OPERATION PEACE INSTITUTE
To help commemorate Z Magazine?s 20th year of publication, we are running a series featuring memorable articles from the past. In this issue, we are featuring ?Operation Peace Institute? by Sarah Diamond and Richard Hatch, which appeared in the July/August 1990 issue.
THE SAME political forces that cast mercenary armies as “freedom fighters”
and first-strike MX missiles as “Peacekeepers” have turned a long-hoped-
for peace academy into a stomping ground for professional war-makers.
Under scrutiny, the supposed peace research sponsored by the federally
funded U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) looks more like the study of new
and potential means of aggression, though less in the conventional military
realm and more in the vein of trade embargoes, economic austerity programs,
and electoral intervention.
The USIP is a funding conduit and clearinghouse for research on problems
inherent to U.S. strategies of “low intensity conflict.” Among the results
of U.S. intervention in Central America, to take a prime example, have
been a judgment against the United States by the International Court of
Justice in the Hague; the swelling of refugee populations in the region;
and the growth of a committed domestic solidarity movement. Similar problems
apply to other terrains of conflict.
Is it any wonder, then, that projects funded by the USIP include a substantial
focus on issues of refugees, diplomacy, international law, and the histories
and profiles of peace movements?
The idea of a national peace institute was long in the making and approved
by a wide spectrum of peace advocates. But by the time the USIP was formally
established in 1984, its board looked like a “who’s who” of right-wing
ideologues from academia and the Pentagon. By law, the USIP is an arm of
the U.S. intelligence apparatus. The legislation that established the USIP
specifies that “the director of Central Intelligence may assign officers
and employees” of the CIA to the USIP, and the Institute is authorized
to use and disseminate “classified materials from the intelligence community.”
In practice, the USIP intersects heavily with the intelligence establishment.
Nearly half its board members played some role in the Iran-contra operations,
and an analysis of the USIP’s grantmaking priorities since 1986 reveals
substantial funding for “scholars” already on the take from other military
and intelligence agencies.
Just as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has become a central
tool for the promotion of political parties, labor unions, and media voices
deemed acceptable by bipartisan foreign policymakers, the USIP, using the
same rhetoric of “peace” and “democracy” and many of the same recycled
defense intellectuals, seeks to control debate and decision-making on conflict
resolution. Also like the NED, the USIP performs in public view some of
the functions traditionally conducted by the CIA and perpetuates the trend
toward public funding of policy-making elites not in any way accountable
to taxpayers or voters.
THE USIP has its origins in a decades-long public demand for some sort
of counterweight to the Pentagon and its numerous military-training schools.
An early proponent was the recently deceased Senator Sparks Matsunaga of
Hawaii who in 1963 introduced a bill in Congress to create a peace academy.
The immediate antecedent to the USIP was the National Peace Academy Campaign,
launched in 1976 in the aftermath of Watergate and the Vietnam War. Scores
of reputable peace groups supported the idea of a “federally-funded training
center for peace” studies. But the peace movement was inattentive to the
support coming from the less-than-reputable: the misnamed World Without
War Council, a deceptive, intelligence- linked “peace” group, collected
90,000 signatures to lobby Congress. NPAC cofounder Bryant Wedge, a psychiatrist
who started the George Washington University Center for Conflict Resolution
as a model for the proposed academy, testified during a peace academy hearing
before Congress that he had produced psychological studies for the Department
of State, the U.S. Information Agency, the Arms Control and Disarmament
Agency, and the CIA.
More hard-line foreign policy figures opposed the peace academy idea. Reflecting
deeply-ingrained suspicions that academia—and bureaucracies in general—are
but havens for left-leaning eggheads, people like Senator Jeremiah Denton
and Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner lobbied against the academy.
The Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University
registered concern about “duplication” (read: competition) from a national
But by the final round of legislative wrangling, the “peace academy” was
neither an educational center nor dedicated to the quest for peace in the
true meaning of the term. The authorization for the newly-named United
States Institute of Peace was attached to the 1985 Defense Authorization
Bill and it was structured by law to be governed by a presidentially-appointed
(and congressionally approved) board of directors, to include direct participation
by the heads of four agencies: the Departments of State and Defense, the
Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), and the National Defense University.
