Thursday, 15 September 2005

Sustainable Politics and the United Nations

There is a reason the United Nations exists. It was born from the ashes of Nazi Germany, and the war to defeat that power and its allies.

This week, pundits and other media types have been, along with sly politicos, crowing about the failure of the U.N. to reform itself, to get its act together.

The T.S. Review finds the claim that the United Nations is a failure a short-sighted, simplistic and ultimately defeatist position, which is, from a global perspective, also false.

The first consideration must be - who else, and how else - to discuss, negotiate and ultimately achieve truly international consensus on key issues? The only alternative to the U.N. (and one which Mr. Bolton is aware of) is, indeed, an alternate coalition, perhaps, in a post-modern sense constantly shifting, formed and lead by the dominant hyper-power of the day, in this case America. The idea that such random, open-ended alliances are in any true sense an equivalent to a body consisting of approximately 200 member nation states is counter-factual, for the very reason that such coalitions come into being precisely to seek objectives (often military) that run counter to the interests of many other, often opposed nations (as with Iraq).

To wit: the United Nations exists precisely not to replicate the existing hierachies that some very powerful nations might wish to impose on the world order - as was the case with Hitler's Germany - but instead to approximate to some sort of balanced diplomatic (and perhaps Hegelian) struggle, in which oppositional forces clash, merge and mesh as some stable median point is agreed to; but such an inter-national forum was predicated on the idea of some sort of mutual sense of responsibility.

The failure identified as belonging to the United Nations - the failure to stop Rwandan Genocide, and so on - in fact belongs to the far starker world community, bereft of anything to govern its actions but the crudest self-interest and real politique. It is, in fact, the members who make up the U.N., and too often (always?) bring their limited, national interests to the table, that are responsible for the failure to achieve greater and wider agreements and goals.

Clearly, America's position with regards to the world, the U.N., and many binding international treaties at this time - from Kyoto to world courts - is in direct contradiction to the aims and ideals of the U.N. - in so far as America's current stated foreign policy is to seek the clear best interests of its own people first. That such a policy can be then blanketed in wider universal claims for world good is silly, and the hypocrisy is so evident that it becomes terror's best recruiting sergeant. No nation can have it both ways, though America and the UK via Tony Blair's senseless preaching faux-idealism, seek to: you cannot pursue naked self-interest and achieve wide-scale global justice with the same words and acts.

And of course, time and time again, this is the case, with arms control, the environment, the arms trade, and world health and poverty goals. To take is not to give; and to genuinely aim to ameliorate unjust distributions of wealth is not to withhold money unless narrow faith-based interests are served.

What is needed is simple: a sustainable politics, one which actually seeks to envision mutual, long-range, cross-border concerns, and aims to devalue nation states as instruments of self-aggrandizement. This would have to mean the end to the use of conflict to resolve disputes (except in the most radical of instances); a world economy that took into account global warming and other environmental concerns, and which severely limited the manufacture and sales of weapons - among other things.

It isn't the U.N. which constantly "fails". It is us - supposedly free people - who fail to act, to bring into being organisations and policies that are ethical, non-violent, and sustainable.
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