Imagine a World with U.S.-China Cooperation

by Lawrence Wittner

reposted from Z Blogs

On September 10, 2021, during an important diplomatic meeting that occurred by telephone, U.S. President Joseph Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping affirmed the necessity of a better relationship between their two nations.  According to the official Chinese summary, Xi said that “when China and the United States cooperate, the two countries and the world will benefit; when China and the United States are in confrontation, the two countries and the world will suffer.”  He added:  “Getting the relationship right is . . . something we must do and must do well.”

At the moment, however, the governments of the two nations seem far from a cooperative relationship.  Indeed, intensely suspicious of one another, the United States and China are increasing their military spending, developing new nuclear weapons, engaging in heated quarrels over territorial issues, and sharpening their economic competition.  Disputes over the status of Taiwan and the South China Sea are particularly likely flashpoints for war.

But imagine the possibilities if the United States and China did cooperate.  After all, these countries possess the world’s two largest military budgets and the two biggest economies, are the two leading consumers of energy, and have a combined population of nearly 1.8 billion people.  Working together, they could exercise enormous influence in world affairs.

Instead of preparing for a deadly military confrontation—one that appeared perilously close in late 2020 and early 2021—the United States and China could turn over their conflicts to the United Nations or other neutral bodies like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for mediation and resolution.  Aside from averting a potentially devastating war, perhaps even a nuclear war, this policy would facilitate substantial cuts in military spending, with savings that could be devoted to bolstering UN operations and funding their domestic social programs.

Instead of the two countries obstructing UN action to protect international peace and security, they could fully support it—for example, by ratifying the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Instead of continuing as the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, these two economic giants could work together to fight the escalating climate catastrophe by reducing their carbon footprint and championing international agreements with other nations to do the same.

Instead of blaming one another for the current pandemic, they could work cooperatively on global public health measures, including massive production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and research on other potentially horrendous diseases.

Instead of engaging in wasteful economic competition and trade wars, they could pool their vast economic resources and skills to provide poorer nations with economic development programs and direct economic assistance.

Instead of denouncing one another for human rights violations, they could admit that they both had oppressed their racial minorities, announce plans for ending this mistreatment, and provide reparations to its victims.

Although it might seem that such a turnabout is impossible, something roughly comparable happened in the 1980s, when the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, long a staple of international affairs, came to a sudden, unexpected end.  In the context of a massive wave of popular protest against the heightening Cold War and, particularly, the growing danger of nuclear war, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had the wisdom to see that the two nations had nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by continuing down the path of rising military confrontation.  And he even succeeded in convincing U.S. President Ronald Reagan, long an ardent hawk but beleaguered by popular pressure, of the value of cooperation between their two nations.  In 1988, with the U.S.-Soviet confrontation fast collapsing, Reagan strolled pleasantly with Gorbachev through Moscow’s Red Square, telling curious onlookers:  “We decided to talk to each other instead of about each other.  It’s working just fine.”

Unfortunately, in subsequent decades, new leaders of both nations squandered the enormous opportunities for peace, economic security, and political freedom opened up by the end of the Cold War.  But, at least for a time, the cooperative approach did work just fine.

And it can again.

Given the current frosty state of relations between the governments of the United States and China, it seems that, despite the promising rhetoric at the recent Biden-Xi meeting, they are not yet ready for a cooperative relationship.

But what the future will bring is quite another matter—particularly if, as in the case of the Cold War, the people of the world, daring to imagine a better way, decide that it is necessary to set the governments of the two most powerful nations on a new and more productive course.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).


Peace & Change Editor Applications Are Due November 1, 2021 — There’s Plenty of Time to Apply!

The Peace History Society ( invites applications for the position of Executive Editor of Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research.  

Peace & Change is published by the Peace History Society (PHS) in conjunction with the International Peace Research Association (IPRA).  Its scholarly and interpretive articles engage with topics related to the achievement of a peaceful, just, and humane society.  The journal, whose medium is English, enjoys a global audience.  We endeavor to build bridges across disciplines and among peace researchers, educators, advocates, and activists.  Peace & Change recognizes the longstanding underrepresentation of scholars from marginalized groups within the fields of peace history and peace studies.  We are committed to inclusive editorial leadership that reflects the growing diversity of our scholarly community.  To this end, we seek applicants from all ethnicities, races, religions, sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, national origins, dis/abilities, ages, and backgrounds.  Applicants should review the following information about the journal and the position.  Launched in 1972, Peace & Change publishes four digital issues a year.   It is co-owned by the PHS and Wiley (, with PHS exercising editorial control over the journal content and review process.  The successful applicant must demonstrate an ability to represent Peace & Change in interfacing with the PHS Board, PHS’s IPRA partners, the scholarly community, and various other constituencies.  The applicant must also have institutional support, which traditionally includes a one-course release and a graduate assistantship or the equivalent for the accompanying Managing Editor position.  The time commitment is estimated to be ten hours per week.  The key responsibilities and tasks of the Executive Editor include:  

  1. Receives all new submissions.  Screens all submissions for originality and fit to the journal’s mission.  Reads all valid submissions with the managing editor and determines which articles are sent out for review and which are declined.  
  2. Oversees double-blind peer review.  Identifies appropriate readers and sends out anonymized manuscripts for review.  Tracks due dates for readers’ reports and revised manuscripts for authors and send reminders as needed.  
  3. Keeps a database of reviewers, seeks new reviewers.  
  4. Evaluates readers’ reports and makes decisions about reviewed articles.  Communicates decisions to authors and includes anonymized readers’ reports (unless a reader requests to be identified).  
  5. Works with the authors to revise manuscripts to address reviewers’ and editors’ concerns.    
  6. Schedules articles for publication and forwards final versions to Wiley for Early View publication online.  Articles are submitted to Wiley for individual publication when drafts are in final form.  Wiley assembles the issues from the tables of contents provided by the Executive Editor.  
  7. Prepares articles for publication, from preliminary copyediting for house style and readability to reviewing and approving proofs and verifying the securing of permissions and copyright clearances prior to publication.  The Managing Editor may assist with copyediting and verification of copyright and is responsible for writing the Table of Contents and Notes on Authors for each issue.   
  8. Reviews the final draft of each issue and approves or enters final changes before publication.   
  9. Review final drafts of book reviews (solicited, developed, and edited by the Book Review Editor), assigns them to issues, and submits them to Wiley for production and publication.  
  10. Works with the Peace & Change Editorial Board on significant issues, nominates board members, and uses board members to review manuscripts.  
  11. Serves as the point person for communications between the PHS Board, the IPRA, and Wiley on matters concerning the content, publication process, policies, and production of the journal.  The PHS Board oversees matters related to subscriptions, profit sharing, and contractual matters with Wiley and IPRA.  
  12. Conducts outreach to potential authors, reviewers, and other contributors to the journal at conferences and other events.  The Executive Editor and Managing Editor will attend Peace History Society conferences to identify manuscripts that might be appropriate for submission to the journal.  
  13. Oversees publication of short-form pieces and news items on Peace & Change Blog.  The Managing Editor can review, edit, and post these features.  

    Wiley is migrating Peace & Change to a Scholar One platform, which will automate some parts of the work, including screening for originality and plagiarism and keeping the review process on track (sending reminders, etc.).  This will involve 2-3 meetings with Wiley developers at the start of the Executive Editor’s term to set up the automated workflow to suit their preferences.  

Please submit applications and inquiries to by November 1, 2021.  The search will continue until the position is filled.  Your application must include a vita and a letter setting forth your interest in the position, your relevant background and experience, and your vision for Peace & Change and the field of peace research.  Please also convey your institution’s commitment to yourself and to the journal.  We are open to applications by potential co-editors.  Please provide a joint letter of application, vitas, and information about support from your institution(s).  

The Fate of Cassandra:  Dire Predictions Go Unheeded

By Lawrence S. Wittner

In ancient Greek mythology, Cassandra was a priestess who was able to predict the future but unable to convince others to act upon her prophecies.

The fate of Cassandra seems particularly relevant today, for there has been ample warning about three developments that threaten continued human existence—preparations for nuclear war, climate change, and disease pandemics—without, however, adequate measures being taken to safeguard human survival.

Ever since the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945, prophetic voices have warned of doom if the world does not ban nuclear weapons.  And yet, the nine nuclear powers are currently engaged in a new nuclear arms race to build ever faster, more devastating weapons that, if used, will annihilate nearly all life on earth.

About three decades ago, climate change also became a major public issue, with scientists, politicians, and environmental organizations issuing prophetic statements about the extreme dangers ahead.  Today, following a remarkable display of inaction, massive wildfires and floods sweep across nations, the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and millions of climate refugees are fleeing for their lives.

More recently, specialists have warned of the outbreak of new, highly contagious and potentially deadly diseases around the globe.  And the result?  Thanks to the failure of governments to implement the necessary public health measures, a Covid-19 pandemic has already produced over 222 million cases and 4.6 million deaths, with no end in sight. 

Curiously, though, there is a major difference between the Cassandra of the Greek myths and her modern counterparts.  In the myths, Cassandra was ineffective because she was simply not believed.  By contrast, most people do believe our modern Cassandras and want action taken to avert catastrophe.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, polls have repeatedly shown that most people favor eliminating them.  A 2008 public opinion survey in 21 nations worldwide found that large majorities in nearly all the nations supported the total abolition of nuclear weapons.  Recently, public opinion surveys in Europe, Japan, and Australia reported similar results. 

Substantial majorities of people polled around the world also feel seriously endangered by climate change.  A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of people in 26 nations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa found that a median of 68 percent regarded climate change as a “major threat,” 20 percent as a “minor threat,” and only 9 percent as “not a threat.”  In early 2021, the UN Development Program announced the results of the “People’s Climate Vote” that covered 50 nations with over half the world’s population.  The program’s administrator declared that they “clearly illustrate that urgent climate action has broad support amongst people around the globe.”

The Covid-19 disease pandemic also sparked an exceptionally strong demand for remedial action.  In late February 2021, an Ipsos survey of people in 15 nations found overwhelming numbers intending to be vaccinated in a variety of nations,  including Brazil (89 percent), Italy (85 percent), China (82 percent), Spain (82 percent), Mexico (80 percent), South Korea (80 percent), Canada (79 percent), Australia (78 percent), and Japan (74 percent).  Although rightwing politicians in the United States downplayed the seriousness of the epidemic and railed against vaccines and other public health measures, recent polls have found that 64 percent of Americans approve of mandatory vaccinations for everyone in the United States and that same percentage backs mask mandates for all public places.

Even so, governments have not taken adequate action to stave off the catastrophes of nuclear war, climate change, and disease pandemics.  Why?

One key factor is the control of public policy by self-interested economic forces.  Seeking lucrative military contracts from the U.S. government, giant corporations campaign relentlessly for the building of new nuclear weapons.  In 2020, the major nuclear weapons contractors in the United States employed 380 lobbyists and spent $60 million on lobbying, with great success.  This expenditure, of course, does not include their lavish campaign contributions to friendly politicians.   

Nor should we forget the immense role that wealthy fossil fuel corporations have played in sabotaging action to avert climate catastrophe.  Although ExxonMobil and other oil companies knew decades ago about what their products were doing to the environment, they funded a massive misinformation campaign designed to deny the findings of climate science, subvert public opinion, and block international treaties that could curb greenhouse gas emissions.  Thus far, they have been very successful.

As for the giant pharmaceutical companies, they treat the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reap vast profits.  Public health, of course, is dependent upon the worldwide distribution of antiviral vaccines as quickly as possible.  But the corporations manufacturing the vaccines, determined to maximize their income, refuse to waive their patent rights, thus preventing other companies or governments from producing or distributing the vaccine and, thereby, competing with them.  In this situation of scarcity, they sell the vaccines to the highest bidders among governments—overwhelmingly those of the richest nations.  Consequently, as of August 30, 2021, 57 percent of people in high-income countries had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while only 2 percent had received it in low-income nations.

A second key factor behind the inadequate response to these crises is the absence of a system of global governance.  Even when the baneful influence of powerful corporate entities is overcome, on occasion, in individual nations, there is no structure that can take remedial action on a global basis.  The closest the world has come to that structure is the United Nations.  But, if the United Nations is to meet the challenges posed by these existential crises, it needs substantial strengthening of its authority and resources.

Consequently, until corporate influence is curbed and the United Nations strengthened, our modern Cassandras’ warnings seem likely to go unheeded.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Building Social Solidarity Across National Boundaries

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Is it possible to build social solidarity beyond the state?

It’s easy to conclude that it’s not.  In 1915, as national governments produced the shocking carnage of World War I, Ralph Chaplin, an activist in the Industrial Workers of the World, wrote his stirring song, “Solidarity Forever.”  Taken up by unions around the globe, it proclaimed that there was “no power greater anywhere beneath the sun” than international working class solidarity.  But, today, despite Chaplin’s dream of bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old,” the world remains sharply divided by national boundaries—boundaries that are usually quite rigid, policed by armed guards, and ultimately enforced through that traditional national standby, war.    

Even so, over the course of modern history, social movements have managed, to a remarkable degree, to form global networks of activists who have transcended nationalism in their ideas and actions.  Starting in the late nineteenth century, there was a remarkable efflorescence of these movements:  the international aid movement; the labor movement; the socialist movement; the peace movement; and the women’s rights movement, among others.  In recent decades, other global movements have emerged, preaching and embodying the same kind of human solidarity—from the environmental movement, to the nuclear disarmament movement, to the campaign against corporate globalization, to the racial justice movement.

Although divided from one another, at times, by their disparate concerns, these transnational humanitarian movements have nevertheless been profoundly subversive of many established ideas and of the established order—an order that has often been devoted to maintenance of special privilege and preservation of the nation state system.  Consequently, these movements have usually found a home on the political Left and have usually triggered a furious backlash on the political Right.

The rise of globally-based social movements appears to have developed out of the growing interconnection of nations, economies, and peoples spawned by increasing world economic, scientific, and technological development, trade, travel, and communications.  This interconnection has meant that war, economic collapse, climate disasters, diseases, corporate exploitation, and other problems are no longer local, but global.  And the solutions, of course, are also global in nature.  Meanwhile, the possibilities for alliances of like-minded people across national boundaries have also grown.

The rise of the worldwide campaign for nuclear disarmament exemplifies these trends.  Beginning in 1945, in the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, its sense of urgency was driven by breakthroughs in science and technology that revolutionized war and, thereby, threatened the world with unprecedented disaster.  Furthermore, the movement had little choice but to develop across the confines of national boundaries.  After all, nuclear testing, the nuclear arms race, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation represented global problems that could not be tackled on a national basis.  Eventually, a true peoples’ alliance emerged, uniting activists in East and West against the catastrophic nuclear war plans of their governments.

Much the same approach is true of other global social movements.  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for example, play no favorites among nations when they report on human rights abuses around the world.  Individual nations, of course, selectively pick through the findings of these organizations to label their political adversaries (though not their allies) ruthless human rights abusers.  But the underlying reality is that participants in these movements have broken free of allegiances to national governments to uphold a single standard and, thereby, act as genuine world citizens.  The same can be said of activists in climate organizations like Greenpeace and, anticorporate campaigns, the women’s rights movement, and most other transnational social movements.

Institutions of global governance also foster human solidarity across national borders.  The very existence of such institutions normalizes the idea that people in diverse countries are all part of the human community and, therefore, have a responsibility to one another.  Furthermore, UN Secretaries-General have often served as voices of conscience to the world, deploring warfare, economic inequality, runaway climate disaster, and a host of other global ills.  Conversely, the ability of global institutions to focus public attention upon such matters has deeply disturbed the political Right, which acts whenever it can to undermine the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Health Organization, and other global institutions. 

Social movements and institutions of global governance often have a symbiotic relationship.  The United Nations has provided a very useful locus for discussion and action on issues of concern to organizations dealing with women’s rights, environmental protection, human rights, poverty, and other issues, with frequent conferences devoted to these concerns.  Frustrated with the failure of the nuclear powers to divest themselves of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament organizations deftly used a series of UN conferences to push through the adoption of the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, much to the horror of nuclear-armed states.

Admittedly, the United Nations is a confederation of nations, where the “great powers” often use their disproportionate influence—for example, in the Security Council—to block the adoption of popular global measures that they consider against their “interests.”  But it remains possible to change the rules of the world body, diminishing great power influence and creating a more democratic, effective world federation of nations.  Not surprisingly, there are social movements, such as the World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy and Citizens for Global Solutions, working for these reforms.

Although there are no guarantees that social movements and enhanced global governance will transform our divided, problem-ridden world, we shouldn’t ignore these movements and institutions, either.  Indeed, they should provide us with at least a measure of hope that, someday, human solidarity will prevail, thereby bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old.”

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article is a revised version of a previous article by the author:  “The Inspiring Legacy of Global Movements.”

Baby Teeth Collected Six Decades Ago Will Reveal the Damage to Americans’ Health Caused by U.S. Nuclear Weapons Tests

By Lawrence Wittner and Joseph Mangano

[Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).  Joseph Mangano MPH MBA is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.]

Photo: Shutterstock

In 2020, Harvard University’s T. C. Chan School of Public Health began a five-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that will examine the connection between early life exposure to toxic metals and later-life risk of neurological disease. A collaborator with Harvard, the Radiation and Public Health Project, will analyze the relationship of strontium-90 (a radioactive element in nuclear weapons explosions) and disease risk in later life. 

The centerpiece of the study is a collection of nearly 100,000 baby teeth, gathered in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information.

The collection of these teeth occurred during a time of intense public agitation over the escalating nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Soviet governments that featured the new hydrogen bomb (H-bomb), a weapon more than a thousand times as powerful as the bomb that had annihilated Hiroshima.  To prepare themselves for nuclear war, the two Cold War rivals conducted well-publicized, sometimes televised nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere—434 of them between 1945 and 1963.  These tests sent vast clouds of radioactive debris aloft where, carried along by the winds, it often traveled substantial distances before it fell to earth and was absorbed by the soil, plants, animals, and human beings. 

The hazards of nuclear testing were underscored by the U.S. government’s March 1, 1954 explosion of an H-bomb on Bikini Atoll, located in the Marshall Islands.  Although an area the size of New England had been staked out as a danger zone around the test site, a heavy dose of nuclear fallout descended on four inhabited islands of the Marshall grouping and on a Japanese fishing boat, the Lucky Dragon—all substantially outside the danger zone—with disastrous results.

Criticism of the nuclear arms race, and especially nuclear testing, quickly escalated.  Prominent individuals, including Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, and Benjamin Spock, issued spirited warnings.  New mass membership organizations arose, among them the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) in the United States, the National Council for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons Tests (which morphed into the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) in Britain, and the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. 

The public grew alarmed, particularly by the fact that strontium-90 from nuclear tests was transmitted from the grass, to cattle, to milk, and finally to human bodies—with special concern as it built up in children’s bones and teeth.  By the late 1950s, polls found that most Americans considered fallout a “real danger.”

Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, emerged as one of the most trenchant and effective American critics, circulating anti-testing petitions signed by thousands of U.S. scientists and even larger numbers of scientists abroad.  Pauling charged that the nuclear bomb tests through 1958 would ultimately produce about 1 million seriously defective children and some 2 million embryonic and neonatal deaths.

Determined to maintain its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. government was horrified by the popular uproar and anxious to suppress it.  U.S. intelligence agencies and congressional investigations were unleashed against groups like SANE and antinuclear leaders like Pauling, while U.S. information agencies and government officials publicly minimized the dangers of nuclear testing.  In a Life magazine article, Edward Teller, often called “the father of the H-bomb,” insisted that nuclear test radiation “need not necessarily be harmful,” but “may conceivably be helpful.”

Even so, public concern grew.  In August 1958, Herman Kalckar, a biologist at the National Institutes of Health, published an article in the journal Nature, calling on public health agencies in multiple nations to engage in large-scale collection of baby teeth. Kalckar proposed testing teeth for strontium-90 from bomb fallout, as children are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of radioactivity.

Washington University scientists recognized that a tooth study could change public policy. In December 1958, they joined with leaders of the Committee for Nuclear Information, a citizen group opposed to nuclear war and above-ground bomb tests, and adopted a proposal to collect and test teeth for strontium-90 concentrations.

For the next 12 years, the Committee worked furiously, soliciting tooth donations through community-based institutions like schools, churches, scout groups, libraries, and dental offices. A total of 320,000 teeth were collected, and a Washington University lab measured strontium-90.

Results clearly showed a massive increase in strontium-90 as testing continued. Children born in 1963 (the height of bomb tests) had an average of 50 times more than those born in 1951 (when large-scale tests began). Medical journal articles detailed results.  Information on the tooth study was sent to Jerome Wiesner, science advisor to President John F. Kennedy. 

Kennedy, already seeking a test ban treaty, was clearly influenced by the uproar over the fate of children.  In his July 1963 speech announcing the successful conclusion of test ban negotiations by the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, he argued that governments could not be indifferent to the catastrophe of nuclear war or to “children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs.”  The outcome was the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which banned nuclear testing in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.

According to the ongoing tooth study, the average strontium-90 in baby teeth dropped by half in just four years after the test ban. With their goal apparently accomplished, the Committee on Nuclear Information and the University halted tooth collection and testing.  Soon thereafter, the Committee dissolved.

Three decades later, Washington University staff discovered thousands of abandoned baby teeth that had gone untested. The school donated the teeth to the Radiation and Public Health Project, which was conducting a study of strontium-90 in teeth of U.S. children near nuclear reactors.

Now, using strontium-90 still present in teeth, the Radiation and Public Health Project will conduct an analysis of health risk, which was not addressed in the original tooth study, and minimally addressed by government agencies.  Based on actual radiation exposure in bodies, the issue of how many Americans suffered from cancer and other diseases from nuclear testing fallout will be clarified.

Conflict or Cooperation in US-China Relations?

by Lawrence Wittner

Cross-posted from LA Progressive

The United States and China, the world’s mightiest military and economic powers, are currently heading toward a Cold War or even a hot one, with disastrous consequences.  But an alternative path is available and could be taken.

Beginning in 2018, U.S. government policy toward China turned sharply hostile, bringing relations between the two nations to their lowest point in the last four decades.  The Trump administration fostered military confrontations with China in the South China Sea, initiated a trade war with the Asian nation, blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic, and sharply denounced its human rights record.  In a July 2020 public address, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for “a new alliance of democracies” to resist China, declaring:  “The free world must triumph over this new tyranny.”

For the most part, the Biden administration has continued this hard-line policy.  Soon after taking office in 2021, U.S. officials stepped up political and military engagement with Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken used his first meeting with Chinese officials to publicly berate China.  At the beginning of June, the U.S. Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, explicitly designed to compete with China by pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into advanced U.S. technology.  This action followed the release of a proposed Pentagon budget that identified China as “the greatest long-term challenge to the United States.”  Promising to “prioritize China” as the U.S. adversary, the Defense Department called for heightened funding to upgrade U.S. “forces, global posture, and operational concepts” by “investing in cutting edge technologies that will deliver new warfighting advantages to our forces.” 

One of the new U.S. warfighting marvels is the hypersonic missile, which, although still in the development phase, has already attracted billions of dollars in funding from the U.S. government. The missile travels faster than five times the speed of sound, has greater maneuverability than other nuclear-armed missiles, and can strike the Chinese mainland.

The United States and China have developed unprecedented military might, and a conventional war could easily spiral into a catastrophic military conflict.

The Chinese government has not shied away from confrontation, either.  Xi Jinping, taking office in 2012 as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and, in 2013, as President of China, has launched his nation on a more assertive, nationalist course in world affairs.  This has included turning disputed islands in the South China Sea into Chinese military bases and steadily building up Chinese military forces.  The latter have been employed for dangerous confrontations with U.S. warships in the South China Sea and for flights into Taiwan’s airspace.  Thanks to a robust research program, China has successfully tested both medium range and intercontinental hypersonic missiles.  Moreover, ignoring external criticism, Xi’s government has clamped down on dissidentsimprisoned over a million Uyghurs in “reeducation camps,” and crushed the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

The dangers of this growing confrontation are enormous.  The United States and China have developed unprecedented military might, and a conventional war could easily spiral into a catastrophic military conflict.  Even if war were averted, their escalating arms race, which already accounts for more than half the world’s military expenditures, would be a colossal waste of resources.  Furthermore, a major conflict between these two nations with the world’s largest economiesinterlocked through investment and trade, could trigger a global economic collapse.

Fortunately, though, there is plenty of opportunity on the world scene for the United States and China to cooperate and, thereby, not only avert disaster, but serve their common interests.

Avoiding climate catastrophe is certainly a key area in which they would be well-served by cooperation.  Not only are the people of China and the United States threatened by climate change, but, as the two nations are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, they can make or break world climate agreements. 

Cooperation is also essential when it comes to prevention of infectious diseases.  The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how easily disease can spread and disrupt the lives of people around the world and, particularly, how no nation is safe until all are safe.  In this area, too, it is vital to mobilize the advanced medical and scientific resources of the United States and China in a cooperative effort to safeguard global health.

Update: New Essays on U.S. Foreign Policy & Resource Guide Website

by Roger Peace

Three new essays have been added to the U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide website:  “Introduction:  The Fifth Estate” by Roger Peace (; “The U.S. and World War II” by Jeremy Kuzmarov and Roger Peace (; and “Africa and the War on Terror” by Elizabeth Schmidt (  The website, now with 13 essays, is an open resource educational website, established in 2016 and sponsored by the Historians for Peace and Democracy and the Peace History Society.     

How is history written?  Why do historians differ in their interpretations?  What are the main differences in writing the history of U.S. foreign relations?  These are questions answered in “Introduction: The Fifth Estate.”  The title conveys the idea that the history profession has a responsibility to the public to question official rationales, search out the truth, and present an accurate and honest accounting of the past – in the interest of democratic accountability.  

The Second World War is popularly remembered as “the good war” in American history, an heroic struggle against fascist totalitarian states.  Typically overlooked is the U.S. policy of appeasement toward fascism during the interwar years, a policy well-documented in U.S. governmental records.  Also overlooked is the role of U.S.-based corporations in Nazi Germany, including General Motors, Ford, Standard Oil Company, IBM, and Chase Manhattan Bank.  Though the war was necessary to stop the genocidal Nazi regime, the U.S. kept a tight lid on immigration of Jews from Europe during the interwar years.  Other features of interest include the predominant role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany, the “race war” in the Pacific, the mass internment of Japanese American citizens and residents during the war, the shift in U.S. policy to mass civilian bombing, and the Truman administration’s decision to use atomic bombs.  Seven out of eight top U.S. military commanders believed that the use of atomic bombs was unnecessary from a strategic-military vantage point.  

“To understand the war on terror in Africa, it must be placed in historical context,” writes Elizabeth Schmidt, author of Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War: Sovereignty, Responsibility, and the War on Terror (2018), and Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror (2013).  Schmidt offers a cogent analysis of how U.S. leaders mislabeled disparate civil disturbances in African countries as “terrorism,” then emphasized military “solutions.”  Rather than reduce terrorism, U.S. military actions strengthened autocratic regimes, exacerbated human rights abuses, and undermined the goals they purported to promote.  Schmidt also dispels some common misconceptions about Islam, noting that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide condemn terrorism. 

If interested in assisting in the website in research, writing, or outreach, please contact me (

– Roger Peace, website initiator and coordinator

Nationalism on the Decline

by Lawrence Wittner

Cross-posted from Peace & Health Blog

Although, beginning in about 2015, nationalist political parties made enormous advances in countries around the world, more recently they have been on the wane.

The nationalist surge was led by a new generation of rightwing populist demagogues who, feeding on public discontent with widespread immigration and economic stagnation, achieved startling political breakthroughs.  Matteo Salvini of Italy, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, and Marine Le Pen of France catapulted their fringe political movements into major party status.  In Britain, Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) startled mainstream parties by winning a referendum calling for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.  Donald Trump, championing an “America First” policy, shocked political pundits by emerging victorious in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.  Two years later, in Brazil, the flamboyant Jair Bolsonaro, campaigning under the slogan “Brazil Above Everything,” was easily elected president of his country.  In May 2019, Narendra Modi’s BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, won a landslide election victory in India.

As the acknowledged leader of the rightwing, nationalist uprising in these and other nations, Trump forged close contacts with his overseas counterparts and pulled the U.S. government out of international treaties, as well as out of global institutions.  “Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first,” he admonished the UN General Assembly in September 2019.  “The future does not belong to globalists.  The future belongs to patriots.”

But, even as he spoke, the nationalist momentum was beginning to falter.  

In Europe, every nationalist political success during 2019 was matched by a defeat. Although, in Spain, the small, anti-immigrant Vox Party gained seats, in Austria, the nationalist Freedom Party experienced major setbacks, while Britain’s once-powerful UKIP and Greece’s rabid Golden Dawn movement virtually disappeared.  Meanwhile, in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nationalist party suffered stinging election defeats in the nation’s three largest cities.

Things went further downhill for the nationalists in 2020.  A loss by Modi’s BJP in Delhi that February added to its string of regional election defeats.  In Italy, Salvini’s Northern League suffered an election rout and the center-left Democratic Party replaced it in the coalition government.  Meanwhile, in France, Le Pen’s National Rally party went down to a resounding defeat in the July 2020 local elections and, in November, Brazil’s Bolsonaro was humiliated when most of the candidates he campaigned for failed to win election.  Perhaps the most significant nationalist defeat occurred that November in the United States, where Trump lost his presidential re-election campaign by 7 million votes and his radicalized Republican Party failed to recapture the House of Representatives, which it had lost in 2018.

This year, the nationalist defeats have turned into a rout.  In January, Trump’s Republicans lost special Senate elections, ending their party’s control of the U.S. Senate.  In March, Erdogan’s political control of Turkey crumbled still further, as polls found support for his nationalist party slipping dramatically.  This May, Modi’s BJP lost another regional election.  

Much the same occurred this June.  In Germany, where the nationalist Alternative for Germany was projected to score an upset victory in a state election, it drew a disappointing 20.8 percent of the vote—not much more than half the percentage garnered by the Christian Democratic victors and considerably less than the total secured by the leftwing parties.  In Brazil, clear signs emerged that the Bolsonaro regime, with record unpopularity, was tottering toward collapse.  Finally, in France, where Marine Le Pen’s party was predicted to have a good chance of triumphing in six of the country’s 13 regional elections, it ended up defeated in every one of them.

As the nationalist tide has receded, governments have turned to reviving the international institutions and agreementsbattered during the previous years.  These include the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate Accords, and key nuclear disarmament agreements.  In another sign of their willingness to engage in global action, major governments have proposed a global minimum tax on corporations.

How can this change in the fortunes of nationalist parties be explained?

One factor behind the political turnabout is that the style, policies, and behavior of some of the leading nationalist politicians set off alarm bells in the minds of many people and political parties about authoritarianism, and even fascism.  Some of these politicians, in fact, displayed fascist tendencies and, also, encouraged violent, rightwing action by their supporters.  Consequently, uneasy voters and parties, anxious to preserve democracy and political freedom, were willing to make political compromises, such as uniting behind the most electable alternative to the nationalist candidate.

A deeper reason, though, is that, in a world faced with global problems such as a disease pandemic, climate catastrophe, a nuclear arms race, and economic inequality, a nationalist approach doesn’t make much sense.  Recognizing this, most of the public gravitates toward global solutions.  A Pew Research Center poll in the summer of 2020 found that 81 percent of the 14,276 people interviewed in 14 nations thought that “countries around the world should act as part of a global community that works together to solve problems.”  Some 76 percent approved of the role of the United Nations in promoting human rights and 74 percent in promoting peace, while 63 percent said that the WHO had done a good job handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Of course, despite the recent setbacks experienced by nationalist parties, they are far from dead.  They have succeeded in establishing themselves as part of the political landscape and today govern a variety of countries, including Brazil, Hungary, India, Poland, and Turkey.  In the United States, the Trump-dominated Republican Party controls numerous state governments and stands a reasonable chance of recapturing control of the federal government.

Even so, the political tide has recently turned against nationalism and, consequently, possibilities have re-emerged for addressing global problems on a global basis.

[Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).] 

In Memoriam: Geoff Smith

Geoffrey S. Smith, past Peace History Society president (1995-1997) and professor emeritus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, passed away on April 1, 2021. 

PHS offers condolences to his family.

An obituary appears in the The Globe and Mail (Toronto):

Queen’s University offers this tribute to Prof. Smith:

We republish here the citation for the Peace History Society Lifetime Achievement Award which PHS president Kevin Callahan presented to Prof. Smith in October 2015 at the PHS biennial conference, in West Hartford, Connecticut:

In 2005, Peace History Society set up the Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented every other year to a PHS member who has contributed outstanding scholarship and exemplary service to peace history…

This year (2015), the Lifetime Achievement Award committee confers the highest distinction of the Peace History Society on Geoffrey S. Smith, Professor Emeritus of History, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Dr. Smith was born in San Francisco and raised in California. He attended the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s, where he got his first protest experience by spending a week holding a sign criticizing the administration during the Free Speech Movement. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1969 and taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota for two years before joining the faculty at Queens University.

Interested in security and its misuse by elites, Dr. Smith taught courses on “Conspiracy and Dissent in American History,” U.S. Foreign Relations, Latin American History, the Vietnam War, and American Social and Cultural History. Outside the classroom, he coached the Queens’ University basketball team for over a decade while also participating in Civil Rights protests and antiwar protests during the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

Dr. Smith has written widely on issues related to peace history, gender and U.S. national security in the Cold War, the relocation of Japanese minorities in the U.S. and Canada during WWII, and American nativism. His 1973 monograph, To Save a Nation: American Extremism, the New Deal and the Coming of World War II, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In this work, Smith argued that the activities of right-wing extremists like Father Charles Coughlin and Fritz Kuhn of the German American Bund tainted moderate and responsible non-interventionists prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, thereby making it easier for Franklin D. Roosevelt and his foreign policy advisers to garner support for intervention.

A true servant to the discipline, Dr. Smith is a Lifetime Member of the Peace History Society, has been an active book and article reviewer for the organization’s journal – Peace & Change, served as president of the Peace History Society from 1995-1997, PHS executive Secretary-Treasurer from 1997-2000, and most recently a board member from 2008-2012. Please join me today in thanking Dr. Geoffrey Smith and congratulating him on his tremendous accomplishments.

When news of Geoff Smith’s passing reached the Peace History Society his colleagues and friends offered these remembrances:

So long, Geoff.

It is the collective memory, which counts here. Although our organization may be small, its membership casts a wide net. Geoff Smith was one who did cast a wide net in terms of his excellent scholarship on behalf of peace as well as his affable and warm personality. I can’t count how many years I knew Geoff, too many at this point, but I always looked forward to seeing and talking with him at various professional meetings. Knowing he was a West Coast guy and from the San Francisco area, I bestowed upon him my peace necklace adorned with beads. I did it in the presence of my wife at one of the OAH meetings at the book exhibit. Geoff fondly took it and promptly placed it around his neck. We had a good laugh. The symbolism of the moment was appropriate as it brought back Geoff’s personal determination and grit to uphold conscience over conformity. There are other stories I could tell but I will leave that for others to address. The last time I spoke to Geoff it was the PHS meeting in Hartford, Connecticut. Fittingly, it was the occasion when he was bestowed the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He presented a great acceptance speech and reminded us all our duties as peace scholars and human beings. We only have the memories now but thanks, Geoff, for creating them in the first place. 

