Arthur Cyr: Why the UN endures

“It is a new day at the U.N.”

That is what Ambassador Nikki Haley, the United States representative to the United Nations, said on CNN to underscore current criticism and demand for reform of the world body by the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump directed harsh criticism and disdain at the organization during the 2016 presidential campaign. This reflects powerful currents of political and public opinion through much of the Cold War, which from time to time seemed dominant especially in the Republican Party. At the U.N., he used belligerent words against Iran and North Korea.

However, there is no suggestion of withdrawing from the U.N. Practical political realities and economic necessities reinforce our commitment to the institutions involved. If the U.S. cuts financial contributions, that has happened before.

Haley is an experienced senior politician and successful governor of South Carolina. U.N. resolutions penalizing North Korea reflect her skills.

Trump’s appearance at the annual fall session of the U.N., in fact, is the latest important evidence for enduring commitment of the U.S. to the world body as a set of institutions. The future organization was included in the declaration of the Atlantic Charter by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain. This public announcement capped their successful shipboard summit meeting off Newfoundland in August 1941 — four months before the U.S. entered World War II as a declared combatant.

The successor U.S. administrations of Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower reconfirmed strong commitment to the U.N. When Ban Ki-moon of South Korea succeeded Kofi Annan of Ghana as secretary-general, Annan chose the Truman Library in Missouri for his formal farewell address in December 2006.

He selected the venue to highlight contrasts between Presidents Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush, especially the collective security approach of the former and the go-it-alone preferences of the latter during his first term. Truman took the U.S. to war, but as part of a U.N. coalition opposing North Korea aggression. Truman Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and George Marshall devoted enormous time and effort to constructing the Marshall Plan and the NATO alliance.

Frustration with the U.N. is understandable. The global gabfest goes on seemingly endlessly, with diplomats whose relative self-importance seems…

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