NEW YORK — The United States, quick to claim the mantle of “global leadership,” has recently become a rather defensive power. Aware of a relative decline in its global influence, but unwilling to face the implications, the US has chosen to fight a series of petty rear-guard battles to protect its outdated prerogatives (for instance, the “right” to appoint an American as the head of the World Bank), rather than engage in the difficult conversations with allies and emerging powers necessary to prepare for a world not dominated by America.
There’s little political love for the leader who begins this process — our system rewards only short-term, tactical thinking, not realism or political bravery.
Yet the day will come when pursuing foreign policy for domestic consumption will fail, possibly catastrophically. So at the very least, an intelligent conversation should be underway among those of us who don’t have to run for office about what these changes, reforms and sacrifices look like.
A great place to start is the centerpiece of post-war American idealism, the United Nations. Of all the world’s multinational bodies, the UN Security Council remains the most obviously flawed, reflecting the US-centric world of 1945 (or, at best, 1979, when China assumed Taiwan’s seat).
Efforts to bring the Security Council into sync with the 21st Century fail largely because of the veto power held by the “permanent five” nations, or “P-5” in Turtle Bay speak. Thus it remains in the interest of the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China to agree not to agree on any set of new members that should join them at the top table.