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United Nations

General Attitudes Toward the UN

A large majority of Americans believes that the United Nations plays a necessary role in the world and supports US participation in the UN. Large majorities would like the UN to be stronger than it is and support even rather extreme options for giving greater powers to the UN including giving it the power to intervene in the internal affairs of states and having its own standing peacekeeping force. Large majorities favor the US working through the UN more than it does even if this means the US has to accept compromises and would prefer to see the UN rather than the US take the lead in dealing with world issues. At the same time Americans have in recent years shown significant dissatisfaction with UN performance in fulfilling its mission. The mixture of this strong support for the UN in principle and dissatisfaction with its performance leave most Americans feeling lukewarm about the UN as an institution.

The United Nations and the Use of Military Force

Consistent with the UN Charter, a large majority believes that UN Security Council approval provides important legitimacy for the use of military force. Americans show significant resistance to using US force without such approval except in self-defense or when vital interests are at stake. The case of Iraq was complex in that Americans were quite resistant to using force without UN approval, but this resistance was diminished by the argument that the war was an act of self-defense and thus UN approval was not necessary, as well as the classical tendency to rally-round the President once the use of military force commences. Even when it comes to defending other countries from aggression, Americans show reluctance to do so except as part of UN operation. Support is quite strong for contributing US troops to UN peacekeeping operations.

The Power of the UN Security Council to Authorize Military Force

Americans believe the UN Security Council has the right to authorize the use of force for a wide range of contingencies including acting against governments that commit aggression, support terrorist groups, seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction or commit severe human rights abuses.

Reforming the UN Security Council

Americans support substantial reforms of the UN Security Council. A large majority favors additional countries becoming permanent members of the UN Security Council; with majorities favoring adding Germany, Japan, India, and Brazil, and a plurality favoring adding South Africa. Most dramatic, a majority says that the UN Security Council should have the capacity to override the veto of a permanent member, including the US.

Dealing With Iran

Americans favor the UN taking the lead in dealing with Iran's nuclear program. Though a majority endorses the right of the UN Security Council to use force to prevent a country from acquiring nuclear weapons, only a minority favors doing so at this time. The most popular approach is to impose economic sanctions. Nonetheless, a large majority is pessimistic over whether the UN can stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Paying UN Dues

A majority favors the US paying its UN dues in full, including its UN peacekeeping dues, rising to three in four when given information about spending on the UN and UN peacekeeping relative to other foreign policy budget items. Political candidates who favor paying UN dues are viewed more favorably than those who do not.

Empowering the UN in Fighting Terrorism

A very large majority of Americans favors having the UN play a greater role in the fight against terrorism, including strengthening the role of international law and enhancing intelligence cooperation. Overwhelming majorities support the UN Security Council being able to require UN members to allow a UN-sponsored police force to enter countries and conduct investigations, to freeze the assets of suspected terrorist groups, to provide intelligence on them, to arrest them, and if the member country refuses to do so, to send in an international military force to capture suspected terrorists. A strong majority favors using international judicial bodies for trying terrorists.



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