Group Advocating Peace Finds Solutions in Violence

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Sitting inside a cluttered room covered with political literature and news clippings of wars fought, Robert Pickus contemplates world peace-by going to war.

The World War II veteran is president and founder of the Berkeley-based World Without War Council, a 40-year-old group that promotes peace through unconventional means.

Pickus says that in the current political climate, war is essential for justice to prevail. But the war against terrorism, he said, should be a U.S. led effort with a "wise and discriminate" approach.

The group, for example, supports a strategic bombing of the Taliban radio system, provided that civilians are given advanced warning, Pickus says.

"We think the country that can do the most to help move toward a world that resolves mass political conflict without war is this country," he said.

The council says U.S. leadership is essential to achieve world peace and fears who may arise as a new leader if the United States steps aside.

"You better think about whose power will dominate if America's power doesn't," Pickus said, adding that nondemocratic regimes could gain influence and popularity if they lead the fight against terrorism.

For more than forty years, Pickus and others have been arguing that America is the key to world peace and that war may be necessary to achieve peace. The council, he says, stands in the "middle ground, between the polarized 'peace and disarmament' and 'security and liberty' ends of the present debate."

"What we seek is new ground, better ground, on which the truths that appear at both poles of the current debate can be married into a more complete truth, and a more effective peace politics that advances security, liberty, and justice concurrently," Pickus wrote in a 1983 essay.

Pickus also founded Turn Toward Peace, a national cooperative of more than 60 peace organizations in 1961. The World Without War Council broke away from that group in 1969, when differing views about the Vietnam War divided the cooperative.

He says the original group tried to enlist people who saw the United States as a villain in foreign affairs. He said people with that kind of anti-American sentiment do not work toward the goal of world peace.

Since its inception, the council has challenged traditional peace movements and proposed alternatives to U.S. military policy.

"Right from the beginning (the council) didn't fit the standard pattern of peace movements," Pickus says.

In its heyday, the council operated offices in New York, Illinois and Washington, D.C., but now just works out of its Berkeley office. The new war on terrorism, however, may revive interest in the council, Pickus says.

The council supports the Bush administration's efforts to recruit support from other nations, Pickus says.

He says the council is against anti-war groups in the United States because their efforts vilify American military power, not the enemy. He says the actions of UC Berkeley's anti-war groups are counterproductive and actually harvest deep divisions among people.

"There hasn't been free speech," Pickus says of UC Berkeley. "People have not heard competing ideas."

In an effort to undermine the anti-war sentiment, the council is updating its Web site to show alternate perspectives about the war on terrorism. The council also hopes to influence the rhetoric of political and religious groups to include America as a needed leader for peace, he says.

"When everybody was spelling America with a K, we were describing America as a miracle in human history," Pickus says. "We want the extraordinary accomplishment of this country to be applied to getting beyond war."


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