A love-hate affair: the United Nations and the United States have long been ambivalent about each other. But as the UN marks its 60th anniversary, the relationship is more complicated than ever.BACKGROUND
In 1919, the League of Nations was created to promote international cooperation following World War I, but the U.S. never became a member. After it faired to prevent World War II, the League was replaced by the United Nations. In 1945, 50 nations sent envoys to San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden to draw up the UN Charter.
* Critics of the United Nations cite inefficiency, disagreements between members, and corruption as evidence that the organization is fundamentally unworkable. Are examples Like this unique to the UN? Remind students that members of Congress, who are all Americans, often lock horns over critical economic, social, and foreign policy issues.
* Ask students to write a five-paragraph essay in which they explain why they believe the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. should--or should not--remain a member of the United Nations.
* Have students write an essay comparing the UN's failures with its achievements. Ask them to give their conclusion whether failures outweigh achievements, or vice versa VICE VERSA. On the contrary; on opposite sides. .
* Why do you think only 30 percent of Americans say they trust the UN? What recent events may have eroded U.S. support?
* How many students believe the UN is a form of world government? Explain that there is no such thing; the UN is a group of nations whose power is granted to it by its members.
* What are the advantages versus the drawbacks of Ambassador Bolton's skepticism of the UN? Do students think his approach will Lead to reform or further tension?
* The article says some Americans think the UN threatens U.S. independence and security, especially since Sept. 11.
* How have Americans' concerns changed since 9/11, and how does this affect our relations with the UN?
* World military expenditures--about $800 billion a year--would pay for the entire UN system for more than 65 years.
Compare UN expenditures with the budgets of American cities and states at www.un.org/geninfo/ir/ ch5/ch5_txt.htm Key dates in UN history are at www. un.org/Overview/milesto4.
Last spring, President Bush nominated John R. Bolton
John Robert Bolton (born November 20, 1948), is an American diplomat in several Republican administrations, who served as the Permanent US to be the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. What should have been a simple Senate confirmation process exploded into controversy because Bolton, known for being outspoken and blunt, is famous for being critical, even mocking, of the UN.
"The Secretariat Building Situated on Raisina Hill, New Delhi, India, the Secretariat Building is a set of two buildings on the opposite side of Rajpath that are home to some of the most important ministries of the Government of India. in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of has 38 stories," Bolton said in 1994 of the UN headquarters. "If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference. The United Nations is one of the most inefficient intergovernmental agencies going."
Many of Bolton's public statements reveal a deep disdain--his own, and that of many Americans for the United Nations, and for the very idea that the U.S. should continue to pursue international treaties and partnerships there.
While Bush's choice may speak volumes about his administration's own ambivalence toward the UN, Bolton's defenders maintain that someone so skeptical of the UN is the best type of person to reform it. (To avoid a possible defeat of the nomination in the Senate, Bush made a "recess appointment A recess appointment occurs when the President of the United States fills a vacant Federal position during a recess of the United States Senate. The commission or appointment must be approved by the Senate by the end of the next session, or the position becomes vacant again. " of Bolton in August while Congress was on break.)
Americans have long had a love-hate relationship love-hate relationship Ambivalence Psychiatry A clinical complex characterized by Freudian impulses; love-hate is normal for children passing through the 'anal-sadistic' phase of development, in which there is often simultaneous love and 'murderous' hatred toward with the UN, and for the past several years, love has been losing.
"This is the first time, in the most important country, the United States, there has been with people in power a serious ideological disapproval of the whole principle on which the United Nations is based," says Sir Brian Urquhart Sir Brian Edward Urquhart KCMG MBE (born 28 February 1919) is a former Undersecretary-General of the United Nations.
Urquhart was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. , a British-born former UN Under Secretary General.
This year marks the UN's 60th anniversary. It was founded in June 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, with the aim of promoting dialogue among nations and preventing war. There are still many Americans who support those lofty goals. But others see the UN as an affront af·front
tr.v. af·front·ed, af·front·ing, af·fronts
1. To insult intentionally, especially openly. See Synonyms at offend.
a. To meet defiantly; confront.
b. to American independence and security, particularly since Sept. 11, 2001.
