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How the World Might Begin to Heal

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Global Disequilibrium

When one says, as many people have lately being saying, that "the world is spinning out of control," the idea is not just that a lot of different things are going awry. The point is that each crisis, each disaster, is making other such disturbances in the system more likely.

Just as good tends to beget good, and evil tends to beget evil, so also in the international system each additional increment of disequilibrium tends to destabilize further the overall system.

In concrete terms, the more instances there are of conflicting parties resorting to war to advance their interests, and the more the peoples of the world get caught up in the passions of hatred, the more likely it is that such destructive forces will flood out through other fault lines elsewhere in the system.

One might think of it as a repeatedly reinforced wave, such as those that can be made in a bathtub until the wave gets so amplified that it overflows the container. Or one might think of it as a contagion.

If that is what is happening now in our world "spinning out of control," then nothing is more urgent than the quest for the means to turn things back in the other direction. This quest is especially urgent in view of evident potential --in the gathering tensions between the United States and Iran, for example, and between the United States and North Korea-- for new conflagrations that could dwarf, in their destructiveness, the already ongoing strife in Iraq and in Lebanon.

So the world should be asking: How can humankind's better tendencies begin to regain the territory recently lost to the worst? How can the destabilizing forces now at work come under greater control from forces of good order?

Here are some thoughts toward a possible answer.

A Global Conference

Imagine all the actors in the world system gathered into a conference whose theme is "Less Violent Conflict, More Security."

Imagine further that these world actors --having recognized that the dynamics that they, collectively, have been generating are dangerous and undesirable-- have agreed to engage in a process at this conference controlled not by them but by a group of luminaries selected for their wisdom and competence and commitment to the good of humanity.

Since this group will have no power save for its authority over the conference itself, plus the moral power derived from its participation, the participating world actors will not be surrendering any of their own power. The conference cannot compel obedience outside the conference, and the participants retain the power to withdraw from the conference (if, for example, the governing committee bids Party A to talk with Party B with whom they've previously refused to have contact). Who could stop them?

Imagine that the group that is running this conference is chaired by two men who have some familiarity with the challenges of the game of power in the intersocietal system, and who also have shown a dedication to healing that system: Jimmy Carter and Mikhail Gorbachev. Each of them was in charge of one of the superpowers during the Cold War, and each has continued to work toward achieving humankind's higher aspirations.

(It occurs to me that perhaps Maggie Thatcher could be included, making a triumvirate: she is a tough-minded conservative, which the others are not; she had good rapport with Gorbachev and helped enlist President Reagan into trusting Gorbachev enough to set in motion the process that peacefully ended the Cold War; and she is a woman.)

Other members of the conference's governing committee could include such people as these: Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Bono, Oscar Arias, Lech Walesa, George Soros, the Dalai Lama, Billy Graham...
[Question: Who else ought to be on such a list?]

The actors to be invited to participate should include at least all nation states. These should be represented at the level of foreign minister (or Secretary of State). As for whether other significant actors on the world stage should be invited --such as Hezbollah, and other such non-state players-- that would be a matter to be discussed and decided by the governing committee of the conference.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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