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Martin LeFevre: President’s Day in the USA

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

President’s Day in the USA

President’s Day in the USA brings Bush to Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home, drawing surreal comparisons between his warmongering and the American War of Independence. At the same time, the presidential candidates are out on the interminably long stump, acting like America and humanity has forever to change course.

Dems like Hillary pledge to get out of Iraq within months of entering office in 2009, while Repubs like McCain tell an “angry, frustrated, and sad” American people to give the surge time, because “I believe we can succeed.” The real story, as almost always, is lost in the rush and rancor surrounding the daily news cycle.

Few step back from the immediate events, personal or political, to look back, gain a wider perspective, and look ahead. The trend lines are so obvious however, that the failure to do so insures that people will continue to be swept up in forces they think they’re separate from because they’re beyond our control.

As I’ve been writing since the first invasion of Iraq, the United Nations cannot endure, much less grow into an institution of limited, genuine global governance, without taking the next step and creating a Global Polity of world citizens. The de facto global society lacks adequate institutions reflecting the new economic, social, and political realities of the world. Reform of institutions derived from the nation-state (UN, IMF, WTO, etc.) cannot and will not suffice. The new reality demands new structures, and the new structures demand a new philosophy.

In his farewell letter to the American people, as Alzheimer’s was descending its deepening shadow over him, Ronald Reagan wrote, “I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.” How reversely prophetic those words now ring. The president who is credited with winning the Cold War against the “evil empire” actually set the stage for the Bush Administration’s loathsome triumphalism, tattooing America with the appellation “evil empire” in the eyes of many around the world.

After the predictable blow of 9.11, followed by the idiotic invasion of Iraq, and after nearly seven years of the wrongheaded “global war on terror,” the post-Cold War order is teetering on its last rotten timbers. When its nasty, brutish, and short life ends, as it inevitably will on the heels of the next catastrophe, what will follow it?

Before the next major, inevitable hit to the post-Cold War order, which will certainly bring about its collapse, the basic philosophical and political foundation for a new order has to be in place. Otherwise, the same thing that happened when the Cold War order ended will happen again, this time without a burst of foolish hope in the United Nations.

It isn’t the failure to look back that condemns us to history’s downward spiral, but the failure to look ahead while being mindful of the past.

“My priority is to internally reform United Nations Secretary and management,” the new Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon says with an air combining sycophancy with sincerity. Then he adds, with a tone of awkward hopefulness, “and at the same time deal with these regional conflict issues.”

The Secretary-General does not evoke confidence with his hesitant, if not timid demeanor when says he is “humbled by many challenges facing the 21st century.” Bred to the diplomatic bone with the desire to not ruffle the feathers of every fowl at the table, he had the backing of both Beijing and Washington for the job. That backing, paradoxically, makes certain that the UN will not follow through with resolution authorizing the protection of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people Darfur and eastern Chad.

Ban Ki-Moon may well be a very decent man, but he does not even seem to possess the qualities that periodically prompted Kofi Annan to use “the bully pulpit” of his office, in a phrase first coined for the American presidency.

Many people are still hoping the UN can save the world, but the question is whether the UN itself can be saved. Though it must be ethical, UN cannot and should not be an ethical body. That is why the world needs, and the global society demands, a non-power-holding Global Polity of world citizens.


- 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: The author welcomes comments.

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