This morning brings news that Israel will continue to provoke the Palestinians with whom it claims to seek peace by continuing to create construction projects in “all of Jerusalem.” This, the news report from the Associated Press said, comes “despite stiff International criticism.”
When President Putin of Russia repossessed Crimea, it came “despite severe international criticism” and amid threats that by its warlike behavior Russia risked being ostracized from the global stage of leadership.
As the United States turned back and incarcerated thousands of children trying to migrate to a better, safer life in America from South and Central America, it did so while encountering “severe international criticism.” And yet there were forces in American politics clamoring for an even more bellicose response.
There are literally hundreds of such events, small and large, undertaken by nations powerful and weak, that draw harsh criticism from around the globe every year. But the criticism tends not to have any real impact. The absence of any real tool of moral suasion seems to me to lie at the root of this ineffectiveness.
The United Nations Charter, similarly to the Preamble to the United States Constitution, is filled with high-minded, idealistic language outlining purposes and missions that, if actually executed, would lead to a world that is much more peaceful, egalitarian and life-supporting than we experience in the real world. But the UN suffers from some fundamental flaws that are probably never going to be resolved, in part because some of them are probably seen, as we say in the software business, as “features, not bugs.”
The very existence of a Security Council is perhaps the largest single obstacle to the UN accomplishing anything. As long as China, France, Russia, the UK and the US hold permanent seats with veto powers, you can be sure that nothing substantive will ever be done even in the face of the most egregious conduct. These memberships were granted at the formation of the UN when Russia was the Soviet Union, a legitimate world power. It clearly no longer is. The remaining 10 seats on the Security Council are term-limited and effectively powerless so long as the veto power exists.
Just as in our national Congress, meaningful reform will always be dashed against the rocks of entrenched power, so in the United Nations any attempt to eliminate or reduce the power of the veto would itself be vetoed or simply ignored.
It is worthy of national and global debate to reconsider the structure, organization and purpose of the United Nations. This has been the case for virtually my entire life. When I was in high school in 1961, the national debate topic was “Resolved, that the United Nations should be significantly strengthened.” That we are still debating this issue 53 years later is not astonishing, but it can be discouraging.
Short of a single global body through which this “severe international criticism” can be channeled and activated, enforced — not necessarily militarily but perhaps through some combination of name-and-shame and economic sanctions, or though some as-yet-undeveloped mechanism — how can we translate this legitimate concern on the part of most of the world about the conduct of one or a small group of countries? The idea of one World Government will, I suspect, remain a distant dream (or nightmare, depending on one’s politics) for the rest of humanity’s history. Unless, that is, a global catastrophe of the size and scope and power of global climate change finally decimates our population to a point where we are forced to come together to cooperate to save what remains of the race.
Perhaps in the end that will be our fate. To be reduced in size and power to a place where we no longer pose a threat to Gaia and, in so doing, to learn the lesson of Oneness, that we are all in this together, that we hang together or surely we shall hang separately. The only alternative I see is to envision and help bring about a global tipping point of more “enlightened” (however that word is understood) humans who can then bring about the transformational change that I see as humanity’s only hope of surviving the impending crisis.