We know that nonviolent political movements are often more effective than violent ones. Scholars Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan demonstrate, for instance, that peaceful uprisings are twice as likely to succeed as violent ones. This occurs not just because peaceful uprisings have the moral high ground, but because nonviolent movements have proved more effective at undermining the pillars of strength on which oppressive regimes depend.
Taking peace seriously should not be confused with pacifism. Although some who endorse nonviolence are indeed pacifists, many others (we among them) recognize that there are times when the use or threat of force is essential to ensure security and protect interests. Peaceful approaches, however, can be more successful, more sustainable, and less costly. Violence also has a profound effect on human psychology and can harden opponents to negotiated solutions, even when such outcomes would serve the best interests of all parties involved.
Taking peace seriously would require significant change on the part of governments and the institutions that support them.
First, we would need to radically improve our understanding of peace and how to practically achieve it. Quality analysis and established best practices are available -- but they pale in comparison with what is available in the arena of hard power. Within the policy community, we would have to do some cultural heavy-lifting, because conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction still tend to be viewed -- in the same vein as development, the environment, women's rights, and advancing civil society -- as too soft and peripheral to sit at the grown-up table. (This second-class status persists even though it is clear these efforts are all crucial to preventing and ending conflict and preserving whatever they may have achieved.)
Second, we would need to invest more in promoting peaceful outcomes. Organizations like the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and many others have staff working in combat zones every day, but their resources are a sand speck on a flea compared with those of their partners in the military. As FP has reported, the Pentagon spent $5 million last year on a television channel featuring shows like The Grill Sergeants, but the U.S. Congress spends only seven times that on USIP's activities in places such as Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Myanmar, Sudan, and South Sudan -- less than the cost of maintaining one light rifle infantry platoon in Afghanistan.
Finally, we need to change the way we talk about peace. Peace is not just the cessation of hostilities. Rather it must be viewed, if it is to be sustainable, as the achievement of conditions that promote the kind of opportunities that drive people to work within, rather than against, the economic and political systems in the countries in which they live. Peace is, as it happens, much bigger than it is often characterized as being, and this contributes to the fact that we so often fail to achieve lasting peace in zones of chronic conflict.
PeaceGame and the Peace Channel will advance these goals. PeaceGame will do so twice a year, bringing world leaders, experts, and students together in a scenario setting to tackle some of the toughest problems of peacemaking that we face -- once each spring in the Middle East, once each fall in the United States. The Peace Channel will do so every week by presenting news and analysis linked to the various elements of peace -- negotiations, post-conflict reconstruction, peacekeeping, and related issues of development -- including regular contributions from FP writers and editors and from experts at USIP. In addition, starting next year, we will conduct an annual contest seeking the best ideas from graduate and undergraduate students studying these issues -- with the winners invited to join and observe the PeaceGame events.
Along with the contribution of our own resources to these events, FP is pleased that some elements of this comprehensive program, to which we are committing for an initial period of three years, are being underwritten courtesy of the government of the United Arab Emirates. As with all our undertakings, FP is solely responsible for the content of our undertakings, but with an effort this important, we are also exceptionally grateful for the support to do it right.
Watch the Peace Channel for more information about PeaceGame and related programs. It will be part of FP's newly redesigned website, launching in beta version on Oct. 11 and for all the world to see on Oct. 28.