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The path to peace.

Peaceful relations between states exist under six conditions. The first three of these are informal or citizen-based initiatives: athletic competition, communication among intellectuals, and celebrations between artists. The next three are formal or government-based actions: trade agreements, diplomatic recognition, and international alliances.

This formula for peace is compiled from data collected on the experience of preliterate, ancient, medieval, and contemporary societies. The configurations vary according to time and culture, but peace between societies cannot exist without most of them being in place. Hence, if a state wishes to have peaceful relations with another state it must initially permit the exchange of athletes, scholars, and artisans. It can then encourage mutual trade, pursue diplomatic recognition, and form interstate alliances. Thus, communication is the first stage of peace.

Conversely, if a state wishes to pursue a path of war with another nation, it can deny both informal (citizen) and formal (diplomatic) relationships with that nation. A military attack can then easily be staged since there are no peaceful constraints in place to prevent it. The refusal to communicate is the first stage of war.

To illustrate this, let's examine the close ties between the United States and China. What had at one time been an extremely hostile relationship--the United States was involved in a de facto war with China during the Korean War--changed dramatically when the Chinese invited an American ping-pong team to visit China in 1971. (The use of athletic exchanges as a symbol of peace has a long history that includes the Olympic Games.) Following that, exchanges between U.S. and Chinese intellectuals, artisans, and conflict resolution specialists increased while formal trade and diplomatic ties were established. Today, although China possesses weapons of mass destruction and isn't a democracy, it maintains good relations with the United States and even enjoys "most favored nation" trading status. China, because of its sheer size and power could pose a far greater threat to the United States than, for example, Iraq, but the six conditions for peace discussed above act as a guarantor of peace and a deterrent to war.

Can the United States follow a similar style policy with Iraq, Iran, or any other nation it defines as an enemy? Of course, it can. Indeed, it must.

Humankind can follow a more peaceful path because peace and non-violence are, in Gandhi's words, "as old as the hills." Rather than being an aberration in human history, peaceful societies dominate our known experience as a species. Even today, despite rumors of war, the vast majority of the world's 190 nations live in harmony. We are history-making animals and, as such, the future is in our hands. Peace is possible.

We must follow a peaceful path for three important reasons. First, very few wars in human history have actually led to peace. On the contrary, wars sow the seeds for future wars and the eye-for-an-eye law of retaliation. The U.S. war against Iraq has further unsettled the Middle East and increased the danger of retaliation against the people of the United States. History tells us that those nations which initiate conflict lose far more often than the nations they attack. In its attack against Iraq the United States won the battle but stands to lose a far larger imperative.

Second, all that is decent, all that is good, all that is moral in human civilization demands that the richest and most powerful nation in history treat lesser nations with respect and justice. The U.S. policy of isolating dictators actually keeps them in power and makes conditions worse for the very people it attempts to help: its adversary's citizens. A foreign policy that includes so-called rogue states in the international arena will do far more to weaken totalitarian power than policies that exclude these nations from world community.

Third, it's vital that all countries follow a peaceful path because civilized societies follow the rule of law rather than the rule of the brute. There already exists a body of international law and a plethora of international institutions--the United Nations being the foremost--that have proven a remarkable resource in stopping and preventing wars. Just as wars are best fought with alliances, so peace must be pursued in like manner. Further more, in pursuit of its enemies, the United States is dangerously flirting with losing its own civil liberties at home. A lack of respect for international law inevitably results in a loss of freedom at home.

The lesson of this discussion is profound, yet simple: nations must play together, think together, sing together, share together, and unite together for authentic peace to exist. This is no pipedream. It has happened for many thousands of years. There is hope.

Joseph J. Fahey is a professor of religious studies and a member of the Peace Studies faculty at Manhattan College. He can be reached by e-mail at
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Title Annotation:Up front: news and opinion from independent minds
Author:Fahey, Joseph J.
Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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