The question of how public opinion has caused the United States to commit or withdraw forces is reviewed. The review reveals that various factors determine public opinion, which in turn has become a factor that the U.S. government considers when committing or withdrawing military forces somewhere on the globe. Optimism about progress plays a significant role in the public’s weighing of the cost and benefit of war. If the military machine is not making good progress in their strategic objectives, the rising cost of war begins to matter a lot. If good progress is, being made on the contrary, the rising costs of the war tend to matter less in the public’s opinion.
However, it should be appreciated that the United States is not obliged to respond to public opinion and until recently, the war’s true believers have not been dissuaded by the steady inflow of bad news concerning a war effort’s strategic objective. Nevertheless, good news from the second invasion of Iraq boosted the war effort at various stages albeit temporarily. Good strategic news such as the capture of Saddam Hussein, the killing of the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the holding of the first democratic elections all resulted in intensification of the war effort. The intensification, analysts say, represented public reevaluation of the cost and benefit of the war and the effect it had on government policy concerning the war.
Other viewpoints consider any good news from the battlefront as inherently short term, and hence unworthy of influencing and shaping executive decisions concerning the war. Others consider that the rising human death toll in form of casualties on the battlefield as a more decisive factor. Modern U.S history demonstrates a decline of war support over time as casualties mount. The public opinion stays true to this dissenting trend in the wars in Iraq, Vietnam and Korea, with Vietnam particularly raising a barrage of public condemnation considering the lengthy stay and the numerous American casualties and Prisoners of War (POW’s). In these wars, a steep accumulation of American casualties is the basis of dissent. The loss of casualties on both sides of the war becomes a factor at a point, as was the case in Vietnam.
The sections of the public who are steadfast in their commitment to war invariably derive a deeper meaning for it. The example is mooted of a citizen who voted for President Bush twice in 2000 and 2004 and still supports and endorses the war on terror, with the Iraq invasion as well as the Afghanistan invasion as examples. The citizen’s support for the war may waver back and forth depending on the day but the determination to finish the campaign overrides any dissent. This brand of public opinion more often than not guides the United States in their commitment of troops in war zones as history has vividly shown. In most circumstances, a war started is a war to be concluded irrespective of sways in public opinion.
The question of what role the United Nations should assume concerning the policy framework concerning national security matters in the U.S is analyzed. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) represents the chief organ within the United Nations that assumes the role concerning harmonization of national security policy in various countries, including the United States. The United States, as the world’s superpower demands consensus in the framework of the working relationship between itself and the U.N through the UNSC. As a superpower, the U.S national security policy involves setting up the process to achieve peace and security at an international level. Through the UNSC mandate of establishment of peacekeeping operations in global trouble spots, imposition of sanctions on rogue states and the authorization of military action, the UNSC effectively assumes a partnership role concerning the policy framework concerning national security matters in the U.S.
The role of the United Nations as a stakeholder in U.S national security concerns is a sensitive but timely discussion in a world characterized by ever-increasing multi-polarity and the imminent rise of new (old) great powers. U.N collective security is thought to exist as a concept only because of a parallel U.S global security guarantee in place. It exists largely as a concept given the practical and theoretical shortcomings within the UNSC. The UNSC’s collaboration with the United States should be strengthened since as it is, the U.S security guarantee leaves ‘havens’ of potential conflict based on their jurisdiction, voids that the UNSC should have covered adequately. The potential havens exist since the U.S security guarantees, in descending degrees, security only to NATO allies, close U.S allies such as Japan, non-allies and even some enemies whose territories benefit from the global American hegemony particularly in the seas.
U.N collective security as an ideal therefore, has to be transformed into a working entity that the United States and by extension the world can rely on as a formidable partner in the process to augment national security. Majority of the world is content with paying lip service to U.N collective security as an ideal, platonically, since they do not depend on it for security in all intents and purpose. However, there are regions around the globe where The U.N security umbrella is the last line of order, and hence, the existence of a toothless UNSC organ predisposes these regions to conflict and anarchy which in turn threatens the national security of the U.S and the global community by extension. Regions such as these include the conflict zones of Africa such as the Eastern Congo, Darfur in Sudan and Somalia where modern piracy across world shipping lanes has been the consequence of loose structures for conflict resolution by the U.N.
As observed above, the world faces the prospect of ever-increasing multi-polarity and the imminent rise of new (old) great powers. The economic, social and military rise of The Peoples Republic of China presents the age-old scenario of a new super power rising and usurping the role of the former. This scenario in the past has been a prelude to conflicts and wars fuelled by geopolitical schemes and strategy. A functional UNSC is thus required to work in concert with the United States in the adoption of a peaceful framework to midwife this potentially volatile transition.
The third question demands the contrasting of Article II of the United Nations with an international obligation to intervene in humanitarian crises within the context of national security. Article II states that the Organization and its Members, shall act in accordance to specifically defined principles in keeping with the purposes highlighted in article II. Article I being the purposes of the United Nations. The article states that the Organization is based on the principle of equal standing for all its members in matters of sovereignty. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership shall fulfill in good faith the obligations they assume in keeping with the charter. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that peace and justice are not compromised on an international scale. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner in contravention to the purpose of the United Nations.
It continues to state that all Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations has targeted for actions such as enforcement. The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for international peace. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters, which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the execution of enforcement measures nevertheless.
This article serves to define ‘who’ possesses international obligation to intervene in a humanitarian crisis. Therefore, only the states that have satisfied the requirements outlined possess this obligation. ‘Who has the potential’ to possess international obligation to intervene in a humanitarian crisis is also alluded to. It is important to appreciate the national security interests that are to be safeguarded by Article II. The article clearly spells out the rules of engagement between countries and protects against compromise of countries sovereignty by hostile states or states with sinister agendas that feign humanitarian assistance within U.N statutes as an excuse to invade them. The devastating earthquake in Haiti offers a recent glimpse of powers flirting with the contravention of this article. Brazil, already strategically present in Haiti before the earthquake under U.N auspices frustrates the U.S attempt to control the factors of production in Haiti in order to facilitate humanitarian aid. This jostle raises questions as to the actual intent of Brazil on Haiti. It seems evident that Brazil, in contravention of Article II is not only interested in offering humanitarian assistance to Haiti but also for some other strategic reason that remains unclear to the observer.
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 Emir, Sader. “What is Brazil Doing in Haiti?” June 29, 2004, http://americas.irc-online.org/am/945 (accessed February 11, 2010).