So long, my good friend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    — Chuck Howlett  

I sat next to [Geoff] at the banquet during which he received his Lifetime Achievement Award and remember that he was always welcoming to other scholars and had a great affection for PHS.  I learned more of our Society’s backstory that night than from almost any other interaction in my years with PHS!  He will be sorely missed.

                                                                               — David Hostetter, President, Peace History Society

Back in the early days of PHS in the mid-`90s, we helped put the Peace History Society on a sounder footing, corresponded fairly frequently, and gathered annually at history conventions. Geoff was a fantastic teacher, a fine scholar, and an all-around good person. I am deeply saddened by his passing.

                                                                              — Jeffrey Kimball, prof. emeritus Miami   University                                                                    (Oxford OH) and former president of PHS

I so enjoyed working with Geoff when we were both officers in PHS and also on the projects we worked on together. I always teased him that he reminded me of Steve Martin, not only in looks but in his great sense of humor. He thought that was hysterical.

                                                                               — Harriet Alonso

His humor was priceless and his commitment to a historical narrative that embraced a whole reality should provide a standard for everyone.

                                                                              — Sandi Cooper

I grew up with Geoff. His mother and mine were best friends at the University of California in the 1930s, and our families remained close as he and I grew up. Geoff and I spent many a happy summer together at the Lair of the Bear. the alumni camp of the university. We lost contact after that (I betrayed the good cause by studying at arch-rival Stanford). To my great pleasure, he and I reconnected through the PHS decades later. My sympathies go out to his family, particularly to his younger brother, Jon, who was also my good friend.

                                                                              — Roger Chickering

Like others, I recall most his great sense of humor. I served on a panel with Geoff at a SHAFR conference some years ago. In the discussion period Geoff regaled the room about his childhood experiences with civil defense drills and how, during one drill, he kissed his very young sweetheart under the desks which were protecting both from the mock nuclear attack.  He noted that, perhaps, his kiss subverted the drills, although I’m quite certain that this was not his intention at the time!

                                                                              — Scott Bennett

I’m very sad to learn of Geoff Smith’s passing. He was a kind supporter and mentor to me and to all of us who came along in the 1990s and beyond. I have a vivid memory of seeing Julian Bond give a talk at the 2003 OAH in Memphis, and in the Q&A afterwards, Geoff, who was sitting in another part of the enormous hall, stood to ask a question.  I don’t remember his question, or the long wind-up to it, but I do remember that by the time he was finished, he had the whole room – hundreds of people – in stitches. The person next to me said, “He’s a live wire, isn’t he?” and he was.

I’m happy to remember him as a great historian, a mentor to many,  but especially as a “live wire.”

                                                                              — Mike Stewart Foley

A Rapidly Globalizing World Needs Strengthened Global Governance

By Lawrence S. Wittner

The world is currently engulfed in crises—most prominently, a disease pandemic, a climate catastrophe, and the prevalence of war—while individual nations are encountering enormous difficulties in coping with them.

These difficulties result from the global nature of the problems.  An individual nation is unable to institute adequate measures to safeguard public health because diseases spread easily across national boundaries.  Similarly, an individual nation cannot stave off the deterioration of the climate because the climate is a worldwide phenomenon.  Furthermore, an individual nation cannot prevent warfare (including the drift to a disastrous nuclear war) because nations live in a state approaching international anarchy, with each relying on its own military strength to safeguard what it views as its national interests.

Of course, the need for concerted global action to address global crises has long been recognized.  At the end of World War II, when the most destructive conflict in world history demonstrated the limits of the nation-state system, world leaders created the United Nations to take on new tasks, particularly the task of fostering international security.  And, to some extent, the UN has been successful in dealing with international problems.  But over the decades since the founding of the UN, it has become obvious that the world organization is too weak and underfunded to meet all the challenges of a rapidly globalizing world.

Given the increasingly dysfunctional nature of individual nations on the world stage, isn’t it time to consider strengthening global governance? 

As most people feel attached to local regions and individual nations, the ideal form of enhanced government for the planet would probably be federal.  In the United States, this would mean building on the current federal system of local, state, and national government with a layer of governance at the global level.  This additional layer already exists, to a modest degree, in the form of the United Nations and international law.  It merely requires strengthening to make it more effective.

The idea of creating a global authority to tackle world affairs is not a new one.  It was promoted for centuries by prominent writers and thinkers, including Dante Alighieri, Immanuel Kant, H. G. Wells, and Albert Einstein.  After the vast carnage of World War II and the atomic bombing of Japan convinced many people that creating a global federation of nations was imperative, it inspired a mass movement around the world.  By mid-1949, United World Federalists, the American branch of the world federalist movement, had nearly 50,000 members and 720 chapters.

In the fall of 1949, as part of this remarkable efflorescence, 111 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 21 members of the U.S. Senate co-sponsored a congressional resolution declaring that the United Nations should be developed “into a world federation open to all nations.”  These co-sponsors included John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Hubert Humphrey, Mike Mansfield, Christian Herter, Jacob Javits, Paul Douglas, and other individuals who became influential figures in American public life.

Over subsequent decades, though, the world federalist movement ebbed, while nations—especially “the great powers”—largely followed their parochial interests, a process that frequently set them at odds with one another.  Meanwhile, the United Nations stumbled along as a principled voice for international cooperation and international law, but a weak instrument for enforcing them—a situation we can see only too well today.

Even so, there remain organizations, like the World Federalist Movement, that promote global governance, as well as startlingly large numbers of people who seem ready for it.  A Pew Research Center poll across 14 nations during the summer of 2020 found that 81 percent of respondents believed that “countries around the world should act as part of a global community that works together to solve problems.”  Only 17 percent disagreed.  In the midst of the multiple crises that beset today’s world, the gathering obsolescence of the nation in addressing global issues suggests the need to take another look at strengthening global governance and at what it might accomplish.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article was originally posted to ZBlogs.

Robert Shaffer joining Peace & Change

We are excited to announce that Robert Shaffer is joining Peace & Change as book review editor. It is fitting, then, that we would repost his recent assessment in The Volunteer of the Spanish Civil War in U.S. history textbooks. We’d also like to thank Michael Clinton for his service as book review editor. We are fortunate to have the expertise of these two scholars at Peace & Change.

Peace Museums and Peacebuilding in Changing Culture, Part II

By Vladimir I. Ionesov

Visualization of Peace and War in Museum Practices: New Imperatives for Creativity

In contemporary cultural practices of exhibiting peace, the traditional understanding of memory visualization as a mirror fixation and representation of the past in images of war, violence and their victims is still widespread. However, today the transition to a new expansive – culturological – interpretation of heritage screening as a creative experience and a symbolic practice is increasingly evident. There is a need to address the cultural experience of memory visualization, which significantly push the boundaries of the historical legacy of war and peace in modern culture. Thereby, the task is to consider the experience of the past as a field of creativity and as new visual communication practices.

A considerable part of museums for peace owe their origins to events that are far from actually peacebuilding activities. At the heart of their expositions prevails the history of violence, the chronicle of combat victories and defeats, the evidence of war crimes and demonstration of victims of armed conflicts. The images and plots of the main museum show-cases are designed to show the depth of human disunity and endless social cataclysms in the history of society. Of course, despite the striking differences in the sectoral specifics and the thematic focus of various kinds of activities, all of them, in one way or another, are ultimately focused on the cultivation of the values of nonviolence, mercy, concord and peace.

However, the ideas of peace and humanism are expressed here more in contrast to the destructive consequences of wars and violence. In the discourse of this visual contradistinction peace itself is very little in it. Peace is shown here as the projection of the military paradigm, and is understood as the continuation or absence of war and deterrence of violence. The importance of this memorial peacekeeping practice or of the modern culture of opposition to war is beyond any doubt. It is important to the extent that the United Nations Peacekeeping Forcesare important for the cessation and containment of war, which in the interpretation of the Charter of this international organization is a specialized military contingent with the aim of preventing or eliminating the threat to peace and security through joint enforcement actions (military demonstration, military blockade, etc.).

Thus, museum peacebuilding practices often act as certain peacekeeping forces to relieve military tension and to tame violence. In this way, peace here is positioned rather in the form of a triumphant end of the war, a victorious event or a meaningful truce.

One of the most dangerous challenges to modern culture is the globalizing syndrome of value disorientation.  Modernity is increasingly being positioned as an era of substitution, mixing and destruction of values. Moreover, in this process of total mixing – the promotion of peace is often accompanied by the expansion of the culture of war. “Today’s great mixture, writes J. Baudriard, is a mixture of evil and misfortune! The unification of evil with misfortune and, consequently, good with happiness… The ideology of happiness, which, in fact, is absolutely unhappy!” (1).

In fact, the images and plots of war significantly prevail in modern culture over peacekeeping pictures. Thus, the number of Internet queries with the word war exceeds almost 2.5 times the number of queries with the word peace. There are far more museums of war and victims of violence than museums dedicated to the culture of peace. In addition, even peace museums traditionally screen mainly scenes of war and violence in their exhibits.

With regard to the museumification of the culture of peace, it is necessary to distinguish two important divergent attitudes. 1) Collecting of examples of peacemaking allows the peace museum to retain positive experience of the past (heritage), whereas 2) the deployment of heritage in the direction of modernity (to the public/ audience) makes it possible to generate new values, to solve the pressing problems of contemporary culture. The dual focus of the museum activity – in the memorial past and the actual present, makes the peace museum not only a platform for versatile cooperation, but also an extremely important and effective tool for social transformations (2).

After all, when everything changes, that which does not change grows in value. When everything is split and fragmented, grows in value that which connects i.e. the aspiration to get closer and cooperate. In the museum design of peacemaking activities, it is necessary to show two sets of values which perform the functions of retention (values ​​of constant value/ significance) and promotion of culture (values of innovative nature/ character).

The values ​​of constant value include: memorial artifacts, collections, archives, traditions of representation of exhibits, knowledge and experience, universal human values, ceremonial-symbolic actions, social stereotypes of behavior, customary functional-target settings and so forth. The values ​​of innovative nature (character) include creativity of action, form-building visual-communicative experimentation, subject-attributive openness and mobility, new dialogue with artifacts, broad social involvement, principles of participation and co-participation, new information and technological methods of object screening, art-design solutions, language and event design, etc.

In the current situation of splitting cultural values, it seems important to compensate for the loss of cultural property by “increasing the value of what did not have it before” (3). This process of value regeneration allows to talk about two vectors of cultural valuation of peacemaking artifacts. 1) Peace museum (artifacts of heritage) has been incorporated, attached to everyday life (“from the value to ordinary experience”) and 2) samples of everyday culture are attached to the peace museum, thus acquiring the status of a cultural value.

Looking at modern peace museums, one cannot but agree with J. Baudrillard that “our culture is a culture of despondency and suffering”, and at that “happiness and unhappiness, depression and ecstasy are connected …exclusively with objects” (4). As the French philosopher shows, the border-line that has divided good and evil and that has divided objects is the same.

Meanwhile, the cessation of war and the retention of peace is only one side of the current peacekeeping practice. However, there is another, probably more significant one, defined as the culture of peace itself, written and interpreted in the UN documents as a strategy for change. The culture of peace is, above all, an experience of creative transformation of social reality on the principles of free humanistic creativity. Peace is creative and diverse, and thanks to its creative resources, a new cultural landscape of the society is being constituted, the boundaries of human freedom and communication are expanding, social responsiveness and civic engagement is growing seeking a solution for the most urgent challenges of the present (5).

If the museum memorial practices of peacebuilding liberate culture from war, the museum strategies of the culture of peace provide freedom for peacebuilding, thereby transforming peace into an active catalyst for social change. Liberation from war and freedom for peace are two opposing though interrelated, processes. In the first case, we are talking essentially about archiving of violence, its commemorative taming or symbolic neutralization with the aim of preventing the repetition of war. In the second case, the process of generating and constructing a new culture of peace is launched on the way to the maximally possible humanistic transformations.

In the practice of museum design of a culture of peacemaking, it is necessary to take into account possible provocative syndromes of visual adaptation of artifacts. By themselves, these artifacts give little food for thought even if labels and comments are attached to them. To see in the museum brutal scenes of violence does not mean at all to be imbued with the idea of the need for positive actions. Contemplation of human suffering requires understanding and refraction of the visual experience into actual socially significant practice. As it is precisely noted S. Sontag: “Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers” (6).


  1. Baudrillard, Jean (2006) Paroli. Ot Fragmenta k Tselomu Passwords. From the Fragment to the Whole (In Russian). Yekaterinburg: Faktoriya. – P. 101
  2. Ionesov, Vladimir I. (2018) “Can Peacemaking be a Peace Maker?” in Peace Review. A Journal of Social Justice. 30:4, 527-536
  3. Groys, Boris (2015) O Novom. Opyt Ekonomiki Kultury / About the New. The Experience of Cultural Economics (In Russian). – Мoscow: Ad Marginem Press (Garage Pro). – P. 134
  4. Baudrillard, Jean (2006) Paroli. Ot Fragmenta k Tselomu Passwords. From the Fragment to the Whole (In Russian). Yekaterinburg: Faktoriya. – P. 130-134
  5. Apsel, Joyce, eds. (2012) Museums for Peace: Transforming Cultures. Hague (The Netherlands): INMP. – 270 p.
  6. Sontag, Susan. 2003. Regarding the Pain of Others. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. – New York: The Wylie Agency. The Estate of Susan Sontag. – P.91

Vladimir I. Ionesov is professor, chair of department of theory and history of culture at Samara State Institute of Culture and Director, International School for Advanced Research in Cultural Studies. He is founder and chairperson of Samara International Society for Cultural Studies. He has 30 years of experience in culture of peacebuilding in the international programs of the Samarkand International Museum of Peace and Solidarity (Uzbekistan) and of the Samara International Society for Cultural Studies (Russia). Author of over 350 scientific works, including five monographs and over 30 edited books. Some of his articles were published in Current Anthropology, Peace Review, Scientific Culture and Ristumeikan Journal of Kyoto Museum for World Peace on the topics of ritual and symbolic practices in changing culture. His current interests: anthropology of war and peace, culture in transition, social innovations in cultural process, visualization of memory, creative museum practices. 

Peace Museums and Peacebuilding in Changing Culture, Part I

By Vladimir I. Ionesov

Reevaluating the Peace and War in Museum Practices

One Samarkand parable says that War and Peace once met on the country road. War immediately began to praise itself and to persuade Peace that it is the most important thing for people, because it is just war that people dedicate memorials, erect monuments, build arches to, name in its honor museums, arrange holidays, establish awards… Peace, after having calmly listened to War, quietly uttered: “Yes, that’s right, but do not forget that people do all this just to eventually meet me”.

Indeed, humanity owes a great debt to Peace. And although the meeting with Peace is a cherished dream of people, we notice its value at times only when we begin to lose it. And that’s why peace is always a test. And although not every person is destined to go through it with dignity, Peace gives everyone a chance for the rescue.

The path of war is wide and crowded, the way of peace is narrow and very individual. War is faceless and devastating peace is personified and life-giving. War is loud and intrusive. If you don’t notice it, it will remind you. Peace is laconic and imperturbable, it is always nearby, but it’s hard to catch its eye. However, it looks at you until you see it and it is Culture that makes it visible. It is thanks to culture that Peace finds its face, its vital force and social significance.

This reminds me of another assumed common story when, during World War II, the United Kingdom’s budget was brought to Winston Churchill for his consideration. Having flipped through the document, he asked:

“And where are the costs of culture?”

“But the war is going on! What culture?”

“If there is no culture, then what are we fighting for?” asked an incredulous Churchill.

I intentionally allowed myself to make a digression from the given topic in order to mark the main ideas in the understanding of war, peace and culture that are related to the museum practices, which will be discussed further.

Museum practices demonstrate that in modern museum design there is a post-conceptual understanding of peacemaking or a paradigmatic shift towards culturalization (i.e. filling with culture) of the concept of peace. The post-conceptual intellectual turn has freed the artifacts of peacemaking from their habitual specific existence (Peter Osborne) and disavowed their sacral symbolic confinement, extending the subject-aesthetic and socio-communicative properties of things to the entire system of the life activity of culture. If earlier the museum exhibit was perceived only as a static sacral elite artifact of the exhibition presentation, then today it is increasingly positioned as a communicator, a recorder of important messages and a participant of the actual conversation, co-creation and transformation. Exhibits of the museum in this case are storytellers, initiators and designers that motivate viewers prompting the audience to refract their stories into their own experience of social creativity.

The challenge is posed to re-qualify the concepts of war and peace in the context of cultural knowledge. Modern researchers, in general, emphasize the need to progress to new communicative strategies in designing the peacemaking process, to the actual relevant technologies of visual modeling and creative experience of representation of peace as a cultural value and museum exposition. These issues are considered in the works of Ikuro Anzai, Joyce Apsel, Clive Barrett, Peter van den Dungen, Henry Jenkins, Ana Peraica, Lisa Schirch, Nina Simon, Susan Sontag, Kazuyo Yamane. The authors point out the significance of expanding the art-object and eventful screening of the peace, in which things and people will act as participants of a big conversation about the pressing needs of the present.

First of all, the peace museum should be viewed as a cultural reality, in the space of which the artifacts of peacemaking are gathered into a certain memorial-specified visual composition. This composition is being built into a certain text, a collection of stories, events, portraits, and it serves as a way of public demonstration and relaying of socially significant messages. Peace museum is a specific social institution for the cultivation of knowledge, experience and values ​​of peacemaking, as well as instructive examples of overcoming historical and modern wars and conflicts.

The most sensitive to the ongoing changes are those museums that are called upon to articulate and relay through their exhibits socially significant topics, including war and peace, violence and peacemaking, crisis and viability etc.

Publications and projects of the main strategist and coordinator of the museum activities in the field of peacemaking – the International Network of Museums for Peace/ INMP (see appear to be very helpful in the study of the actual practices of museumification of peace (1). The activity of INMP today unites many museums and organizations from around the world cultivating ideas of peace and non-violence. The Network accumulates both theoretical and practice-oriented research concerning the problems of peace, regularly holds international forums and thematic discussions on the development of museum peacemaking movements. The main thing is that the International Network of Museums for Peace has managed to form its culture – its recognizable image, its philosophy of the world order, its traditions, social and artistic practices, educational projects, publications, symbolic attributes and even its language of professional creativity (2). The creation of its culture is in itself a great asset, because the organization has acquired the necessary effective tools for the implementation of its peacemaking mission and the promotion of socially significant initiatives.

The modern peace museum strives to be a communicative laboratory and institution for preservation and cultivation of successful visual practices in exhibiting the instructive experience of the past (3).

Meanwhile there are too many themes of war and violence in the peace museums and too little of beauty, goodness and peacemaking. In this projection, it is apparent that peace strongly resembles what it opposes, turning it into a museum of war, conflict and violence. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish: 1) museums for peace/containment of war and 2) museums for peacemaking/culture of peace. No matter how different are their histories, collections and functions, they have one current and urgent task: to let into museums as much peace as possible and through its culture construct within the museum an atmosphere of real peacemaking, creativity and communication.

Each peace museum is created in a specific society and functions in a specific cultural environment in accordance with the prevailing mental attitudes, stereotypes of perception and behavior. For this reason, the peace museum cannot be understood beyond the cultural and national contexts. Without taking these contexts into account, one cannot achieve the effective operation of a modern peace museum.

Thus, the modern museum is undergoing radical transformations in the ways and practices of visualization of artifacts. The transition to a new communicative space is being traced (seen/ targeted), in which museum exhibit artifacts will perform not only memorial and educational functions, but also be included in a more complex process of object-symbolic exchange and art design. In this process, the status of a thing changes and the imperative of creativity of action comes to the fore.


  1. Anzai, Ikuro. (2019) “Towards the Development of Cooperation between Peace Museums in Asia” in Ritsumeikan Journal of Kyoto Museum for World Peace 20:3-12,171; Apsel, Joyce (2016) Introducing Peace Museums. London and New York: Routledge. – 236 p.; Barrett, Clive and Apsel, Joyce, eds. (2012) Museums for Peace: Transforming Cultures. Hague (The Netherlands): INMP. – 270 p.; Engelkamp, Stephan, Roepstorff Kristina. & Spencer Alexander (2020) “Visualizing Peace – The State of the Art” in Peace and Change. A Journal of Peace Research 45:5-27.
  2. Sikander, eds. (2008) Museums for Peace: Past, Present and Future / The Organizing Committee of the Sixth International Conference of Museums for Peace. Kyoto (Japan):  INMP, Kyoto Museum for World Peace, Ritsumeikan University; Ionesov, Vladimir I. (2019) “Ideas on Peacebuilding in Asia: How to Create Peace in the Region (Reflecting the Experience of the Samarkand International Museum of Peace and Solidarity and Its Partners)” in Ristumeikan Journal of Kyoto Museum for World Peace / Kyoto University, Japan. 20:48-63; van den Dungen, Peter and Yamane, Kazuyo, eds. (2015) Special Issue: Peace Education Through Peace Museums. Journal of Peace Education (December): 213-284; van den Dungen, Peter (2016) “Abolishing Nuclear Weapons through Anti-Atomic Bomb Museums” in Peace Review, 28:3, 326-333.
  3. Ionesov, Vladimir I. (2018) “Can Peacemaking be a Peace Maker?” in Peace Review. A Journal of Social Justice. 30:4, 527-536

Vladimir I. Ionesov is professor, chair of department of theory and history of culture at Samara State Institute of Culture and Director, International School for Advanced Research in Cultural Studies. He is founder and chairperson of Samara International Society for Cultural Studies. He has 30 years of experience in culture of peacebuilding in the international programs of the Samarkand International Museum of Peace and Solidarity (Uzbekistan) and of the Samara International Society for Cultural Studies (Russia). Author of over 350 scientific works, including five monographs and over 30 edited books. Some of his articles were published in Current Anthropology, Peace Review, Scientific Culture and Ristumeikan Journal of Kyoto Museum for World Peace on the topics of ritual and symbolic practices in changing culture. His current interests: anthropology of war and peace, culture in transition, social innovations in cultural process, visualization of memory, creative museum practices. 

“We Are Many”: A Documentary Looks Back at the February 15, 2003 Antiwar Protests –and Looks Forward, Too

By Robert Shaffer

“We Are Many” is a 105-minute documentary about the massive global, coordinated protests on February 15, 2003 against the impending war in Iraq.  Perhaps 30 million people marched and rallied in almost 800 cities, on every continent, in what one activist called “the largest mobilization of people in the history of humanity, bar none.”  This documentary, directed and produced by veteran BBC film-maker Amir Amirani, first aired at a British film festival in 2014, but its premiere in the United States and much of the world came in a video livestream on September 21, 2020, during the annual celebration of the United Nations-supported “International Day of Peace.”

            The documentary, like the February 15 demonstrations themselves, is an impressive achievement, featuring contemporary footage from the protests along with later interviews with activists from Britain, the United States, Spain, Egypt, and elsewhere.  Amirani also includes revealing, on-the-record interviews with some British and American government officials, as well as with Hans Blix, who in 2003 headed the U.N.’s Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission, and whose visits to Iraq at the time had found no evidence of current or prospective possession or production of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.  “We Are Many” deserves wide distribution both as a record of global activism in the streets and of the perceptive analysis by activists even before the war began – not just after the fact – as to its illegitimacy.

            “We Are Many,” despite its laudable international scope, is unmistakably a British project, with more attention to the 1-1/2 million-strong demonstration in London on February 15 than to the not-quite-as-large one in New York City, and with more intricate analysis of Blair’s machinations in the British parliament than to Bush’s manipulation of the U.S. Congress in the drive to war.  That perspective, while challenging to American viewers who may have difficulty discerning, say, the significance of Labour Party leaders like Tony Benn or Lord Falconer, also works in the film’s favor for Americans, as it reminds us of the significance of Blair’s partnership with Bush and as it decenters the antiwar movement from American shores.

            Even the film’s title, seemingly universal in its encapsulation of the massiveness of the protests, has a particularly British origin.  It comes from the last stanza of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s influential 1819 poem, “The Mask of Anarchy,” written in response to the Peterloo Massacre, the British government’s savage attack on an enormous, non-violent rally in Manchester for political rights and economic justice.  “Rise like lions after slumber / In unvanquishable number,” Shelley wrote, concluding passionately but perhaps over-optimistically: “Ye are many – they are few.”  And therein lies the problem posed by the February 15 protests and by the film: the protesters, while many, were not, in the end, “unvanquishable.”  As Amirani himself stated in an interview with The Guardian in 2015, at first glance the protests appeared to be a “heroic failure.”  Protest organizers Leslie Cagan, Phyllis Bennis, and others describe on camera their optimism in the days following February 15: surely the war would be stopped.  Bennis quotes New York Times reporter Patrick Tyler – who Amirani then interviews as well – that “global public opinion,” expressed in these marches, had become a “second superpower,” rivaling the United States government.  But this euphoria turned to introspection and even despair a month later when Bush and Blair, indeed, began the bombardment of Baghdad.  One antiwar leader asks, “Why did we fail?”  Others lament that the movement “didn’t finish the job.”  Amirani concludes, as we will see, that the protests did have a long-term salutary impact, after all, although in an unexpected manner.

            For younger viewers, and even for those who may have forgotten just how transparently false the Anglo-American case for war against Iraq was, the early scenes of the film – on the tragedy of 9/11, Bush’s January 2002 “Axis of Evil” speech, and the British government’s fact-free announcement that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction could reach that nation within 45 minutes – will be especially helpful.  Interview segments with British spy novelist John Le Carré, U.S. State Department former second-in-command Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, and Blix himself take Amirani’s investigation beyond the familiar ranks of the antiwar movement; these men referred to the war as based on “lies,” “a hoax,” and unproven accusations.  Le Carré, who marched in London on February 15, calls the war “the crime of the century,” and Wilkerson regrets that he did not resign in the wake of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 5, 2003 speech to the U.N. based on phony “intelligence.”  Wilkerson penitently states as well that Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld should be tried for war crimes, even if that meant that he – Wilkerson – had to face such charges, too.  Philippe Sands, British authority on international law, exposes Blair’s mendacity, presenting in a few minutes here some of what he expounded upon in his scathing 2005 book, Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules.

            Equally effective are interviews with antiwar activists who describe how and why they organized the February 2003 protests.  Many will be familiar to American viewers: Vietnam veterans Ron Kovic and David Cortright; the late Tom Hayden; Jesse Jackson; British film-maker Ken Loach; musician Brian Eno (who provided music as well as interviews for “We Are Many”); movement strategist Bill Fletcher; actor Danny Glover; Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin; left-wing Labour Party M.P Jeremy Corbyn; and many others.  British organizers describe how their Stop the War Coalition began meeting as early as September 21, 2001, bringing their call for global demonstrations to the European Social Forum in November 2002 and then to the World Social Forum two months later.  Longtime U.S. antiwar activist Leslie Cagan, later a leader of United for Peace and Justice, recounts how she and others in New York City picked up the call, timed to coincide with the U.N. Security Council debate on the issue. 

            Many viewers will likely respond even more favorably to the unexpected activists who present their stories in recurring interviews.  Tim Goodrich describes his pride in being in the U.S. Air Force to fight back against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, only to become suspicious of U.S. military plans when he saw, in 2002, troops and supplies moved in to threaten Iraq – a nation which had no connection to 9/11.  Goodrich courageously participated in the February 15 march while still on active-duty.  He went on to co-found Iraq Veterans Against the War; later film footage shows IVAW members throwing back their service medals, in a scene reminiscent of protests by antiwar Vietnam veterans in 1971 and 1972.  Colleen Kelly, whose brother died at the World Trade Center on 9/11, explains how she came to oppose war in Iraq as a leader of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.  Andy Young, one of the seventy or so scientists and mechanics who brought the February 15 protest to the snow and ice of Antarctica, discusses his pride in doing so despite losing his job as a consequence.  (Amirani, not surprisingly, does not miss the chance to include footage of penguins here.)  Also in the southern hemisphere, British researcher Will Saunders, with an Australian colleague, not only participated in the protest but responded the following month to the outbreak of war by painting “NO WAR” in huge letters at the top of the iconic Sydney Opera House, facing not only arrest but deportation as a result.  (Capsule biographies of those interviewed, as well as some other background materials, appear on the film’s useful website,

            And then there are the Egyptians, who provide, for Amirani, the segue from “heroic failure” to success of sorts.  Veteran activists in Cairo express their embarrassment that there was only a tiny protest in their city on February 15, and that the Arab world was largely silent that day.  Taking inspiration from the global demonstrations, however, tens of thousands faced down the military police in Tahrir Square in mid-March, on the first day of war.  This demonstration, they assert, served to germinate the Egyptian revolution that would bring down Hosni Mubarak’s U.S.-backed, authoritarian government in 2011. 

            Amirani measures also as a mark of February 15’s success the defeats in Britain and the U.S. of plans in 2013 to intervene militarily in Syria in retaliation against the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons.  One British official states that Members of Parliament voted against going to war with Syria because they – and their constituents – were “scarred by the Iraq invasion.”  Blix adds that the disastrous consequences of the Iraq War would lead many nations to be more wary about going to war in the future.  During a livestreamed discussion following the film’s September 21, 2020 broadcast, Phyllis Bennis stated that an “Iraq War syndrome” – an updating of the “Vietnam syndrome” for our new historical circumstances – prevented Bush and Trump from going to war against Iran.  The slightly updated 2020 version of “We Are Many” interweaves in its closing credits footage from even more recent American mass demonstrations: the 2017 women’s marches, the 2018 “March for Our Lives” for gun control, the climate action rallies of 2019, and 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.  The concluding lines of the documentary return to its heroic mood, with longtime radical M.P. Tony Benn declaring that “anger and optimism coming together” – as they did on February 15 – “are a very powerful force.” 

            Even at 105 minutes there are omissions in “We Are Many.”  While there is footage of protests from many cities, the interviews with organizers and participants are limited primarily to those in English-speaking nations, along with Egypt, and a few snippets from Spain, France, and Poland.  A film chronicling what it bills as the largest globally-coordinated protest to date deserves a more global presentation and analysis, with voices, say, from Japan, South Korea, India, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and wider sections of Europe. 

            Moreover, the documentary’s argument that the February 15 protest was more than a “heroic failure” is not wholly convincing – that “anger and optimism coming together” was evidently not as “powerful” as it needed to be in 2003.  A million and a half people massing in London failed to affect the British parliamentary vote on the war, and even the failure of Bush and Blair to win over the Security Council – which, in essence, aligned with the protesters outside in the New York City streets – did not deter the rump “coalition” from launching its misguided but long-planned war.  Moreover, the British orientation of the film, and perhaps the British origin of the protests, overlooks the key American date in the move to war: the October 2002 Congressional vote authorizing military force against Iraq.  The Democratic Party split on that vote, as did the Blair-dominated Labour Party, allowing the war to move forward. 

            Those splits, by the way, may have contributed to significant later shifts in party direction, unmentioned in the film.  That is, Jeremy Corbyn, appearing numerous times here as a leader of Labour’s antiwar wing, became the party leader in 2015.  Barack Obama, who did not speak at a February 15 rally but came to the attention of antiwar activists through his earlier, October 2002 speech in Chicago against Congressional authorization of war, became not only the Democratic leader but President of the U.S.  Despite their flaws, whether in opposition (Corbyn) or power (Obama), their tenure as leaders might be considered a legacy of the activism of February 15.  (To be fair, Amirani had completed the film as a whole before Corbyn’s accession to leadership.)

            While the Egyptian activists interviewed in “We Are Many” make a convincing case that their March 2003 demonstrations helped set the stage for the 2011 revolution, the long-term results of that revolution – Egypt is once again under tight authoritarian and military control – do not bear out the optimism of Shelley’s poem. 

            While I agree with the film’s judgment that the rejection of war against Syria by Britain and the U.S.  in 2013 were positive achievements, and at least partly due to echoes of February 15, there is no way to disentangle the impact of those antiwar demonstrations ten years earlier from the revulsion against the prospect of another war in the Middle East based on the debacle – for Iraqis, Americans, British, and the Middle East region – of the Iraq War itself.  Was the “Iraq War syndrome” which Bennis enunciated a testament to the antiwar movement, or was it simply a reaction against a failed war, as Blix’s comment suggests?  One might add – as the film did not – that the evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons in 2013 was far stronger than the Anglo-American case for war against Iraq in 2003, where the alleged weapons of mass destruction did not exist, and antiwar forces – along with U.N. weapons inspectors – had already debunked the rationale for war.  One need not agree with Obama’s efforts to involve the U.S. in yet another Mideast war to acknowledge that he at least had a plausible case, as George W. Bush did not.

            The global nature of some of the recent marches and movements included in the closing credits of “We Are Many” surely owes something to that 2003 template.  However, their flowering may demonstrate more the continuing struggle against injustice than the causal influence of a particular precedent, even if some of the same people who organized and marched in 2003 played such roles again later.

            Regardless of its shortcomings, “We Are Many” is an inspirational film and an important historical document.  It is, perhaps, long for classroom use, but, because of the pandemic, it might become available for streaming, and thus can be assigned to students outside of class.  It presents a story that deserves to be remembered and better understood by those who participated in and lived through these events, and to be known by a new generation of students and activists.  Earlier documentaries on the Iraq War, such as “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004), “Why We Fight” (2005), and “No End in Sight” (2007), were largely devoted to exposing the flimsy case for war and its harsh consequences for Iraqis, the value of which was and is undeniable.  “We Are Many” accomplishes these goals, too, but in the clear framework of highlighting the work of activists who brought into being, at least for a time, a “global public opinion” in opposition to an unjust, even criminal, war.

Robert Shaffer is Emeritus Professor of History at Shippensburg University.

CFP for a Special Issue of Peace & Change, “Racial Justice and Peace History”

Robbie Lieberman, Editor

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, two icons of the racial justice movement known for their courageous nonviolent challenges to segregation and inequality, died in Atlanta on June 17, 2020. They were laid to rest amid a storm of rising COVID-19 case numbers and deaths disproportionately affecting communities of color; of widespread, persistent protests against police murders of Black people; of federal Homeland Security agents descending on Portland, Oregon, and other cities to confront peaceful protesters and whisk some away in unmarked vans; and of rising concerns about voter disenfranchisement for the November election.  The recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmed Arbury, and Breonna Taylor, among others, along with the record-breaking protests have led many organizations to issue statements about their commitment to racial justice and at least some to follow up on those statements with action.  Many participants and observers have noted the opportunity for change, saying that it feels different this time around.