The final product mollified both the hawks and the established university-based
research centers, who would come to rely on the Institute as a funding
source, rather than a competing academy. For their part, independent peace
groups seemed to content themselves with the compromised victory and the
hope that a post-Reagan administration would eventually appoint a more
Who’s On First?
THE BOARD is the most critical feature of the USIP setup. The board members
personally review and make determinations on the 400 to 500 grant proposals
submitted each year. The USIP solicits proposals through announcements
in the Federal Register, the Chronicle of Higher Education, University
Sponsored Projects Offices, and other normal channels. Grant seekers responding
to these announcements ought to understand where their project descriptions
might be routed.
Aside from the sordid histories of many, what is most salient is the board’s
nonrepresentative nature. How can the USIP encourage innovative peace research
when its grant-making panel is dominated by a cadre of professional warmongers?
The first USIP president, appointed by Reagan, was Robert F. Turner, a
former U.S. Army Captain and “embassy official” in Saigon during the Vietnam
War. Simultaneous with his direction of the USIP, he worked with the State
Department, producing anti-Nicaragua propaganda. In one of his written
reports, (published in 1987 by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis
at Tufts) he boasts of being provided with “boxes upon boxes of classified
and unclassified cables and memoranda” from the Defense Department and
the CIA. In this report, Turner argues vigorously for increased aid to
the Nicaragua contras. “The motives underlying U.S. policy in the region
were never as evil as critics of U.S. policy portrayed them,” Turner writes.
“The objective of U.S. policy was to introduce stable, democratic gov-
ernments to the region.”
Succeeding Turner is current USIP president Samuel W. Lewis who is less
overtly hawkish. While directing USIP, Lewis also works with the Washington
Institute on Near East Policy, a think tank that has helped formulate Reagan
and Bush Middle East policy. Lewis helped guide Latin America policy when
he served from 1968-69 as senior staff member on the National Security
At the 1990 House of Representatives’ Appropriations Hearings on the USIP,
Lewis made an intriguing remark regarding the USIP’s selection of grantees:
“All the applications for distinguished fellows and peace fellows and peace
scholars are first vetted by panels of distinguished experts.” Vetted is
intelligence profession jargon for the profiling and granting of security
clearances to potential agents.
According to the USIP’s 1989 biennial report, one of those “distinguished
experts” is Robert Jervis, professor of International Relations at Columbia
University. In his book Veil, Bob Woodward wrote that during the Iranian
hostage crisis, Jervis was “brought in as a CIA scholar-in-residence” to
produce a detailed assessment of U.S. intelligence failings before, during,
and after the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
THREE OF THE current USIP board members—William Kintner, John Norton Moore,
and Morris Liebman—also preside over the U.S. Global Strategy Council,
a shadowy clique of military intelligence strategists headed by former
CIA deputy director Ray Cline. Any notion that this group is committed
to peace is belied by its December 1989 publication of a slick promotional
booklet for RENAMO, the murderous gang of thieves condemned even by the
State Department for its plunder and pillage of Mozambique.
Kintner, Moore, and USIP board member W. Scott Thompson also collaborate
on the Strategy Board of the far-right American Security Council (ASC),
started in the 1950s to keep tabs on domestic “subversives.” Since the
1970s the ASC has focused on organizing against SALT treaties through its
Coalition for Peace Through Strength. (The ASC also serves as an umbrella
for fascistic East European emigre groups, as documented in a Political
Research Associates report by Russ Bellant.)
An ASC Strategy Board document “Peace Through Strength” sets forth plans
for “recapturing the image of peace,” in part by boosting intelligence-gathering
on U.S. activists. Specific commendations call for data-gathering via “citizen
cooperation,” electronic surveillance, law enforcement agency informants,
and “third party records,” like bank receipts and utility bills.
That the USIP, too, might be an intelligence agency is not merely a function
of its personnel. The criteria for what legally constitutes an intelligence
agency is up for debate. In a letter to Oliver North’s attorney, USIP chair
John Norton Moore proposed that the National Security Council was not really
an intelligence agency subject to the restrictions of the Boland Amendment.
