Brent Scowcroft is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general. He served as national security advisor under U.S. presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush.
Brent Scowcroft on
The world now is in the latter phases of what I would call the Westphalian nation-state system. That was a system made up of wholly independent entities who acknowledged allegiance to no higher order than themselves. I think that is now facing increased competition by what I would call the world of globalization, which deals with issues that transcend national borders. More and more of the things that countries, nations, governments want to do for their citizens can't be done nationally. They have to reach out to others.
For most of world history, the bulk of the world's population didn't engage in the political process at all. They lived their own little lives. They lived just like their parents lived. They thought their children would live just like they did. That was the order of things. Now, with modern communications—cell phones, TV, everything—they look out and they look at TV and they say, "It doesn't have to be that way." I think this has given rise to an upwelling of a demand for what I would call dignity.
We have had great success in taming the physical world around us. We have taken natural resources and built a wonderful life out of them. We have not had that success in dealing with the internal aspects of the human being. I would say that the ultimate in ethics right now—I would use the term "dignity," to be treated as an individual who does not belong to anybody and who has certain rights.
In a world of globalization where more and more has to be done in a world community, we need to be thinking, what can we do with the United Nations to make it a more effective transmitter of ethics, among other things?