Trimming the UN: How Far Is Too Far?

We have a right to expect more than a narrow, insensitive "Fitness Program for the UN" as presented by the president of the World Peace Foundation (Dec. 18; World Edition, Dec. 20-26).

The writer joins members of Congress in treating the United Nations system as a multinational corporate enterprise with several subsidiaries. With that perspective, he prescribes a series of Western-style management studies and "downsizing." Especially offensive is the litany of "obsolescent, inefficient, redundant, and corrupt branches [existing] sometimes solely to keep an outdated bureaucracy in business." Such unfair characterizations run counter to the author's own advice when he says, "bashing the UN is not what's needed."

The author undermines his essay by citing issues that should have priority for someone heading an institution with "peace" in its title. He notes "one person's obsolescence is another's vital needs." Those "vital needs" reflect different definitions and dimensions for societies seeking a "culture of peace." An academic friend comments: "Is it not the task of the peacebuilder to find ways to weave together - through a political process - this diversity of meanings? Or is it the goal of a peacebuilder simply to build neat organizations which can be quickly comprehended?" I believe that the World Peace Foundation can be more constructive if it wishes to encourage US participation in global institutions that are responsive to diverse needs.

John E. Fobes

Asheville, N.C.

Concerning the Dec. 11 (World Edition, Dec. 13-19) opinion-page article, "The US Will Not Get a Secretary-General Made to Order": It is unfortunate that a country such as the United States, a long-time linchpin of the UN, should now stoop to playing the politics of withholding. That the political ambitions of this country have become more important than an evenhanded UN speaks very poorly of the present US administration.

If the US is again to be recognized as a great nation it must exercise restraint. I would wonder, however, if Mr. Clinton or the US Congress can do such a thing.

Norman Streeter

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Peace is now

The paired essays, "Nuclear Weapons: Time to Phase Them Out?" Dec. 18 (World Edition, Dec. 20-26) make some good points. Certain larger questions, however, are not addressed.

The end of the cold war and the explosion of global communications, new democracies, and trade agreements have unified the world as never before. The US, in cooperation with Russia, NATO, and the UN, could simply declare world peace. We could encourage a global agreement to support and strengthen peacekeeping for every nation, using only a fraction of the world's present $650 billion annual expenditure for war.

There would be economic dislocations and loud cries from those now receiving the money, but there is no longer a military reason not to have world peace. If there were other arrangements made for the protection of the US and every other country, the reasons put forward for not phasing out nuclear weapons would disappear. Just this year, the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.

Times have changed. We have the historic chance to create the conditions under which nuclear weapons can be eliminated.

Hank Stone

Ionia, N.Y.


Regarding the Dec. 31 (World Edition, Jan. 3-9) Page 1 article, "America Taps Religious Roots in Year of Spiritual Questing": Plaudits for a piece with such breadth and thoroughness on such an intangible subject. Why not make this review an annual fixture? Also, why not increase the number of Monitor commentaries on Americans' engagement with issues of spirit and faith? One such article might examine the increasingly loose usage of the word "spiritual."

P. Taylor


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