Saying “no to isolation, yes to reform,” President Clinton reaffirmed the support of the United States for the United Nations on Monday, while also criticizing the world body during a ceremony marking its 50th anniversary.
“For all its successes and all its possibilities, it does not work as well as it should. The United Nations must be reformed,” Clinton said. “Over the years, it has grown too bloated, too often encouraging duplication, and spending resources on meetings rather than results.”
In the San Francisco Opera House, where President Harry Truman witnessed the signing of the U.N. charter 50 years ago Monday, the president told delegates and ambassadors that the U.N. should follow his example of streamlining bureaucracy: “We have eliminated hundreds of programs, thousands of regulations. We’re reducing government to its smallest size since President Kennedy.”
Clinton avoided the U.N.’s most difficult current problem, its role in Bosnia, devoting one paragraph in his 35-minute speech to its peacekeeping mission.
The 22,400 U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia have been assailed by both combatants and civilians as ineffective and have frequently been held hostage or fallen victim to snipers’ bullets. Most of the soldiers are from European nations, where calls for a pullout are increasing.
The president offered little hope to those who wish for a more active American role in Bosnia.
“We must also realize,” Clinton said, “the limits to peacekeeping and not expect the blue helmets to undertake missions they cannot be expected to handle. Peacekeeping can only succeed when the parties to a conflict understand they cannot profit from war. We have too often asked our peacekeepers to work miracles while denying them the military and political support required.”
The audience sat silently through Clinton’s critique of the U.N. but applauded when he addressed its budget and promised “to work to see that the Unted States takes the lead in paying its fair share of our common load.” The diplomats also applauded Clinton’s rejection of “the siren song of the new isolationists.”
“Turning our back on the U.N. and going it alone will lead to far more economic, political and military burdens on our people in the future and would ignore the lessons of our own history,” he said. Citing President Franklin Roosevelt’s “quarantining” of aggression in 1937, Clinton said, “Today we should quarantine the terrorists, the terrorist groups and the nations that support terrorism.”
He earlier expressed “outrage” at the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Most of Clinton’s speech praised the U.N. and the 800 delegates from 49 nations who formed the U.N. charter here 50 years ago.