LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘National sovereignty’ could hamper peace

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The U.N. Security Council has never been “a reflection of the larger world,” as former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton writes (“The myth of a United Nations,” Commentary, Sept. 25). Rather, the United Nations remains a reflection of the world as it was 60 years ago, when a handful of victorious nations selected themselves to represent nearly 200 sovereign nations — with no democratic ideals or accountability to the world.

Mr. Bolton ignores the growing list of lethal national security threats that all Americans face and for which we need international cooperation. Without demonstrating sincere interest and support for the key interests of other nations, we can’t rationally expect their cooperation when we need it most.

It is actually the United Nations’ embrace of “national sovereignty” that “provides harsh lessons in reality.” National sovereignty is an invented mental construct modeled on the heartfelt ideal of independence, which unfortunately doesn’t exist in the real world. National sovereignty will be useless when al Qaeda or some individual actor acquires a chemical or biological weapon or the nuclear capacity to bring down our electric grid or economic system.

Mr. Bolton is correct that fundamentally there is no “United Nations.” Unlike the “United States,” the United Nations remains a confederation of states, much like our original 13 Colonies. Today, our 50 states have elected bodies and a supreme court to make and interpret laws and settle differences. Nation-states only have the power to declare war as a final course of action.

We will not know peace until those primary actors who worship the concept of national sovereignty help democratize the United Nations and establish a structure where individuals and individual states actors are held accountable for their actions. Peace is a function of justice, not armament or disarmament. No government in the world should retain the right to abuse the inalienable right of innocent humans.


Former chairman, United Nations Association Council of Organizations


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