It is not isolationism, much less know-nothingism, to insist that the role of the United Nations —and America's relationship to the world body -- be carefully examined and that the UN's performance be subject to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis," writes Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, in the introduction to Delusions of Grandeur: The United Nations and Global Intervention.
This book, edited by Carpenter, includes 18 essays, all of which were presented at an October 1996 Cato Institute conference. The contributors examine a number of issues, including the United Nations as peacemaker and peacekeeper, the UN's social and environmental agenda, and the UN's role in economic development.
In his essay on the rise and fall of the UN, John Bolton, who served in the Reagan and both Bush administrations, acknowledges the frustrations of those Americans who “simply want to withdraw from the United Nations, believing that it can never really be fixed.” He disagrees with this approach, urging instead a series of targeted reforms. Bolton opposes any changes to the UN Security Council and calls for: a new appreciation for the limited powers of the UN secretary general; a focus on “traditional UN peacekeeping” while avoiding “peace enforcement” and “nation building”; and a move toward “a UN system that is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from the member governments.”
In his essay "UN Military Missions as a Snare for America," Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, argues that the United States has intervened in numerous UN operations around the world at a time, the post-Cold War era, when it should be rethinking its military commitments. "Collective security was not desirable or practical even during Woodrow Wilson's era," writes Bandow. "It has even less appeal as a strategy today." Bandow calls for the president, and Congress if the president refuses to act, to bar American military participation in UN missions.
Similarly, Alan Tonelson of the U.S. Business & Industrial Council Educational Foundation argues that recent presidents have found the UN a useful means for getting the United States into military conflicts without congressional approval. "Since 1994," Tonelson writes, "[President Clinton] has cited the need to assist UN missions or enforce UN resolutions in Bosnia, and more recently Iraq, to justify use of military force." Such presidential actions, Tonelson concludes, are not only imprudent but also unconstitutional.
In his essay "The United Nations and the Myth of Overpopulation," Sheldon Richman, vice president of policy affairs at the Future of Freedom Foundation, argues that the UN has spent a great deal of energy and money on a problem that does not exist. He maintains that food production is increasing, energy supplies are burgeoning, and the global death rate is plunging. The recent famines in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan were not the result of overpopulation but of civil war and state control of industry and agriculture. Had those countries been characterized by different institutional arrangements—"free markets, the rule of law protecting property and contracts, and strict limits on government power," writes Richman--they would have advanced materially just as other countries have.
Other contributors to the volume include former State Department official Stefan Halper; Robert B. Oakley, former U.S. special envoy to Somalia for presidents Bush and Clinton; journalist and former aid official Michael Maren; and Richard Wagner, Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University.