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July / August 2007 Volume 20 Number 7/8


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.




By Sarah Diamond & Richard Hatch

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 peace institute. 

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 balanced board. 

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 Council. 

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. 

Spooky Connections 

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 board. 

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 peace. 

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 bases. 

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 violence.” 

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 inception. 

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.