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Approaches to Peace

Page history last edited by Peace Studies 15 years, 11 months ago

FrontPage     Resources     Concepts:Themes


Beer, F.A. ‘The Reduction of War and the Creation of Peace’ in A Reader in Peace Studies, (eds.) P. Smoker, R. Davies, B. Munske, Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press.

Many theorists deal with peace, but peace theory is not a unified whole. It does not begin from abstract axioms, follow through a set of rigorously deduced and exhaustively validated principles, and end with a coherent and consistent set of action recommendations. Rather it is a family of discourse that comes from many diverse traditions, seeing the world in various ways. Space prevents us from considering all of its manifold aspects. We shall focus here on action dimensions of peace theories, on different ways that theorists suggest we may enhance peace.

War reduction

Two major branches of peace theory, defined in this normative way, concentrate in turn on war reduction and peace creation. The first branch, war reduction, accepts the international system as given and tries to alleviate its most extreme dangers by reducing and limiting war.

Some theorists of war reduction concentrate directly on limiting inter- [p.15] national violence. These emphasize the rational management of international crises that might lead to war, and of wars themselves once they occur. ……

Other war reduction theorists aim at military aspects of the international system that are preconditions for violence. Strategic deterrence and arms control are policies with this focus. …….

Peace creation

War reduction theories appeal to most people because they deal directly with the use of force and weapons. They are, however, limited because they focus on immediately observable symptoms rather than on deeper underlying causes. Theories of peace creation go beyond buffering existing international relations. They focus on balancing and restructuring of the world system.


International balancing is an attempt to rearrange the importance of, and relations between, the different levels of the system. The traditional view of [p16] international relations has been very state-centered. Historically the international system has consisted of states with sovereignty; and only states could be subjects of international law. Balancing begins from the premise that the national level is over-developed and might usefully be constrained or even diminished. The international, transnational, group, and individual levels might be enhanced through strategies of world order, international functionalism, softening and shrinking the nation-state, and human rights. [p.17] ……….


We have seen that peace creation involves balancing relations between levels of the international system. A second major task of peace creation is to restructure processes and activities within different levels of the international system. International restructuring includes demilitarization, as well as the enhancement of equality and stability. ……..

Constructive actions can and should be undertaken incrementally, in small pieces, as experiments. Policy makers should define their expected impacts in advance and then monitor the results to see if they achieve the anticipated results. If so, additional steps can be taken; if not, little will be lost. Whether the actions succeed or fail, policy makers will have a systematic basis for learning and innovation. They can subsequently try new and better policies aiming at the same end. [p.18]


It is often assumed that many of the paths presented here are mutually exclusive. National peace vs. international peace, strategic deterrence vs. arms control, short term vs. long term, practical vs. visionary. There certainly are trade-offs between them; yet some of the trade-offs may be more apparent than real. For example, we usually believe that advances in deterrence will set back arms control, or that progress in arms control or demilitarization will hinder deterrence. This is not necessarily true; indeed deterrence and arms control may, to some extent, be preconditions for each other. If deterrence were completely assured, arms control might become easier in areas which were not deemed essential to national peace. If arms control existed to a greater degree, deterrence might be more effective or less important. The Strategic Defense Initiative offers a striking example of this complementarity. Space-based strategic technology will be deployed primarily to provide deterrence (see Jastrow, 1985). Yet much of it will also provide the ability to monitor and enforce arms control. And its vulnerability to attack will, in turn, require arms control measures to ensure its safety. [p.19]


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