Public Leads Leaders in New World Vision

THE forces of globalization - technology, the arms race, financial markets, pollution - continue to drive restructuring within and between countries. And the resulting debate about the shape of a new world order is evolving rapidly.More and more national leaders are recognizing the need to act in concert. President Bush is taking the lead in bolstering the United Nations, whose role in the Gulf war became indispensable. And at their recent London meeting, the leaders of the Group of Seven industrial nations pledged to strengthen the UN and limit international arms sales in a program of "preventive diplomacy." These new commitments may not be difficult to sell to the public. A bipartisan survey on "the emerging world order," conducted in July by the Americans Talk Issues Foundation (ATIF) of Washington, finds the American people already ahead of their leaders in re-visioning a new world order and a larger role for the UN. Included in its startling results: * Eighty percent want the UN to play the leading role in organizing future global responses to aggression. Backing up this view, 88 percent support a standby UN "peacekeeping military force made up of units pledged by member nations." And US sovereignty isn't sacred: 59 percent of the public agree that "UN resolutions should have the force of law and should rule over the actions and laws of individual countries, including the US, where necessary, to fulfill essential UN functions." * Seventy-two percent support a proposal to "monitor and tax international arms sales, with the money going to famine relief and humanitarian aid." The public resists two of the arguments against the arms tax: that it would fall more heavily on the US and would hurt the American defense industry and jobs (54 percent to 45 percent find this argument unconvincing); and that the tax revenues could be diverted by other countries for political purposes (52 percent to 46 percent.) The public agrees, 54 percent to 45 percent, that "arms purchasers and merchants" should help "pay the bill for humanitarian aid needed around the world." After hearing all the arguments pro and con, support for the arms tax fund increased to 75 percent. This goes considerably farther than the G-7 leaders, who merely talked of an international register to monitor arms sales. THE public goes much further than expanding the UN role; it also expresses interest in reforming the UN itself to make it more participatory and democratic. Seventy-seven percent like the idea of electing the secretary-general by popular vote in countries that hold elections. Almost 90 percent support popularizing UN decision rules; 45 percent opt for one country - one vote; 42 percent for one-person - one vote; and just 9 percent for a system keyed to the amount of dues a country pays. In the area of environmental protection, the US public is further ahead of its leaders. While the Bush administration has downplayed global warming and ozone depletion, 92 percent of the public give high priority to most global environmental concerns. Seventy-eight percent agree that global warming and ozone depletion are serious threats requiring immediate action. And 87 percent believe that "many environmental pollution problems go beyond any country's borders and can only be addressed effectively by a ll nations acting together." Sixty-two percent reject the argument that other nations might develop environmental rules that are inappropriate for the US and might harm the US economy. In the area of new institution-building, Americans are clearly looking for bold new leadership and concrete initiatives. More than 80 percent of the public support US participation in a range of nongovernmental organizations concerned with environmental problems, including an organization like the Red Cross to take the lead in cleaning up environmental disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chernobyl, or the oil spills and fires of the Persian Gulf war; a bank that would finance environmental cleanup s around the world and joint-ventures with poorer countries to transfer environmentally-sound technologies; and a bank to finance the use of more efficient energy systems in agriculture, industry, housing, and transportation. Sixty-eight percent agree that "it is extremely or very important to reduce US growing use of foreign oil," and 59 percent would back this concern up by supporting a 5 percent tax per barrel on imported oil, and 55 percent support a 5 cent per gallon gas tax to reduce this dependency. Last, while a substantial 62 percent of Americans still believe the Gulf war was a "great victory," this represents a stunning 22-point slide from March. Today, 53 percent think the country is headed on the wrong track, and 80 percent are upset a lot or almost all the time by the president's neglect of domestic concerns.

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