The Blue Menace

The fall of the Soviet bloc was great, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world: elites reveling in treason, secret police exposed in disgrace, mass public catharsis. It has since become clear that was one down, one to go. The other one has tottered on for a quarter century but it won’t be long now. Impunity for CIA and police is under threat from domestic exposure and international pressure. Continued violent repression undercuts legitimacy at a time when the state has nothing to offer – uncontrolled militarization and financial predation have sapped the nation’s productive capacity. The carrot’s gone, the stick is broke. The wheels are falling off.

When it’s all over and I wake up in one of the successor states – The Maritimes, East Seaboard, Podunk, whatever it may be – What will be outside, What kind of world?

Don’t worry, it’s all been sorted out. We just haven’t noticed.

We’ve been awfully preoccupied with nations. We live in towns and counties and regions, too, but we don’t pledge allegiance to them and plaster everything with their flag. We don’t feel compelled to take their side in every picayune dispute. What’s so special about nations?

In his book One World, Wendell Willkie put peace and freedom before national interest and sold a million copies in seven weeks. Movie mogul Darryl Zanuck wanted to make it into a world-unity propaganda blockbuster. We were losing interest in nations. Of course, that was under the ancien régime, before the National Security Act and the Central Intelligence Agency Act. CIA impunity set counter-forces in motion. A nation is worth having if it’s yours to run any way you want by secret decree.

Civil society got ready for the onset of the world. At the University of Chicago, spurred by twinges of conscience at having helped to nuke the Japanese, academics tinkered with a world constitution. The Hutchins Plan, they called it. Hutchins’ Committee took rights and rule of law and ran with it. Their institutional arrangements were designed to resist the arm-twisting of statist bureaucrats. World leaders would be chosen by directly-elected delegates, hordes of them, one per million, acting in their personal capacity and not as national representatives.

The Hutchins Committee one-worlders were going to abolish war. Countries would surrender their arms to a civilian Chamber of Guardians – a logical extension of UN Charter Article 47, which puts arms at the disposal of the Security Council, but these Guardians would set limits on national forces.

There was more. A Tribune would defend the people’s rights. Labor exploitation was to cease. Nature’s four elements would be common property, with ownership rights subordinated to the common good. The world’s treasury would guarantee us pensions, leisure, education, and poverty relief. The world would buy out and run any natural monopolies that might emerge. The plan caught on. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists picked it up, then mass-market periodicals worldwide.

Think our fearless leaders were going to hold still for that? The US plucked Trygve Lie from obscurity, installed him as UN Secretary-General, and sent in secret agent Byron Price to push the timid nonentity around. State Department diplomat John Hickerson made Lie sign a written pledge to secretly purge the UN of internationalists.1 Price would creep into Lie’s office, issue one-word oral verdicts, and Lie would buy the riffraff out or fire them. Lie was exposed and resigned in disgrace and kept coming in to work. His staff legal counsel Abraham Feller killed himself in embarrassment. But the furtive witch hunt continued. Efficiency experts chopped heads and shredded their studies. FBI set up interrogation chambers in the Secretariat and skulked around amassing files on everyone in sight. The double-secret purge was meant to realize the US government’s own vision: a United Nations of parochial yokels screwing each other for petty advantage, scared of their shadow and not too bright, amply paid but strictly for the specialized merit of kissing ass. Yes, The American Way.

Even as the US struggled to stamp internationalism out of international institutions, it persisted at home as a class marker for the educated upper crust. The World Federalists convened lawmakers from four continents. The United Nations Association attracted bluestockings and tweedy civic leaders. Harvard grandees Grenville Clark and Lewis Sohn wrote World Peace Through World Law. Their blueprint spawned a world-government textbook and eight regional centers to build alternative models for world order. Kingman Brewster, President of Yale, tried his hand at helping UN member nations keep the peace.

It wasn’t just Ivy-League WASPs. Gaullist Catholic Jacques Maritain, who you’d think could be counted on for nationalist or sectarian special pleading, defected to the one-worlders with his essay on “The Problem of World Government.” Maritain blasphemed against several sacred tenets of our state-sponsored secular religion.

