The League of Women Voters (LWVUS) has been considering the idea of a U.S. Department of Peace since their 2008 national convention. It was presented again in 2010 and 2012, but made little headway. It is all together and most proper of LWVUS members to be considering such advocacy. League founders, especially Carrie Chapman Catt, were at the forefront of worldwide marches and meetings that insisted on peace. Really, what they and thousands of other social, political and church organizations were promoting was the outlawing of war.
The 20th century is full of warfare. Results and responses to these wars are most instructive in highlighting the key leadership role of LWVUS. Pundits often say, “History repeats itself.” Others have pointed out, if not repeated there are sure some similar sounding anthems and verses. The League was still advocating the right for women to vote as World War I started. That war nearly derailed their efforts and led to direct confrontations in front of the White House with verbal challenges to President Woodrow Wilson. On Aug. 26, 1920, their efforts succeeded. Thus every Aug. 26, since Congress established it, “Women’s Equality Day” is celebrated across our nation for this achievement. Less known, but intimately related to the non-violent success of U.S. women is the date of Aug. 27, 1928. That is the day 67 nations agreed to the Kellogg-Briand Pact which outlawed war as an instrument of international relations.
Women worldwide became intimately aware of the then unprecedented horrors of war on combatants and civilians. A global public movement grew and grew, from the armistice that ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, to culminate in this international treaty — confirmed by our U.S. Senate — that outlawed war. The complexities of international relations during this time included what was the ultimate failure of an effective League of Nations. Our Senate never ratified membership for the U.S.
Looking back now, we can see two most positive accomplishments in humankind’s struggle for lasting world peace. After World War I, an international treaty outlawed war. After World War II the United Nations was established and continues to be housed on U.S. soil. On the other hand, we can see three negative episodes, WWI, WWII, and the “Cold War” that spawned and perpetuated countless local civil and nation dividing little wars. Like the globally successful advocacy for the Kellogg-Briand pact, historians have catalogued the world wide demonstrations and public protests that made sure we did not have a nuclear war. Survivors of WWII clearly recall the “Ban the Bomb” demonstrations of the 50s and 60s. Some nuclear weapon researchers believe it was these global demonstrations that indeed prevented nuclear war.
Now, as much as ever, our war-weary world and especially our children — all children — need global and successful discourse, demonstrations, legislation, forums, marches, political, civic, secular and religious organizations to join together and bring sufficient public pressure to restore and actually follow the Kellogg-Briand Treaty that outlawed war. While there are those who will remember to celebrate Aug. 26 for Women’s Equality, it may appear a smaller number will know about the significance of Aug. 27. I believe that common folk in all nations long for true peace. Our goal has to be much more than a U.S. Department of Peace. What we need is lasting peace. What we need now — in the early 21st century — is a third public expression to follow the two paradigm shifts of the 20th Century: 1.) an international treaty by 67 nations which outlaws war and 2.) a functioning United Nations with a peace inspiring, pale blue flag that flies over the dust and smoke of on-going “little wars.” We must convince our national and international leaders to enforce the Kellogg-Briand pact. We must speak up that we the people are fed up with the killing and waste of all wars. Our children, all children, really need this, now more than ever.
• Brown lives in Douglas.