No wonder, then, that the USIP has fabricated a legal sleight-of-hand to
protect itself from the CIA stigma. On the one hand, the 1984 Institute
of Peace Act called for the USIP to “establish a clearinghouse and other
means for disseminating information, including classified information that
is properly safeguarded, from the field of peace learning to the public
and to government personnel with appropriate security clearances.” This
would appear to make the USIP a member of the “intelligence community.”
But in 1988, the USIP turned around and adopted a bylaw stating that the
Institute will not “sponsor or support classified research, nor shall any
employee or officer of the Institute engage in classified research, except
with the approval of two-thirds of the Board…. Any decision to engage
in classified research in Institute programs shall be reported at the next
public session of the Board.” USIP Public Affairs spokesperson Greg McCarthy
says no such “research” has ever been approved. But he acknowledged the
fact that many USIP grantees work on classified projects, with joint funding
from intelligence agencies.
Aside from the potential handling of classified materials at USIP headquarters,
any data acquired in unclassified projects is immediately available to
the Departments of Defense and State via their representatives on the USIP
Following The Money
NOT SURPRISINGLY, the USIP’s dispersal of taxpayer dollars reflects its
own ideological makeup with few exceptions. The organizations receiving
the largest number of grants are the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
and the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis at Tufts University; Johns
Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS);
and the RAND Corporation.
About $90,000 has gone to the Albert Einstein Institution in Cambridge,
where liberal peace researcher Gene Sharp studies the political impact
of nonviolent sanctions. Betty Reardon, of the Columbia University Teachers
College, has administered a similar-sized grant to educate elementary and
secondary school teachers on the relationship between human rights and
But a careful analysis of the USIP’s annotated list of 238 grant projects
through early 1990 reveals undeniable favoritism toward researchers committed
to Cold War paradigms. No recognized left scholars—let alone anyone with
the Rainbow Coalition or European Green movements—has been funded to date.
These groups are more likely to be the objects than the conductors of USIP
research. A number of the USIP grantees survey domestic and foreign peace
movements to find out who is thinking and doing what, and where. Among
these reconnaissance studies are computerized databases of peace center
libraries, “intellectual maps” of tendencies in the U.S. peace movement,
and detailed analyses of European activism against U.S. nuclear weapons
For an overall funding breakdown, the USIP biennial report provides some
useful statistics. By the end of 1989, the USIP had dispersed $6.8 million
in three categories: (1) research/studies; (2) education and curriculum
development; and (3) information, including conferences and publications.
The first category—research—received the lion’s share of about $4.2 million.
Depending on whether one makes a further breakdown by number of grants
funded or by dollar amounts awarded (presumably indicating size and scope),
the USIP grants prioritize strategic and area studies for the regions of
Asia, the Soviet Union, the Middle East, and Europe. The category of Religion/Nationalism/Ethnicity
received the third largest sum of money. Studies related to conflict resolution
have been noticeably few, as have been studies on Latin America. For the
coming year, however, Latin America and Eastern Europe are the USIP’s two
top grants solicitation categories. Also noticeably lacking are projects
dealing explicitly with nuclear weaponry. Instead, the grants list reveals
a decided focus on problems related to U.S. “low intensity conflict” strategy.
Numerous projects hone in on the topics of negotiation style, international
law, the impact of human rights violations on settlement processes, external
support for civil wars, and the like.
“To make these kinds of projects most useful to the government,” says USIP
president Lewis, “we want to select the topics carefully and in consultation
with key people in government who would be the primary ‘end users.’ We
want to be sure that we’re not just analyzing problems that are interesting,
but that nobody in the policy arena really cares much about.”
The rationale behind such an emphasis was spelled out neatly at a 1987
Congressional Oversight Hearing. USIP grantee Joseph V. Montville, from
the State Department’s own Foreign Service Institute, testified that “the
more that the United States can develop low cost problem-solving and conflict
resolution techniques for application as soon as a potential security crisis
occurs, the less the Defense Department will have to worry about scarcity
of military resources if the crisis grows and gets out of hand.”
