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Jewish World ReviewNov. 17, 1999 /8 Kislev, 5760

Sam Schulman

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Now Playing: The Bloody Sneak-Preview of "World Government" --
PERPETUAL PEACE. That's the dream that world-government enthusiasts hold out for us. And they are in the ascendent right now: oddly, our national security is being overlooked by Stobe Talbott, who yearns for a time when when "nationhood as we know it will be obsolete: all states will recognize a single, global authority." We're forced to listen to a chorus of lectures on world government: the noisy selective moralists Bill Clinton and Tony Blair; pushy leaders of supranational organizations like the UN and the EU. The song is the same: the only decent thing for a national government to do is to surrender their citizens' rights to some distant and unelected authority.

What's curious is that, by a quirk of fate, we have the opportunity to examine the kind of world peace under which most people would have to live, were Talbott, Blair, Annan, and the Eurocrats to get their way. If you squint and look around, you'll see what "peace" under a world government would be like.

Here are some of its features, now and in the future:

1. The unchecked violent rule of local warlords within their own sphere: Today's versions are Russia, China, and Iraq. A power, if big enough, but not too big, is easier for a central authority to appease than to overcome. So if these warlord states can persuade the central governments that they only want to control their own territory, then they will be left alone to do as they like to their citizens and smaller neighbors. So today Russia today is able to act out its re-enactment the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in Chechnya, and no one really objects.

2. The appeasement of terrorism as long as the capital is safe. In Northern Ireland and Israel, the "world government" stand-ins are pushing settlements on civilian populations that, arguably, put them in harm's way and destroy their individual security. It is arguable in both cases (though I think it is a catastrophically bad argument) that compromising and sharing power with terrorists is a good idea. But conviction on the subject is not why the great powers are pushing it. They push it because they have no vested interest in the security of people who are politically and militarily insignificant to them. Tony Blair can rule without Northern Ireland as part of the UK; Israel has always been a nuisance to US foreign and economic policy.

3. Highly selective enforcement of the "rules," abetted by an obedient opinion-making establishment. The "world government" today operates as a real world government would do: imposing its rules on its weaker enemies, but looking the other way when it is convenient to do so, as in Russia. In the mean time, it has hardly been reported, but NATO's war against Yugoslavia has just lost its final justification. The problem is stark-a dramatic shortage of Serb atrocities. The forensic pathologist leading the Spanish atrocity-hunting team has gone home in disgust. He had been told to expect to find about 2,000 bodies in his bailiwick: he found only 187. Dr. Pujol told the Sunday Times "I calculate that the final figure of dead in Kosovo will be 2,500 at the most. This includes lots of strange deaths that can't be blamed on anyone in particular." But a world government is never called to account.

Another example is the bombing of the almost certainly innocuous chemical plant in Sudan. The New York Times revealed that no one in the administration ever seriously believed that the factory was a terrorist operation. But it doesn't matter. On the other hand, remember the desperately abject nature of Clinton's apologies for the "mistaken" bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. The difference? Sudan is nugatory, but China is a warlord state, towards which we must elaborately interpret "the rules" in its favor.

Strobe Talbott hailed the European Union last month in London: It ``not only gave Europe its first stateless currency since the days of the Roman Empire but also helped bring into being a concert of liberal democracies -- in some ways the first and certainly the most advanced in history.'' His reference to Rome is correct. Under the world government envisioned by the enthusiasts in Washington, London, Turtle Bay, and Brussels, how we would live would resemble quite a bit how Roman citizens had to live under their empire. Here's some advice: make sure you live close to where a legion is stationed. Otherwise, life will be a bloody, contingent, and lonely business. You'll live with no access to those who rule you; and no reliable guide to conduct or protection from authority.

Peace? Yes. It will be a peace based on a happy co-existence between two forces equally opposed to you: bureaucrats answerable only to "Rome," and local bullies or terrorists who have a gun big enough to push you around, but small enough not to pose a threat to global authority.


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JWR contributor Sam Schulman is deputy editor of Taki's Top Drawer, appearing in New York Press, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University. You may contact him by clicking here.


©1999, Sam Schulman