Learning Peace Lingo

In furthering my study of peace agencies I delved further into the US Institute for Peace. The USIP held a conference in January, “Passing the Baton — Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities Facing the New Administration.” I figured that would be a good place to start.
The event convened nearly 1900 participants and a “high-level, bipartisan group of current and former U.S. foreign policy officials and practitioners.” The web site which recorded the results of the conference featured several photos of one paticipant in particular, General David Petraeus in his uniform with its many rows of colorful ribbons. A peace institute conference on “Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities” featuring a warmaker! That was a clue to some of what followed.
The conference included panel discussions of several topics. I was particularly interested in Morning Panel 3: “Stabilizing War-Torn States: Goals and Guidance for a New Administration.” This panel included an army general (not Petraeus, another one), a “senior program officer” from USIP and a university assistant professor.


Here are some extracts from the panel report:

    Seven years after entering Afghanistan, the United States is still in search of a winning strategy. In the absence of a basic framework to guide strategy and execution, civilian and military actors have stumbled through peace and stability operations time and again.
    At the dawn of a new presidential administration, however, two new doctrinal manuals seek to fill that gap – the U.S. Army’s new Field Manual 3-07 Stability Operations and the U.S. Institute of Peace’s (USIP) draft Guiding Principles for Peace Operations. Both manuals are unprecedented in scope and provide a baseline set of principles for engaging in these missions – FM 3-07 for the U.S. military and the Guiding Principles for U.S. civilians. The documents also embrace a common strategic framework resting on five common end states for peace and stability operations: a safe and secure environment, the rule of law, stable governance, sustainable economy and social well being.
    The two manuals [are] major achievements in the long path to increasing U.S. success in war-torn countries . . .increased success in future missions will depend on improving U.S. civilian capacity to operate in these missions and allow the military to assume its support role. . . .create an enhanced foundation for civilian operations in these missions

Now I noticed right away that in my studies of peace agencies, at least this one, the USIP, I would have to learn some new lingo. Some Newspeak. So I took some of the key ‘peace’ phrases and translated them into normal English, Oldspeak you might say. Here they are:
key phrases (in Newspeak) and my tranlations (into Oldspeak):

    *entering Afghanistan = bombing of villages
    NOTE: This phrase — “entering Afghanistan” — brought back something I had read about the US “entering Afghanistan.”
      A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States’ Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting —
      “What causes the documented high level of civilian casualties — 3,000 – 3,400 [October 7, 2001 thru March 2002] civilian deaths — in the U.S. air war upon Afghanistan? The explanation is the apparent willingness of U.S. military strategists to fire missiles into and drop bombs upon, heavily populated areas of Afghanistan.”–
      Professor Marc W. Herold, University of New Hampshire

    *civilian and military actors = US invasion force with civilian support, actors in a war-play
    *peace and stability operations = bombing, shooting, incarceration, assassinations etc. to conquer the people in the invaded country and build a new nation, i.e. peace and stability are really war and instability
    *war-torn countries = places where a lot of stuff is blown up and a lot of people die, or are maimed, incarcerated and displaced
    *military to assume its support role = destroy stuff so the civilians can build a new nation
    *a basic framework to guide strategy and execution = new manuals prescribing military and civilian occupation procedures in invaded countries
    *end states for peace and stability operations = a destroyed, conquered, submissive client state
    *future missions = more invasions, bombing and killing to build new nations

I think I’ve made some progress in understanding peace lingo and Doublethink. I now understand that destructive wars, in peace lingo, are “peace and stability operations,” for example.
Memories of George Orwell’s 1984:

    The Party is progressively implementing a new version of English, aptly named Newspeak. Newspeak has superseded Oldspeak, which is the type of English known to us today. . . .Should the Party’s plan of implementing a strongly reduced variety of language be carried out to the full, they would have succeeded in removing an essential aspect of being a human, i.e. the free will. As mentioned in the quote above, the ultimate goal was that speech would simply issue from the larynx, and would at no point involve brain activity. . . . .Doublethink is a manner of thinking and arguing that fundamentally alters the rules of logic, as it involves having a somewhat flexible approach to facts.

What bothers me is that the “peace” that is advocated by people speaking this peace lingo is the peace of the grave for many of the inhabitants subjected to a US military invasion, including “future missions”. Perhaps I’ll get over it. Not.
Anyhow, moving on, there was “Morning Panel 4: “Confronting or Engaging Iran” with six panelists.
Here’s an opportunity to use my Newspeak and Doublethink. Will the US future missions include entering Iran with civilian and military actors for peace and stability operatons using the new winning strategy, with the military in a support role in another war-torn country? (Please note how well I have mastered the peace lingo.)
Let’s take a look at Panel 4’s “Policy Conclusions”

    Panelists generally agreed that the U.S. must engage in direct dialogue with Iranian officials. To ensure the success of engagement efforts, panelists recommend the following actions by the Obama administration:
    1. Announce explicitly that military options are not under consideration.
    2. Reiterate that the U.S. will talk to any nation without preconditions.
    3. Do not link overtures to Iran to changes in its leadership.
    4. Create clear incentives and concrete rewards for Iranian concessions.
    5. Devise a strategy that takes into account the unpredictability of Iranian politics.
    6. Deploy confidence-building measures, such as releasing Iranian prisoners in Iraq.
    7. Use a multi-track approach in engaging Tehran on various points of disagreements.
    8. Renew talks with Tehran on Iraq and include Iran in a regional consortium of states to build and coordinate broad support for stability and peace Iraq.

