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A POLICY STATEMENT
IMPERATIVES OF PEACE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF POWER
Adopted by the General Board

February 21, 1968 

Special Note: 

The General Board of the National Council of Churches in adopting the Policy Statement on Imperatives of Peace and Responsibilities of Power took the following special action: 

"VOTED that the Department of International Affairs of the Division of Christian Life and Mission be authorized to prepare a brief summary of the policy statement titled Imperatives of Peace and Responsibilities of Power and make said summary a preface to, and integral part of, the total policy document."

Pursuant to this action the authorized summary has been prepared and follows herewith: 

Summary of the Policy Statement 

The following Statement suggests that international relationships today require new directions of attitude, policy and action. In many situations, the United States will not be able fully to achieve these alone, but will require the collaboration of many nations. Even though the achievement of a just peace requires common action among the nations, leadership is required. United States leadership is urgently needed. For this reason, this Policy Statement addresses itself to the imperatives of peace and the responsibilities of power as these affect the United States.

Introduction 

In the broad development of human history, the twentieth century is unique in the fact that all men are being brought into interdependent relationship with one another. The growth, application and dissemination of knowledge have brought the family of man into a new interdependence. In this situation, we may discern the profound testing and judgment in which God requires men to make choices at deep and indeed ultimate levels of life. 

The Imperatives of a Just Peace 

In the conditions of our age, a just peace requires at least three imperative measures or processes. 

First, in order to avert nuclear holocaust, it is imperative that limits be imposed upon the use of military might, and that the inherent limitations of force in the solution of human and social problems be recognized. 

As second imperative of a just peace is nation building and the development of viable national institutions. 

A third imperative of a just peace is the necessity to promote human rights and to satisfy individual aspirations for justice and freedom. 

Current Assumptions Concerning United States Power 

As the people of the United States and their government have faced these imperatives and have been caught up in the dilemmas that are attached to them, five major assumptions have made themselves manifest. 

Although in fact the United States government has developed different types of relationships to different communist nations, an over-simplified view of a world composed of two camps, with a “third world” hovering in a neutral vacuum, remains prevalent and is sometimes fostered by official statements--for example, in regard to the Vietnam war. 

Second, the people of the United States and their government have a deep sense of their responsibility for peace keeping throughout the world--of “standing at the gate” wherever peace and freedom are threatened 

Third, during the past two decades, and now in Vietnam, the United States has revealed confidence in military power as the chief means of keeping the peace. 

Fourth, to an increasing degree, the United States takes unilateral decisions concerning the use of its power. 

Fifth, United States power is too often used in the service of the status quo. 

In summary, the depth of the present crisis of United States foreign policy lies in the fact that as a nation the United States has wrongly grasped only one horn of the apparent dilemmas in its efforts to establish the imperatives of peace, failing to seize more creative solutions.

The Responsibilities of Power 

The revelation of God in Jesus Christ enables men to live in faith, hope and love, providing a new way of looking at the scene of international struggles. Justice is a way of expressing love, established in faith and nourished in hope. Although love always includes and goes beyond justice, there are times when justice is the most appropriate, true and powerful expression of love. We must strive for both order and justice, but in our world justice has a prior claim. 

Such an approach to international relationships today requires three new directions of attitude, policy and action. 

The first is the use of all the components of United States strength to increase trust among the nations, especially those now regarded as enemies or rivals. New policies (see Pages 5-6) are required in relation to Vietnam, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, the countries of Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R.) 

Second, it should be the objective of United States attitudes and strength to help create a new internationalism to supersede the present fractured international community. It is essential that there be a new dedication of the people and government of the United States to the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations to the end that it becomes a first objective of United States power that the United Nations be established on a new basis of great strength. United States power should be directed to the establishment of collective judgment and common action through the United Nations as the ultimate norms of international behavior in the contemporary world. 

Third, it should be the objective of United States attitudes and strength to work for a new concept of nationalism and regionalism that is congruent with internationalism and that operates to distribute power more equitably toward the end of just and equal opportunity among the peoples and nations.  The key, in our time, to the most fundamental redistribution of power lies in the economic sphere. The resources and skills of the United States should be directed toward the creation and strengthening of structures, especially in capital formation and trade arrangements, which provide for such distribution of economic power in the world scene. 

The imperatives of peace press upon mankind with ultimate, final force. But peace cannot be established without justice. In our time, the claims of justice are the preconditions for the establishment of peace. To secure such a peace, new presuppositions of thought and attitude and new policies of action are required.

