrontation. Its adherents argued that the adversarial approach to Cold War international relations intensified mutual antagonisms, fed the conventional and nuclear arms race, and increased the probability of war by design or accident.
The distinct identity of the peace-research community rests in the broader conceptions of “peace” and “violence.” The importance of peace research increased with the end of the Cold War as the definition of security broadened substantially to embrace nontraditional notions and threats like environmental degradation and human-rights violations. These are issues that are better addressed within peace-research than strategic-studies paradigms.
Possibilities for the breakdown of peace exist everywhere and at all times. The task for strategic studies is to identify them through the exploration of worst-case scenarios. Possibilities for building peace exist in every human crisis. The challenge for peace research is to identify them through the exploration of best-case scenarios. Under the strategic-studies paradigm, states hope for the best but prepare for the worst. “Trust, but verify,” said President Ronald Reagan in the context of his historic arms-control agreements with the former Soviet Union. For peace researchers, nations should be prepared for the worst but work for the best: Verify, but do trust. And, where possible, love thy neighbor. South Korean President Kim Dae Jung is a good antidote to those who remain skeptical of a sunshine policy toward enemies in the neighborhood.
In Canberra, there is a memorial, at one end of Anzac Parade, to the friendship between Australia and Turkey. It is a fine example of reconciliation between erstwhile enemies. Carved in stone on the memorial in Anzac Parade are lines of poetry penned by Kemal Ataturk, one of Turkey’s finest patriots. The poem is addressed to the foreign invaders of his country:
You, the mothers Who sent your sons from faraway countries Wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom And in peace. Having lost their lives, they have Become our sons as well.
The need to temper justice and vengeance with reconciliation and reintegration of traumatized, bitterly divided communities is an increasing imperative in many parts of the world. Ataturk’s words are an inspiration to peace researchers everywhere. If we fail to learn wisdom from the dead, we shall surely join them in the peace of the dead.
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