An appropriate US response: the Peace Institute

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IT is a genius of American democracy that it continually creates national institutions devoted to furthering human knowledge, understanding among nations, and freedom. Today these include, among others, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the Peace Corps, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the National Endowment for Democracy. In this tradition, a new national institution, the United States Institute of Peace, has quietly been born.

Its mandate is to encourage research, education, and information exchange in enhancing our ability to resolve and manage conflict. Its method will be the pursuit of excellence in an interdisciplinary climate of intellectual freedom. By law independent and nonpartisan, it will promote scholarship in public and private institutions around the world as well as offer its own center of excellence.

The Institute of Peace is the product of a bipartisan congressional effort of more than 200 members of Congress and the vision of a dedicated few such as Sens. Mark Hatfield, Spark Matsunaga (who chaired the blue-ribbon congressional-presidential commission that recommended establishment of the institute), Claiborne Pell, Jennings Randolph, and Robert Stafford and Rep. Dan Glickman. The first meeting of the board of directors was held Feb. 26. The board was sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger.

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This first board of the institute has collectively earned more than 20 advanced degrees and published more than 50 books. Perhaps most fittingly, in view of the institute's strong roots in the soil of democracy, it has received an outpouring of suggestions and support from individuals all over the world, including heartwarming offers of permanent sites and other support from communities around the country.

There is no more pressing problem facing mankind than reducing the risk of general war, containing and ending regional conflicts, and ending the recurrent violence of aggressive attack, whether through armies openly on the march across international boundaries -- or by concealed state-sponsored terrorism and guerrilla warfare. In addressing these problems, the Institute of Peace will not immediately make the world a safer place, but it can through time enhance our understanding of conflict and conflict resolution, and it will certainly make an important contribution to careful scholarly research and education about this great human problem. Moreover, it could have a multiplier effect as private institutions and even other nations follow suit in enhancing research and education about conflict management.

It is particularly appropriate that this new Institute of Peace should be created by the United States.

The role of the United States in the struggle against the inhumanity of war has been second to none. In the Lieber Code, through which he sought to lessen the horrors of our own civil war, President Lincoln led the world toward detailed codes of human rights for settings of armed conflict. Americans played a leading role in the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. An American secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, led the world to fact-finding and ``cooling off'' treaties as a means of war avoidance. President Woodrow Wilson dreamed the dream that became the League of Nations. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg helped lead the world to the momentous Pact of Paris that, at least in legal terms, prohibited aggressive war as a modality of foreign policy. In the aftermath of what Winston Churchill termed the ``unnecessary war,'' President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the Allies in the creation of the United Nations, and in a speech scheduled for April 13, 1945, and never delivered because of his death a day earlier, President Roosevelt wrote simply and eloquently for all Americans: ``The work, my friends, is peace. More than an end to this war -- an end to the beginnings of all wars. Yes, an end, forever, to this impractical, unrealistic settlement of the differences between governments by the mass killing of peoples. Today we move against the terrible scourge of war -- as we go forward toward the greatest contribution that any generation of human beings can make in this world -- the contribution of lasting peace.''

President Harry Truman later offered the Baruch Plan, by which the nuclear genie would have been harnessed exclusively for peaceful purposes. President John Kennedy established the Peace Corps and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, unique national institutions for promoting peace. And President Reagan established the National Endowment for Democracy to engage America more effectively in promotion of freedom and democracy in the global struggle for ideas. The United States Institute of Peace is an institution in this great American tradition that hopefully will make an important contribution toward the control of violence and achievement of a just peace of freedom and human dignity.

The Institute of Peace has just begun its work. It will be months before it begins supporting research and education. If its current core of support across the political spectrum is any indication, however, the institute seems destined to become an important resource in the continuing struggle for world order and human freedom.

John Norton Moore is Walter L. Brown professor of law at the University of Virginia and the first chairman of the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace.

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