Relations between the UN and the Bush administration became severely strained when the Security Council refused to endorse the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. And surveys indicate that the American public's support for the UN, which ran as high as 75 percent during the 1990s, has fallen steadily. In a 2005 Harris Poll, only 30 percent of Americans expressed trust in the UN.
"For some, it's a deep hostility to any international institution that could affect Americans," says Richard Dicker dick·er
intr.v. dick·ered, dick·er·ing, dick·ers
To bargain; barter.
The act or process of bargaining. , director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch in New York. "Others object to an international body that criticizes U.S. foreign policy. For still others, it's a strongly felt fear and suspicion of non-Americans, which lies deep in the United States body politic BODY POLITIC, government, corporations. When applied to the government this phrase signifies the state.
2. As to the persons who compose the body politic, they take collectively the name, of people, or nation; and individually they are citizens, when considered ."
Critics cite the UN's bloated bureaucracy and charge that it's disproportionately financed by U.S. taxpayers. Indeed, since contributions are based on a member state's gross national product, the U.S. pays by far the largest share, followed by Japan and Germany. In 2005, the amount the U.S. pays (including peacekeeping costs) is expected to top $1.5 billion--about 25% of the UN's overall $6 billion budget.
NEW MEMBERS, NEW CHALLENGES
Critics also condemn the UN for giving a platform to tyrants and enemies of democracy. Its 53-member Human Rights Commission--notorious for having human-rights violators like Cuba, Syria, Libya, and Zimbabwe as members in recent years--is seen as a particularly glaring example.
"I think there have been many countries admitted to the UN that do not share our values," says Jeane Kirkpatrick Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick (November 19 1926 – December 7 2006) was an American ambassador and an ardent anticommunist. After serving as Ronald Reagan's foreign policy adviser in his 1980 campaign and later in his Cabinet, the longtime Democrat turned Republican was , the Reagan administration's UN Ambassador from 1981 to 1985. "It's very important to keep in mind that the UN was conceived as an institution with limited membership, and the expectation that most of those members would be democratic states."
Instead, after a stalemate between Eastern and Western powers was resolved in the 1950s, new members were rapidly added to the original 50. Today, 191 nations (virtually every country in the world) belong to the UN. With the expansion, new voting blocs emerged, and the majority held by the U.S. and its allies disappeared.
The General Assembly has often served as a pulpit to condemn the U.S. and Israel. In 1975, for instance, it passed a resolution defining Zionism, the movement to re-establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, as a form of racism. "It was a totally stupid resolution," Urquhart says. "And it made the United Nations, almost overnight, into a non-serious organization in Washington."
Still, the UN has much to be proud of. The Security Council helped defuse de·fuse
tr.v. de·fused, de·fus·ing, de·fus·es
1. To remove the fuse from (an explosive device).
2. To make less dangerous, tense, or hostile: the Cuban Missile Crisis Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, major cold war confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. After the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the USSR increased its support of Fidel Castro's Cuban regime, and in the summer of 1962, Nikita Khrushchev secretly decided to in 1962 and sent troops to secure a cease-fire in the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel. It sponsored negotiations that ended the Iran-Iraq war Iran-Iraq War, 1980–88, protracted military conflict between Iran and Iraq. It officially began on Sept. 22, 1980, with an Iraqi land and air invasion of western Iran, although Iraqi spokespersons maintained that Iran had been engaging in artillery attacks on in 1988 and paved the way for the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. It has helped end civil wars in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, region of Asia (1990 est. pop. 442,500,000), c.1,740,000 sq mi (4,506,600 sq km), bounded roughly by the Indian subcontinent on the west, China on the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the east. , Central America Central America, narrow, southernmost region (c.202,200 sq mi/523,698 sq km) of North America, linked to South America at Colombia. It separates the Caribbean from the Pacific. , and Africa.