End of Summary

 

IMPERATIVES OF PEACE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF POWER
INTRODUCTION 

In the broad development of human history, the twentieth century is unique in the fact that all men are being brought into interdependent relationship with one another.  Amid war, starvation, oppression and revolution, mankind has achieved a unity, principally through technology.  The growth, application and dissemination of knowledge have brought the family of man into a new interdependence. 

In this situation, we may discern the profound testing and judgment in which God requires men to make choices at deep and indeed ultimate levels of life.  The unity brought about by technology may be a sign of progress, but it is not necessarily so.  Technology provides the means either for general betterment or for common destruction.  The living God has created a world in which men together cannot escape choice between good and evil, life and death, light and darkness. In such a testing, we experience God's judgment. 

God's mercy is that He continues to give mankind a choice, that the way of life lies open, and that He is faithful, not abandoning men in their new situation.  Mercy is found in relation to the specific judgment. in our time, mankind must find peace or perish.   Individual piety and morality are not enough.   Choices for good and not evil, for life and not death, must be made in regard to matters that transcend the merely personal realms of life.  In our time, the critical choices are political, using the word in its broadest sense.  It is God's mercy that He gives mankind time to discern the political dimension of His will for men and nations.  It is God's mercy that He continues to work in the affairs of men.  The living God does not abandon men to the blind conflicts of international power. 

I. THE IMPERATIVES OF A JUST PEACE

 In the conditions of our age, a just peace requires at least three imperative measures or processes.  The fact that each involves its own dilemma suggests both the difficulty and urgency of the continuing task of achieving a just and peaceful international order.

 First, in order to avert nuclear holocaust it is imperative that limits be imposed upon the use of military might, and that the inherent limitation of force in the solution of human and social problems be recognized.  The very existence of national arsenals which limit power through mutual deterrence,, also generates mutual fears and undermines efforts toward arms reduction and control, which are essential prerequisites to a stable international order.

 A second imperative of a just peace is nation building and the development of viable national institutions.  In our time, nationalism is an inescapable ingredient of the process of nation building, but the fostering of nationalism generates an increasing fragmentation of the international community, with consequent threats to peace.

 A third imperative of a just peace is the necessity to promote human rights and to satisfy individual aspirations for justice and freedom.  In vast areas of the world, including the U. S. A. , such rights and aspirations are severely repressed.  At the same time, as we have seen in our own nation, awakening and securing demands for human rights and freedoms inevitably encourage frictional social change, revolution, violence and the breakdown of order.  Only as we are willing and able to deal with this dilemma in our own internal affairs can we with confidence and humility strive for human rights.

 II. CURRENT ASSUMPTIONS CONCERNING UNITED STATES POWER

 As the people of the United States and their government have faced these imperatives and have been caught up in the dilemmas which are attached to them, certain major assumptions have made themselves manifest.  The uses to which our national power has been put have derived from certain perceptions about the world and about the interests and obligations of the United States in the world.  At least five such assumptions may be discerned, and it  is to be noted that all of them are brought to focus in respect of the United States role in Vietnam.  Each of these prevalent assumptions must be examined in order better to understand and pursue the respects in which our true national interest is related to the general interest of nations and the requirements of a just peace.

 First, from 1945 to the present, the United States has focused upon the assumed duality between the "free" world and the "communist" world.  The confrontation generated by this concept, which was shared by communist states themselves, underlay the cold war.  Although in fact the U. S. Government has developed different types of relationships with different communist nations, an over-simplified view of a world composed of two camps, with a "third world" hovering in a neutral vacuum, remains prevalent, and is sometimes fostered by official statements--for example, in regard to the Vietnam war.

 Neither the "communist" nor the "free" world is monolithic and responsive to unified strategies.  The tensions and conflicts of the real world cut across the ideological, social, economic and political lines.  The common task of nations is to strengthen the foundations of justice and peace within a shifting scene of competing, conflicting, cooperating, changing national systems.   The use of United States power should be guided, not by general concepts that have lost their validity but by the imperatives of a just peace in the present age.

 Second, the people of the United States and their government have a deep sense of their responsibility for peace keeping throughout the world.  The idea of "standing at the gate" wherever peace and freedom are threatened is not an imperialistic idea, although it may be viewed as such by people in other parts of the world who feel its impact.  At root, the idea of the United States as peace keeper and defender of freedom springs from a sense of responsibility to achieve a just order.