First of all, the notion that a state such as this, the USA, a ragbag of accidental institutions with utility comparable to the socks you’re wearing, can have honor or dignity or any personality at all. It’s not a person, much less any kind of sovereign. It has no sovereignty to lose. Why not fold it into the world?

Secondly, this silly idea that mere commerce can draw states together, preventing war. Global commerce is no natural bond like society or family. Commerce is maddening friction. This is even more obvious today. The more you interact with multinationals, the more you hate them. You begin to see what war is good for, see the point of low-yield nukes. The modern corporation is the enemy. With nothing to stop their suffocating perversion of human endeavor, you will have no peace.

Third and most insidious was Maritain’s question: Why should powerless world government be futile? We Americans are trained to think that everything comes down to force. But imagine a council with no power, stateless persons free only to speak out, pure moral authority posing no threat but shame. They do nothing but articulate the conscience of the world. In time, that’s enough. No superpower or Reich can dissolve and recombine free states. Only world opinion can do that. If a council can channel the global disgust that ended apartheid and Operation Condor and Soviet oppression, that council is all the world government we’ll ever need. Maritain anticipated the treaty bodies and charter bodies shaming US bureaucrats today.

America was supplying the world with trusted international civil servants of preeminent integrity. Alger Hiss, having been elbowed aside for Trygve Lie, went on to run the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. W.E.B. Du Bois and William Patterson took pioneering action to enforce the Convention Against Genocide and UN Charter disarmament provisions. Even after they framed Hiss, indicted Du Bois, and pulled Patterson’s passport, the ferment persisted. Virginia Gildersleeve fought to stop the Zionist crime against humanity an-Nakba with appeals to the UN. Secretary of State Christian Herter hammered out a plan for complete general disarmament under enforceable world law. The CIA jingoes couldn’t keep a lid on the one-worlders. They percolated right to the top, creating the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, making a new proffer of complete disarmament under international control, and publicly stating:

…absolute sovereignty no longer assures us of absolute security. The conventions of peace must pull abreast and then ahead of the conventions of war. The United Nations must be developed into a genuine world security system.

That was Kennedy in 1963. That November CIA kiboshed that once and for all.

The heresy survived as heresies do, in enclaves and curious customs. As late as the 1970s, defense contractors took off for October 24th, United Nations day. The Model UN has survived hyper-competitive nationalist lawfare in Chicago and middle-school food fights in the South. Richard Falk, co-author of The Strategy of World Order, has recalled what happens when Ivy-League indoctrination collides with principled internationalism. When Ted Turner sold CNN to the spooks, he gave the UN a billion dollars.

Dress-up dolls for boys known as G.I. Joes won commercial success at a time when gender-nonconforming behavior was in dubious repute. Prototyped with materials from the UN souvenir shop, the G.I. Joe dress-up dolls kept up with internationalist trends. Amid post-Vietnam revulsion against US aggression, the G.I. Joe dress-up dolls became a demilitarized Adventure Team. The same impersonal market forces subsequently impelled them to become a multinational force of dollies. Aghast at our future warriors dandling peaceful world-unity Barbies dressed in gaily-colored outfits, the USA killed G.I. Joe.

Outside the US, internationalism had triumphed as mankind’s common sense. When the US government cleansed its diplomatic cadres of internationalist taint, it left quaint patriots to flounder in a world they did not understand. In the UN General Assembly (GA) the US government’s idea of leadership was digging in its heels to cast lone forlorn No votes disregarded by the world. In one mulish decade the US did it 147 times in stalwart opposition to such international pariahs as Cuba and China and every other UN member nation.2.)

The US fought a losing battle against everything, including results-oriented dialog (Resolution 41/91), a peace and security system (Resolution 41/92), even peoples’ right to choose their system of government (Resolutions 38/25 and 36/19). They stood fast all alone against peace and cooperation in the South Atlantic (Resolution 41/11). The US voted alone against orderly succession of states (Resolution 37/11). They voted alone against protecting the ecology (Resolution 37/7).

