The MacArthur Foundation spent $540,000 on peace yesterday.

The deal looked good: Distribute grants to 14 scholars from around the world, and eventually receive ground-breaking perspectives on global tension, superpower stress and the evil that nations do.

"Our idea is to support projects that promise to affect the way questions of international security and peace are addressed around the world," said Tom Garwin, a consultant with the foundation's Program on Peace and International Cooperation.

"We want to be the force behind new concepts in the study of international relations."

Award winners -- who this year hail from as far away as Japan and Peru -- receive between $16,000 and $60,000 to explore international issues and propose new solutions to world crises.

The recipients, who will have 12 to 18 months to use the grants, were selected from a field of nearly 150 applicants. Each will complete a book or a series of papers on the thesis submitted.

Created by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation last year, the peace program is exclusively for research and writing about international security. It is distinct from the foundation's annual fellowships -- commonly called "genius awards" -- that are given to unsuspecting scientists, poets, scholars and other creative intellectuals.

"These grants permit a fresh examination of the critical international issues affecting world peace and our life on this planet," said MacArthur Foundation President John E. Corbally. "Such debate can lay the groundwork for an effective dialogue on threatening world problems."

Last year, 22 scholars received nearly $1 million through the program.

This year $60,000 grants will go to Gene Rochlin of the University of California at Berkeley, for his research on "The Role of History and Culture in NATO Conventional Weapons Choices"; and to Janice Stein and Richard Lebow of Cornell University, for their project, "Beyond Deterrence: Alternative Approaches to Conflict Management."

"We're hoping at least for a book," said Lebow, a government professor. "Our research focuses on evaluating alternative strategies upon which the concept of deterrence could rest."

The other recipients, who were notified last month: Adolfo Gilly, Maria Emilia Paz Salina and Enrique Semo of the National University of Mexico; Sheldon Annis of the Overseas Development Council; William Epstein of the United Nations Institute; Virginia Gamba of the Buenos Aires Institute of Strategic Studies; Glenn Hook of Okayama University in Japan; David Lindgren of Dartmouth College; Charles Maier of Harvard University; Peri Pamir of the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva; and Michael Smith, an Indiana native who works as a free-lance writer in Peru.