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Un monde en paix du Général Jean Cot

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Aux Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer (ECLM)


, Paris, novembre 2007

The nature and the components of the Art of Peace

Pierre Calame’s intervention, Director, Charles-Leopold Mayer’s Foundation for the Progress of Human Being.

« It is a pleasure and a pride to open this conference with a presentation of a few ideas on the Art of Peace to an assembly of people who daily practice this art. I will use a metaphor. I have the impression to be a layman who has been given the task of saying the mass in the Vatican in front of a bishops’ assembly. I would not say that it doesn’t worry me a bit. I will do it in a very simple way: I will come back on the historical process and say how I have come to this idea of an Art of Peace and to the conviction that a peace builders’ Alliance was necessary to its construction. I will do it as the engineer I am. And I will tackle each point one after the other.

I. Peace is not non-war

In 1990 a first conviction has launched a programme within the foundation. It was that peace is not non-war. This programme was entitled the Art of Peace. Peace is neither non-war nor security alone. In my anterior professional life, what has personally stricken me is to see how the people who win war generally lose the peace following this war – and a fortiori when it come to civil wars, to internal wars more than foreign wars. In Algeria and in Viet-Nam the contrast between, firstly, the smartness and the effectiveness displayed in order to win extremely difficult wars in front of an adversary superior in terms of technology, finance, economics, and secondly, the disaster that usually followed this victory, has enormously stricken me.

I have learned two lessons from those experiences. The first is that it is not enough to end a war in order to come to peace. The second is that the virtues that are necessary to win war are virtues that are opposed to those necessary to win peace. The malediction tied to victory is simply to maintain in power those who have won. Those who have won the war are generally not able to win peace, both because of their culture and because of the institutions they have implemented.

The idea of an Art of Peace was born from the idea that there are things to know and to share on the way to manage transitions from war into peace.

II. Peace is a component of governance

With “governance” we have to understand the art of societies to run themselves autonomously, the art of societies to invent new systems of thinking, new cultural basis, new institutions, new modes of action that will enable them to survive on long term, to find a balance within their human and natural environment, and if possible to develop. Year by year, the foundation’s focus on questions of governance has been emphasised because we see that in this situation of an extremely rapid evolution of humanity’s challenges – that is to say their scale and their complexity, the modes of management invented through the centuries and millenniums turn out to be more and more unsuitable. On the international scale, it appears very clearly, highlighted by the rise of what everyone describes, denounces and proclaims as a probably deadly misbalance between humanity and its environment. At the same time the state institutions, the international and local institutions keep going even if they see they are not able to tackle the problems.

In our particular period in the history of humankind, we are facing the urgent need to reflect on the conditions needed for a society to invent its systems of management, of preservation and of survival. With years, it has appeared more and more clearly that governance has for a particularity that its aims are constant, transcend cultural and civilisational barriers, come down through the ages. Among those aims, there is the maintenance of the inner peace and the maintenance of the balance with the outside, of security and balance with the environment.

I have said at the same time little and a lot. Little because what I have said was obvious; a lot, because this solemnly places the reflection on the Art of Peace within today’s central question, the question of the invention of new modes of management of societies. The reflection on the Art of Peace is to be included into a wider reflection on governance, a reflection that is fundamental and recurrent to our foundation.

III. The difference of nature between war and peace

About fifteen years ago, I made up a slogan and I stay loyal to it. War is a simple aim pursued with sophisticated means, Peace is a complicated aim pursued with simple means. I made up this slogan long before the invasion of Iraq by the Americans and their allies. However, Iraq is a marvellous illustration for it. To overthrow Saddam Hussein with the display of extremely sophisticated means, systems of observation… is part of a simple logic or even of a simplistic logic. In the military field as much as in the political field, war often commands to simplify the panoramas: the enemies and the friends, the terrorists and the others, the good ones and the evil ones. Within the framework of this simple reading, or even simplistic reading of the world, we are displaying an extraordinary arsenal that requests the most modern techniques. By the way, this is what constitutes the particular attraction of war for the military-industrial apparatus.

Peace is an other business. It is a question of dialogue, institutional changes, education. Peace includes a lot of accessible means. However, Peace forbids any simplification of reality. Peace implies to build down the enemy. Peace forces to pay attention to the diversity of perceptions and cultures. Peace forces to take into account contexts, potential allies and opponents to Peace, at a given time and in a given place. Using other terms, the characteristic of Peace is to force to arrange many factors that are particular to each context. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to define a science of Peace that would be the implementation of general laws. Peace implies – sorry for the paradox of the term itself – a strategy, that is to say an art of adapting to each context in particular.

IV. This confirms peace building into its definition as an art

What are the components of an art? Firstly, it is that there are things that have to be known, that it is complicated and that it is not realistic to get involved for peace simply out of good will. too often the fact that peace requires simple means is mixed up with the idea that peace is simple and that it is enough too have a desire for peace to make it happen.

