The summit of the future

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Geopolitics are at a crossroads. Will the world unite to meet common challenges; will it divide along rival blocs led by the US and China; or will it spiral into a disastrous world war? All three outcomes are possible, yet only the first path – global unity – will truly serve human needs. The UN member states will meet at the UN on September 22-23 at the Summit of the Future. This is a vital moment for the world’s nations to recommit to global unity under the UN Charter.

The United States led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt led to the creation of the UN at the end of World War II. The main purpose, as expressed in the UN Charter, is to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

The UN aims to implement a system of collective security under international law. The UN Security Council was created as the place where global peace would be protected and preserved.  

Of course, soon after the creation of the UN, the world quickly fell into a Cold War between the two nuclear superpowers, the US and Soviet Union. Many regional wars were, of course, proxy wars between the two superpowers. Yet the UN helped to prevent a return to global war, and it provided an essential framework for limiting the nuclear arms race and avoiding an accidental or deliberate spiral into nuclear Armageddon. UN diplomacy played a vital role, for example, in peacefully resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.  

The world might have moved to global unity after the end of the Cold War in 1991, but the United States choose an erroneous strategy. Instead of embracing international law and the UN Charter, the US did almost the opposite. It decided that as the “world’s sole superpower” the US would now lead the world outside of international law.  

This choice, which has proved to be disastrous, was put explicitly by the so-called neoconservatives, a group of US policy makers and public intellectuals, who championed US hegemony (sometimes called “full-spectrum dominance”) in contrast to UN-based international law. The neoconservatives promoted the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The project’s key document Rebuilding America’s Defenses (September 2000) became a kind of roadmap for US policy since 2000.  

The roadmap envisions that the US will be the world’s policeman, and its sole policeman. The roadmap calls this America’s “constabulary” duties, and envisions local wars led by the US. It explicitly rejects the role of the United Nations, declaring that:

‘These constabulary missions are far more complex and likely to generate violence than traditional “peacekeeping” missions. For one, they demand American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations… Nor can the United States assume a UN-like stance of neutrality; the preponderance of American power is so great and its global interests so wide that it cannot pretend to be indifferent to the political outcome in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf or even when it deploys forces in Africa.’

The US has followed this roadmap until now through several disastrous wars and the long-term presence of US troops, including Kosovo (1999-present), Afghanistan (2001-2021), Iraq (2003-present), Syria (2011-present), and Libya (2011-present).

The US hegemonic strategy also gave rise to the war in Ukraine, which arose out of the US desire, expressed in the 1990s and implemented from 2008 onward, to bring Ukraine into NATO. When Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovych opted for neutrality rather than NATO membership, the US conspired to help overthrow him in February 2014. Since then, a proxy war between Russia and NATO has ensued, with Ukraine being the battleground and the ultimate victim of that proxy war.  

US foreign policy runs directly counter to the UN multilateralism. The US Government frequently chooses not to abide by international law. It often vetoes measures adopted by the other members of the UN Security Council, and very often votes against large majorities in the UN General Assembly, and then ignores those votes when it is on the losing side. The US actually scores lowest in the world on a new index of UN-based multilateralism. The so-called “rules-based order” favored by the US means the rules that the US wants, not the rules agreed by the UN member states.  

The problem with the US approach is that it is based on a dangerous fallacy: that a country with 4.1% of the world population can set the rules for the other 95.9% of the world population! After 1991, the neocons believed that the US had the power to impose its will whether the rest wanted it or not. They also seemed to believe that the rest of world craved US leadership. In fact, most of the world favors a very different idea: non-interference in their internal affairs. They don’t want the US meddling, going to war, or try to overthrow their governments!

These are the core issues that the 193 UN member states will consider at the Summit of the Future. This could be a moment of breakthrough to peace for the world – if the US recognizes that it adopted a deeply flawed foreign policy back in the 1990s.

The world yearns for a multilateralism in which the major powers, especially the US, China, and Russia restore diplomacy and peaceful cooperation amongst themselves and with the rest of the world. The world yearns for peace in the Middle East based on the two-state solution. The world yearns for multilateralism based not on hegemony but on international law and collective security. In such a world, overseas military bases and alliances such as NATO would play a far smaller role while UN peacekeepers would play a far larger role. In fact, overseas military bases should be phased out entirely as true multilateralism takes hold.  

The coming 25 years can be a period of peace, rapid technological advancement, environmental sustainability, and the end of poverty – if we abide by the UN Charter and invest our resources into peace and sustainable development rather than into war.  



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