It's A Gray Area: Let the U.N. take over world's issues

The largest threat to our nation's safety and security is a weak economy. Looking back throughout history, most of the strongest powers, like the Roman, Ottoman and British empires, were not conquered from the outside. Instead they overextended economically, and that directly caused their decline.

So given our present economic realities, what adjustments should we make in our foreign policy for the future? In other words, what now?

First, under no circumstances should we again retreat to the policy of isolationism that we maintained before World War II. We should notice and take pride that during the decades thereafter, and in our dominance as a world power, the seas have been open to free trade for every nation, and no further world war has occurred. That probably would not have been the case without our involvement, and if we were now to withdraw militarily from the world, those peaceful conditions would probably be threatened.

On the other hand, we should understand that we no longer have the economic strength to be the world's policeman. As such, we should only unilaterally involve our troops and military strength in circumstances that materially affect our national interests. Other matters that do not affect our national interests should and must be left to be addressed by the world community.

What does that mean? Largely it means that the United Nations, with all of its glaring defects and juvenile politics, is still the best alternative to address the humanitarian, terrorist and military threats of the world. The United States should openly and fully do its part in these efforts, but we should let it be known that if the world community does not act, those problems will go unmet.

Thus when there is rape and mayhem in places like Uganda, South Sudan or the Congo, we will not unilaterally send our troops, like we recently announced. Instead we will argue that the world community through the United Nations should respond to those emergencies, with our support.

Parenthetically, the financial ability of the U.N. to pay for these military and humanitarian actions could be strongly augmented by allowing the U.N. to control all of the world's oceans that are outside any country's territorial limits, as well as the continent of Antarctica. That would allow the U.N. to charge reasonable rates to take fish, oil or other resources out of these areas, while at the same time having a tendency to reduce the plundering that is now taking place by Japanese trawlers and others.

In many ways we will also be a lot safer if we leave the general problems of the world to the U.N. because we will stop making so much of the rest of the world mad at us. And it will also have the benefit of allowing us to redirect our own resources to our problems here at home and to our specific national interests around the world.

Yes, Osama bin Laden and his gang directed the 9/11 attacks against us, and we acted properly in responding in Afghanistan to put him down. But most terrorist groups are just as much of a threat to countries like Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Turkey as they are to the United States. So why should those countries not participate equally in responding to those threats?

Besides, even if it was once a good idea for us to act in areas that did not directly threaten our national interests, it is now clear that we can no longer afford to do so. And if some countries object because they are still, for example, selfishly selling equipment to rogue regimes, we should publicly excoriate them for doing so, and hold them up to the public ridicule that they so richly deserve. And yes, some people are concerned about giving the command of our military troops to leaders of foreign governments. But we would always maintain some control over our own troops, if only to call them home if the situation so warrants.

This approach would also allow us to close or at least reduce in size all our foreign military bases that do not directly assist us in protecting our national interests. Maintaining those bases is an enormous expense, and often we only incur the wrath of the citizens of those countries along the way. Instead, let the U.N. take them over if it so desires.

Obviously the United Nations has many problems. But much human experience has shown that if a body is given real authority and responsibility, frequently that body rises to the challenge. So fundamentally this new approach would take new economic and political realities into account and still protect against violence and aggression, while at the same time securing our national interests and maintaining our influence in the world. So based upon present realities and practicalities, this is the path we should follow.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "A Voter's Handbook: Effective Solutions to America's Problems" (The Forum Press, 2010), and can be contacted at

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