from The Different Drum
by M. Scott Peck

Recently, when the International Court of Justice, an agency of the Unites Nations, declared U.S. intervention in Nicaragua illegal, our government simply responded that it was not obligated to heed the court's judgment. Within the confines of the nation-state system we were quite within our rights to ignore the court's decision. But how can there be an effective international police-keeping force unless nations agree to submit to it? How can there be enforceable international law as long as nations continue to possess -- and insist on possessing -- total external sovereignty? How can the United States, as it does, demand to maintain the sole right to determine how it will relate with other nation-states and do any more than simply pretend it desires an effective UN?

The nation-state system is the bedrock on which the arms race has been built. Two hundred years ago, when it took six weeks for a message to get from Washington to London and six months for one form Washington to Peking, it made sense for the world to be divided into nation-states. But in this technological age of instant global communication, as well as instant global holocaust, the system has become hopelessly obsolete. If we are to survive, it must at least be rapidly modified to the point where the nations of the world substantially relinquished their external sovereignty to a supranational government agency.

In 1984 many Americans were horrified by a television presentation, "The Day After," which depicted the human condition following a nuclear attack on a mid-American city. A s a physician I had gone through that scenario in my mind so many hundreds of times that I found it, if anything, underdramatized. What did horrify me, however, was the panel discussion that followed, which some of us have termed "After the Day After." Here six somewhat elderly men, supposedly some of the nation's brightest and best -- ranging from William Buckley on the political right to Elie Wiesel on the left -- sat around mired in hopelessness. Not one of them, as they discussed the arms race, could propose anything beyond never-ending negotiations, any genuinely bold initiative clearly offering a way out. Each one of these presumably wise men know that we humans have evolved out of tribes into city-states and out of city-states into nation-states, yet not one of them had the vision to suggest there might be any further evolution beyond the nation-state system. Not one of them had the temerity to propose what is seemingly obvious, that international peace ultimately requires the sacrifice of at least some external sovereignty of the nation-state...

In fact, in addition to being a "nation under law" there is still another reason we citizens of the United States should feel comfortable with the notion of relinquishing external sovereignty. For it is precisely because we made such a relinquishment that we are the United States... Of all the nations of the world we should be the one historically most acculturated to thinking in terms of a United States of Earth.

Yet in referring to the concept of world government many of our "intelligentsia" discount it as unworkable and pillory those who believe it is feasible: "Oh, that's just the old ivory-towered world federalism movement. Bunch of idealists who never got anywhere. The reality is that the League of Nations didn't work, and the United Nations doesn't work." These people seem, however, to gloss over the fact that this country refused to join the League of Nations and has done its best to emasculate the United Nations. The reality is that, like Christianity, world government "has not been tried and found wanting but hasn't been tried at all."

The relinquishment of sovereignty, while it means the end of the nation-state system as traditionally defined, does not mean the end of nations or national differences. As Golda Meir once put it, "International government does not meant he end of nations, any more than an orchestra means the end of violins." For we are speaking of only a partial, selective relinquishment of sovereignty. The law says that I cannot shoot my neighbor over a little matter like the garbage. It does not say that I must be friends with my neighbor, have him over for dinner, dress like him, or attend his church. In fact, it protects his and my right to be different and interferes in our relationship only in extreme instances.

The same principle holds in matters of internal sovereignty. Were we to develop an effective supranational government, it is not unlikely that such a government would seek to interfere in the internal affairs of a nation, such as Nazi Germany, demonstrably engaged in genocide. It is hardly likely, however, to attempt to dictate to a nation that is should be communist or capitalist, Christian or Muslim or Hindu. Similarly, the law may interfere with my internal sovereignty, my individual life style, but only under extreme circumstances. IT may tell me that I must not sexually abuse my children or walk naked in most public places. It would not tell me what kind of clothes to wear or how to dress my children.

In fact, only that supranational government is possible that does respect -- yea, celebrate -- most national differences. For we shall not be able to arrive at supranational government until we have achieved some substantial degree of genuine international community. And the paradoxical requirements for supranational government are the same as the paradoxical requirements for community...

Still, the hard part of the paradox remains: there must be some degree of submission. This requirement holds for each and every nation. Yet in a century that has seen us swing from isolationism to world power, our own nation (perhaps because it has been the most powerful and wealthy and hence had seemingly the most to lose) has apparently been more reluctant than any other to relinquish even a modest degree of sovereignty. Were we to be genuinely willing to submit ourselves to the requirements of international government and community, it might well become apparent that Russia or other nations are the real stumbling blocks to peace. Until such time, despite my real love for my land and my society, I suspect I, and increasing numbers of my country-people, will continue to have trouble distinguishing between the sheep and the goats and in which category we ourselves belong.

And until we make such submission to international government and community, it is inevitable that we continue to believe it proper for the United States to be "the world's policeman." ... But if we are to save ourselves we must learn to submit to humanity -- and quickly. And until we accept that as our task, we do not truly want peace -- only power.

M. Scott Peck received his M.D. from Case Western Reserve University in 1963 and served in the U.S. Army from 1963 to 1972, retiring after two years as assistant chief of psychiatry and neurology at the office of the surgeon general. He practiced psychiatry in New Preston, Connecticut (1972-84), and eventually and reluctantly attained the status of a guru due to the success of his book, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (1978). It focused on personal integrity and community building and although dismissed by some as merely "inspirational," it spoke to many people (attested by its presence on best-seller lists for some 15 years). He followed up its success with such books as People of the Lie (1983) and The Different Drum (1987).

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