 This perception of United States responsibility has been maintained against a complex background of events.  These range from Hitler's aggression, to the fear of nuclear war, to the violence of communist revolutions, and to the creation of new states, whose boundaries frequently do not correspond to their needs and aspirations, Against this complex background, a conception that United States power is endowed with a unique mission to confront and repel aggression throughout the world, and that it is clothed with a special virtue has the counterfeit ring of arrogance.  Such a conception, which is inherently self-judging, cannot appropriately serve as a criterion for intervention or non-intervention to achieve the imperatives of a just peace.  It serves rather to foster a false moralism, which links power with self-righteousness, rather than true perceptions of morality, which connect power with the requirements of justice and peace, as conceived not unilaterally but within the world community of nations.

 Third, during the past two decades, and now in Vietnam, the United States has revealed confidence in military power as the chief means of keeping the peace' Expenditure of national treasure and sacrifice of human life and energy show that military effort is the form of peace keeping for which the people of the United States are most willing to pay.  Undue reliance upon military power--as now is evident in our Vietnam policy- -submerges other objectives essential to peace, such as social and economic development, both at home and abroad.   In Vietnam, this may well be one reason why the political reforms sought by the United States have been slow of realization.  Preoccupation with military power thus distorts the necessary interrelationship of the essential requirements of peace.  Moreover, undue reliance upon military methods of keeping order deflects attention from the need to strengthen international processes and institutions essential to a just and durable peace.

 Fourth, to an increasing degree, the United States takes unilateral decisions concerning the use of its power.  The United Nations was created on the premise that collective action and responsibility are necessary- -not merely convenient--to prevent and repel aggression, to reconcile conflicting interests, and to promote the general welfare.

 While provision for such alliance systems as NATO, the Rio Pact, SEATO, and CENTO is made within the United Nations framework, too much reliance upon such systems has caused frustration.  Such organizations do not and cannot provide a substitute for a general system of security and peace keeping.  Failure to recognize the fact that such organizations are at best mere supplements to a general system, rather than alternatives, has misled the United States, and other nations, increasingly to resort to unilateral actions and decisions in matters affecting the national interest and security.  In particular, the Vietnam war--unlike the Korean war, for example--is being undertaken without multi-lateral, international sanction, although allies have contributed to the effort in limited ways.  Thus, the United States is self-judging in this and other fundamental aspects of its use of power.

 Self-judgment is dangerous, in that the one who judges himself is likely to find his own actions good.  Selfjudgment, by its very nature, tends to be self-serving, hence incompatible with the requirements of a just order.  A corrective to these dangers is to be found in the shared judgments and responsibilities of the international community, directed toward the fulfillment of the imperatives of a just peace.

 Fifth, United States power is too often employed in the service of the status quo.  In part, this derives from the generally accepted principle that United States power should not be used to determine the internal character of a state except when the state is threatened from without.  On the other hand, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America where rapid social change is a desperate need, this principle has put United States power largely on the side of the status quo, rather than behind efforts to create justice and an order based upon justice.  The failure of United States policy to foster social change in Vietnam, or to give the South Vietnamese something more than an anti-communist rallying point, is a vivid example, though not the only one, of the uses of United States power to repress social change in the name of order.  Clearly, the imperatives of a just peace, rather than the mere stability of the status quo, claim the highest priority.  Justice must come first, and if the status quo stands in the way of justice, power should be directed toward accomplishing needed change.

 In summary, the depth of the present crisis of United States foreign policy lies in the fact that as a nation the United States has wrongly grasped only one horn of the apparent dilemmas in its efforts to establish the imperatives of peace, failing to seize more creative solutions.   Recognizing the effective power of military deterrence in the nuclear age, the United States has placed too much confidence in military might.  Recognizing the need to build and develop nations, the United States has oversimplified its view of other nations, stressed its own role as peace keeper to too great a degree, and contributed to the fragmentation of the international community by resorting to unilateral decision and action.  Recognizing the need for human rights, the United States has sought to promote them by upholding the status quo to too great a degree, losing the support of those who demand justice and change in the status quo.  The difficulties involved in the use of United States power today result, not from irresponsibility nor from espousing wrong goals, but rather from following choices which have generally put the United States wrongly on only one side of the dilemmas inherent in the imperatives for a just peace in our time, thus distorting and in fact obscuring our true national interest.

 III. RESPONSIBILITIES OF POWER

 The revelation of God in Jesus Christ enables men to live by faith, hope and love, providing a new way of looking at the scene of international struggles.   Amid conflict, faith in God enables men to reject any preconceived theory of the inevitable clash of world powers, and to accept the risk of solving international conflicts by peaceful means.  Within threats to peace, hope enables men to look for new forms of international life, new leaders, and new attitudes on the part of our enemies.  Hope rejects the idea that the scene is frozen for the worse and looks for new and unpredictable events in human history and in the ways men respond to them.  Love enables men, confronted by enemies, to put themselves in the position of their enemies, understanding them as persons with different perspectives and legitimate needs and interests of their own.  Theories that force is the only power the enemy can understand or that peace is to be secured merely by the cold calculation of how the self-defined interests of nations may coincide run counter to Christian perspective.

