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Study Finds Peace Organizations Historically Support Troops

Posted Oct. 28, 2008

While many malign those advocating peace and alternatives to violence during war, peace movement organizations are, in fact, some of the troops’ most staunch supporters, according to Dr. Patrick G. Coy, director of Kent State University’s Center of Applied Conflict Management and a co-author of a recent study exploring what it means to “support the troops.”

U.S. Troops

Research by Kent State's Patrick G. Coy finds that peace movement organizations are staunch supporters of the nation's military troops.

Research published in Social Problems by Coy, and colleagues Lynne Woehrle at Mount Mary College and Gregory Maney at Hofstra University, takes a long-term and comparative view of the messages 14 major U.S. peace movement organizations — such as the American Friends Service Committee and Peace Action — emphasized through the Vietnam, Gulf and Iraq wars. Their historical research shows that discussions of U.S. wars are increasingly dominated by positive references in support of the troops.

“There is a presumption that the peace movement is unsupportive of the soldiers — our research shows that, while the peace movement supports the troops, there is a double-edge to that support. They also use it to critique wider aspects of an administration’s war policies, calling the government to account for betraying the troops in other ways,” says Coy, associate professor of political science.

“Some say that the peace movement causes America to fight wars with one hand tied behind its back. This simply is not the case.”

Government agents and politicians attempted to mobilize support for war and squash dissent while pushing messages of a citizen’s duty to support the troops and thus U.S. military action. But the research team found that peace movement organizations pushed back. They insisted that responsible citizenship must also include support for civilians, for the environment ravaged by war and for the families of the soldiers.

“In other words, the peace movement consistently expanded the web of support,” says Coy.

Coy and his colleagues found in the study that the peace movement held the troops accountable just like most would any fellow citizens. While the peace groups made frequent positive references to U.S. troops fighting wars, they also criticized them, including over human rights abuses.

During the current war in Iraq, it was the peace organizations that turned the rhetorical tables on the Bush administration by detailing the administration’s own failings to support the troops, according to the study.

The entire study, “Discursive Legacies: The U.S. Peace Movement and ‘Support the Troops,’” is available online