American foreign policy is shaped and constrained by powerful opposing currents of internationalism and isolationism. Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. suggests the American approach to foreign affairs swings like a pendulum between extroversion and introversion, intervention and isolationism, moralism and pragmatism. This oscillating pattern holds true up through the end of World War II, until the beginning of the Cold War. By 1947 isolationism had disappeared, for all practical purposes, and the old dualism was supplanted by a contest among three forces -- best summarized as owls, hawks, and doves. With the disintegration of the Soviet empire by the end of 1989, the Warsaw Pact in 1990, and Soviet Union itself in 1991, the old pattern of internationalism verses isolationism is returning, in new forms.
Isolationism was traditionally associated with the political Right, and linked with nativism, racism, and opposition to immigration. In its most reputable form, isolationism was identified with Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, son of President William Howard Taft. In its disreputable form, isolationism was manifested in the America First Committee (AFC), formed in 1940 to oppose the Roosevelt administration's intervention against the Axis powers. AFC disbanded a few days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the U.S. declaration of war against Japan and Germany. After World War II, the end of conservative isolationism was symbolized by the conversion to internationalism of Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Abandoning his long-standing opposition to foreign entanglements, Vandenberg supported ratification of the United Nations Charter in 1945, and the Truman doctrine of military aid to Greece and Turkey to combat Communist insurgencies, and the Marshall Plan of economic aid to revive Europe in 1947. After the Cold War, conservative isolationism was revived in 1992 by presidential spokesman and television political commentator Patrick Buchanan, who adopted the slogan "America First!" in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Five years after the end of World War II, the Cold War had been firmly embedded with the consolidation of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe by 1947, the victory in China of Mao Tse-Tung's Communist army over Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists in 1949, the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 and its counterpart Warsaw Treaty Organization, and the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950. For the next forty years owls, hawks and doves contended over the direction of American foreign policy, as the United States and the Soviet Union developed vast nuclear weapon arsenals. The foreign policy establishment (the owls) pursued a policy objective of "containment" of Communism, maintaining a wide influence through its organizations of moderate discourse, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Foreign Affairs Association, the World Affairs Councils, and the United Nations Association. A new range of peace organizations (the doves) emerged in the 1970s, seeking one variety or another of "disarmament" as a policy objective. In reaction, the resurgent right (the hawks) developed its own advocacy groups and think tanks emphasizing the Soviet threat and reviving its traditional policy objective of "rollback."
The Peace Movement. The peace movement in the United States has four substantial accomplishments to its credit in the period since World War II: 1) it pushed the Kennedy administration to begin arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, ending atmospheric nuclear testing and proving that arms control treaties would be widely popular; 2) it turned public opinion against the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, forcing a U.S. military withdrawal; 3) partly as a consequence of Vietnam, but also through renewed organizing it prevented massive direct intervention by U.S. military forces in the Third World -- particularly in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and possibly in Southern Africa -- until the Gulf War in 1990; and 4) it swung popular opinion so strongly behind nuclear arms control that Ronald Reagan had little choice in his second term but to work with Mikhail Gorbachev to lower nuclear stockpiles and end the Cold War. Surprisingly, the peace movement has often conspired with its critics in refusing to acknowledge these achievements.
