Academic journal article Social Education

The Role of the United Nations in Postwar Iraq: A Lesson Plan Provided by PBS's NewsHour Extra. (Extra)

Academic journal article Social Education

The Role of the United Nations in Postwar Iraq: A Lesson Plan Provided by PBS's NewsHour Extra. (Extra)

Article excerpt


In April 1945, with the end of World War II in sight, representatives from fifty nations came together in San Francisco to create a constitution for what would become the United Nations (U.N.). The primary goals for the organization included keeping world peace, cultivating friendly relationships among nations and promoting human rights and freedoms.

Another ambition was to avoid having the United Nations be powerless in preventing global conflict. This was in response to the inability of the League of Nations, formed after World War I, to stop Germany's annexing of countries such as Austria and Czechoslovakia, consequently leading to World War II.

Currently, the United Nations is projected to be involved in the restructuring of the Iraqi government. How much the U.N. is involved, though, remains to be seen. The United States and other members of the current "coalition of the willing" intend to play a dominant role in Iraq's restructuring, with the U.S. spearheading the process.

Non-coalition nations, though, such as France, Russia and Germany, have much to gain by being part of the rebuilding effort, both politically as well as economically.


15-20 minutes


* NewsHour Extra story (reprinted on page 193, or available online at on the role of the U.N. in postwar Iraq

* student notebooks/journals

* List of questions regarding the article.

Correlation to National Standards


1. Introduction: Begin by providing for the students a rudimentary history of the U.N. Emphasize that a primary goal of the organization was for it to be more decisive than the League of Nations after World War I.

2. Next, have the students carefully read the NewsHour Extra article, either independently or in pairs.

3. Then, have the students work in pairs or small groups to address the following questions: (see below)

4. Lastly, discuss the responses as a class. Allow for some debate over the role of the international community (U.N.) in Iraq's rebuilding and that of individual or coalition nations (such as the U.S. and Great Britain).

Discussion Questions

* What role do you think the U.N. should have in the formation of a postwar government in Iraq?

* Should nations that were not actually involved in the war effort itself have a say in the new government?

* Should the postwar Iraqi government be designed by the U.N., the U.S., or by the people of Iraq?

* Should each group have equal say?

* How much input should Iraq's neighbors (such as Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait) have in the process? Do they ultimately have more at stake than other countries?

Extension idea

After the students have gained a solid foundation on the current role of the United Nations in Iraq's restructuring, assign any or all of the following for either extended in-class activities or for at-home assignments:

1. Make a list of both the positive and negative aspects of an international organization, such as the U.N., playing a significant role in global conflicts (e.g., Iraq, S. Korea, Kosovo, Somalia). Based on your answers, what conclusions might you draw regarding the involvement of an international governing body in world affairs?

2. Explain whether you think individual nations are ultimately responsible to themselves or to the world community. In other words, does a nation such as the U.S. have a responsibility to follow the rules or demands of the U.N., even if they are seemingly at odds with its own policies and/or interests?

3. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has stated that the U.N. should be more involved in the dispensing of humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq than in the rebuilding of their government (see NewsHour Extra article). …

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