The Relations of the United States and the United Nations
The history of the US’s relationship with the UN is complex, seeming to vacillate between warm cooperation and abject disdain as the national interests of the US and the rest of the world, and the short- and long-term interests of the US itself, align or oppose each other. The UN was originally the vision of US president Franklin Roosevelt and the product of US State Department planning and diplomacy. It was designed to forward the national interests of its strongest members, the P-5, to reflect and channel the geopolitical power structure rather than twist it into an unnatural and unsustainable hierarchy of weak nations trying to dominate strong. Because the Charter is based in a realist view of the world, during the Cold War, when the national interests of the two world powers diverged, the UN was paralyzed to deal with any of the world’s conflicts. When the Cold War ended it gave rise to the first war that should have been authorized by the Security Council—the Persian Gulf War from later 1990 to early 1991. Many hoped for a “new world order” after the success of the Gulf War, but the interests of the US and the rest of the world, primarily the rest of the members of the Security Council, soon divided again. Today, the world is still struggling to cope with the blow dealt to the UN by the US’s use of force in Iraq, including the US, which has not even begun to feel the long-term negative effects of its unilateralism. However, the war in Iraq could have been less detrimental to the UN and the US in particular, and by extension to the rest of the world, if the US had argued that it was acting to uphold resolution 1441 under the authorization of the Security Council. Regardless, the war in Iraq in 2003 has spawned a massive reform movement, a fight for the UN’s survival. One of the major areas of reform must be the Security Council, which has deviated from reflecting the real state of the world and therefore is no longer effectively responsible for the peace and security of the world. Unless the UN can reform in this and other ways outlined by SG Kofi Annan, it will never achieve the lofty goals envisioned by the framers of its Charter, the US will finally forsake it because it will be unable to work in the US’s national interest, and it will sink into the obscurity of history.
American Support for a Realist Charter
The US has powered the UN since its beginnings in the wake of WWII. It began as US President Roosevelt’s vision for “Four Policemen”—the US, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China—to maintain peace in the postwar world. The UN, as Roosevelt saw it, was to unite and channel the strength of these countries. Based on Roosevelt’s vision, the UN was also first laid out in the plans of American diplomats during WWII, and the negotiations over the Charter took place at two American locations.
The Americans put diplomatic power behind their plans during...