SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. — As unhappy as I am that war is upon us, I'm taking great comfort in what's going on in our world today.
The world community is waging peace.
No matter what happens, history will record that this is a new era. The 21st century has begun with the world in a broad dialogue looking deeply, profoundly, and responsibly as a global community at the legitimacy of the actions of an administration that insists upon going to war.
This is a first - and it's part of the difficult work of effectively waging peace. It is a constant job, and we must not let up. It is working, and it is a historic milestone. This is the larger, long-term story, and the Iraq war is a chapter in it.
In this unprecedented public conversation, the world is asking: "Is war legitimate? Is it illegitimate? Is there enough evidence to warrant an attack? Is there not enough evidence to warrant killing masses of human brothers and sisters?
"What will be the consequences? The costs? What will happen after a war? Will this set off other conflicts? What might be peaceful alternatives?
"What kind of negotiations are we not thinking of? What are the real intentions for declaring war?"
All of this has taken place in the context of the UN, the body established in 1945 for exactly this purpose. It has taken more than 50 years of struggle to realize that true function. The UN has become in these past months and weeks the most important forum for the world's effort to wage peace rather than war.
No, it hasn't prevented the US from forging ahead with war in Iraq - but it has definitely succeeded in engaging the US in conversation and giving the rest of the world a place to be heard.
It is tense, it is tough, it is challenging, but this kind of global conversation has not happened before on this scale - not before World War I or World War II, not before Vietnam or Korea. This is a stunning new era of global listening, speaking, and responsibility. In the process, new alliances are being formed: Russia and China on the same side of an issue is an unprecedented outcome; France and Germany are working together to wake up the world to a new way of seeing the situation. The largest peace demonstrations in history have taken place.
Through these global peace-waging efforts, the US was delayed in its purpose for several months because it was being engaged in this dialogue. And the process allowed all nations to participate in the serious and horrific decision to go to war or not.
This is what waging peace looks like - it is not always clear and easy. It is difficult, hard work. It will henceforth require constant effort throughout the world. Since the cold war ended, there has been just one superpower - the US. That has created a kind of blindness in the vision of the US.
But now there are two superpowers: the US and the merging voice of the people of the world.
All around the world, people are waging peace. It is nothing short of a miracle, and it is working - despite what you may see unfolding right now in the news.
• Dr. Robert Muller, chancellor emeritus of the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica, was assistant secretary general of the UN from 1970 to 1985. He publishes a daily peace message at www.goodmorningworld.org.