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Goodbye UN? « Previous | |Next »
February 3, 2003

An example of the intense dislike in the US for liberal internationalism and its attempts at global governance through the UN can be found in this piece by Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post called, 'U.N., R.I.P'.

Krauthammer's piece goes beyond the weaknesses of the UN policy of containing Iraq to wanting to do away with the UN. Krauthammer lists some of the shortcomings of the UN arising from the struggle for power and national advantage, and after giving a serve to the French, he finishes with this:

"The United Nations is on the verge of demonstrating finally and fatally its moral bankruptcy and its strategic irrelevance: moral bankruptcy, because it will have made a mockery of the very resolution on whose sanctity it insists; strategic irrelevance, because the United States is going to disarm Iraq anyway.

Having proved itself impotent in the Balkan crisis and now again in the Iraq crisis, the United Nations will sink once again into irrelevance. This time it will not recover. And the world will be better off for it."

This tone has no time for multilateralism or liberal internationalism. It assumes that US hegemony, not international governance, is the principle source of the maintenance and management of the liberal world order. It assumes that, as the UN as an international institution does not function in the interests of the US, so the UN is irrelevant.

What really matter is power politics and the historical struggle for relative national advantage, not global governance. It is hard power---military muscle and economic might---not the soft power of cooperation and negotiation that really matters.

Such a view sits in tension with the US commitment to a liberal world order based on free trade, unhindered capital flows and the global institutional architecture of the IMF and the World Bank. This order is primarily a product of of US power or hegemony, even though its continuance depends upon the consent of the other G7 powers.

Its make wonder. Are the Bush neo-con republicans opposed to the liberal social order? Or is it more specific: they don't they like the use of checks and balances on the exercise of US power through the United Nations?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:56 AM | | Comments (4)


Tempting to vote for both, but the latter point, not liking checks and balances on their own power, is what ultimately rules I think. Most of the Australian right seems happy with this state of affairs. Interesting to think where we'd be re: Iraq if there wasn't the UN. Ineffectual as it can be it does offer some restraint to any one country doing what they want. As PrQ said somewhere, the more red tape they're tied up in, the happier I am.

Presumably until its your own house that is on fire, Tim?

The UN is unworkable because your trying to treat apples and oranges as bananas.

That is, assuming that every state should have the same say in international affairs regardless of its internal structure. This means that Syria has as much international clout as New Zealand and Ireq is chairing a disamament conference.

Obviously, I find it impossible to take such an organisation seriousely. If you choose to, that is your perogative, but for mine the UN has as much moral authority and clout as a mouldy grapefruit.

Good argument, Scott. What I don't get is that most people recognise that at a state level, those that function best are those that offer checks and balances on power, those that have the institutional means to separate the various layers of government so no one level can dominate. The UN is a very flawed attempt to apply that principle at an international level. Its failures call for reform, not an abandonment of the general principle. I'm not sure what the crack about houses on fire means, but if you mean would I seek American help if Australia needed it, of course I would. Don't see how that has any bearing on wanting to restrain their ability to launch unlateral war on a pre-emptive basis. But maybe that's not what you meant.

it is unclear whether you are:

anti the UN because it is nothing but a site national politics and interest;

or you are against global governance per se eg.against the IMF as well;

or the IMF is okay because it is run the G7 and so can impose ne-liberal policies on East Asian nations.