Consider, now, the question of deterrence — a doctrine dismissed and detested by some, viewed as inarguable by others. The classic expression is, Si vis pacem, para bellum — “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Peace people — or “peace” people — like to turn this on its head. They say, Si vis pacem, para pacem, or, “If you want peace, prepare for peace.” Einstein, in a line similar to the one from Emerson, quoted above, said, “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” That sounds more like something that ought to be true than like something that actually is.
The first American president was a deterrence man. “To be prepared for war,” said Washington, “is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” A much later president, Kennedy, said, “We prepare for war in order to deter war.” Reagan once put it more simply yet: “No one ever picked a fight with Jack Dempsey” (heavyweight boxing champion in the 1920s). A Reagan conservative, Jack Kemp, liked to say he was a dove — but “a heavily armed dove.”
In the Reagan years, there was a missile called the “Peacekeeper” — and this was a name that caused many to gag. A missile? “Peacekeeper”? In 1984, Reagan campaigned for reelection on the slogan “Peace through Strength.” That caused its share of gagging, too. And how about the slogan of the U.S. Strategic Air Command? “Peace Is Our Profession.” There could hardly be a balder proclamation of the deterrence doctrine. Also bald was something Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography: “The most important service that I rendered to peace was the voyage of the battle fleet around the world.” Nobel peace laureates are not supposed to talk that way. (TR won the prize in 1906, mainly for his mediation in the Russo–Japanese War.)
Once, the magazine that Bill Buckley founded, National Review — to which Reagan was a charter subscriber — quipped editorially that, every year, the Nobel Peace Prize should go to the Pentagon. Why? Because the U.S. military was the world’s foremost guarantor of peace.
Earlier, I quoted Ben Franklin on how there was never a good war or a bad peace. But he is also quoted as saying that “even peace may be purchased at too high a price.” George Herbert had a neat formulation: “One sword keeps another in the sheath.” And speaking of swords, there is a lovely passage in Kipling’s Kim. An old soldier is guiding the old lama to a particular destination. The soldier has a sword. And the lama, a man of peace, says, “What profit to kill men?” The soldier answers, “Very little — as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers.”
We should also think about the place of justice with peace. Thatcher liked a slogan: “Peace — with freedom and justice.” Engraved on the tombstone of Ludwig Quidde, a 1927 Nobel laureate, is, “I have loved justice.” He did not say, “I have loved peace” (which he did). “No justice, no peace!” That’s a slogan that can be heard in American streets, from black militants and others. It is a slogan, yes — but also a threat: Unless you meet our demands, there will be no peace. In a sense, you put a gun to society’s head. The International Labour Organization — winner of the peace prize for 1969 — has a motto: Si vis pacem, cole justitiam, or, “If you desire peace, cultivate justice.” The ILO’s constitution begins with the assertion that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice.” Sure, but what is social justice — besides one of the slipperiest terms in our language? And people will always have grievances, legitimate or not. When is peacebreaking justified?
These are questions to wrestle with, and we may also recall the closing sentence of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, which speaks of a “just and lasting peace.” Could anything be more desirable? “A just and lasting peace.”