The peace movement has been a complex and shifting coalition among several distinct political and ethical traditions as well as organizations with roots in different eras and representing the experiences of diverse political generations. Important intellectual currents include religious and secular pacifists; Marxists of assorted varieties, some apologists for Communism in one variant or another; and liberals of several types, including world federalists, arms controllers, and people who simply thought our military adventures were bad foreign policy. Current generations of activists had formative experiences varying from the struggle against Nazism and fascism from the 1930s through World War II, the birth of the United Nations and onset of the Cold War, the opposition to the Vietnam War in the context of the social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s, and the 1980s of Ronald Reagan which extended from fears of nuclear Armageddon to the end of the Cold War. Recent shaping experience for younger generations of activists include the Persian Gulf War of the early 1990s, genocidal wars from the former Yugoslavia to Rwanda to Sudan, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unlike issues raised by other domestic social movements, questions of foreign policy involve nations and leaders whose responses are framed beyond the borders of our political system. Since World War II the peace movement has sought an end to the superpowers' arms race, an end to armed intervention in less developed countries, and an end to support for repressive regimes of allies. The question to the peace movement -- and not just from reactionaries -- was short but not simple: "What about the Russians?" Peace organizations and coalitions were not always of one mind on the questions posed by Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Where did blame rest for the Cold War and the arms race -- with the United States, the Soviet Union, or both equally? Did the Soviet Union (or China, or Cuba) represent the fulfillment of the socialist tradition or its perversion? Should moves toward disarmament be taken unilaterally by the United States, or only bilaterally together with the Soviet Union? Was it the responsibility of the peace movement to be concerned for human rights in the Soviet bloc, or just in countries allied with the United States? For the moderate majority of the American public, the peace movement as a whole never developed completely consistent or convincing responses to such questions. With the Cold War in the past, peace activists now face a new challenge -- defining a positive program for common security in a polycentric world facing resurgent nationalism, terrorism, and continuing threats of genocidal conflict.
The Rise and Fall of the Hawks. Reorganizing after Barry Goldwater's defeat in the 1964 presidential campaign, conservatives had remained on the defensive during Richard Nixon's administration in the late 1960s and early 1970s, unhappy with Henry Kissinger's detente with the Soviet Union and his opening to the People's Republic of China. Disoriented again by Watergate, they regrouped with a clear opponent in president Jimmy Carter from 1976 to 1980. Old Right groups like the American Security Council built coalition networks. Many Democrats who opposed George McGovern and sat out his campaign in 1972 -- some supporters of former Senator Henry Jackson of Washington state, others allies of the AFL-CIO leadership -- became neoconservatives and worked together with hard-line Republicans in the Committee on the Present Danger, asserting that the Soviet Union was outpacing the U.S. in the arms race. Midge Decter organized neoconservatives in the Committee for the Free World. The far Right fought over who would revive the U.S. Committee for World Freedom, the affiliate of the World Anti-Communist League. Together these organizations produced a clamor for a military build-up, which indeed began in 1978 during Carter's last two years as president.
The Reagan years, capped by the dramatic events in the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, surprisingly led to the virtual collapse of the hawks' organizations. The Old Right's American Security Council failed to enlist a new generation of activists. The neoconservative Committee for the Free World disbanded after a rancorous annual meeting in 1990, mocked even by the Wall Street Journal for "refusing to concede victory." The Committee on the Present Danger, which justified the arms build-up of the first-term Reagan administration, was focused exclusively on the Soviet Union and ran out of dangers. Howard Phillips downplayed his Conservative Caucus, which tried to organize a "Freedom Fighters International" in the mid-1980s, to start a new political party on the Right. Specialized single-interest lobbies like High Frontier dropped from view as "Star Wars" development was pared from the defense budget. The rear guard effort on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and military preparedness was maintained by the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks. Following his election in 2000, President George W. Bush, together with his Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, picked up the torch for SDI and continued the program of testing with backing from neoconservatives.
Patrick Buchanan began to forge a Right-wing isolationism uniting paleoconservatives and libertarians. And back at the foreign policy establishment, "realists" were arguing against "globalists" that the U.S. should place scant hope in international institutions and devote little effort to encouraging democracy in the developing world. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, gave fresh life to interventionist neoconservatives, who used George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” not only to invade Afghanistan to oust the Taliban government which sheltered al-Qaeda, but also to invade Iraq.
After the Cold War. From John Kennedy's "missile gap" to Ronald Reagan's "window of vulnerability," American presidents spent three decades exaggerating American weaknesses and overplaying Soviet strengths. In retrospect it's clear that the Soviet Union's command economy had exhausted its potential for growth by the early 1970s, and was unable to make the transition to a high technology, post-industrial system capable of providing its citizens with consumer goods and services comparable to Western Europe, Japan, and the United States. Sharply rising oil prices beginning in 1973, which provided the Soviet Union with a $200 billion windfall up to 1985, disguised the Soviet economy's stagnation and allowed it to prop up its Eastern European satellites and participate in Third World military adventures.
The Brezhnev period in the Soviet Union -- now called the "era of stagnation" -- ran from the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev in 1964 to Leonid Brezhnev's death in 1982, and lingered on through the brief reigns of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, ending only in 1985 with the selection of Mikhail Gorbachev as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. Gorbachev astonished Reagan's hard-line advisors by saying "yes" to his most extreme arms reduction proposals, writing an end to the arms race. Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika introduced reform in the Soviet Union and lead to the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989 and the reunification of Germany in fall of 1990. The failed coup against Gorbachev in August 1991 led to independence for the Baltic states and a new Commonwealth of Independent States -- and created a new diplomatic climate by the beginning of 1992. Turmoil promptly followed in the Balkans, as the break-up of Yugoslavia led to U.S. and NATO interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990’s.
How should the peace movement respond? Isolationism is a strong temptation. Until the Vietnam war, peace activists and the Left generally had been internationalists. Influenced by Vietnam and revolutionary movements in Latin America and Africa, Leftists revived variations on the Leninist theory of imperialism, arguing that advanced capitalist economies require exploitation of the Third World. The simplistic conclusion drawn from this analysis is that U.S. influence or intervention abroad is always suspect and probably harmful. Influencing activists far beyond Marxist-Leninist circles, this outlook comes close to what conservatives like to call "blame America first." It minimizes the capacity of other governments to commit mischief, and exaggerates the power of the United States over events far from its shores. By feeding conspiracy theories of shadowy secret teams manipulating events, this outlook also minimizes the power of peace activists to impact world affairs, and points toward a withdrawal from the practical politics of foreign policy. The Gulf War in early 1991 was an unhappy start for the post-Cold War era, and pushed the peace movement further toward isolationism. Many peace activists expressed an increased cynicism toward international institutions and turned away from foreign policy toward domestic issues. Right and Left isolationism have an odd symmetry, as Charles Krauthammer has noted: conservative isolationists fear the world would corrupt America, and progressive isolationists fear America would corrupt the world.
Winding down the Cold War presented an unprecedented opportunity for international cooperation on disarmament, regional conflict resolution, the environment, human rights, and Third World development. But first there's still a long "end game" for the peace movement to wrap up: a test ban treaty to prevent development of new generations of "modernized" nuclear weapons; preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons; disarming existing nuclear weapon stockpiles; eliminating chemical and biological weapons; cleaning up the hazardous radioactive waste from decades of weapons production in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union; stopping the arms trade in conventional weapons. Beyond disarmament, peace activists need a positive program of international institutions to reclaim the old World Federalist vision of a "new world order" -- including U.N. reform and implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Examples of constructive new directions include the Socialist International's Brandt report on North/South development issues, and Gro Harlem Bruntland's report for the U.N. on world environmental challenges. Peace organizations have begun to respond, broadening their missions to encompass human rights, global environmental protection, and sustainable development in the Third World. The p[eace movement needs a positive program for global governance beyond opposition to war.
MAJOR ARMS CONTROL AGREEMENTS
1963: Limited Test Ban Treaty. Trilateral agreement among US, USSR, and UK to prohibit testing nuclear devices in the atmosphere, in outer space, or under water. Now signed by 114 additional countries.
1968: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Multilateral agreement signed and ratified by the US, USSR, UK, and 138 non-nuclear weapon states to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons; Review Conference in 1995.
1972: Biological Weapons Convention. Multilateral agreement between US, USSR, UK and 108 other countries banning biological weapons.
1972: Anti-Ballistic Missile Limitation Treaty (SALT I ABM). Bilateral treaty ratified by US and USSR limiting each side's anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems.
