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Withdrawing from the United Nations: A Misguided Assault

Withdrawing from the United Nations: A Misguided Assault

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Sarah Margon and John Norris outline why we need the United Nations and why efforts to pull back from this institution are a mistake.
Sarah Margon and John Norris outline why we need the United Nations and why efforts to pull back from this institution are a mistake.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on May 02, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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1Center or American Progress | Withdrawing rom the United Nations: A Misguided Assault
Withdrawing from the United Nations:A Misguided Assault
Multilateral Institution Serves Our National Securityand Foreign Policy Interests While Saving Us Money
Sarah Margon and John Norris April 2011
Introduction and summary
I is remarkable ha lawmakers in Washingon are considering slashing our nancialcommimens o mulilaeral insiuions such as he Unied Naions wih so muchongoing global urmoil. Wihholding unds rom he Unied Naions would ail o reapsignican savings, make i more dicul or our naion o lead, and seriously under-mine our highes oreign policy and naional securiy prioriies. And ye many Republicans hammer away a he imporance o cuting—or a leas condi-ioning—our nancial conribuions o he Unied Naions. Tey are araid our conin-ued engagemen wih he organizaion will lead o a diminished American sovereigny orhey see cuting unds as a ool o press or greaer reorm wihin he organizaion.Bu hose argumens don’ make sense. Hisory shows ha robus U.S. engagemen isacually he bes way o reorm he insiuion. Ironically, cuting unds now also means we are shiing our obligaions ono uure generaions since U.N. membership sillrequires dues even i Congress cus he budge. Resricing U.S. suppor or he UniedNaions ulimaely has a much higher price ag han i does savings as doing so subsan-ially decreases our poliical legiimacy while cosing America money and jobs.2011 has already been a year o much upheaval. Popular revols hroughou he MiddleEas and Norh Arica coninue o grow in counries ha haven’ already given way omajor poliical change. Counries such as unisia and Egyp ha embraced democracy ace hugely imporan and uncerain ransiions. Libya is a war zone. Japan is reelingrom wo consecuive devasaing naural disasers and he hrea o nuclear allou. And Coe d’Ivoire, or he Ivory Coas, remains perilously unsable, which could desa- bilize much o Wes Arica.
2Center or American Progress | Withdrawing rom the United Nations: A Misguided Assault
U.S. orces coninue o draw down in Iraq while he adminisraion works o help ensurehe ragile poliical insiuions will ake hold and uncion. Meanwhile, here is broadrecogniion ha he war in Aghanisan will require arul diplomacy and poliical solu-ions as much as miliary orce.Te Unied Naions reecs he commimen o is member saes o ackle hese enor-mous challenges and i represens a shared undersanding ha i is cheaper and moreefecive or counries o work ogeher oward he same ends.Every day he Unied Naions carries ou he hard work ha is member saes, includinghe Unied Saes, have pu on is already crowded agenda: immunizing kids rom inec-ious diseases ha move easily across borders; running major peacekeeping operaionsin Asia, Arica, and Europe; supporing peace alks; assising reugees and he displaced;promoing long-erm economic growh, developmen, and rade; and even preserving vial archeological sies ha represen our shared heriage.Te Unied Naions is ar rom perec, o course. Bu in recen years srong Americanleadership has resuled in a number o imporan managemen reorms ha make i boh a more efecive and ecien body. I is also becoming a more accounable insiu-ion. Across muliple adminisraions he Unied Saes has played a vial leadership roleo launch reorms ha include he creaion o inernal oversigh oces, an ehics oce,an independen audi commitee, and success in mainaining curren budge conribu-ions insead o raising hem. In addiion, peacekeeping and secrearia reorms under- way now bring abou greaer scal responsibiliy and a more disciplined, harmonizedapproach o criical operaions.
 Due in par o U.S. leadership, a majoriy o he managemen-relaed reorms recom-mended by he 2005 Gingrich-Michell ask orce repor on U.N. reorm have beensuccessully implemened. Sill more are underway.Meanwhile, he debae abou wheher we should coninue o pay our U.N. dues is nonew. In ac, despie a generally avorable percepion among Americans, Republicanshave dused of an old argumen ha is deeply misaligned wih how o achieve ournaional securiy and oreign policy prioriies. Tey have also disregarded he ac hasome 59 percen o Americans suppor he Unied Naions and welcome is abiliy oresolve conics and conribue o inernaional peace.
  And ye he agreemen negoiaed beween Congress and he Whie House only a ew hours beore a governmen shudown in early April 2011 included a $377 million cuo U.N. and inernaional organizaion conribuions ou o some $8 billion ha wasshaved of he oal inernaional afairs budge.
3Center or American Progress | Withdrawing rom the United Nations: A Misguided Assault
Tis means ha somehow Congress overlooked he ac ha a majoriy o 
 Americans—boh Democras and Republicans—agree ha oday’s world is deeply inerconneced and requires a shared approach o address common concerns.Te debae in Congress also ails o ake accoun o a long radiion o suppor or heUnied Naions rom boh paries. Even Jesse Helms, a deeply conservaive ormerRepublican senaor rom Norh Carolina, recognized he imporan role o he UniedNaions. In January 2000, Sen. Helms made a now amous speech beore he U.N. Securiy Council, which made i clear ha he waned America o lead efors o build a more efec-ive and ransparen Unied Naions—no wihdraw rom he enire insiuion.Similarly, Presiden Ronald Reagan said in a 1983 address o he U.N. General Assembly:
oday, at the beginning o this 38th Session, I solemnly pledge my nation to uphold-ing the original ideals o the United Nations. Our goals are those that guide this verybody. Our ends are the same as those o the U.N.’s ounders, who sought to replacea world at war with one where the rule o law would prevail, where human rightswere honored, where development would blossom, where conict would give way to feedom fom violence.
Republican and Democraic presidens alike have suppored he Unied Naions because i is in our direc naional ineres o do so.
Critics are oten quick to denigrate the United Nations as a coven o well-heeled diplomatssipping tea at U.N. headquarters in New York. That stereotype ignores the hard reality thatthe United Nations is a highly operational organization working on some o the most de-manding environments on earth and oten at great personal risk.We are increasingly seeing the United Nations undertake work in a range o politicalenvironments, which sometimes means taking on a tough role that directly impacts theirmission. Sometimes these countries are in the U.S. spotlight and sometimes they aren’t, butthey all pose signicant risk to U.N. staf. Consider that in just a two-week period in Marchand April 2011, the ollowing events occurred:
Seven U.N. staf members and guards were killed in Aghanistan by a mob protestingthe burning o a Koran in Florida.
A Swedish U.N. worker was shot and killed in the Ivory Coast.
A U.N. peacekeeper in Darur was slain ater being abducted by armed men.
A U.N. policeman in Haiti was killed while on patrol.
The crash o a U.N. aircrat carrying both U.N. staf and others in Congo killed 32 peopleon board.
In harm’s way

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