Well, hallelujah, Panel 4 didn’t suck up to the military like Panel 3. They also spoke in plain English and promoted real peace rather than Panel 3’s bogus “peace and stability”! Kudos to Panel 4.
So there is hope, after all, in the peace biz, and in any case I’m better prepared for their peace lingo and the people that use it to create their own reality through Doublethink. They’re out there. We need to recognize what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, and call them on it, because they think we are suckers to be reality-based.
As Ron Suskind wrote several years ago in an article about George W. Bush:

    The [senior adviser to Bush] said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

“Actors” — now where have I heard that before?
————–
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. For other articles written by Don Bacon go here.

5 thoughts on “Learning Peace Lingo

  1. John Francis Lee

    Thank you Don Bacon for your attention paid to the panels at “Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities” of the USIP.
    Another thought experiment. Let us substitute Palestine for Iran in the conclusions of, hallelujah, Panel 4 :
    Panelists generally agreed that the U.S. must engage in direct dialogue with Palestinian officials. To ensure the success of engagement efforts, panelists recommend the following actions by the Obama administration:
    1. Announce explicitly that military options are not under consideration.
    2. Reiterate that the U.S. will talk to any nation without preconditions.
    3. Do not link overtures to Palestine to changes in its leadership.
    4. Create clear incentives and concrete rewards for Palestinian concessions.
    5. Devise a strategy that takes into account the unpredictability of Palestinian politics.
    6. Deploy confidence-building measures, such as releasing Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
    7. Use a multi-track approach in engaging Palestine on various points of disagreements.
    8. Renew talks with Palestine on Israel and include Palestine in a regional consortium of states to build and coordinate broad support for stability and peace the region.

    That would necessitate the following actions on the part of the Obama regime, according to my lights :
    1. Announce explicitly that military options are not under consideration.
    There will be no more attacks by Israel on Gaza.
    2. Reiterate that the U.S. will talk to any nation without preconditions.
    Immediately initiate talks with the democratically elected government of Palestine.
    3. Do not link overtures to Palestine to changes in its leadership.
    Immediately end all aid to the PA/Contras, Elliot Abrams’ Frankenstein, the un-democratic, un-elected US proxy government of Palestine.
    4. Create clear incentives and concrete rewards for Palestinian concessions.
    In return for a free, sovereign, contiguous Palestine and Israel’s renunciation of violence against the Palestinians, Israel’s immediate acknowledgment of the right of the Palestinian state to exist, and Israel’s pledge to abide by the previous agreements signed with the government of Palestine and by UN Resolutions especially 242, the government of Palestine will end its insurrection against Israeli colonialrule.
    5. Devise a strategy that takes into account the unpredictability of Palestinian politics.
    Stop fueling chaos in Palestine by funding the PA/Contras and fueling Civil War in Palestine.
    6. Deploy confidence-building measures, such as releasing Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
    Immediately initiate talks with the democratically elected government of Palestine to release Israeli Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit in return for the release of the 10,000+ primarily civilian Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
    7. Use a multi-track approach in engaging Palestine on various points of disagreements.
    Immediately initiate talks with the democratically elected government of Palestine to allow international aid to arrive by sea to Gaza, for a tunnel to be built connecting the Palestinian shore in Gaza with the Palestinian interior on the west bank of the River Jordan, return control of its own borders to the sovereign state of Palestine and see to it that Israel complies with and in no way hampers these humanitarian projects.
    8. Renew talks with Palestine on Israel and include Palestine in a regional consortium of states to build and coordinate broad support for stability and peace Iraq.
    Immediately initiate talks with the democratically elected governments of Palestine and Israel to execute an agreement on the 1967 borders of Israel and Palestine, on the right of return or compensation for those displaced in the region since 1948, and for a loose federation of states of the Levant to include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Palestine that will, among other things, guarantee their mutual borders.
    No reason in the world this cannot be done by President Barak “change you can believe in” Obama and explained to the jubilant citizens of the United States of America, Israel, Palestine, and the world in a national address.

