Involvement in U.N. questioned

Published 2:10 pm Wednesday, August 13, 2003

By By JO BONNER, U.S. House of Rep.
Of the many issues facing those of us in Washington today, undoubtedly one of the most contentious, is the subject of the continued involvement of the United States in the United Nations.
Many times each year, my colleagues in the House of Representatives and I get flooded with letters and e-mails requesting, and in many cases, demanding, that the U.S. withdraw from the U.N. The reasons given may differ slightly and portray the individual feelings of the writer. However, they all reflect the same sentiment: we should not subjugate our national security interests to any nation or organization that may work to undermine those interests.
While I personally have never been a strong supporter of the U.N., my view has always been that the organization can serve an important role in our ongoing international peace efforts. In recent months, however, I have been dismayed by the U.N. Security Council's aggressive and public campaign against President Bush and the efforts of the administration with regard to Iraq.
In some instances, I have also been contacted regarding the issue of assigning of men and women in the American military to areas which place them under the control of foreign officers who in many cases may be unqualified to lead them. Several times in the past, our troops were put in this type of situation as part of formal military alliances, but in many instances problems arose when trying to put American military personnel under the command of foreign officers.
As of June 30 of this year, however, a total of 530 American personnel were involved in ongoing United Nations peacekeeping operations; 515 of these are civilian police officers involved as peacekeepers in Kosovo and East Timor. Out of a total of six current peacekeeping operations around the globe, only 15 United States military personnel are involved.
The motives for the creation of the U.N. in June 1945 were certainly well-intentioned. Having just witnessed the end of the Second World War, and with it an end to six years of some of the worst atrocities in history, the founders of the U.N. wanted to develop a system that in future years would prevent a repeat of such a devastating global conflict.
However, in the subsequent six decades, the members of the U.N. have changed their role in many respects from that of a peacekeeping organization to an international group of commentators on matters that are the responsibility of individual, sovereign states.
After considering all of the difficulties posed by the U.N. and the Security Council in recent years, I think it is appropriate to reassess our country's role in that organization. Among other things, our government needs to evaluate its utility to the security interests of the United States and its price tag for the American taxpayer.
Above all else, a discussion must be held on the U.N.'s current relevance in the world community and its role in international relations and the peace process.
Having said this, however, I believe Congress should first defer to the executive branch on any final decision regarding our nation's role in the U.N.
I, for one, would be very reluctant to oppose decisions rendered by President Bush or future chief executives regarding the U.N., because I have long felt it is the role of the executive branch and not Congress to determine our foreign policy and role in international affairs.
I do hope, however, that serious discussions are held in the future. Should the United States continue to remain involved with the United Nations and its international peace effort, the American government needs to ensure that any contributions we make " either financially or in terms of personnel " are done so with the greatest level of return benefit for the security of our country.
You can certainly be assured I will carefully consider any and all legislation regarding the U.N.'s role and our involvement as it is brought before the House of Representatives for debate.
Today, I wanted to take this chance to provide you with a reminder of our final meeting. On, Wednesday, August 20, 2:30-3:30 p.m. we will meet in East Brewton in the City Hall Council Chambers.

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