This paper aims to describe the role of the United Nations in the making of United States foreign policy. In an effort to present the argument that the United Nations has an increasingly smaller role in U.S. decisions, this paper presents a short background of U.N. history, an explanation of the roles, responsibilities and interests of the U.N., and a discussion on the U.N.'s role in U.S. foreign policy making.
The United Nations (U.N.) was created in October 1945, when the U.N. Charter was ratified by a majority of the original 51 Member States (U.N. Cyber Schoolbus, 2004). The main purpose of the United Nations is to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well being of all human beings. It provides the opportunity for countries to balance global interdependence and national interests when addressing international problems, issues and concerns.
Currently, there are 191 Members of the United Nations (U.N. Cyber Schoolbus, 2004). These members meet in the General Assembly, which is a sort of a world parliament. Each country, large or small, rich or poor, has one single vote, however, none of the decisions made by the Assembly are binding. Still, the Assembly's decisions become resolutions that carry the power of global governmental opinion.
The aims of the United Nations are as follows (U.N. Cyber Schoolbus, 2004):
To keep peace throughout the world.
To develop friendly relations between nations.
To work together to help people live better lives, to eliminate poverty, disease and illiteracy in the world, to stop environmental destruction and to encourage respect for each other's rights and freedoms.
To be a center for helping nations achieve these aims.
Roles and Responsibilities of the United Nations
As the most representative inter-governmental organization of the world today, the United Nations' role in world affairs is believed to be the strongest of all international or regional organizations (Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the U.N., 2004). The U.N. has made major contributions in maintaining international peace and security, promoting cooperation among nations, and international development. Today, global citizens still face the two major issues of peace and development. According to Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the U.N. (2004): "Only by international cooperation can mankind meet the challenges of the global and regional issues. The United Nations can play a pivotal and positive role in this regard. Strengthening the role of the United Nations in the new century and promoting the establishment of a just and reasonable international political and economic order goes along with the trend of history and is in the interest of all nations."
In order to strengthen the role of the United Nations, efforts must be made to uphold the purposes and principles of the United Nations (Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the U.N., 2004). The authority of the Security Council in maintaining world peace and security must be preserved and role of the United Nations in development area must be strengthened. To strengthen the U.N.'s role in foreign affairs, it is crucial to ensure to all Member States of the U.N. The right to equal participation in international affairs and the rights and interests of the developing countries should be protected.
However, despite beliefs that the U.N. must be strengthened with the support of major world powers, many argue that the role of the United Nations in foreign policy needs to be reexamined (Carpenter, 1997). "It is not isolationism, much less know-nothingism, to insist that the role of the United Nations -- and America's relationship to the world body -- be carefully examined and that the U.N.'s performance be subject to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis," said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, in Delusions of Grandeur: The United Nations and Global Intervention.
The book looks at numerous issues, including the U.N.'s role as peacemaker and peacekeeper, the U.N.'s social and environmental agenda, and the U.N.'s role in economic development (Carpenter, 1997). In his essay "U.N. Military Missions as a Snare for America," Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, argued that the United States has intervened in many U.N. operations around the world at a time, the post-Cold War era, when it should be reconsidering its military commitments. "Collective security was not desirable or practical even during Woodrow Wilson's era," wrote Bandow. "It has even less appeal as a strategy today." Bandow calls for the president, and Congress if the president refuses to act, to bar American military participation in U.N. missions.
Alan Tonelson of the U.S. Business & Industrial Council Educational Foundation agrees with this point, arguing that many U.S. presidents have found the U.N. A useful means for getting the United States into military conflicts without congressional approval (Carpenter, 1997). "Since 1994," Tonelson wrote, "(U.S. presidents) have cited the need to assist U.N. missions or enforce U.N. resolutions in Bosnia, and more recently Iraq, to justify use of military force." Such presidential actions, Tonelson concludes, are unethical and unconstitutional.
Interests of the United Nations
The U.N.'s main interests are in the areas of security and humanitarian concerns. However, since the end of the Cold War, the United Nations has served U.S. interests over its own when U.S. presidents have insisted it do so (Council on Foreign Relations, 1998). Perhaps these interests also could have been served by developing ad hoc coalitions, but such remedies would not have had the international legitimacy now possessed by the United Nations.
Regardless, the interests of the United Nations, which rely heavily on international respect and support, are in jeopardy, mainly because member states, including the United States, have failed to support the U.N., have given the U.N. responsibilities without the power to carry them out, and have blamed the U.N. For failures in national policies (Council on Foreign Relations, 1998). The United Nations remains, first and last, simply an organization of member states, with little or no independent power, and with its ultimate interests dependent on the unity of the major powers.
Possibly the best way to make the U.N. A better organization and to better serve both U.N. And U.S. interests is to clarify American perceptions of what the United Nations is and is not, and of what it can and cannot do (Council on Foreign Relations, 1998). It seems that, in order for the U.N. To protect its interests, it needs reform, streamlining, and funding. It also requires the major powers to agree on when, how, and where to use it well and properly.
Influence on U.S. Foreign Policy
All nations have a foreign policy to ensure that its needs are represented in the international community (Shah, 2001). However, in the past, particularly during the Cold War, and throughtout history, power has used in the global arena to promote national interests and agendas, often without any regard to the nations and people they may directly or indirectly affect. This often increases resentment against some of these nations who are perceived as bullies, getting away with a great deal of hypocrisy. In the increasingly globalized community, "national interests" are not necessarily good for the international community. It can often be hard to decide when national interests and global concerns should be addressed in a balanced way.
The United Nations, whose main role in foreign policies is to tackle various global concerns, is often abused by those who have the power to act unilaterally when the international community's views and opinions do not agree with their own national interests. This is especially true when it comes to the United States (Shah, 2001).
According to Shah (2001): "The foreign policy of some Western States have been harshly criticized by many who claim that the objective is to simply ensure that they remain as the power and authority in the world and to ensure that the 'new world order' goes along the lines of Western ideals, with little consideration for other cultures."
The United Nations has a vital role to play in Iraq, according to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte, who says that U.N. involvement in countering terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are high priorities for the United States (Washington File, 2004).
According to Negroponte (Washington File, 2004), the United Nations "engages in activities affecting every area of U.S. national interests around the globe." Effective U.S. leadership in the United Nations enables the U.S. "to leverage our influence and resources" and maximize "U.N. capabilities in coordinating international action and strengthening international peace and security."
Since the demise of communism that came with the breakdown of the Soviet Union, U.S. foreign policy has undergone a fundamental change (Barisch, 2004). Since the late 1940s, the international system had been a bipolar one. Starting in 1991, however, the world was no longer bipolar, with the U.S. emerging as world's last…