Why is the Bush administration seemingly hurtling toward
confrontation with the rest of the world in the lead-up to the World
Summit in New York next week?
Almost the first act taken by Washington's new energetic,
sometimes pugnacious, UN envoy John R. Bolton, was the submission of
a list of 750 amendments he seeks in the draft of the summit's
declaration. That text, which deals with issues as important as
nuclear disarmament, human rights, global warming, and
counterterrorism, had been painstakingly negotiated by world
diplomats over preceding months.
There is still time to reach a friendly accommodation on the
contested portions of the text. But many nations - most notably the
European states that are the strongest supporters of the present
draft - now fear that US intransigence on the proposed revisions may
be a serious blow to the heart of the UN.
It's true that the UN also faces a serious issue of mismanagement
and corruption in its bureacuracy. That issue must be resolved -
whatever it takes. But right now, Washington's deteriorating
relationship with the world's other peoples concerns me even more:
The compact that underlies the way all nations interact within the
UN is truly vital to human survival.
President Bush and his aides surely should work hard to reach
agreement with other nations on the issues around the World Summit
declaration. It would also be good for Bush and all Americans to
reflect on the circumstances of the UN's creation and the many
benefits it has brought the US throughout its 60 years.
Back in 1945, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman made
decisions marked by broad strategic restraint and great wisdom. Two
of these were particularly crucial: first, not to retreat to the
isolationism the US had pursued after World War I; and second, to
exercise Washington's continued engagement with the world through a
new body, based on principles of national sovereignty, national
equality, and human solidarity. That body was the UN.
The past 60 years have been very good indeed to the US. The UN
and the compact among nations that underlies it have certainly
contributed to those benefits.
During the cold war, the UN helped mediate what would otherwise
have been an even more precarious situation of hair-trigger nuclear
destruction. After the Soviet empire collapsed, the UN helped ease
transitions on several continents - as it did earlier in helping
manage instabilities that arose when the West European nations'
empires splintered. …