1972: SALT I Interim Agreement. Bilateral agreement between US and USSR froze number of strategic ballistic missile launchers at 1972 levels for a five-year period, with modernization allowed.
1974: Threshold Test Ban Treaty. Bilateral agreement between US and USSR, ratified in 1990, prohibiting underground nuclear weapon tests with yields above 150 kilotons.
1975: Helsinki Accords. Multilateral agreement among 35 countries, including US, USSR, and most European countries, negotiated by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), providing for cooperation in human rights, economics, and security, and codifying postwar European boundaries.
1979: Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II). Bilateral unratified agreement between US and USSR setting equal aggregate ceilings on strategic offensive weapon systems and qualitative restraints on existing and future strategic systems.
1987: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Bilateral ratified treaty between US and USSR requiring both to eliminate all intermediate-range missiles, shorter-range missiles, and associated equipment, with monitored compliance.
1990: Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Multilateral treaty between US and its 15 NATO allies and the USSR and its five former Warsaw Pact allies to limit tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, attack helicopters and combat airplanes in Europe.
1991: Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Bilateral treaty between US and USSR to reduce number of warheads for long-range nuclear weapons.
Source: Arms Control Association, Arms Control and National Security (1989), for data through 1987; The Defense Monitor for updates through 1990.
Owls: The Foreign Policy Establishment. The organization of a foreign policy establishment by such groups as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), founded in 1921, was an effort to seek a larger role for the United States in world affairs, an active and interventionist stance to combat the persistent streak of American isolationism. CFR strongly supported U.S. entry into World War II, and became a leading force in developing a response to the superpower rivalry that followed it. George Kennan coined the term "containment" in a famous 1947 article in CFR's journal Foreign Affairs. This strategy led to long-term political, economic, and military pressure on the U.S.S.R., limiting the likelihood of all-out war by a series of negotiations on strategic nuclear weapons and on conventional forces in Europe. Fighting was largely limited to wars in the Third World, often fought by proxy forces. The consensus on the meaning of containment gave way during the Vietnam War as fighting bogged down and domestic opposition mounted. As CFR members argued over Vietnam, foreign policy was becoming less the province of the economic and social establishment and more the territory of a professional elite. CFR membership was expanded and broadened, and a range of new foreign policy think tanks began to develop contending strategies. CFR chairman David Rockefeller organized the Trilateral Commission in 1973 to have a more elite international body to discuss relations among North America, Western Europe and Japan. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace swung from the center to a moderate-liberal stance, and established a rival journal, Foreign Policy. The Foreign Policy Association aimed its annual "Great Decisions" program on critical foreign policy issues at a wide range of upper middle-class business, professional, and educational leaders in communities across the country. Staff who set up the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations founded the Arms Control Association to promote the arms control agenda. The two leading membership organizations of the owls are the CFR and the United Nations Association of the U.S.A.
Doves: The Pacifist Tradition. Christian pacifism has been an important current of opposition to war in the United States, particularly through the historic peace churches -- Mennonites, Brethren, and Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Quakers in particular have influenced social reform far out of proportion to their modest numbers, providing leaders for the movements for abolition of slavery, woman suffrage, prison reform, and humane treatment of the mentally ill -- in addition to the peace movement. In this century Quakers have been leaders in the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and, of course, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
Pacifists opposed U.S. intervention in World War I, but after the war supported efforts to build new international institutions to promote peace -- the League of Nations being the most ambitious effort. FOR, AFSC, War Resisters League (WRL), and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) all date their founding in the period from 1914 to 1923 -- the final efforts of progressive era optimism and moralism applied to foreign affairs. Although they had moments of wider influence between the world wars, pacifist groups have functioned more as "prophetic minorities," believing in the necessity of a radical reconstruction of society, and demanding an intense commitment from members.
