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Insights: Politics

As the world's powerhouse, America must take its commitment seriously
Timothy E. Wirth
From the Print Edition:
Dennis Hopper, Jan/Feb 01

(continued from page 1)

In 1999, after a three-year impasse, Congress finally enacted and
the president signed into law the breakthrough bipartisan Helms-Biden
legislation that will repay much of our debt, but requires the United Nations
to meet certain benchmarks before each of three payments is made. This occurred only after seven former secretaries of state (Kissinger, Haig, Vance, Baker, Shultz, Eagleburger, Christopher), the editorial pages of more than
60 major daily newspapers, 18 deans of graduate schools of international affairs, the nation's three largest umbrella business groups (U.S. Chamber
of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Business Roundtable), 117 nongovernmental organizations, and countless others weighed in to encourage an agreement between Congress and the White House.

The Helms-Biden agreement goes a long way to putting the U.S.-U.N. relationship back on track. But, the precedent of using the U.N. as a political football must never be repeated. Recent events -- the fall of a dictator in Yugoslavia, unrest in the Middle East, the Asian financial crisis, the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa -- remind us there is too much at stake in the world to withhold our critical support to the organization best suited to address these issues.

In a shrinking global world where security risks include random acts of terrorism and local or civil conflicts that can quickly flare into regional wars, the U.N. is too important, too vital, to be given short shrift. Our strategic security and foreign policy interests are greatly enhanced by the United Nations and working with other nations. The U.N.'s support of U.S. objectives in the Persian Gulf war and its work to provide the civil infrastructure to support the NATO operation in Kosovo are just two examples.

The United Nations deserves our support, financial and otherwise,
not only because it is in our own best interests, but also because we have given our word. America has a treaty obligation and clear commitment to the U.N. As the world's leader and a nation dedicated to the rule of law, shouldn't we honor our commitment to the United Nations? It is the right thing to do.


Timothy E. Wirth is president of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund. He served the United States as undersecretary of state for global affairs (1993-1997) and was a member of Congress for 18 years (1974-1992).

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