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Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research
National Security: Should the
United Nations Authorize Use of Force?
The #1 responsibility of the United States government is the security of the United States and of the liberties of its citizenry. This is a responsibility the United States government simply cannot cede to a third party, even a membership organization (such as the United Nations) to which the United States belongs.
There are several factors to consider.
1) The government of the United States is elected by the citizens of the United States and holds its authority by the consent of the governed. The United Nations' leadership is selected by the governments of member nations. Individual Americans have no direct voice and have not consented to be governed by the United Nations.
Even if the United Nations were a near-perfect organization with goals and values identical to those of the United States government, it would still be morally wrong for the United States government to attempt to cede its authority to a body not elected by the American people.
2) The security and welfare of the people of the United States is the not the #1 priority of the United Nations -- or even its tenth priority. Under even an idealistic scenario under which the U.N. is functioning extremely well, the U.N. is designed to promote peace -- not liberty. Working well, the U.N. can help provide a mechanism under which international disagreements can be negotiated to resolution short of war, but it is in no position to defend any nation from an external threat. Each nation -- not only the U.S. -- is expected to do that for itself.
3) The U.N. Charter itself recognizes, in Article 51, each nation's inherent right of self-defense.
4) On international force questions, "U.N. approval" typically refers to the approval of the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members. So, "U.N. approval" for a U.S. use of force does not mean "widespread international approval," but, rather, a lack of formal objection from Britain, France, Russia and China. If the U.S. does not have the moral authority to use force without international approval, as the left suggests, how is it that just five of the roughly 200 nations in the world (the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China) have this supposed authority, as long as they are acting in concert? Either international approval is needed for "moral" use of force, or it isn't.
5) Although the United States has, arguably, more influence over U.N. operations than any other single nation overall (not necessarily on any single issue), the U.N. cannot fairly be described as a pro-American organization. It would be insane for the people of the U.S. to put responsibility for the security of the U.S. in the hands of an organization that is not even pro-American.
6) The United Nations is neither competent nor effective. Examples of U.N. failures are legion. Millions -- literally -- have died who needn't have had the U.N. been more competent at meeting its objectives as specified in the U.N. charter. It not logical for us to trust our national security to an organization with a record of breathtaking incompetence.
In short, responsibility for our national defense rests with the U.S government, so the U.S. government must have the authority to act.
The question of whether any use of force is moral must be settled on the circumstances of the use, not on the mechanism used to make the decision.
Issue Date: April 19, 2004