News spread at light speed this week that the United Nations appointed an official greeter for aliens visiting Earth. Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, head of the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs, was given the task of shaking the hands, claws, tentacles, antennae or other appendages (if any) of extraterrestrials who decide to drop in. With world peace and the global economy limping along on vapors, this appointment of an ambassador to aliens proves once again that the international body’s priorities are lost in space. Then again, perhaps this outreach to the final frontier isn’t all bad if it distracts U.N. space cadets from some of their misguided missions on this planet.
Ms. Othman said if and when alien life was contacted, “We need to give a coordinated response,” and that the United Nations was the preferred “coordination method.” Making official contact with E.T., however, goes beyond the U.N. mandate. The United Nations charter states clearly that the organization’s purpose is to “maintain international peace and security” and “achieve international cooperation in solving international problems.” It says nothing about extraterrestrial security or cooperation. The U.N. is charged with “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights,” but the charter is mute on the status of alien rights. The body seeks to promote “fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,” but callously makes no claims whatsoever about planet-of-origin.
It’s obviously not in the interests of the United States to cede the authority to meet separately with alien plenipotentiaries. America potentially could gain significant advantages by forming unilateral friendships with aliens and could help them better understand planet Earth from an American point of view. We doubt President Obama would pass up the chance to make history as the first black president meeting the first little green men. Mr. Obama surely would rush to extend the hand of friendship, hope and change to the aliens, trusting that their disintegration rays will be on safety. There are also questions of jurisdiction that will need to be settled. For example, if the aliens landed in Arizona, would the federal government even acknowledge they had arrived? If they committed crimes and were taken into custody, would the Justice Department file discrimination charges?
Furthermore, it is premature to appoint any human representative without knowing what form the aliens might take, how they communicate or with whom they would want to interact. For all we know, they might want to make first contact with the king of the dolphins.
Late reports indicated that the United Nations might not actually be seeking to expand its mandate beyond the stratosphere. But the fact that the story was so readily accepted underscores the reputation of the world body as a center for triviality and bureaucratic excess. The matter remains open who will be the first person to greet the aliens once they arrive, though it’s possible they already walk among us. Darth Vader would fit in pretty well with other colleagues from the Dark Side who sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council, which includes representatives from such liberty-loving places as Cuba, China, Libya and Saudi Arabia. This all raises the question as to who greeted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he arrived on Earth from his planet far, far away.