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March Madness

Imagine for a moment that you are our beloved Coach K. One day, you wake up and decide that you’ve had it with the NCAA and their rules—their unfair calls on Lee, their causing Shelden and Shavlik to foul out game after game. You decide to lead a revolution against the NCAA. You start scheduling matches on the side, booking your own stadiums, coordinating your own schedules. Soon, other ACC teams jump on the bandwagon and start taking over those tasks that used to be the responsibility of the NCAA. But it doesn’t work out quite as smoothly as you thought it would. Three teams show up for a single game, referees can’t decide what fouls are legitimate, and teams sometimes simply choose not to show up for games and say they won anyways. In other words, like Dickie V would say, it’s pandemonium, baby!

This is the kind of pandemonium that has disrupted the efforts of the United Nations for the last decade and a half. I liken the crusading Coach K to individual member nations, who have forgotten the mission of the larger organization. The NCAA, like other collectives, functions because the individual parts believe in sacrificing selfish personal interest for some greater good—in this case, basketball games. In the U.N.’s case, that higher purpose is international security and cooperation, but during the last decade and half, member nations have carved up U.N. dictates and distorted them to their individual interests, overlooking the U.N.’s broader mission.

Naturally, this has led to trouble, with some members ducking financial and military obligations. As a result, the U.N. limped through most of the 1990s and was held partially responsible for failures like Rwanda, East Timor, and Kosovo. Recently, the U.N.’s internal turmoil topped the headlines as the exalted body gave many of its top administrators the boot in relation to last year’s self-described “annus horribilis.” Secretary-General Kofi Annan is looking to hire modernizers who will find new ways to administer collective security.

News flash: we must help him! The United States has been a vocal critic of the U.N. in the past, but for these changes to succeed, we must be fully on board. Ignoring the international community has only led to trouble, and we do not want another Iraq or Afghanistan where we are required to do all the work for less-than-pitiful credit. Furthermore, we simply cannot underestimate the power of collective security—it should, in fact, be the cornerstone of American security policy for the coming decades.

Unlike the bipolar conflict of the Cold War, the new threat to the United States comes from clandestine groups that move silently from region to region. The U.S. intelligence community cannot adequately monitor the globe with the same careful attention that was paid to Soviet missile silos and troop movements. Cooperating with other countries, however, we can vastly increase our effectiveness and “human intelligence.” But countries won’t help if you tell them they’re either with you or against you. And in the post-Sept. 11th world, there’s a much higher price to pay for not finding common ground.

Unfortunately, if the past is any indication, then the future looks bleak for American cooperation. President George W. Bush hasn’t always given the warmest shoulder to the U.N.. And this brand of American nationalism is neither new nor unique to his administration. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under former President Bill Clinton, was quoted in the Monday New York Times as saying, “There are no circumstances where the U.N. can operate in opposition to the United States, and that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the idealists.” This rhetoric isn’t going help move the situation along—and at this critical juncture, there’s no prize for flexing nationalist muscles.

We must give a little to get a little. We have to bite our tongues, support the new direction of the U.N., and allow them to call some fouls on us as well. March is the beginning of a critical time for the U.N., and America must support it so that we can all avoid the madness that has plagued the world.

Jimmy Soni is a Trinity sophomore. His column appears every other Wednesday.



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