Reproducing The Status Quo
IN ADDITION to such pragmatism, the USIP intends to play an agenda-setting
role in foreign affairs circles. Part of the USIP’s modus operandi is to
provide only partial—though substantial—funding for a project, in some
cases on the condition that the grantee also acquires funding from other
government agencies or corporate foundations. Already, the USIP has co-sponsored
projects with the Pew Charitable Trust and the Ford Foundation. Samuel
Lewis told a Congressional committee in 1989 that his goal is to “try to
cast a net for information about what other funders are doing.”
The end result of such a plan is twofold: on one level it enables the USIP
to gather data on, if not influence, the funding procedures of private
foundations. Secondly, by splitting the funding for a given project, the
grantee appears less beholden to one particular institution, more professionally
respectable, and in turn more likely to receive future funding from a variety
of sources. As for why so many tenured professors already at the top of
their university pay scales and with ample outside funding would need an
extra $30,000 or $40,000 book grant from the USIP, the answer is simple:
the more money state-approved academics get, the more graduate student
subcontractors they can hire to produce an ever larger proportion of the
available literature on a given topic.
This process is not new. It is how political elites reproduce themselves
and perpetuate their control of public debate. In the case of the USIP,
it is used in tandem with less subtle tactics to achieve hegemony over
the concept of peace.
A case in point is the USIP’s sharp attack on alternative peace research
paradigms. The Institute’s August 1989 “News Brief,” intended to promote
a USIP-funded directory of Peace Research in Western Europe, devoted one
column to a barb against Johan Galtung, the renowned Norwegian professor
of peace studies. Galtung’s extensive writings in the field have pioneered
the understanding of peace not just as the opposite of war, but as the
opposite of violence in its many forms.
Directory editor Robert Rudney of the right-wing National Institute for
Public Policy and the USIP newsletter charge that “the sweeping mandate
and fixed mindset of Galtung’s disciples left a legacy of ‘serious lack
of scholarly discipline, confused methodology, impulse toward political
activism and narrowmindedness with respect to developments in international
relations and strategic studies.’” The “News Brief” goes on to praise a
“new breed” of European peace researchers more focused on specific tactical
issues than on what Rudney calls the “Galtungian analysis of structural
In an interview, Galtung expressed dismay that a government agency of one
country would use a taxpayer-funded “propaganda sheet,” in his words, to
defame a private citizen of another country. Last August, Galtung wrote
a memo to the USIP protesting the Institute’s effort to cast generalist
and specialist peace research as two mutually exclusive camps. He asked
that the USIP either retract its “News Brief” attack on his scholarship
or, at least, print his rebuttal.
Galtung received no reply to the memo or to his letter to Samuel Lewis
in March 1990. The USIP had been distributing the condemnatory “News Brief”
to peace researchers at the University of Hawaii, where Galtung was completing
a four-term visiting professorship. “It is the mark of the scholar to recognize
mistakes publicly,” Galtung wrote to Lewis, “the mark of the propagandist
not to do so.”
Galtung says he sees a fundamental contradiction between honest research
in the field of peace and that conducted by a government agency. “The contradiction,”
he says, “is even greater when the government is a superpower.” Galtung
is less disturbed by the USIP’s connections to intelligence agencies or
right-wing think tanks than he is by the Institute’s unwillingness to “admit
any peace research fundamentally critical of U.S. foreign policy.” Galtung
calls this blind spot the “hidden axiom” behind the USIP’s approach to
subjects like “low intensity conflict [LIC].”
THIS BIAS takes form in the grant-making process as well as in USIP’s conferences
and “public” workshops. The USIP has organized an eight-part conference
series on LIC, coordinated by Professor Alberto Coll of the U.S. Naval
War College. We analyzed the list of paper presenters and invited participants
for four LIC conferences on the topics of: state-sponsored terrorism, insurgencies,
coups, and the role of intelligence services. Each conference featured
9 to 12 paper presenters and 21 to 32 invited participants. The panels
of experts enlisted to brainstorm about LIC were flagrantly dominated by
people from government agencies and private think tanks heavily bankrolled
by federal grants. Out of a cumulative total of 43 presenters and 104 participants,
we were able to identify 3 non-right wing presenters and about the same
number of invited participants. None of the LIC conferees had to fear that
someone from a group like Witness for Peace might stand up and explain
what “low intensity conflict” really means.
