by Jill Brown, student at GMU

On the twenty-sixth of March, I had the privilege of attending a lecture and dinner with Ambassador Ahmed Kamal, former U.N. Ambassador to Pakistan. Ambassador Kamal spoke on the promotion and maintenance of peace in the modern world. While I found him and his subject fascinating, I believe he made several generalized statements in his lecture that were erroneous and this concerned me greatly.

It was clear that several of the students gave his speech a great deal of credence, but I was not pleased with the sweeping conclusions he was drawing from his premises. For example, one of the statements he made that colored much of the rest of his speech (and even the dinner conversation) was that young people, those under thirty years of age, ought not pay heed to the counsel of those beyond thirty when making decisions regarding the future of our world. His premise, that young people between the ages of twenty and thirty are at their peak both physically and mentally, supported by examples like Joan of Arc, Chopin, and Keats, was fairly sound. It is true that young people are endowed with a great deal of energy and that the brain seems to function at its peak creativity within this decade; therefore, the younger generation of any age has a great deal of responsibility for making use of this incredible potential. However, his assertion that we, as young people, ought not listen to the counsel of our elders, was, in my opinion, incorrect.

There is much to be said for the wisdom of those who have lived longer than thirty years. I approached the Ambassador on this topic, and he agreed that there are older persons who possess wisdom, but that wisdom is not a directly proportional function of age. I agree with him, naturally, that life experience does not necessarily equate to an extensive acquisition and correct application of knowledge. Nonetheless, I think it is only prudent to listen to previous leaders and then to evaluate that information on the basis of truth, comparing it to the knowledge we possess from our own life experience, education, etc.

In other matters, Ambassador Kamal continued to use a similar pattern of reasoning. He boldly stated that the cause of many of the world’s wars today were not at all catalyzed by religion, but were primarily a result of uneven distribution of resources. While the economic argument is undeniably powerful, I believe it is an example of false causation to assume that religion plays no part in present conflicts. The ambassador made this claim and supported it when questioned by saying that religion in the Eastern cultures is a way of life, not the “accessory” so often put on and off as convenient in the West. While this may very well be true (it is so in my experience), I do not believe this premise can be construed to state that religious differences are ineffectual in conflicts today.

On the contrary, I believe that the disproportionate allocation of resources, ethnic controversies, power struggles among governmental factions, and religious differences all play major contributing roles to the state of war in which the modern world finds itself. As the Ambassador said, we are now facing a situation in which more people have died from the wars following WWI and WWII than in both those cataclysmic events put together. And this leads to the crowning question of the evening: if the United Nations was instituted after WWII to promote the art of diplomacy and decrease the use and reliance upon brute force in settling conflicts, has it done its job? That is, is the UN effectual? From listening to the Ambassador’s personal reporting of world affairs and observing the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the negotiations that occur within the UN board, I must surmise that the UN is in fact, ineffectual.

The idea of having everyone in a round table discussion to deal with problems non-aggressively is an admirable one. Theoretically, the UN is an excellent concept. However, in practice, it is an organization with little power, flawed structure, and an understandably impaired ability to function to its potential. In short, I believe the Ambassador’s observation that the world will likely look much different in the next five decades, with new alliances affecting redistribution of resources and aligning similar ideological and political agendas, is highly accurate.

Having said that, the political, and even geographical, landscape is likely to shift dramatically within my lifetime. As the Ambassador stated, I feel a great deal of personal responsibility in maintaining a global perspective and refusing to become complacent as new policies are developed and implemented. I desire to be active and involved in the movements of the future, and the question I must continue to ask myself is whether I will prioritize my own nation, retaining my identity as an American, or whether I will prioritize the global status of individuals as human beings, seeking the best plans and policies for humanity.