Ending the scourge of violence in the United States and across the planet requires more than suppressing violence. Lasting peace requires its active and systematized cultivation at every level of government and society. The U.S. Department of Peace will coordinate and spur the efforts we need to make our country and the world a safer place. Nothing short of broad-scale investment and government reorientation can truly turn things around. Both domestically and internationally, we must dramatically ramp up the use of proven powers of peace-building, including dialogue, mediation, conflict resolution, economic and social development, restorative justice, public health approaches to violence prevention, trauma-informed systems of care, social and emotional learning in schools, and many others.
I believe our country’s way of dealing with security issues is increasingly obsolete. We have the finest military force in the world, however, we can no longer rely on force alone to rid ourselves of international enemies. The planet has become too small for that, and in so doing, we overburden our military by asking them to compensate for the other work that we choose not to do. We are less effective, and less secure, because of that.
As its mission, the U.S. Department of Peace will; hold peace as an organizing principle; promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights; coordinate restorative justice programs; address white supremacy; strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking; work to prevent armed conflict; address the epidemic of gun violence; develop new structures of nonviolent dispute resolution; and proactively and systematically promote national and international conflict prevention, mediation, and resolution. In short, we must wage peace. Large groups of desperate people should be seen as a national security risk.
The Department will create and establish a Peace Academy, modeled after the military service academies, which will provide a 4-year concentration in peace education. Graduates will be required to serve 5 years in public service in programs dedicated to domestic or international nonviolent conflict resolution.
The Secretary of Peace will serve as a member of the National Security Council and will be empowered to coordinate with all Cabinet agencies – including the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Justice, and State, and the new Department of Children and Youth.
Initial funding for the U.S. Department of Peace will come from the consolidation of existing peace-building and violence-reducing efforts within the Federal government.
U.S. Department of Peace Overview
A new U.S. Department of Peace will coordinate our efforts to make our country a safer place. It will work with every branch of government on policy matters related to both international and domestic peace issues.
Peace-building is both preferable to and less costly than war. We spend more on our military than the next nine largest militaries in the world. The United States and China spend half the $2.1 trillion global military spending, both increasing tens and billions of dollars annually. As has become evident in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, as well as against terrorist enemies like ISIS, at best our military can solve only part of the issue, leaving the true, underlying problems unaddressed. Even with these expenditures, the economic impact of violence on the global economy was nearly $14.4 trillion in 2019 – 10.5 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), or $1,895 per person.
Domestically, the need for a coordinated effort to end violence in our country is also greater than ever. Too many of our citizens, and in particular our children, fear violence daily. One hundred Americans die of gun violence every day. We have areas in our inner cities called “domestic war zones.” From gang and drug violence to mass shootings even in our schools, to bullying and sexual violence, the United States is riddled with violence. We have not yet addressed it holistically or in an integrated fashion. While we treat symptoms, we do not treat the underlying cause. It is time to coordinate our efforts across the Federal government, working with states, corporations, communities, parents, and schools – one singular nation focused on programmatic efforts that actually work to bring about healing and peace.
And we need to do this now. Americans are more likely to die every year from gun violence than they are to die in a war. We have more deaths of children and teachers from school shootings than any other country in the world. We have more gun violence in our cities than in any other industrialized country. And we have more people imprisoned than any other country in the world.
How will we pay for the U.S. Department of Peace?
If properly and completely implemented, the U.S. Department of Peace could save United States taxpayers an enormous amount of money. Avoiding costly wars abroad and reducing violence in the United States will decrease our federal budget.
Along with the long-term savings that come from implementing this kind of work on a broad scale, there should be a few extra immediate costs involved. This department will focus on reallocating existing budgets in more appropriate and coordinated ways to keep, maintain and create sustainable peace. The key funding question for the U.S. Department of Peace is simply a matter of changing where the money goes, with a renewed focus on peace-building, humanitarian aid, and development as a key to our national security. On the domestic front, there are incredible monetary costs to domestic violence in the United States that can be drastically reduced with coordinated violence prevention efforts.
U. S. Department of Peace Specifics
Domestically, the U.S. Department of Peace will work to:
- Provide much-needed assistance to efforts by city, county, and state governments in coordinating existing programs; as well as develop new programs based on best practices nationally.
- Teach violence prevention and conflict resolution to America’s school children.
- Effectively treat and dismantle gang psychology.
- Reform our criminal justice system towards a focus on restorative and healing-oriented approaches rather than punitive ones alone.
- Reshape our prison system by addressing racial inequalities and recidivism.
- Rehabilitate the prison population.
- Foster strategies to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. Work closely with the newly formed Dept. of Children and Youth to teach violence prevention methods in the schools.
- Build peace-making efforts among conflicting cultures both here and abroad
- Work with local and state governments to help change police culture and the way that police work with our communities, to foster improved relations. Return to community policing.
- Work with local and state governments to lessen gun violence on a national level.
- Address factors such as drug and alcohol abuse, mistreatment of the elderly, and much more.
Internationally, the U.S. Department of Peace will focus on the following areas among others:
- Provide peace-building support to assist governments and communities in attempts to end conflicts, instead of providing military aid which often prolongs conflicts
- Provide and help coordinate humanitarian assistance around the world to help people and governments get out of their current crises, and have a chance to build peaceful lives in the future. Particular emphasis on these factors which are known to increase peace and decrease conflict: expanded economic opportunities for women, expanded educational opportunities for children, reduction of violence against women, and the amelioration of unnecessary human despair. This is as true of a neighborhood in an American inner city as it is true of a village in a far-off corner of the world.
