SGT. William Resides, 24, speaking from the front lines in Saudi Arabia, expressed a down-to-earth reaction to all the Washington talk about a ``new world order.'' ``I don't know about that,'' Sergeant Resides told a reporter; ``sounds like maybe America's head is getting a little big.'' Sergeant Resides is not alone in his concerns. In the flush of enthusiasm over America's awesome display of military might in the Persian Gulf, there is a lot of talk about a new world order. This phrase is not defined with any precision. It seems to be used to describe a proposed new United States-led alliance of nations dedicated to confronting international aggression.
But can America, with less than 6 percent of the world's population and the largest debtor nation on earth, realistically carry this global burden? Do Americans really want to stretch the Gulf War experience into a new international structure in which America takes on the primary responsibility to secure peace and democracy throughout the world?
Part of the attraction of this idea comes from President Bush's success in constructing the Gulf War coalition. The US provides the vast majority of the armed forces; other partners chip in cash and diplomatic support.
The temptation is to seek a Pax Americana just as Queen Victoria imposed a Pax Britannia through global British military superiority. But, as we now fight where once the British waged war, it begins to look less like a new world order and more like the old order with new weapons.
The new world order slogan also appeals to the great affinity Americans have for international idealism. Woodrow Wilson promoted the League of Nations after the horrors of World War I, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman championed the United Nations from the experiences of the World War II era. These efforts never lived up to the hopes of their founders, but they pointed the world in the right direction.
Wilson, Roosevelt, and Truman believed that the United States should share in the responsibilities and benefits of international peace organizations, not dominate them. They hoped to foster diplomatic, not military solutions to conflicts. Nowhere was there the idea that our nation would continually be forced to send its children into combat around the globe. The Gulf War was a just war, but we should recognize that war is a last resort and cannot serve as a model for future policies.
There is in fact a need for a new order of mutual security and prosperity in the Persian Gulf. Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms should suffice as a charter: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. If the very rich in the area shared with the poor, that alone would settle many problems. If secure national and homeland boundaries could be achieved, this could assure freedom from the fears that beset the region's people.
The United Nations after the end of the cold war is emerging stronger and with greater possibilities. It is a structure already in being. We need only effect such changes as the UN finds necessary to better ensure the peace in a truly international cooperative context. Neither the United States nor any other nation or group of nations should dominate the UN. We could have a truly collegial enterprise in which even the smallest nations have responsibilities as well as protection.
Is this too idealistic? Perhaps. But if Sergeant Resides is any judge, it may be more practical than believing that the American public will support an unlimited United States global police force.