Table of Contents
The United Nations Must Be Radically Reformed
Stefan Halper, a former White House and State Department official, is a nationally syndicated columnist and an analyst for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.
Summary: The United Nations currently receives billions of dollars each year from its member states and conducts development, aid, and peacekeeping projects all over the world without stringent oversight of either its projects or its accounts. Consequently, abuses range from incompetence to corruption to outright theft. If it is to remain in existence, the United Nations must be reformed to ensure that it is held financially and politically accountable for its actions.
The United Nations is under increasing attack by critics in the United States and other countries. At the heart of the organization’s mounting problems is an almost total lack of accountability, which gives rise to suspicions of wholesale corruption. Existing evidence indicates that corruption and mismanagement go beyond the routine fraud, waste, and abuse of resources that mark all public-sector enterprises.
UN budgets are shrouded in secrecy, and the actual performance of the myriad bureaucracies is translucent, if not opaque. There is no reliable way to determine whether the various and often competing specialized agencies (at least two dozen UN agencies are involved in food and agricultural policy) are doing their jobs, and many...
(The entire section is 8522 words.)
The United States Should Force the United Nations to Reform
Jesse Helms is a Republican senator from North Carolina and chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Summary: The United Nations is in dire need of reform. Its bureaucracy has grown exponentially; its operating costs are too high; it is ineffective at resolving international conflicts; and it has overstepped its mission, threatening the sovereignty of nations. In order to force the U.N. to fix these problems, the United States should threaten to withdraw from the organization if reforms are not implemented. If reforms are not undertaken, the United States should in fact withdraw from the institution.
Not long ago, while accompanying U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright to an appearance in North Carolina, I was asked by a reporter whether the United States should withdraw from the United Nations. It was a valid question, to which I responded, “Not yet.”
A quasi-sovereign entity
As it currently operates, the United Nations does not deserve continued American support. Its bureaucracy is proliferating, its costs are spiraling, and its mission is constantly expanding beyond its mandate—and beyond its capabilities. Worse, with the steady growth in the size and scope of its activities, the United Nations is being transformed from an institution of sovereign nations into a quasi-sovereign entity in itself. That transformation represents an obvious threat to U.S....
(The entire section is 2901 words.)
The United Nations Should Reduce Its Military Role
Jim Wurst is a journalist based at the United Nations and the editor of Disarmament Times.
Summary: In 1992, the secretary-general of the United Nations issued a report outlining an expanded, militaristic role for U.N. peacekeeping forces. U.N. operations in Bosnia and Somalia, which were both failures, resulted from policy changes brought about by that report. The United Nations should retreat from these military-style operations and concentrate on diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.
The United Nations began its 50th year  by reflecting on the wreckage of its experiments in policing the new world order, then taking a deep breath and learning the art of the possible. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali began the year with a report to the Security Council on the third anniversary of his “Agenda for Peace,” the report that set the stage for the peacekeeping trajectory.
The unimaginatively titled report, “Supplement to an Agenda for Peace,” does not directly say the UN has erred; to do so would mean Boutros-Ghali would have to admit to mistakes. His record shows this doesn’t come easily. But he did make a few digs at the Security Council, such as accusing it of micro-managing peacekeeping missions. This led US Ambassador Madeleine Albright to remark that, at least in assessing blame, the report “was a bit off the mark,” adding “I think we have to guard against...
(The entire section is 1186 words.)
The United Nations Is a Threat to U.S. Sovereignty
Thomas A. Burzynski is a researcher at the New American magazine in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was ratified by the United States in 1992. This document threatens American sovereignty and undermines the U.S. Constitution by allowing the U.N. to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States. In an attempt to implement the covenant, the U.N. has falsely accused the United States of violating the human rights of prisoners and has criticized America’s system of government and its Second Amendment protection of the right to bear arms. In order to eliminate the threat that the covenant poses, the United States must withdraw from the U.N. and force the organization to leave the country.
Police brutality was rife, the Government was powerless to intervene and people needed to be protected from torture. In addition, prisoners in jails were subject to cruel and degrading treatment. Immigrants and refugees too were often held in indefinite detention and, in general, those groups were subject to human rights abuses. —United Nations Press Release, February 1995
You might think that the above UN summary describes cruel and inhuman conditions existing under the oppressive regimes in Red China, former Yugoslavia, Iraq, or some other wretched locale. But instead, the press release...
(The entire section is 1782 words.)
