US Institute of Peace: A Very Bipartisan and Conservative Idea

March 28th, 2011

The United States Institute of Peace [USIP] is a very conservative idea — that’s why in 1784 President George Washington envisioned a ‘proper peace establishment’, and that’s why years later President Ronald Reagan signed such enabling legislation.

A genuine and sustained just peace is an economic bargain — after all, one cruise missile costs about a million dollars— plus delivery.

That’s why Republicans and Democrats have supported USIP’s formation beginning with a grass root effort in the 70’s; in ‘79, Congress’ creation of a a nine member bipartisan federal commission with the active support of the Carter administration; in ‘80 with the commission’s report to President Reagan and to both Houses of Congress; in 1984 the passage of the legislation which the President signed; and in June 2008 President George W. Bush’s ground breaking of the Institute’s permanent home.

What conservative politician couldn’t run on that record — hell, they all knew that it is war that is radical, not peace. None of the above could be truly labeled as ‘purely liberal’, yet nonetheless I guess they were all saying ‘Let’s give peace a chance.’

Some conservatives — Richard Nixon, James Baker, Ronald Reagan and many others — even talked with our enemies. Guess they were thinking ‘Talk is cheap, so let’s talk and see where it may lead’ — not a weak effort in attempts to avoid international conflicts, the loss of lives, and the costs of war itself including address of an abundance of necessary post conflict activities.

Maybe we should listen to character Colonel Potter of M*A*S*H “Sometimes I think it should be a rule of war that you have to see somebody up close, and get to know him before you can shoot him.”

Or perhaps you prefer the reflective words from General Robert E. Lee or Abraham Lincoln or Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower who was a five-star general in the United States Army as well as our 34th President; or four-star General Andrew J. Goodpasteur who was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from 1963 to 1969, and came out of retirement to lead the United States Military Academy at West Point; or Admiral Mike Mullen who, having served as chief of naval operations, the Navy’s highest-ranking post, became our current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 2007, and is the only member of Barack Obama’s national security team that the president did not personally select.

Yup — no doubt about it: Peace is a conservative idea that is preferable to war, and strong military leaders as well as seasoned diplomatic leaders don’t hesitate saying so. Wonder why so many support USIP – folks like retired four-star General Anthony Charles Zinni of the United States Marine Corps who also served as Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM); and there is Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense in both the Bush and Obama administrations, and who is highly respected on both sides of the aisle; and former Ambassador Samuel W. Lewis who served as US Ambassador to Israel in both Republican and Democrat administrations; and of course Senior Senator from Hawaii, the Honorable Daniel Ken “Dan” Inouye, military veteran and recipient of the United States Medal of Honor.

Without doubt our nation must have an ever ready responsive and responsible military capability — mostly as preparation to prevent war but on occasion to fight in war. Admiral Mullen recently stated that he wasn’t against all wars ‘only dumb wars’!

Whoa … maybe there is at least one folk song title that we should challenge, namely, “I Ain’t Going to Study War No More”.

Conservatively speaking I say maybe we should study both war and peace. I just got the gut feeling that we would do better if we knew better — land perhaps narrow the gap between war technology and peace technology. Maybe then we could be more effective than our past thinking regarding the Balkans, Rwanda, Sudan, Congo, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast — even Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. How about the scenarios in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia?

Let me repeat myself — I have the gut feeling that we would do better if we knew better, and maybe narrow the gap between war technology and peace technology. Military leaders say both disciplines must work together hand-in hand. I agree — a very conservative idea, and I am not going to argue with such first-hand experienced people.

The Independent, nonpartisan federal institution has thrust our nation into such a search through study, research, training and direct involvement. One only has to look at United States Institute of Peace Wikipedia page to be awed at its past activities, achievements and current involvements. Those are the things for which we should be most pleased — plus its vision and future plans.

And something else, people are spellbound whenever they view the Institute’s new headquarters quasi-adjacent to the Mall as it compliments the war memorials that honor those who served and sacrificed. It says we will never abandon you — never, and we will strive to move closer to that perfect freedom both here and wherever justifiably necessary. We should be thrilled that the Institute is on the tourist track so American citizens, as well as international tourists, can acknowledge a live American symbol that doesn’t apologize for visibly declaring to strive for peace in respectable partnership with military leaders and diplomats.. Yea, the swell of patriotism within our chest, on our lips and in our hands.

Absolutely, the United States Institute for Peace is a very conservative idea. Who could not possibly support it?

William F. Lincoln
The Lincoln Institute