As Mazower would himself likely concede, there is in a sense nothing new in his case against the global governance project; one of the themes of Governing the World is that while the technology may change (airplanes one day, drones the next), some of the basic issues at stake in arguments about international law really do not change much from one era to another
Less well-known, at least until Governing the World, however, is the extent to which this human rights revolution also wreaked havoc on the intellectual coherence of American internationalists traditionally thought of as liberals.
Yet more than lead the charge for a reform of the world monetary system and the global economy, with all it entailed, the United States in the mid- to late 1970s also found a way to discredit much of the Third World’s anti-American, anti-Western discourse by creating new counter-discourses and institutions that bypassed the General Assembly.
Yet as Mazower has emphasized in his earlier 2009 No Enchanted Palace, this was not our UN. Many of the men who played a crucial role in the formation of the organization, from Roosevelt to Churchill to Jan Smuts to Alfred Zimmern (not to mention Stalin) were keenly attuned to the realities of Great Power politics.
Prognoses of American decline were already in vogue prior to the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, but ever since the wave of such terrorist attacks and protests across the Muslim World in early September, the Obama Administration has seemed rudderless in articulating what it wants, not just in its relations with Muslim-majority countries, but in terms of international order more broadly. Administration advocates for the Libyan adventure like Samantha Power have been nowhere to be heard from in some time.
Explanations of American national security policy can scarcely be more timely. Events in Iraq, Libya, and Syria invite reflection on the propriety of US interventions abroad. Both the Bush administration's domestic wiretapping program as well as the Obama administration's “targeted killing” of American citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki have reflected an expanded executive authority that has drawn criticism. As the country faces new challenges—Iran, Pakistan, China—contemplating the future of its national security policy demands an unambiguous understanding of its recent past.