In spite of the president’s recent insults at the United Nations and his latest Middle East lunacy, a global community remains essential – a crucial world order that Kansans helped to shape.
When he ran for president in 1936, Gov. Alf Landon discussed terms of world peace, aggression and economics in a way that most everyone could understand; for decades afterword, he continued to believe that the U.S. could lead a more peaceful, prosperous world in spite of Soviet and Chinese hostility and belligerence.
After service as a member of the U.S. House, and as Kansas governor, Concordia’s Frank Carlson became a U.S. senator, a fierce advocate for Kansas in international trade. He traveled with President Johnson to San Francisco in 1965 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the United Nations, an institution for which he was a fierce advocate.
Later, Kansas Sen. Jim Pearson became ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate’s delegate to the United Nations. The records of Bob Dole, Nancy Kassebaum and Pat Roberts are rich with commitments to global affairs. Gov. John Carlin put Kansas among the first states to open trading ties in China and Southeast Asia. Our country is stronger within a peaceful and prosperous community of nations, they believed, and they were devoted to that purpose.
After the United Nations began on shaky footing in 1945, the tendency had been for nations to solidify their nationalism rather than build an interdependent world. The parochial streak in people is perhaps the strongest streak in human nature, and there had been doubts for a time that it could be eradicated sufficiently to allow a better state of affairs.
The collapse of the iron curtain and the rise of telecommunication enhanced the exchange of people, of information, of ideas. The United Nations evolved not as a government but as the machinery for taking big strides toward unity. Conference, not governing, was always the mission.
The first steps came with the initial common market in Europe nearly 70 years ago, a half-dozen countries recognizing the benefits of healthy trade. Political structure would eventually take shape from economic structure, with great statesmen leading the world along this road. Among them were deGaulle and Pompidou of France; Churchill, Macmillan and Wilson of Britain; Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, of the United States; and at the U.N, secretaries-general Trygve Lie (Norway), Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden), Kurt Waldheim (Germany), and Kofi Annan (Ghana), among others.
They were among the leaders who realized that capitalism and communism could not be contained under one roof but that some conflicts, if not fundamental ones, could be resolved or at least aired without violence or war. Those first steps toward global unity were taken under a threat of global annihilation, a U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race. Peace was achieved and heightened through the usual devices of diplomacy and power balance. A nuclear stalemate, and subsequent treaties, have given the world a priceless breathing spell.
Things have changed, sharply. We insult our allies, break our treaties and threaten adversaries at great risk. The president, turning parochial and insular, boasts that nationalism, not globalism is the way to dominate. History is filled with tragic lessons from this kind of thinking; the Greeks and Romans, the Turks, French and British, the Germans, Russians and even Americans have paid dearly for those lessons in blood and treasure.
The European Union, the Pacific nations’ treaties and other agreements set the course toward peaceful trade, an exchange that until recently had included the United States. Kansas held great interest, with our production of food and fiber, aero space manufacturing, technology and ag science and research. That interest – in mutual trade, research, technology – is being dismantled.
A lot of this has conflicted the pursuit of some basic freedoms. The United Nations, a global community, is built upon a rather shaky conception of the anatomy of liberty. We either believe in equality or we do not. We can learn along the way, about rights and liberty, including some basics – that a right derives from taking responsibility, and that people become free only as they become willing to accept restrictions on their acts.
If we refuse, we are less free. This is what treaties are about. This is how communities have learned to progress in Kansas, Europe, Asia, and beyond. In our brave new world, freedom comes of the interplay of politics and economics, local, state, nation, world. In the global community freedom is not the currency of bullies, or a franchise for sale to the highest bidder.