The Future of the Organization of American States

Heraldo Muñoz, Viron P. Vaky
Release Date: October 1, 1993

Almost every aspect of American foreign policy has been subject to reexamination in the aftermath of the cold war. The struggle with the Soviet Union was a prism that shaped our perceptions of all international relationships, including those with the nations closest to us. Indeed, the mix of U.S. interests and goals in the Western Hemisphere probably has changed not only in terms of what it was during any previous period. As a practical matter, in this hemisphere the Untied States has long been what it now is globally, the sole superpower. But its military preponderance did not then mean and does not now mean that it can enforce its will in every nation. Nor does the term superpower turn out to mean that the United States can expect to regain (or sustain), depending on whose numbers you use) its overwhelming global economic preeminence.

After World War II, the Americas, the one area of long-term U.S. hegemony, provided a justification for continuing an ancient habit of sporadic intervention in the internal affairs of neighboring states. Yet. if anything, friends in the fight to contain communism and by the competing demands of the extensive network of American allies.

Today, however, we are at an early state of reassessment for the United States and the role they will play on the region in the post-cold war era. Indeed, we are in the process of learning just what such organizations can and cannot do in a world without the certainties of the cold war. In some cases–NATO is the obvious example–it is not at all clear that a given institution will survive in anything like its previous form. In others–the United Nations clearly comes to mind–a broadened and heightened role in the world is already underway, likely to continue, and perhaps even to expand. And still others,–such as the Organization of American States (OAS)–it may be that the sort of partnership often described in rhetoric now has a chance to become reality.

This volume focuses on the special challenges facing the OAS in the post-cold war era. Its authors identify new opportunities for the institution to extend its reach beyond the limited and often unpopular role it played in the past. But they explain, as well, the significant limitations it still faces: Viron P. Vaky, a former U.S. ambassador to several Latin American countries, examines structural ad procedural issues and offers suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the OAS in hemispheric relations. Heraldo Muñoz, Chile’s ambassador to the OAS, provides an insider’s perspective as he discusses the evolving mission of the OAS and focuses on what he sees as its central tasks: the defense of democracy in the region.