This proposed special issue of Peace & Change represents one way the Peace History Society can contribute to our understanding of the present moment, encouraging and highlighting new scholarship on the relationship between peace and racial justice.  What are the animating visions that have driven movements for peace and justice and who participated in them?  What connections have activists made between these two causes, and what have they accomplished?  How have definitions of peace and racial justice changed over time, and who has had the power to define them? 

Peace historians and educators are accustomed to thinking about peace as the presence of justice, but these connections beg for further interrogation.  How have theoretical connections between peace and justice played out in practice?  What have been the challenges and successes in bringing causes of peace and justice together?  This issue will go beyond the well-known stories of how African Americans contributed to bringing nonviolent methods into social movements and address more complex connections between peace and racial justice in theory and practice.  We are interested in transnational, interdisciplinary, and innovative approaches to themes such as the following:

Peace and racial justice in music, literature, graphic and performing arts

Movements that prioritized both peace and racial justice

The meaning(s) of violence and nonviolence

The history of policing and prisons and proposals for alternatives

Structural/Systemic/Slow violence and Peace Studies

Peace education and racial justice

Antiwar/peace movements and racial justice

Race, class, and nonviolence

Gender, race, and peace activism

Law, racial justice, and peace

Environmental justice and peace issues

War, militarism, and communities of color

Patriotism and racial justice

Queer theory, peace, and justice

The language and culture of movements for peace and justice

Essays of up to 10,000 words are due January 15, 2021. Authors must address the guest editor, Robbie Lieberman, and clearly indicate in a cover letter that the submission is intended for the 2021 special issue. Information about Peace & Change and submission guidelines can be found at:

Peace History Society Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter and the Work to Undo Racial Injustice and Oppression

As historians and scholars who study the dynamics of peace and justice, we recognize that state-sponsored and extrajudicial violence has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all those currently protesting racist violence in the US and internationally.  As scholars, we remain dedicated to analyzing interlocking systems of violence and seeking solutions that can build enduring peace with justice.

We are committed to promoting anti-racist scholarship, teaching and activism as well as fostering inclusive and open discussions about racial privilege and violence in our organizations and institutions. We remain committed to positive actions that dismantle institutionalized oppression against people of color and other marginalized groups.

Since the May 25 killing of George Floyd and others in Black communities, we have joined our neighbors, our colleagues, and our students to march, protest and demand an end to structural racism, lynching, and police brutality. We abhor the words and deeds of those in the U.S. government who have responded to this popular cry for justice with violence. Federal, state, and local governments have deployed the military, spied on nonviolent demonstrators, and dispersed orderly assemblies with excessive force. Many of these same authorities have ignored white supremacist vigilantes who threaten demonstrators exercising their constitutional rights.

The alarming trends in police violence and militarization, along with extralegal violence, are not limited to the United States. From Hong Kong to Santiago, Moscow to New Delhi, we have witnessed government authorities, police, and militant groups brutally suppressing peaceful protesters. The erosion and violation of human rights anywhere in the world should be the concern of all. The Peace History Society strongly condemns violence, whether by governments or paramilitary organizations, and stands in solidarity with those seeking liberty, equality, and justice through nonviolent means.

As peace historians, we renew our commitment and will redouble our efforts to explore, analyze and articulate the conditions for positive, just peace. We will strive to contribute to the process of undoing racism in the following ways:

In Our Scholarship:

We will continue to analyze the actions and methods of movements in the past and present that have contributed to positive social change by working to undo racism, and emphasize this work in our research and writing, as well as in Peace and Change and our conferences.

In Our Classrooms:

We will strive to build understanding about racism and oppression in our societies and introduce students to scholarly examinations of the processes that can build the trust and dialogue through which these crises can be addressed.

In Our Institutions

We will work to make our colleges, universities, and associations diverse and inclusive.

In Our Communities

We will share our understanding of the processes of positive social change so that we can learn and teach about building connections with the diverse array of groups and individuals working to address systemic racism, oppression, and violence.

Boots on the Ground: Catholic Sisters and Peacebuilding on Five Continents

by Carol K. Coburn and Ken Parsons


From 2015 to 2019, the global Sisters of St. Joseph created, developed and taught a curriculum on “Cultural Diversity and Conflict Management.”  The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph received a major grant to address the growing cultural diversity and conflict present both within their global congregations as well as the congregation’s educational, healthcare, and social service ministries which include almost 60 countries on five continents.[1]  The grant was to address twenty-first-century issues of ethnic tension and local, regional, and global conflict.  For example: In some countries in Africa, St. Joseph sisters found themselves in novitiates with sisters from warring tribes.  In the Middle East, sisters’ schools had faculty, students and parents from predominately Muslim families.  In India, young St. Joseph sisters came together in large living situations, working with diverse age, religious, and ethnic populations, speaking multiple languages.  To strengthen global sisters’ networks and religious identity and to better serve constituents, the sisters’ project aimed to create and utilize a curriculum that would provide knowledge, skills, and spiritual identity and integration through the understanding and practice of cultural diversity, nonviolent communication, and conflict resolution.  As project consultants and evaluators, Professors Ken Parsons and Carol Coburn from Avila University, a Sisters of St. Joseph institution, were asked to collaborate and consult on the curriculum and evaluate its success.  Ultimately, this four-year, multilingual project documented successful outcomes and strategies used on five continents.

The historical and cultural foundations of the Sisters of St. Joseph and Catholic sisters’ global outreach, provides context on why they chose to advance their ministry in 2015, by adapting to the new realities of the twenty-first century.  For St. Joseph sisters, this adaptation to the changing times has been an ongoing theme – continuing to serve the “dear neighbor without distinction” –  first documented in their seventeenth-century founding documents and later Constitutions.  Also, the reality is that over the last half-century, the numbers of new sisters have declined in North America, Europe, and Latin America and are growing in Africa and Asia (particularly India), changing the global landscape for the religious congregation.  Additionally, the St. Joseph sisters wish to become a more integral and united global community and needed to take measures to understand cultural difference and global realities faced by their 10,000 sisters many who are ministering in extreme areas of ethnic and religious conflict on a daily basis. Finally, the historical power dynamics of North American and European influence in women’s congregations are giving way to a new reality where leadership and influence are shifting to Africa and Asia.

Women, Religion and Peacebuilding

Catholic sisters are only part of the growing numbers of women worldwide involved in peacebuilding.  Until more recent times, women have been portrayed only as victims of war and social justice inequality.  For over a decade, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), has documented the important role that women and religion play in negotiating, securing, and maintain peace in global conflicts.  The USIP researchers and website include online teaching units, micro-courses, speakers, and publications touting the importance of gender and religion as mitigating factors for success.  History has shown that civil resistance is most successful when women are engaged in the peace process.  Additionally, including women at the conference table and activism in the streets lowers a country’s propensity for conflict when paired with higher levels of gender equality.  “Research shows that when women effectively influence a peace process, it’s more likely that an agreement will be reached, implemented and sustained. . . . Inclusion is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing.” [2]

Other scholars who have researched gender and peace support the importance of a “gendered” peace initiative.  In her article, “What Sex Means for World Peace,” Valerie M. Hudson uses empirical data to demonstrate that the “best predictor of a state’s stability is how its women are treated.”  A more inclusive, equal environment for women promotes peacebuilding.[3]  Likewise, researcher Severine Austesserre documents the often ineffectiveness of only male elites or UN interveners at the peace table.  She states, “The problem is that currently we are always focusing our efforts on the top, on political leaders, on [male] elites, and we very rarely support peace at the grassroots.”  She tells the stories of the “ordinary yet extraordinary individuals and communities that have found effective ways to confront violence.”[4]

Because the Catholic sisters are religious women, many operating in their home culture and country, they have an insider’s view; and as workers in education, healthcare and social service are known and trusted by those in their communities.  This makes them important players in peacebuilding projects.

Historical Background and Context

To adequately understand this project, it is important to briefly put Catholic sisters’ work into a larger cultural and historical context.  The Sisters of St. Joseph congregation was founded around 1650 in Le Puy, France.  As an apostolic community who worked in private and public settings, they immediately began to work with the poor and sick, as well as providing education for girls.  Working with French society’s marginal populations, St. Joseph sisters provided care and succor maintaining hospitals and schools for those most in need.[5]

This pattern continued well into the mid-twentieth century but dramatically changed in the 1960s, when the Second Vatican Council met in Rome and mandated changes to modernize the global Church.  In the United States, the ministries of all Catholic sisters exploded into a vast myriad of programs and services focusing on the marginalized of society.  Sisters became activists in civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war movements, sanctuary movements for Central American immigrants, among many other signature social justice issues of the twentieth century.  Sisters have been avid supporters and lobbyists for free trade, water and land management issues for the poor, ecology, micro-financing, HIV/AIDs assistance, and anti-violence campaigns to protect women and children across the globe.  Attempting to take more active responsibility for the investment practices of national and global corporations, sisters also participated in protests and asserted power as stockholders and investors in multi-national corporations involving issues such as worker’s rights, healthcare reform, environmental sustainability, and human trafficking among many other pressing issues across the globe.[6]  By the twenty-first century over 30 orders of women religious, including the Sisters of St. Joseph, had accredited NGO’s recognized by the United Nations, helping to create and work toward the U.N. Millennium Development Goals which included gender equality and women’s empowerment, education, healthcare, poverty, environmental sustainability, and global partnerships and more recently the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.  This United Nations NGO designation represents 100,000 sisters from 200 congregations in 177 countries.[7]

In her chapter on Catholic women and peacebuilding in the twenty-first century, scholar Maryann Cusimano Love describes global  “advocacy networks” where Catholic nuns are plugged-in to social networks, the Internet, and are adept at using decentralized networks and participatory leadership, to gather and communicate information.  This provides sisters an opportunity to put out a call worldwide describing and assessing the current situation on the frontlines in hot spots such as Sudan or Congo among many others.  In reality, nuns’ global access was valued long before electronic technology made the world smaller.  In the 1980s, when long-time Boston politician and then Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, was asked how he identified the burning issues from around the globe, he said, “Follow the nuns and you’ll never go wrong. . . . They have people on the ground and they know what is really going on in areas of conflict.”[8]

In light of this context, this twenty-first-century project continues this legacy of global presence and service.  It is significant because it expands knowledge, skills, and spirituality already present within St. Joseph ministries and religious life. Given the history of intercultural relations, multilingualism, and activism, this project deepens and extends the sisters’ myriad of knowledge and experience regarding conflict and its resolution, further developing skills for understanding nonviolent communication, cultural diversity, and difference within the St. Joseph global community.

Project Design Overview

Over a ten-day period in October in 2015, the global St. Joseph Design Team, consisting of nine sisters (from eight countries) and two university consultants, worked to create a teaching curriculum on “Cultural Diversity and Conflict Management.”  It was a “train the trainer” program and live, simultaneous interpretation was provided in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.  The Design Team members would create the goals, objectives, and essential elements of the program, design the curriculum, research content sources, study and debate pedagogical strategies, and ultimately two or three sisters (Design Team members) would team-teach the ten-day curriculum to approximately 125 sisters from five continents.  Two Avila University faculty would attend each session and evaluate the project’s effectiveness.  The training program would be taught five times over a two-year period between May 2016 and May 2018, ultimately bringing 122 St. Joseph sisters to Le Puy, France, for training in the curriculum. Here the sisters developed pedagogical skills necessary to return to their own countries and cultures to teach an additional 75 sisters and lay persons the concepts and strategies of this peacebuilding, educational program.  Ultimately, the program could potentially touch the lives of approximately 5000 people.

Curriculum and Methodology 

The Design Team based the curriculum and methodology of the program on three essential elements: 1) Nonviolent Communication and Conflict Resolution;  2) Critical Engagement with Difference; and 3) Role of Empathy for Understanding and Right Relations Within a Diverse Community.  Around these three themes the Design Team developed workshop content and methodologies asking a central question: “What do you want sisters-participants to leave with after their ten days in Le Puy”?   The Design Team created materials and content that provided knowledge and skills integrated with the congregation’s heritage and spirituality.  The focus of the grant was to teach 125 sisters-participants who were in early stages of religious life (postulants, novices, newly professed) and those sister-formators who mentored them.  Strategies and methods included, but were not limited to: readings, real-world case studies, experiential learning, discussions (face-to-face and online), role-playing, journaling/reflections, collaborative projects, listening circles, videos, performance activities, personal narratives, and study/thought questions.  The curricular template was not meant to be a one-size-fits-all document.  It had to be focused, yet agile, to work with diverse sisters and cultures within the St. Joseph congregation. During the ten-day training sessions in Le Puy, between May 2016 and May 2018, sisters from 27 countries participated, representing four distinct linguistic groups: Spanish, French, Portuguese and English.  Sister-teachers had to be flexible and innovative to teach curriculum in 5 separate sessions with the 25 sisters in each representing a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds.  By the seventh day of training, the participating sisters began to work individually and in small groups to begin creating their own workshops for their sisters and lay persons in their home settings.


As evaluators, we designed four assessment tools to measure program effectiveness for the St. Joseph sisters participating: Personal Background Questionnaire, Pre-Evaluation, Post-Evaluation, and Six-Month Follow-Up Questionnaire.  The Background Questionnaire provided important demographic (age, ethnicity, education, years in religious life, etc.), educational, and work/ministry data on each sister.  The Pre-Evaluation combined quantitative and qualitative questions assessing the participants understanding, attitudes, and ideas about conflict, cultural diversity, ethnic tensions, and non-violent communication strategies.  This was completed weeks to months before the course and before any reading materials were sent to the participants. The Post-Evaluation was conducted immediately on the final day of the ten-day workshop.  It included some of the same questions, quantitative and qualitative, as the Pre-Evaluation as a way to measure attitudinal and/or knowledge change (or lack thereof) after participating in the course.  It also allowed for comments on strengths, weaknesses, and attitudinal thoughts about the workshop as well as sisters’ personal reflections on the ten-day experience.  The Sixth-Month Follow-Up Questionnaire was completed six months after completing the course and attempted to gather data on who, when, and where they taught the curriculum in their own local settings.  It also included questions about their own attitudes and feelings about teaching the curriculum and how they measured their own success and well-being within their communities.


The qualitative and quantitative data from this project is voluminous so we have provided an overview based on our four evaluative tools and our own direct observations and analysis to profile many of the key components of the research.[9]  The background questionnaire provided important demographic information about the sisters who attended the workshop.  Demographically, the 122 sisters provided an interesting profile.  Seventy-one percent of participants were between the ages of 18 and 49.  This emphasized the projects desire to educate young, newly professed sisters and/or those who were in charge of their formation.  Ethnically, 34% identified as Asian Indian, 17% African.  Overall half of all participants came from Asia or Africa which were the two focus areas for the grant. Both continents represented the locations of the fastest growing numbers of new sisters in each of the five sessions. Seventy percent spoke two languages or more, again most of those coming from Asia or Africa, which included tribal, regional, and national languages.  Approximately 70% of the sisters had completed some university education and 27% had some graduate education almost exclusively in healthcare, education, and social service occupations.  Approximately 72% of sisters had been in religious life between 1-24 years, many in Asia and Africa entering as adolescents.

Pre and post evaluation data were extensive and varied with questions focused on attitudes and knowledge about cultural diversity and conflict issues. The quantitative (5-point Likert Scale) and qualitative data (sisters’ comments) are both important to the process and document overall positive outcomes.   Sisters reported that they were less fearful of conflict, felt more capable to resolve conflict, and less fearful of cultural diversity within their communities.  They reported they better understood strategies for nonviolent communication and valued their knowledge about cultural diversity to better live in community and work successfully within their ministry.  Interestingly, they also reported that they better understood whether conflict arises from cultural differences or those inherent in religious life.  This was a critical component of the grant because this is an important distinction for culturally-diverse women living closely in community in sometimes highly stressful situations around the world.  Some of the sisters’ written comments also reflect the purpose and significance of the workshop for these sisters.

The sisters’ post-evaluation comments give the quantitative data “life” and in some cases reflect personal situations.  One sister wrote that she hopes to use these strategies on conflict in her own community, “[H]ad I not learned this I may have added to the conflict.”  Another wrote, “ I feel that I am leaving [the workshop] with a lot of tools [or strategies] and I intend to use them.”  One spoke of understanding that “multicultural, intercultural is a strength” not a problem.  And a sister in an African novitiate simply wrote, “I have a community of six members and five are from different countries. . . . [This training will help me] work with current sisters in conflict.”

The six-month follow-up questionnaire provided information and insights about how the Le Puy-trained sisters felt after going back to their local settings and becoming Second Generation teachers sharing the curriculum with other sisters and lay peoples.[10]   The Second Generation of sisters quickly understood that this curriculum could go far beyond training only younger or newer sisters in the community.  For example: In November 2017, three St. Joseph sisters from three different congregations in Brazil came together in Northeast Brazil in Cicero Dantas, Bahia.  They taught over 50 men, women, and youth between the ages of 18 and 80 in a three-day workshop.  A sister remarked that most participants were members of local “settlements and camps of people who daily struggle to find a place to live and work.”[11]  The participants included teachers, students, housewives, village leaders, senior advisers, and religious sisters.

Not an original focus in the grant, training and working with lay people within their local ministries was an excellent decision (made by the sisters).  Those trained in Le Puy saw the need and the importance of utilizing and demonstrating the adaptability of the curriculum by teaching  local lay people and other groups.  The data from the Second Generation programs in their home countries document the sisters’ dedication to create these workshops and their unique approach to making the curriculum their own.  The aggregate data show that participants in Second Generation workshops varied from locale to locale.  Although the curriculum is still being taught in workshops, as of November 2019, participants included sisters (59%), lay people (23%), educators (9%), and students/adolescents (10%).  The workshops were taught in over 25 countries, South America provided 33% of all workshops, Asia 31%, and Africa 17% of the total number of workshops six months after each Le Puy workshop.  Adapting to the lives of the people, Second Generation sisters taught workshops tailored for their populations who in most cases had very little “free” time.  The length of the workshops varied from 2-3 days to 9-12 days.  Sixty-one percent of the workshops were 2-3 days in length, and 25% were 4-5 days in length.  Only 11% of the workshops lasted between 6-12 days.  As of November 2019, sisters have reported 120 workshops, involving over 3200 people.  This is an underestimation because sisters have taught and are continuing to teach the curriculum so we do not have data for 2020.

Implications and Analysis

The success of the Cultural Diversity and Conflict Management workshops were demonstrated in both quantitative and qualitative assessment measures providing a road map for future research and program development, particularly for religious congregations of women operating in a global milieu.  In a world overwhelmed by conflict, locally and globally, women religious are in a unique position to reach a variety of constituencies including members of their own congregations and the lay people to whom they minister.

Although not part of the original grant, the sisters created their own diverse groups of participants including combinations of religious women and lay people in many of their Second Generation programs in their home nations and communities.  Working with the needs in their local communities, sisters adapted the curriculum for all ages, genders, religious, lay, and local NGO groups hoping to learn new strategies for nonviolent communication and conflict resolution.

The success of the project goes beyond curricular outcomes and evaluations.  Other factors are important to holistically explain the sisters’ effectiveness as teachers and peacemakers.  Their personal, educational, and religious backgrounds provided a unique workforce and presence in global peacebuilding. These include six critical factors for success, particularly significant in sisters’ interactions with people in their local ministries.

  • Sisters effectively identified the needs in both design and teaching, avoiding a formula or an implication that one-size-fits-all
  • Sisters adapted their curriculum to the local culture, including those participants outside of religious life who are necessary and important to the peacebuilding process
  • Sisters’ networks are vast and they are trusted and respected members of the local communities – before beginning the workshops they had already established credibility with the local populations
  • Sisters’ knowledge and skill sets reinforced and helped ensure success
  • Sisters’ foreign language proficiency enhanced outreach to a variety of populations
  • Sisters’ advanced education enhanced their ability to think critically, understand learning styles, and blend the curriculum with experiential learning opportunities and activities

Although not an explicit part of this grant program, three additional and important concepts stand out when reflecting on the successful outcomes and implications for the future; this includes the importance of sisters’ understanding the concepts of interculturalism, intersectionality, and transnational activism. The Design team and sister-instructors realized – very early on – that they were witnessing and experiencing interculturalism within the workshops in Le Puy.  Interculturalism refers to “support for cross-cultural dialogue and challenging self-segregation tendencies within cultures. Interculturalism involves moving beyond mere passive acceptance of a multicultural fact of multiple cultures effectively existing in a society and instead promotes dialogue and interaction between cultures.”[12]   With 25 sister-participants in each of the five sessions in Le Puy, interculturalism was an essential component.  Even in sisters’ four linguistic groups, intercultural interactions permeated the workshop.  For example, the French linguistic group included sisters from Haiti, France, and multiple countries in West and Central Africa as well as Madagascar.  They shared the language but also shared a need for interaction and at times blend their cultural backgrounds within identity and diversity.

Additionally, sisters also understood the importance of intersectionality.[13]  Feminist scholars stress the importance of intersectionality as an important concept when analyzing women’s lives.  Race, geography, religion, ethnicity, age, class, and other factors do not exist in isolation – they interface and overlap in the lives of all women.  Women’s lives and identities embrace a myriad of cultural, gendered, and social imperatives providing a complex matrix.  In fact, amid the Le Puy trainings, sisters themselves often discussed the nuances of their own identities: religious, gender, ethnic, racial, and class intersectionality.  The global sisters in this study, as well as the population they minister to, cross many boundaries in their intersectional tension and identities.  Because most sisters live with the population they serve, and in many cases come from the population they serve, they have a unique perspective.

Finally, Donatella della Porta and Raffaele Marchetti, authors of the article, “Transnational Activism and the Global Justice Movement,” document the importance of a transnational approach to peacebuilding.   They write: “Transnational activism entails transnational actors. . . . [including those in] global civil society, international non-governmental organizations [NGOs], transnational social movement organizations [or] global justice movements . . .”[14]  In much of the world, this is the daily experience of many Catholic sisters.  Utilizing this definition, we would argue that Catholic sisters have been involved in transnational work for decades.  This approach and understanding are a necessary ingredient to reducing conflict, locally and globally, and ultimately peacebuilding.  Understanding the importance of gender and religion to global peace and justice, editors Susan Hayward and Katherine Marshall recently published, Women, Religion, and Peacebuilding: Illuminating the Unseen, an anthology on peacebuilding by Christian, Muslim, and Jewish women.  Using the resources and support of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), these real-world, case studies came from the Philippines, India, Nigeria, Israel, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Honduras. This USIP research documents the effectiveness of working with women in global peacebuilding.  Because of their years of onsite observation and networking, the work and effectiveness of Catholic sisters were an important component of that conversation.[15]

Consequently, for these reasons this unique, four-year grant is important and why we believe the curriculum has global applications for further peacebuilding by Catholic sisters.  The grant and program are not perfect, it is not universal, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution to peacebuilding.  However, it is at the very least, a useful template for peacebuilding, particularly for congregations of women religious, who have historically adapted to the world as they find it – trying to make it better.[16]

In the next phase of this project, Avila University will house the archives and all materials from the curriculum project.  We hope to create a website and online presence providing access for other global religious congregations to utilize and adapt the template for their congregational and ministerial needs.  These needs could be identified by a variety of religious congregations’ NGOs and UN networking to support individual congregations and collaborative programs on Cultural Diversity and Conflict Management – needed throughout the world.  Additionally, Avila University and a St. Joseph sister, trained in Le Puy, developed and piloted an English online version of the curriculum.  In light of the on-going Coronavirus world pandemic, online work will become more important and necessary in the immediate future.  Not always a good or possible option for less developed countries, the online workshop appears to be very successful for those who have the internet infrastructure with opportunities to learn, discuss, and reflect on the curricular materials.  Avila University hopes to provide online resources and workshops in five languages (Spanish, French, English, Portuguese, Italian) for religious congregations whose sisters have the technological infrastructure to benefit from online training in peacebuilding.  The Sr. Martha Smith Archives and Research Center at Avila University will preserve all grant materials and we hope to establish a Cultural Diversity and Conflict Management website that will serve as an internet portal where digitized grant materials can be accessed for use by other religious congregations to adapt and utilize across the globe.  With approximately 700,000 sisters living and working worldwide, that’s a lot of “boots on the ground” for peacebuilding.[17]


[1] The authors would like to thank the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for funding this four-year project and for their understanding of its importance. We would also like to thank Sister Patty Johnson CSJ for her vision, support, and encouragement along the way.

[2] Susan Hayward and Katharine Marshall eds., Women Religion and Peacebuilding: Illuminating the Unseen (United States Institute of Peace Press, 2015).  Also, the USIP website provides extensive research for research, teaching, and online activism.  The quote is from Norway’s ambassador to the U.S., Kare R. Aas taken from USIP’s article “Women and Peace: A Special Role in Violent Conflict,” by Fred Strasser (March 18, 2016), 1.  See also two excellent documentaries by Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker, Women, War & Peace (PBS 2011) and Women, War & Peace II (PBS,  2019).

[3] Valerie M. Hudson, “What Sex means for World Peace,”  (April 24, 2012).  Also see the full study in her book, Sex and World Peace, co-authored with Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014).

[4] Severine Autesserre, “On the Frontlines of Peace: An Insider’s Guide to Changing the World,” Keynote Address at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame (November 9, 2019).   In 2021, her forthcoming book with the same title will be available through Oxford University Press.

[5] For an overview of the Sisters of St. Joseph from their roots in 17th century France until early twentieth-century America see Carol K. Coburn and Martha Smith, Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).

[6] For the best up-to-date information on the transnational activities of women religious see the websites of religious congregations.  Most have a “social justice” link that gives past and present networks and activities.  Also, see – weekly online report of sisters’ activities from across the globe.

[7] Kelly Litt, “Catholic Sisters at the UN: Bringing the moral voice to the debate,” in Global Sisters Report  June 29, 2015.

[8] Maryann Cusimano Love, “Catholic Women Building Peace: Invisibility, Ideas and Institutions Expand Participation,” in Women, Religion, and Peacebuilding, 64.  The quote from Tip O’Neill was also taken from this source from Love’s  interview with St. Joseph Sister Janet Mock, December, 2011.

[9] All quantitative and qualitative data on the sisters and the grant is being archived at the Sr. Martha Smith Archives and Research Center, Avila University, Kansas City, Missouri.

[10] “Second Generation” is the term we assigned the 122 sisters who trained in Le Puy and returned to teach in their own countries.  The “First Generation” are the nine sisters on the Design team who were the instructors for the five workshop-training sessions in Le Puy.

[11] Excerpt from “Report to Evaluators” from Sr. Griselda Morales Martinez, Project Director the “Cultural Diversity and Conflict Management” grant, November 2017.

[12] Ibanez B. Penas and Carmen Lopez Saenz, Interculturalism: Between Identity and Diversity (Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2006), 15.

[13] There are a variety of resources and articles that discuss this concept including, Kimberly Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43:6 (July, 1991), 1241-99 and “What Does Intersectional Feminism Actually Mean?” International Women’s Development Agency (May 11, 2018) among others.

[14] Donatella della Porta and Raffaele Marchetti, “Transnational Activism and the Global Justice Movement,”, 428. Also see Sidney Tarrow, The New Transnational Activism (New York: Cambridge Press, 2005). For more on the importance of women in the peacemaking process see the work of documentary filmmaker Abigail Disney, who produced a two-part series for PBS titled Women, War and Peace, Part I (2011) and Part II (2018) describing successful peacebuilding by women in the twenty-first century.

[15] Hayward and Marshall eds., Women, Religion and Peacebuilding.

[16] In an effort to broaden accessibility and information about the project the authors have given presentations in fall 2019 at the Peace and Justice Studies Conference at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

[17] This 2017 data and many more statistics can be found at the online website for Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA)  (Washington, D.C.)


Carol K. Coburn is a Professor Emerita in Religious Studies and a consultant for the Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence at Avila University.  She is the author of two books including Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920.  She has over 30 refereed articles and 40 national/international presentations, most focused on Catholic sisters, social justice, and peacebuilding.

Ken Parsons is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Avila University. He is also a consultant for the Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence and the Director for the Center for Global Studies and Social Justice (2013-2019). He teaches and presents papers at conferences around the world on structural violence, notions of difference, and human rights

The Coronavirus Pandemic, Like Other Global Catastrophes, Reveals the Limitations of Nationalism

By Lawrence Wittner

We live with a profound paradox.  Our lives are powerfully affected by worldwide economic, communications, transportation, food supply, and entertainment systems.  Yet we continue an outdated faith in the nation-state, with all the divisiveness, competition, and helplessness that faith produces when dealing with planetary problems.

As we have seen in recent weeks, the coronavirus, like other diseases, does not respect national boundaries, but spreads easily around the world.  And how is it being confronted?  Despite the heroic efforts of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, the governments of individual nations have largely gone their own way―some denying the pandemic’s existence, others taking fragmentary and sometimes contradictory steps, and still others doing a reasonably good job of stemming the contagion.  The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) should be at the center of a global campaign to contain the disease.  But its early warnings were ignored by many national officials, including those of the U.S. government, who rejected the WHO’s coronavirus testing kits.  Moreover, the WHO has limited funding―more than three-quarters of which now comes from voluntary contributions rather than from the dwindling assessments paid by individual nations.  Undermined by parochial national concerns, the WHO has been less effective in safeguarding the health of the world’s people than it could have been.

Similarly, the unfolding climate disaster presents a stark contrast between a worldwide problem and the behavior of national governments.  The world’s leading climate scientists have concluded that urgent changes are needed by 2030 to rescue the planet from irreversible climate catastrophe, including extreme heat, drought, floods, and escalating poverty.  And yet, despite an upsurge of social movements to save the planet, national governments have been unable to agree on remedial action, such as sharps curbs on fossil fuel production.  Indeed, two of the biggest oil producers―the Russian and Saudi Arabian governments―are currently opening the spigots in an oil production war.  For its part, the U.S. government has turned sharply against the solar power industry and is heavily subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.  This national irresponsibility occurs despite the urgent pleas of UN leaders.  “The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in late 2019.  “It is in sight and hurtling toward us.”

Warfare, of course, constitutes yet another problem of global dimensions.  Over the centuries, war has shattered countless lives and brought human civilization to the brink of annihilation.  It is estimated that, during the 20th century alone, war (including two world wars) caused 187 million deaths, plus far greater numbers of injuries, widespread devastation, and economic ruin.  Furthermore, nuclear war, unleashed in 1945 as the culmination of World War II, today has the potential to wipe out virtually all life on earth.  And how are individual nations preparing to avert this global catastrophe?  By getting ready to fight wars with one another!  In 2018 (the last year for which figures are available), world military expenditures rose to a record $1.8 trillion, with the governments of the United States and China leading the way.  Ignoring the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the nine nuclear-armed nations, at enormous cost, are currently busy ramping up their nuclear production facilities and producing a new generation of nuclear weapons.  In response to the looming nuclear menace and climate catastrophe, the editors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently reset the hands of their famous “Doomsday Clock” at an unprecedented 100 seconds to midnight.

Nor are these the only global threats that the nation-state system has failed to adequately address.  Among other things, the world is undergoing a refugee crisis of vast proportions, suffering from the predatory policies of multinational corporations, and experiencing widespread poverty and violations of human rights.  Do we really think that the current crop of flamboyant, flag-waving nationalist leaders, busy promising to make their countries “great” again, are going to solve these or other global problems?

Of course, for centuries there have been great ethical, intellectual, and political leaders who have sought to move beyond nationalism by emphasizing the common humanity of all people.  “The world is my country,” declared the adopted American revolutionary Tom Paine, and “all mankind are my brethren.”  Albert Einstein dismissed nationalism as “an infantile disease,” while British novelist H.G. Wells, like Einstein, became a staunch advocate of world government.  The idea of limiting national sovereignty in the interest of global security helped spark the creation of the League of Nations and, later, the United Nations.

But, unfortunately, the rulers of numerous countries, though often paying lip service to international law and international security, have never accepted significant limitations on their own government’s ability to do what it liked in world affairs.  Thus, major military powers hamstrung the League and the United Nations by refusing to join these world organizations, withdrawing from them, vetoing or ignoring official resolutions, and refusing to pay their annual dues or other assessments.  A particularly flagrant example of contempt for global governance occurred in mid-March 2020, when the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, ridiculed the International Criminal Court and threatened its staff (and even their family members) for daring to investigate U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

Thus, although robust and capable global governance is now more necessary than ever, a primitive, shortsighted nationalism continues to frustrate efforts to come to grips with massive global problems.

Even so, an extraordinary danger presents humanity with an extraordinary opportunity.  The coronavirus disaster, like the other current catastrophes ravaging the planet, might finally convince people around the globe that transcending nationalism is central to survival.


Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article was originally published to History News Network.

New Online History Resources: The Cold War and Post-Cold War Era

By Roger Peace

History is most useful when approached as a series of decisions rather than events.  Those choices can be analyzed in hindsight and assessed as to their wisdom or faults.  Moreover, choices made at certain times can have long-range and profound effects.

One such time was the 1945-1947 period, when the Truman administration adopted policies and attitudes that set the stage for a long Cold War.  Another was the 1989-1991 period, when the Cold War ended and the possibility of building a new world order was at hand.  In both cases, the “peace dividend” that many citizens sought – a transfer of funds from military to domestic programs such as education and health care – evaporated.  Instead of mutual aid and support, a vicarious “empire identity” was parlayed as the glue to unite Americans.

Two recent essays on the U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide website, “Cold War interventionism, 1945-1990,” and “The post-Cold War era, 1989-2001,” delve into how and why decisions were made in Washington at the outset of these periods.  In the case of the Cold War, for example, six possibilities are laid out from which President Harry Truman could have chosen, the first three being on the peaceful side (he chose the fourth and fifth):

  • A global New Deal as suggested by former Vice President Henry A. Wallace;
  • Cooperative internationalism and full support for the United Nations as advocated by Eleanor Roosevelt;
  • Peaceful coexistence, or détente, which emerged twenty-five years later;
  • Containment or encirclement of the Soviet Union and opposition to “communist” movements around the world;
  • Rollback or subversion of “communist” governments and movements; and
  • Nuclear attack, the most aggressive option for which plans were drawn up but never implemented.

Having charted the decision-making process, the Cold War essay moves on to assess results.  Viewed from a peace-oriented value perspective, these results are examined not primarily in terms of military success and national prestige but in terms of ethical considerations and international norms.  Was it a war of aggression?  Did the U.S. intervention contravene international law?  Were the Geneva Conventions respecting civilians observed?

Apart from the Korean War and the Vietnam War (examined in separate essays), most U.S. interventions during the long Cold War were covert.  The international relations scholar Lindsey O’Rourke, in Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War (2018), identifies 70 “regime change” interventions during the Cold War, of which 64 were conducted clandestinely through the CIA.  Of these 64, five involved assassination plots, 13 involved U.S.-backed military coups and insurrections (9 succeeded), 16 were directed at manipulating elections (12 resulted in the U.S.-backed candidate winning), and 14 instigated sabotage and destabilization operations in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.   Astoundingly, according to O’Rourke, “The United States supported authoritarian forces in forty-four out of sixty-four covert regime changes, including at least six operations that sought to replace liberal democratic governments with illiberal authoritarian regimes.”

