We haven’t talked about international relations in a while. Fortunately, for us, the Ukraine crisis has raised serious questions about the limits of Western power, but also about the usefulness of the major intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) through which we and the West often operate.
Our topic also is another installment in our little experiment in explicitly debating major beliefs of today’s political conservatives. To many people on the right, it is practically axiomatic that IGOs, especially the United Nations, undermine American sovereignty and power and give us little in return. Conversely, I think some progressives view IGOs as important tools for limiting American abuse of its power and forcing us to play by the rules. Most Americans probably are in the middle, viewing IGOs as a necessary part of the modern world but not wanting them to constrain our freedom of action in defending our core interests.
Anyway, I know a fair amount about this stuff. So, on Monday I’ll open us up by explaining what the major IGOs are and what they do, and how our participation in them is supposed to advance U.S. interests. I’ll focus on a few IGOs only, like the UN, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the “IFIs,” international financial institutions like International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bank for International Settlements (BIS), and World Bank. Then, I’ll talk a little bit about issues of American control of these institutions and relate it to the biggest controversies worldwide surrounding their effectiveness and governance.
One point up front: This is not about whether the United States should be beholden to a “world government.” There is no such thing and there won’t be for a long time. It’s about global governance (a verb). Governments have to cooperate to help manage the day-to-day tasks of a globalized age, and to solve its problems. That’s what the IGOs are for. So, even if you don’t buy conservative arguments about the horrors of the UN eroding American power, this still is an important topic. Since we do, in fact, give up at least a little of our sovereignty to the UN, the IFIs, and others, questions about, “what’s in it for us?” are fair game, are they not?
Discussion Questions –
- What are the most important IGOs that the United States belongs to? What do they do?
- How much power do they have over us and we over them? What are different ways to estimate/measure such a thing?
- Do any of the conservative criticisms of the IGOs ring true to you? Implications?
- What are the big issues surrounding the major IGOs these days that relate to our influence over these organizations and their influence over us?
ABCs of IGOs
- What is an intergovernmental organization and what are the few major types of IGOs.? Recommended and very short.
- Which ones do we belong to? About 50 70.
- A few of the biggies:
American Power and the IGOs
A thoughtful liberal debates aTwo thoughtful conservatives discuss their objections to the UN. Good summaries of bothone side’s views of the problems with IGOs in general.
- Making the IGOs stronger will advance U.S. interests in the 21st century, but we have to rebuild them. Long, but I highly recommend.
- What should we do about other, rising nations wanting more influence in the IGOs, which would dilute ours? In the U.N. Security Council and the IMF, for example?
NEXT WEEK: Are Science and Christianity Inherently In Conflict?