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

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

consensus in the Security Council. By January 1993 George Bush had moved from his earlier cynical view of the United Nations to the perspectives of its founders.


President Clinton:
The New Moralism and the Demands of Politics

Ironically, popular support for the United Nations diminished after the extraordinary victory in the Persian Gulf. The realization that Saddam Hussein would remain in power and that a lengthy military commitment by the United States and the UN would be needed in the area tarnished the American image of the predicted new world order. The new responsibility of protecting Iraq's minority populations from the central government, the inability of UN inspectors to eliminate Baghdad's military arsenals, and the high costs of a permanent security shield contributed to the rapid diminution of approval ratings for Bush's UN policy.

The quick emergence of other international problems in the wake of the war also diminished the willingness of Americans to pursue an activist agenda. With growing ethnic and political strife in Yugoslavia, the states of the former Soviet Union, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean, the electorate sensed that there might not be acceptable, affordable multilateral solutions. The turning point in public opinion came with the overthrow of the democratically elected Haitian government in September 1991. In spite of U.S. condemnations and its efforts to obtain OAS and UN measures against the leaders of the military coup, the Bush administration found little domestic support for "Gulf-style" actions to remove the objectionable regime. Additionally, the Haitian crisis produced a flood of refugees to the United States, which reinforced the public sentiment that we should stay out of Haiti's political upheaval.

The motivations of and possibilities for American multilateral leadership based on liberal democratic internationalism were being overtaken by domestic politics. George Bush, "unbeatable" in the spring of 1991, found voters increasingly preoccupied with domestic affairs. An apparent recession, coupled with a large budget deficit, refocused Americans away from Bush's successes in foreign policy. There was also a desire to enjoy the fruits of victory in the cold war. Many sought less commitment to world leadership and a reemphasis on solving problems at home. The historically recurrent theme of isolationism experienced a

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