The contradiction between stated U.S. principles and actual policies leads us to a third component of peace history – unpackaging official rationales and ideological presumptions.  In the case of the Cold War, this requires a lengthy section on the origins of socialist and communist philosophies and movements, and the manner in which anti-communism has been used to support right-wing authoritarian governments.  During the Cold War, the U.S. supported a host of dictatorial and repressive regimes, and covertly overthrew a number of democratic ones.

In the conclusion of this essay, I offer a succinct summary of lessons that may be drawn from this study:

If there is a paramount lesson to be learned from the Cold War, it is that the United States should shed its imperial identity and become a team player on the world stage, pursuing cooperation rather than military preponderance.  Let Pax Americana follow Pax Britannica into the dustbin of history.  American citizens need to be aware of the history and effects of U.S. foreign policies, cross-examine official rationales, and strengthen mechanisms of democratic accountability, thus enabling critical assessment of current U.S. policies and actions in the world.  Ethical standards of behavior should apply to the United States no less than to other nations.

The latest essay on the U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide website, “Post-Cold War era, 1989-2001,” takes a similar approach in (1) highlighting the choices at hand at a crucial time (and the missed opportunities for creating a more peaceful world), (2) assessing policy results, (3) critiquing official rationales, and (4) probing lessons that might be drawn – a general peace studies approach to international relations and wars.

As with all essays on this open resource website, the post-Cold War essay is written for students and the general public, offers coherent and well-organized narratives, and is accompanied by an ample number of photos and images – 119 to be exact (and 125 in the Cold War essay).  It synthesizes and builds on the work of expert scholars, offers analysis based upon available primary sources, and provides copious endnotes for independent examination of primary documents.  The authors, Brian D’Haeseleer, Jeremy Kuzmarov, and Roger Peace, are scholars of U.S. military and foreign policy and experienced teachers.  Professors, instructors, and teachers are encouraged to assign the essay, all or in part, to their students.  All essays may be downloaded in PDF format, with or without images.

The Post-Cold War essay covers the U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989, the Persian Gulf War in early 1991, “humanitarian interventions” in Somalia, Bosnia, and elsewhere, and the failed American crusade to remake Russia.  The story begins with a missed opportunity to build a more peaceful, just, and cooperative world order.

On December 8, 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev presented a challenge to the world community to create a new world order based on cooperation rather than domination.  “The formula for development at another’s expense is becoming outdated,” he told the United Nations General Assembly.  “It is evident, for example, that force and the threat of force can no longer be, and should not be instruments of foreign policy.”  To the surprise of many, the Soviet Union followed through and allowed the communist governments of Eastern Europe to fall as nonviolent revolutions swept through the region.

In December 1989, President George H. W. Bush met with Gorbachev on the island of Malta.  Bush seemed upbeat after the meeting, telling reporters, “The arms race, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle, all those should be things of the past.”  That was a good start for remaking the world order.  Rhetoric notwithstanding, however, the U.S. foreign policy establishment viewed Moscow’s retreat from great power domination as an opportunity to advance U.S. interests and establish the U.S. as the sole superpower in the world.  Less than three weeks after the Malta summit, U.S. forces invaded Panama in a classic “gunboat diplomacy” maneuver, denounced by the UN General Assembly as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Mikhail Gorbachev’s vision of a more cooperative and peaceful world order gradually receded from view during the post-Cold War period.  In its place, U.S. leaders advanced the idea of an American-led world order secured by U.S. military predominance.  Those who hoped for a “peace dividend” at the end of the Cold War were sorely disappointed as new threats from abroad were found to replace the vanishing “communist threat.”  As for Russia, the U.S.-applied capitalist “shock therapy” produced mostly shock and little therapy as social welfare systems were eviscerated and poverty rose precipitously.  All in all, as the historian Odd Arne Westad notes, “the 1990s was a lost opportunity for international cooperation, particularly to combat disease, poverty and inequality.”

What might the world be like today if different choices had been made in the post-Cold War era?  Might the transfer of money and talent to constructive activities been realized, enabling governments to competently address environmental threats, pressing economic needs, and epidemic diseases?  Though the opportunity was missed in the 1990s, the future is still open to this healing possibility.

The U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide is an open resource, non-commercial, educational website sponsored by the Historians for Peace and Democracy and the Peace History Society.  If interested in assisting this website project (production of essays or public outreach), please contact Roger Peace, website coordinator,

The World’s Major Military and Economic Powers Find Happiness Elusive

By Lawrence Wittner

Long before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic left people around the world desperate for survival, a popular assumption emerged that national governments are also supposed to promote the happiness and well-being of their citizens.  This idea was expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed that governments are instituted to secure humanity’s “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

What are we to think, then, when we find that the world’s major military powers, which are also among the world’s richest nations, are failing badly when it comes to enhancing public happiness?

According to the most credible study of military expenditures (with figures drawn from 2018), three out of the top four military spenders, in rank order, are the United States, China, and India.  Although Saudi Arabia is 3rd, France 5th, and Russia 6th on the list, Russia’s military expenditures do not fall far behind those of Saudi Arabia and France.  Furthermore, Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and fifth-largest army.  Therefore, Russia is usually considered one of the world’s top four military powers.

When it comes to economies, these same countries are also powerhouses.  Ranked by total wealth, the United States is 1st, China 2nd, India 5th, and Russia 11th.  If ranked by their number of billionaires, the United States is 1st, China 2nd, India 4th, and Russia 5th.

But happiness is quite another matter.  The World Happiness Report for 2020―a survey done by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations―produced a very different ranking of nations.  Based on how happy the citizens of 156 countries perceived themselves to be, the report concluded that, when it came to happiness, the United States ranked 18th, Russia 73rd, China 94th, and India 144th among nations.  Although the United States could take some comfort in outdistancing its major military-industrial rivals, the fact is that, despite its consistent pre-eminence in military and economic power, between 2012 and 2020 its happiness ranking dropped from 11th to 18th place among the nations of the world.

How should we account for this phenomenon?  The most obvious explanation is that great military and economic power does not guarantee a country’s happiness.  Indeed, it might even undermine happiness.  After all, spending on military ventures diverts resources away from civilian needs, while wars create death and destruction.  It’s worth noting that the United States, Russia, and India have all been busy for years engaging in bloody military conflicts.  China, despite its rising military power, has kept free of them in recent times, and this might help explain its rise in the global happiness ranking from 112th in 2012 to 94th in 2020.

Powerful national economies, too, do not necessarily lead to widespread happiness, particularly among the poorest citizens.  Economic inequality has certainly caused significant discontent within these nations, and the rise of “the billionaire class” has exacerbated it.  Moreover, these countries’ emphasis on consumerism and materialism has created desires that cannot always be satisfied by the acquisition of products or wealth.

We can get a better idea of what produces happiness by looking at the nations that placed in the top ten on the 2020 happiness scale. Ranked in order, they are Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Austria, and Luxembourg.  None is a major military or economic power, and none is today fighting a war. What they also have in common, the World Happiness Report observes, is a “well-functioning democracy, generous and effective social welfare benefits, low levels of crime and corruption, and satisfied citizens who feel free and trust each other and governmental institutions.”

Whatever the reasons for the greater sense of well-being among citizens of these top-ranked nations, it’s clear that they are considerably happier than the people of the United States, China, India, and Russia.  Perhaps it’s time for the citizens of the “great powers” to ask themselves if they are truly benefiting from the much-vaunted military and economic strength of their nations.


Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press. This article was originally published on Common Dreams.

Myth vs History: A Study of Vietnam War Stories and Journalism

By Jerry Lembcke

In 2007, I presented a paper on the myth of spat-on Vietnam veterans at a Queensland University conference in Brisbane, Australia. The paper drew on the history of homecomings experienced by U.S veterans of the war; it was well-received by the attending historians, most of whom were Australians.

In the Q&A that followed, however, assertions were made that the Australian case was different: Australian returnees, it was said, were met with great hostility and even acts of spitting by the antiwar movement. My surprise at hearing that claim was then surpassed by the acceptance of its merit by the roomful of scholars. With the unspoken certainty of something everyone-knows-is-true filling the room, the story of spat-on Australian veterans went unchallenged into the end of the session.

Later, over drinks and dinner, my probes into what research had been done by historians and students of political culture on the Australian homecoming experience hit a wall: It’s common-sense, isn’t it? The antiwar movement hated the war and the military establishment—why wouldn’t they spit on the “diggers” when they came home?

I returned to the States as certain that there was an untold story in the Australian memory of Vietnam veteran homecomings as I was when I began writing The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. Alas, my pursuits of appointments and funding that would take me back to Australia to do that work were fruitless. Recently, I picked up Mark Dapin’s Australia’s Vietnam: Myth vs. History and it dispelled my lingering disappointment at the lost chance to interrogate some Australian coming-home-from-Vietnam stories. More importantly, Dapin does it in a way that advances the craft of myth-debunking while using his own growth from mythmaker to myth-breaker to show us what intellectual integrity looks like.

Dapin keeps himself on solid methodological ground throughout the book with repeated acknowledgments that he, the myth-debunker, cannot prove the negative, cannot prove what did not happen. But he can show what did happen: that hundreds of thousands of people turned out in 1966 and 1977 to welcome veterans home to Sydney, establishing as a myth the now-widespread claims that there were no “welcome home parades”; that government documents and official correspondence clearly record the obligation to serve in Vietnam when ordered, giving the lie to claims that Australia’s troops there were “an all-volunteer army”; that the first claims that returnees were called “baby killers” came in 1997, about thirty years after they came home.

Dapin takes the show-what-did-happen tactic to a higher level to attack the now-remembered demonstrations that greeted troops returning to Australian airports. So threatening were those demonstrations, it is claimed, that Qantas Airlines flights from Vietnam landed at night to thwart protester’s plans to assail the veterans. The truth, writes Dapin, is more prosaic: nighttime flights allowed Qantas to maintain the scheduled maintenance of the planes needed for daytime commercial flights.

Australia’s Vietnam is more than an empirical inquiry into the truth, say, of stories that Australian troops committed My Lai-type atrocities in Vietnam: did they happen or didn’t they? They didn’t, Dapin says, and the “memory” that they did began with a book published in the US. Dapin describes the book, Happy Hunting Ground by Martin Ross, as a former Marine “eager to impress his readers with the dangers and hardships he ostensibly faced while wandering around South Vietnam as a journalist. . . “(p. 110). Made-up atrocity stories function, as do other myths in Australian post-Vietnam folklore, to bolster the combat bona fides of Australian veterans by associating them with the imagery of American veterans ginned up by Hollywood.

Australia’s Vietnam is important for the rectification it brings to public memory of Vietnam War homecomings. Its relevance for Australian readers goes without saying and used in critical dialogue with the American war-story literature it should find its place on those lists as well.

But the book is equally important as a case study of journalists’ role in mythmaking. Dapin’s first chapter, “The Myths I Helped to Make,” is one of the best in the book. Told by members of a veterans biker club that 90% of them have PTSD, that others were spat on, sleep with pick-handles under the bed, live in isolated camps in the bush, or carried a bag of Vietnamese heads in Vietnam—he believed many of them and wrote some them into print. The journalistic malfeasance that Dapin owns-up to now is more than made up for by offering himself for study in why journalists believe what they do. Phenomenologists have covered a lot of that ground that Australia’s Vietnam would be stronger for having referenced but schools of journalism can make the necessary accommodations for that.

Afterword. At the Brisbane conference mentioned above, I also recounted my R&R experience in Sydney in July 1969. Coming down the steps to street-side from my Kings Cross hotel, I was greeted by a young woman. “Are you a GI?” she asked. Tanned (in the Australian winter) with no hair, I confessed immediately. “Would you like to go to a coffee house?” she asked. Agreeable to that, I walked a short distance with her to a coffee shop (and perhaps bookstore) stuffed with antiwar literature and paraphernalia. There, I was offered sanctuary if I wished to desert, and eventual passage to Sweden for more long-term refuge. I left with a stack of printed material that I passed around the 41st Artillery Group upon return to Vietnam and a heavy-metal peace symbol that still hangs on my dining-room wall. The Brisbane conferees had “no idea” that Australian peace activists had reached-out to GIs and even admitted to hunches that protesters would have been hostile to GIs. It was, after all, 2007 and years before they would see Dapin’s myth-busting work.


Jerry Lembcke is the author of eight books including The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of VietnamCNN’s Tailwind: Inside Vietnam’s Last Great Myth, and Hanoi Jane: War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal. His opinion pieces have appeared in The New York TimesBoston GlobeSan Francisco Chronicle, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He has been a guest on several NPR programs including On the Media. The 2006 film Sir! No Sir! featured his book The Spitting Image. This article was originally published to History News Network.

Lembcke was drafted in 1968 and served as a Chaplain’s Assistant with the 41st Artillery Group in Vietnam. He is presently Associate Professor Emeritus at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

The Two Internationalisms

By Lawrence Wittner

In recent years, internationalism―cooperation among nations for promotion of the common good―has acquired a bad reputation.

Of course, internationalism has long been anathema to the political Right, where a primitive tribalism and its successor, nationalism, have flourished for many years.  Focusing on their nation’s supposed superiority to others, a long line of rightwing demagogues, including Adolf Hitler (“Deutschland Über Alles”) and Donald Trump (“America First”), have stirred up xenophobia, racism, and militarism, often with some success in public opinion and at the polls.  Numerous nationalist imitators have either secured public office or are hungering for it in many parts of the world.

But that is new in recent years is the critique of internationalism on the political Left.  For centuries, internationalism was a staple of the progressive, avant-garde outlook.  Enlightenment thinkers promoted ideas of cosmopolitanism and the unity of humanity, critics of war and imperialism championed the development of international law, and socialists campaigned for replacing chauvinism with international working-class solidarity.  In the aftermath of two devastating world wars, liberal reformers roundly condemned the narrow nationalist policies of the past and placed their hopes for a peaceful and humane future in two world organizations:  the League of Nations and the United Nations.

A key reason for the decline of support for this internationalist vision on the political Left is the belief that internationalism has served as a cloak for great power militarism and imperialism.  In fact, there is some justification for this belief, as the U.S. government, while professing support for “democracy” and other noble aims, has all too often used its immense military, economic, and political power in world affairs with less laudatory motives, especially economic gain and control of foreign lands.

And much the same can be said about other powerful nations.  In their global operations during much of the twentieth century, were the British and French really concerned about advancing human rights and “civilization,” the Germans about spreading “kultur,” and the Russians about liberating the working class?  Or were they merely continuing the pattern―though not the rhetoric―of their nationalist predecessors?

To continue this subterfuge, starting in 1945 they all publicly pledged to follow the guidelines of a different kind of global approach, cooperative internationalism, as championed by the United Nations.  But, when it came to the crunch, they proved more interested in advancing their economies and political holdings than in developing international law and a cooperative world order.  As a result, while pretending to honor the lofty aims of the United Nations, they provided it with very limited power and resources.  In this fashion, they not only used the United Nations as a fig leaf behind which their overseas military intervention and imperialism continued, but ended up convincing many people, all across the political spectrum, that the United Nations was ineffectual and, more broadly, that cooperative internationalism didn’t work.

But, of course, cooperative internationalism could work, if the governments of the major powers―and, at the grassroots level, their populations―demanded it.  A fully empowered United Nations could prevent international aggression, as well as enforce disarmament agreements and sharp cutbacks in the outrageous level of world military spending.  It could also address the climate catastrophe, the refugee crisis, the destructive policies of multinational corporations, and worldwide violations of human rights.  Does anyone, aside from the most zealous nationalist, really believe that these problems can be solved by any individual nation or even by a small group of nations?

Fortunately, there are organizations that recognize that, in dealing with these and other global problems, the world need not be limited to a choice between overheated nationalism and hypocritical internationalism.  In the United States, these include the United Nations Association (which works to strengthen that global organization so that it can do the job for which it was created) and Citizens for Global Solutions (which champions the transformation of the United Nations into a democratic federation of nations).  Numerous small countries, religions, and humanitarian organizations also promote the development of a more cooperative international order.

If the people of the world are to stave off the global catastrophes that now loom before them, they are going to have to break loose from the limitations of their nations’ traditional policies in world affairs.  Above all, they need to cast off their lingering tribalism, recognize their common humanity, and begin working for the good of all.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article was originally published online by the History News Network

How About a Peace Race Instead of an Arms Race?

by Lawrence Wittner

In late April, the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that, in 2018, world military expenditures rose to a record $1.82 trillion.  The biggest military spender by far was the United States, which increased its military budget by nearly 5 percent to $649 billion (36 percent of the global total). But most other nations also joined the race for bigger and better ways to destroy one another through war.

This situation represents a double tragedy.  First, in a world bristling with weapons of vast destructive power, it threatens the annihilation of the human race.  Second, as vast resources are poured into war and preparations for it, a host of other problems―poverty, environmental catastrophe, access to education and healthcare, and more―fail to be adequately addressed.

But these circumstances can be changed, as shown by past efforts to challenge runaway militarism.

During the late 1950s, the spiraling nuclear arms race, poverty in economically underdeveloped nations, and underfunded public services in the United States inspired considerable thought among socially-conscious Americans.  Seymour Melman, a professor of industrial engineering at Columbia University and a peace activist, responded by writing The Peace Race, a mass market paperback published in 1961.  The book argued that military spending was undermining the U.S. economy and other key aspects of American life, and that it should be replaced by a combination of economic aid abroad and increased public spending at home.

Melman’s popular book, and particularly its rhetoric about a “peace race,” quickly came to the attention of the new U.S. President, John F. Kennedy.  On September 25, 1961, dismayed by the Soviet Union’s recent revival of nuclear weapons testing, Kennedy used the occasion of his address to the United Nations to challenge the Russians “not to an arms race, but to a peace race.”  Warning that “mankind must put an end to war―or war will put an end to mankind,” he invited nations to “join in dismantling the national capacity to wage war.”

Kennedy’s “peace race” speech praised obliquely, but powerfully, what was the most ambitious plan for disarmament of the Cold War era:  the McCloy-Zorin Accords.  This historic US-USSR agreement, presented to the UN only five days before, outlined a detailed plan for “general and complete disarmament.” It provided for the abolition of national armed forces, the elimination of weapons stockpiles, and the discontinuance of military expenditures in a sequence of stages, each verified by an international disarmament organization before the next stage began.  During this process, disarmament progress would “be accompanied by measures to strengthen institutions for maintaining peace and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.”  In December 1961, the McCloy-Zorin Accords were adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly.

Although the accelerating nuclear arms race―symbolized by Soviet and American nuclear testing―slowed the momentum toward disarmament provided by the McCloy-Zorin Accords and Kennedy’s “peace race” address, disarmament continued as a very live issue.  The National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE), America’s largest peace organization, publicly lauded Kennedy’s “peace race” speech and called for “the launching of a Peace Race” in which the two Cold War blocs joined “to end the arms race, contain their power within constructive bounds, and encourage peaceful social change.”

For its part, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, created by the Kennedy administration to address disarmament issues, drafted an official U.S. government proposal, Blueprint for the Peace Race, which Kennedy submitted to the United Nations on April 18, 1962.  Leading off with Kennedy’s challenge “not to an arms race, but to a peace race,” the proposal called for general and complete disarmament and proposed moving in verifiable steps toward that goal.

Nothing as sweeping as this followed, at least in part because much of the subsequent public attention and government energy went into curbing the nuclear arms race.  A central concern along these lines was nuclear weapons testing, an issue dealt with in 1963 by the Partial Test Ban Treaty, signed that August by the U.S., Soviet, and British governments.  In setting the stage for this treaty, Kennedy drew upon Norman Cousins, the co-chair of SANE, to serve as his intermediary with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.  Progress in containing the nuclear arms race continued with subsequent great power agreements, particularly the signing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968.

As is often the case, modest reform measures undermine the drive for more thoroughgoing alternatives.  Certainly, this was true with respect to general and complete disarmament.  Peace activists, of course, continued to champion stronger measures.  Thus, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the occasion of his Nobel Peace Prize lecture in Oslo, on December 11, 1964, to declare:  “We must shift the arms race into a ‘peace race.’”  But, with important curbs on the nuclear arms race in place, much of the public and most government leaders turned to other issues.

Today, of course, we face not only an increasingly militarized world, but even a resumption of the nuclear arms race, as nuclear powers brazenly scrap nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties and threaten one another, as well as non-nuclear nations, with nuclear war.

Perhaps it’s time to revive the demand for more thoroughgoing global disarmament.  Why not wage a peace race instead of an arms race―one bringing an end to the immense dangers and vast waste of resources caused by massive preparations for war?  In the initial stage of this race, how about an immediate cut of 10 percent in every nation’s military budget, thus retaining the current military balance while freeing up $182 billion for the things that make life worth living?  As the past agreements of the U.S. and Soviet governments show us, it’s not at all hard to draw up a reasonable, acceptable plan providing for verification and enforcement.

All that’s lacking, it seems, is the will to act.


Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article was originally posted to History News Network

Reflections on International Peace: An Essay Series in Three Parts

by Sandra Simić

Part III – Common Heritage

 “Since wars begin in the minds of men (and women), it is in the minds of men (and women) that the defenses of peace must be constructed”, the UNESCO Constitution says.

Four centuries ago, in the heart of various beliefs – Hindu, Persian, Muslim, Christian – the emperor Akbar the Great gathered in his palace in Delhi philosophers, scholars, and mystics, in order to find together the core in which religions unite. (2) We may be inspired by such a noble initiative.

The vision of building instead of destroying the future together, by all members of the human family, must not be limited to rational science. Focusing on material globalization only is like building a house on sand. Spiritual globalization is needed as well, through a search for the common origin and a sense of shared humanity.

Opinions on whether religion is a cause of international conflicts vary. Some thinkers believe that religion is one of the interrelated factors causing conflict, while others believe that it is never the cause of the conflict. (3) Religion might also be hijacked for political purposes, presenting it erroneously as the primary reason for war, instead of economic or other interests.

Spiritual leaders are continually calling for peace. The Second Vatican Council renewed the Roman Catholic Church, a part of the process being the support for the international order, UN and human rights. (4) This support is most evident from the Pacem in Terris, a famous encyclical of His Holiness Pope John XXIII, which emphasizes in the point 61 that “any government which refused to recognize human rights or acted in violation of them, would not only fail in its duty; its decrees would be wholly lacking in binding force”. Further, it is noted in point 88 that some nations may have attained a superior degree of development, but this does not “entitle them to exert unjust political domination over other nations. It means that they have to make a greater contribution to the common cause of social progress.”

When leaders focus on the relevant issues and create a positive context, things are starting to change. Sincerely positive global spirit uniting all cultures and religions together may be witnessed at the General Audience with His Holiness Pope Francis, who interestingly, took the name of the saint of peace.

In spite of dogmatic differences, we should seek to find the source which is the same for everyone and build togetherness from there. For example, The Golden Rule is worldwide accepted by all religions. (6) Reading its narrative through various religious traditions is illuminating, as the same idea is repeated over and over in different literary styles. Basically, it says that you should not do to others what you do not wish others do to yourself.

Focusing on shared values and common heritage might be further developed by establishing an organization which would serve the following purposes: connecting people and cultures physically and virtually, serve as a place where people could get accurate information about all religions, provide grants for artists promoting these values through books, movies, music, and visual arts, provide grants and resources for scientific research aimed at finding shared values and other noble ideas leading to this aim. A digital church might also be created, meaning a digital place where people from all over the globe can meet, discuss and share directly and in real time. Creating an appropriate setting for the expression of such ideas would make all the difference. Publishing and producing is a commercially driven business, meaning that it adapts itself to the market and follows trends. The prevailing themes are negative. This is why it is necessary to create a space where freedom of expression is not restricted to market trends, but it also opens possibilities for artists with an optimistic and positive vision of the future. Building relationships on shared values, while keeping cultural and religious differences as they enrich us. We are all on the same path of discovering life in its sophistication and beauty and every path is valuable.

Creating peace is possible. The positive context, organization and focus on shared values are necessary. It is also important being continually aware of the fine line between those who divide and those who connect people, especially when electing leaders. The old Latin phrase Acta, non verba (Actions, not words) teaches us that we should focus more on concrete results such as making peace deals which last or deciding not to send armed forces to war, instead of endorsing the elegant pacifistic rhetoric only.

It is unacceptable in the 21st century to judge someone on the basis of what she or he gained by birth, on the basis of something beyond their influence. It is particularly unacceptable to divide on the basis of religion. The path of every person towards spirituality merits respect. In Genesis 15:5, God promised Abraham/Ibrahim that He would give him as many children as there are stars in the sky. Looking at the sky, I believe Abraham/Ibrahim wanted to see that harmony and glow between his children. God made His promise. His descendants are Jewish, Christians and Muslims. It is upon us to build that harmony and not be misled by artificial worldly divisions.

By focusing on values we all share, instead of emphasizing differences, we shall build a more sophisticated and future-oriented culture.


  1. UNESCO Constitution.
  2. Mourad, Kenizé, „Tragom mrtve princeze“ (Croatian translation of the original title: „De la part de la princesse morte“), Znanje, 1989, p. 185. (vol.2.).
  3. Smock, David R. (eds.), “Interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding”, United States Institute of Peace Press, 2002, p. 127.
  4. O’Connell, Mary Ellen, “Belief in the Authority of International Law for Peace”, in: Justenhoven, Heinz-Gerhard, O’Connell, Mary Ellen (eds.), Peace through law: Reflections on Pacem in Terris from Philosophy, Law, Theology, and Political Science, 1. Edition 2016, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, p. 60.
  5. Pacem in terris, encyclical of Pope John XXIII on establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity, and liberty, April 11, 1963.
  6. Bowker, John, “World Religions”, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2003 (revised edition published in 2003, first published in London in 1997), p. 208.

Sandra Simić, mag.iur., LLM, is a lawyer specialized in Public International Law and European Law (University of London, Queen Mary&University College London), with extensive professional experience in private (Attorney at Law) and public sector. This essay represents her personal opinion. She may be reached at:; SandraSimic©.

Reflections on International Peace: An Essay Series in Three Parts

by Sandra Simić


Part II – Peace Through Development 

Every initiative towards the creation of international peace is valuable and merits respect. However, we ought to make bolder steps in the search for solutions, as the fact that wars are still present in the 21st century means that the international community is immature.

International peace can be achieved by a multidisciplinary approach, through advancement in many areas and coordination between them. Public international law, interpreted correctly and changed where necessary, has the potential to secure peaceful relations between nations as well as their development.

In the internet era, when information is easily accessible to everyone, the legitimate feeling of injustice rises in people living in poverty. The desire for development is natural in human beings. Poverty is also one of the factors leading to conflicts. Differences in the level of development and living standards between nations, causing deep poverty and the lack of opportunities, call for smart investment initiatives.

We should intertwine the economic interests of nations in order to make them the threads of peace. No nation would wish to start a war if this would mean attacking their own economic interests. If the European Union has finally achieved peace, why wouldn’t that be possible for the rest of the world?

Every human being, regardless of origin, gender, nationality, skin color, or any other factor, should be given the same right to development. The United Nations Charter promotes economic and social progress and development in its article 55.

Economic development is stipulated in article 1.1. of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 (ICESCR), while its article 2.1. emphasizes that with a view to progressively achieving these rights various steps may be followed, including the international cooperation. ICESCR is a legally binding international agreement.

There are other, legally non-binding international instruments which define this right. Its articulation in the Declaration on the right to development adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 41/128 on 4 December 1986 (articles 1 and 2) has helped support and develop the special and preferential treatment for developing countries and other principles. (3) Also, it influenced the adoption of the Millennium Declaration in 2000, which outlines the Millennium Development Goals of the UN (MDG). The MDG 8 in particular, is calling for a global partnership for development. (5) However, the impact of the MDG has been limited due to its non-binding legal character. The international community should seek to enhance the role of public international law in creating binding legal instruments for global development.

The author is pro meritocracy at the level playing field. There is neither honor nor success in winning at the global market if the field is not level. Obviously, the differences in development between various nations make the efforts of the underdeveloped countries non-sufficient for progress, as their products may not be competitive at the global market. The playing field is not truly level (6) because of the inequality between the players.

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency monitors migrations due to various causes, most notably wars and poverty. It seems that the international community is overwhelmed by the numbers of people putting everything at risk in order to cross borders illegally in search of a better life. Migrations affect many policies in host countries, such as employment, education, health, and social services, culture, security, education, finances, and others. Therefore, this calls for a concerted effort by the international community in finding solutions for development in the home countries of migrants. Building refugee camps at the borders is a temporary solution which is not solving the problem. Human dignity demands equal opportunities for development. Various instruments for international help in terms of donations, food, shelter, medical supplies, assistance and other ways of reaching out to people in need are not a solution. If you are looking at people in need with pity, be sure that you lost their respect. You made them feel inferior. Instead, the honor lies in reflecting about justice, in expanding our intellectual horizons in search for ways of accepting every person as an evolving being, able to do great things.

Capitalism and free democracy create a positive context for development. When individual liberties are protected, people are able to express their creativity, produce and build their societies. In the quest for economic growth, the businesses are continually seeking new products and new markets. At the other end of the spectrum, the underdeveloped countries are continually looking for investments. We should be focused on how to connect the two sides of the spectrum in a way that would be profitable to both. In the globalized world of today, we should above all seek the innovative solutions within the public international law.

The author advocates the creation of an international legal framework which would give capitalism a more human face.(7) The global investment treaty may be concluded under the auspices of the United Nations. Its wide mandate and equality of votes will ensure the appropriate context for creating a fairer international investment regime through the fine balancing between social justice and capitalism. Such an agreement would create a framework where consensus is possible, while the bilateral investment treaties may continue to exist alongside. Investment is the key for economic development, but it must not be taken out of the context and become a value in itself. Investment should be seen as a tool for the greater good and sustainable international growth. This would positively influence the overall global stability and the creation of peace worldwide.

It is important to reflect upon the voting system within a forum which is to develop, draft and adopt an international agreement, as perspectives may differ. For instance, the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF, World Bank) have the voting system which gives the most developed countries the majority (weighted voting), while there is equality of votes within the UN. If the aim is to achieve international justice, it should be developed within the appropriate context. Due to equality of votes of all states and its wide mandate (covering economic and other topics like human rights, environment, labor law etc.), it is the author’s opinion that the penholder should be the United Nations. In this way, a balanced text would be developed, giving capitalism a more human face.

The economy is not the only way of creating peace through development. Advancements in technology offer new opportunities for creating peace as well, for instance, through the pacifist use of satellites. There is a practical example which has been successful in monitoring Sudan and South Sudan through the imagery captured by DigitalGlobe satellites, called the Satellite Sentinel Project, which was conceived by George Clooney and John Prendergast. Through the use of satellites, human rights abuses may be prevented and also better documented at war trials afterward.


  1. United Nations Charter.
  2. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December1966.
  3. Subedi, S. P., “International Economic Law – Section A: Evolution and Principles of International Economic Law”, Revised version, University of London, Queen Mary&University College London, University of London Press, 2007, Chapter 3, p.27.
  4. United Nations Millennium Development Goals, 2000.
  5. Subedi, S.P., “International Economic Law – Section B: International monetary and development law and policy”, Revised version, University of London, Queen Mary&University College London, University of London Press, 2007, p. 23-24.
  6. Subedi, S.P., “The notion of free trade and the first ten years of the World Trade Organisation: how level is the “level playing field?” The Netherlands international law review LIII:273-296, 2006.
  7. Simić, Sandra, “Our future is in the eye of the beholder – an initiative for a global investment treaty”, Croatian Academy of Legal Sciences Yearbook, Vol. VII, Number 1/2016, 2016.


Sandra Simić, mag.iur., LLM, is a lawyer specialized in Public International Law and European Law (University of London, Queen Mary&University College London), with extensive professional experience in private (Attorney at Law) and public sector. This essay represents her personal opinion. She may be reached at:; SandraSimic©.


Reflections on International Peace: An Essay Series in Three Parts

by Sandra Simić

Part I – Peace Through Law 

Beethoven composed the Ode to Joy after becoming deaf because he could hear it in his heart and mind. The Ode to Joy has become the anthem of the European Union, celebrating peace between nations with a previously continuous history of wars. “The poem Ode to Joy expresses Schiller’s idealistic vision of the human race becoming brothers – a vision Beethoven shared”. Let this melody be the underlying music of this essay series, in search of new visions for international peace.

The history shows a long record of declared and undeclared wars and various types of violence. Even today, in the age we like to call the age of progress, there are too many armed conflicts and violence throughout the globe, with devastating consequences for the people affected. The fact that we have not been able to find a solution for international peace yet, while opportunities are everywhere, speaks for itself. Respecting many valuable peace initiatives, the author would primarily like to emphasize the value of the public international law in creating international peace, as it provides the legal framework for peaceful relations between nations.

This essay series was motivated by an increasing number of wars and conflicts worldwide, the desire to express a strong pacifistic voice and inspire others to do the same. Within the limits of our influence, we are all responsible for the creation of world peace, towards which the intellectuals, in particular, are called to make a contribution.

Public international law, interpreted correctly and changed where necessary, has the potential to secure peaceful relations between nations as well as their development.

Historically, the roots of public international law may be traced back to the times of Aristotle, who thought that the state and its citizens are the product of nature. Roman jurist Gaius in his Institutes divided all law into jus civile and jus gentium.  The former relates to the law written by the people for their purposes, while the latter is the law shared by all people because it is rooted in natural reason (naturalis ratio). According to Gaius, the Roman people applied both categories. Many notable legal scientists influenced the development of the public international law throughout centuries, however, the Dutch lawyer, theologian, philosopher, and poet Hugo Grotius, who lived at the end of the 16th and in the 17th century, made the greatest contribution. Consequently, he is called the father of the international law. Although he believed in God, and was a theologian, he distanced natural law from God, considering it based on reason and nature of human beings. (2)

The ideas of war being morally acceptable as self-defense and in order to re-establish peace were accepted a long time ago, for instance, in classical Greek and Roman theories and in the works of Saint Augustine. Saint Thomas Aquinas later developed the Christian Just War Doctrine. Many schools of thought developed throughout history on the subject of war and peace. The most interesting and inspiring ideas, seeking to re-connect mankind above religious differences, were those of Hugo Grotius. Grotius and other naturalist writers agreed that the basic principles of all law were derived from “principles of justice which had a universal and eternal validity and which could be discovered by pure reason; law was to be found, not made.” It is important to note that although “natural law was originally regarded as having a divine origin”, Grotius considered that “natural law would still have existed even if God had not existed”. (3) Some concepts like general principles of law are explained today as rooted in natural law.

