ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives

In This Review

ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives
By Brett D. Schaefer
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2009
400 pp. $34.95

Twenty-six years ago, the Heritage Foundation published A World Without a U.N., a portrait of a severely flawed organization. In this new volume, the think tank has again assembled experts to assess the UN -- and the diagnosis has not improved much. Its activities, budgets, and personnel have continued to expand, but serious reform efforts have failed. The chapters catalog the body's dysfunctions and disappointments when it comes to military intervention, peacekeeping, the environment, human rights, and the advocacy of economic and social rights. Some of the contributors acknowledge the unique role that the UN plays as a multilateral organization with universal membership, particularly in areas such as human rights and public health. Kim Holmes makes a striking contribution in advancing the notion of "smart multilateralism," arguing that U.S. policymakers should engage multilaterally only when it advances well-defined U.S. interests and promotes freedom. One theme that unites the volume is the need for the United States to work more closely with other democracies inside and outside the UN to isolate despotic states while giving greater voice to the American values of markets and freedom. Just how to reconcile this goal with the goal of strengthening global institutions to cope with the world's proliferating economic, social, and environmental problems, however, requires more reflection.

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