What "international order"? Move the UN to Detroit

"Things are gonna slide, slide in all directions." — Leonard Cohen, "The Future"

As President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney's invasion of Iraq rose to seal America's fateful fall from grace, I made the suggestion to a few Vermonters that they might, citing President Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions, not participate. Instead, Vermont could join the "international order" by sending its own representative to the United Nations.

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John Kenneth Galbraith, just short of 100 years old and still at his desk at Harvard University, thought the U.N. idea "wonderfully to the good." Yesterday in The New York Times, Michael McFaul, formerly President Obama's ambassador to Russia, wrote: "Since the late Gorbachev-Reagan years, the era was defined by zigzags of cooperation and disputes between Russia and the West, but always with an underlying sense that Russia was gradually joining the international order. No more."

Question: what international order?

The case that we (a Vermont professor, a Maine novelist, Ambassador George Kennan and myself) proposed, that Vermont pose as its own nation-state, brought a challenge to the idea of "international order" as it had been proclaimed by President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sitting together at Yalta in 1945. It was flawed from the start when they placed the "center of the world" in the conqueror's nest in New York.

Real questions begin to rise now as if from slumber, almost 60 years later. The penultimate question being posed today by Quebec, Crimea, Scotland, Venice, Catalonia, Vermont, Texas, five varied Californias and Oregon is what do you mean by "international order"? Which opens directly to the ultimate question: What do you mean by "nation-state"?

When William Butler Yeats felt "Christendom" disintegrate under his feet, he wrote "the centre cannot hold." Today we might say there is no center.

Ben Sasse, the interesting Republican candidate for senator in Nebraska, proposed recently that we move America's "center" — the nation's capital — to Nebraska. A useful idea because Washington is no longer actually "the center" of America. This suggestion becomes appropriate in our time as we have grown from three cities and a forest at our founding in the mid-1700s to a mature collection of indigenous, cultural and regional still-fledgling republics since, filling the entire continent with varied crews as Jefferson intended.

Centralized government out of Washington and centralized economy out of New York might have been the best approach even when federal troops were still fighting Quanah Parker's Comanches in west Texas. But today our "center" is still the center of the 13 coastal, colonial states with the rest of the continent left dangling.

Sasse is right; the more appropriate center would be Nebraska, Kansas or Missouri. Some place in the middle.

Washington was chosen because it was the benign center of contentious heads and hearts of 13 colonies. It was to be the benign Brahma center where opposites would meet without contention and for a long time it was.

New York City with its United Nations was simply the house of the conquistador at war's end. In consideration, today's Asia at war's end, like the American West in 1776 was just a wish, much of it leveled by war's ravages. 

There will be more breakout republics in Europe and elsewhere as people today reject irrelevant packaging imposed on them by other generations and other historic ages. 

But if the world today which rises into the millenium seeks a truer center, Detroit — very much in the middle today of East, West, South and the Great White North — would bring an excellent new beginning.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at quigley1985@gmail.com.