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Apr 4, 2007 by DAVID SCHRAUB, Assistant Editor
Several top Obama wonk-advisors think no, and now they’re starting to work on the less popular question: “what then”?
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I read that article. It is amazing. I was glued to the screen because it was so well written.
Wow……Obama as the isolationist candidate? Might have to rethink this this election if he ever actually articulates a policy relevant to 2007 timeframes.
First it turns out Guliani is a all for expanding executive powers, now Obama might just want to ignore the world and hope it turns out ok? What happened, I was so happy when I was ignorant….
Oops, I think I misread things. ignore above comment…..
>Power and Lake, two heavyweights in liberal IR circles
I sure hope Obama doesn’t try to appeal to the dupes out there among the nutroots, who wants the USA to be the World’s Social Worker.
> The Obama-as-Messiah motif, while hyperbolic, is also real.
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
DLS: I don’t think there is any plausible world in which Samantha Power (at least–I don’t know Lake as well) isn’t ranked as one of the best, most serious, most thoughtful, and most respected international affairs analysts in America.
And, so we’re clear, Power, Lake, and Obama are all committed internationalists. The question isn’t whether we should withdraw from the world–nobody in this camp is suggesting that. The question is how do we engage the world in a manner that revitalizes currently moribund international institutions.
Follow the money. Tens of thousands of Americans are slowly getting screwed to one that gets rich with these republican, â€œOpen the door and let the mob inâ€?, ultra free market ideologies. Cheap labor in Thailand (or wherever), means fewer jobs in America, but the republican says â€œI got mine screw youâ€? and sticks it to us again. The big shining lie is â€œmore profit from foreign cheap labor means more jobs hereâ€?, and itâ€™s a WHOPPER. We need to stop the bleeding and its pretty clear that republicans canâ€™t do it. Even if they wanted too.
I also believe that President Bush has squandered the efforts of half a century (at least). But I think only so much blame for the state of things can be blamed on him.
The problems from hell have been laid bare. Where do we go from here?
> And, so weâ€™re clear, Power, Lake, and Obama
> are all committed internationalists. The question
> isnâ€™t whether we should withdraw from the world
>â€“nobody in this camp is suggesting that. The
> question is how do we engage the world in a
> manner that revitalizes currently moribund
> international institutions.
The need for, relevence of, even legitimacy of international instititutions is widely open to question.
We may in no way be presumed to be obliged to “revitalize” such institutions (or create new ones) at all.
Not only may we not be presumed to be obliged to â€œrevitalizeâ€? such institutions (or create new ones) at all, to refer to Lake for a moment, there is no “peace dividend” — it not may be presumed that any money saved on military expenditures may be, or worse, should be, without thinking, spent on aid to other nations or increased domestic “social” spending programs instead.
The problem with the UN and some of the other international institutions is that they are, in many ways, cold war relics ill-suited to the modern multipolar world.
The biggest example of this are the five permanent members (with veto authority) at the UN. If the UN were created today does anyone really believe that France warrants a permanent seat?
The threat to the UN will not come from West, but from places like India, Japan and Brazil – countries that are growing powers. The Western powers, however, are not likely to give up their veto rights. Adding more nations with veto power will just ensure that even less substantive work gets done by the UN.
Frankly, I don’t know why liberals are so enamored of the UN. It’s undemocratic, with a distinctly Western bias. It has no oversight, so corruption is rampant and then there are continuing fiascoes like the HRC.
Europe and Japan have been spending their “peace dividends” for the past fifty years under the umbrella of American military protection. They’re completely unable to conduct basic peacekeeping in their own backyard without US military assistance, much less project any sort of power outside Europe. Another huge problem with the UN is that it can’t do anything unless the US is there to kick down the door first. International institutions will get some relevance when Europe and the other first-world nations provide the proper resources. America is tired of being the necessary nation.
I actually agree with you, but I can tell you the reason liberal like the UN, it is because it is the best organization there is at this point for trying to have a semblance of government over the world. It also puts a check, most of the time, on the greater more aggressive countries.
The UN does have ability in some areas. The permanent members tend to use it as a tool to protect and extend their power, especially Russian, the US and China.