But nothing provoked them like economic innovation. Four times the US voted alone against a new international economic order (Resolutions 35/57, 37/103, 37/252, 38/128). They voted alone against cooperation (Resolution 40/445). Twice they voted alone against defining development as the sum of all human rights (Resolutions 35/174 and 41/128). For the US government, development is not rights but debt-fueled headlong growth, so naturally the government voted alone against international cooperation on debt problems (Resolution 42/198). Four times US bureaucrats voted alone to deny the very idea of economic rights (Resolutions 36/133, 37/199, 38/124, and 37/204). No doubt their government health care and pensions were at stake. The US voted alone against everyone else’s idea of energy development in developing countries (Resolution 37/251). They cast their feckless vetoes against any kind of public economic parley such as UNIDO or UNCTAD (Resolutions 39/232 and 42/441).

The world declared that human rights are not government options: we get them all, civil and political, economic, social, and cultural (Resolution 40/114). The US cast its lonely vote to drop the inconvenient bits. The world has affirmed its consensus in Vienna, in Durban, and to mark the millennium. No one disagrees but apparatchiks of the US government.

The General Assembly has the initiative but the Security Council has the power of inertia. The victors of World War II made their word law with permanent UNSC membership and veto power. The resulting power imbalance is one of the residual upheavals of that ancient war. So the UN member nations took their fight to the Council.

In the Security Council’s 6300th meeting, the internationalists came over the top. Thirty-nine states spoke as participants without a vote. Little countries led the fight. They had no hope of being permanent members. They wanted a look in, if not for their own country, then for others like themselves. Equity meant more to them than national interest.

The topic was procedural minutia, but the comments cut to the bone. The Council ignores most of its tools, rushing to use force. It never tries mediation as prescribed in Chapter VI. It won’t let regions resolve their own problems in accordance with Chapter VIII. The Council insists on pounding every sort of nail with its Chapter VII hammer, making war. But the point of the Charter is peace, the members said. The council acts with blatant partiality to advance members’ national interests. Sanctions in particular were used for petty score-settling. Once slapped on by the caprice of some P-5 state, sanctions were impossible to lift. There existed no procedure, only the dim prospect of arbitrary sovereign mercy. Slovenia pointedly reminded the great powers of the rule of law.

Some of the Security Council’s guest speakers had been term members. These weren’t inclined to stick up for their old Council colleagues. The permanent clique set the agenda without them, and dumped translated background too late, leaving no time to read it before voting. New term members would sit gaping as blink-and-miss-it questions got whisked past them with a friendly smile. Speaking for the Caribbean, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines vented the outsiders’ pique. “The Security Council is not a cocoon, a vacuum or an impregnable fossilized bunker. It is of this world and of this membership. It must therefore reflect this world and this membership.” The Caribbean Community delegate pointed out that two-thirds of the Council’s members come and go in the course of a few years. How could the body adapt to a membership in constant flux without consulting past or future members? And why should future members feel bound by rules they had nothing to do with?

The trump card was Article 30: “The Security Council shall adopt its own rules of procedure.” Two states pulled rank with Article 30, Russia and the USA. The two old hegemons concurred — the Council would write its own rules. Russia saved the bad news till the end of a conciliatory statement. America came out with it up front. The US also lapsed into its priggish verbal tic: ‘constructive’ comments would be heard.

The Caribbean Community countered Article 30 with the General Assembly’s powers. Its deliberative purview includes UN organization and general principles of security and peace. It can call issues and threats to the attention of the Security Council. The GA stands aside only where the Security Council is actively engaged. The Council acts on behalf of the General Assembly, where every UN member bears responsibility for peace and security. All the smaller countries echoed the same message: we legitimate you, you have to earn our trust.

The Nonaligned Movement (NAM) suggested that it was not the General Assembly that was meddling. Rather, the Security Council was doing the poaching, on the General Assembly and on the Economic and Social Council. The Security Council should stick to its country-specific business and let the General Assembly set broad themes. The NAM said, let’s have this turf battle at the International Court of Justice – with such deep-seated disagreements among members, the UN Charter clearly needs an authoritative reading from the Court.