Contemporary application of public international law by jurists represents a combination of positivist and naturalist approach, which means that positive law is applied first, while natural law theory complements interpretation only in cases when the law is ambiguous, needs updating, or may violate a jus cogens norm, in which cases a jurist will consider important values of the community and the purpose of law generally. (4) Consequently, the legal process theory is complemented with natural law theory, in order to balance the rigidity of the written norm with a human perspective. This might be compared to the role of the jury in trials, as the underlying idea is the same, it is not entirely possible to capture the fairness in the written law. Life itself will always be more creative and ultimately, what justice really means will be up to the jurist making the decision, which is why a lawyer is continuously on the path where law and justice meet.

The author shares the line of thinking which seeks to find something timeless, universal and natural in justice, something that transcends power struggles and national borders and offers a vision of shared humanity.

United Nations have a pivotal role in ensuring international peace, as they equally represent the world population and have the means and opportunity to create a peaceful world. Article 1 of the UN Charter sets out the purposes of the UN, such as maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations between nations and strengthening universal peace.

The UN General Assembly, recalling many previously adopted international instruments relevant to this subject, adopted on 19 December 2016 Declaration on the Right to Peace, which declares in its article 1: “Everyone has the right to enjoy peace such that all human rights are promoted and protected and development is fully realized.”

Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter prohibits the use of force. Chapter VI of the Charter lists ways for pacific settlements of disputes between states, while Chapter VII provides action of the UN Security Council with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression. The authorization from the UN Security Council is needed for the use of force.

In conclusion, the Charter should always be interpreted in a way which leads to international peace, while the use of force is only an exception which has to be decided carefully and in a balanced manner, in order to maintain and restore peace.

Even though the international law is a binding system of authority accepted by governments worldwide, a renowned American Professor of Law Mary Ellen O’Connell warns that there are many publications which perpetuate misunderstandings about this area of law, particularly regarding the means of enforcement, the basis for authority and the rules restraining the use of force. (7). O’Connell’s work is outstanding. She writes systematically and in great detail about the origins and development of these erroneous theories, which affect the application of international law today.

We hold the legal key for international peace through correct application of public international law. It is necessary to understand and promote the importance of this area of law in order to distinguish myth from truth, as it all matters in our search for international peace. The inspiring legacy of Hugo Grotius teaches us that justice is natural, universal and beyond religious differences.

In the globalized and highly interconnected world of today and tomorrow, the influence and power of public international law will only rise.


  1. Paul Craig and Gráinne de Búrca, “EU law text, cases, and materials”, fourth edition, Oxford University Press, 2008.
  2. Degan, V. Đ., “Međunarodno pravo “, Pravni fakultet Sveučilišta u Rijeci, 2000, p. 33-47.
  3. Malanczuk, Peter, “Akehurst’s Modern introduction to international law” seventh revised edition, Routledge, 1997-2003, p.15-16 (two quoted sentences).
  4. O’Connell, Mary Ellen, „The Power and Purpose of International Law“, Oxford University Press 2008, p. 137-138.
  5. United Nations Charter.
  6. Resolution 71/189 adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 2016 – Declaration on the Right to Peace.
  7. O’Connell, Mary Ellen, “Belief in the Authority of International Law for Peace”, in: Justenhoven, Heinz-Gerhard, O’Connell, Mary Ellen (eds.), Peace through law: Reflections on Pacem in Terris from Philosophy, Law, Theology, and Political Science, 1. Edition 2016, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, p. 50.


Sandra Simić, mag.iur., LLM, is a lawyer specialized in Public International Law and European Law (University of London, Queen Mary&University College London), with extensive professional experience in private (Attorney at Law) and public sector. This essay represents her personal opinion. She may be reached at:; SandraSimic©

The United States is First in War, But Trailing in Crucial Aspects of Modern Civilization

By Lawrence Wittner

Maybe those delirious crowds chanting “USA, USA” have got something.  When it comes to military power, the United States reigns supreme.  Newsweek reported in March 2018:  “The United States has the strongest military in the world,” with over 2 million military personnel and vast numbers of the most advanced nuclear missiles, military aircraft, warships, tanks, and other modern weapons of war.  Furthermore, as the New York Times noted, “the United States also has a global presence unlike any other nation, with about 200,000 active duty troops deployed in more than 170 countries.”  This presence includes some 800 overseas U.S. military bases.

In 2017 (the last year for which global figures are available), the U.S. government accounted for over a third of the world’s military expenditures―more than the next 7 highest-spending countries combined.  Not satisfied, however, President Trump and Congress pushed through a mammoth increase in the annual U.S. military budget in August 2018, raising it to $717 billion.  Maintaining the U.S. status as “No. 1” in war and war preparations comes at a very high price.

That price is not only paid in dollars—plus massive death and suffering in warfare―but in the impoverishment of other key sectors of American life.  After all, this lavish outlay on the military now constitutes about two-thirds of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending.  And these other sectors of American life are in big trouble.

Let’s consider education.  The gold standard for evaluation seems to be the Program for International Student Assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which tests 15-year old students every few years.  The last test, which occurred in 2015 and involved 540,000 students in 72 nations and regions, found that U.S. students ranked 24th in reading, 25th in science, and 41st in mathematics.  When the scores in these three areas were combined, U.S. students ranked 31st―behind the students of Slovenia, Poland, Russia, and Vietnam.

The educational attainments among many other Americans are also dismal.  An estimated 30 million adult Americans cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level.  Literacy has different definitions and, for this reason among others, estimates vary about the level of illiteracy in the United States.  But one of the most favorable rankings of the United States for literacy places it in a tie with numerous other nations for 26th; the worst places it at 125th.

The U.S. healthcare system also fares poorly compared to that of other nations.  A 2017 study of healthcare systems in 11 advanced industrial countries by the Commonwealth Fund found that the United States ranked at the very bottom of the list.  Furthermore, numerous nations with far less “advanced” economies have superior healthcare systems to that of the United States.  According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. healthcare system ranks 37th among countries―behind that of Colombia, Cyprus, and Morocco.

Not surprisingly, American health is relatively poor.  The infant mortality rate in the United States is higher than in 54 other lands, including Belarus, Cuba, Greece, and French Polynesia.  According to the World Cancer Research Fund, the United States has the 5th highest cancer rate of the 50 countries it studied.  For the past few years, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported, U.S. life expectancy has been declining and, today, the United States reportedly ranks 53rd among 100 nations in life expectancy.

Despite the fact that the United States is the world’s richest nation, it also has an unusually high level of poverty.  According to a 2017 UNICEF report, over 29 percent of American children live in impoverished circumstances, placing the United States 35th in childhood poverty among the 41 richest nations.  Indeed, the United States has a higher percentage of its people living in poverty (15.1 percent) than 41 other countries, including Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, and Sri Lanka.

Nor does the United States rate very well among nations on environmental issues.  According to the Environmental Performance Index, produced by Yale University and Columbia University in 2018, the United States placed 27th among the countries it ranked on environmental health and ecosystem vitality.  The Social Progress Index, another well-respected survey that rates countries on their environmental records, ranked the United States 36th in wastewater treatment, 39th in access to at least basic drinking water, and 73rd in greenhouse gas emissions.

Actually, the findings of the Social Progress Index are roughly the same as other evaluators in a broad range of areas.  Its 2018 report concluded that that the United States ranked 63rd in primary school enrollment, 61st in secondary school enrollment, 76th in access to quality education, 40th in child mortality rate, 62nd in maternity mortality rate, 36th in access to essential health services, 74th in access to quality healthcare, and 35th in life expectancy at age 60.  In addition, it rated the United States as 33rd in political killings and torture, 88th in homicide rate, 47th in political rights, and 67th in discrimination and violence against minorities.  All in all, there’s nothing here to cheer about.

Does the U.S. government’s priority for military spending explain, at least partially, the discrepancy between the worldwide preeminence of the U.S. armed forces and the feeble global standing of major American domestic institutions?  Back in April 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower pointed to their connection.  Addressing the American Society of Newspaper editors, he declared:  “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”  A militarized world “is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

People infatuated with military supremacy should give that some thought.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press)

This post originally appeared on Common Dreams


By Charles F. Howlett

A recent paper I delivered at the Muted Voices Conference held at the World War I Memorial Museum in Kansas City in 2017 offers a glimpse into the legal quandary public schoolteachers faced when encountering free speech during time of war. Although I had done additional research involving the matter of professors in higher education, the story of how college professors critical of war were allotted wider latitude, unlike teachers, also deserves a hearing.

In my earlier remarks I pointed out that World War I marked a watershed for teachers when it came to freedom of speech; their efforts to criticize war became more restricted in courts of law. For professors in higher education it had the opposite effect, although, at first, they experienced their own trials and tribulations. What led to greater free speech protections for professors in contrast to what I laid out previously regarding schoolteachers?

First World War

Prior to America’s military intervention in World War 1 in April 1917, the nation’s leading advocate of progressive education John Dewey of Columbia University, steadfastly proclaimed that all forms of militarism were “undemocratic, barbaric, and scholastically wholly unwise.” He held fast to those words until President Woodrow Wilson announced that America’s entrance into this conflict against the Central Powers would be an opportunity to achieve social reconstruction at home and abroad. Dewey now reasoned that war might serve as a useful and efficient means for bringing about the desired end of a democratically organized world order based on social and economic justice. Of course, he expected that teachers would enthusiastically follow his lead.

Numerous intellectuals also were willing to support Wilson’s progressive idealism. They were all too eager in their attempts to win over the public mind in what they considered a great struggle to preserve democracy against German autocracy and militarism. Among them were Cornell historian Carl Becker, Wisconsin labor economist John R. Commons, University of Chicago professor A. C. McLaughlin, Columbia historian James T. Shotwell and Guy Stanton Ford, dean of the graduate school at the University of Minnesota.  Like Dewey, they considered it an opportunity to test the efficiency of progressive social engineering abroad as well as the collective will of the populace to bring about the kind of democratic progress needed to rid the Old World of its political tyranny.

While Dewey and his prowar acolytes touted the virtues of military engagement, the first clear signal of what would take place on all levels of education actually began on college and university campuses. In one of the worst violations in the history of academic freedom in higher education, a number of the country’s top scholars at Dewey’s place of employment, much to his chagrin since he was an outspoken proponent of academic freedom, were told either to leave or be dismissed, while others resigned in protest. One month prior to the nation going to war the Columbia Board of Trustees became the first private governing board to establish a general program of investigation for determining “whether doctrines which are subversive of…or which tend to encourage a spirit of disloyalty to the government of the United States, or the principles upon which it is founded, are taught and disseminated by the officers of the University.”

A Committee of Nine, consisting of five deans and four faculty members, was appointed to assist the trustees in determining the currents of university teaching on the Morningside campus. For university president Nicholas Murray Butler, a prewar ardent internationalist, loyalty now became synonymous with national patriotism. “Men who feel that their personal convictions require them to treat the mature opinion of the civilized world without respect or with contempt,” he wrote, “may well be given an opportunity to do so from a private station and without the added influence and prestige of a university’s name.” And then he added this stern warning: “This is the university’s last and only warning to any among us, if such there be, who are not with whole heart and mind and strength committed to fight with us to make the world safe for democracy.”

As a result, distinguished professors such as James McKeen Cattell, Leon Fraser, Henry R. Mussey, and Ellery C. Stowell were told to leave—while the eminent historian Charles Beard, who supported the war, resigned in protest over the dictatorial actions of the Columbia Board of Trustees and its president. Upon Beard’s resignation, Dewey somberly told a reporter for the New York Times, that “I regard the action of Professor Beard as the natural consequence of the degrading action of the trustees last week. I personally regret the loss to the university of such a scholarly man and teacher of such rare power.” Of course, Dewey, despite his own disappointment at Butler’s highhandedness, refused to follow Beard’s noble example and leave.

Columbia’s actions did not stand alone. From mid-1917 to the summer of 1918, accusations of disloyalty and disregard for academic freedom occurred on a number of campuses across the nation. In July 1917, for example, the Nebraska State Council of Defense submitted to the University of Nebraska’s Board of Regents a list of twelve professors who were accused by this organization of promoting indifference or opposition to the war. The Board of Regents conducted an investigation. The Board disclosed that three of the professors believed in internationalism, refused to promote the sale of liberty bonds, and openly criticized some of their more patriotic colleagues. After a Board trial those three professors—Clark E. Persinger, E.B. Hoyt, and G.W.A. Luckey—were given the courtesy to resign or otherwise be dismissed outright the following June.

The witch hunt was now well underway. Scott Nearing, the noted antiwar socialist and author of the pamphlet, The Great Madness, was fired from his position at the University of Toledo in 1917 for criticizing preparedness efforts. He was subsequently indicted for treason and later acquitted at trial in 1919. At the University of Virginia, Leon R. Whipple, Director of the School of Journalism, was charged with disloyalty for a speech he made on November 20, 1917, entitled, “The Meaning of Pacifism,” in which he declared that the war would not remove the specter of autocracy nor make the world safe for democracy. His alleged crime: he was a pacifist. After a trial by the state’s Board of Visitors, Whipple was given his pink slip.

In September 1917, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents dismissed the chairman of its Political Science department, William A. Schaper, for stating that he did not wish to see the Hohenzollerns completely destroyed. In Maine, the Dean of the University’s law school was removed by the Board of Trustees in March of 1918, on the grounds that his lectures were tinged with pro-German sentiments. In the spring of 1918, when Department of Justice agents were roaming the streets of Ann Arbor, solely by coincidence, several University of Michigan faculty members were given the boot. An instructor of German at Vassar College, Miss Agatha Richrath, was arrested on charges that she believed the German invasion of Belgium was justified and the sinking of the Lusitania was because “the ship was carrying bullets for the murder of German fathers.” In April 1918, she was summarily dismissed and expeditiously replaced.

Although completely exonerated, moreover, professor of modern languages at small Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, E.A. Schimmel, was kidnapped from his apartment, tarred, and feathered by a local Knights of Liberty mob in the spring of 1918. For reasons unknown and rather awkwardly anyway, he foolishly managed to convince some locals that he was a spy; it did not help his case that he was of German ancestry.  J. J. Schlicker at Indiana State Teachers College, Terre Haute, was accused of pro-German sympathies and fired in 1918, despite obvious evidence that he was a loyal citizen; why he lost his position had more to do with his wife’s pacifism and his willingness to defend her personal beliefs. Cornell University was a bit more humanitarian; Henry W. Edgerton, a young professor of law, was granted an indefinite leave of absence in fall 1918, because he had registered as a conscientious objector.

In these instances and others not recorded, Trustees were wont to sanitize their college or university of any professor whose alleged loyalty was called into question. “Undoubtedly, a number of professors were suspended or dismissed to prove an institution’s loyalty,” historians H.C. Peterson and Gilbert Fite wrote some years ago. “Trustees were likely to get nervous,” they continued, “if they heard news reports of alleged disloyalty at their college or university.” Sadly, “It seemed to require the cleansing procedure of firing someone to show the community and the nation that their institution was properly nationalistic.”


This was the concern, which, previous to these incidents, led to the founding of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in 1915. Its creation was designed to send a strong message to those seeking to limit free speech on campus as well as statements on political and social issues outside the classroom (“extramural speech”). Unfortunately, the war and pressures for conformity impeded its efforts in that regard as it publicly abandoned a position of neutrality and “gave its support to suppression of freedom in matters relating to the war.” University officials considered this a blank check to investigate suspected professors while also disregarding the organization’s statement regarding due process.

However, in light of the war experience, AAUP made it its mission to ensure professors’ free speech rights. At its inception, the AAUP issued a Declaration of Principles establishing guidelines for what constitutes academic freedom. The AAUP’s policy statement on “Academic Freedom in Wartime” specifically cautioned: “When charges are brought against a member of a college or university faculty upon any grounds…the person accused should be entitled to have the charges against him stated in writing in specific terms, and to have a fair trial on those charges before either the judicial committee of the faculty, or a joint committee composed of an equal number of professors and trustees.” Embarrassed by its failure to uphold its stated commitment to academic freedom and not long after the Red Scare had ended in 1920, another revised statement was completed in 1925: Conference Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure. It further reinforced the colleges and universities position on the principle of free speech.

World War II and After

In 1940, AAUP revised once more and put forth its “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” which became the benchmark for interpreting how the First Amendment applies to college teachers. It strongly defended the right to free speech and protection for those college educators with respect to loyalty issues. During the Second World War, given that there was little dissent, loyalty and academic freedom matters did not collide with one notable exception.

That exception was the case of Teachers College, Columbia University professor George W. Hartmann. Hartmann was a full tenured professor of educational and social psychology. An avowed pacifist, Hartmann was one of the principal figures behind the Peace Now Movement, which proclaimed that an Allied military victory would not ensure a permanent peace unless accompanied by basic changes in the world power structure. It urged an immediate negotiated peace. In January 1944, Life Magazine ran a story allegedly implicating him as “a fascist, a jewbaiter, a seditionist and a traitor to the United States.” The negative publicity caused the university to dismiss him in May 1944; however, in December 1945, he was restored to his former position. Nevertheless, he sued Life on the grounds of libel but lost in the lower court as well as the Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit. Since he was restored to his former position the question of long-time financial loss became problematic. The psychological trauma this caused him, of course, cannot be calculated in terms of paper money and coins.

At the height of the post-World War II McCarthy scare and Korean War when many states began requiring teachers and other public employees to sign statements asserting they were not involved in any subversive groups a number of legal challenges were raised on First Amendment grounds. During this period the United States Supreme Court began to codify the notion of constitutional academic freedom, which gave greater legal protection to public college and university professors on the subject of loyalty oaths. Although it signaled an important victory for those in higher education it did not always guarantee that professors would not be held accountable by their employers in matters related to opposition to war. It would, of course, depend upon the college or university.

Vietnam War

That was indeed the case during the nation’s most controversial military engagement, the Vietnam War. While most readers may be under the impression that the 1950s and early 1960s Supreme Court rulings had finally settled the matter it was actually not the case. There were, in fact, some rare court rulings pertaining to college professors critical of the Vietnam War. In these instances, the results were mixed as in the cases of Colorado educator George Jones, Jr., Benjamin Stolberg in Connecticut, and Morris Starsky in Arizona. All three at the time were serving in tenure-track appointments but not yet afforded legal protections granted to their tenured colleagues. That, in and of itself, may be an instructive lesson for non-tenured professors who seek legal protection under the umbrella of academic freedom when criticizing U.S. military involvement.

In 1966, for instance, George Jones, Jr., former chairman of the philosophy department at Southern Colorado State College, was terminated. Jones, a pacifist, supported a student in his attempt to register for the draft as a conscientious objector, against his parents’ wishes. Jones filed a $300,000 lawsuit against the college president and board of trustees. In a 7-2 decision the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the federal judge’s ruling dismissing Jones on the grounds “that under Colorado statute, and apparently in the absence of a contractual provision or of tenure specifically provided by statute, the school and board of trustees has unlimited power to discharge teachers.” Jones was on a probationary appointment.

In contrast, an attempt was made to fire an assistant professor of Geography at Southern Connecticut State College. The Board of Trustees, at the behest of the college president Hilton C. Buley, fired Irving Stolberg because he had sent fellow faculty members an invitation to support a peace program and memorial service in New Haven. The court, in its decision, noted that Stolberg was unfairly discharged in retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights. In this instance, the burden was on the administration to prove the firing justified, which it had failed to do.

Interestingly, in the case of Morris Starsky at Arizona State University, he finally went to court in 1975 and sued the university after he found out that his dismissal in 1970 was due to the illegal efforts of the FBI and its COINTELPRO counterintelligence operation. Starsky, an assistant professor of philosophy who backed New Left activities on campus, was recommended for dismissal by the Faculty Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure. When it was revealed in court documents that the committee had been set up by the FBI to discredit the New Left and used it to silence Starsky, a federal judge ruled that Starsky had been fired illegally and awarded him a $15,000 settlement. After his firing, he did receive another appointment at San Diego State University

Perhaps the most interesting case, however, involved a tenured professor, which was almost unheard of since almost all professors who were targeted for their antiwar views were non-tenured. This matter involved H. Bruce Franklin, an Associate Professor of English and recognized Melville scholar, at Stanford University, which was widely reported in the press. Franklin, who was an avowed Maoist and also a former Air Force officer, was terminated by Stanford in a 5-2 vote after leading a demonstration protesting the U.S. invasion of Laos, which ultimately led to a campus riot. Despite his academic stature, he did not land another job until three years later. However, in 1985, with the assistance of the ACLU he filed an appeal in the state of California to recoup his salary for the three years it took him to secure another position. However, the state Court of Appeals upheld Stanford’s decision to fire him.

In most cases, which turned out to be not unusual, non-tenured professors who lost their jobs because of their antiwar actions did not go the judicial route; among some of the more notable were Jessie Lemisch at the University of Chicago, who participated in an anti-draft sit-in (“convictions interfered with scholarship”), the pacifist historian Staughton Lynd at Yale, who participated in antiwar actions and teach-ins, Richard Flacks, a sociologist also at the University of Chicago, who was instrumental in leading the New University movement, economist and labor specialist Wells Keddie at Penn State, who help found the New University chapter on campus, and Charles Marxer, a visiting professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Nebraska auditioning for a tenure-track offer, who organized the Nebraska Draft Resistance Union. What accounts for this?

The reason was because boards of trustees were careful to argue that they stood behind a professor’s free speech rights but questioned their scholarship and service. Furthermore, most were able to find a new position due to a plethora of jobs nationwide during the heyday of college and university expansion. As one contemporary antiwar activist Richard Ohrmann of Wesleyan recounted, “The idea and practices of academic freedom protected a lot of dissent and resistance during those years. Few of the dissenters were fired, almost none de-tenured. Many lost jobs before tenure, then found other jobs.” Still, for those young, non-tenured professors, as well the minuscule fraction de-tenured, who felt that academic freedom should have protected them, regardless, receiving another appointment was of little consolation to their values and ideals.


The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan certainly prompted widespread antiwar protest on college campuses and among professors. Historians also organized their own platform, Historians Against the War. However, while there have been cases litigated in the courts involving teachers who lost their positions for criticizing Iraq War 2, such has not been the case with professors in higher education. Despite what occurred during World War I and Vietnam, it appears that university and college administrators have finally recognized that the codification of academic freedom afforded professors is best left unchallenged when speaking truth to power. To a considerable extent, courts now have made it clear that freedom of inquiry and research and freedom of teaching are essential in a university setting for the advancement of knowledge and the discovery of truth. There is no “captive audience” given the legal definition of an adult in this instance. Yet can we be absolutely sure should another major conflict erupt? For non-tenured professors, especially, will loyalty, camouflaged as scholarship and service, be used as an instrument to circumvent free speech? Hopefully, time will not have to tell us.


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Hans-Joerg Tiede, University Reform: the Founding of the American Association of University Professors (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015)
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Stolberg v. Board of Trustees, 474 F. 2d 485 (2d Cir. 1973)
Carrie Deakin, “’A University Worthy of the Name’: Political Intellectuals and the New Left at Arizona State University,” http://nau/uploadedfiles/Academic/CAL/History/-Shared/Deakin%20pdf. (retrieved 10/10/2017)
Gus Archondo, “A Three-Part Analysis of the Antiwar Movement during the Vietnam War” (2016), (retrieved 10/10/2017) and “Apathy and Activism in the Heartland: The Antiwar Movement at the University of Nebraska, 1965-1970,” Peace & Change Vol. 42 (3) (July 2017), 383-409
Richard Ohrmann’s opinion piece, “Academic Freedom’s Best Days—Inside Higher Ed,” (retrieved 10/11/2017)
Kenneth J. Heineman, Campus Wars: The Peace Movement at American State Universities in the Vietnam Era (New York: New York University Press, 1993)
“The State,” LA Times, January 7, 1986 (retrieved 10/12/17)
Kenneth Lamont, “In the Matter of H. Bruce Franklin,” New York Times, January 23, 1972 (retrieved 10/12/17)
Rachelle Marshall, “The Bruce Franklin Affair,” The Progressive (May 1972), 27-29, (retrieved 10/11/2017).


Charles F. Howlett is Distinguished Professor of Education Emeritus, Molloy College

The Trump Administration Nuclear Weapons Policy Could Lead Us to Disaster

by Lawrence Wittner

In July 2017, by a vote of 122 to 1, with one abstention, nations from around the world attending a United Nations-sponsored conference in New York City voted to approve a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.  Although this Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons received little coverage in the mass media, its passage was a momentous event, capping decades of international nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements that, together, have reduced the world’s nuclear weapons arsenals by approximately 80 percent and have limited the danger of a catastrophic nuclear war.  The treaty prohibited all ratifying countries from developing, testing, producing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, using, or threatening to use nuclear weapons.

Curiously, though, despite official support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by almost two-thirds of the world’s nations, the Trump administration―like its counterparts in other nuclear-armed countries―regarded this historic measure as if it were being signed in a parallel, hostile universe.  As a result, the United States and the eight other nuclear powers boycotted the treaty negotiations, as well as the final vote.  Moreover, after the treaty was approved amid the tears, cheers, and applause of the UN delegates and observers, a joint statement issued by the UN ambassadors of the United States, Britain, and France declared that their countries would never become party to the international agreement.

One clear indication that the nuclear powers have no intention of dispensing with their nuclear arsenals is the nuclear weapons buildup that all of them are now engaged in, with the U.S. government in the lead.  Although the Trump administration inherited its nuclear weapons “modernization” program from its predecessor, that program―designed to provide new weapons for nuclear warfare, accompanied by upgraded or new facilities for their production―is constantly increasing in scope and cost. In October 2017, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the cost for the planned “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex over the next three decades had reached a staggering $1.2 trillion.  Thanks to the Trump administration’s plan to upgrade the three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad and build new cruise and ballistic missiles, the estimated cost of the U.S. nuclear buildup rose in February 2018 to $2 trillion.

In this context, the Trump administration has no interest in pursuing the nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, discussed or signed, that have characterized the administrations of all Democratic and Republican administrations since the dawn of the nuclear era.  Not only are no such agreements currently being negotiated, but in October 2018 the Trump administration, charging Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, announced a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from it.  Signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty removed all medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe, established a cooperative relationship between the two nations that led to the end of the Cold War, and served subsequently as the cornerstone of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms controls.

Although some Allied leaders joined Trump in questioning Russian compliance with the treaty, most criticized the U.S. pullout, claiming that treaty problems could be solved through U.S.-Russian negotiations. Assailing the U.S. action, which portended a nuclear weapons buildup by both nations, a spokesperson for the European Union declared:  “The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability.”  Nevertheless, Trump, in his usual insouciant style, immediately announced that the U.S. government planned to increase its nuclear arsenal until other nations “come to their senses.”

Of course, as Daniel Ellsberg has noted in his book, The Doomsday Machine, nuclear weapons are meant to be used―either to bully other nations into submission or to wage a nuclear war.  Certainly, that is President Trump’s view of them, as indicated by his startling nuclear threats.  In August 2017, angered by North Korea’s nuclear missile progress and the belligerent statements of its leaders, Trump warned that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States” or “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”  In January 2018, referring to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, Trump boasted provocatively that “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his.” Fortunately, largely thanks to the skillful diplomatic maneuvers of South Korean President Moon Jae-in―Trump’s threats of nuclear war against North Korea have recently ground to a halt, at least temporarily.

But they are now being redirected against Iran.  In May 2018, Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement with Iran that had been negotiated by the governments of the United States and other major nations. Designed to ensure that Iran did not develop nuclear weapons, the agreement, as UN inspectors reported, had been strictly complied with by that nation.  Even so, Trump, angered by other actions of the Iranian regime, pulled out of the agreement and, in its place, instituted punitive economic sanctions on Iran, accompanied by calls to overthrow its government.  When, in July, the Iranian president cautioned Trump about pursuing policies hostile to his nation, the U.S. president tweeted, in bold capitals: “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”  Just in case Iranians missed the implications of this extraordinary statement, Trump’s hawkish national security advisor, John Bolton, followed up by declaring:  “President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid.”

This obsession of the Trump administration with building nuclear weapons and threatening nuclear war underscores its unwillingness to join other governments in developing a sane nuclear policy.  Indeed, it seems determined to continue lurching toward unparalleled catastrophe.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article originally appeared on History News Network.

Bibliographic Guide to Conventional and Nuclear Armaments

by David Lincove

Readers of the Peace and Change blog who are interested in data sources of conventional and nuclear armaments will be interested in the bibliographic guide to key sources linked in this blog post.  In the guide, I link to the most extensive, systematic publications with statistical information compiled from publicly available sources.  Most are freely available on the internet.  The data sources are used to cite numerical information, often illustrated over a period of time, as evidence in research.  In addition, the sources generated studies assessing and comparing quantitative methodologies in armaments.  For example, after  UN Register of Conventional Arms became operational in 1992, researchers, such as Malcolm Chalmers, Siemon Wezeman, and Paul Holtom, studied its development and effectiveness to achieve its purpose of reducing secrecy and building confidence among nations to help maintain peace.  The internet has enhanced the public exposure of arms data, although the complications assessing and comparing the raw data from different countries limits its impact except for experts on armaments.


See “Key Sources of Multinational Data on Conventional and Nuclear ArmamentsReference and User Services Quarterly 58, 1(Fall 2018): 11-15 at 


New Essay on the “Peace History” Website: U.S. Participation in WWI

By Roger Peace

The United States today appears to be on a permanent war footing.  U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq in a never-ending “nation-building” project.  The U.S. conducts covert and overt military operations throughout the Greater Middle East and Africa.  The U.S. maintains about 800 military bases in over 70 countries.  The U.S. military budget is larger than that of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan combined.  Most Americans, as well as both major political parties, have come to accept this outsized military role in the world as normal and necessary.

To understand how the U.S. arrived at this permanent warfare state, it is helpful to travel back a century to examine how and why the U.S. became involved in World War I.  This war was significant, among other reasons, because it helped give birth to the military industrial complex and dependency of the U.S. economy on military spending; because it was underlain by secrecy and an elaborate propaganda campaign of the kind we have also seen in our contemporary era; and because it established the ideological formula for justifying U.S. foreign policies and wars that has continued to the present.

The latest essay on the “Peace History” website (U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide), authored by Charles Howlett, Jeremy Kuzmarov, and Roger Peace, looks deeply into the origins of U.S. involvement in this war and unpacks President Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic justifications for it.  The essay covers a number of themes:

  • how President Woodrow Wilson moved, step-by-step, toward U.S. entry into the war, all the while presenting himself as an apostle of peace;
  • the wide gap between the president’s grandiose idealism and actual policies and practices;
  • the horrors of modern warfare, in which modern weapons produced such high levels of destruction, death, and misery that war itself became an atrocity;
  • wartime repression, propaganda, and vigilantism on the home front, which undermined the foundations of democracy;
  • the seduction of liberal intellectuals in the service of war;
  • conscription, draft resistance, and the treatment of conscientious objectors;
  • the struggles of the peace movement to maintain U.S. neutrality, resist militarism, and survive wartime repression.

This essay also investigates U.S. geopolitical power interests operating beneath the veneer of idealism, following the lead of authors such as Robert E. Hannigan and Thomas Fleming. It would appear that President Wilson had three essential goals as the Great War unfolded in Europe:  (1) to assure that Great Britain and France would emerge as the victors; (2) to enable the United States to play a significant role in the construction of the postwar world order; and (3) to establish the U.S. as a major world power, equal to or greater than the imperial nations of Europe.

To ensure victory for the Allied Powers, the U.S. provided Great Britain and France with arms and aid during its 32 months of official neutrality; accepted the British blockade of Germany but vehemently protested the German submarine cordon around the British Isles; declined opportunities to join with other neutral nations in mediating the conflict; and undertook secret negotiations to bring the U.S. into the war under the false pretense of holding a peace conference.  Wilson made a choice for war.  Even after Germany began its unrestricted submarine warfare in the waters surrounding the British Isles in February 1917, Wilson could have avoided war by prohibiting U.S. ships and citizens from traveling in declared war zones, as suggested by Senator George Norris and others.

The fact that the United States itself was not in any danger of attack meant that the most reliable justification for war, national self-defense, was lacking.  The president thus chose to frame German attacks on U.S. merchant ships as an attack on America’s “honor” and, more broadly, as “warfare against mankind.”  He further embellished his justifications for war by stating that the U.S. would fight for “the rights of all mankind” and that “the world must be made safe for democracy.”  That the U.S. had no pressing national self-interest at stake was spun into a virtue by declaring that the U.S. had “no selfish ends to serve.”

President Wilson used these idealistic justifications to sell the war to the American people.  Over the next century, other presidents would do likewise, espousing righteous idealism to justify every kind of war and intervention.  While other presidents before and after have engaged in rhetorical obfuscations, Wilson’s were more significant, as he laid the basis for America’s future global role.

As with all the essays on the website, this essay is written for students and the general public.  It is introduced with a 12-point “Did you know?” section to stimulate interest.  It is organized thematically, with each section containing subheadings to highlight main issues.  The essay includes 163 images to enliven the narrative and offers occasional summaries when a complex set of factors is discussed.  Extensive endnotes allow for verification of information and identify primary and secondary sources.  Additional resources are noted in a linked Resource page, which also lists the number of pages in each section of the essay, should professors, instructors, and teachers wish to assign all or part of this 62,500-word essay.

Information about the value-based perspective of the website can be found on the Home page.  The website is unique in seeking to integrate three academic approaches:  progressive “revisionist” history (critiques of foreign policy), interdisciplinary peace and justice studies (normative value orientation), and global/international history (non-nationalistic perspective).  Its purpose from an educational vantage point is to assist in the cultivation of critical evaluation skills, such that questions of right and wrong, truth and lies, justice and injustice are not excluded from curricula but placed at the center of discussion and debate.  I hope that educators will find the essays useful in this regard.

The U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide website is sponsored by the Peace History Society and the Historians for Peace and Democracy.

Revisiting Peace Research in the 21st Century: Reflections on an Interdisciplinary Field with a Mission

By Harry Targ

Personal Reflections

As I grow older I ground more and more of my teaching and writing in the context of my own professional history. I studied journalism and political science in college in the late 1950s and earned a masters degree in political science in 1962. After short stints in the military and working for the social security administration, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in political science, achieved in 1967. Lacking a political vision much beyond liberalism and devoid of any practical political work, I thought being a professor would make a nice career.

The mid-1960s was a time of ferment. Brave young people, from the South and the North, launched a heroic campaign to end Jim Crow segregation in the South. From the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August, 1964 authorizing President Johnson to escalate war in Southeast Asia, to the daily bombings over Vietnam (Operation Rolling Thunder) in 1965 to 540,000 troops in South Vietnam by 1968, struggles over the war in Vietnam and foreign policy, in general, enveloped the society. The 60s was a time also when the last vestiges of colonialism were being dismantled. Only Portuguese Africa resisted change as did white minority regimes in the former Rhodesia and South Africa. In the Western Hemisphere, the Cuban revolution represented the hope of humankind for the construction of a better world.

It was an exciting time to be alive, to become politicized, and to initiate a teaching and research career. I was drawn to the study of international relations and United States foreign policy within political science. 


