What Bill should tell the U.N.

By Henry Lamb
web posted July 24, 2000

During the U.N. Millennium Assembly, which convenes right after Labor Day, President Bill Clinton will have an opportunity to address the General Assembly, and the heads of state from nearly 160 nations. This is the event at which the agenda for global governance is expected to be adopted. As spokesman for the citizens of the United States, the President has the opportunity, and the responsibility to advance the principles of freedom upon which this nation is built. Here is what one American would like Bill to say:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the world, we welcome you to New York, and to the United States of America. We are gathered at this momentous juncture in the history of civilization to consider how best to navigate a new century, the first in a new millennium, and more particularly, what the role of the United Nations should be as we plunge forward into uncharted waters.

There can be no better guide for us, than to look backward to examine our past failures, and our past successes. None of us wants to walk blindly into arrangements that have already proven to be unworkable. All of us want to create new arrangements which will provide the best quality of life for every citizen of every nation.

Clearly, what doesn't work, is a system of governance that ignores the will and wishes of the people who are governed. In the last century, millions of people died trying to escape the scourge of governments that imposed its will upon the people without their consent. We have learned from those failures.

In fact, it was just such a failure of governance that caused the wars which led to the creation of the United Nations - created in the hope of abolishing war as a method for resolving disputes. The United Nations was created to provide a neutral forum for sovereign nations to assemble and discuss their differences in pursuit of non-violent solutions. This institution has been helpful from time to time, but it has been far from successful.

The purpose for our presence here today is to explore ways to make the United Nations more effective as we continue our pursuit of a peaceful world in the 21st century. It is an awesome challenge. We are confronted with two fundamental choices: we can work toward enforcing peace through a central military power superior to any force that can be mounted by a single nation; or, we can work toward eliminating the need for war by expanding the principles of freedom.

The concept of a centralized superior military power emerged after World War II, as the best hope for a peaceful world. It has not worked very well because the concept presupposes that member nations are willing to surrender their national sovereignty to a central power. The surrender of national sovereignty to a central power is in direct opposition to the first purpose of the United Nations - which is to provide a neutral forum for sovereign nations to discuss their differences.

In recent months, we have heard from many world leaders who believe that now is time for sovereign nations to rethink the virtue of national sovereignty, and voluntarily relinquish a measure of that sovereignty for what is called "the greater good." I am convinced that such thinking and such talk directs the world toward a course we should not travel.

Regardless of what the intent may be, or what promises are offered, history is clear: when government power is centralized, government oppression follows. The consolidation of military might under the control of the United Nations is a formula ensuring the oppression of those people who disagree, and the creation of a structure which, at some future point, must be overthrown. Every effort to enforce the peace through military superiority has failed. I urge this assembly to reject this course of action in the 21st century, and I offer as sufficient reason, the profound failure of this course of action throughout the 20th century.

Those who advance the idea of centralized enforcement of peace, recognize and argue that in order to be successful, the United Nations would also need to control other facets of human activity, those activities which create conflict. Economic disparity, for example, and the inequity of resource distribution are said to be among the root causes of inter-personal, and national conflict. In order for the United Nations to enforce peace, the United Nations must have the power to eliminate these root causes of conflict.

These arguments take the United Nations further from its original purpose, and further down the road toward oppression of the people it seeks to serve. The appropriate role of the United Nations in the 21st century is not to consolidate its power and enforce its will upon the people, but to return to its original purpose of facilitating discussions among sovereign nations that wish to find peaceful solutions to all our problems.

Just as history provides graphic examples of what doesn't work, it also provides examples of what does work. We should examine those examples and glean from them the principles which promise success in the 21st century.

It took hundreds of years for people to discover -- and for governments to admit -- that human beings are born with unalienable rights endowed by the Creator. Among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are the foundations of sovereignty. Empowered by this sovereignty, people create governments to protect their unalienable rights and to defend their sovereignty.

Government, therefore, is created by the people, for the people, and derives its just powers from the consent of the people. We who have the privilege of representing our people at grand meetings such as this, must never forget that it is the hard work of our people who pay the taxes that make it possible for us to be here. We cannot assume that because we are here, we have their consent to create a system of global governance that will have the power to make policy decisions that will affect their lives, but which will not provide them the opportunity to grant or deny their consent.

Fortunately, as we examine what has worked in the past, we can begin to see an alternative course of action for the 21st century. This course of action would recognize first, that national sovereignty is nothing more than the collective sovereignty of the individuals within a nation, expressed through a government which they have created and can control.

As such, national sovereignty should be recognized as the highest governmental authority on earth. People within nations should form whatever system of governance they choose; the appropriate role of the United Nations is to help those nations by facilitating discussion when disagreement arises, not by dictating solutions.

These principles are the foundations of freedom, to which all people everywhere aspire. When people are free to pursue their own happiness and create their own system of governance, the fundamental causes of national conflict diminish, and may, in time, evaporate entirely.

Governments that exist to protect, defend, and advance the principles of freedom, serve their people; governments that exist for any other purpose, eventually oppress their people.

As we consider the role of the United Nations in the 21st century, I urge you to consider these principles of freedom and self governance.

Those proposals before you which advance these principles should be adopted; those proposals which ignore the consent of the governed and tend to consolidate and centralize power in the hands of a global government - should be rejected.

I speak for only one of the more than 180 nations in the world. It is neither my purpose nor desire to tell any nation what form of government it should choose. It is my purpose, and my responsibility to tell you that the United States stands ready to help any nation that wishes to advance the principles of freedom, and to help the family of sovereign nations maintain a forum for discussion of problems and disagreements.

It is also my duty to tell you that the people of the United States have not consented to yield one ounce of national sovereignty to a world government. Should this body decide to choose a course toward enforced peace and centralized, global policy-making, it will move without the support or cooperation of the United States. Should this body decide that the United Nations should remain the facilitator for interaction among sovereign nations, we will continue to assist in that purpose.

I hope you will enjoy your stay in our sovereign nation, and return home determined to help all people, everywhere in the world, enjoy the freedom they have every right to expect.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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