The United States provides over a fifth of the budget for the United Nation; however, most US citizens are themselves skeptical of the UN. Currently, fifty-seven percent of those polled by Gallup believe that the UN is doing an inadequate job1. Honestly, this figure surprises me—from the rhetoric on TV and the Internet, it seems that a far greater number of Americans believe that the UN is a front for a new world order. Indeed, the skepticism towards the UN has reached Congress—last year, an act to add the United States as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities did not pass Congress. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities arguably does not override any US laws, because it was based on the American with Disabilities Act2. However, opponents of the law saw the pernicious arm of the UN, reaching into American households by changing the laws regulating special-needs children.
The UN Convention seems to be an innocuous act, but plenty of Americans see it as a violation of American sovereignty. In the latest poll by Gallup, not only do people find the UN inadequate to being a word leader, but they are inherently suspicious of the UN’s objectives, with fifty-seven percent of Americans believing that the UN should be, at most, a body that makes policy that nations are free to ignore.
Obviously, the United States’ sovereignty is a critical issue—as the world’s premiere world power, the US wants to be able to act unilaterally, if need be. US citizens, more importantly, believe that the US should be able to act unilaterally. The stubborn, “lone-cowboy” streak from the United States’ Wild West and rebellious immigrant past crops up in its skepticism of a huge government, never mind a government made of other countries. These other countries would introduce policy in which Americans had no input. The city on the hill is not meant to be trifled with.
When Senators went home last year, after having voted on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, they might have encountered some conspiracy theorist who sees the UN as a front for the Freemasons, or for mind control. If they did not encounter such an extreme, they might have met someone who is skeptical of the UN for not understanding American values, needs, and power. Being able to say that they did not support the UN in any capacity is a small step, for the Senator, for clearly declaring how they are free of UN control and focused on promoting US sovereignty.
If even such an innocent act had difficulty passing in the Senate, it is entirely too easy (and sobering) to see how the US is not engaging as much as it could in the UN, despite its huge financial contribution to the UN. Even though conflicts such as Syria seem perfect for the UN, in the end, US actions with regards to Syria were dependent on a couple of lawmakers within the country, and not a worldwide dialogue on what to do. Is this course of action best for the United States? Perhaps. Best for Syria? Even less certain.