Doves: From World Government to Arms Control. After World War II, the founding of the United Nations presented an opportunity to establish world law and international mechanisms for conflict resolution -- a "new world order" as its advocates put it. Several world federation and world law organizations came together to form the United World Federalists in 1947, with hopes of strengthening the U.N. charter, or establishing an altogether new and more encompassing world organization. That dream was set aside with outbreak of the Cold War, as the mutual vetoes of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. on the Security Council prevented the U.N. from becoming an exclusive peacekeeping power. The realistic short range goal would have to be arms control agreements. Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins led the World Federalists, but also founded the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) in 1957, bringing together pacifists and world government advocates for the more modest goal of limiting nuclear arms. Radical pacifists formed the Committee for Non-Violent Action, which sponsored the 1958 voyage of Captain Albert Bigelow's Golden Rule, which attempted to sail into a nuclear testing zone in the Pacific. The Student Peace Union, founded in 1959, began to win a following on college campuses. Women Strike for Peace was organized in 1961 by Dagmar Wilson, and picketed the U.N. and the White House for disarmament and a test ban treaty. Dr. Bernard Lown and Dr. Victor Sidel started Physicians for Social Responsibility in Boston in 1961 to address the medical effects of nuclear war and work for the test ban treaty. Also in Boston, Leo Szilard and fellow nuclear scientists organized the Council for a Livable World in 1962 to support candidates for the U.S. Senate who would back nuclear arms control. SANE and the other groups won a major victory with the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963, but momentum was lost after the assassination of John Kennedy in November 1963. Lyndon Johnson's expansion of the U.S. intervention in Vietnam soon engaged the full energy of the peace movement, and little attention was given to checking the accelerating nuclear arms race from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s.
Doves Revived: Nuclear Disarmament. Surprisingly, few lasting organizations (still active 35 years later) emerged directly from opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s (two exceptions from Boston: the Union of Concerned Scientists, which developed out of the teach-ins; and Resist, which developed out of the draft resistance movement; one other, Clergy and Laity Concerned, emerged from the liberal religious community). Instead, the movement was built around coalitions of previously existing pacifist, Left, student, and disarmament groups. Mobilization committees consisting of an uneasy alliance of pacifist groups, Communists and Trotskyists coordinated major demonstrations, such as the October 1967 march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon (later described by Norman Mailer in The Armies of the Night). After President Nixon's invasion of Cambodia at the end of April 1970, peace activists split over tactics – the organization led by the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (National Peace Action Coalition) would only support peaceful, legal demonstrations, and the "Mobe" organization (New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam) wanted to add nonviolent civil disobedience to demonstrations. Movement leaders became exhausted by years of frenetic work, growing factionalism and disputes over tactics, and prosecutions such as the Chicago conspiracy trial. Other activists were being drawn into the growing women's movement and the new environmental movement.
When Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential elections, returning the Democrats to the White House, the peace movement had some reason for hope. Carter was committed to continue Nixon and Kissinger's policy of detente toward the Soviet Union and to a foreign policy that would require U.S. allies to live up to international agreements on human rights. Nixon had negotiated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Limitation Treaty (SALT I) with the U.S.S.R. in 1972, and Carter would push on to a SALT II agreement. The Helsinki Accords, negotiated in 1975 while Ford was president, established the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) as a forum for human rights and mutual security issues. But rather than following these issues closely, many peace activists were pulled in another direction.
The prospect of a nuclear power plant at Seabrook, New Hampshire, prompted the formation of the Clamshell Alliance in 1976 by pacifists in New England, many from the AFSC, committed to nonviolent direct action. Organized in affinity groups and using a consensus decision-making process, the Clams tried tactics of massive civil disobedience, resulting in many arrests. Unable to settle disputes over tactics that might lead to violence, the Clamshell Alliance broke apart. In California a similar Abalone Alliance attempted to block the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo, but the movement faded after 1978 and 1981 blockades that failed to stop construction. Many activists shifted to the Livermore Action Group that conducted nonviolent civil disobedience from 1981 to 1984 against the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which manufactures nuclear weapons. The protests were symbolic action, a combination of moral witness and public theater, more "expressive politics" than practical politics. Hoping to couple the anti-nuke energy with traditional disarmament and social justice activity, the old Vietnam "Mobe" activists pulled together a new Mobilization for Survival coalition in 1977, based on a four-point platform: "zero nuclear weapons, ban nuclear power, reverse the arms race, and meet human needs;" in 1986 they added "stop military intervention."
Carter's arms control efforts quickly ran into trouble. A second round of OPEC oil price increases produced serious inflation in the American economy. The Soviet Union increased its support for its Cuban army surrogates fighting in Angola and Ethiopia, and in 1979 invaded Afghanistan to intervene between two warring Communist factions who had seized the government in a coup. Carter imposed a grain embargo on the Soviet Union and cancelled U.S. participation in the summer 1980 Moscow Olympics. The resurgent Right wing successfully fought Senate ratification of the SALT II treaty concluded in 1979. Iranian revolutionaries held Americans hostage in the U.S. Embassy after Ayatollah Khomeini ousted the Shah. Carter's presidency ended in disarray, and with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 the peace movement wasn't in very good shape either.
Reagan's rhetoric about the Soviet Union as "the evil empire" revived the peace movement much the way his appointment of James Watt as interior secretary lit a fire under environmentalists. Many peace activists who were students during the Vietnam War era found new vehicles in the 1980s to express their concerns as young professionals. Dr. Helen Caldicott had already begun her effort to revitalize Physicians for Social Responsibility in 1978, and helped form the Womens Party for Survival in Boston in 1980, a group that became Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) in 1983. The Jobs with Peace Campaign also got started in 1978, working to shift funds from the defense budget to meet human needs; its local referenda campaigns caught on during the 1980s. The Union of Concerned Scientists emphasized nuclear power safety issues during the 1970s, and shifted toward checking the nuclear arms race in the 1980s. "Social responsibility" groups expanded beyond physicians in the early 1980s to include lawyers, architects/designers/planners, educators, psychologists, computer professionals, and business executives. New organizations reached out to a moderate professional and managerial heartland constituency uncomfortable with the "movement" style of peace activists. Widespread interest in citizen diplomacy led to exchanged visits of local officials and professionals and the establishment of sister city relationships, particularly with the Soviet Union and Central America.
But the greatest peace movement at the grassroots during the 1980s was the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, launched by Randall Forsberg in 1980 with a simple proposal for a bilateral, verifiable freeze in the production, testing and deployment of nuclear weapons. AFSC staff helped promote Freeze resolutions in town meetings across New England. The movement peaked in 1984 as voters across the country supported Freeze resolutions at the same time they reelected Reagan. In his second term, Reagan outmaneuvered the Freeze movement by calling for deep cuts in nuclear weapons in his meetings with Soviet premier Gorbachev in Geneva and Reykjavik in 1985 and 1986. With the loosely structured Freeze movement falling apart, merger talks with SANE began in 1986. The unified organization, SANE/Freeze: Campaign for Global Security, was founded in 1987; it was left weaker than the sum of its parts, however, by the Freeze's substantial debts and the failure to draw in many Freeze activists following the INF Treaty in late 1987 and the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Eastern European regimes in 1989.
The benign post-Cold War world that seemed to be developing in 1990 didn’t last long. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, a new cycle of conflict enveloped the Middle East. The United States led a UN-backed coalition that ejected Irag’s army from Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War of January to March 1991. Hussein’s attempt to annex Kuwait to Iraq was the first instance of a country intending to absorb another UN member by force. The war was supported by many members of the foreign policy establishment (the Owls of our typology), while opposed by most of the traditional peace organizations. The limited aim of “Operation Desert Storm” -- restoring the independence of Kuwait without marching on Baghdad to overthrow Saddam – held together a wide coalition including many Arab countries, which also helped pay the costs of the war for the United States and other Western countries. The victors imposed sanctions on Iraq, and a UN inspection program to see that Iraq disarmed its weapons of mass destruction. The United States also imposed a no-fly zone in northern and southern Iraq after Saddam’s attacks on Kurdish and Shiite opponents.
In 1994 Hutus began to slaughter Tutsis in Rwanda and proceeded without western intervention. During the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, The United States, together with NATO forces, intervened in Bosnia three years into the fighting there in mid-1995, following the Srebrenica massacre, and in Kosovo in 2000 to prevent a recurrence of such atrocities. The issue of humanitarian intervention was hotly debated in liberal journals like The Nation, The New York Times Magazine, and the New York Review of Books by such writers as Samantha Power, Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff, and David Rieff. By 2007 much attention had been focused on genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan, but effective action remained to be taken.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, the United States, NATO and other allies invaded Afghanistan to replace the Taliban government that had sheltered and supported al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the attack. President George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, and neo-conservatives in the Defense Department engineered the Iraq War, under the pretext that Saddam had concealed weapons of mass destruction from the UN arms inspectors.
In a parallel to the peace movement against the Vietnam War forty years earlier, two coalitions attempted to generate large demonstrations in New York, Washington, and San Francisco. ANSWER’s narrow sectarian coalition was led by the Workers World Party (after 2005 it was controlled by a split-off group, the Party for Socialism and Liberation), and the United for Peace and Justice coalition represented the usual left and pacifist allies. A third Win Without War coalition represented a cluster of moderate groups. None of the peace organizations and activities seems to have had a major impact on public opinion about the Iraq War. As chaos in Iraq increased and began to be defined as a civil war, public confidence in the war steadily declined, more on the evidence of failure to create a stable and democratic Iraq than by the efforts of the peace movement. A major shift in United States policy before the 2008 Presidential election appeared likely.
For all the innovative tactics shown by the plethora of small and often short-lived groups, the peace movement has yet to develop a major flagship membership organization on the scale of NOW, the NAACP, the ACLU, or the Sierra Club. Nor has the movement been able to move beyond opposition to the war at hand to develop a long-range strategy for achieving international structures for peace through global governance.
Overview of Peace Movements: For historical surveys of peace activity, see Charles Chatfield with Robert Kleidman, The American Peace Movement: Ideals and Activism (Twayne, 1992); and Peace Movements in America, edited by Charles Chatfield (Schocken, 1973). Lawrence S. Wittner covers the mid-century in Rebels Against War: The American Peace Movement, 1933-1983 (Temple Univ. Press, 1984). Witter’s comprehensive work on The Struggle Against the Bomb has produced three volumes: One World or None: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement Through 1953 (Stanford Univ. Press, 1993), Resisting the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954-1970 (Stanford Univ. Press, 1997); and Toward Nuclear Abolition: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1971 to the Present (Stanford Univ. Press, 2003). For the Vietnam war period, see Nancy Zaroulis and Gerald Sullivan, Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam, 1963-1975 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984).
Events of the 1980s are reviewed in Roger C. Peace III, A Just and Lasting Peace: The U.S. Peace Movement from the Cold War to Desert Storm (Noble Press, 1991), including campaigns on nuclear disarmament, Central America, South Africa, federal budget priorities, and new visions of common security. For a sociological view, see Peace Action in the Eighties: Social Science Perspectives, edited by Sam Marullo and John Lofland (Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990); and John Lofland, Polite Protesters: The American Peace Movement of the 1980s (Syracuse Univ. Press, 1993). Current information can be found in the magazine The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The fascinating history of the peace symbol is lavishly illustrated in Ken Kolsbun with Michael S. Sweeney, Peace: The Biography of a Symbol (National Geographic, 2008).
Owls: Our typology is borrowed from the study Hawks, Doves and Owls: An Agenda for Avoiding Nuclear War, edited by Graham T. Allison, Albert Carnesale, and Joseph S. Nye, Jr. (Norton, 1985). How the establishment shaped American foreign policy after World War II is illuminated by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (Simon & Schuster, 1986). Fragmentation of the foreign policy establishment into professional elites and rival think-tanks is traced in I. M. Destler, Leslie H. Gelb and Anthony Lake, Our Own Worst Enemy: The Unmaking of American Foreign Policy (Simon and Schuster, 1984). For a history of nuclear arms control efforts in the context of the Cold War, see John Newhouse, War and Peace in the Nuclear Age (Knopf, 1988; Vintage, 1990), the companion book to the PBS television series.
