America has had an evolving relationship with the United Nations and the related organizations that have mushroomed up around it in the decades since World War II. After the war, the U.S. found itself as the preeminent military and economic power and decided to support the creation of the United Nations to prevent another world war and promote rights, freedoms, and deeper economic relationships to bolster post-war recovery, representative government, economic growth, and increased standards of living.
The U.S. was both the main financier of the United Nations system and its most influential member. American influence was bolstered by the early membership, which was weighted toward democratic countries. The U.S. was able, with relative ease, to focus the organization on its founding principles and garner support in the General Assembly for policies and positions it favored.
As the membership grew to include more communist countries in the Soviet orbit and newly independent nations with different priorities, the U.S. found itself increasingly in the minority. This sense that the U.N. was turning against the U.S. combined with odious actions like the adoption of Resolution 3379 determining that “Zionism is a form of racism,” mismanagement and growing budgets, American lives lost in the United Nations Operation in Somalia, and catastrophes like the Rwandan genocide soured the American public on the organization. In recent decades, most Americans expressed the belief that the U.N. was doing a poor job in solving the problems facing it.1
Nonetheless, those same polls show that most Americans simultaneously wanted the U.N. to play a major role in world affairs and supported continued U.S. membership in the U.N.2 Seemingly at odds, these views can be understood as hoping that the U.N. can overcome its flaws and fulfill its promise.
Jay Kingham Senior Research
1 Gallup, “United Nations,” https://news.gallup.com/poll/116347/united-nations.aspx