I have been questioning myself for a long time on the following semantical data: there are two terms to characterise war, the first is the “polemology”, the art of the analysis of conflicts, and the second is the strategy, the art of the direction of armies. The existence of those two terms shows the constant agreement on the fact that there are things to know in order to make war. You would vainly look in the dictionary for the equivalent for peace. The word “irenology”, the art of analysis of the process of peace building, doesn’t exist neither in the dictionaries, nor in the teachings. When it comes to “irenagy”, the concrete art of implementation of a strategy of peace building here and now, you won’t find it neither in the dictionary, nor in the teachings. The semantic reveals the intellectual deadlock, the illusion that peace results from a desire for peace. The historical experience shows us that the desire for peace is not sufficient in order to build peace.

This reality clearly appears when we see the attitudes within most Non Governmental Organisations. Voluntaries and employees who are ready to risk their lives for peace building, are doing it in a naïve state and with a view on the world where there are the good ones and the evil ones. This view is linked to a logic and a culture of war.

There is an art of peace. Firstly because there are things to know. Secondly because this art requires to make good use of the contextual elements. We can’t decide from distance on a strategy of peace. 2500 years ago, a Chinese theoretician of strategy, Suntsu, already understood it. He said about war: “once the war declared, the king has no more order to give to his general; it is on the field that the general has to display his art of war, what he has learned from history, what he has learned from the others, all this depending on the unforeseeable elements and in order to react for the best”. It is in this way that peace is an art and that this art is part of the art of governance, for the reasons I have given earlier. To say it with other words, we are not in the field of the implementation of universal methods. There is no secret recipe for peace building. We are in the epistemological field where principles are coming from the experience. It is important to implement those principles in a specific way for each context. When we talk about the art of peace, we give to the word “art” a major substantial meaning. I consider that the notion of the art of peace is all a programme – if I dare to say so.

V. The building of an art of peace can only result from a collective effort

When an craftsman learns how to sculpt, he makes tries and makes mistakes. He works with a master who has been practicing for forty years, fifty years, and therefore it is through the repetition of the act that he gets the art, that he gets the knowledge.

How is it when it comes to the art of peace? Here as well I have used in the past a daring slogan. However, it is inevitable that the military metaphors impose themselves because they are the ones that have made up our vocabulary: peace building is to the actors who are coming out of a conflict, as a one-shot rifle to the hunter who has never learned how to shoot. It isn’t surprising that peace building fails so often. Peace building indeed is by definition the act of people who have no experience! Thanks God, we do not lead processes of transition from war to peace everyday. This only happens from time to time in the history of a society. Then, how shall we build an art that has no corresponding training? This is a methodological and institutional question of the biggest importance. The answer can be given in a word: comparison. Firstly, a historical comparison. For example what do we have to learn from the end of the wars of religion, or from Europe’s evolution at the end of the two world wars? What do we have to learn from this long history?

Then, an international comparison. What do we have to learn from the others? What do we have to learn from the way the Ottoman Empire was protecting the cohabitation between different cultures? What do we have to learn from the way the ancient Greeks or the ancient Indians or the ancient Chinese understood the art of peace? The peacemakers’ alliance that is at stake is not only an issue of mutual strengthening, it is a epistemological issue, an issue of knowledge building. The challenge of a peacemakers’ alliance for peace is firstly an intellectual challenge to gather and build together the components of an art of peace.

VI. The art of peace nourishes the art of governance and reciprocally

I have said earlier that peace is one of the most constant aims of the governance, of the art of societies to run themselves autonomously. Today, if people are more precisely interested in peace building, we see that the art of peace is part of one of the varieties of governance. This variety is the art of transition management.

In every complex system, the main issue of the system is stability. It is true for ecosystems. It is true for human societies. If you look at the daily working of a set of state institutions, local institutions, etc… you will see that those institutions are firstly conceived in order to guarantee a short-term stability. These are institutions for a permanent regime. Therefore, our thoughts are weak when we have to think about transitions, when we have to go from one state to the other. The change from war to peace is part of this art of transition management.

The art of peace is part of the art of governance. I deduce here that the art of peace can take profit from all the reflections on governance. The art of peace has nothing to gain by trying to think itself as an isolated thing, reducible to nothing else. On the contrary, it has to be part of a larger corpus of reflections. This leads me to maintain that the art of peace can nourish and nourish itself with the general principles, which have come out for governance. At the end of forty years of reflection, I have come up with five key principles of governance. I share them with you as one possible key to read peace between others.

