- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | Declaring “the United States is back,” the Obama administration pledged Wednesday to turn more frequently to the United Nations and work with the world body on the basis of decency and mutual respect, rather than condescension and contempt.

“Over the past six months, the United States has taken a fresh look at our positions across the board - including some policies that left many scratching their heads to understand what we objected to, policies that failed to advance our interests or our values,” Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a speech at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs.

Ms. Rice explicitly reversed two of the George W. Bush administration’s main policies toward the United Nations by declaring the United States “would no longer oppose mentions of reproductive health or the International Criminal Court.”

She did not mention by name Mr. Bush or senior officials of his administration, who sometimes subjected the world body to harsh criticism and ridicule.

“We will increase U.S. support to U.N. peacekeeping,” Ms. Rice said, citing the possibility of expanded U.S. contributions of military staff officers, military observers, civilian police and civilian personnel to U.N. missions.



President Obama has frequently praised the United Nations in his public remarks, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a longtime advocate of international cooperation on transnational issues.

“Engaging across the full U.N. membership is more than good manners. It’s also smart diplomacy,” Ms. Rice said.

“The global challenges we face cannot be tackled without U.S. leadership,” she said. “While U.S. leadership is necessary, it is rarely sufficient. We need the effective cooperation of a broad range of friends and partners.”

She cited Washington’s decision to join the U.N. Human Rights Council as one example of a fresh approach by the Obama administration.

“We work for change from within, rather than criticizing from the sidelines,” Ms. Rice said. “We stand strong in defense of America’s interests and values, but we don’t dissent just to be contrary. We listen to states, great and small. We build coalitions. We meet our responsibilities. We pay our bills.”

Last week, Ms. Rice announced that Washington would pay more than $2 billion owed to the United Nations.

“There is no substitute for the legitimacy the U.N. can impart or its potential to mobilize the widest possible coalitions,” she said. “There is no better alternative to sharing the costs and burdens of U.N. peace operations and humanitarian missions around the world.”

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