And few question the UN's humanitarian efforts. The World Food Program feeds 90 million people a year in more than 80 countries. The United Nations Children's Fund United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), an affiliated agency of the United Nations. It was established in 1946 as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. (Unicef) has reduced child mortality significantly, and the World Health Organization has orchestrated or·ches·trate
tr.v. or·ches·trat·ed, or·ches·trat·ing, or·ches·trates
1. To compose or arrange (music) for performance by an orchestra.
2. campaigns that have virtually rid the world of smallpox and polio.
Indeed, some feel the UN has good reasons to resent its most influential member-state. The U.S. has at times withheld its UN dues as a form of protest, and in 2003, it effectively thumbed its nose at the UN when it went ahead with the invasion of Iraq without the UN's support.
But a wave of scandals has since buffeted the UN, sullying its public image and triggering at least seven separate investigations. One scandal involves the UN oil-for-food program, which from 1996 to 2003 allowed Iraq to sell oil to buy food and medicine. It was later learned that Saddam Hussein Saddam Hussein
(born April 28, 1937, Tikrit, Iraq—died Dec. 30, 2006, Baghdad) President of Iraq (1979–2003). He joined the Ba'th Party in 1957. Following participation in a failed attempt to assassinate Iraqi Pres. had manipulated the program and stolen more than $10 billion. And UN officials are now accused of accepting bribes.
In the last two years, UN peacekeepers and staff gave food and money to local women and girls in exchange for sex in Congo. The High Commissioner for Refugees resigned in the face of sexual-harassment charges. Embezzlement embezzlement, wrongful use, for one's own selfish ends, of the property of another when that property has been legally entrusted to one. Such an act was not larceny at common law because larceny was committed only when property was acquired by a "felonious taking," i. , graft, and cronyism Cronyism
Manhattan Democratic political circle notorious for spoils system approach. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 492] have been uncovered. Some critics have called for Secretary General Kofi Annan Kofi Atta Annan (born April 8, 1938) is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1 1997 to January 1 2007, serving two five-year terms. He was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. to resign.
As American interest in these scandals has shown, critics of the UN don't mistrust it on ideological grounds alone. Many consider the organization to be fundamentally unworkable and a waste of money. As John Bolton once put it, the UN "has been put in a position of hiring ineffective people who do ineffective things that have no world impact, and we [Americans] pay 25 percent of the budget."
Now, even longtime UN supporters are calling for reforms. "I think that corruption in the UN, from a fairly early time, has been more widespread and pervasive than Americans generally expected it to be, and than Americans generally have been willing to confront, and to deal with," Kirkpatrick says. "And I think we have to deal with it in order to make the UN an institution we can respect."
Annan has announced an ambitious reform agenda. He has proposed expanding the 15-member Security Council, which issues binding resolutions and is the real seat of UN power. Since 1945, the Security Council has had only five veto-wielding permanent members--the U.S., Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France--and 10 rotating seats. One proposal would add three rotating members and six permanent members to better represent global power today. Likely candidates are Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Egypt, and either Nigeria or South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. .
"This has been going on forever," says Urquhart, referring to the scandals and the calls for reform. "But the arrangement was the best they could do in 1945, and it's certainly much better than anything we'd put together now."
Daniel B. Schneider in New York
Who Pays the UN's Bills? Each country's annual. UN dues are based on the size of its economy. This year, 46 countries are paying the minimum dues of $19,882. The graph below highlights 2005's biggest contributors. (The rounded dollar figures, shown in millions, do not include additional contributions for peacekeeping missions.] JAPAN $389 MILLION MEXICO 38 REPUBLIC OF KOREA 36 SPAIN 50 UNITED KINGDOM 122 UNITED STATES 440 181 OTHERS COUNTRIES 476 CANADA 56 FRANCE 121 GERMANY 173 ITALY 98 TOTAL DUES: $2 BILLION SOURCE: UNITED NATIONS Note: Table made from pie chart.
Daniel B. Schneider works in the UN bureau of The New York Times.