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The Inter-National Order Is Dead and Gone

By Martin LeFevre

During the pandemic I initiated a series of dialogues with the rector and others at the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. UPeace is the only UN-mandated University in the world, formed by the General Assembly in 1980.

The thematic question of our dialogues was: “Psychological Revolution and the Emergence of an Effective Global Polity?”

Rector Francisco Rojas and I agreed on three premises when we first talked a few years ago. The first premise is that the foundation for a true global order has to be poured before the complete collapse of the post-World War II inter-national order.

The climate crisis and the precipitous loss of biodiversity lead the list of intensifying global crises that urgently require igniting and manifesting a psychological revolution that puts humanity as a whole over national interest. If we wait until complete collapse, we agreed, it won’t be possible to build a true global order for the foreseeable future.

Second, we agreed that a tangible form has to be given to the sovereignty of humanity over the competing sovereignties of nearly 200 nation-states, especially since the ‘Great Powers’ are dangerous shadows of their former selves.

Third, I asked Dr. Rojas: Given that the University for Peace is the only UN-mandated university, can the foundation for a new independent body, beyond the UN framework, be poured at UPeace?

In other words, does UPeace have the independence to think/act outside the UN framework, while providing a link to radically reforming the UN? Francisco said yes, and our dialogues proceeded from these premises.

In recent weeks my communication with people in the UN community has reached a dead end. Obviously it was a mistake to attempt to pour the foundation for a true global body through the University for Peace.

In the larger picture, the UN has fulfilled its purpose in preventing the Cold War from erupting into another world war, and it is no longer fit for political purpose. In short, the UN cannot, as an inter-national institution having national sovereignty as its basic premise, be reformed into an effective body of global governance.

This was brought home by President Biden’s address to the General Assembly on this Wednesday, which he used to excoriate Putin and Russia. As deserving of condemnation as Russia is for invading Ukraine, the United States is hardly blameless for the collapsing international order. (It’s very significant that the leaders of both Russia and China were not in attendance at this gathering of the General Assembly.)

America, the former beacon of democracy, teeters on the edge of autocracy itself. Our chickens have come home to roost. By invading Iraq in 2003, the USA made a mess of the Middle East and a mockery of the rule of law. The idea that America is still “the leader of the free world” is laughable.

History may well record that the United States lost its chance to genuinely lead the international order during the Clinton Administration. Bill Clinton threw away that chance, and arguably killed the UN itself, when he blocked Security Council intervention during the Rwandan genocide, at a time when America was widely admired as “the sole remaining superpower.”

Disingenuously, Clinton recently gave a revisionist rationalization for expanding NATO to the Russian border, after his predecessor, George H.W. Bush, promised Gorbachev NATO wouldn’t go beyond the reunified German border. “I think we did the right thing at the right time. And if we hadn’t had done it, this crisis might have occurred even sooner,” he risibly said.

Clinton added, “When I did what I did, I offered Russia not only a special partnership with NATO, but the prospect of eventual membership in NATO, arguing that our biggest security problems in the future were going to come from non-state actors.”

That’s incredibly obtuse, and it lays bare Clinton’s wasted presidency. At the time, offering Russia the supposed carrot of “eventual membership” in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was perceived by Russia as a slap in the face. And given the war in Europe 30 years after he was inaugurated, and the real and present danger of nuclear war, Clinton is incredibly out of touch talking about “non-state actors as the biggest security problems.”

As the president of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker, said in a recent opinion piece, “Our international rules-based order through which the world’s nations pursue global peace and development is crashing into the limits of its founding vision.”

Yet, in nearly the next sentence, he insists, “It remains essential, and salvageable.” That’s like saying, “There is no alternative to US leadership in the world.” Like the inter-national order itself, that horse has left the barn, and the barn is burning down.

“We must reform the architecture of our global order – the blueprint for our system of international relations and development finance,” Walker says.

Just as it doesn’t occur to America’s elites to question whether the United States is “the indispensable nation,” so too it doesn’t occur to them to question whether “the architecture of our global [sic] order” can be reformed.

It cannot. We cannot fit the square, splintering pegs of the inter-national order, based on the separate supremacy (“sovereignty”) of approximately 200 nation-states, into the round hole of a global society. The premise of the sovereignty of nation-states has as much meaning and relevance in our interconnected world as the sovereignty of queens and kings.

The inter-national order is history, and as long as ‘thought leaders’ insist on conflating it with a global order, there will be no order or security.


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.

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