How Not to Go to War

When the drums of war start beating, can cooler heads prevail and negotiations in good faith start? Vijay Mehta has written a useful overview of efforts to create a Department of Peace within governments so that there would be an institutionalized official voice proposing other avenues than war. (1) That Cooler Heads May Prevail – How Not to Go to War   Such proposals are not new. In 1943, Alexander Wiley, a liberal Republican senator had proposed to President Franklin Roosevelt that he establish a cabinet-level post of Secretary of Peace as there was already a Secretary of War. The Secretary of War has now been renamed Secretary of Defense, but the function has not radically changed. A Secretary of Peace in Wiley’s vision would be charged with preempting conflicts before they exploded into violence and proposing peaceful resolutions. In the U.S.A. after the end of the Second World War, in a “never again” atmosphere, other members of Congress suggested the creation of such a Department of Peace. However, such a vision was never transformed into a reality. As the Cold War took up ever more energy and funds, a compromise was reached in 1984 at the time that Ronald Reagan was President. The U.S. Institute of Peace was created and has produced some useful publications and does some conflict resolution training for diplomats and mediators. However, the leadership of the Institute of Peace has not played a visible role in foreign policy formation. One must look elsewhere for cooler voices to cover the beat of the war drums. There is currently a test in real time as the situation in Venezuela grows more complex. There are real possibilities of armed violence, ranging from armed violence within the country to the creation of armed militias operating from Colombia and Brazil…

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