THE NEXT GREAT I.G.O.
Donald Sensing thinks it might be time to let the United Nations fade into the dustbin of history and create a successor organization, citing the uselessness of the General Assembly–where all countries get an equal say despite their obvious factual inequality–and the contentiousness of the Security Council–where any of five permanent members has an absolute veto. While I agree with these criticisms, I honestly can’t come up with a more workable model.
The inherent problem–underlying both of the problems Sensing identifies–is state sovereignty. If we acknowledge as a matter of practice that there is a hierarchy of states then, by definition, the lesser states are no longer sovereign. Likewise, any council of the major powers has to operate on consensus because, being sovereign, none of them is going to allow itself to be outvoted by even a supermajority.
The problem, it seems to me, is one of expectations. The UN is sometimes a useful institution; other times, it is not. States have to reserve the ability to act unilaterally (or in concert with allies) in defense of their own interests (as specifically allowed in Articles 51 and 52 of the UN Charter, incidentally) but also to use the imprimature of the UN when it serves the national interest to do so. This is imperfect, of course, but not such a bad thing.