The political relations between the USA and the UN have always been fluctuating. After the collapse of the USSR, the country’s influence and involvement in the organization increased, as well as its role in UN peacekeeping operations. Therefore, this paper seeks to discuss the process and reasoning behind the United Nations’ endorsement of the U.S. military intervention in the 1990s.
After the collapse of the USSR, the success of most peacekeeping operations of the UN heavily relied on the presence or absence of the U.S. support and engagement. In fact, after the end of the Cold War, the USA was the only superpower which had enough resources to make any difference in the policy of the UN. The UN had to provide the world with another peacekeeping strategy to respond to new challenges and threats. Human rights violations and conflicts on African and Asian continents were quite disturbing for the UN. As a matter of fact, the trend of peacekeeping actions was mostly influenced by the dramatic rise in the peacekeeper’s deployment to internal wars, most of which were accompanied with a war-ending agreement. Due to the situation of mass human rights violations in some African countries, the UN de facto condoned the use of military force in peacekeeping operations, although one of the main principal of the UN Charter is the principle of non-intervention. General Assembly was the only body of organization which could legitimize the use of military power against the other country in order to maintain peace and security. The USA as the most influencing member of the General Assembly and main financial supporter was able to influence the UN to take military actions in its peacekeeping operations (National Committee on American Policy, 2007).
As a matter of fact, military intervention was justified on the grounds of human rights grounds to varying degrees in Somalia in 1991-1993, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, skeptics still argue that states usually want intervene into other states when it is in their national interests. Therefore, some scholars blame the United States in that they influenced the UN peacekeeping operations and military actions due to their own interest, but not on the ground of human rights violation (Osmançavuşoğlu, 2000).
In 1993, the UN had authorized food delivery to combat famine in Somalia, but was hindered by warlords. The U.S., in order to show its special role in the UN, dispatched troops to assist the effort. Although this operation started as one of humanitarian reliefs, it quickly transformed into calming a civil war. In fact, during the Cold War, Somalia was in the sphere of the U.S. strategic interests; therefore, many scholars argue that the military operation in Somalia and role of the U.S. in it was quite suspicious. The American rationale for a UN resolution of the actions was that intervention was too late, as the political instability in the country had long been taking place (National Committee on American Policy, 2007).
The Bosnia crisis in the 1990s provides an example of a case where the UN peacekeeping efforts were not entirely effective in meeting their objective, mostly because they were late in recognizing the real nature of the conflict. The former Yugoslavia was in critical political situation, where the UN chose not to become military involved. For European states, it was important for the conflict to be regulated, as military instability in the Central Europe would not benefit their national interests. Therefore, NATO forces were involved to stop wartime violations of human rights in a manner somewhere in between the full-blown military intervention and strict peacekeeping, which, in fact, was a violation of the non-intervention principle of international law. As a matter of fact, this situation has demonstrated UN unpreparedness to regulate real conflicts and respond to new and unpredictable threats (Cousens, 2001).
The situation repeated in 1999, when the USA sought the approval of the Security Council to respond to the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. To show broad political support for military intervention, NATO military forces intervened, after the Security Council did not authorize the military force involvement. Such actions of NATO and the USA were not legal, but many UN workers thought that they were legitimate.
After the UN failures of the 1990s, it was evident that as a global international organization, the UN is not always ready to respond to military conflicts. Moreover, without the political approval of the five permanent Security Council members, and without the financial, logistical, and political support of the USA, no peacekeeping operation has ever been successfully completed. A lack of mobility limitations, pre-deployment planning, restrictions on the use of military force, and, of course, a lack of appropriate funding have all influenced the capability of peacekeeping forces (National Committee on American Policy, 2007).
Considering the situation within the UN, the question remains whether the world powers, such as the U.S, will be willing to provide money and resources to fund the future UN missions while they are needed. Despite the fact that the UN represents interests of almost all states of the world, including the USA, which pursue their own national interests, actions of the UN still benefit the United States by acting as a credible interlocutor and distributing burdens. For the USA, development, peacekeeping, and other UN activities contribute to the maintenance of international order and democratic principles. If the USA stops funding the peacekeeping operations, this may threat political and military conflict which may not be beneficial to the United States. Therefore, the USA should continue supporting the peacekeeping operations in order to prevent immense future military conflicts.