Protestant Chaplain Speaks on UN

To the Editors:

The UN is coming under pressure from President Bush and ridicule by CNN’s staff. President Bush’s pronouncements reveal the thinnest respect for the UN as an international institution. CNN’s Jack Cafferty, of “American Morning,” opined that UN stands for “Usually Nothing.” While we may be thankful even for what little restraint President Bush is showing, I think we have reason to be alarmed about the superior, dismissive attitude our President and Jack Cafferty are taking toward the international community. The President of the United States and a commentator on CNN each have a “bully pulpit” from which they have enormous influence on the formation of public attitudes. The message from those pulpits to Americans seems to be that the UN is an alien, feckless, inept institution which frustrates American will and wisdom. The President and Mr. Cafferty may need to be reminded that the UN is not “them,” but “us,” and that we are a signatory to the UN Charter, and therefore have specific legal responsibilities as a member of that body. This is not the time to disparage the UN.
We are justly proud that America is “a nation of laws and not of men (sic).” Should we not wish for and work for the same among nations? President Bush’s announced doctrine of unilateral “preventative defense,” with which he is pressuring the UN, is so far out that is not even anticipated in the Charter. Chapter VII, Art 51 certainly permits unilateral action by member states which are attacked. But this new doctrine goes far beyond that. The United States appears to be threatening to assert hegemony over other states toward a Pax Americana. Another President, Abraham Lincoln, “was prepared to believe that America was earth’s ‘last best hope’— not as the world’s economic colossus or imperial hegemon but as an exemplar of what politics, with all its limitations, can accomplish.” (Jean Bethke Elshtain, “Abraham Lincoln and the Last Best Hope,” Frist Things 97 [1999]). Working with the world community is slow, and sometimes frustrating, as our political processes are. But that work is the better way to a better future. I hope the American people will resist this new doctrine and insist that the United States take its rightful place among the nations, responsibly working within the imperfect institutions we have at hand.

–Fred Lassen
Protestant Chaplain

November 8
November 15

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