The UN, though, has not reached the point of the League of Nations which had no power to do anything, though it is quite close. The security council should be eliminated if the UN is to continue its existence as an effective institution of world society.
Peace Dividend? We did have a massive peace dividend until the republicans threw it away on nothing with their, “tax cut for the rich”, scam.
Now just LOOK at the mess!
A very thoughtful post that leads me to ask this question: would you rather have the US or the UN (as they are, not as you would like them to be) be the world’s dominant power?
My answer is the US. America may have taken a turn for the worse under Bush, but it’s capable of change (there are Presidential elections every four years, after all). The next change may and probably will be for the better.
The UN has shown itself to be incapable of change.
Interesting points. Just a thought. We had League of Nations after WW-I, and then WW-II and the United Nations.
Shouldn’t the comity of nations in it is wisdom think of similar progression and reconstitute the world body in view dramatic changes and new requirements?
Marc Schulman- Well Marc, the UN will never be the predominant power without having the predominant military. No one will. Ours is a tiny little joke that only has the “predominant cost”. In any case, I suspect China will Dominate the world soon enough. Weâ€™ve lost it.
Swaraaj Chauhan- I agree we need a world government. If that government does not have the power to slap down silly self destructive interests, greed, attempted cultural dominance and corruption world wide, it’ll be useless. However I would fight for the first attempt at world government if it was just. I think many millions of people would do the same. Cultural ethnicity, national organizations, governments, religion in politics, ect..would all have to disapear. No one race, nationality, religion, creed or whatever could be allowed to dominate and one language would have to be adopted. Big order Swaraaj.
I don’t know if that is a good question to ask since the UN is a power representative of many nations, while the US is only one. It would be much more relevant to ask ‘do you want the US, Russia or China as the world’s dominant power.’ Of course, given the alternatives most will say the US.
Also, another point, the UN is incapable of change because countries like the US do not want it to change because it serves their interests just fine the way it is. If the countries with permanent seats on the security council would give up those seats then it could change, but that is not going to happen.
IR is a crazy discipline. Attractive to many because of its tendency to “Grand Strategy” but always pretty sparse on the details…and in the fortunate place to criticize every policy and administration as not fulfilling the promise yada yada….
No chance in hell Obama or anyone could “revitalize” the current system in any respect.
The current world order was created only because the previous one lay in ruins. Even so, Bretton Woods could only achieve the IMF and the World Bank…the world trading organization the planners wanted ended up as the hobbled GATT, which was not to become the WTO until a half-century later.
Interesting, though, that the Obama folks are afflicted by “Presidential hubris” so early. This period usually comes after the election, and ends with the first bloody nose in the international arena.
They shouldn’t count their chickens before they’ve been eaten on the primary circuit dinners.
Swaraaj Chauhan said: “Just a thought. We had League of Nations after WW-I, and then WW-II and the United Nations.”
You raise the significant point…one the Obama folks overlook.
All major revisions of the world order since…what…the Congress of Vienna, have come after massive global conflict. That throws all of the pieces into the air, and the major power left have a brief opportunity to revise them.
Margaret MacMillan’s “Paris 1919″ is a good account of one such moment.
It seems Obama’s IR folks either have not read their history, or are seduced by potential access to power. Even at the most favourable points in history, the major powers are VERY limited in their capacity to revise the global order.
In 2008 Obama (or whoever) will have no such capacity whatsoever.
While I agree that the UN has flaws, which might even be big enough to require a new organization. However, I think its clear that some sort of International organization is needed. If governments want to be relevant in a world of international business, international terror networks, and international workers unions they are going to need international cooperation.
I am no fan of the UN in its current form, and question in the near term what could possibly be done to either reform or replace it with a viable alternative.
I also don’t like the idea of giving up our national identity, particularly to any organization that can be so thoroughly dominated by either Kleptocracies or Plutocracies.
That said, it is obvious that the flow of history is trying to take us to One-World government eventually. Tribes became city-states, city-states became small nation-states, small nation-states became countries, countries are becoming regionalized, and eventually the final step would be One-World government.