Hawks: For a left critique of hawkish influence on foreign policy since World War II, see Thomas Bodenheimer and Robert Gould, Rollback! Right-wing Power in U.S. Foreign Policy (South End Press, 1989). Position papers of the Committee on the Present Danger are collected in Alerting America, edited by Charles Tyroler, II (Pergamon-Brassey's, 1984). The unsavory collection of racists, fascists and death squad leaders assembled in the World Anti-Communist League (recently renamed the World League for Freedom and Democracy) is described in Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, Inside the League (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1986); its American affiliate is the U.S. Council for World Freedom, headed by Gen. John Singlaub, U.S. Army (Ret.), who tells his side of the story in Hazardous Duty: An American Soldier in the Twentieth Century (Summit Books, 1991).
Doves: On Quakers as pioneers of social change, see Margaret Hope Bacon, The Quiet Rebels: The Story of the Quakers in America (New Society Press, 1985). For the debate over the four pacifist organizations founded in the Progressive era, see Guenter Lewy, Peace & Revolution: The Moral Crisis of American Pacifism (Eerdmans Publishing, 1988); and Peace Betrayed? Essays on Pacifism and Politics, edited by Michael Cromartie (Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1990).
Peace Organizations. There are many useful organizational studies of groups that work for peace. Four studies cover the WILPF: Harriet Hyman Alonso, Peace as a Women's Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women's Rights (Syracuse Univ. Press, 1993); Gertrude Bussey and Margaret Tims, Pioneers for Peace: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 1915-1965 (1965; Oxford: Alden Press, 1980); Carrie A. Foster, The Women and the Warriors: The U.S. Section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915-1946 (Syracuse Univ. Press, 1995); and Catherine Foster, Women for All Seasons: The Story of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Univ. of Georgia Press, 1989). For a related group, see Amy Swerdlow, Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1993). For a history of the secular pacifists, see Scott H. Bennett, Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963 (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2003). For the religious pacifists, see Paul R. Dekar, Creating the Beloved Community: A Journey with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2005). Peace Action has two predecessor groups: SANE and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. For SANE, see Milton S. Katz, Ban the Bomb: A History of SANE, 1957-1985 (Greenwood Press, 1986). For the Freeze, see Pam Solo, From Protest to Policy: Beyond the Freeze to Common Security (Ballinger, 1988). The history of the merged organizations is covered in Glen Harold Stassen and Lawrence S. Wittner, Peace Action: Past, Present, and Future (Paradigm Publishers, 2007).
The Humanitarian Intervention Controversy. Optimistic perspectives on what can be accomplished by armed intervention for humanitarian motives are presented by Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell:” America and the Age of Genocide (Basic Books, 2002); and Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (Princeton Univ. Press, 2004). David Rieff grows increasingly pessimistic from Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (Simon & Schuster, 1995); to A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 2002); and At the Point of a Gun: Democratic Dreams and Armed Intervention (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Paul Berman, Power and the Idealists: Or, The Passion of Joschka Fischer and Its Aftermath (Soft Skull, 2005) remains hopeful, even after the Iraq War experience.
Information: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute compiles a comprehensive reference in its annual SIPRI Yearbook: World Armaments and Disarmament (Oxford Univ. Press). If you like maps, you'll appreciate the graphic approach in State of War and Peace Atlas, by Dan Smith et al. (Penguin, 1997). See also Dan Smith, The Penguin State of the World Atlas, 7th ed. (Penguin, 2003). The Center for Defense Information publishes The Defense Monitor, which presents a detailed analysis of a single defense issue or system in each issue. The Arms Control Association publishes Arms Control Today, a monthly journal.