Europe’s permanent “P-5” insiders took a softer line. France was mainly anxious to preserve the privacy of the Council’s smoke-filled rooms. A mix of open and closed venues would let the French do what they do best. The UK stressed the tension between democracy and effectiveness. The Council’s informal agility, tempered in crisis, could seem confusing at first blush. But under a permanent member’s wing, even little countries could contribute. Lebanon asked, if the Council’s so effective, Why is Palestine still rotting in its Blut-und-Boden Zionist death camp?

The P-5 permanent members try to keep prospective members competing for favor with a welter of proposals for permanent, renewable, or rotating seats held for various terms. Coalitions bid for new seats, weighing their ideals of rights and law against national and regional interests. It’s four-dimensional chess, with the P-5 bound to win. Permanent members undercut broadened participation by appealing to national ambitions. The lure of membership in an exclusive council makes disparate power a prize and not a problem.

No new member stands to gain a veto, and the P-5 refuse to cede their own. So five small countries, the Small Five, took an oblique tack. Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland formed the group. These were the antithesis of the veto-wielding permanent five. The Small Five can’t aspire to great power. They proposed instead to moderate the institutionalized power imbalance of the veto. The Small Five would subordinate the veto to the rule of law and establish precedents restricting its scope and discouraging its use.

The Small Five proposals are delicate adjustments. They work around the power politics that the UN Charter cast in stone. Changes to the Charter require the vote of two-thirds of UN members. But the UNSC can change its working methods without amending the Charter.

The Small-Five reforms would do the following:

• End the P-5’s improvised back-room deals with formal UNSC rules of order.

• Ensure due process for lifting the sanctions that the P-5 impose.

• End the impunity that the P-5 enjoy by holding serious crimes to account under international law.

• Encourage the P-5 to vote no without invoking the veto power of Article 27(3).

• Require the P-5 to justify their vetoes in terms of international law.

• Prohibit vetoes of UN measures against the most serious crimes.

The Small Five’s proposal would make the great disparities of UN power less divisive.

The Small Five aimed for majority approval of their resolution, which anyway depends on the UNSC’s consent. P-5 agents on the Secretariat legal counsel killed the proposal by demanding an impossible two-thirds majority for adoption. The Small Five pushed to keep working methods on a separate track from the tough nut of Security Council expansion. Expansion benefits the favored members, they say, but improved working methods benefit everyone.

Working methods can change only if tensions abate. As always, the US is the problem. As the most shameless abuser of the veto, the US has most to lose. The US ekes its dwindling influence with force and coercion, escalating every disagreement into nuclear conniptions. The US looks at the UN mandate, pacific resolution of disputes, and sees only sissy opponents who don’t know how to gouge and bite and hit below the belt. In 2010 UN Ambassador Susan Rice commissioned an inter-agency Manhattan Project to steal legally inviolable diplomatic communications.3 Flouting the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the US ditched an honor code older than Christianity to rummage through diplomatic premises, bugging cables and plugs and electronics with corporate black-bag jobs, sniffing magnetic emanations, and stealing correspondence from computer screens and hard drives. Why? To spy on Council members instead of asking them what they think.

Outside the UN, internationalists now band together as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Alliance of Civilizations, or the United Nations Association. But they are no hermetic secret society. They evidently think like everybody else. The Human Rights Council asked Independent Expert Alfred de Zayas to elicit world opinion. What he found sounded remarkably like the internationalists of old. The internationalist perspective is now the paideia of the civilized world. Attitudes painstakingly brainwashed out of the US population have spread worldwide. They would disorient compliant Americans imbued with government-issue opinions.

America’s self-styled realists have been discredited. Today’s internationalists have no patience for Henry Kissinger’s nostalgia for an idealized Westphalian golden age. Power disparities make nonsense of Westphalian balance and Kissinger’s periwigged Talleyrand fantasies (Did his imaginary friend Metternich tell him to bomb the Plain of Jars back to the stone age?) The little toad has nothing new to tell them about the world.

But if equipoise is not to be trusted, then what will replace the statesman’s grandiose balance of power or nuclear terror? Internationalists answer, we have what we need right now. Today’s internationalists do not waste time daydreaming of more perfect global unions. They don’t ask for constitutional conventions. The world has a constitution, they will tell you. It’s the UN Charter.

