FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pope Francis, ISIS and the United Nations

by

Sometimes, amid the heated political debate about what should done by the U.S. government in world affairs, a proposal cuts through the TV babble of the supposed experts with a clear, useful suggestion.

That proposal came on August 17, when Pope Francis told journalists how he thought the world should cope with the challenge posed by ISIS, the Islamic militant group engaged in murderous behavior in Syria and Iraq.  “One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this,” he said, in an apparent reference to U.S. action against ISIS crimes.  Instead, the United Nations is the proper forum to “discuss `Is there an unjust aggression’” and “`How should we stop it?’  Just this.  Nothing more.”

The idea that the responsibility for dealing with global problems lies with the world community rather than with individual nations is not a popular one among the governments of the major military powers.  Indeed, they seem to believe that they are justified in doing whatever they want in the world if it serves what they consider their “national interest.”  The Russian government, angered at NATO’s eastward expansion and at political developments in Ukraine, annexed Crimea and armed pro-Russian separatists.  The Israeli government, attempting to incorporate Palestinian territory it conquered 47 years ago into greater Israel, has moved 500,000 settlers onto the land and staged bloody military invasions of Gaza to crush resistance.  Anxious to control the oil-rich Middle East, the U.S. government launched a military invasion and occupation of Iraq that led to enormous bloodshed in that country and the destabilization of the entire region.  And numerous other governments with powerful military forces have behaved in much the same manner, thereby helping to foster a chaotic and violent world.

This aggressive use of military force is not a new phenomenon.  Indeed, it’s been par for the course throughout the history of nations and, before that, the history of competing territories.  It’s what brought the world to the brink of total disaster during World Wars I and II.

What is new is the dawning recognition that the world can no longer continue down this destructive path―that the competition among nations must be handled within the framework of an international security system.  After all, there is no reason to assume that any individual nation can divorce itself from its own special “interests” and adopt an impartial stance when it comes to world affairs.  Despite the claims of rabid nationalists and theocrats, God has not decreed that their nation should rule the world.  Instead, an institution representing all nations should speak for the international community.

Based on this recognition―one helped along by two world wars―numerous governments reluctantly agreed in the twentieth century to develop the League of Nations and, when this new institution proved too weak to be effective, the United Nations.  In the words of the UN charter, the United Nations was founded “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” as well as to “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,” “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained,” and “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”

In the immediate aftermath of World War II―which left 60 million dead and a world in ruins―the governments of powerful nations paid lip service to the United Nations and to the international security system it represented.  Sometimes, they even fell into line with its decisions.

But, unfortunately, they were soon back at their old game.  The United States and the Soviet Union occupied other nations, launched military invasions, and staged covert operations around the world in their bitter Cold War conflict with one another.  France fought vicious colonial wars to subdue independence struggles in Indochina and Algeria.  Britain, France, and Israel invaded Egypt.  China annexed Tibet and invaded India and Vietnam.  India and Pakistan squared off to fight numerous border wars.  In the context of this persistent flouting of international law by the great powers and some others, the United Nations managed to remain the conscience of the world and to engage in humanitarian projects, but was gradually drained of its power to enforce world security.

Clearly, this is a profoundly dangerous situation, especially when the nations of the world spend $1.75 trillion a year on war and preparations for war.  An array of global problems―including not only national insecurity, but climate change, disease, and poverty―cry out for global solutions.  But we are not likely to see these solutions in a world of international anarchy, one in which the “national interest” continues to trump the human interest.

It’s time―indeed, long past time―for governments to strengthen the United Nations and, as Pope Francis has reminded us, to respect its authority as the voice of the world community.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner  is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany.  His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail