To Create a New World? American Presidents and the United Nations

By John Allphin Moore Jr.; Jerry Pubantz | Go to book overview

overlord, the Ottoman Empire. In each instance the revolutionaries used liberal rhetoric very familiar to Americans, and, along with many others, Henry Clay, a potential national political rival of Adams, had publicly manifested an interest in providing tangible support to the rebels. The South Americans and the Greeks (the originators, after all, of democracy) were, it seemed, in a life and death struggle to gain their deserved independence from imperial oppressors. Adams wished them well and said we could not and should not do a thing about it. 2

Now, fast forward to our own time, and consider the heart‐ wrenching scenes that can be summoned up in an instant in unfortunate places like Somalia, Bosnia, or wherever CNN mini-cameras can penetrate. 3 It is not surprising that many Americans at any given moment experience two simultaneous if converse sentiments: to stay clear of foreign troubles while at the same time longing to intervene in order to bring relief. The long history of American resistance to becoming involved in European squabbles while nonetheless sending forth to the world reform-minded missionaries (and later eager Peace Corps volunteers) gives evidence of this admirable incongruity. Only with the crisis of World War II did the world, under the guidance of Franklin Roosevelt, institute the Wilson-inspired United Nations, which even now, half a century into its history, remains for Americans problematic. Thus, the scholarly debate about "realists" and "idealists," explicated below, actually derives from discordant sentiments in the very texture of the American historical experience. We must say more later about this polarity, and particularly its connection with the accordion-like attitude Americans have for half a century evinced toward the United Nations.


Dismissing the United Nations

But, first, we need note that there are those who have never shared the recurrent euphoria about the United Nations. Many of the influential

____________________
2
Earle William Weeks, John Quincy Adams and American Global Empire ( Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1992), 21; Ernest R. May, The Making of the Monroe Doctrine ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975), 8-11, 183; Allan Nevins (ed.), The Diary of John Quincy Adams ( New York: Scribner, 1951), 300.
3
Much has been written about the media's impact on foreign policy. See, for example, Andres Natsios, From Massacres to Genocide: The Media, Public Policy and Humanitarian Crises ( Washington, D.C.: Brookings, 1997).

-7-

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