The United States Should Withdraw from the United Nations
Andrea Seastrand is a Republican congresswoman from California.
Summary: Since the end of World War II, American foreign policy has been heavily influenced by the United Nations. U.S. involvement in costly foreign entanglements in Korea, Vietnam, and Bosnia were the direct result of America’s ties to the international organization. In order to preserve U.S. sovereignty and prevent the squandering of American money and lives, the United States should withdraw from the United Nations.
For nearly 50 years the United Nations has been the hub around which U.S. foreign policy has revolved. This entangling alliance with the world body and its web of specialized agencies and institutions has resulted in our involvement in one foreign quarrel after another, from Korea to Vietnam to Bosnia. We have paid dearly, in terms of blood, treasure and potential loss of sovereignty, for ignoring the sound advice of our first president, who stated in his farewell address: “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”
Increasing human suffering
In such recent trouble spots as Rwanda, Somalia and Bosnia, the U.N. has not merely proved inept in reducing conflict and human suffering; its efforts have served to increase both. In Bosnia, U.N. policy from the beginning...
(The entire section is 2003 words.)
The United Nations Should Be Disbanded
Richard Gott is literary editor of the Guardian, a British newspaper.
Summary: Many people had hoped that the United Nations would become a relevant force in the wake of the cold war. Since then, however, the U.N. has increasingly been attacked as being a corrupt, wasteful, and ineffective organization. In fact, in its current form, the U.N. is a conservative organization that serves the interests of capitalist countries, and it is incapable of being reformed as a democratic institution. As public support continues to subside, the U.N. is likely to implode—and its demise should not be mourned.
The United Nations, forever bumbling away in the background, has been so much part of our lives for the past half century that it is difficult to imagine the time when it won’t be there any more. Yet all the evidence suggests its days are numbered.
A sustained attack
Many people hoped that the UN would rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the Cold War, but these early hopes have clearly not been fulfilled. Today its very existence is in doubt. As its activities in former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Cambodia have been closely scrutinized, the UN has come under sustained attack—from press and politicians and the public. It is not perceived as ‘our’ UN any longer, but as someone else’s, and ‘those people’, whoever they may be, are now endlessly portrayed as corrupt and...
(The entire section is 968 words.)
The United Nations Can Play an Important Role in World Peacekeeping
Lincoln P. Bloomfield is professor of political science emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has served in the U.S. Navy, in the State Department, and on the National Security Council.
Summary: After the breakup of the Soviet Union, it seemed that the United Nations would be pivotal in reducing cross-border conflicts much like the one in Iraq and Kuwait in the early 1990s. Instead, most of the recent violent conflict is occurring within national boundaries. The world has a responsibility to intervene to end this intrastate violence, and the United Nations should play a large role in this endeavor. The U.N. should focus its efforts on preventing the ethnic violence and other forms of conflict that threaten world stability.
In the five years from 1945 to 1950 a monumental victory was won over tyranny, a major new challenge loomed, the democracies responded with strategies for the long haul, and a whole set of international institutions was set in motion to perform important pieces of the world’s business. In the five years from 1989 to 1994 a monumental victory was won over tyranny, new challenges loomed, the United Nations (UN) began to cope with them, the democracies were overcome in varying measure by self-absorption, moral flabbiness, and military vacillation, and the prospects were shaken for the kind of reformed international security regime their interests dictate....
(The entire section is 8469 words.)
The United Nations Is a Positive Force
Thomas B. Morgan is president of the United Nations Association of the USA, a national, nonpartisan membership organization.
Summary: The United Nations has been blamed for failing to end the wars in Bosnia and Somalia during its interventions in those countries, though its only mission in each case was to provide humanitarian aid. Those who criticize the United Nations should remember that the U.N. is made up of individual member states, all of whom share the responsibility for failed missions. The U.N. should receive credit for its success in saving the lives of refugees, reducing poverty, and stopping violence.
Give the United Nations a break. For all the passionate and disparate voices decrying its failure in Bosnia, let’s at least note that the role of the United Nations in that beleaguered part of the world was, from the beginning, one of humanitarian relief, not defense of the Bosnian government, and that the role of the world body in dealing with conflicts in the Balkans (or anywhere else) is determined not by some independent, supranational organization but by the 15 sovereign nations that compose the Security Council. Even among these, the decision-making primarily is in the hands of just five nations—the permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), each of which possesses the power to veto any decision.
(The entire section is 865 words.)
