Tonight, the GOP presidential candidates square off in Washington, D.C., at the CNN/Heritage/AEI debate to discuss foreign policy and national security. But so much of U.S. foreign policy depends on how to secure American independence in an age of global governance. How, then, should we think about international organizations?

In his new addition to the Understanding America series entitled “How Should Americans Think About International Organizations?,” Heritage’s Brett Schaefer argues that the United States should determine its level of involvement in international organizations by carefully considering each organization’s effectiveness and alignment with U.S. interests.

Before the U.S. joins an international organization, that organization’s interests must be aligned with those of the U.S. For instance, in 2000, the U.S. did not join the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the court’s jurisdiction interfered with the role of the U.S. judiciary.

But what about assessing an organization of which the U.S. is already a member? If an international organization is not effective, then the U.S. should prudentially determine its level of involvement in it. Similarly, if an international organization begins to undermine U.S. interests, then the U.S. should either apply pressure to force a change or decrease its involvement.

For instance, the U.S. scaled back its support and leveraged force against UNESCO by cutting its funding for accepting the membership bid of Palestinian Authority, an organization often hostile to U.S. interests.

International organizations are not an end in themselves but a means to an end—namely, U.S. interests abroad. To determine its level of participation, the U.S. should constantly reevaluate each organization’s alignment with U.S. interests and ability to fulfill those interests.

Tonight’s debate offers a perfect opportunity to see if any of the primary candidates can articulate a prudent and principled approach to dealing with international organizations.

John Brooks is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit:

Click here to view this post in Spanish at