  2. Helena

    Don, I couldn’t get to the conference, so thanks for giving us some highlights from it.
    In truth, USIP is a very mixed bag indeed (as you show with your contrast between Panels 3 and 4.)
    Full disclosure: I have received USIP grants of under $75,000 for two of my research projects since 1997: the one on the 1991-96 Israel-Syria negotiations and the one on post-atrocity justice issues in Africa; and USIP Press published that Syria-Israel book (but with no royalties for the author; boo-hoo.) USIP also does quite a lot of other good work.
    USIP is congressionally mandated and congressionally funded. So it’s no surprise that its dominant political coloring tracks with that in congress, which from 1994 through 2006 was decidedly Republican and still is fairly liberal-hawkish.
    On balance, though, it is far better to have this institution in existence than not, though we have to recognize the intense potential for the politicization of the word “Peace”.
    Some people in the US– primarily Kucinich– have been advocating strongly for a new, presumably cabinet-level, “Department of Peace.” I don’t see that as really adding much to the present mix. After all, shouldn’t the State Department have as its primary mission the building of peaceful and respectful relations with the rest of the world? What new would a Dept of Peace bring that a well-constituted Dept of State and USIP couldn’t themselves bring? Isn’t it better to try to reform these institutions and the thinking behind them rather than erect yet another bureaucracy that, absent the needed change in thinking, would simply replicate their (often word-twisting) thinking and performance?
    Also, many of the advocates of a Dept of Peace whom I know don’t even realize that the US already has an official “Institute of Peace”. Thus, they’re unaware of USIP’s now fairly lengthy track record, for good or ill; and they seem quite unaware of the fact that putting the word “Peace” into the title of an institution doesn’t just make it so. (Like putting the word “Defense” into the title of an institution doesn’t make that so, either.)

  3. Don Bacon

    Helena,
    I agree with you on the Department of Peace because war is a failure to maintain peace, and maintaining peace, as well as conflict resolution, ought to be a principal function of diplomacy by the Department of State.
    Permit me to quote some of my friends on the subject:
    Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. ~Albert Einstein
    O peace! how many wars were waged in thy name. ~Alexander Pope
    Old men declare war because they have failed to solve complex political and economic problems. ~Arthur Hoppe
    The world cannot continue to wage war like physical giants and to seek peace like intellectual pygmies. ~Basil O’Connor
    War is never a solution; it is an aggravation. ~Benjamin Disraeli
    There never was a good war or a bad peace. ~Benjamin Franklin
    Peace is constructed, not fought for. ~Brent Davis
    If a war be undertaken…before the resources of peace have been tried and proved vain to secure it, that war has no defense, it is a national crime. ~Charles Eliot Norton
    You cannot be on one hand dedicated to peace and on the other dedicated to violence. Those two things are irreconcilable. ~Condoleeza Rice
    War creates peace like hate creates love. ~David L. Wilson
    Peace…is the product of Faith, Strength, Energy, Will, Sympathy, Justice, Imagination, and the triumph of principle. ~Dorothy Thompson
    We must pursue peaceful end through peaceful means. ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    War is a bankruptcy of policy. ~Hans Van Seeckt

  4. epppie

    You are suffering from a msunderstanding of the State Department, Don. The State department is not fundamentally a globally oriented department. You see this in the name, you see this in its defined mission, and you see it in its guiding principle: “national interests”. That is why we DO need something akin to a Department of Peace. National interests can easily be construed to tolerate war, and even to seek war. Peace requires a larger perspective that seeks to take into account the interests of the larger human community. That is a perspective that is desperately needed in our government.

  5. Don Bacon

    epppie.
    I suffer not. Of course State is globally oriented; it baffles me to hear anyone say otherwise. Its worldwide network of embassies and consulates, staffed with experts in commerce and other disciplines, are America’s principal contacts with the rest of the world.
    Now if you say: (1) these representatives are currently being challenged by the Pentagon’s evil tentacles and (2) State needs more to reflect world collegiality rather than American Exceptionalism, then I would agree.
    HC’s “Re-Engage ” is the guide for these improvements. (You might call me a shameless panderer to my boss but you’d be wrong there, too. I call ’em the way I see ’em.)
    from the State website:
    The U.S. Department of State manages America’s relationships with foreign governments, international organizations, and the people of other countries. The management of all of these relationships is called diplomacy. State Department diplomats carry out the President’s foreign policy and help build a more free, prosperous, and secure world.
    There are more than 190 countries in the world, and the United States maintains diplomatic relations with some 180 of them, as well as with many international organizations. Advances in travel, trade and technology have made the world more interconnected today than ever before, making interactions with other countries and their citizens more important for the United States. The State Department has four main foreign policy goals:
    * Protect the United States and Americans;
    * Advance democracy, human rights, and other global interests;
    * Promote international understanding of American values and policies; and
    * Support U.S. diplomats, government officials, and all other personnel at home and abroad who make these goals a reality.
    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/46839.pdf

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