The first principle consists in the legitimacy of the institutions and in the legitimacy of the persons on which they are relying. What is the process for reaching an agreement on the fact that we are ran well, apart from laws and formal rules? And an agreement on the idea that Common Good legitimates the sacrifices on one’s freedom? I have realised the question of the legitimacy was often at the core of state crisis, but also at the core of violence. To renounce to the private violence for a legal violence exercised by the state implies a deep adherence to the legitimacy of this state violence. During transitions, the question of the building of a legitimate authority becomes a central question.

The second general principle consists in the balance between the rights and the responsibilities which are a basis for citizenship. It also consists in the conditions necessary to each individual to feel as part of a community of fate, to feel as an actor in the elaboration of this collective destiny. I will avoid reducing this main idea to the idea of a formal democracy. We know many systems for a formal democracy, and most of them don’t bring anything to the community of fate and are perceived as factors of peace building. Peace building relies upon “the common living” prevailing on the individual interests, and therefore upon everyone’s feeling to participate in the building of this community. This is the main key, which allows the analysis of governance. I think it can shed light on our reflection on peace.

The third principle of governance is the principle of competence and pertinence of the institutions. Do the conception of the institutions and the culture of those who are the actors of those institutions go into the same direction aiming at the same objective? The transition from war to peace implies a transition of the institutions. The conversion of an economy of war into an economy of peace is an investment, as Richard Pétris has often highlighted it. In the beginning of the 90, after the fall of the Berlin wall there was some talk about dividends of peace. The conversion of an economy of war into peace is a major institutional conversion. The political institutions implemented after wars are always systems of compartmentalisation of information. During wartime, what is dangerous is the circulation of information. Therefore, the conversion of the war institutions into peace institutions is a major question. The art of peace should be included into the institutional engineering- the art of conceiving the institutions, as part of it.

The fourth key principle is the cooperation between the actors. The cooperation between the actors implies firstly the idea of a common interest superior to the particular interests, and secondly the idea of a possible fair share of the results of the cooperation. What is specific to a culture of war is the denial of the advantages and the possibility of this cooperation. Our political culture is fundamentally a culture of non-cooperation and of competition.

The fifth key principle of governance is the necessity to link the scales of governance from the local scale to the international scale. No problem can be solved on a single scale. The art of governance implies the capacity to lead and run a cooperation between those different levels.

Here are our conclusions on governance. My weakness is to think it can be used as an interpretation table for the art of peace.

VII. The art of peace goes from the interpersonal relationships to the international relationships

In the 90, we have worked a lot on peace building in Ethiopia. Our results were mediocre. I have to admit it. In 500 years, there has never been more than 10 years of peace in Ethiopia. Society was fundamentally organised on a culture of war. This culture reveals itself differently depending on the various relationships between the persons. In my opinion, the main characteristic of the art of peace is that it reveals itself at the inter-individual level as well as at the international level. The association and bridges between what happens on the one hand, within the family, within the educational institutions, within the administrative offices, within the world of the companies, on the other hand on the state scale or on the scale of the relations between the countries. Our whole culture is a culture of war: through the economy but also through our schools. We are full of social Darwinism, the praise of competition. The Dalai Lama has used a formula I appreciated a lot: “to make out of peace an epopee”. The history of peace building has to get its grandiose historical dimension. The European construction is such a history: with tentative progress, comebacks, crisis, and stagnations. The 20century is the only political history bearing the future to the 21century. This history is the tentative progress in building unity through diversity, and going beyond conflicts! If you look at the language used by the medias, peace is a virtue that is “bourgeoise”, even from the lower middle-class. The compromise is associated with compromising: we immediately add the adjective “soft” to consensus. All our values are full of the culture of war. The transition from war into peace, from the local into the global, will imply both a cultural transition and a transformation of the international institutions.

VIII. What are the aims of an Alliance and how to build and mobilise an art of peace

The art of peace needs to be built on a previous confrontation between different contexts and different histories of peace.

I consider the visibility given to each of the components of the art of peace as one of the issues at stake in a peacemakers’ alliance. To this day, the art of peace has not been formalised. I think that a peacemakers’ alliance has a main aim in the intellectual production. What is the art of peace? What are the different scales of the art of peace? What are the various modes of involvement of the different actors? Four years ago, we have decided to support IRENEES. At first, we shared different kinds of histories coming from different continents. Since IRENEES’ beginnings, it is the hope of the progressive emergence of the components of an art of peace that has motivated its evolution. This hope is based on the wonderful competence of the people who are gathered here today. This art of peace demands to be stated and to be formalised.

What is our duty? How should we get mobilised? I see two main dimensions. Firstly, trainings. This art of peace has to find its place in schools, in universities, in the public institutions, within reflections on political science. Then, comes the action. We have to find a way to mobilise this art there where we find the concrete problem of transition from war into peace. The peacemakers’ alliance has to become a collective effort at the service of such actions.

Pierre Calame. »

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