#42 – Claude Buettner/ Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg: A new dawn for Thinking Globally

Tonight is the annual meeting of the Minnesota Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS-MN, formerly known as World Federalists.)  This is an important organization with a long and honorable history of advocacy about global interdependence, and “developing proposals to create, reform and strengthen international institutions such as the United Nations.” (from CGS Mission Statement www.globalsolutionsmn.org).
The following commentaries appeared in the May, 2009, Newsletter of CGS-MN.  Claude Buettner is current President of the chapter (a previous writing of his is found here at  April 12, 2009 .  Dr. Schwartzberg, professor emeritus of Geography at the University of Minnesota, is a former President of the local chapter, and very knowledgeable and well known as an expert on United Nations issues.    Both commentaries are reprinted with permission.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of obsessing over the latest litany of bad news the media obligingly provides.  Yet, looking back on one’s lifetime, one can see real positive changes in attitudes and therefore in the prospect for solutions to whatever problems the future might bring us.
Over lunch on Earth Day [April 22] I was watching the favorite soap opera of my 80-something-year-old mother.  A ten-second public service spot at the end of the episode had one of the main actors out-of-character remind viewers of the importance of Earth Day and of our stewardship of the environment.  Encouragement, like beauty, is where you find it.  Nonetheless, I was surprised and uplifted that this message seems to have gone mainstream during the thirty-odd years since the first Earth Day [1970, more at www.earthday.net ].
Perhaps in another third of a century an out-of-character actor will remind daytime TV viewers that their carbon tax is less than 1% of energy costs and allows the UN to do its work to help ensure our secure future.
THE TIDE IS TURNING by Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg
Reflecting on what Claude observed in the note above, I’m struck by the many changes for the better – some subtle, others obvious- that the past year has brought.  The biggest, of course, is the sense of hope generated by the election of President Barack Obama, in regard to international affairs in general and our relationship with the United Nations in particular.  It looks as if the United States will, at last, ratify the UN Comprehensive Law of the Sea Treaty (UNCLOS)*, likely pay up its arrears in UN dues, and try to address the economic chasm separating the global North from the global South.
Change is also evident in non-governmental circles.  Last month I took part in an excellent conference on United Nations reform at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC organized by the United Nations Association [UNA www.unausa.org] , with the co-sponsorship of a number of other prestigious NGOs.  Previously, the UNA steered clear of serious discussions of UN reform because (in my view) it had all it could do to muster support for the UN in its present highly imperfect form.
The emergence of World Savvy [www.worldsavvy.org] is another very positive development.
Equally encouraging was Thomas Weiss’ Presidential address this February before the International Studies Association [www.isanet.org]: “What Happened to the Idea of World Government?”  Until recently, speaking approvingly of the prospect of world government in the political science and international relations communities of academia was a sure way of getting oneself labeled as “hopelessly naive”; but Weiss bravely cited much of the literature on the subject that animated the World Federalist movement prior to its being undermined by the likes of Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.  Weiss reminded his audience that the worldwide movement until then was led by the United States.  He noted that in 1949 111 members of Congress, two future presidents (John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford) and a host of other eminent political leaders put forward a “sense of Congress” resolution that argued for “a fundamental objective of the foreign policy of the United States to support and strengthen the United Nations and to seek its development into a world federation.”  Additionally, resolutions were passed in 30 of 48 state legislatures supporting “pooling of American sovereignty with that of other countries**.”
We have a long way to go before we recapture the exciting spirit of the early World Federalist movement, but we are, at last, moving in the right direction.
From moderator:
* – Ratification of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is still pending.  More information http://www.globalsolutions.org/issues/unclos
** – We Americans are only months out of  a long period of years dominated by the philosophy of U.S. exceptionalism and unilateralism, so it may be hard to imagine that even in recent American history there was a strong and rich bi-partisan effort promoting the notion of World Citizenship.  Indeed, in 1971, Minnesota and a number of other states, adopted Declarations of World Citizenship with the support of major leaders from both major political parties.  Minnesota’s declaration, including its signers, can be seen at www.amillioncopies.info .  In particular, note the list of who signed this declaration.
In recent days Newt Gingrich, probably inadvertently, called attention to another very significant commentary on this topic.  In June, 1982, at the United Nations, then-President Ronald Reagan, in the very first sentence of his address, said this: “I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the World.”  http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=42644

#12 – Claude Buettner: Atoms for Peace Needs Rethinking

A very conservative acquaintance once asserted to me that the primary purpose of a national government is to establish security. Our global governance system (UN, WTO, IMF…) is failing by this primal measure to guard against potential global conflicts that could be precipitated by the ever-increasing water/food/energy insecurity.
There is an inherent loophole built into the “Atoms for Peace” regime (http://www.iaea.org/About/index.html) which allows all nations the right of owning the entire production cycle of nuclear material. As Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector and the presenter in our past September Forum [MN Citizens for Global Solutions “Third Thursday”], pointed out in his recent book, Target Iran (http://www.amazon.com for details), all nations including Iran have the right to process nuclear fuel for civilian use. Unfortunately, the exact same process used for enrichment of nuclear material for civilian energy use is also used for further enrichment for use in nuclear bombs for military use (merely cycle the material through the cascading centrifuges until the desired concentration is reached).
How could international law be changed to block countries from developing this technology or at least requiring all nations to submit to full supervision of the concentration phase of production? Can we imagine the US and Russia (who own 96% of all nuclear weapons according to the reputable Union of Concerned Scientists) going along with these new requirements? Can we imagine other countries agreeing to such supervision if these rules don’t apply to the US and Russia? The relationship between the US and Russia, especially on the nuclear issue, will remain pivotal if the world is to move forward on the security front.
Allen Greenspan recently said it was human nature that caused the global financial meltdown and because human nature doesn’t change a similar meltdown could occur again in the future. Hmmm…if that’s true then by the same reasoning we remain vulnerable to all-out nuclear war and the 96% of the nuclear weapons must also be seen as a greater long-term threat to civilization than the new ones coming on line. It may seem that the cycle of mass violence the past shows us is the skeleton of human history upon which the details are fleshed out. But it is social, industrial and governmental structures that make up the framework of civilization and it is war, and especially global war, that is the cancer that threatens that structure. What we need now are effective structures for peace, to use a favorite term of our late MN Citizens for Global Solutions local chapter inspiration, Stanley Platt.
It’s time to get on with the work of civilization to establish and maintain peace at the international level, even if peace is imperfect at the local level. In the same way peace among adjacent US states doesn’t completely eliminate local crimes or brawls. The higher authority of our federal courts allows even serious disputes between states to be resolved without resorting to action from the militia. This is the tradition that needs to be established at the international level.
Claude Buettner is a life member of Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS, formerly World Federalists) and the current President of the Minnesota Chapter of CGS. He’s also active in other internationally related organizations such as United Nations Association, Committee on Foreign Relations, and Minnesota International Center. He’s a salesperson for MTS Systems Corporation. He can be reached at claude101ATcomcastDOTnet.