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Some thoughts on peace contests and the real world

By EARL W. FOELLEarl W. Foell is editor in chief of The Christian Science Monitor. / November 13, 1984


This newspaper doesn't run lotto games. We're not into jackpots. We've never even considered the kind of circulation-building games of chance that are trendy nowadays. But we have, occasionally, asked readers to grab pens and typewriters and write us their ideas on assorted subjects.

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Sometimes the exercise was serious (your thoughts on how to improve auto safety, for instance). Sometimes it was person-to-person practical (your favorite vacation haunts or recipes). Sometimes you got to vote subjective preferences (your ranking of America's and the world's most livable cities).

This season - till the end of the year - the Monitor is inviting readers to write their ideas for achieving peace (and preserving it). Many of you have already put your thoughts on paper and sent in effective entries. If you haven't started, there's still plenty of time. The very simple rules are described in an ad titled ''PEACE 2010'' on the next page.

If you've ever muttered to yourself, ''Why can't world leaders do a better job of it''; if you've ever joined peace protestors, or shaken your head at them; if you've mulled over an idea designed to change grass-roots thinking around the world, it's time to put your thoughts to the test. If you've thought about curbing terrorism or the spread of nuclear weapons, about improving food distribution or world trade, about revitalizing the UN and making better use of the World Court, or about the ethical and spiritual qualities that separate a leader interested in improving civilization from a demagogue grabbing personal power, please put those thoughts in order - and on paper.

Whatever route you see the world taking toward peace in the next quarter-century, see if you can write about it in a clear, persuasive way. We want to publish, and give wide circulation to, the winners.

This columnist is not going to be one of the final judges for the competition. For that we turn to the expertise of a former secretary-general of the United Nations, a former NATO theater commander, a former member of the White House National Security Council who dealt with war and peace issues, and the head of a leading European institute of international studies.

As a non-judge, perhaps I can suggest one approach to the subject without appearing either to coach contestants or to anticipate what the judges will choose.

Any of you having difficulty deciding where to start might try this stimulus:

Imagine you've been assigned as adviser to a world statesman. Then watch or read the news. Think through what plans you could put forward to deal effectively with the problems you have just heard described. Do you see a better system for heading off labor-management strife? For coping with guerrilla wars? For dealing with the arms race and its costs? For coping with refugees, drought, a one-crop economy, bigotry, trade warfare?

Try to think your way through to a cohesive strategy. Face the practical questions: How would you fund your plan? Would you use existing institutions, or are new ones needed? What about political opposition? How permanent is the solution? How do you persuade other leaders, other nations to agree?