In a world torn by conflict, I can't think of a better time, or a greater need, for America to act as a force for good at home and around the world.
A bill recently was reintroduced in Congress that will go a long way toward bringing peace both at home and abroad. The measure would create a Cabinet-level Department of Peace.
The proposed department will give voice to the latest research and expertise on peaceful efforts in many areas — from safe schools to international arms control.
The legislation, which I am co-sponsoring, would fund, support and coordinate programs already in existence — in schools, prisons, police departments, educational institutions, charitable organizations and elsewhere — that are proven to reduce domestic and international violence and enhance the security and health of all Americans.
I believe a Department of Peace represents the ideals on which this country was founded. Our legislation, HR 808, embodies the dreams and aspirations of Americans to live in a nation that uses its great strength to support the cooperative efforts of people throughout the world to create peace.
In my years as a congressman and as a physician in the U.S. military, I have recognized repeatedly that the interests of the one cannot triumph over the interests of the many; that the security concerns of the United States are best served by diplomacy and cooperation rather than brute force.
A Department of Peace won't be just another top-heavy bureaucratic organization. Much like the Environmental Protection Agency, it will provide a uniting framework for existing organizations scattered throughout the U.S. currently working to bring peace to our communities and the world.
The department will research, propose and facilitate practical, field-tested solutions to reduce conflict, providing financial and institutional heft to our current ineffectual efforts to deal with all forms of domestic and international violence and discord. And it will help develop curricula to educate students in grades K-12 on how to resolve conflict peacefully.
Internationally, a Department of Peace will advise the president and Congress on the most innovative techniques to establish and promote peace among nations, and will research and analyze the root causes of war to help prevent conflicts from escalating to the point of violence.
It will create a Peace Academy, on par with the Military Service Academies, to train civilian peacekeepers and the military in the latest nonviolent conflict-resolution strategies and approaches. And it will provide a direct voice at the president's table to offer peaceful solutions to conflicts before they disintegrate into violence.
The president's recently proposed federal budget would allocate more than $439 billion to our military, an increase of more than 5 percent. A Department of Peace will cost a small fraction of that, or approximately $8 billion a year. That amount is less than we currently spend each month for the war in Iraq.
Clearly, a Department of Peace will be a bargain — and, it will be money well spent. It will save dollars — and, more importantly, it will save lives.
As the globe shrinks, as the peoples and countries of the world become more entwined in both commerce and security, our consciousness has expanded.
I've learned there's something about the human spirit, about the spirit of Americans everywhere, that strives for cooperation rather than domination. We all yearn for peace, and for the prosperity that peace brings. We all yearn for a better world for our children and our children's children. We want for them the best education possible; health care that encompasses and embraces everyone; a retirement secure from the plagues and worries that come with inadequate income and support; a healthy environment; and a world freed from the horrors of war.
By reducing the immense costs of violence both domestically and internationally, a U.S. Department of Peace will help secure these essentials. It will demonstrate to our citizens and to the world that the United States is committed to using its great strength in partnership with all peoples to work for, and champion, peace. And, it will provide a beacon of hope for everyone that the peace we yearn for is not an unachievable dream, but an obtainable reality.
As President Bush correctly noted, Americans are a peace-loving people. Now is the time to put these words into action.
U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, represents the 7th Congressional District of Washington state. For more information about the proposed U.S. Department of Peace, go to www.dopcampaign.org
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