Social Science Paradigms: Realism, Behavioralism, and Modernization

I had studied international relations, foreign policy, and diplomatic history in college. My “radical” teachers in college were critical of the foreign policies of presidents Truman and Eisenhower. They also condemned the most simplistic versions of the Cold War explanation of world affairs, and the overly zealous branding of all critics of United States foreign policy as being “communists.”

I was influenced by my professors to see the world through the lens of “the theory of political realism.” Foundational theorists who shaped the discourse on international relations included British historian E.H. Carr (1964), theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1947), retired diplomat George Kennan (1957), and political scientist Hans Morgenthau (1960). The theory of political realism they propounded drew upon the classical writings of ancestors such as Thucydides, St. Augustine, Thomas Hobbes, Machiavelli, and James Madison (see Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff, 1971). Each in their own way saw war and violence as emanating from human nature, drives for power, greed, and personal honor. In a world of each against all, military capabilities, “balances of power,” and other devices whereby the power of one could be checked by the power of another constituted the tools for muting, but never eliminating, war and violence.

The contemporary realists, for example, Kennan and Morgenthau were critics of United States foreign policy not because the U.S. was interventionist or because the American government had launched an arms race with the former Soviet Union but because these activities were defended in the name of promoting freedom and democracy rather than “national interest” and “security.” The problem with the anti-communist proclamations of the day and the promises of human liberation they articulated was that they were not achievable. There must be, the realists said, a fit between goals, rhetoric, and policy. And the number one goal that any nation must pursue is advancing national interest and security. In a world of perpetual violence, this was all that could be achieved.

While most instructors of undergraduate courses on international relations used Hans Morgenthau’s classic text, Politics Among Nations (it survived eleven editions), newer currents were emerging in the graduate study of international relations. Following the Soviet launch of Sputnik and an emerging U.S. cultural celebration of science, President Kennedy promised that an American would be on the moon by the end of the sixties. Perhaps most importantly because of the tilt in Defense Department policies and personnel from old-fashioned military wisdom to modern scientific management, the study of international relations began to shift toward the “scientific study of international relations.” Now, social science researchers needed to go beyond a description of political events and policies to explain them and predict future outcomes. The new study of international relations should embrace scientific techniques: posit hypotheses, operationalize them clearly by identifying variables that could be measured, and “test” the hypotheses by examining the data using statistical techniques. The behavioral science model became the dominant paradigm throughout the discipline of political science and significantly so in the study of international relations (Kaplan, 1966; Targ, 1983).

While several theories became fashionable in the study of international relations and comparative politics perhaps none would have a greater impact on social science and public policy than modernization theory (see Nils Gilman, 2003). Starting in the 1950s with various formulations of structural functionalism, leading social science scholars from Harvard, MIT, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Chicago developed a paradigm to explain why the “newly” independent nations of the world were experiencing birth pangs of violence and poverty, why they were not democracies, and why subversive elements, such as anti-regime guerrilla fighters, were actively trying to undermine development. The modernization theorists studied the development of Europe and North America and concluded that societies needed to develop secular middle-class societies, governed by leaders with scientific and technical training. At a certain stage, infrastructure development, middle-class formation, the professionalization of elites, and qualitative shifts from theological to scientific points of view would yield democratic political institutions. When scholars spoke about public affairs, many of them suggested that that process of modernization was what motivated an activist United States foreign policy.

Upon reflection then, the 1960s was a decade of political turmoil, on college campuses an awakening from the somnolence of the 50s, and in the larger world an escalation of the arms race, U.S. global interventionism, and the Vietnam war. Parallel to these political changes a new social science was emerging as institutions of higher education exploded in numbers, interest in social science expanded, and the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and other sources began to fund large-scale projects of relevance to international relations and development. In this context realism (although declining in popularity), behavioralism and modernization grew to dominate the study of international relations.


Discovering Peace Research  

 I wrote about these contradictory currents at the time (Targ, 1971, 207) suggesting thatstudents and young faculty have begun to re-evaluate the dominant motifs of scientific inquiry: the relationship of knowledge to U.S. foreign policy, the interaction of knowledge and social control, and the adequacy and/or inadequacy of knowledge as agenda and guide to social change.”

Energized by these impulses, as a student and young professor, my curiosity gravitated toward “peace research.” I was first attracted to two prominent journals; The Journal of Conflict Resolution, produced at the Center for Research on Conflict Resolution (CRCR) at the University of Michigan, and The Journal of Peace Research, the Institute for Peace Research, Oslo, Norway.

The JCR published articles that used the newer “scientific methods,” were theory and data-driven, and implied that the dynamics of  interpersonal, national, and international conflict might be similar or “isomorphic,” so that scholars might study conflict at these different levels of analysis to discover the underlying causes of conflict and violence. JCR had a distinguished list of contributors and editors representing psychology, social psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and mathematics.

The JPR initiated publication in 1964 with Johan Galtung as editor. In its first issue, Galtung described two possible worlds; one he referred to as a condition of General and Complete War (GCW). In this world, cooperation occurred within groups, but conflict characterized between-group interactions. Individual and group (and nation) actors were motivated totally by individualistic goals; identification was with self alone. In this state of GCW there were no effective constraints on the use of force.

Another possible condition, Galtung posited, was one of General and Complete Peace (GCP). This was a condition in which human integration prevailed, the harmony of individuals, groups, and nations was a characteristic feature of human existence, and violence was minimized. In this initial issue of JPR, Galtung declared that the peace research project was to study how to move from GCW to GCP (an end to violence and integration of human society). Peace research should study violence in its interpersonal, national, and international manifestations. It should address improving the human condition. It should be interdisciplinary, normative and futuristic as well. And, of course, the peace research project should use the latest of scientific techniques to study the movement from GCW to GCP.

The growth of influence of these journals paralleled the expansion of networks of professional peace research/peace studies associations. These included the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), the Canadian Peace Research Association, the Consortium on Peace Research Education and Development (COPRED), now the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA), and the Peace Science Society. Peace studies caucuses were created in professional associations including those of social psychologists, international relations scholars, and sociologists.

As I acquainted myself more with peace research I became aware of the intellectual and activist tradition from which it evolved. First, peace research evolved from a long history of peace education. Religious pacifists and peace activists long preached and taught about alternatives to violence. Peace education often developed in parallel with anti-war activism. From Congregational, Unitarian, and Quaker meetings to anti-slavery and anti-war movements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, activists as different as Henry David Thoreau, Jane Addams, Mark Twain, and Eugene V. Debs wrote and spoke about peace.

Second, peace studies of various kinds evolved out of practical diplomatic achievements such as the Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907 which codified elements of international law. These were followed after World War I with the first academic curricula on international law.

Third, a body of peace research scholarship was published in the period from the 1930s to the 1960s that served as the model for the peace research tradition that followed.  David Mitrany, a British scholar, wrote A Working Peace System, in 1943, which analyzed the prospects for global integration based upon cross-national economic, social, and functional ties between peoples. He provided a framework that stimulated the study of regional “integration” in Europe, Africa, and Latin America in the 1960s.

Major data-based studies of war were published between 1940 and the late 1960s that dramatically advanced the idea that data on wars, their frequency, causes, and consequences could be accumulated such that various hypotheses relating these to each other could be tested. Quincy Wright, the political scientist, published a 2,000-page data-rich book on the history of war called A Study of War (1942). Lewis Richardson, a retired meteorologist, gathered data on wars from 1815 to 1945, Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (1960). Pitirim Sorokin’s four-volume, Social and Cultural Dynamics (1957), included historical data on internal and international wars over time, relating the frequency of such wars to cultural attributes. In the 1950s and 60s Rudolph Rummel gathered an array of data, from his Dimensionality of Nations Project (1968) as did long-time political scientist/peace researcher J. David Singer who published books and articles based on The Correlates of War Project (1972).

In addition to the rich history, peace research was increasingly stimulated by the recognition of the world’s greatest arms race, the growing danger of a nuclear war that could destroy humankind, and an intense global ideological struggle defined as between “communism” and “the free world.” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists portrayed a clock with the hands estimating how close the world was to midnight, the hour of nuclear apocalypse. Each crisis would lead the editors of the journal to move the hands on the clock to the top of the hour.


Peace Research Battles: Traditionalists vs. Radicals

Despite the growing interest in peace research, dominant paradigms in international relations, political science, and history continued to reify power as the central concept driving political analysis. This was so even among those who had gravitated to peace research.

The world was understood as one dominated by two superpowers overseeing two competing power blocs. The bipolar world was a particular variant of the state system that was created in the seventeenth century. The ultimate units of analysis were separate and distinct nation-states. Since a few were always more powerful than all others, international relations became the study of powerful states.

For the most part, traditional peace researchers concerned themselves with the conflict between powerful states, particularly because of the danger of nuclear war. For them, conflict, therefore, was symmetrical, based on subjective factors such as misperceptions, misunderstandings, and miscommunications, and involved roughly equal adversaries. (The work of Roger Fisher and Charles Osgood on negotiations and strategies for de-escalating conflicts is relevant here (2010). Because of the arms race of the post-World War II period, then, they fashioned a peace research that was committed to conflict management or resolution among the big powers. Their goal was achieving negative peace or war avoidance.

For other peace researchers, this scholarly lens on the world seemed increasingly divorced from political reality (Eide, 1972). The dreams of human liberation that came with the rapid decolonization of the African continent were being derailed as what Kwame Nkrumah called “neo-colonialism” replaced formal colonialism. Gaps between rich and poor peoples and nations began their dramatic increase. Covert operations, military coups, big power interventions in poor countries increased. Wars ensued against peoples in South and East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. And multinational corporations were spreading their operations all across the globe, initiating the first great wave of outsourcing of production and jobs. For many Americans and Asians, the most wrenching experience of all these manifestations of global disarray was the Vietnam War.

In this historical context, radical peace researchers began to argue that our understanding of these phenomena required a significant paradigm shift. If we wanted to understand the world in order to change it we needed to break out of the state-centric, great powers, conflict management conception of international relations. We needed to develop theories and prescriptions that helped us understand the world we lived in so that we could work on the reduction of the enormous gaps between human potential and human actuality; and, therefore, structural violence.

These peace researchers called structural violence the difference between how humanity could live, secure in economic and social justice, versus how most people live. They asked questions about the structures and processes that prohibited the full realization of human possibility. Peace researchers also saw an inextricable connection between direct violence, or killing, which was the more traditional subject of peace research, and structural violence, which involved the institutionalization of human misery.

Further, they hypothesized that there were connections between imperialism, the workings of capitalism, patriarchy, institutionalized racism, social and economic injustice and both direct and structural violence.

More specifically, radical peace researchers began to see that both direct and structural violence resulted from a global political/economic/ and cultural system in which Centers of Power within and between countries controlled and exploited Periphery countries and people. A system of imperialism existed whereby ruling classes in core countries collaborated with ruling classes in peripheral countries to exploit masses of people. This was a system that had its roots in the rise of capitalism out of feudalism. It was a system of imperial rule. It was a system of patriarchy. It was a system of institutionalized racism. And wars were the result of struggles for imperial control and domination. Radical peace researchers borrowed ideas from dependency theory and grafted them onto traditional theories of imperialism to offer an alternative paradigm to the state-centric, power-driven model that dominated the academy and political punditry (Galtung, 1971).


Subsequent Developments in Peace Research and Peace Studies

 Since the 1960s there have been paradigmatic disputes in many of the social sciences and humanities. The title of an old book by Robert Lynd, poses the question that has been raised many times: “Knowledge for What?” (1970) Debates about values used in the selection of what to research and for what purposes surfaced in radical caucuses in philosophy, sociology, political science, history, psychology, and the modern language association. Also, debates were forthcoming in international studies about the substance of the field of study and the class/race/gender perspectives reflected in dominant paradigms.

Peace research/peace studies has grown particularly since the 1960s. Numerous journals addressing peace research have been produced. About 250 colleges and universities have undergraduate programs in peace studies. A few universities have peace studies or similarly defined graduate programs. International conferences, often organized under the aegis of IPRA, have been held all over the world and well-known peace research scholars from every continent have participated in academic conferences and published original research.

Some peace researchers have combined their interest in peace studies with parallel and equally interdisciplinary pursuits. Berenice Carroll, for example, has been a leading feminist scholar and while participating in the Committee on Peace Studies at Purdue University also served as the Chairperson of a graduate and undergraduate program in Women’s Studies.

Growth and development of peace studies from both research and educational standpoints has raised stark conceptual debates. Rank-ordering of tasks and other outstanding issues of dispute remain.

First, there has always been a tension between those who view the study of peace in higher education as primarily a scholarly task and those who see the research agenda for peace as ancillary to activism. In addition, different emphases have emerged between those who support research versus those who highlight teaching (including peace pedagogies from K through 12).

Second, there is a tension between those who see their work as principally empirical and others who argue for the centrality of normativity: basically debating whether research and teaching should address what is or what ought to be.

Third, the debate continues on foundational concepts: violence and peace. Particularly, peace researchers and activists split on whether priorities should be placed on issues of direct violence or structural violence. In addition, questions exist about whether the war problem can be resolved before we solve the social injustice problem.

Fourth, issues have been raised about the possible intersections that can be created between the peace research organizing concepts, violence and peace, and organizing concepts in Marxist, Feminist, and Critical Race theoretical literatures.

Fifth, sectors of the peace research community argue for a field of study that is framed by principles of non-violence. Analyses of what is, what should be, and how to get there, for these scholars and activists is derived from reflections on the literature of non-violence. Others emphasize the electoral arena and a few still draw upon the literature of revolution. In any case, many argue, peace researchers need to gather data and analyze social movements.

Sixth, the issues of dispute described above between “traditional” and “radical” research have not disappeared. Central to these is the place of conflict resolution and mediation as tools of peacebuilding.

Finally, peace studies programs, as with many interdisciplinary and non-traditional programs, are and will be under careful scrutiny because of the economic crisis in higher education. As major universities are required to shrink their budgets many have called for eliminating “frills” in the curriculum. “Frills”, it is understood, refer to liberal arts courses and particularly non-traditional and interdisciplinary programs. In addition, there have been rightwing attacks on all interdisciplinary programs by flamboyant opportunists such as David Horowitz. Three Indiana professors were named to Horowitz’s august list of the 101 most dangerous professors (2006). All three were affiliated with Peace Studies programs.


Where do we go from here?

For a young academic who was slowly drawn into the maelstrom of anti-war activities in the 1960s and as a young academic who desired to link his teaching and research to the activism of that point in time, peace research provided an intellectual anchor, a model for integrating theory and practice, and an academic community that could stimulate intellectual development. That tradition and the debates raised within it, such as what we mean by violence and peace, are as relevant today as in the past. We must organize to defend the viability of disciplines such as Peace Research as they are subject to various political attacks. In addition;

First, peace research must continue to be a model for engaged scholarship. It should draw upon issues of the reduction of violence, improving the human condition, and recognizing the potential strengths of the disempowered and should be guided by Berenice Carroll’s deconstruction of the “cult of power” and its replacement with a concept of empowerment (1972).

Second, we need in our scholarship to emphasize the centrality of workers, women, people of color, and all so-called marginalized people as shapers of history, or at least to recognize their role in creating history.

Third, we need to engage in research projects that might help individuals, groups, and classes gain self-confidence and strength in their social projects.

Four, we need to extend our scholarship to the study and celebration of those who have chosen the path to empowerment and the evaluation of their relative successes and failures. This would not be an exercise in romanticism but rather an exercise in developing a more sophisticated understanding of history and change.

Five, we need to build our theories and our research skills through active engagement in the process of social change. Theoretical validation comes from engagement, not withdrawal.

Six, we need to relate models of empowerment to all sectors of society. We cannot embrace the issue of competence, strength, and self-actualization for one constituency and use traditional models of domination to try to understand other parallel constituencies. Here is where understanding the connections between class, race, and gender play a particularly important role.

Finally, peace research and activism should broaden its lens on the world to explore and assess movements for radical change everywhere, including the broad array of movements arising in the Global South. Also, we need to reflect on the global significance of non-national indigenous movements, cross-national forms of worker and women’s organizations, and the exciting array of new campaigns around land and factory occupations. Perhaps most of all we need to assess the theory and practice of what is called 21st-century socialism.



Carr, E.H. The Twenty Years’ Crisis: 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, Harper and Row, 1964.

Carroll, Berenice, “Peace Research: The Cult of Power,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, No. 4, December, 1972, 585-617.

Deutsch, Karl. W, the analysis of International Relations, Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Dougherty, James and Robert  Pfaltzgraff, Contending Theories of International Relations, Lippincott, 1971.

Eide, Asbjorn, “Dialogue and Confrontation in Europe,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, No. 4, December, 1972, 511-523.

Fisher, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton, “Getting to Yes,” in  David Barash ed. Approaches to Peace, oxford Press, 2010, 71-78.

Galtung, Johan, “A Structural Theory of Imperialism,” Journal of Peace Research, No. 2, 1971, 81-119.

Gilman, Nils, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America, Johns Hopkins, 2003.

Kaplan, Morton, “The New Great Debate: Traditionalism vs. Science in International Relations,”  World Politics, October, 1966.

Kennan, George, American Diplomacy, 1900-1950, Mentor, 1957.

Lynd, Robert, Knowledge for What?  Princeton University Press, 1970.

Mitrany, David, A Working Peace System, Quadrangle, 1966.

Morgenthau, Hans, Politics Among Nations, Knopf, 1960.

Niebuhr, Reinhold, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics, Scribners, 1947.

Osgood, Charles, “Disarmament Demands GRIT,” in David Barash ed. Approaches to Peace, Oxford, 2010, 78-83.

Richardson, Lewis, Statistics of Deadly Quarrels, Quadrangle, 1960.

Rummel Rudolph, “The Relationship Between  National Attributes and Foreign Conflict Behavior,” in J.David Singer ed., Quantitative International Politics: Insights and Evidence, Free Press, 1968.

Singer, J.David and Melvin Small, The Wages of War 1816-1965, A Statistical Handbook, John Wiley, 1972.

 Sorokin, Pitirim, Social and Cultural Dynamics, Porter Sargent, 1957.

Targ, Harry R., International Relations in a World of Imperialism and Class Struggle, Schenkman, 1983.

Targ, Harry R., “Social Science and a New Social Order,” Journal of Peace Research, No. 3, 1971.

Wright, Quincy, A Study of War, University of Chicago, 1942.


Harry Targ is Professor of Political Science and Coordinator of the Committee on Peace Studies at Purdue University. 

Bernadette Devlin: The Disparaged Woman of the Troubles

By Katherine Behnke

Bernadette Devlin became the youngest Member of British Parliament in 1969 at twenty-one years old. On January 31, 1972, House of Commons’ protocol did not allow Devlin to recount what she witnessed between the Irish nationalists and British paratroopers on what became known as Bloody Sunday. In frustration, she crossed the room and hit Reginald Maulding, the British Home Secretary, in the face. The aftermath Devlin encountered as a result of her actions toward Maulding highlights the gender order in Northern Ireland during the violent era from 1968 to 1998, known as the Troubles.

I recently completed an online exhibit about Bloody Sunday, the deadly civil rights march on January 30, 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland that became a turning point in the Troubles. While researching the exhibit, I discovered the lack of scholarship written exclusively on Devlin, showing the disparity between the remembrance of women and men in the Troubles. Male authors have written many of the secondary sources, and plenty of books exist either written by or about men who participated in the Troubles, such as Austin Currie and Martin McGuiness. Academics Tim Pat Coogan and Feargal Cochrane and authors Don Mullan and Douglas Murray mention Devlin when discussing the Troubles, but only a book written by Devlin herself from 1969, a thesis focused on Devlin to understand Northern Ireland during this time written by Barbara Ann Oney in 1972 and edited publications of her speeches comprise the sources which focus on her exclusively.[1] In popular culture, filmmaker, Lelia Doolan, made a 2011 film called Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey that premiered at the BFI London Film Festival with the specific goal to keep Devlin from being forgotten in Irish history.[2] Investigating this lack of scholarship on Devlin highlights the need to include her in the history of the Troubles rather than finding excuses, such as her critical statements, radical actions or lapses in her memory, as justifications to exclude her.

Bernadette Devlin and Bloody Sunday  

Growing in prominence during the Troubles of Northern Ireland, Devlin’s political career began at a young age. Nationalist Catholics and unionist Protestants disagreed over whether Northern Ireland should unite with the Republic of Ireland or remain a part of the United Kingdom.[3] After building a presence as part of the civil rights movement, Devlin won the election to become the Member of Parliament for Mid-Ulster in 1969. Her unionist critics, who called her “Castro in a miniskirt,” began to grow in number as she sharply criticized anyone who discriminated against the nationalists in Northern Ireland, including the police and the British parliamentary elite.[4] Also, by 1969, Devlin had already written a book about her life thus far called The Price of My Soul to explain how Northern Ireland’s economic, social and political problems created the public’s fascination with Bernadette Devlin.[5] Although she may not have enjoyed living in the public eye, her story is neglected by scholars.

Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972, highlights how the press dealt with Devlin. What began as a civil rights march against internment, the arrest of suspected members of paramilitary groups without a trial, became deadly after the British soldiers and nationalist protestors met in the streets of Derry.[6] Although the Stormont government had banned public processions, nationalist marchers met anyway, and shooting began after the British Parachute Regiment tried to block off the city centre.[7] In total, fourteen men died, and the debate over who started the shooting lasted for decades.[8] Devlin attracted the attention of the press after she hit the British Home Secretary in the face at Westminster the next day.[9] Afterwards, the press asked her whether her emotions played a role in her decision to hit Maulding. Devlin responded with, “It wasn’t an emotional reaction. It was quite coldly and calmly done.”[10] Instead of focusing on the events Devlin saw on Bloody Sunday that led her to her reaction to Maudling, the press used her actions to criticize her. Their criticism aligns with political scientist Christine Sylvester’s argument that historically women have not been seen as soldiers because they are not emotionally prepared.[11]

Devlin’s male counterparts did not experience the same level of criticism from the press about their emotions. Martin McGuinness, another controversial figure of the Troubles at this time due to his membership in the Provisional Irish Republican Army, received the blame for firing the first shot at Bloody Sunday.[12] Although he may not have liked what the authors wrote, McGuinness’s story received attention, such as Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston’s Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government.[13] McGuinness received criticism for his involvement in the Troubles, but his emotions were never mentioned as motivation for his actions. Therefore, this brief comparison gives insight into the gender bias Devlin received.

Devlin’s memory has come into question many times over the years. Austin Currie, who rose in the civil rights movement with Devlin, wrote his autobiography in 2004.[14] Currie disagreed with Devlin’s account of a civil rights march near Coalisland on August 24, 1968. Devlin claimed in her 1969 book that men stopped at pubs along the march’s route, and they became very drunk.[15] However, Currie stated that only one bar existed on the route, and his friend, who marched with Currie that day, claimed the pub was closed when he tried to use the restroom there.[16] In this way, Currie became skeptical of Devlin’s presence at the march even though he wrote decades after the Troubles while Devlin wrote her book in 1969.

In his book, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry, Douglas Murray, an author and political journalist, recounts what happened on Bloody Sunday and the Saville Inquiry. While he uses witness statements, tribunal sittings and Lord Saville’s final report, he does not cite individual parts in his book, but rather, he lists the sources used in each chapter at the end of the book. Therefore, he provides valuable information, but Murray does not include specific citations. He directs his readers to go to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry website to find all the evidence he uses in this book. He claims that on January 31, 1972 in Parliament Devlin recalled a Tory Member of Parliament hitting her, resulting in another Member of Parliament hitting the Tory, and that as she left she observed “a pile of MPs literally boxing on the floor of the House.”[17] Murray does not identify a source for Devlin’s account. However, he then goes on to cite Hansard, the official record of the House, as having a different account of the day. It has different Members of Parliament stating their opinions either in support or opposition to Devlin hitting Maulding. Hansard contains no account of further fighting.[18] While Murray references Hansard, his claims lack validity due to his absence of citations.

At the Saville Inquiry, the Counsel questioned Devlin’s memory again. Due to decades passing between Bloody Sunday and the Saville Inquiry, many witnesses who testified also had trouble remembering events.[19] To her credit, Devlin conceded in her testimony that she had an “unreliable memory.”[20] Multiple Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) organizers and Derry civilians recalled in their testimonies of seeing Devlin at the march.[21] When the Inquiry brought up a Times interview from January 31, 1972 that quoted Devlin discussing an eight-year-old boy being shot in the back and a film clip from the same day of her stating that a young girl had also been shot in the back, Devlin could not justify her false claims.[22] Therefore, these accounts saw Devlin stretching the truth based off claims she heard from other people present on January 30 in order to show the nationalist protestors were the victims of the day. Lord Saville ultimately concluded that the British soldiers fired unprovoked into the crowd of protestors.[23] While her recollection of events may prove problematic, Devlin’s lapses in memory do not serve as an excuse for excluding her from the Troubles in Northern Ireland narrative. Her honesty in her memory failures should be admired, especially when Devlin was asked to remember events from decades earlier.

In conclusion, Bernadette Devlin deserves recognition for her role in Northern Ireland. Critics and scholars appear to use her passion about the presence of British soldiers in Northern Ireland, her radical actions and her lapses in memory of past events as justification for excluding her contributions to the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Devlin had many flaws, but an account of her life should not be dismissed from history because her actions as a woman may seem radical to some in society. Devlin played a critical role in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and scholars need to write about Devlin, to follow filmmaker Lelia Doolan’s lead, in order to preserve Devlin’s contribution to the history of the Troubles. From a young age, Devlin became dedicated to making Northern Ireland a better country, and her life has been full of events during and after the Troubles that require further analysis.


[1] Barbara Ann Oney, “Bernadette Devlin as a Communicator for Social Change within Northern Ireland” (master’s thesis, Ohio State University, 1972), 10.

[2] Maggie O’Kane, “A new film asks ‘where is Bernadette Devlin,’” The Guardian, last modified October 14, 2011,

[3] Feargal Cochrane, Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 4-5.

[4] Cochrane, Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace, 42.

[5] Bernadette Devlin, The Price of My Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), vii.

[6] Cochrane, Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace, 59.

[7] Douglas Murray, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry (London: Biteback Publishing, 2011), 30.

[8] Don Mullan, Bloody Sunday: Massacre in Northern Ireland-The Eyewitness Accounts (Niwot: Robert Rinehart Publishers, 1997), picture and BBC, “Bloody Sunday in maps,” BBC News, last modified March 17, 2010,

[9] Cochrane, Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace, 42.

[10] BBC. “Bernadette Devlin attacks British Home Secretary,” last modified January 27, 2012, accessed November 20, 2017,

[11] Christine Sylvester, War as Experience: Contributions from international relations and feminist analysis (New York: Routledge, 2013), 38.

[12] Murray, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry, 241.

[13] Ibid., 232.

[14] Ibid., 42.

[15] Devlin, The Price of My Soul, 92-3.

[16] Austin Currie, All Hell Will Break Loose, (Dublin: The O’Brien Press, 2004), 104-5.

[17] Murray, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry, 75.

[18] Ibid., 76.

[19] Murray, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry, 240.

[20] Ibid., 86.

[21] Murray, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry, 78-9.

[22] Ibid., 86-9.

[23] Ibid., 303.



Amazon. “Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry.”

BBC. “Bernadette Devlin attacks British Home Secretary.” BBC One. Last modified January 27, 2012.

BBC. “Bloody Sunday in maps.” BBC News. Last modified March 17, 2010.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

Cochrane, Feargal. Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

Currie, Austin. All Hell Will Break Loose. Dublin: The O’Brien Press, 2004.

Devlin, Bernadette. The Price of My Soul. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969.

Goodreads. “The Price of my Soul.” Goodreads Inc. Last modified 2018.

Mullan, Don. Bloody Sunday: Massacre in Northern Ireland-The Eyewitness Accounts. Niwot: Robert Rinehart Publishers, 1997.

Murray, Douglas. Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry. London: Biteback Publishing, 2011.

O’Kane, Maggie. “A new films asks ‘where is Bernadette Devlin.’” The Guardian. Last modified October 14, 2011.

Oney, Barbara Ann. “Bernadette Devlin as a Communicator for Social Change within Northern Ireland.” Master’s thesis, Ohio State University, 1972.

Publishers Weekly. “The Troubles: Ireland’s Ordeal, 1966-1995 and the Search for Peace.” PW.

Sylvester, Christine. War as Experience: Contributions from international relations and feminist analysis. New York: Routledge, 2013.

University of Kent. “Professor Feargal Cochrane.” Last modified September 11, 2017.

Wikipedia. “Don Mullan.” Last modified December 23, 2017.

Katherine Behnke is a master’s student at Cleveland State University.

Politics of Peace and Gender + Digital Humanities

By Shelley Rose

For a couple years now, department colleagues have encouraged me to find a space where my research in protest movements and gender intersected with my interests in digital humanities and pedagogy. The product of those conversations is a course I offered in Fall 2017, “The Politics of Peace and Gender.” Excited by the possibility of sharing my passion for these fields with my students, I had three main goals:

  1. Focus the course on the interdisciplinary work of geographers, political scientists, sociologists, historians, anthropologists, musicologists, and activists;
  2. Emphasize the transferable skills our department and the AHA argue are an essential part of history education;
  3. Pilot this course as a methods course for a future certificate or minor program in digital humanities at CSU.

Here is the description from the syllabus:

This course investigates perceptions of peace and gender in politics, drawing on insights from international relations and human rights history to study gendered conceptualizations of peace as “feminine” and assumptions that militarism and war are historically “masculine.” The chronology of the course begins with Bertha von Suttner’s pacifist novel Lay Down your Arms! (1889) and ends in the present day. Through primary and secondary research, students will evaluate the importance of gender analysis in the study of war and its opponents. In particular, this course emphasizes the various roles of men and women participating in protest events and the spaces they choose occupy. The course fosters a transnational perspective, highlighting different historical and geographical contexts such as 19th– century nationalism in Europe, the experience and aftermath of World War I, international debates around disarmament including nuclear disarmament, gendered violence during the dirty wars in Latin America, and more recent mass transnational protest events such as the Women’s March on Washington and the Occupy Movement.

“Politics of Peace and Gender” enrolled 13 undergraduates, 2 graduate students, and 3 “Project 60” students. This was one of the most academically diverse groups of students I have ever taught in an upper-level history course. Not only did students range in technical ability, they came to the course from various majors and programs including Asian Studies, Black Studies, Education, English, Gender and Women’s Studies, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Social Studies. Early in the semester, I adopted the strategy of pulling key terms from our daily readings and posting them on the course chat (in this case we used university-supported Microsoft Teams). I also wrote the term list on the whiteboard in the classroom before each discussion. While I took attendance, students could walk to the board and put a checkmark next to the term(s) they wanted to be sure we reviewed during our session. This turned out to be a valuable exercise due to the interdisciplinary nature of both the materials and students. For instance, a term like “thick description” is familiar to history and anthropology students, but often unfamiliar to psychologists and others in the room.

In order to emphasize transferable skills, I approached this course as a digital methods course where students created an Omeka exhibit on a protest event of their choice as a final project. I drew heavily on my experience with project-based learning (PBL) and used the student-created exhibits from the Colored Conventions Project as a model to design a series of weekly skill-based labs that provided a foundation for the final project. I thought carefully about the branding for this course, and ultimately decided to use the word “lab” for work sessions. While the idea of a laboratory is borrowed from STEM fields, I use it to emphasize that these sessions are a time to experiment with digital methods. I made a conscious effort to convey to my students that it was ok to stumble, or even fail, when creating digital content – just like many scientists.

I love that digital humanities methods and projects challenge the assumption among academics and students that all assignments must represent a “finished” product. I stress to my students that it is fine to have work in progress. After all, academics present their own work at conferences before polishing ideas into an article or book. This is the reason why I grade labs separately from the final project (which deviates slightly from the traditional PBL model). My goal is to provide students with space to grow and, I hope, to be more courageous in their final project. Students were able to use network diagrams, maps, and other elements from their labs, but they were not required to use all of them in order to preserve the element of choice that is considered key to PBL.

Project-based learning calls for a public product for the final projects. The “Politics of Peace and Gender,” student exhibits are posted on a public Omeka site. All students were required to present their exhibit at the DigitalCSU working group research showcase in our library at the end of the semester. At the time, I hosted the site as a subdomain on my own website. I am now in the process of working with the CSU library to archive this site on their servers to ensure sustainability and to link it more clearly to the university’s Bepress site, EngagedScholarship @ CSU. Students were evaluated according to this rubric.

As a special topics course “Politics of Peace and Gender” was cross-listed for both undergraduate and M.A. students. Each M.A. student completed the Omeka exhibit and also wrote an academic blog post. You can read Katherine Behnke’s post on Bernadette Devlin here on the Peace & Change blog. It’s a great example of how her research for the digital exhibit revealed a significant gap in the historiography of a well-known protest event.

Student exhibits covered topics from The 1919 May 4th Incident in China to Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland. You can view them all on

Shelley E. Rose is Associate Professor of History and Director of Social Studies at Cleveland State University. Follow her on Twitter @shelleyerose

Trump’s Getting Us Ready to Fight a Nuclear War

by Lawrence Wittner

Although many people have criticized the bizarre nature of Donald Trump’s diplomacy with North Korea, his recent love fest with Kim Jong Un does have the potential to reduce the dangers posed by nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

Even so, buried far below the mass media coverage of the summit spectacle, the reality is that Trump―assisted by his military and civilian advisors―is busy getting the United States ready for nuclear war.

This deeper and more ominous situation is reflected in the extensive nuclear “modernization” program currently underway in the United States. Begun during the Obama administration, the nuclear weapons buildup was initially offered as an inducement to Senate Republicans to vote for the president’s New START Treaty. It provided for a $1 trillion refurbishment of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex―as well as for new weapons for nuclear warfare on land, in the sea, and in the air―over the following three decades.

Characteristically, this program, though unnecessary and outlandishly expensive, was not nearly grand enough for Trump, who, during his election campaign, repeatedly assailed what he claimed was the pitiful state of America’s nuclear preparedness. In fact, in his first campaign announcement, he went so far as to proclaim: “Our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work.”  In December 2016, shortly after his election victory, he tweeted: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.” The next day, speaking with his usual brashness, he told Mika Brzezinski, the host of an MSNBC program: “Let it be an arms race.” He added: “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Trump unveiled his official “America First” National Security Strategy in December 2017. Criticizing the downgraded role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy since the end of the Cold War, it broadened the role of nuclear weapons in future policy. Announcing the measure, Trump took the opportunity to denigrate his predecessors. “They lost sight of America’s destiny,” he remarked. “And they lost their belief in American greatness.”

Further details about that “greatness” appeared in February 2018, when the Trump administration released its official Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). Rather than continue the efforts of past administrations to reduce the size and scope of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the NPR sidelined any consideration of arms control and disarmament agreements. Instead, it called for upgrading all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad and outlined plans to build two new types of nuclear weapons: a submarine-based nuclear cruise missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The latter, although reportedly “low-yield,” could do as much damage as the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Lawrence Korb, a nuclear weapons specialist who had served as Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration, the Trump administration plan could catapult the cost of the U.S. nuclear “modernization” program to $2 trillion.