 In particular, faith, hope and love focus upon the supreme need for justice in international relationships today. justice is a way of expressing love, established in faith and nourished in hope.  Although love always includes and goes beyond justice, there are times when justice is the most appropriate, true and powerful expression of love. justice in the Biblical tradition is a process, a motion.  Justice moves toward the outcast and the oppressed to establish a relationship between them and the oppressor which can be acknowledged in the sight of God. justice in the Biblical tradition is also law, a just order, providing a relationship of equality among those under the law, as well as the framework within which conflicting values and interests are reconciled.

 In today's world, an authentic peace, a true common interest among men, can be established only upon the basis of justice.  People are outcast from the world's economy and downtrodden; people are subject to other people's power and are oppressed.  Justice requires a movement whereby oppressor and oppressed are brought into an equality of opportunity.  Moreover, in the international world, there is little or no law, and even among approximate equals in the international scene, justice is scarce.  Therefore, in the contemporary world, the deepest tensions are those which call for justice.  It is true that order is required.  We must strive for both order and justice, but in our world justice has a prior claim.  Order without justice, whether it be an order of the "left" or of the "right," is empty and not worth having, or it is tyrannical.  In either case, it is a denial and not a fulfillment of love.

 Such an approach to international relationships today requires three new directions of attitude, policy and action.  It is recognized that the United States will not be able to achieve them alone, but will require the collaboration of many nations.  In every situation envisioned in the Charter of the United Nations, the United States should no longer act alone but should seek her place as a member of that body.  Even though the achievement of a just peace requires common action among the nations, leadership is required.  United States leadership is urgently needed at the following fundamental points.

 The first is the use of all the components of United States strength to increase trust among the nations, especially those now regarded as enemies or rivals.  Fundamental to this policy is the attitude of thinking of all people, including especially our enemies, as individual human persons.  They are not "Cong" or "communists" or "guerrillas," but individuals who, whatever their ideology or aspiration, react to life in their particular condition as human beings.  Recognition of this elemental fact by the people of the United States and their government is fundamental to increase of trust in the world of nations and of people.

 Changes in policy must flow from this attitude.  These changes will, as they are developed, affect United States policy toward many nations and peoples of the world.  Because of the recent history of the cold war, and because of the nuclear threat, the following new policies are suggested, among others that might be advanced, as major illustrations of the changes which should flow from the new attitude:

Political: Acceptance of the existence of the German Democratic Republic, and recognition of the Government of Cuba.   In accordance with sound principle, such acceptance or recognition does not imply approval of the policies of the present Governments. 

Economic: Removal of discriminatory treatment of imports from communist countries, as has been done for Poland and Yugoslavia; elimination of restrictions on exports of non-military, non-strategic goods; negotiation of intergovernmental trade agreements with all the countries in question; encouragement of trade and investment by American firms with and in Eastern Europe and the USSR, and exploration of possibilities of economic collaboration with them in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Cultural: Removal of the reciprocity restrictions on cultural exchanges, so that Soviet visits to the United States will not be limited by Soviet willingness to accept United States visitors; removal of travel restrictions on Soviet visitors.

Scientific: Cooperation with the USSR in scientific endeavors, especially in space exploration and use. 

Second, it should be the objective of United States attitudes and strength to help create a new internationalism to supersede the present fractured international community. 

Western traditions, rooted in Christian realism, reflect keen awareness of the dangers of unrestrained power.  Perceptions of the essential weakness of human nature have combined with actual experience of tyranny to shape institutions designed to insulate society from excesses of power.  Yet these lessons of insight and of experience have not been applied to relationships among nation states; indeed, they have been eclipsed as the demands of nation building have augmented nationalism.  Actions within national societies which long ago were seen as trespasses upon the welfare of the community are tolerated on the part of states as a legitimate, and even virtuous, prerogative of sovereignty.  A free hand in the use of power is one such license which sovereign states usually claim.

The new internationalism demanded by the conditions of the present age requires institutions and structures of power which will express a world community and which will serve justice, order and peace among peoples and nations of the world.   United States power should be redirected away from the present assumptions governing its use, to the prime objective of helping to strengthen such institutions and processes.  The necessity for nations and peoples to live together justly transcends our immediate desire to maintain ultimate sovereignty. 

