Saturday 20 December 2003

The Tragedy of Transnationalism

Steven Den Beste has written a stunningly effective critique of Transnationalism as it is practiced today.

I'm an unashamed Transnationalist. And I agree that the Iraq war was the greatest blow to Transnationalism that's ever been. It was truly tragic that the US didn't have the support of the UN. Not because the US was wrong, but because the UN has gone off the rails so completely in the last 60 years.

My brand of Transnationalism is not the corrupt variety practiced so imperfectly by the United Nations. It's the Transnationalism embodied in the Atlantic Charter of August, 1941, and before that Franklin Deleano Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech of January the same year.

I quote the Atlantic Charter in Full:
The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;

Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;

Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measure which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.
You can´t get more Transnationalist than that. I think this has been relabled recently. It´s now called "The Bush Doctrine". The action against the Ba'ath regime in Iraq was totally in accordance with article 8, as would any action, by military force or otherwise, against the Juche regime in North Korea.

I'll also quote the Four Freedoms :
In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.
The United Nations, founded in San Francisco just before the bombs were dropped at Horoshima and Nagasaki, was supposed to embody these principles. And here and there, partially, falteringly, it does so. The (UN) World Health Organisation (WHO) so far has resisted the slow corruption that has claimed organisations such as the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and most notably, the UN High Commission on Human Rights. The (UN) International Labour Organisation (ILO) continues to do good work behind the scenes. The (UN) Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) still does more good than harm, though that may change soon. The (UN) World Bank... means well, but hasn´t exactly covered itself with glory. For every two quiet successes, there is at least one horrible and spectacular failure.

But the UN, by its inability or unwillingness to support the US in Iraq, as well as its persistent victimisation of the State of Israel, has shown that it´s moribund, yes, even more so than its predecessor, the League of Nations.

The UN has betreayed its charter, and especially the addendum from 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I´ll quote a few articles :
Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
In Saudi Arabia, the penalty for Apostasy - leaving Islam - is death. Yet Saudi Arabia remains an influential member of the UN. Why?
Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
But see what has recently happened to bloggers who try to take advantage of this "Freedom" in Iran. Then there's the Great Firewall of China. Or ask any of the Independant newspapers in Zimbabwe - oh, that´s right, there aren´t any any more. Yet China, Iran, and Zimbabwe remain in the UN. Why? Then there´s Cuba. And Syria. And.... the list is long.

Can the UN be salvaged? I really hope so, but I´m not confident any more. Maybe 3rd Time´s the charm, and we should start with something less ambitious than the UN. Something where a broad adherence to the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms is required for membership, with continuous review. Something with Teeth to enforce those principles on Tyrannies, yet the flexibility to tolerate minor differences of doctrine - Gay Marriage, Capital Punishment, Gun or Drug Availability, that sort of thing.

Initial members: US, UK, Poland, Spain, Australia?

Maybe the Tragedy of Transnationalism will turn into a Triumph.

Maybe Pigs will Fly.

We can but hope.

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