Like Korb, many nuclear weapons specialists were appalled not only by the astronomical cost of this nuclear buildup, but by its potential to facilitate nuclear war. “Low-yield” nuclear weapons, after all, are being built because they will provide the U.S. government with a more “usable” response than would either conventional or strategic nuclear weapons to problems with “enemy” nations. Nuclear enthusiasts like to think that, faced with the possibility of a low-yield attack, “the enemy” will back down; or that, if the U.S. government actually initiates an attack with such weapons, “the enemy” will not escalate to a full-scale nuclear counterattack. But is that a certainty? As Korb notes, “many U.S. military officials” believe that low-yield nuclear weapons will end up “providing Trump with a kind of gateway drug for nuclear war.”

In other ways, too, the Trump nuclear buildup laid out in the NPR presents new opportunities for slipping into a nuclear catastrophe. For example, as the U.S. government already possesses a submarine-launched conventional cruise missile, adding a nuclear cruise missile will lead the Russian government to assume that any cruise missile on board a U.S. submarine could be a nuclear one. Another opportunity for disaster will widen with the promised integration of nuclear and conventional weapons in U.S. military planning. Moreover, building more nuclear weapons will encourage other nations to develop their own, with many of them targeting the United States. Perhaps most dangerous, the Trump NPR lowers the official threshold for use of U.S. nuclear weapons, contending that the U.S. government would employ them in response to non-nuclear attacks upon civilians and infrastructure, including cyberattacks.

Trump himself, of course, has not only displayed an alarmingly high level of mental instability, impulsiveness, and vindictiveness, but a rather cavalier attitude toward using nuclear weapons. During his 2016 presidential campaign, according to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, Trump consulted with a top foreign policy specialist “and three times asked about the use of nuclear weapons. . . . He asked at one point, if we had them, why can’t we use them?” Twice, during early 2016, Trump said that, when it came to the use of nuclear weapons, he wanted to be “unpredictable.” In 2017, caught up in an interchange of personal insults with Kim Jong Un, he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea―presumably through a nuclear attack.

Trump apparently considers his nuclear weapons policy a component of “Making America Great Again.” But we might more justifiably view it as a giant step toward catastrophe.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article was originally posted to History News Network.

Although Two Out of Three Americans Oppose Increasing U.S. Military Spending, the U.S. Government Is Boosting It to Record Levels

By Lawrence Wittner

Early this February, the Republican-controlled Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed new federal budget legislation that increased U.S. military spending by $165 billion over the next two years.  Remarkably, though, a Gallup public opinion poll, conducted only days before, found that only 33 percent of Americans favored increasing U.S. military spending, while 65 percent opposed it, either backing reductions (34 percent) or maintenance of the status quo (31 percent).

What is even more remarkable for a nation where military spending has grown substantially over the decades, is that, during the past 49 years that Gallup has asked Americans their opinions on U.S. military spending, in only one year (1981) did a majority of Americans (in that case, 51 percent) favor increasing it.  During the other years, clear and sometimes very substantial majorities opposed spending more on the military.

Although the Gallup survey appears to be the only one that has covered American attitudes toward military spending in 2018, reports by other polling agencies for earlier years reveal the same pattern.  The Pew Research Center, for example, found that, from 2004 to 2016, the percentage of Americans that favored increasing U.S. military spending only ranged from 13 to 35 percent.  By contrast, the percentage of Americans that favored decreasing U.S. military spending or continuing it at the same level ranged from 64 to 83 percent.

This opposition to boosting U.S. military spending became even stronger when pollsters provided Americans with information about the actual level of federal government spending and arguments for and against particular programs.  In March 2017, before opinion polling began by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Integrity, it distributed a rough outline of the federal budget and a series of statements about spending programs vetted for fairness by opposing groups.  The result was that a majority of survey respondents reported that they favored cutting the military budget by $41 billion.

Current public opinion on military spending has a clear partisan dimension.  In its February 2018 polling, Gallup found that, among Republicans and independents leaning Republican, 54 percent said that the U.S. government was spending too little on the military.  Conversely, among Democrats and independents leaning Democratic, 53 percent said the federal government was spending too much on it.  Today, with Republicans dominating both Congress and the White House, it’s not surprising that U.S. military spending is once again soaring to record heights.

It’s hard to say, of course, where the current vast U.S. military buildup will lead.  Critics―and there have been many―predict war, bankruptcy, or both.  Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action, the largest grassroots peace organization in the United States, remarked:  “Our tax dollars pay for military policies that spur a global arms race―one that increasingly endangers our country’s security and undermines its economic viability.”

Americans might also want to ponder the fact that, with $700 billion per year now being pumped into the Pentagon by U.S. taxpayers, military spending consumes 54 percent of the federal discretionary budget.  And, if President Trump’s official recommendations for future years are followed, the military’s share of the federal budget will surge to 65 percent by fiscal 2023.  Combined with the huge budget deficits that will be produced by the GOP tax cuts for the wealthy and their corporations, this will almost certainly lead to devastating slashes in federal spending for education, healthcare, parks and recreation facilities, food distribution, jobs, infrastructure, and other public programs.

Of course, there are possibilities for blocking the current flood of military spending and its consequences.  The political mobilization of the widespread, but thus far latent, constituency against increased funding for the Pentagon, coupled with enough Democratic victories at the polls in 2018 to return of the House of Representative to Democratic control, would slow―and perhaps halt―the drift toward an overwhelmingly military-oriented public policy.

Short of these developments, however, it seems likely that the U.S. government’s discretionary spending will be devoted primarily to preparations for war.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This post originally appeared on History News Network.

New Essays on the “Peace History” Website

By Roger Peace

What would history look like if the disciplines of diplomatic, military, and peace history were merged?

This could well describe the U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide website – alias “peace history.”  Launched in January 2016, the website examines the major wars and foreign policies of the United States from a peace-oriented, humanitarian perspective and includes substantial coverage of peace movements.  Seven of sixteen planned sections have been completed, most recently, “Yankee imperialism,’ 1901-1934,” and “Central America wars, 1980s.” Each entry contains about 80 pages of text, is divided into numerous subsections for easy assimilation, and includes dozens of photographs and images (103 in the Central America essay).

In “’Yankee imperialism,’ 1901-1934,” authored by myself with assistance from Ann Jefferson (Univ. of Tennessee) and Marc Becker (Truman State Univ.), U.S. motives and rationales for interventionism are critically examined, the policies of succeeding U.S. administrations are reviewed, and six case studies of U.S. interventions are presented:  Cuba, Panama, Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.   The eclectic anti-interventionist movement gathered steam after World War I and helped to turn the tide of public opinion against U.S. military occupations in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua as well as to avoid war with Mexico in the mid-1920s.

In “Central America wars, 1980s,” authored by Ginger Williams (Winthrop Univ.), Jeremy Kuzmarov (Univ. of Tulsa), and myself, with assistance from Richard Grossman (Northeastern Illinois Univ.), Brian D’Haeseleer (Lyon Univ.), and Michael Schmidli (Bucknell Univ.), the Reagan administration’s rhetoric and policies toward Central America are placed in historical perspective and critically examined.  Historical background is also provided on El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua before proceeding to the 1980s.  The Central America movement that rallied in opposition to U.S. interventionism was remarkably creative in fostering transnational activities and cultivating understanding and empathy across national borders.

Peace History Society members and friends – instructors and students – can avail themselves of these essays, as the website is an open public resource.  Check out the website and use it!  Assign sections to students. Send feedback through the website contact system.

The next essay will focus on World War I, the subject of the excellent PHS conference in Kansas last fall.  Chuck Howlett, the unofficial dean of peace movement history, and Jeremy Kuzmarov, co-author of The Russians Are Coming Again (Monthly Review Press, May 2018), are part of the writing team.  For those who have expertise in an area not yet covered (see website home page) and would like to help with the planning, writing, or reviewing of future essays, please send me a note.  –  Roger Peace (

Who is a Hero?

By Lawrence Wittner

This essay originally appeared on History News Network. It is reprinted her with the author’s permission.

In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. occupation authorities in Germany, checking on the effectiveness of their “denazification” program, polled Germans on whether they believed a civilian was “less worthy than a soldier.”  One wonders what they would think of the exalted status that many Americans currently accord to anyone serving in the U.S. armed forces, as announcements ring out―from airline flights to sporting events―with calls to applaud “Our Heroes.”

This adulation of everyone wearing a U.S. military uniform is a fairly recent phenomenon.  Although the popularity of triumphant military commanders like George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower helped pave their way to the White House, the status of “hero” was not necessarily accorded to them or to the millions of other people who served in the U.S. military.  As the journalist Stephen Kinzer has noted:  “Past generations of Americans saw soldiers as ordinary human beings.  They were like the rest of us:  big and small, smart and dumb, capable of good and bad choices.”  Today, he added, “we pretend they are demi-gods.”

A hero, according to the standard definition, is a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.  How well do soldiers measure up to this standard?

Some measure up rather well, especially when they do things like persevere against overwhelming odds, rescue fallen comrades under withering fire, and defend civilians against enemy attack.  Although the wisdom and justice of wars in which soldiers fight can certainly be questioned, soldiers do behave heroically in many instances.

Other soldiers measure up badly, especially when they engage in massacring civilians, torturing or shooting prisoners, raping women, and other war crimes―things that have characterized the behavior of some U.S. troops from the nation’s early wars to more recent times.

Most American soldiers, though, have been neither heroes nor villains but, rather, dutiful, if sometimes reluctant, participants in the armed forces.  As one former U.S. soldier told me, upon his return from the Vietnam War:  “I just kept my head down and tried to survive.”  In recent years, in the context of an all-volunteer army, most young people have enlisted because they have little economic opportunity in civilian life, are continuing a family’s military tradition, or have a youthful taste for adventure.  Although some might end up displaying extraordinary valor or nobility of character, most are not trying to act like heroes but, simply, to do their jobs.

Defenders of their heroism argue that, by joining the armed forces, U.S. soldiers are courageously risking their lives and limbs.  And it’s certainly true that some pay a terrible price for their military service.  But, in fact, most modern U.S. soldiers never or rarely see combat.  In 2017, only about a third of active duty U.S. military personnel were located outside the United States, and the vast majority of these were not deployed in combat zones.

Civilian employment also has serious, though rarely mentioned, hazards.  During 2016, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries in the United States, with the highest fatality rates among loggers, fishermen, and aircraft pilots and flight engineers.  Firefighters, police, and farm workers also held exceptionally dangerous jobs.  According to the AFL-CIO, 50,000 to 60,000 Americans died of occupation-related diseases in 2015, while work-related injuries and illnesses have numbered between 7.4 million and 11.1 million per year.

But is there anything harmful about the blanket lauding of soldiers as heroes?

Well, yes.  It inculcates the dangerous myth that soldiers can do no wrong.  As Lieutenant Colonel William Astore has pointed out:  “When we create a legion of heroes in our minds, we blind ourselves to evidence of destructive, sometimes atrocious, behavior.  Heroes, after all, don’t commit atrocities.”  These atrocities, “so common to war’s brutal chaos, produce cognitive dissonance in the minds of many Americans, who simply can’t imagine their `heroes’ killing innocents and then covering up the evidence.  How much easier it is to see the acts of violence of our troops as necessary, admirable, even noble.”

Also, when American soldiers are idolized, respect for militarism and war grow accordingly.  Military training, military expenditures, military intervention, and military escalation become ways to “support the troops” or, at the least, take on a friendlier glow.

In addition, as soldiers, fervently applauded by the public, adopt the popular notion that they are the saviors of the nation, they have a tendency to stage armed takeovers of democratically-elected governments.  After World War I, Mussolini and Hitler began their own assault on democracy by mobilizing fellow veterans of that conflict to seize power.

Fortunately, the founders of the United States, fearful of “Caesarism,” placed control of the military in the hands of the elected civilian authorities.  But glorification of the armed forces could alter this arrangement.

Being uniformly lauded as “heroes” is also harmful to many soldiers, for it sweeps much of their actual experience under the rug.  Large numbers of American troops come home from combat suffering from PTSD, alcoholism, and drug dependency.  Indeed, an estimated 22 U.S. veterans a day commit suicide.  In these circumstances, they need understanding and help rather than fawning adoration.

Finally, the across-the-board hero-worship of soldiers not only devalues the heroism of those soldiers who have shown extraordinary courage, but the heroism, usually unsung, of many civilians.  What about the heroism of civil rights activists risking their lives in the cause of racial justice?  What about the heroism of journalists imprisoned or murdered for revealing private or public corruption?  What about the heroism of “whistleblowers” who risk lengthy imprisonment for exposing criminal behavior?  What about the heroism of workers who dare to organize or go on strike at the risk of their jobs?

For these reasons, among others, even soldiers themselves have objected to being labeled “heroes.”

Shouldn’t we stop singling out “the troops” for adulation and applaud heroism wherever it occurs?

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press)

Why Write for Children?

By Harriet Alonso, Emerita Professor of History, The City College of New York, CUNY

This coming November 21, Seven Stories Press will publish my first Middle Grade historical fiction, Martha and the Slave Catchers. For over thirty-five years, I have been writing non-fiction books for adults, so you might wonder why I took up my pen (I mean, keyboard) to write for children. And why choose fiction? Believe me when I say that I have thought about these questions nearly every day now for the almost seven years it took me to reach this point. Let me share some of that journey with you, especially as it relates to my commitment to our values as peace historians.

Some non-exact time somewhere around 2010, I started to have the flash of an idea that I might like to try writing a story for children. Part of my reasoning had to do with plain and simple frustration with college students taking my U.S. survey course who were clueless about so much of U.S. history. I could forgive the students who had not been educated in the U.S., but a good number of my folk came directly out of the New York City school system. Why did they know so little? And why were newspapers and educational journals citing studies indicating that most junior and senior high school students hated history? Now, I guess I should ‘fess up here and admit that when I was in those exact same grades way, way back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I hated history, too. My students often found it incredible when I told them that. But, I said, in the 1980s, I discovered women’s history, and the world changed. So, with the advent of social history, why hadn’t it changed for them?

I had no answers, but I began pondering about what small part I could play in eradicating our bad reputation. One inspiration was a graduate course I team-taught with a colleague in the School of Education called Social Studies Inquiry for Childhood Education that focused on how to build curriculum around the U.S. woman’s rights/suffrage movement. One thing led to another, and through conversations with several educators and a whole lot of reading, I became interested in the materials used to teach children about history. I guess that’s what my brain was centering on when the idea for writing a children’s book crept up on me.

I had written a few pieces of adult fiction but had never seriously tried to have them published. But the children’s book idea was very enticing. And as for subject matter? Well, it seemed an easy choice. The very well-known author’s adage, “Write what you know,” definitely led my way. I had spent ten years researching and writing Growing Up Abolitionist: The Story of the Garrison Children which came out in 2002. Yet, I had never grown tired of reading about abolitionist children, the Underground Railroad, and the personalities involved in that part of our history. In fact, that project led to my developing and teaching courses in U.S. Family History, the History of Childhood in America, and Biography and the Antislavery Movement. When I last taught the U.S. Survey, I asked my students how many of them had studied about U.S. slavery. All had, but none knew anything about the antislavery movement. So I concentrated on that. Several students later told me that the information had opened their eyes to something very new and exciting. Throughout this period, the seeds for Martha and the Slave Catchers took root.

As I tested the waters, I realized that I had to learn a whole lot about how to write for children. During the winter of 2013, when I was on sabbatical, I took two invaluable courses in Writing Children’s Literature at the Gotham Writers Workshop. Every exercise I was assigned I used to try out a different plot point, various voices, different scenarios. By the time I was done with the courses, I had the rough draft for the novel. I then spent a year revising and sending out query letters to agents and editors. In the fall of 2014, I signed with Marie Brown Associates and two years later with Seven Stories Press which is currently expanding its children’s imprint, Triangle Square Books for Young Readers. Seven Stories is a publisher dedicated to human rights and social justice. Check them out at

Martha and the Slave Catchers is a story about the effects of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 on the lives of two children in Connecticut. Here is a brief synopsis of the plot:

Danger lurks in every corner of almost fourteen-year-old Martha Bartlett’s life—and all because her mama and papa, agents of the Underground Railroad in Liberty Falls, Connecticut, decide to claim as their own the light-skinned orphan of a runaway slave who died in their attic hideaway. They name him Jake.

After the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 is enacted, two hired slave catchers, Will and Tom, kidnap Jake and take him south to the plantation of Robert Dawes, his supposed biological father and “master.” Always ambivalent about her demanding, mischievous, and learning impaired brother, Martha nonetheless feels guilty about his disappearance. After all, it was her job to watch over him on that very day he was snatched. She pledges to find him and bring him home.

Martha becomes part of an Underground Railroad plan to rescue Jake. That journey takes her away from the safe world she has always known to a world full of danger, bigotry, violence, and self-discovery. Missing their connection with famed slave rescuer, Harriet Tubman, Martha and Jake are forced to start their perilous journey north with only each other to depend on. Meanwhile, Will and Tom are always close on their heels. Will they receive help from the Underground Railroad in their escape? Will they make it to safety? Will they ever see their home and parents again? These and other questions are answered by the end of the novel.

I wrote Martha and the Slave Catchers with several ideas I want to share with young readers. I guess you can say, I want to help to build upon the beliefs we in the Peace History Society share about peace, human rights, and nonviolence. To do this, I definitely followed the “write what you know” principle for crafting fiction. But I also kept in mind several rules about writing for Middle Grade students, especially the importance of placing the children in steadily escalating danger which they get themselves out of, keeping the pacing fast, and taking my readers seriously.

So, what are those things I know about?

First, I know about the Garrisons and other abolitionist families, and I borrowed from their stories. There are several incidents in Martha’s story that came right out of my book on the Garrisons. (Some of these are explained on the Martha and the Slave Catchers page on my website: I titled the list, “What are the Historical Facts behind Martha and the Slave Catchers?”). I want children to know that young people in the past were raised by parents who felt so strongly about human rights that they put themselves in danger by hiding runaways in their homes. Martha’s home education mirrored that of real abolitionist children in terms of what she read, the games she played, and in her early training that it is sometimes necessary to keep secrets and tell lies if it means freedom for an enslaved individual. When I wrote the book, I was not anticipating the current uncertainty of our own freedoms and those of immigrants in this country. Now I wonder if the story will take on new meaning.

Second, I wrote about what it was like to be a child of two or more races and/or ethnicities in the nineteenth century. Jake is a light complexioned mixed-race child being raised as white in a predominantly white community. Martha discovers at age thirteen that she was a foundling who will never know what her racial background is. My own son is Puerto Rican and European Jewish. I remember well his questions about this mix when he attended elementary school in the 1970s. At times, he was dismayed, and offering up the character of Juan Epstein from the tv sit-com Welcome Back, Kotter, didn’t seem to help. I think it took him some time to work the whole thing out. So, this was something familiar to me personally as it is to many parents and children in mixed-race and adoptive families. Questions of identity are no strangers in children’s lives.

Third, I wrote about disability. Jake is what in today’s terms we could describe as autistic. Because I needed him to be able to perform independently and to be a partner in his and Martha’s escape from the slave catchers, I gave him clear abilities. But my own grandson, who is severely autistic, does not have Jake’s capabilities. Over the years, I have observed his and other autistic children’s behavior and used them to build Jake. His hand movements, his rocking, his fits, his jumping. . . all of these things are taken from my grandson’s experiences. My hope is that the siblings of these children will identify with Martha’s frustration with Jake, but that they will also grow, as she does, to understand their siblings and appreciate and love them for who they are.

Finally, children’s book writing instructors tell us budding writers to get rid of the adults as quickly as possible so that the main characters can save themselves. And while I did adhere to this rule pretty well, I did not do it completely, largely because Middle School readers are still young enough to appreciate their need for supportive adults. However, I did manage to sidetrack Martha’s mother with deep depression and her father, therefore, with too much to do to pay attention to his children. In that way, Martha could be the main person who saves Jake from slavery and brings him home. But Martha and Jake have a strong adult structure that supports them, and that is the antislavery community and the Underground Railroad. I want children who read my book to understand that while children can be strong and creative and brave, there are also adults in their lives who will cushion them, guide them, and help develop them into the next generation of human rights activists.

Of course, I am nervous about the reception Martha and the Slave Catchers will receive when it comes out in the fall. And I am somewhat excited about the new little character who keeps popping her face into my thoughts demanding some attention. I can say for sure that it is challenging to write historically sound, exciting books for children, but I hope some of you will give it a try. If you are thinking about this or currently playing with a story, please get in touch with me. I’d love to see PHSers build on this idea. After all, children are our future, and we must nurture them in the best ways we know how.

I can be contacted at


Should Limiting North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions Be the Responsibility of the U.S. Government?

By Lawrence Wittner

(This article was originally published on History News Network)

In recent months, advances in the North Korean government’s nuclear weapons program have led to a sharp confrontation between the government leaders of the United States and of North Korea.  This August, President Donald Trump declared that any more threats from North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”  In turn, Kim Jong Un remarked that he was now contemplating firing nuclear missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam.  Heightening the dispute, Trump told the United Nations in mid-September that, if the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”  Soon thereafter, Trump embellished this with a tweet declaring that North Korea “won’t be around much longer.”

From the standpoint of heading off nuclear weapons advances by the North Korean regime, this belligerent approach by the U.S. government has shown no signs of success.  Every taunt by U.S. officials has drawn a derisive reply from their North Korean counterparts.  Indeed, when it comes to nuclear weapons policy, escalating U.S. threats seem to have confirmed the North Korean government’s fears of U.S. military attack and, thus, bolstered its determination to enhance its nuclear capabilities.  In short, threatening North Korea with destruction has been remarkably counter-productive.

But, leaving aside the wisdom of U.S. policy, why is the U.S. government playing a leading role in this situation at all?  The charter of the United Nations, signed by the United States, declares in Article 1 that the United Nations has the responsibility “to maintain international peace and security” and, to that end, is “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.”  Not only does the UN charter not grant authority to the United States or any other nation to serve as the guardian of the world, but it declares, in Article 2, that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”  It’s pretty clear that both the U.S. and North Korean governments are violating that injunction.

Moreover, the United Nations is already involved in efforts to limit North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  The UN Security Council has not only condemned  the behavior of the North Korean government on numerous occasions, but has imposed stiff economic sanctions upon it.

Will further UN action have any more success in dealing with North Korea than the Trump policy has had?  Perhaps not, but at least the United Nations would not begin by threatening to incinerate North Korea’s 25 million people.  Instead, to ease the tense United States-North Korea standoff, the United Nations might offer to serve as a mediator in negotiations.  In such negotiations, it could suggest that, in exchange for a halt to the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the United States agree to a peace treaty ending the Korean War of the 1950s and halt U.S. military exercises on North Korea’s borders.  Giving way to a UN-brokered compromise rather than to U.S. nuclear blackmail might well be appealing to the North Korean government.  Meanwhile, the United Nations could keep moving forward with its Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons―a measure both Kim and Trump despise (and might, in their opposition to it, even bring them closer together), but is very appealing to most other countries.

Critics, of course, say that the United Nations is too weak to deal with North Korea or other nations that ignore the will of the world community.  And they are not entirely incorrect.  Although UN pronouncements and decisions are almost invariably praiseworthy, they are often rendered ineffective by the absence of UN resources and power to enforce them.

But the critics do not follow the logic of their own argument for, if the United Nations is too weak to play a completely satisfactory role in maintaining international peace and security, then the solution is to strengthen it.  After all, the answer to international lawlessness is not vigilante action by individual nations but, rather, the strengthening of international law and law enforcement.  In the aftermath of the vast chaos and destruction of World War II, that’s what the nations of the world claimed they wanted when, in late 1945, they established the United Nations.

Unfortunately, however, as the years passed, the great powers largely abandoned a United Nations-centered strategy based on collective action and world law for the old-fashioned exercise of their own military muscle.  Unwilling to accept limits on their national power in world affairs, they and their imitators began engaging in arms races and wars.  The current nightmarish nuclear confrontation between the North Korean and U.S. governments is only the latest example of this phenomenon.

Of course, it’s not too late to finally recognize that, in a world bristling with nuclear weapons, savage wars, accelerating climate change, rapidly-depleting resources, and growing economic inequality, we need a global entity to take the necessary actions for which no single nation has sufficient legitimacy, power, or resources.  And that entity is clearly a strengthened United Nations.  To leave the world’s future in the hands of nationalist blowhards or even prudent practitioners of traditional national statecraft will simply continue the drift toward catastrophe.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner ( is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).


By Jerry Lembcke

This article was originally published on Public Books.

When Karl Marlantes takes the screen during the new PBS film series The Vietnam War, he says coming home was nearly as traumatic as the war itself. Later, he describes being assaulted by protesters at the airport, invoking the image of spat-on Vietnam veterans, an image that Los Angeles Times editorial writer Michael McGough said in 2012 was based on a myth. An edifying myth, McGough called it, but still a myth.

With The Vietnam War, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have created a film that rehashes some old, tired tropes. In doing so, they distort what soldiers, veterans, and antiwar activists alike know about the war and its aftermath, especially inside the United States.

In their May 29 New York Times op-ed advertisement for the series, Burns and Novick give a lofty rationale for their film. Succumbing to another cliché, they claim it is about healing. But the discourse of healing misleads as much as it informs, presupposing a prewar America that was a seamless unity, where everyone got along. As sociologist Keith Beattie showed in his 1998 book The Scar That Binds: American Culture and the Vietnam War, that America was mythical. The real one was already torn by racism and McCarthyism, and frayed by modern technology. Domestic class conflict and racial and gender anxieties, too, continued right through the war, as the historian Milton Bates pointed out in his 1996 book The Wars We Took to Vietnam.

That fractured America was complicit in its going to war, not simply a passive victim of it. Burns and Novick intentionally exclude scholars like Beattie and Bates, however. “No historians or other expert talking heads” mar their film, they told the Times’s reviewer Jennifer Schuessler. “Instead,” Schuessler reports matter-of-factly, their “79 onscreen interviews give the ground-up view of the war from the mostly ordinary people who lived through it.”

Ground-up views are susceptible, especially after 40 years, to the very myths they are supposed to belie. Memories that are 40 years old are too influenced by movies, novels, newspapers, and television—or those dreaded historians—to count for documentation. Lawyers, judges, and courts concluded years ago that eyewitness accounts of crimes that are only hours old are unreliable—so, 40 years? Or 50? In the hands of filmmakers, however, such accounts are too easily and too often used as a veneer to manage viewer perceptions.1 Here Burns and Novick offer false equivalences, or “balance” in journalistic parlance. In promoting healing instead of the search for truth, The Vietnam War offers misleading comforts.

The contradictions of The Vietnam War pile up from the start. Its creators might claim a ground-up view—and the film does give us lot of grunt-level footage, like Marines in rice paddies and GIs jumping out of helicopters—but the prevailing interpretations of these scenes come from elites. Some of these notables would be better cast into confessional booths than onto PBS screens, too. For example, John Negroponte, a prominent interpreter in the film, used diplomatic appointments as cover for covert activities over a half-century of US-engineered (or –attempted) regime-change operations.

Just over 30 years old when he began his Vietnam assignment, Negroponte developed a reputation as a “hardliner” in negotiations to end the war in Vietnam, once breaking with his superior officer Henry Kissinger for making too many concessions to communist North Vietnam. Later in his life, he took lessons from Vietnam to America’s adventures across the world. As ambassador to Honduras between 1981 and 1985, Negroponte built the small and friendly nation into a bustling military platform for cross-border operations against the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua; when popular opposition to the US military presence in Honduras arose, he enabled and covered for the murderous death squads of General Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, a graduate of the US Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. As a delegate to the United Nations in the early 2000s, he helped sell the invasion of Iraq on the false claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Once characterized by journalist Stephen Kinzer as “a great fabulist,” Negroponte’s prominence in The Vietnam War will have viewers of many political stripes scratching their heads.

A historical documentary in search of consensus, The Vietnam War indulges in Cold War common sense. It pits East against West and the United States against Communism. It could have been made in the 1980s. More recent scholarship might have provided a fresher frame and more comprehensive account of the war. For instance, Gareth Porter, in his 2005 Perils of Dominance, argues that the US stepped into a swamp of local-level conflicts, where East-West ideological tensions were largely irrelevant. Philip Catton’s 2002 Diem’s Final Failure and Philip Taylor’s 2001 Fragments of the Present put peasant-landlord conflicts characteristic of Vietnam’s disintegrating feudal system on the research agenda. Had they brought to life this new thinking about the war, Burns and Novick would have made a more enduring contribution.

Instead, The Vietnam War gives us a throwback to the days when fighting the Communist bogeyman justified all manner of US military intervention. The film is organized around a drumbeat of the Communists did this, the Communists did that—Communist aggression, Communist assassinations, Communists kill their enemy wounded. A former Vietnamese officer describes a 1970 battle as setting the “good” Vietnamese against “the worst of the Vietnamese … the Communists.”

Antiwar activists, anxious about how the movement is treated, will be among the most eager viewers of The Vietnam War, but they will find only cool acknowledgment and some common misrepresentations. War opponent Bill Zimmerman provides one of the most thoughtful and sincere interviews in the film; war veteran W. D. Ehrhart, now a well-published poet, mans up with a touching recollection of his participation in an atrocity; veteran and author Tim O’Brien talks about his own “failure of nerve” when faced with the option of resisting the military, reads from his 1990 novel The Things They Carried, and slams the legal proceedings that allowed the My Lai murderers to go unpunished.

We get the inspiring story of Jack Todd, who dutifully followed other men in his family into the army but later deserts from Fort Lewis, Washington, and goes to Canada; and of Valerie Kushner, who comes out against the war and endorses peace candidate George McGovern for president while her husband, Hal, is still held as a POW in Hanoi. But if you think these paeans to the peacemakers put Marlantes’s betrayal fantasies behind us, think again.

Burns and Novick are the masters of false balancing, the technique of countering one story line with another to create the impression of objective evenhandedness. The same good-guy, bad-guy lens through which the war was viewed also filtered perceptions of the antiwar movement at home. Jack Todd is one of 30,000 Americans who deserted to Canada but, we are reassured, 30,000 Canadians volunteered to go to Vietnam. Never mind that, by other estimates, over 100,000 Americans are estimated to have gone to Canada during the war. The first figure apparently called for such dubious balancing because, as we later learn, Todd regrets having renounced his US citizenship.

The one-dimensional picture of draft resisters in Canada that the film paints would have become fuller and more nuanced had the filmmakers consulted John Hagen’s 2001 book Northern Passage: American War Resisters in Canada. In it, Hagen shows that group to be full of highly creative and capable young men, most of them model citizens in Canada, recognized for their contributions to education, politics, and the arts. We have to wonder, though, if the clarity of scholarship might have conflicted with the message Burns and Novick wanted to send.

Valerie Kushner appears to be a strong and principled fighter for peace—a challenging image to “balance.” But Burns and Novick are up to the task of turning her resistance inside out. They assert, with no supporting evidence, that Kushner was “exploited” by the North Vietnamese, and take at face value the claim of husband Hal, returning from captivity, to have been shocked at the sight of American girls in miniskirts.When the couple’s marriage dissolves, Valerie Kushner comes out looking, well, not so good.

This is how mythmaking works. The film goes directly from the Valerie Kushner story to “Hanoi Jane,” to, er … the opening scene of the 1968’s Barbarella, where we see Jane Fonda as the underdressed namesake of the film. This clumsy invocation of the femme fatales of wartime perfidy running across the millennia—from Lysistrata to Malinche, Mata Hari to Tokyo Rose—if the reminder is needed, helps build the gendered narrative of the war being lost to home front weakness, our POWs forsaken and forgotten, and troops returning from Vietnam scorned by protesters, and spat on by girls.

Some veteran protesters receive better treatment in the film, including those associated with Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The group’s 1971 medal-turn-in ceremony is treated well, but Andrew Hunt’s 1999 The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War would have provided documentation, as would have the testimony of founders like Jan Barry or leaders like Barry Romo, who went to Hanoi with a peace delegation in 1972. Donald Duncan, the Green Beret who “quit” the Army in protest of the war in 1965, inspiring many others to do the same, is missing from the story, and that’s a shame.

By the end of the film, even the glimpses we’ve been given of veterans politicized and empowered by their time in Vietnam are overridden by victim veteran imagery—itself a stand-in for the America that was wounded and left traumatized by the war. The Vietnam War echoes Jimmy Carter’s “mutual destruction” thesis that Vietnam and the United States were equally damaged by the conflict, and its final scenes leave little doubt that the injury to America was inflicted by its own people, not the Vietnamese. With “The Wall” as backdrop, we hear “Bridge over Troubled Water” and Columbia University student activist, now housing lawyer, Nancy Biberman’s repentance for calling veterans “baby killers”—another trope attributed to the antiwar movement for which there is no supporting evidence.

Stories that Vietnam veterans were called “baby killers” are now as common as the spitting stories. They seem to fill some need for the people who tell and believe them. Perhaps it is a need for conformity to the now-dominant narratives about the war and those who opposed it, or guilt that the war was fought by those less privileged than those who fought against it. Whatever the reason, the stories keep alive the idea that the war could have been won if home front support had not wavered—and that wars like it can be won in the future if We the People stay loyal to the mission.

  1. For a masterful classic book that employs interviews, see Christian Appy’s Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (Viking, 2003).
  2. Such claims contributed to the myth that POWs were kept isolated and psychologically fixed in a (mythical) prewar innocence that was then shattered when they returned home. In fact, most of the POWs were shot down after miniskirts had become fashionable; and even while they were captives, the North Vietnamese made American news magazines available to them.

Featured Image: Operation “Yellowstone” Vietnam: Following a hard day, a few members of Company “A,” 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry (Mechanized), 25th Infantry Division, gather around a guitar player and sing a few songs (January 18, 1968) (detail). National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD

Of Note: Charles F. Howlett, “Ukraine Shows We Need to Learn the History of Peace Movements to Break The Habit of War” on the History News Network (HNN)

Peace historian Charles Howlett, a frequent Peace & Change contributor, brings peace history into historians’ broader dialogue on the antecedents and significance of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. As the media and academia turn to historians of war and conflict for perspectives, it is important for peace researchers to expand the scope of inquiry. Howlett begins,

“The tragedy in Ukraine is a stark reminder that bad actors still remain on the world stage. How is it that the world’s international organization, the United Nations, despite its overwhelming condemnation of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s naked aggression against a sovereign state, has failed in its mission to prevent the senseless killing of innocent civilians? The answer is that it cannot do it alone. There is a lesson for all to learn.”

Read the full article at the History News Network:

The Imperialist Roots of Putin’s Policy

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Photo:, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A key factor that explains Vladimir Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine is traditional Russian imperialism.