But that may be a Utopian vision. I think it is, myself, but I am biased my my current world. Certainly the Germanic tribes couldn’t envision Germany (heck, they trouble with the ‘Germany’ concept into the 20th century!).
Conflict may be unavoidable, as egalitarianism does not seem to be a natural state of Man. So, either the system is inherently unstable, or it devolves to totalitarianism to maintain control.
Oh, I don’t know â€¦ Bush has plenty of time to start a World War before ’08.
> Europe and Japan have been spending their
> â€œpeace dividendsâ€? for the past fifty years
> under the umbrella of American military
I know. We would be criticized during the Cold War (familiar, handy target of the Left in Europe), while at our expense we prevented our critics from being attacked. They simply spent their military money on social programs.
You know, don’t you, that they face worse demograpihic problems in the decades to come (they already are starting to experience these, with aging), and their entitlements will prove to be a worse problem than here in the USA?
Meanwhile, under our umbrella,
> Theyâ€™re completely unable to conduct basic
> peacekeeping in their own backyard without
> US military assistance,
and what happens if peaceful means fail in the Balkans? It galled me to hear the obvious, from the Usual Suspect critics: “Well, then, the United States will have to something.” (And then whatever we do would be criticized, of course.)
> much less project any sort of power outside
> Europe. Another huge problem with the UN
> is that it canâ€™t do anything unless the US is
> there to kick down the door first.
Then they can come in and run corrupt programs, sexually exploit the natires, etc.
> International institutions will get some
> relevance when Europe and the other
> first-world nations provide the proper
> resources. America is tired of being the
> necessary nation.
And the object of scorn, derision, slander accompanying the envy.
The whole concept as well as role of international organizations as open to question.
> The security council should be eliminated if the
> UN is to continue its existence as an effective
> institution of world society.
Incredible. The General Assembly is full of clowns and full of ugly, often evil geopolitics (the hatred of Israel is inexcusable and other left-wing follies earn that General Assembly contempt from better people). So many of these nations are nowhere our peers and it’s ridiculous to insist that they are. The Security Council, bad as it is, is sane and sensible compared to the General Assembly It is obviouslly untrue that eliminiation of the Security Council is necessary for UN effectiveness. (That is, unless you want the UN to be a lie and be what it was supposed to be above, but which the General Assembly is.)
If the UN were to be made relevent, the upper chamber (which obviously should still be retained) would be composed of the modern, developed, sane nations, or nations that are approaching this or otherwise are particularly important, depending on what standards are applied. The intial model, fully sound, is the OECD group of nations. To this should be added Israel and then the question arises what other nations such as Japan, South Korea, taiwan, China, India should be added along with Eastern European and Latin American nations depending on level of advancement and development (which means things like literacy, political and other freedoms, self-sufficiency, not merely engaging in public spending of various kinds).
The ideal is that as nations advance and progress, they would be admitted to the upper chamber and one day, long in the future, ideally all nations would so advance and it would (and should only) be then that there would not be two chambers in the UN any longer.
Side issues involve multiple versus single seats in each chamber and how multiple seats would be apportioned (population, level of advancement, gross economic product, economic contribution to the UN) or if the UN would be relocated (Los Angeles, Brussels, Jerusalem, etc.).
> The threat to the UN will not come from West,
> but from places like India, Japan and Brazil –
(and Brazil’s contra-hemispheric analogue, Indonesia)
> countries that are growing powers. The Western
> powers, however, are not likely to give up their
> veto rights. Adding more nations with veto power
> will just ensure that even less substantive work
> gets done by the UN.
Restructuring the upper chamber (Security Council) into something more broad, without vetoes, is the logical solution to this. Basic composition of a modern upper chamber would begin with OECD nations then add Israel, Taiwan (boy, China would like that; too bad), Japan, South Korea, and modern Eastern European and Latin American nations, including the big nations you mention.
Along with no more veto, single votes are fine but multiple seats per nation could be had (at a greater cost to run the organization) or votes could be weighted based on population, economic product or contribution to the UN body, etc.
> That said, it is obvious that the flow of history
and the “destruction of distance”
> is trying to take us to One-World government eventually.
In theory, yes.
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