Instead, there have been a couple of segregated events for peace advocates.
To a workshop on “Pacifism and Citizenship,” the USIP invited reputable
peace scholar Elise Boulding and representatives of the War Resisters League,
the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the American Friends Service Committee.
The USIP confines these kinds of peace thinkers to sessions on philosophical
issues where they can sit and talk about pacifism until they’re blue in
the face. In areas where concrete policies are raised—like the session
on chemical and biological warfare or the one on Eastern Europe—progressives
are personae non-gratae.
IN EFFECT, the conferences and “workshops”—some of which are held outside
of Washington, DC— create an artificial forum in which the Institute’s
stable of recognized experts can “transmit” the profound peace wisdom they
have supposedly acquired at taxpayers’ expense. Such events further strengthen
the intellectual hegemony of some of the same people already flush with
USIP grant money and honoraria.
The public workshops are not intended to elicit diverse public opinion
as a debate or town meeting might. But precisely because the USIP won’t
make these events truly public, and because the panels are so heavily stacked
with administration mouthpieces, the public outreach component is where
the USIP is most vulnerable to challenge by activists.
Peace activists in Honolulu waged an exemplary campaign in February when
the USIP held a two-day, dog-and-pony show in conjunction with the University
of Hawaii Institute of Peace (UHIP). The USIP holds outreach events at
campuses with strong research programs in area studies relevant to U.S.
foreign policy. The University of Hawaii holds particular interest because
of its large foreign student population and its established academic focus
on Asian affairs and peace studies. The USIP has high name-recognition
in Hawaii because the late Senator Sparks Matsunaga was prominent in its
Early in the planning phases of the USIP visit to Honolulu, an ad hoc “USIP
Concerns Committee” formed to challenge a plan by the UHIP to formally
affiliate with the USIP. A number of grant-hungry liberals at the UHIP
have been anxious to ingratiate themselves with the USIP, but the Concerns
Committee did its homework on the militaristic backgrounds of USIP players
and put together an informational statement, signed by 15 leaders of church,
disarmament, and solidarity organizations. In doing so, most of the signatories
jeopardized their own groups’ future funding from the Hawaii Institute.
The Concerns Committee also briefed newspaper reporters assigned to the
USIP visit, so that media coverage included the positions of the authentic
peace community. “The dominant impression people got,” says Bart Dame,
who tirelessly organized the anti-USIP effort, “was that these USIP people
were part of the intelligence community.”
Dame and others maintained a visible presence as USIP board members, promulgating
official foreign policy positions on campus and at a local church. In a
session titled “Can There be an International Solution to the Cambodian
Question?” USIP board member William Kintner promoted the theory that the
U.S. would have won in Southeast Asia if only “we” had continued bombing
Vietnam for another ten days. While USIP President Samuel Lewis gave a
presentation at Central Union Church, one woman from the Concerns Committee
knelt at his feet and performed a silent “guerrilla theater” piece on the
U.S. invasion of Panama.
The Concerns Committee’s educational work achieved an important victory
in May when the University of Hawaii Institute of Peace decided not to
affiliate itself with USIP. Such a result would have been unlikely without
vocal and informed opposition from Honolulu progressives.
The Hawaii case points to the abundant possibilities for local action during
USIP campus outreach visits. A campaign against the USIP would be an ideal
way for a local SANE/ FREEZE chapter or solidarity group to link up with
campus activists. Because of its need to maintain a facade of accountability,
the USIP makes available its biennial report, grant listings, newsletters,
and announcements of forthcoming events. Students ought to investigate
the USIP’s efforts to network with social science departments on their
own campuses. Actual and potential grantees ought to be informed of what
the USIP is really about, and peace researchers ought to seek less compromised
sources of funding. At the same time, activists ought to demand a restructuring
of the USIP and intelligence personnel involvement should be barred by
rules at least as strict as those applied to the Peace Corps.
Sara Diamond is the author of Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian
Right (South End Press, 1989). Richard Hatch is a research chemist.