Yes, the UN Charter. But the UN is dysfunctional, you’ll say. Of course, it is, your government did all they could to wreck it — they put a Nazi in charge, What more could you do? So don’t fuss over organization charts. Institutional details can be torn up and redrawn from scratch – the UN’s Joint Inspection Unit said as much. Just as the League of Nations gave way to the UN, the UN will yield to something new. As the institution matures, nationalist placemen will give way to an international civil service that will not “seek or receive instructions from any government,” as the Charter stipulated at the outset. The USA had to wait a hundred years for a proper civil service and the president who set it up got shot. The world knows these things take time. The crucial parts of the world’s constitution – its authorities – are in place. The world’s authorities realign law with ethics, enabling codes of conduct inconceivable to the degenerate ritual of US law.

All UN member nations must save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. That means not just disarmament but demilitarization, not just demilitarization, but peace. Peace is the fulfillment of all rights, enumerated in the first instance by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which binds all states and persons. Under UDHR Article 28, human rights law governs any possible world order.

It isn’t enough to stop warring. States can’t deprive you or threaten you or wear you down to force compliance. States must enter into several binding treaties to guarantee your rights. All are imperative. There are no second-class rights. The US tries to put you on a treadmill, keep you scrambling to earn vital rights with faithful service or preferment or compliance. Under your world’s constitution, supreme law of the land, it’s not you but the state that has to scramble, devoting all available resources to your health, your education, your livelihood, all the things you need to live. If the state can’t afford guns and bombs, then that’s too bad.

The world’s internationalists are not censorious about American deviance from world norms. They see clearly how Americans are made to dump 40 per cent of their begrudged taxes down the military rathole. De Zayas elicited opinions on democracy, and civil society responded with an offhand dissection of the tricks that fool American bumpkins every time:

• The state-sponsored media spotlight that swivels to a new gargoyle every few months, with CIA covertly poking sticks in his cage till he growls, prompting choreographed hysteria and solemn idiocy regarding what we should blow up.

• Fawning adulation of brisk military mediocrities mouthing cost/benefit catchphrases that never cite diminishing returns, just more, more, more.

• The budgetary shell game that calls guns and bombs by many different names.

• CIA’s secret slush funds from drug trafficking and Saudi baksheesh and Alan Quasha’s buried treasure, in case Congress won’t give them more money to stir up trouble.

• The Nuremberg rallies for teary sports fans with hapless cannon fodder there to wave their stumps in scripted glory, instilling vicarious toughness in passive spectators of sport and war.

• And from all around, enveloping everything like swamp gas, cowardice: cringing fear of far-off ragtag bands.

Americans’ idea of democracy evokes pity in the wider world. No one asks Americans what they want. Every few years they are forced to choose from two and only two distasteful alternatives. Again next year without demur they will sit down to their electoral banquet, open their menu, and decide if they will have the shit sandwich or the shit soufflé.

In a calculated tease in 2008, campaign handlers posed their figurehead Barack Obama with a book emblazoned The Post-American World. People loved it, they’re sick of this pointless police state. Of course, once Obama was safely elected it was back to us-and-them and lots of flags. But our disgust can’t be switched on and off like some household appliance. Hutchins’ bust still stands at the Aspen Institute, fossilized in bronze as a vague nice Grandpa. Don’t look to find the Hutchins Plan there. At some conclave of running dogs there I sneaked away to genuflect to him. He’s still a dangerous subversive. The widely-held opinions he professed have subverted the whole world.

  1. Hazzard, Shirley, Countenance of Truth: The United Nations and the Waldheim Case. New York: Viking Penguin, 1990 []
  2. Blum, William, Rogue State. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2000 (Chapter 20 []
  3. “(S//SI) Blarney Team Provides Outstanding Support to Enable Security Council Collection, By [Name Redacted] on 2010/5/28 1430” in Documents from No Place to Hide (p. 55-59 of 108) []
Brian Littlefair is the author of Desert Burial. As a consultant specializing in foreign direct investment he worked with foreign joint ventures, international financial institutions and bilateral aid agencies, with volunteer work in food security, transparency, and human rights in the global south. Read other articles by Brian.