David Rieff: “the UN is more a bully pulpit for the promulgation of the high ideals of human rights, equality, and personal and economic freedom than it is a way station on the road to world government (no matter what some conservative extremists in the United States imagine). Indeed, at its institutional core, the UN is an inter-governmental body whose officials, from the most junior staffer to the Secretary General, serve at the pleasure of its member states – above all, its powerful member states. As a result of this profound contradiction between ambition and mandate, the UN often seems to impede the advance of human-rights goals as much as it realizes them.”
Niall Ferguson: “the assumption that power is simply military power: the capability to use force against others. Max Weber once characterized the modern state as claiming a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. In the international sphere there can be no such monopoly. But international power can sometimes seem to depend on monopolizing the most sophisticated means of perpetrating violence. The United States today enjoys the kind of technological edge enjoyed (briefly) by a few West European powers in the nineteenth century, when their possession of ironclad steamboats and machine guns put the world at their mercy.”
Ferguson goes on to argue that the power of the United States can be—but isn't yet—limited, one way being by strengthening organizations like the UN, NATO, and the EU, and another by increasing a country's population faster than the U.S. Ferguson then argues that the relationship between cheap oil and a country's wealth is stronger than the relationship between cheap oil and a country's power. Made plain is Ferguson's skepticism about whether the IMF, the World Bank or even the Internet wield significant power in international affairs. Less-examined, he says, are the roles faith, organizational stamina and other psychological elements play.