September 21, 2009
To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace. (Tacitus, ca. 56 – ca. 117)
On 21 September 1980 Iraq launched a full-scale invasion of Iran, which was the beginning of an 8-year-long bloody war between the two countries. Ironically the International Day of Peace occurs annually on September 21st. It is dedicated to peace, or specifically the absence of war, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. Peace is a nice, positive word as well actions to develop it. While world is now celebrating International Peace Day it is good opportunity to look a bit deeper different aspects of peace, which from my point view can be a frozen conflict at worst and a quality peace at its best.
Peace has many definitions. Most common maybe are that it is tranquility, stillness; freedom from contention, violence or war; treaty that ends a war. It is a term that most commonly refers to an absence of hostility; “freedom from civil disorder”. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to notable peacemakers those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations”. Some times it is hard to find connection between the original idea of Nobel Prize and the actual Nobel laureates (about last selection I wrote articles “Do you hear Mr Nobel rolling in his grave” and “500000 bodies or die”)
To make more mess-up to interpretation of word peace I would like to put one more dimension on the table, an aspect which I call “Quality peace”. With adding quality aspect to definition I try connect peace closer to reality and take it farther away to be only nice word in statements and in high policy. With quality I also understand some degree of sustainability in contrast to Peace Treaties which are forgotten before signature ink is dry.
Since classical times, it has been noted that peace has sometimes been achieved by the victor over the vanquished by the imposition of ruthless measures. Events in Balkans give a good example. After bloody war in Bosnia Dayton agreement brought peace. It was possible because before Dayton the war (1992-95) had almost finished ethnic cleansing/transfer of populations so drawing new administrative boundaries according ethnic groups was not big deal. One can show from statistics that also in Kosovo prevails peace. Why, not because there is multi-ethnic and tolerant society, but because other than Albanian ethnic groups were kicked out to enclaves, north Kosovo or totally out from province. (More e.g. In my article “…Pogrom with Prize”)
Sometimes I have heard claim that democracy could guarantee peace. The challenge to develop higher quality peace is unfortunately more complex. For instance, some one has calculated that the most democratic and the most authoritarian states have few civil wars and intermediate regimes the most. However even peace does not spread democracy, spreading democracy is likely to spread peace.
Peace can mean
- totalitarian state based to fear and some milder cases economical benefits with low crime records (excluding state-terror which is not recognized as crime)
- peaceful society (totalitarian dictatorship) can be seen as thread to other societies and this can erupt as violence even war (like peaceful North Korea)
- keeping peace by international community or outsiders which takes the responsibility out from hands of locals
- achieving peace at the expense of civil liberties, human rights, multi-cultural or multi-ethnic society
- structural violence where the peace in society is made through institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, racism, sexism or other similar means
- Mutual assured destruction (MAD) where nuclear weapons have main role in maintaining peace ( e.g. especially during the Cold War)
- frozen conflict
From peace to quality peace
With quality peace I understand an antithesis to bullet-points above. The core element from my point of view is throughout bottom-up approach. This means that quality peace is not possible to achieve imposed from top to field e.g forced by international community or other outsiders; with that kind of approach one can only freeze the conflict not solve it.
The only way for quality peace is through motivation or at least commitment of individual, clan, community, ethnic groups, wider society or state to resolve conflicts through dialogue by acceptance and at least tolerance of differences.
On the field of international politics there nowadays is lot of discussion about active peace methods including peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace building. From my point of view these practices can not bring peace from outside, they are effective only through local participation and commitment. I can accept preventing genocide by outside intervention – it does not solve origins of conflict but can anyway at its best facilitate further peaceful development because if people are alive they have at least minimal opportunity to implement other aims – even quality peace as outermost goal.
Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson