Thinking about peace requires understanding peace itself as thought, as knowledge, and as a critique of its others, its opposites: violence, terror, and war. Peace is encyclopedic in terms of the knowledge that it generates as well as the knowledge upon which it draws. This essay is a brief attempt to explore what the circumstances are for peace as thinking and what goes into that thinking. What I'm saying here rests on three important assumptions: first, we cannot simply point outward to terror and "hit" the right target; second, to have peace one must extend peace; and third, the necessary counter to notions of a "just war" is a "just peace."
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We can "read" back from the effect and recognize the means. The dead bodies are the effects, and we read back from those bodies and their circumstances, the means that produced them. Our understanding of peace as knowledge might productively begin then with the effects of war itself as terrorism--the demoralization, intimidation, and subjugation of people especially as a result of a political weapon or policy. The effect of terrorism is not so very different from the effect of war; in fact, the dividing line between terrorism and war has long depended upon the difference between the use of force legitimated by a state as opposed to the laissez faire or ad hoc use of force or threat by individuals and/or non-state groups.
Peace as a form of thinking asks us to critique and counter the legitimizing of force on the part of individuals/groups and the state. Combined with the assumptions with which I began--that we cannot simply point outward to terror, that to have peace one must extend peace, and that the necessary counter to the notion of a just war is a just peace--we have to judge war, as we do terrorism, from its effects: demoralization, intimidation, and subjugation. In this moment, our state is amassing and deploying a vast array of weaponry for war, although not every weapon amassed is being deployed immediately, and although not every deployment of a weapon is seen as weaponry deployment. I refer here to threats and rhetoric as weapons by yet other means. The gathering of refugees on the border of Pakistan is an effect produced by the bombings themselves certainly, but it is also an effect produced by the threats and rhetoric of the U.S. state--threats and rhetorical displays whose power is awesome and visible if we read back from its effect on a country, Afghanistan, already impoverished and ruined by more than a decade of fighting and its control by a group of thugs. In other words, this is U.S. war-mongering as terror.
Peace as thinking requires thinking about everything and rethinking everything--including our own collusion in our state's saber rattling and its effects. As part of this thinking, I want to remind us of what peace has conventionally meant: freedom from civil clamor and confusion, a state of public quiet; a state of security or order; a mental or spiritual condition marked by freedom from disquieting thoughts or oppressive thought or emotion; a tranquil state of freedom from outside disturbance; harmony in human or personal relations; and a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war.
Thinking about peace requires us to consider the difference between security as the precondition for civil ease, calm, tranquility, and harmony in the whole world, and security as the means by which our particular national calm, tranquility, and freedom from outside disturbance, is purchased for us at the cost of sacrificing the rest of the world's possible harmony.