BY: JOSE A. ZORRILLA
As blood and tears faded away in the world, in 1945, the Great Generation of the USA decided that the world could not go on hopping from war to war and started a process of institutionalizing the planet. Therefore, it opened a World Parliament and called it the United Nations, with a wording not very different from that of the US Declaration of Independence: “We, the peoples of the UN, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.”
Besides, it helped Europe to recover thanks to a Plan that bears the name of the General who won the war, George C. Marshall; turned Germany and Japan into liberal polities; committed itself to defend Europe from the USSR via NATO, and offered some form of articulated global economics pace the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Of course, the basis of everything was political and economic liberalism plus the dollar as a global currency backed by gold. Economic liberalism crawled under protracted negotiations to finally end in an institution called the World Trade Organization.
Then time took its toll. As decolonization freed Africa and Asia, the original UN spiraled out of (US) control. When Nixon, in 1970, decided not to put an end to Vietnam War but to unpeg dollar and gold to continue the carnage, the Arabs revolted and launched the oil crisis. That was the end of Bretton Woods and one of its most illustrious corpses, the economics of John Maynard Keynes. Milton Friedman took over and Thatcher and Reagan were only too happy to oblige. The result was to break one of the fundamentals of the dismal science: savings equal investment. Conservatives or not, the UK and the US made spending and debt the new normal. But monetary surplus the world over hoarded the monies in dollars. A kind of Bretton Woods 2 had been born. A meager heir, for sure.
Cocktail’s pros -diplomats, that is- munched over the impending demise of such an old windbag as the world system. To make matters worse, the US decided to help the Afghan-anti Soviet insurgency. Well, Pakistan’s Islam was gentle and Sufi. Saudi newcomers radicalized it and radicalized it remains. And its secret services micromanaged the insurgency in their own way, anti-American, that is. As a result, came Al Qaeda, 9/11 and another unwinnable war. The 2008 economic crisis blew Milton Friedman as the economist of last resort. The toughest Republicans defended them as a remedy printing money and let the Fed buy public debt. Iraq and its offspring, ISIS and moral catastrophe, were the coup de grâce. It was only a matter of time till somebody high up snapped his fingers and put an end to the farce. Obama was the silence before the storm. Expectations were so high that Barack (no longer Mr. President) landed the Nobel prize on parole, so to speak. And he was not able to deliver. Nobody would have been able to. On the internal economic front, bubbles were the remedy of last resort, China was a Leviathan catching upto the US, enemies as they were, both countries had the same inequality index, Russia was no longer the USSR and yet NATO remained in place to try and contain Putin’s idea of international relations, the Third World was up in arms, Europe was rich and it had its own ideas, not necessarily good all of them, Japan was invited (US) to become a nuclear power, and there were no new recipes or ideas let alone people to implement a modest reformist agenda. Add the fiasco of Libya and Somalia, and with it a hurricane of fire that crosses Africa from its Horn to the other Atlantic shore with new terrorists in town, Al Shabab and Boko Haram, all of them courtesy of the lack of serious strategy from the center, if not outright incompetence.
More worrisome was the attitude of the US towards its own creation, the UN. True, the body did not fall behind the US practically in every respect. How could it? Five million displaced people in Afghanistan, one million dead in Iraq and counting, Israel out of control. How to defend an agenda of Human Rights on these bases? But the real problem was and is philosophical. For the US the archenemy is multilateralism, the very core of the UN. Not only have they left UNESCO and Human Rights, they do not even ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, created at their own demand. Therefore, it would be a mistake to see Donald Trump as a monster of evil. He simply shortened the terms of the end of days. And yes, Trump is not an interval but the new world system. The chapter opened by the US in 1945 is a thing of the past. The US reverts to its old ways, an impressive giant but only relatively meaningful in its projection of liberal power. For military power without strategy amounts to nothing. We cannot say in all fairness that the US Armed Forces, the best by far and the most technical and lethal, had won a war since April 1945. Which is reasonable if we consider the logic behind the force. Take the Russian folder as an example. While the Pentagon requests its allies to continue with a policy of sanctions and Sweden reverts to draft out of fear, Trump asks G7 buddies to admit Russia into the fold once again. Not that the G7 amounts to something, now that Trump has vowed to maintain bilateralism and commercial wars as weapon of choice. But to hail Kim as a hero and to call names Mr. Trudeau goes beyond the limits of common decency. Canada is an inspiration in International Relations and a champion of multilateralism. It is probably the most advanced polity in the world and definitely one of the most honest. To insult it means that POTUS knows nothing and the Republicans that back him, even less. Well, we will have to live with that and go back to the days ante 1941. We will continue to admire and enjoy the arch that goes from Rip van Winkle to Tim O´Brien, from Pollock to Bourgeois and from Gershwin to Barber. Of course Edison, Ford, Jobs and Musk continue to hold the high scientific ground and changed forever the ways of the world. Of course Marilyn will always live in our hearts. But the likes of Kennan, Forrestal, Einsenhower, Mac Arthur, Marshall et al, we will not see again. In this context we have to ask ourselves why should a country like this be the see of the United Nations? In fact, it should not. Therefore, I propose that we move its quarters somewhere else. To a liberal country, champion of multilateralism, decent, honest and pacifist, with excellent infrastructures, good weather and geographically more in the center of the action, the Pacific Rim, that is. I am not advocating the end of the Organization. Let alone to encourage the US to jump ship. Just to move its quarters. Probably a chance to reform the old body, Security Council, veto rights and the like, and with it change also its name to something more ambitious, say “World Parliament” or “Parliament of the World”.
A likely candidate would be the west coast of Canada- the country of “Oh Canada, thou strong and noble land” fame.
Ambassador Jose A. Zorrilla is a career diplomat from Spain with postings in Milan (1989), Toronto (1993), Shanghai (2001), Moscow (2004), and Tbilisi (2009). He has published a book on the rise of China “China la primavera que llega” (China, the spring that arrives) and shot two documentary films (“Los Justos” (The Righteous) and “El desierto y las olas” (The Desert and the Waves)) and one full length film “El Arreglo” (The Deal) that won the Opera Prima Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1983. He has just published a novel “El espía en Saratov” (The Spy in Saratov) (De Librum Tremens) and “Historia fantástica de Europa” (An Imaginary History of Europe). He is a frequent contributor to El Mundo with articles focusing mostly on current affairs.
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