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November 21, 2007

The Case For Restraint

I don't know who Joseph Nye is listening to that he's still hearing a lot of realists whine about abandoning the UN, but his column seems rather the wrong way to go about answering them. He's right to distinguish the institution's hard and soft power, and right to note that its paralysis isn't endemic to the body but the result of disagreement amongst member states, but that's exactly what the so-called "realists" loathe. They don't think American power should be constrained by disagreements with other states. That's their point.

The answer, rather than clarifying that this is what the UN does, needs to center on why this is a good thing, and how voluntarily restraining our power works to further our overarching interests. Happily, The American Interest magazine has a forum this month on exactly that. And if you don't like reading magazines, the long-awaited Yglesias book has much to say on the topic. But one way or the other, folks need to grow more comfortable with this argument, as it's not only the contemporary dividing line between liberal and conservative foreign policy visions, but it's actually a rather necessary argument to have.

November 21, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

They don't think American power should be constrained by disagreements with other states.

One of the effects of the UN is to legitimize small dictators and give them equal footing with important democracies.
I don't know anyone on either side of this question that is not disappointed with the UN in general. The massive corruption certainly doesn't help. The solution is to dissolve the UN and instead, support a United Democracies and cut out the undeserved power and the international forum supplied to them currently by the UN.

Posted by: El viajero | Nov 21, 2007 12:05:59 PM

The solution is to dissolve the UN and instead, support a United Democracies and cut out the undeserved power and the international forum supplied to them currently by the UN.

Yes, by all means, let's divide the world up to opposing factions. That always works out well.

Posted by: Jason C. | Nov 21, 2007 1:01:29 PM

Yes, by all means...

Or you could continue to support oppressive regimes and give them even more power as you do now.

Posted by: El viajero | Nov 21, 2007 1:04:44 PM

One of the effects of the UN is to legitimize small dictators and give them equal footing with important democracies.

That's ludicrous. I can't even bring myself to guess at the supposed basis for such a claim.

Posted by: Glenn | Nov 21, 2007 1:19:06 PM

I can't even bring myself to guess at the supposed basis for such a claim.

Awfully incurious, then. The general assembly, duh.

Posted by: Senescent | Nov 21, 2007 3:51:40 PM

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