Americans need to stop looking at foreign policy the way they look at baseball. Baseball's greatest championship may be called be the World Series, but everyone knows it's really American. Likewise, when we think of the "international community," we imagine people that think like us.
That's not always the case.
Nowadays, the international community is becoming more and more international, and less and less American. Less than half the countries in the U.N. are democracies. As the figurehead of the international community, that statistic bears repeating: Less than half the countries in the U.N. are democracies. The consequences are very real. In the Iran deal, for example, there will not be a single American inspector. The technical reason for this is that the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran. The broader reason for this is that the United States is being edged out of the international community it helped to create.
"Globalization coming out of World War II was not globalization," says Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia group and global affairs columnist for Time Magazine, to whom I also credit the World Series metaphor. As Bremmer said in a talk last year:
"It was the United States. The U.S. created these institutions -- the IMF, the World Bank, the United Nations, the Bretton Woods Accord, the World Trade Organization. Those organizations sound global, right? The World Trade Organization. Sounds global. World Bank. Sounds global. World Series. Sounds global. Right? It does. Baseball? Global! We got a Canadian team -- it's global! Right? The World Bank is not global. The World Bank is American. The United States set-up the World Bank to support an American domestic democratic agenda, American values, American priorities, American allies, right? That's how we set these institutions up. And we built them. And it created a lot of wealth. And it helped bring the world out of decimation in WWII. Rebuilt Japan, rebuilt Europe. I'm not saying these were these were bad things, but don't pretend they were global. They were American ... And for decades, the United States has presumed that American's way of doing things is just the way everyone else is going to do it."
His point is crucial: When the United States established these international institutions, they were by America, for America. "Global" was just a substitute for "ours".
Which is why we get so uncomfortable when countries like Russia start attacking ISIS. Even though President Barack Obama has repeatedly called to attack the Islamic State with an international coalition, it's doubtful he envisioned teaming-up with Russian President Vladimir Putin (or the Supreme Leader of Iran).
Right now we find ourselves in a situation where partnering with the international community means allying with Russia and Iran.
Naturally, this creates some awkward situations. Once Russia announced it was joining the fight against ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry's response was tempered and restrained, far from the unconditional love we would usually expect for an international partner:
Even John Kerry is concerned.
Because at the end of the day, truly joining the international community means partnering with our enemies. The "United" Nations has no room for disunity -- right?
Some experts support internationalism, others do not. There are many shades of gray. Yet what we do need to be responsible for is how we think of the international community. Times are changing, and whether we are on the right side or wrong side of history, our lives are becoming increasingly global. In any case, it is acceptable to be weary: We may have created a monster.