Question: Do we need new global institutions?
Peter Beinart: I think we have to begin the long-term process of reconstructing the institutions that . . . that . . . that were built, you know, roughly 60 years ago. And I think in certain circumstances we need to build whole news institutions. That is very difficult business and it will involve lots of frustration. Historically if you look at the United States, America has always shown some wariness of being . . . of being fixed into international institutions. We have been jealous of our sovereignty; jealous of our ability to act independently. And in today’s world where America’s relative power, vis-à-vis other nations, is not as great as it was when the institutions of the post-war period were built, the compacts that we will strike will in some ways be more difficult compacts than the compacts that Franklin Roosevelt, than Harry Truman struck. That there will not be an expectation necessarily that we can be as dominant in those institutions as we were, particularly at the beginning at the . . . at the UN, the IMF, World Bank, NATO, etc. But we must strike them nonetheless, and the . . . America’s best leaders have had the ability to convince Americans that in an interdependent world in which we were . . . in which our fate depended on what other nations did, and so we could not isolate ourselves; but in which we did not have the power, or indeed the legitimacy to act in an imperial way, doing whatever we wanted around the world, forcing other nations to bend to our will because there are limits to our power; that in fact we had no choice but to try to build the mechanisms for cooperation. So even though it’s a frustrating and difficult business, I think it’s an urgent business when one looks about trying to find a legitimate way to deal with jihadist terrorism; to deal with climate change; to deal with threats from global public health; to deal with the potential for the kind of dangerous financial instability that we saw in the East Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. So I do think it is going to be . . . It is central to a . . . It should be central to American foreign policy in the coming generation.
Recorded on: 9/12/07