When Miss Congeniality admitted that she really did want world peace, little did she know that the government would have an answer. A recently introduced bill would establish a Department of Peace to “reduce and prevent violence in the United States and internationally through peacebuilding and effective nonviolent conflict resolution.”
Representative Kucinich (D-OH) and his fellow sponsors hope to promote peace in the United States by developing new policies to prevent animal abuse, gang violence, and domestic abuse. This bill will also promote international peace by establishing a Peace Academy to function as a coequal institution with the military academies, which will train students to mediate between the United States and other countries and to ensure that conflict is avoided whenever possible.
All Americans, of course, want to live in peace, but a Department of Peace won’t deliver that: the bill’s goal is so lofty that it actually compromises national security and oversteps the prudential limits of the federal government.
The biggest problem is the underlying belief that government programs can transform human nature. A Department of Peace, it claims, would promote a “higher evolution of the human awareness” and “tap the infinite capabilities of humanity.” Some of us still cling to Madison’s view that men are not angels, and we recognize that human selfishness is never going to disappear. Our efforts to promote peace must rest on a sober assessment of human nature—one that understands human weaknesses, not one that assumes humans’ “infinite capabilities” to eradicate violence.
Second, in its effort to ensure peace, this bill could actually compromise national security. In addition to overstepping the Department of Defense by working with other countries to eliminate nuclear weapons, it requires the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to consult the Secretary of Peace—even in a crisis situation.
Finally, at the domestic level, this bill takes away more power from the local government and civil society and places it in federal hands. True improvement transpires through human relationships and while the government can deter and punish violence, the most effective way to prevent violence is to allow civil society to do its job: Let families, religious organizations, and voluntary organizations reach out to their neighbors and transform lives through grass-roots renewal.
We are all for peace, but citizens must realize that it comes through a hardnosed view of human nature, a strong national defense, and a renewal of local communities.
Brittany Baldwin currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/internships-young-leaders/the-heritage-foundation-internship-program