If you want peace, prepare for war." Thus counseled Roman general Flavius Vegetius Renatus over 1,600 years ago. Nine centuries before that, Sun Tzu offered essentially the same advice, and it's to him that Vegetius's line is attributed at the beginning of a film that I saw recently at Oslo's Nobel Peace Center. Yet the film cites this ancient wisdom only to reject it. After serving up a perverse potted history of the cold war, the thrust of which is that the peace movement brought down the Berlin Wall, the movie ends with words that turn Vegetius's insight on its head: "If you want peace, prepare for peace."
This purports to be wise counsel, a motto for the millennium. In reality, it's wishful thinking that doesn't follow logically from the history of the cold war, or of any war. For the cold war's real lesson is the same one that Sun Tzu and Vegetius taught: conflict happens; power matters. It's better to be strong than to be weak; you're safer if others know that you're ready to stand up for yourself than if you're proudly outspoken about your defenselessness or your unwillingness to fight. There's nothing mysterious about this truth. Yet it's denied not only by the Peace Center film but also by the fast-growing, troubling movement that the center symbolizes and promotes.
Call it the Peace Racket.