16 Apr #4 Peace: Counting Down the Top 7 Principles for Federal Leadership
Retiring as a lawyer at a relatively early age has provided your blogger more time to read books, and there are a lot of good ones out there. One well-developed genre particularly enjoyed is books set during World War II. Authors have been prolific and excellent in writing both fiction and nonfiction books about The War, and you no doubt have read such books.
Some of our personal favorite WWII reads over the past two years have been Unbroken (by Laura Hillenbrand), The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom), We Were the Lucky Ones (Georgia Hunter), D-Day: The WWII Invasion that Changed History (Deborah Hopkinson), and Dear Mrs. Bird (A.J. Pearce).
The best so far has been All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. It is a two-pronged story about a young, blind girl from France and a young, blond boy from Germany. She finds herself fleeing from the evil of the war as it bursts into France. He finds himself in the Wehrmacht, and, after an excruciating series of missions all over Europe, he, as novels tend to go, ends up in the same French town as the clever, charming, and courageous heroine. If you have not read this book, we won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, the story is 500 pages of fear, light, pain, light, killing, light, and so on. It is compelling.
This all is to ask, why are there so many great books about war, and so few about peace? Even the most famous (and longest) of the latter is War and Peace, for crying out loud.
Give peace a chance, we say. It is our fourth principle for federal leadership.
“Peace is Not the Absence of War”
If war is hell, then peace must be good, right?* But peace, to us and even to famous commentators from the past, takes on a much greater meaning than that there is no war declared at the moment.
*We realize we run the risk of coming across as “Peaceniks,” which, oddly enough, was a label often meant in a derogatory way when said in the 60s and 70s. Peaceniks were members of the pacifist movement, which perhaps was in its heyday when opposing the Vietnam War. Some define the word as “one who participates in antiwar protests,” which happened a great deal during the conflict in Southeast Asia. We feel somewhat less concerned about being labeled Peaceniks when we see that one of its antonyms is warmonger. If we had to choose…just saying.
This blog is about politics, specifically federal politics, so let us address federal politics as our example. Peace in this context runs the entire gamut from avoiding conflicts between nations to avoiding tribal warfare between our two main political parties. None of the clashes on that spectrum are helpful to our citizens. Peace is better for our nation—and, more importantly, for the people in our nation—in every scenario, albeit international, interdepartmental, interstate, and internal at the White House.
Internecine is an ominous word that gets at why peace is valuable. An internecine conflict is one in which both sides suffer—a definition that would seem to apply to nearly every conflict to some extent. Internal conflicts can be some of the most mutually harmful of all. Think the Civil War. Peace, on the other hand, is a contrary status in which both sides benefit. Think…think…think…therein lies the problem: While we think of America as a peace-loving nation, there simply are not enough examples of true, comprehensive peace in our land.
“Domestic tranquility,” nonetheless, is a constitutional mandate, of sorts. It certainly is a foundational principle of our very nation. The authors of the United States Constitution explained the purpose of that hallowed document itself:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (Emphasis added.)
Our nation has not fought any major international wars for several years. We ostensibly are “at peace” today. But we can do better. Can anyone really say that this has been a time of true peace in America? Just in the last six months, we have had racial strife, the election, increasing gang gunfire in our cities, social media fights, and the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building.
If peace is a fruit of the spirit, which the Bible says it is in Galatians 5:22, then our domestically-grown peaches are tasting dangerously bitter these days.
Applying the Peace Principle
Principle Based Politics believes it imperative for the United States to seek out leaders who
believe that the country as a whole will benefit in peaceful times. Rather than using conflict strategically to further their own personal agendas, these leaders will strive for tranquility not only abroad, but at home, as well. These leaders believe this, or say they do, but they also demonstrate it.
Peace-honoring leaders can be recognized by the signals they send. First, their political positions on foreign-policy issues, racial justice, and guns do not pander to the militaristic and the hate- filled among us. They don’t silently whistle to dogs. But just as much, none of their positions are designed to provoke fights or create enemies at home or abroad. They are not angry, and they do not look to ride a wave of populist rage to attain or retain public office. They do not look to deepen division even when their strategists and pollsters tell them that the politician may benefit personally from driving wedges. They avoid flames whenever pouring gas.
Though it may seem illogical, however, another sign of a peace-principled leader is that they are strong and they believe the United States should be strong. Strength brings peace. This is the proverbial “speak softly and carry a big stick” approach often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. This actually means non-aggression with the ability to be forceful if necessary. And there are just wars. Clearly, this approach requires a strong military, a strong economy, and a strong, unified nation.
A strong nation also needs a strong, bottom-up, democratic government. Politicians whose
words and deeds show they will honor and build up our democracy in every way will promote the cause of peace, everywhere.
Top 7 Principles for Federal Leadership (hover over list for links to posts on previous principles)
Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics.
Look for his posts twice each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.