We treat violence, both domestically and internationally, in an allopathic fashion; simply waiting for the problem to occur, then seeking to suppress or eradicate its symptom.
With physical health we have learned that we ourselves are responsible – through nutrition and exercise and lifestyle choices – for preventing sickness. This same holistic model now needs to be applied to issues of war and peace. Just as we have learned that health is not the absence of sickness, but rather sickness is the absence of health, we are learning that peace is not the absence of war, but rather war is the absence of peace.
According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, for every $1,885 the world spends on military operations, we spend only $1 on conflict prevention. And yet, investing early to prevent conflicts from escalating into violent crises is, on average, 60 times more cost effective than intervening after violence erupts. This is nonsensical, and under a Williamson administration, we would begin to flip the script.
I gladly support the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding, providing the President with broad consultation regarding the availability and accessibility of nonviolent problem-solving options. This department would go far toward expanding America’s skill set at truly creating a more peaceful world.
A Williamson administration would work to champion peacebuilding approaches to international conflict and atrocity prevention in hotspots through mediation, diplomacy, and effective on-the-ground programs. Important components would involve:
- Post-conflict transitional justice
- Humanitarian aid
- And support for frameworks necessary for democratic processes
- Supporting Nonviolent Ways of Resolving Conflict: Approaches such as nonviolent civilian peacekeeping have been shown to be effective, and can and should be integrated into State Department and USAID interventions.
- Supporting Transitional Justice: Various forms of Restorative Justice, such as South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation effort, have been used to great success in healing post-conflict societies while still holding those guilty of great wrongs accountable. Transitional justice efforts can heal communities and help prevent future atrocities, but too frequently post-conflict societies never come to a full accounting for atrocities, enabling future crimes.
- Building Resilient Civil Societies: A strong civil society where people form communities across racial, ethnic, tribal, political and economic lines fosters understanding and respect, and prevents conflicts from arising out of identity divisions. Creating a sense of shared destiny among populations creates strong bonds and drives them to find a common future.
- Mediation: International Mediation works to peacefully resolve international disputes through third party’s involvement in negotiations, which the parties might take into consideration and ultimately adopt. Mediation helps opposing parties reach a peace settlement diplomatically through negotiated concessions.
- Ensuring Rule of Law: A strong rule of law protects people in a society from oppressive governments by forcing those governments to respect human rights, while also giving the government strength to enforce laws protecting people against militias and interpersonal violence. A society that resolves disputes through courts, law, and politics rather than through battle is the best protection of human rights and human dignity available.
- Diplomacy and Development: We believe in robust engagement with the world through diplomatic means. By diplomatically engaging those with whom we disagree or have conflict with, we can stop wars, even if it means making some compromises. Importantly, we need to talk to those with whom we disagree the most. Refusing to engage diplomatically only increases tension and anger on both sides, and opportunities for progress can only be missed, not seized. Even if we cannot fully resolve our differences, diplomacy allows us to understand those differences and find some common ground, and allowing for the possibility of change without violence. Even if that change takes a long time, we should never fear to negotiate. It is only through working with one another that we can build a better world.