MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  
 

THE NEW SUPERPOWER
By Joe Schwartzberg, WFA-MN Chapter President


WORLD FEDERALIST NEWS
Minnesota Chapter, March 2003

Those of our readers who also receive the newsletter of our much-admired sister organization, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) will already have read the following quotation from the front page of the February 17 issue of the New York Times:

“The fracture of the Western Alliance over Iraq, and the huge anti-war demonstrations around the
world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: The United
States and world public opinion.”

Writing in the March 10 number of The Nation, Jonathan Schell expresses the matter a bit differently:

“February 15, 2003, 2003, the day 10 million or so people in hundreds of cities on every
continent demonstrated against war in Iraq, will go down in history as the first time that the people
of the world expressed their clear and concerted will in regard to a pressing global issue. Never
before – not during the Vietnam War, not during the antinuclear demonstrations of the early 1980s –
had they made known their will so forcefully by all the means at their disposal. On that day, history
may one day record, global democracy was born.”

The people have unmistakably made their power known. Whether or not they will successfully avert a war in Iraq is not yet clear, but there can be little doubt that it was they who forced President Bush to go back to the UN in hopes of securing a second Security Council resolution on Iraqi disarmament. It also seems beyond question that the hesitancy of some governments, and the downright refusal of others, to go along with Bush’s proposed military action resulted from their reading of the popular mood.

Popular recognition of this new state of affairs – of the idea that the people have become a superpower -- has enormous implications for the World Federalist movement. But, in this recognition, there is a rub: while the people have shown that they hold enormous power globally in regard to what they are against (i.e., war), they have yet to demonstrate comparable power in respect to what they are for. Until they learn to do the latter, all victories will be partial, contingent, and temporary. The old war system of virtually unfettered national sovereignty will still be in place. In practice, might will still make right. Meaningful change in the system will come about only when the people can rally about a positive vision to take the place of the present outmoded war-legitimizing paradigm. In simplest terms, that implies a revitalized United Nations system. But here, too, there is a rub: the present UN system suffers from such serious structural deficiencies that the major powers, and many minor powers as well, see no hope for meaningful reforms that will accord the UN the legitimacy and credibility that it requires.

Let me list just five of the present shortcomings of the UN. First, the Security Council is neither a fair nor a representative body. Its five permanent members are endowed with the power of the veto, while another ten, somewhat arbitrarily selected for two-year terms, can in no way be said to adequately represent the interests of the remainder of the world’s people. Seventy-seven of the now 191 members of the UN have yet to serve even once on the Council. Second, the more representative General Assembly has a wholly unrealistic one nation – one vote decision-making system wherein Tuvalu, with a population of 10,500 has the same vote as China, with roughly 1 1/4 billion, while dozens of nations, each paying 0.001% of the UN budget, have the same vote as the US, which pays 22%. Small wonder, then, that the GA can (with rare exceptions) make only recommendations, rather than binding decisions. Third, there is no provision in the Charter for popular input in the decision-making process. Fourth, there is no institutionalized means of enforcing Security Council decisions by appropriate police or military action. Fifth, the judicial system, embodied -- so far as nations are concerned -- in the International Court of Justice, relies mainly on voluntary compliance, which is seldom forthcoming simultaneously from both parties to a given dispute.

I have long been concerned with the problems just noted and view none of them as insurmountable. I have, in fact, addressed most of them in detail in various publications over the past decade. Two recent titles are cited below. Whether some version of the proposals in those articles -- or alternatives by other would-be reformers –- will galvanize the new global superpower (i.e., the public) to transform the UN into a truly effective force for global order, peace, and justice remains to be seen. But one thing seems certain, without some positive vision, humanity will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. Unable adequately to address the root causes of injustice in the world, our presently anarchic system will eventually fail to stave off the intertwined threats of terrorism and preemptive war (not to mention other forms of armed conflict). Even if we do succeed in averting a war in Iraq, or, failing that, even if the war can be brought to a reasonably benign conclusion (a dubious prospect), humankind will not be able to afford the luxury of basking in the comfort of a temporary peace. Nothing fundamental will have changed. The conclusion, then, is inescapable: the new superpower, the people, must not just say “No to war!” That’s good, but not good enough. The people must also say “Yes, to justice!” and “Yes, to a reformed global system, without which enduring peace and the steady advancement of justice will not be possible.” A federal system of global democratic governance is what we must now strive to achieve.

Relevant works:

Joseph E. Schwartzberg, “Creating a World Parliamentary Assembly,” The Federalist Debate, New Series, yr. 15, no. 3, Nov. 2002, pp. 10-16. This may also be read on-line at .

Joseph E. Schwartzberg, “Entitlement Quotients as a Vehicle for United Nations Reform,” Global Governance (journal of the Academic Council on the United Nations System), vol. 9, no. 1, Feb. 2003, pp. 81-114. This article addresses reform of both the General Assembly and the Security Council.

Joe Schwartzberg ()

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