It is essential that there be a new dedication of the people and government of the United States to the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, to the end that it become a first objective of United States power that the United Nations be established on a new basis of great strength.  At present, the United Nations provides, at least in embryo, a corrective to the pretensions to power of the nations, great and small, of the modern world.   The United Nations is an international structure in which it is possible to secure collective international judgment upon the actions of the nations, and to secure common responsibility and action to promote justice, order and peace among the peoples of the world.  While principles and methods of United Nations organization may need adaptation to meet emerging international requirements, United States power should be directed to the establishment of collective judgment and common action through the United Nations as the ultimate norms of international behavior in the contemporary world.  This will require the following: 

   The development among the people of the United States of a national will and purpose that United States power uphold and promote the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.  There is today such a widespread disillusionment with the United Nations that the time is precisely at hand for a fundamental and new commitment to its principles.  As the United States develops this commitment, every effort should be made by the United States to increase the commitment of other nations, especially the USSR, to the principles of the UN Charter.  Initiatives to secure United Nations judgment and responsibility concerning Vietnam are to be welcomed and vigorously supported. 

        Willingness to share sovereignty for the common good, in the awareness that sovereignty is strengthened, not lost, when power is used to secure common objectives. The United States has defeated its true national interest by hoarding sovereignty, as in respect of the reservations upon employment of the International Court of Justice (the World Court) and the failure to ratify conventions on human rights. Professions by the United States in support of the promotion of human rights and freedoms, and against vicious policies of racial discrimination in Southern Africa and elsewhere, and against religious discrimination behind the Iron Curtain and elsewhere, have not been matched by action to strengthen United Nations policies or to bring justice to the victims of such practices. 

Third, it should be the objective of United States attitudes and strength to work for a new concept of nationalism and regionalism that is congruent with internationalism and that operates to distribute power more equitably toward the end of just and equal opportunity among the peoples and nations. Numerous centers of international power are needed that can operate in check and balance upon one another. Superpowers can dominate even a greatly strengthened United Nations. Power must be both checked and distributed more equitably. The key, in our time, to the most fundamental redistribution of power lies in the economic sphere. Weak powers can withstand external political pressure, but it is virtually impossible for them to resist world market conditions and vast accumulations of capital. If a new internationalism is to emerge, a more equitable distribution of economic power is a necessity. The resources and skills of the United States should be directed toward the creation and strengthening of structures, especially in capital formation and trade arrangements, which provide for such distribution of economic power in the world scene. 

The following are put forward as illustrations of needed policy: 

The imperatives of peace press upon mankind with ultimate, final force. But peace cannot be established without justice. In our time, the claims of justice are the preconditions for the establishment of peace. To secure such a peace, new presuppositions of thought and attitude, and new policies of action are required. For Christians, new, sustained programs of action, planning, education and study are implied, to the end that the churches, and Christians in their capacity as citizens, may make a full and creative contribution to the establishment of a just peace. 

100    FOR,      14   AGAINST,    3    ABSTENTIONS 

Implementation of the Foregoing Policy Statement 

The Policy Statement on "Imperatives of Peace and Responsibilities of Power” is to be used as a foundation paper to guide the development of sustained programs of action, planning, education and study in the churches. 

The General Board, therefore, requests the General Secretary, the Advisory Committee on Peace, and the four Divisions of the Council and related agencies to implement the Policy Statement through the development of short-range and long-range plans for action and education which will involve churches and their boards and agencies. 

In particular, the General Board requests the boards and agencies (whether of education, mission, social action and education, or communication) which are concerned with education in the churches, to implement this statement by promoting widespread use in the development of curriculum resources for parish-level educational programs, through church-related institutions of higher education, in seminary education, and in programs of continuing education of clergymen. It reminds Christian educators that this statement provides an important ingredient for international affairs education and serves as a model for analysis of complex international issues through the testing of objectives and assumptions of United States foreign policy. 

Furthermore, the General Board requests the boards and committees of the denominations which are concerned with Christian witness and action in society at home and internationally to consider afresh how Christians and the churches as corporate bodies may take action in relation to United States foreign policy and international affairs generally, to experiment in devising new and more relevant methods of action, and to unite such action with continuing study and education. The General Board points to the need for new attitudes and commitments outlined by the Policy Statement, and suggests that they are fundamental to the evangelism, stewardship, missionary and social concerns of the churches. 

The General Board requests the Department of International Affairs to prepare a study outline for use with the Policy Statement. 

The General Board requests the Department of International Affairs to present and interpret the Policy Statement to 

The NCC and Cuba