Wanted: An Engaged U.N.

Americans by wide margins recognize the value of the United Nations to U.S. foreign policy and want the U.N. to play a stronger role in world affairs.

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The Iraq war has not been kind to the notion that the United States should ignore the United Nations by unilaterally launching “wars of choice” without the support of the international organization. No wonder the U.S. public, in a 2006 Chicago Council on Global Affairs and poll, agreed by a 60 percent-to-36 percent margin that the United States should be willing to make decisions within the U.N.—even if that means the United States may sometimes not be able to follow its first choice of course of action.



In fact, the American public is clearly interested in having the U.N. do more, not less. For example, 75 percent in the CCFR poll favored giving the United Nations authority to go into countries in order to investigate violations of human rights. Seventy-five percent also favored creating an international marshals service that could arrest leaders responsible for genocide. U.N. peacekeeping operations are also popular, with 72 percent in favor of a standing U.N. peacekeeping force selected, trained, and commanded by the United Nations. And 60 percent favored giving the United Nations the power to regulate the international arms trade.


As the General Assembly of the United Nations gathers in New York this week and next, the Bush administration’s new ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Kahlilzad, should heed these poll numbers by working to repair our damaged relationship with the U.N. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle should also consider these poll numbers when they debate whether to pay the $1 billion the United States owes the U.N. in arrears for, among other things, peacekeeping operations around the globe.

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