I sometimes think I should write more blog posts about Nation articles. Where else, for example, will you find someone deciding that March 2007 is an opportune moment to attack the United Nations from the left as just another instrument of American power. That’s not the argument I would make, but there’s much more truth to Perry Anderson’s view of the matter than to the Martin Peretz critique of the UN as a Franco-Arab tool for the oppression of Jews or the Charles Krauthammer notion of the UN as a Lilliputian effort to tie down the mighty Gulliver.
The way I see it, the United Nations has long been a central part of the effort to construct a viable liberal world order. Such a world order would serve an enlightened account of American interests, but would also serve the interests of the overwhelming majority of the world’s people. At its best, postwar American foreign policy has been aimed at using our country’s considerable economic and military power to try to create and sustain a liberal world order. Ideally, that view would face equal-and-opposite attacks from the right and the left and thus stay in the driver’s seat. In recent years, however, the Nationish vision of a country that sticks to a fairly strict posture of self-defense has become incredibly marginalized in political and media circles opening the door for unilateral militarism to start governing the country in a consistent way rather than being a present-but-submerged element in a basic sound policy.