- Humanitarian assistance may also include aid for things like food security, health care, refugee assistance, regenerative agriculture, and a variety of other types of aid.
- Provide community building and rebuilding assistance to aid people and countries in creating a more sustainable, peaceful culture that will help to prevent future conflicts.
- Support our military with complementary approaches to peacebuilding.
- Create and administer a U.S. Peace Academy, acting as a sister organization to the U.S. Military Academy.
- The Secretary of the Department of Peace, and the department, will advise the Secretaries of Defense and State on matters related to national security and will coordinate peacemaking efforts across these departments.
National Security Policy
Addressing Issues of National Security
While America has some serious enemies – and it’s certainly our responsibility to protect our country and our children – I believe our country’s way of dealing with security issues is increasingly obsolete. We cannot simply rely on brute force to rid ourselves of international enemies. In so doing, we overburden our military by asking them to compensate for the work we ourselves are not doing.
The only way to make peace with your neighbors is to make peace with your neighbors.
I believe that if, over the last 50 years, more people around the world had seen the American flag decal on schools, hospitals, roads, and so forth — as opposed to military installations and other material support for regimes in their countries which they know not to be democratic — then we would not have as many international problems as we have today. America’s problem is not just how many people in the world hate us. It’s also how many people just don’t like us anymore and are therefore willing to go along with those who seek to harm us.
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 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.
I believe our current commitment to our military as a primary problem-solver – a commitment of enormous and often tragic amounts of money, talent, and human resources – is not what it appears to be. I believe it is less about America’s genuine security and more about the almost $800 billion spent each year on our military budget – often in ways that our military itself is not asking for, ways that simply increase the coffers of the military-industrial complex. I do not believe our nation’s security is in direct proportion to the amount of money we spend on the military; in fact, that amount dwarfs the amount of money we spend on genuine peace-building efforts.
We spend only a fraction on conflict prevention compared to what we spend on the military. 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.
Many fine, talented, and extraordinarily skilled people work for the military, as well as for military contractors. They are citizens who work hard, contribute to our country, and use the money they earn to support their families. It would be ill-conceived and irresponsible to simply starve the beast of bloated military spending.
Rather, America should embark on a 10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace-time economy, repurposing the tremendous talents and infrastructure of our military-industrial complex in such a way as to leave us strong enough to deal with America’s legitimate needs for military preparedness, yet moving on to the urgent task of building a sustainable society and sustainable world. From massive investment in the development of clean energy to the retrofitting of our buildings and bridges to the building of new schools and the creation of a green manufacturing base, it is time to release this powerful sector of American genius to the work of promoting life instead of death.
History and research prove again and again that the two most significant factors in the creation of peace, domestically or internationally, are: the economic empowerment of women and the educational empowerment of children. If I were elected president, a far more sophisticated, redesigned partnership between the Defense Department and the State Department would put our need to wage peace on equal part with our need to prepare for any necessary war.
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
In short, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, since 9/11 we have spent nearly $8 trillion dollars on wars that arguably do more to support the military-industrial corporate machinery than to build a fundamental and lasting peace in the world.
Imagine a world where we spend that amount of money building true security for our people, as well as for the rest of the world. We are the sole superpower on this planet, at least for the near future. We need to use our estimable resources to put this planet on a path to a survivable future for all.
The United States needs to recognize the ways that we have subtly and not-so-subtly glorified violence. From violent video games to seemingly endless military adventures, each of us might ask ourselves, “What is our seeming resistance to peace?”
And we must do more than question. We must decide, as a generation, if in the 21st Century, we wish to see an America that is a leader in war or a leader in peace.
While our military budget is $797B this year alone excluding off-budget spending and other appropriations such as military construction, our State Department budget is roughly $81B. While our military must be prepared to wage war, our State Department is charged — or should be charged — with waging peace. From diplomacy to development to mediation, it is the State Department that proactively creates conditions that either increase or decrease the possibility of violent conflict. Yet the actual peace-building agencies within the State Department are severely underfunded, and the independent U.S. Institute of Peace has a current budget of $54M.
As president, I will change this.
The Williamson Administration will:
- Work to transform the United States from a war economy to a peace economy, and from a country known for its violent conflicts to a country known for its culture of peace.
- Appoint a world-class humanitarian and diplomat as Secretary of State.
- Increase the budget of the State Department’s peace-building agencies, so that these four factors — known to statistically increase the incidence of and decrease violent conflict — might become the pillars of our peace creation agenda: expanding economic opportunities for women, expanding educational opportunities for children, decreasing violence against women, and ameliorating unnecessary human suffering wherever possible.
- Increase support for U.S. Agency for International Development, which provides international humanitarian assistance. Desperate people are more vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces, and under a Williamson administration, the United States will once again be seen as a beacon of hope and possibility to the world’s most desperate people.
- Form a United States Department of Peace, which will coordinate not only the international peace-building agencies that already exist, but also the many domestic efforts — conflict resolution, restorative justice practices, police and social work programs, non-pharmaceutical mental health services, and other local peace-building efforts — in a way that increases their efficacy and begins to genuinely transform the experience of millions of our citizens.