Friday, August 24, 2007

Exposing the Peace Racket

I posted a couple days ago on the efforts of the US military to enlist academic experts in support of counterinsurgency warfare. As I noted at the end of that post, one of the main obstacles to such efforts has been the widespread anti-military sentiment among left-leaning college and university social science faculty.

One manifestation of such attitudes is discussed by Bruce Bawer in an essay for the Summer 2007 issue of City Journal. In his article, Bawer looks at the burgeoning field of "peace studies". There is, of course, nothing wrong with the objective study of nonviolence and conflict resolution. However, the "peace racket" as Bawer calls it, is rooted in a worldview that sees America and the West as the source of all the world's problems. Thus, the United States is an evil, morally compromised oppressor that has no right to use military force under almost any circumstances:

The Peace Racket maintains that 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. Further, 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. Have Third World terrorists taken Americans hostage? Don’t call the hostages innocent victims. After all, as Americans, they’re complicit in a system that has long inflicted “structural violence” (or “structural terrorism”) upon the Third World poor. Donald Rothberg of San Francisco’s Saybrook Institute explains: “In using the term ‘structural violence,’ we identify phenomena as violent that are not usually seen as violent. For example, Western economic domination.”

It is this mind-set that leads peace professors to accuse the U.S. of “state terrorism,” to call George W. Bush “the world’s worst terrorist,” and even to characterize those murdered in the Twin Towers as oppressors who, by working at investment banks and brokerage houses, were ultimately responsible for their own deaths. Barash and Webel, for instance, write sympathetically of “frustrated, impoverished, infuriated people . . . who view the United States as a terrorist country” and for whom “attacks on American civilians were justified” because one shouldn’t distinguish “between a ‘terrorist state’ and the citizens who aid and abet that state.” They also approvingly quote Osama bin Laden’s claim that for many “disempowered” people, “Americans are the worst terrorists in the world”—thereby inviting students to consider Osama a legitimate spokesperson for the “disempowered.” Speaking at a memorial concert on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, George Wolfe of Ball State University’s peace studies program suggested that we “reflect on what we as Americans may have done or not done, to invoke such extreme hatred.” The Kroc Institute’s David Cortright agrees: “We must ask ourselves . . . what the United States has done to incur such wrath.”

In short, it’s America that is the wellspring of the world’s problems. In the peace studies world, America’s role as the beacon of opportunity for generations of immigrants is mocked, its defense of freedom in World War II and the cold war is reinterpreted to its discredit, and every major postwar atrocity (the Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, genocide in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan) is ignored, minimized, or—as with 9/11—blamed on the U.S. itself.

Essentially, as Bawer lays out in detail, "peace studies" is not an objective field of academic study, but rather a form of radical social activism rooted in a sense of national self-loathing, and designed to oppose any use of American military power, regardless of circumstance. As Theodore Dalrymple puts it (via Norm Geras):

If you believe that the history of your culture is nothing but a catalogue of horror, massacre and the oppression of others, then you will not be very assiduous in its defence once it comes under concerted attack.


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