Is `peace education' just a tool of antiwar activists, or is it a genuine academic pursuit? Here three specialists -- the chairman of the peace studies program at Tufts, the director of the peace education program at Earlham, and a political scientist at Georgetown -- offer their comments.GRADING THE PEACE TEACHERS. Despite real worth, some serious gaps

GIVEN that the United States spends over $300 billion every year preparing for war, does it not make sense to devote some resources to the study of peace and how it may be brought about? The objective of peace studies is not only the discovery of ways in which future wars may be prevented and of alternative policies through which international competition may be channeled into peaceful activities of mutual benefit to all nations. Consciousness-raising

Peace studies also has as a high priority the development of a new human consciousness. It seeks to transform our traditional ways of thinking by persuading us that war is absolutely irrational, and that we prevent it not by maintaining a balance of power and a strong national defense but by actively and creatively studying and pursuing peace in all our national policies as a positive, attainable goal.

Peace studies has contributed to American national security and to international peace by focusing attention on potential technical malfunctionings in the military command, control, and communication networks of both superpowers which could lead to an accidental nuclear war between them. Peace studies has also offered innovative approaches to the problems of monitoring and verifying compliance with arms control agreements. The most outstanding example of the value of peace studies is the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, whose statistical and technical assessments of various military issues are widely respected, even by those who disagree with its policy recommendations. Questionable assumptions

Yet, underlying peace studies is a series of questionable philosophical assumptions that help explain the limitations of peace studies as a comprehensive approach to the dilemmas of international war and peace. With notable exceptions, academic researchers heavily involved in peace studies hold, either implicitly or explicitly, one or more of the following assumptions about war: (1) War is an unnatural condition, an abnormality; (2) war is an atavistic form of human behavior which is not in the true interests of any society; (3) war happens because of accidents or as a result of bureaucratic stupidity, militarism, the false quest for national glory, or the selfish machinations of a small number of people in a society who are the only ones who benefit from it; (4) if sufficient educational efforts are undertaken to make people aware of its destructiveness and inherent irrationality, war may eventually become a thing of the past.

Characteristic of this way of thinking are the views of Gwynne Dyer, the Canadian researcher whose television series ``War'' was aired by PBS last fall amid great publicity. The most salient themes in the series were the sheer absurdity and meaninglessness of war. In an interview with the Monitor, Mr. Dyer indicated that he could not think of any war today or in the future in which he would fight or in which he would not counsel his own sons to escape the draft. While the skillfully edited scenes from ``War'' conveyed this message quite effectively, the television series failed to raise some critical questions which neither Dyer nor most peace researchers seem interested in probing. Critical questions

First, is war always an unnatural condition, an abnormality? A truly serious inquiry into the problem of war has to confront the underlying problem of human violence in general. The struggle for power, and the state of conflict and violence that peace researchers see as aberrations of international relations, are present also, either potentially or openly, in the political and economic life of every society, within every social and economic organization, and even within the family. Thus, conflict and violence may be far more deeply rooted in human nature, and less susceptible to modification, than most peace-studies advocates would admit.

Together with greed and the lust for power, the urge to violence and war may be not a pathological state but as much a part of the human condition as the instincts for friendliness and social cooperation of which man is simultaneously capable. This means that while war is to be deplored, and while statesmen are under a moral obligation to avert wars that are accidental, frivolous, or futile, violence will continue to exist in this world, and men of goodwill may have to make preparations to defend themselves from such violence and to discourage others from inflicting it on them. Wars sometimes worth the costs

Second, are all wars meaningless? Dyer and many peace researchers are quite selective in their historical illustrations, as they seek to persuade us that, from a long-term historical perspective, appeasement and even surrender are preferable to war and its destructiveness. Their favorite examples include hypothetical cases of all-out nuclear war between the superpowers, the Vietnam war, and numerous other past wars in which the fate of a people would have been the same or even better if the war had not been fought.

Yet, millions of men and women throughout history, many of them quite reasonable and intelligent, have disagreed with the statement that war is always absurd. American blacks consider their liberation from slavery worth the carnage of the Civil War. The Russians rightly believe that the loss of 20 million people was a frightful price to pay for resisting Hitler, yet preferable to the even greater horrors that would have ensued had they acquiesced. Some of the finest minds in American history, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, thought that the political, psychological, and economic benefits of American independence were worth a long and costly war against Great Britain. Valor, courage, heroism

There are situations in which war makes sense, in which it furthers the true interests of a community. Not only do reasonable people consider values such as freedom from foreign domination worth the loss of physical life entailed in war; the historical record sadly shows that nations that surrender to a stronger power for the sake of physical survival are often exterminated anyway, or reduced to an abject slavery in which death becomes preferable to life.

The third question that must be asked is: As a society, do we want to concentrate exclusively on nurturing ``peace attitudes'' in our children, at the expense of neglecting the martial virtues? Do we denigrate as atavistic such traditional values as military valor, courage, and heroism in the face of foreign threats, as Dyer does?

There are critics who contend that such attitudes are symptomatic of a spiritually and morally exhausted civilization that is so confused by its affluence and ease of living that it has come to see physical survival as the most important value in life and has forgotten some of the elementary realities of international politics. Even if one abstains from such a harsh judgment, the fact remains that Dyer's attitudes are not shared by the majority of peoples and cultures in today's world, many of which still glorify war or see it as an eventuality for which they must be fully prepared at all times.

Thus, as parents, we may not deem it wise to give our children toy guns at an early age, or do anything that glorifies violence or depicts it as something good in itself. Yet, as the children grow up we may find it appropriate to enlarge their moral and intellectual understanding beyond a basic antipathy toward war. We do not have to be Gordon Liddys to explain to our children that in this world even decent people must be ready to use force to defend themselves and those values that constitute a civilized and humane existence. Subordinated to a just cause and to the restraints of honorable conduct, the use of force is not always evil. Morally justifiable objective

Considering the unfortunate necessities that surround us in this imperfect world, military preparedness, like a society's system of law enforcement, is a morally justifiable objective because of the greater immorality that might be let loose in the world if we neglected the martial virtues unilaterally.

These are just a few of those moral and philosophical questions that Winston Churchill described in his memoirs as ``the tormenting dilemmas upon which mankind has throughout its history been so frequently impaled.'' By ignoring or giving too easy answers to these questions, peace studies, despite their valuable insights, fail to give us a truly profound understanding of the tragic and paradoxical ambiguities of international conflict.

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