Conflict resolution has been a popular technique to resolve conflicts between individuals and group. Family and marriage councilors often use conflict resolution to resolve interpersonal relationship problems. Hostage negotiators use these techniques to talk down a hostage situation. And employers often use it to enhance the workplace. So why not use similar techniques to defuse crisis situations that the US government is engaged with abroad as well as domestically?
Currently the Presidents of the United States seeks advice from his cabinet and the Department of War to determine what course of action to take in dealing with international crises. The issue about Syria’s use of chemical weapons against rebels is one case in point. The president’s solution is to threaten the launching of cruise misses on select targets as a lesson to the Syrian government not to defy international policy against the use of chemical agents. But it is problematic whether this will work or have unintended consequences that draw us further into the Syrian conflict. Our closest ally England has decided not to get involved for fear of just such consequences.
Why not have a Department of Peace whose job it is to propose solutions which are peaceful in nature and positive in scope where an all winner scenario is the most desirable outcome? This would give the President another option other than to declare war or impose negative sanctions that are antagonistic. The cost in terms of lives and financial burdens would be infinitely less and the possibility of lasting peace far more likely if peaceful and non-threatening means could be employed to resolve conflicts. After all conflicts are more between individuals than between nations. For example the Syrian conflict is actually between President Obama and President Assad, not the US against the nation of Syria. So if one can get inside President Assad’s head and understand what makes him tick perhaps a more peaceful solution could be found that would stop his use of chemical weapons.
What would such a Department of Peace look like? It would consist of our greatest minds in understanding the culture, religion, and leaders of various nations and religious groups with which we have long-standing conflicts. It would also consists of our greatest experts in psychology, conflict resolution, computer skills, academia and other fields which would have as their objective the finding of peaceful, positive, and lasting solutions to conflicts both domestically and abroad. It would operate much like a think-tank in developing scenarios for the solutions of conflicts both long-standing as well as sudden and unforeseen. They would develop models by analyzing past and current situations to determine the best possible solutions having peaceful long-term consequences. Scientific methods and tools would be used to aid in the analysis, development and evaluation of most likely outcomes. The head of this department would receive the same timely intelligence and updates as other departments receive and would be called to emergency meetings with the president as are the War and other departments. The cost of such a department would likely be a small fraction of the current Department of War and its solution costs likely insignificant compared to going to war. Thus the president would be presented with true alternatives for dealing with crises and conflicts. If peaceful means fail then less peaceful means can be considered. Doing things the other way around is far more problematic since you are then dealing with a much more hostile and resentful adversary.
Not all solutions can have a positive outcome. For example it is possible that there is no likely positive outcome and the recommendation might be to disengage from involvement in the conflict. In any case the president would have more options to choose from than now before committing valuable resources and putting people in harm’s way.