Throughout the world’s long and bloody history, other powerful territories (and, later, nations) expanded their lands through imperial conquest, including Rome, China, Spain, France, Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

Russia was no exception.  Beginning with the small principality of Moscow in 1300, Russia employed its military might to crush neighboring peoples and gobble up territory across the vast Eurasian continent.  Under the czars, it became known as the “prison of nations.” 

By the early twentieth century, Imperial Russia was the largest country in the world―and, also, one of the most brutal and reactionary.

When the Bolshevik Revolution occurred, part of its impetus was a revolt against the imperialist role of Russia and other great powers of the era.  Vladimir Lenin denounced imperialism, loosened the Russian grip on some subject countries, and promised that, within the Soviet Union, the new Soviet republics would have self-determination.

Unfortunately, with the rise of Joseph Stalin, that anti-imperialist impulse was abandoned.  When it came to the Ukrainian People’s Republic, which had not fulfilled the grain production quota set by the Kremlin, Stalin, in 1932-33, shipped off 50,000 Ukrainian farm families to Siberia and ordered the seizure of Ukraine’s grain crop.  Massive starvation followed in Ukraine, causing an estimated 4 million deaths.  Not surprisingly, this treatment did not endear Ukrainians to the Soviet regime.

Although most Russians―and most Communists―were horrified by the rise of Nazi Germany during the 1930s, Stalin signed a pact with Hitler (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) in August 1939.  Its secret provisions turned over the independent nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, as well as the eastern half of Poland, to the USSR, which soon occupied them.  It also provided a green light for the Soviet invasion of Finland (which led to Soviet seizure of a portion of that country) and Soviet seizure of a portion of Rumania.  As the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact also provided Soviet endorsement of Nazi Germany’s imperialist ambitions, Hitler promptly launched World War II. 

In June 1941, however, things shifted dramatically, for Hitler, overly ambitious, began a full-scale military invasion of the Soviet Union, thereby double-crossing his ally.  In the ensuing bloody conflict, the Russians fought fiercely against Germany for their very survival.  They were aided by Britain and the United States, both of which also took on the powerful Japanese armed forces in the Pacific.

After World War II, although Ribbentrop was tried at Nuremberg and executed, Molotov and Stalin were not, for, of course, they were on the winning side of the war.  As part of the spoils of victory, the Soviet Union incorporated Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and eastern Poland into its territory.

This proved only the beginning of a new round of Russian imperialism.  In the aftermath of the war, the Soviet Union took control of most nations in Eastern Europe and retained them as vassals and unwilling partners in the Warsaw Pact.  They included Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Bulgaria, and East Germany.  The Soviet Union retained its grip on them through Communist Party dictatorships that it imposed, occupations by Soviet troops, and military assaults, most notably bloody invasions of Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968), where Communist regimes proved too independent for the tastes of the Kremlin.  In Hungary, Soviet military repression produced 20,000 Hungarian casualties (including 2,500 deaths) and 200,000 refugees.

When the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev finally stopped enforcing Soviet imperial rule in Eastern Europe, revolutions in these countries swept aside the tired pro-Soviet dictatorships and reasserted their national sovereignty.  Not surprisingly, many of these newly-independent countries then began to apply to join NATO―not because they were forced to do so, but because they feared a reassertion of Russian domination.   

Events in Ukraine illustrate this desire for freedom from Russian control.  Gorbachev allowed a referendum on Ukrainian independence to take place in 1991.  In a turnout by 84 percent of registered voters, some 90 percent of them voted for independence from Russia.  As part of its independence arrangement, Ukraine―which had the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world―handed over all its nuclear weapons to the Russian government.  In turn, as part of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, Russia formally pledged to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.

But the Russian government began to backtrack on its agreement with Ukraine.  It was happy with the rule of Viktor Yanukovych, a pliable pro-Russian politician.  But when the political tide turned against him and he was ousted from office because he blocked Ukraine’s membership in the European Union, Russian leaders were incensed.  Ukraine was turning toward the West, and this, they believed, could not be tolerated.  In a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, the Russian government deployed its military power to seize Crimea and take control of Russian-language separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

Of course, the Russian government sought to justify its actions with flimsy claims, then and subsequently.  It said that there was no military intervention by Russia.  But clearly there was.  It said that there were fascists in Ukraine.  True enough; but there were also plenty of fascists in Russia and in many other lands.  Ukraine’s government, it said, was under the control of an unrepresentative Nazi cabal.  But Zelensky was elected with 73 percent of the vote, remains wildly popular, and is certainly no right-winger or authoritarian.  Can we say the same about Vladimir Putin?

When one looks at what Putin has declared in his recent pronouncements, his dominant motive is clear enough.  Denying that Ukraine has any right to statehood independent of Russia and glorifying the expansionism of his country’s Czarist and Stalinist past, he is caught up in a reactionary nostalgia for empire.  Or, to put it simply, he longs to Make Russia Great Again.

To safeguard the interests of smaller nations, as well as international peace, Putin―like other arrogant rulers of powerful countries―should be encouraged to discard outdated imperial fantasies and accept the necessity of a world governed by international law.

Dr. Lawrence S. Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Forthcoming Series: Studies in Peace History

Series Editors: Scott H. Bennett and Michael Clinton

Studies in Peace History promotes new scholarship on peace history and on the movements, groups, people, and actions that have opposed both war and its causes. Conceptually, this series understands peace to include pacifist, antiwar, and antimilitarist positions. Since wars have social, political, economic, cultural, and psychological roots, this series is also concerned with the relationship between peace and social justice movements aimed at reducing the social causes of conflict. Books in this series include historical monographs and biographies; critical and/or annotated editions of letters, diaries, and other primary texts; and edited collections of primary or secondary texts. Studies in Peace History welcomes proposals for English-language manuscripts addressing all periods and regions based on archival research and published primary sources by historians and other scholars. Proposals that combine historical topics and approaches with other disciplinary perspectives and methodologies will be considered.

This series will feature titles that address such core themes in peace history as:

  • peace movements, leaders, activists, organizations, and campaigns
  • antiwar dissent
  • opposition and resistance to specific conflicts
  • conscientious objectors
  • draft resistance
  • disarmament and arms control
  • campaigns against nuclear weapons
  • peace treaties
  • protests within the military
  • remembrance and reconciliation
  • peace education
  • women, gender, and peace
  • cultural expressions and peace
  • peace and environment
  • legal history of peace action
  • transnational connections promoting peace
  • peace and nonviolence
  • links between peace history and nonviolent social justice and reform

Authors are cordially invited to contact the series editors Scott H. Bennett and Michael Clinton to inquire about the process for submitting proposals. Proposals may be submitted to the publisher at Brill, Wendel Scholma. You can find Brill’s guidelines for book proposals here.

ISSN: 2772-9826

Editorial Board


  • Scott H. Bennett, Georgian Court University
  • Michael Clinton, Gwynedd Mercy University

Editorial Board

  • Marc Becker, Truman State University
  • Wendy Chmielewski, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Emerita
  • Sandi Cooper, CUNY at The Graduate School and the College of Staten Island, Emerita
  • Peter van den Dungen, University of Bradford, Emeritus
  • Matt Meyer, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Marian Mollin, Virginia Tech University
  • Susanne Schregel, University of Cologne
  • Lawrence S. Wittner, State University of New York at Albany—SUNY, Emeritus

Let’s Not Allow the Great Powers to Destroy the World


January 29, 2022

Throughout history, “the most powerful, most heavily-armed countries, which had the best chances of emerging victorious in a military conflict, were usually the most eager for it.” The vast destruction wrought by the atomic bombing of Japan in August 1945 should have been enough to convince national governments that the game of war was over.

Wars have had a long run among rival territories and, later, nations, with fierce conflicts between Athens and Sparta, Rome and Carthage, Spain and Britain, and the combatants of World Wars I and II among the best-known. Although the wars had a variety of causes and were sometimes promoted with lofty ideals and slogans, they were often occasioned by disputes over territory and resources. Not surprisingly, the most powerful, most heavily-armed countries, which had the best chances of emerging victorious in a military conflict, were usually the most eager for it.

With the advent of nuclear weapons, however, the traditional pattern of great power conflict—regarding other nations as enemies, confronting them militarily, and waging devastating wars against them—had acquired a ghostly quality.  As Albert Einstein remarked:  “General annihilation beckons.”

Unfortunately, the governments of the great powers were slow to learn this lesson. Despite their professed support for international security under the leadership of the United Nations, they expanded their military budgets and engaged in new military invasions and wars. Meanwhile, they built vast nuclear armadas to prepare for future armed conflicts.

Today, the great power war game is particularly evident in Ukraine, where nuclear-armed nations are engaged in a tense standoff.  Russia, which seized portions of eastern Ukraine in 2014, has massed 100,000 troops, plus missiles, tanks, and warships, on the borders of that nation. And, although the Russian government has denied any intention to invade, its military juggernaut has clearly not been assembled to play potsy. Indeed, President Vladimir Putin has issued ultimatums demanding that NATO reject membership for Ukraine and remove military forces from NATO nations in much of Eastern Europe.

Although dismissing any intention of sending troops to Ukraine, the U.S. government, along with its NATO partners, has been dispatching defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government and threatening a “severe” response to a Russian invasion. The U.S. government maintains that it is merely trying to avert Russia’s invasion or takeover of a weaker neighbor. But the Ukraine confrontation might have been avoided had previous U.S. administrations not incensed Russia’s rulers by blithely expanding NATO eastward—right up to Russia’s border.

It’s certainly an explosive situation, as well as an exceptionally dangerous one, particularly given the fact that Russia and the United States each possess about 6,000 nuclear weapons.

Nor is this the world’s only current military confrontation between nuclear powers, for U.S.-China relations have also grown increasingly tense. 

In recent years, the Chinese government has adopted a harder line in world affairs, turning disputed islands in the South China Sea into military bases and steadily building up Chinese military power. Meanwhile, its armed forces have engaged in repeated, dangerous face-offs with U.S. warships in the region. In addition, the Chinese government has begun to menace neighboring Taiwan, flying hundreds of warplanes into that island’s airspace.

The U.S. government, in turn, has sharply contested China’s assertion of great power status.  In addition to conducting military exercises in the South China Sea, often skirting Chinese-claimed and -occupied islands, it has created a military alliance against China and supplied Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, with advanced weaponry.  According to the Pentagon, this year’s ramped-up U.S. military budget is designed to “prioritize China.”

Although a war between China and the United States is most likely to begin with conventional weapons, it could easily escalate into a nuclear war. Both nations possess advanced nuclear weaponry and, though the United States has a very substantial advantage in numbers, the Chinese lead, so far, in the production of hypersonic nuclear weapons. Such weapons travel more than five times faster than the speed of sound and have greater maneuverability than other nuclear-armed missiles.

If these developments seem to indicate that the great powers have not yet learned the lesson about war taught by the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that is because they haven’t. And so the game continues.

Numerous plans have been suggested to defuse these latest showdowns among the great powers. In the case of the U.S.-Russian confrontation, some analysts have recommended  implementing the Minsk formula for the autonomy of eastern Ukraine. Others have suggested a broader settlement, including Western acknowledgement of legitimate Russian security concerns and Russian acceptance that it cannot make Ukraine a vassal state or force the Baltic nations to abandon their NATO membership.  In the case of the U.S.-China confrontation, concerned observers have sought to avert a war by calling attention to its dangers and championing cooperative projects between the two nations. These or other policies might yet save the day. Or they might not. 

In the long run, however, constraining the dangerous proclivity for war of the great powers—and their wannabes—necessitates building an organizational structure with the responsibility and power to maintain international security. Such a project clearly requires a stronger system of global governance—a system more capable of enforcing international law than the one we now possess.  

Although the United Nations was created with the proclaimed goal of curbing the reckless behavior of individual governments, the world organization is obviously not strong enough to accomplish this task. Indeed, the great powers, contrary to their rhetoric, never allowed it to assume this role, for enhanced UN authority would have interfered with their own military ventures.

But it still remains possible to cast off outdated fantasies of national glory and strengthen the United Nations as a key force for peace.  This action, a truly meaningful response to the nuclear age, would dramatically improve the possibilities for saving the world from destruction by the great powers.


Dr. Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany who has written extensively on peace movements, foreign policy, and economic inequality. He is the author of “Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (2009).

Call for Applications for Executive Editor of Peace & Change

The Peace History Society ( invites applications for the position of Executive Editor of Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research.  Our search will continue until the position is filled.

Peace & Change is published by the Peace History Society (PHS) in conjunction with the International Peace Research Association (IPRA).  Its scholarly and interpretive articles engage with topics related to the achievement of a peaceful, just, and humane society.  The journal, whose medium is English, enjoys a global audience.  We endeavor to build bridges across disciplines and among peace researchers, educators, advocates, and activists.  Peace & Change recognizes the longstanding underrepresentation of scholars from marginalized groups within the fields of peace history and peace studies.  We are committed to inclusive editorial leadership that reflects the growing diversity of our scholarly community.  To this end, we seek applicants from all ethnicities, races, religions, sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, national origins, dis/abilities, ages, and backgrounds.

Applicants should review the following information about the journal and the position.  Launched in 1972, Peace & Change publishes four digital issues a year.   It is co-owned by the PHS and Wiley (, with PHS exercising editorial control over the journal content and review process.  The successful applicant must demonstrate an ability to represent Peace & Change in interfacing with the PHS Board, PHS’s IPRA partners, the scholarly community, and various other constituencies.  The applicant must also have institutional support, which traditionally includes a one-course release and a graduate assistantship or the equivalent for the accompanying Managing Editor position.  The time commitment is estimated to be ten hours per week.  The key responsibilities and tasks of the Executive Editor include:

1) Receives all new submissions.  Screens all submissions for originality and fit to the journal’s mission.  Reads all valid submissions with the managing editor and determines which articles are sent out for review and which are declined.

2) Oversees double-blind peer review.  Identifies appropriate readers and sends out anonymized manuscripts for review.  Tracks due dates for readers’ reports and revised manuscripts for authors and send reminders as needed.

3) Keeps a database of reviewers, seeks new reviewers.

4) Evaluates readers’ reports and makes decisions about reviewed articles.  Communicates decisions to authors and includes anonymized readers’ reports (unless a reader requests to be identified).

5) Works with the authors to revise manuscripts to address reviewers’ and editors’ concerns.

6) Schedules articles for publication and forwards final versions to Wiley for Early View publication online.  Articles are submitted to Wiley for individual publication when drafts are in final form.  Wiley assembles the issues from the tables of contents provided by the Executive Editor.

7) Prepares articles for publication, from coordination of preliminary copyediting for house style and readability to reviewing and approving proofs and verifying the securing of permissions and copyright clearances prior to publication.  The Managing Editor may assist with copyediting and verification of copyright and is responsible for writing the Table of Contents and Notes on Authors for each issue.

8) Reviews the final draft of each issue and approves or enters final changes before publication.

9) Reviews final drafts of book reviews (solicited, developed, and edited by the Book Review Editor), assigns them to issues, and submits them to Wiley for production and publication.

10) Works with the Peace & Change Editorial Board on significant issues, nominates board members, and uses board members to review manuscripts.

11) Serves as the point person for communications between the PHS Board, the IPRA, and Wiley on matters concerning the content, publication process, policies, and production of the journal.  The PHS Board oversees matters related to subscriptions, profit sharing, and contractual matters with Wiley and the IPRA.

12) Conducts outreach to potential authors, reviewers, and other contributors to the journal at conferences and other events.  The Executive Editor and Managing Editor will attend Peace History Society conferences to identify manuscripts that might be appropriate for submission to the journal.

13) Oversees publication of short-form pieces and news items on Peace & Change Blog.  The Managing Editor can review, edit, and post these features.

Wiley is migrating Peace & Change to a Scholar One platform, which will automate some parts of the work, including screening for originality and plagiarism and keeping the review process on track (sending reminders, etc.).  This will involve 2-3 meetings with Wiley developers at the start of the Executive Editor’s term to set up the automated workflow to suit their preferences.

Please submit applications and inquiries to <>.  The search will continue until the position is filled.  Your application must include a vita and a letter setting forth your interest in the position, your relevant background and experience, and your vision for Peace & Change and the field of peace research.  Please also convey your institution’s commitment to yourself and to the journal.  We are open to applications by potential co-editors.  Please provide a joint letter of application, vitas, and information about support from your institution(s).

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the World’s Future

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Late January of this year will mark the first anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  This momentous international agreement, the result of a lengthy struggle by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and by many non-nuclear nations, bans developing, testing, producing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, and threatening to use nuclear weapons.  Adopted by an overwhelming vote of the official representatives of the world’s nations at a UN conference in July 2017, the treaty was subsequently signed by 86 nations.  It received the required 50 national ratifications by late October 2020, and, on January 22, 2021, became international law.

Right from the start, the world’s nine nuclear powers—the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—expressed their opposition to such a treaty.  They pressed other nations to boycott the crucial 2017 UN conference and refused to attend it when it occurred.  Indeed, three of them (the United States, Britain, and France) issued a statement declaring that they would never ratify the treaty.  Not surprisingly, then, none of the nuclear powers has signed the agreement or indicated any sympathy for it.

Even so, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has acquired considerable momentum over the past year.  During that time, an additional nine nations ratified it, thus becoming parties to the treaty.  And dozens more, having signed it, are expected to ratify it in the near future.  Furthermore, the governments of two NATO nations, Norway and Germany, have broken free from the U.S. government’s oppositional stance to the treaty and agreed to attend the first meeting of the countries that are parties to it. 

In nations where public opinion on the treaty has been examined, the international agreement enjoys considerable support.  YouGov opinion polls in five NATO countries in Europe show overwhelming backing and very little opposition, with the same true in Iceland, another NATO participant.  Polling has also revealed large majorities in favor of the treaty in Japan, Canada, and Australia.

In the United States, where most of the mainstream communications media have not deigned to mention the treaty, it remains a well-kept secret.  Even so, although a 2019 YouGov poll about it drew a large “Don’t Know” response, treaty support still outweighed opposition by 49 to 32 percent.  Moreover, when the U.S. Conference of  Mayors, representing 1,400 U.S. cities, met in August 2021, the gathering unanimously approved a resolution praising the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Meanwhile, a variety of institutions, recognizing that nuclear weapons are now illegal under international law, have begun to change their investment policies.  In September 2021, Lansforsakringar, a Swedish insurance company with assets of over $46 billion, cited the treaty as a major reason to avoid investing in companies producing nuclear weapons.  In December, the New York City Council adopted a resolution telling the city comptroller to remove investments from the city’s $250 billion pension fund from companies producing or maintaining these weapons of mass destruction.  According to ICAN, 127 financial institutions stopped investing in nuclear weapons companies during 2021.

Despite this impressive display of respect for the landmark agreement, the nine nuclear powers have not only continued to oppose it, but have accelerated their nuclear arms race.  Having cast off the constraints of most nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements of the past, they are all busy either developing or deploying new nuclear weapons systems or have announced their intention to do so. 

In this process of nuclear “modernization,” as it is politely termed, they are building newly-designed nuclear weapons of increasing accuracy and efficiency.  These include hypersonic missiles, which travel at five times the speed of sound and are better able than their predecessors to evade missile defenses.  Reportedly, hypersonic missiles have already been developed by Russia and China.  The United States is currently scrambling to build them, as well, with the usual corporate weapons contractors eager to oblige.

When it comes to “modernization” of its entire nuclear weapons complex, the U.S. government probably has the lead.  During the Obama administration, it embarked on a massive project designed to refurbish U.S. nuclear production facilities, enhance existing nuclear weapons, and build new ones.  This enormous nuclear venture accelerated during the Trump administration and continues today, with a total cost estimated to ultimately top $1.5 trillion.

Although there remain some gestures toward nuclear arms control—such as the agreement between U.S. president Joe Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin to extend the New Start Treaty—the nuclear powers are now giving a much higher priority to the nuclear arms race.

The current build-up of their nuclear arsenals is particularly dangerous at this time of rising conflict among them.  The U.S. and Russian governments almost certainly don’t want a nuclear war over Ukraine, but they could easily slip into one.  The same is true in the case of the heightening confrontation between the Chinese and U.S. governments over Taiwan and the islands in the South China Sea.  And what will happen when nuclear-armed India and nuclear-armed Pakistan fight yet another war, or when nuclear-armed national leaders like Kim Jong-un and a possibly re-elected Donald Trump start trading insults again about their countries’ nuclear might?

At present, this standoff between the nuclear nations, enamored with winning their global power struggles, and the non-nuclear nations, aghast at the terrible danger of nuclear war, seems likely to persist, resulting in the continuation of the world’s long nuclear nightmare. 

In this context, the most promising course of action for people interested in human survival might well lie in a popular mobilization to compel the nuclear nations to accept the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and, more broadly, to accept a restrained role in a cooperatively-governed world.

Dr. Lawrence S. Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Why Is U.S. Military Spending Increasing to New, Outlandish Levels?

Lawrence S. Wittner

posted December 28, 2021

Photo: Shutterstock

Although critics of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan to increase funding for U.S. education, healthcare, and action against climate catastrophe say the United States can’t afford it, there are no such qualms about ramping up funding for the U.S. military.

In May 2021, the Pentagon asked Congress to fund a $715 billion budget for Fiscal 2022—an increase of $10 billion over the previous year.  Together with another $38 billion requested for military-related programs at other government agencies, this would bring total U.S. military spending to $753 billion. 

But from the standpoint of most Republicans and many Democrats in Congress, this was not enough.  In September, by an overwhelming margin, the House passed a $768 billion military spending bill and, in December, the Senate did so, as well, sending the legislation to the president for his signature.  These actions were taken despite the fact that, except for military spending at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, current U.S. military spending, after adjusting for inflation, is the highest since World War II.

Indeed, even without any increase, annual spending on the U.S. military would have been more than four times the proposed $175 billion annual spending on the stalled Build Back Better plan.

But isn’t this massive military spending necessary to prevent Chinese aggression?

China, although recently quite assertive in world affairs and repressive toward internal dissent, has not been at war with another nation since 1979, when it fought a brief but bloody conflict with Vietnam.  Furthermore, even though China has engaged in a military buildup in recent decades, its military spending increases have often lagged behind those of the United States.  In 2020, China’s military spending rose over the preceding year by 1.9 percent, whereas U.S. military spending increased by 4.4 percent.

Furthermore, if Chinese aggression isn’t already deterred by the current level of U.S. military spending, it’s hard to imagine that increased funding for the U.S. military will be more effective.  After all, the United States is currently the biggest military spender in the world, accounting for 39 percent of the global total.  China, the number 2 nation in military expenditures, spends only a third of that amount.  When it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States has 5,500 nuclear warheads to China’s 350, providing the United States with an almost 16-to-1 advantage. 

Given the enormous superiority of current U.S. military power, is more really useful?  Indeed, isn’t increased U.S. military spending actually counterproductive—provoking China to engage in an expensive and dangerous arms race with the United States and squandering U.S. tax dollars that could be spent more productively?  Wouldn’t both countries be better served by an agreement between them to freeze military spending at current levels and to transfer responsibility for the enforcement of international security to a strengthened United Nations?

Why, then, is U.S. military spending increasing?  One reason is an inflamed nationalism—the widespread assumption that, as U.S. politicians like to say, the United States is “the greatest country in the history of the world.”  This belief in the superiority of one’s own nation, shared by people in many lands, is played upon by demagogues like Donald Trump, who talk glibly of “America First” and send their audiences into rapturous chants of “USA, USA.”  In these circumstances, citizens of powerful nations slip easily into what U.S. Senator J.W. Fulbright once called “the arrogance of power”—the assumption that their country should play a dominant role in world affairs.  Little wonder, then, that many members of Congress, although skeptical of the necessity for rising military budgets, tamely vote for them lest they be portrayed as “soft on defense.”

But this is only part of the story, for, although many Americans support ramping up U.S. military spending, most Americans don’t.  A July 2020 opinion survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that only 23 percent of U.S. respondents favored increasing U.S. military spending, while 66 percent either favored maintaining the current level (38 percent) or cutting it (28 percent).  A February 2021 Gallup Poll revealed similar opinions.

A more powerful driver of military spending increases lies in the enormous influence of self-interested corporate contractors.  These private companies work hard to ensure that the U.S. military budget—and thus their income—keeps rising.  Over the past two decades, U.S. weapons makers have spent $2.5 billion on lobbying, employing over 700 lobbyists per year to sell new, immensely expensive high-tech missiles, warplanes, warships, and other implements of destruction to the U.S. government.  Most of these corporate lobbyists have moved through a revolving door of jobs at the Pentagon, the National Security Council, Congress, and other key agencies.  Indeed, four of the past five U.S. Secretaries of Defense have come from one of the top five arms contractors.  Military contractors also copiously fund major think tanks and, of course, make very substantial campaign contributions to friendly politicians—an estimated $285 million over the last two decades.

Such investments have paid off handsomely, enabling military contractors to rake in roughly half of the Pentagon’s lavish annual spending.  Since Fiscal Year 2001, U.S. weapons manufacturers have secured $4.4 trillion in U.S. government contracts, with a quarter to a third of all Pentagon contracts in recent years going to just five major weapons companies:  Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.  In Fiscal 2020, Lockheed Martin alone received $75 billion from the Pentagon.  Furthermore, enormous Pentagon contracts are also handed out to military logistics, reconstruction, and “security” corporations.

In response to these pressures, the U.S. government all too often bypasses other approaches to international security—including forging cooperative agreements with other nations and strengthening multilateral institutions—while increasing its military spending to new, outlandish levels.

Dr. Lawrence S. Wittner ( ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Remembering Archbishop Desmond Tutu

By Matt Meyer

The author with Archbishop Tutu. Photo courtesy of Matt Meyer.

In mid-December 2021, I urged my colleagues, friends, and family to find the joy in the festive season rooted in our collective work for justice. As we prepared to close our year out with hopes for a better one in the future, I too was looking for reasons to celebrate. On the day after Christmas, however, my joy was diminished as the world bid farewell to a true voice for justice for all, one whose circumstance and character catapulted him to extraordinary prominence. I was truly humbled to call South African Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Despond Mpilo Tutu a friend, honoured to have his strong and supportive words serve as Introductions to three of my books and his inimitable presence on video and in person add to countless conference and events I helped organize. The “Arch” truly provided a human entranceway for so many freedom fighters who would find no similar source of sustenance from anyone near to his level of global prominence. It was not just that he had an unquenchable thirst for the liberation of all, leading him to a genuine, independent radicalism which defied easy ideological definition and defied the powerbrokers of every continent and corporation. It was not just that he fashioned—even in the busiest and most repressive of times—an administrative centre which enabled clear access to so many grassroots resistance initiatives. Archbishop Tutu’s head and heart, his prayers and actions, triumphantly focused on reconciliation and reparations borne of that resistance.

One might assume that my connection to the Arch came about first and foremost through my mentorship and deep collaborations with the man who would eventually become my step-dad, Pan African pacifist Bill Sutherland, with whom I co-authored Guns and Gandhi in Africa (2000) which Archbishop Tutu provided the Introduction for. And while it is true that the Arch’s connection to Bill was a deep and long-standing one more akin to family members than friends, it is not how he and I first met. Bill, it should be noted, worked for decades with the War Resisters’ International and for years as a staff member of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which won the Nobel Peace prize as an organization – along with the British Friends Service Council – in 1947, following the end of WWII. As is the custom, Nobel Peace laureates are given special space to nominate future prize-winners and – as an AFSC representative helping to lead that group’s work against the heinous racist apartheid regime, Bill worked hard to get AFSC to recommend then-Bishop Tutu for the prize, As is now well documented, Tutu was awarded the prize in 1984 at a key moment in South Africa’s history.

Though repression within the apartheid regime was still extremely intense, the mass democratic and anti-racist movements which would sweep across the country and ignite the world were coming up at just this time, in the early 1980’s. The United Democratic Front, a broad coalition of grassroots groups, was taking the lead in many places and, within the white community, the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) was developing as a voice within the communities of the oppressor, to spark a creative fire among a new generation of whites who would come to oppose both militarism and racism. Tutu, of course, was a supporter and champion of both and – more than that – was willing to take substantial risk by boldly dispelling the myth that the Boycott and Divestment movement would hurt the African people of South Africa. The callous liberal and mainstream mock-concern that BDS would be anything other than a strategic, internationally accessible, nonviolent means of hurting the apartheid regime was laid bare when Tutu led the call (at a time when getting direct word out of South Africa was difficult) that BDS was a policy which would help Black South Africans not hurt them; their torture at the hands of the racist regime was far more serious than the loss of a few coins which might trickle down to the African community from the state losses under a successful divestment campaign. 1984 was key, and the Archbishop was always personally grateful and politically engaged with Papa Bill for the support of the Nobel endorsement and what became our collective conversations on unarmed resistance and the tactics of social change. I shall never forget the surprise call from the Arch which came through on my mobile phone in Brooklyn decades later as we were celebrating Papa Bill’s 90th birthday, noting that the people of Africa owe him a debt of gratitude.

My first personal connection to the Arch, however, came through work with another fierce and fearless friend: Cape Town’s wonderful Dr. Ivan Toms. Ivan was many things to many people, first and foremost known as the medical doctor who built and staffed the health clinic at Crossroads. Crossroads was not really a township or a neighborhood, it was a community–a very unique community made up of those now called shack-dwellers, a grouping of squatters making up what some termed a shantytown. One of the special things about Crossroads was that no matter how many times the apartheid regime literally bulldozed down this community of open resistance, community members would quickly turn around and rebuild. A little thing like a highly militarized and repressive state was not going to get in their way! Another special thing was that there was this one member of the white community, a prominent medical doctor no less, who decided to throw his lot in with those most oppressed and create a health center in the middle of Crossroads where he could attend to people most in need and train a crew of community-based health practitioners and nurses to take care of the rest. This was just who Ivan was. He was, by the way, also one of the early leaders of ECC, refusing the doctor’s draft and other calls to military service and supporting those younger resisters who were less established. When he obtained a small US State Department grant to travel to the States as an example of South African ‘goodness,’ he made sure to speak out against racism and apartheid whenever he could and, as soon as his official responsibilities were completed, decided to extend his stay in the hemisphere and bought himself a ticket to revolutionary Nicaragua, fighting against the US-sponsored contra war. Upon returning to South Africa, he infuriated the right-wing regime and ruffled a few feathers on the left when he publicly proclaimed, “Yo Soy Sandinista!” 

Dr. Ivan Toms was also gay. And like nearly everything in the rest of his life, he refused to keep quiet about things which were important to him. He was, in addition, an Anglican and a member of the Cape Town church where Desmond Tutu regularly pastored. So, very early on in his life as an iconic figure in his own right, Ivan asked his pastor Tutu (also years before the Nobel prize) what he should do. He didn’t want to be closeted, but also didn’t want to diminish his role as a then-rare white opponent of apartheid. Needless to say, Tutu and Toms engaged in dialogue deeply personal, spiritual, and strategic – as was their way. Out of those conversations came Ivan’s very public coming out, and Tutu’s very public support of the same. By the mid-1980’s and the growing anti-apartheid movements within South African and internationally, these two stalwart figures and friends was already “on record” – not merely about LGBT rights but about the principled position that liberation for all was not a negotiable thing to be compromised away. Ivan and I became buddies as fellow draft resisters across the waters at and after the founding of ECC. When I was tasked with editing a Peace calendar on youth resistance and “Children of War, Children of Peace,” Ivan helped connect me (now in the early 1990’s) with his famous friend who had also championed those children caught within the tragedies of war. Archbishop Tutu thus wrote the Introduction to my first edited “booklet,” a 1993 collection which includes short poetry and prose from young people around the world, including the voice of a “New Afrikan” scout based in the southeastern US by the name of Tupac Shakur!   

In the days and weeks following Archbishop Tutu’s passing, the leaders of almost every nation— the politicians and pundits of the most powerful on earth—will line up to claim him as their own. But the still-colonized people of the world who the Arch strenuously supported and defended will hopefully also remember his love—be they the Puerto Rican nation seeking freedom from direct US colonialism or the Tibetan people seeking freedom from China, be they the people of Western Sahara or West Papua or of Palestine, who as subjects of modern settler-colonial Israeli apartheid were of particular concern to this servant of God. We would also hope but do not expect that their colonizers, who will be among the first to claim Tutu as a source of inspiration (out of both sides of their mouths), would follow the freedom-loving directions which the Archbishop set forth. Those still imprisoned for political reasons (and their jailers) should also remember his consistent calls for their release—be they well known figures such as American Indian Movement elder Leonard Peltier or Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, or the lesser-known names of the wrongfully incarcerated of every nation (including, in the US, Sundiata Acoli, who is just a few years younger than the Arch). Freedom for all would be a far more fitting tribute to the life of Archbishop Tutu than the hollow words we will undoubtedly hear repeated in the coming days, and “peace on Earth, good will towards All” would be a more significant refrain if put into practice by the arms manufacturers and weapons peddlers of the planet.

The Arch was a great strategic thinker, and I remember sitting with him privately some years back in his office in Cape Town. Our conversation spanned so many topics across a world of injustices, but I recall two points of both tactical and spiritual significance. In discussing the still-incarcerated Puerto Rican patriot Oscar Lopez Rivera, termed by many South American heads of state “the Mandela of the Americas,” the Arch weighed in on how best to balance his ongoing support for Oscar’s immediate and unconditional release with the need to also understand the mind of the man who would be destined to release him: Barack Obama. Students of realpolitik, we realized that Obama wouldn’t simply set Oscar free based on moral suasion. The right words and right timing had to be considered regarding the Call for release. Then, as we moved to another “agenda item,” we reflected upon the people of Palestine’s West Bank and especially Gaza who had just suffered a bombing raid by the all-powerful and unregulated Israeli Defense Force. “God must be weeping now,” the Arch sombrely repeated to me, heart sick about both the immediate human toll as well as the difficulties ahead.

On these same days and weeks, I will try not to weep for our loss of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who—as I just wrote to his daughters—lived such a truly extraordinary and meaningful life. As we send the family our condolences and best wishes for a healing time ahead, let us do as the Arch would do, with steadfastness and humour and a focus on what needs to be done rather than its costs.

Today the gratitude which Archbishop Tutu insisted be paid to the under-recognized Bill Sutherland, the precious memories which are due to Ivan Toms, and those looking to pay tribute to Tupac as well as so many others, would do well to better understand the connections between these fierce freedom fighters. We would do even better to comprehend and act upon the potential connections which we can and must build between us. Let us take part of our energy in remembering the Arch to work towards building the 21st Century united fronts so needed to pave a path toward justice.

Let us work to heal the earth, and to heal one another, by redoubling our fight to Free the Land and its Peoples, to Free All Political Prisoners, to build a beloved community of liberation where all can find the enduring peace which is the fruit of our struggles for structural justice.

Matt Meyer is Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association, Senior Research Scholar at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst Resistance Studies Initiative, and a member of the editorial board for Peace & Change.

This post was expanded and revised on December 29, 2021.