Meditations (Politics): Beyond the US/UN
Beyond the US/UN
Can the United Nations be salvaged and radically reformed into the genuine institution of global governance that the global society so urgently needs?
The forces of history have moved beyond the nation-state, much less the ubiquitous “sole remaining superpower” that has reverted to 19th century mentality and policies. Even if John Kerry wins, the crisis of the collapsing international order will not bring back the halcyon days at the end of the last century, right after the Soviet Union fell. Multilateralism was dead on arrival.
It’s a great irony of history that the United States, which led the world in building the post World War II order, is the very nation that is destroying it, in order to leave no alternative but it’s own power.
Seen from the perspective of the old paradigm, the presidential election in the United States is too important to be left to the American people. Of course that’s absurd—no single country should have so much power (much less think of itself as “the indispensable nation”). Therefore hoping that the Bushites will be swept out of office and America will return to its former moral authority and leadership role is a fantasy.
When a political structure is past its time, all attempts to reform it from within the existing framework are bound to fail. The only solution is a new perspective that comes with a new paradigm.
Of course this crucial subject never came up in the debates between the presidential or vice-presidential candidates. Puppet-master Dick Cheney derided Kerry in last Tuesday’s debate for saying that preemptive attacks by America should pass a global test. John Edwards said Cheney was distorting Kerry’s stance, and defended America’s right to preemptively attack anyone we see fit!
Questioned regarding the morass America has made of Iraq, the only new idea Edwards could offer was to “take Iraqis out of Iraq to train them.” Kerry and Edwards would win the election if they stated that as soon as they assume office, they would pull a few thousand American troops out of Iraq, with the rate of further withdrawal being dependent on the stabilization of the country. That would undermine the psychological foundation for the insurgency, since the Iraqi people would finally begin to believe America doesn’t want to be occupiers.
Don’t expect to hear such sense. And don’t pay too much attention to polls. We have an anachronism in this country called the Electoral College, which enabled George Jr. to defeat Al Gore, even though Gore won the popular vote. The only way I can see for Bush to be defeated is if an effective alternative to the international order, held together by American power and ‘leadership’ begins to manifest in human consciousness.
The international order is one thing, and the international system another. The former is already history; the latter includes necessary and/or potentially reformable institutions like the UN, WTO, World Bank, and International Criminal Court. (By the way, the most telling moment in the first debate between the presidential Kerry and the prickly Bush came when the ‘leader of the free world’ gave his unsolicited opinion of the ICC, saying that he refused to sign the treaty because American soldiers and diplomats might be held accountable for their actions by “foreign powers.”)
Paradoxically, the viability of the international institutions depends on superseding them with a genuinely global paradigm and body. Indeed, superseding the UN with a non-power-holding global body of world citizens is probably the only thing that can enable it to grow into an institution of global governance.
However most people, even in the global civil society community, are still stuck in the old framework, using the words ‘international’ and ‘global’ interchangeably and synonymously. The two words stand for very different ways of looking at reality, as different as Newtonian and quantum physics.
This ‘paradigm shift’ is so difficult and painful because it involves a letting go of a consciousness as old as ‘man,’ based on identification with particular groups. But more and more human beings are awakening, seeing themselves and their nations within the context of humankind as a whole. The scales are dropping from people’s eyes, and they could tip the balance at any time.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.