Why was this former assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations so happy - apparently on the eve of a war against Iraq?
Dr. Robert Muller, former assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, now Chancellor emeritus of the University of Peace in Costa Rica, was one of the people who witnessed the founding of the United Nations and has worked in support of or inside the UN ever since. Recently he was in San Francisco to be honored for his service to the world through the UN and through his writings and teachings for peace. At age eighty, Dr. Muller surprised, even stunned, many in the audience that day with his most positive assessment of where the world stands now regarding war and peace.
I was there at the gathering and I myself was stunned by his remarks. What he said turned my head around and offered me a new way to see what is going on in the world. My synopsis of his remarks is below:
"I'm so honored to be here," he said. "I'm so honored to be alive at such a miraculous time in history. I'm so moved by what's going on in our world today."
I was shocked. I thought-Where has he been? What has he been reading? Has he seen the newspapers? Is he senile? Has he lost it? What is he talking about?
Dr. Muller proceeded to say, "Never before in the history of the world has there been a global, visible, public, viable, open dialogue and conversation about the very legitimacy of war." The whole world is in now having this critical dialogue-listening to all kinds of points of view and positions about going to war or not going to war. In a huge global 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 an attack? What will be the consequences? The costs? What will happen after a war? How 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, he noted, is taking place in the context of the United Nations Security Council, the body that was established in 1949 for exactly this purpose. He pointed out that it has taken us more than fifty years to realize that function, the real function of the United Nations. And at this moment in history the United Nations is at the center of the stage. It is the place where these conversations are happening, and it has become in these last months and weeks, the most powerful governing body on earth, the most powerful container for the world's effort to wage peace rather than war. Dr. Muller was almost in tears in recognition of the fulfillment of this dream.
"We are not at war," he kept saying. We, the world community, are waging peace. It is difficult, hard work. It is constant and we must not let up. It is working and it is an historic milestone of immense proportions. It has never happened before - never in human history - and it is happening now, every day, every hour, waging peace through a global conversation. He pointed out that the conversation questioning the validity of going to war has gone on for hours, days, weeks, months and now more than a year, and it may go on and on. "We're in peacetime," he kept saying. "Yes, troops are being moved. Yes, warheads are being lined up. Yes, the aggressor is angry and upset and spending a billion dollars a day preparing to attack. But not one shot has been fired. Not one life has been lost. There is no war. It's all a conversation."
It is tense, it is tough, it is challenging, and we are in the most significant and potent global conversation and public dialogue in the history of the world. This has not happened before on this scale ever before - not before World War I or World War II, not before Vietnam or Korea, this is new and it is a stunning new era of global listening, speaking, and responsibility. In the process, he pointed out, 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 the history of the world are taking place-and we are not at war! Most peace demonstrations in recent history took place when a war was already waging, sometimes for years, as in the case of Vietnam.
"So this," he said, "is a miracle. This is what waging peace looks like." No matter what happens, history will record that this is a new era, and that the 21st century has been initiated with the world in a global dialogue looking deeply, profoundly, and responsibly as a global community at the legitimacy of the actions of a ruler who is desperate to go to war.
Through these global peace-waging efforts, the leaders of that nation are being engaged in further dialogue, forcing them to rethink, and allowing all nations to participate in the serious and horrific decision to go to war.
Dr. Muller also referred to a recent New York Times article that pointed out that up until now there has been just one superpower - the United States - which has created a kind of blindness in the vision of the U.S. But now, Dr. Muller asserts, there are two superpowers: the United States and the merging, surging voice of the people of the world.
All around the world, people are waging peace. To Robert Muller, one of the great advocates of the United Nations, it is nothing short of a miracle and it is working.