The United States Should Support the United Nations
The Defense Monitor is the publication of the Washington, D.C.- based Center for Defense Information, an organization that evaluates the U.S. military.
Summary: The United States has long favored working with other nations to keep peace and enhance international security because this approach imposes fewer monetary and human costs on the United States than do unilateral defense efforts. In the past, the United Nations has served the United States well as a forum for these joint actions. In recent years, however, the United Nations has become mired in bureaucracy and financial mismanagement. The United States must take the lead to encourage the reforms that will allow the United Nations to remain an effective force for international peace.
Fifty years ago on June 26, 1945, 51 war-weary nations led by the United States created the United Nations, entrusting to it the role of maintaining or, if necessary, imposing world peace. This hope for a lasting peace, given renewed urgency by man’s newly acquired ability to destroy the planet with the awesome power of atomic weapons, rapidly faded as the ideological battle between democracy and totalitarianism froze relationships between the two superpowers and their allies around the globe.
Costs of the Cold War
The cost of this 45-year stalemate was high:
• In the 149 wars between the end of...
(The entire section is 2772 words.)
The United States Must Continue to Participate in U.N. Peacekeeping
Madeleine K. Albright is U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The United States must be able to act alone if its security is threatened. However, joint peacekeeping operations through the United Nations cost less, involve fewer American troops, and appear more politically legitimate than unilateral military action. The war with Iraq is an example of how effective joint operations can be, and the United States should continue to participate in such efforts. The United States must oppose those who argue that U.N. peacekeeping is too expensive or too dangerous.
The United States needs a UN that helps address international problems before they grow and endanger our security and economic wellbeing. American support for, and occasional participation in, United Nations peacekeeping operations contributes to that objective.
The UN serves American interests
While the ultimate guarantor of our security remains our capacity to act forcefully and, if we must, unilaterally, United Nations peace operations can also serve our interests. In fact, the more able the UN is to contain or end conflict, the less likely it is that we will have to deploy our own armed forces.
Administrations from both parties have long looked upon UN peace operations as a means for gaining international participation, financing and backing for objectives we support. Today, of the...
(The entire section is 1341 words.)
The United Nations Is Not a Threat to American Sovereignty
Barbara Crossette is a staff writer for the New York Times.
Summary: The United Nations, for most of its existence, has been perceived as a benign, freedom-promoting organization. Some Americans now worry that the United Nations is an alien entity that threatens U.S. sovereignty and security. The United Nations is not becoming a world government and cannot threaten the sovereignty of the United States because it lacks military might and political power.
Overnight, a message was left on an office answering machine at the United Nations. Is it true, a West Coast caller wanted to know, that the organization has changed its motto from “Swords into Plowshares” to “Peace and Security”?
A return call elicited an explanation: In several Biblical passages, the caller said, “peace and security” is a code message signaling the apocalypse. Was the United Nations saying the end is nigh?
Not likely. The United Nations, which hasn’t gotten around to choosing a motto in 50 years, is not very good at predictions either. A meeting announced for 10:30 A.M. might start any time after 11 or 3 P.M. or maybe not at all. Things that could get done on Monday morning are still unfinished on Friday night. And the end of the world could come and go long before any three people in authority agree on how to phrase a news release—which would then be held up in translation...
(The entire section is 1320 words.)
Americans Support the United Nations
In These Times is a left-wing journal of news and opinion.
Summary: A few Americans think that the United Nations threatens to take over the United States. Many others believe that the United States contributes too many troops and too much money to the U.N. Most of these critics, however, are misinformed and vastly overestimate the number of troops and the amount of money the United States gives to the U.N. When they are well informed, Americans support the U.N.’s goals of keeping the peace and promoting democracy.
After the United Nations was founded at the end of World War II, the idea of participating in an international organization as nominal equals with the Communist devil enraged right-wingers. For two decades the John Birch Society, the Cold War granddaddy of today’s paranoid right, blighted the Western and Southern states, where it recruited most heavily, with billboards demanding that the United States get out of the U.N. And now, 50 years after its founding, the U.N. still haunts rightwing groups. Like John Birchers obsessed with an imagined invasion by Russian—or Chinese—troops, militia members today accuse Washington of planning to have the U.N. take over the United States and destroy our constitutional government.
America’s perception of the U.N.
But paranoid right-wingers are not the only ones who seem to distrust the U.N. Indeed, those whose...
(The entire section is 888 words.)