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United States withdrawal from the United Nations

The United States of America has been a member-state of the United Nations since its inception as a supranational entity in 1945. Since the 1990s, amidst the high unpopularity of the UN within the United States, there has been a growing movement for United States withdrawal from the United Nations. Notable proponents, such as Congressman John Duncan of Tennessee, State Congressman Don Bush of Utah, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, Congressman Terry Everett of Alabama, and Congressman Samuel Johnson of Texas (all of whom co-sponsored or supported HR 1146 and HR 7) claim that the United Nations subverts American sovereignty, and claim that many programs by the supranational entity have violated the Constitution, such as the implementation of the International Court of Justice and the Law of the Sea Treaty, both of which the United States does not currently endorse.


Opposition to the United Nations and its predecessor, the League of Nations, has existed from the time of formation. The John Birch Society, an anti-communist group founded in 1958, was opposed to US involvement from the society's beginning. From an early date they had bumper stickers with the slogan "Get the U.S. out of the U.N. and the U.N. out of the U.S.!" Another withdrawal advocate at the time was the National Review, which once editorialized that the UN should be "liquidated".

Alongside legitimate grievances, some groups have resorted to conspiracy theories about the UN. The militia movement is noted for disseminating claims that the UN is a supranational world government with plans to take over the United States, the evidence being mysterious black helicopters and coded markings on the back of highway signs that foreign militaries could use during a military occupation.

Public opinion

According to popular polling organization Rasmussen Reports, in the year 2004 a minority of 44% of United States Citizens had a favorable view of the United Nations. This number continued to decline steadily, and two years later in 2006 that number had fallen to 31%. As of 2006 slightly over 1/4th (26% as of 2006) of Americans say "the U.S. should not be involved" with the United Nations, with a moderate majority of 57% still supporting remaining a member. (The 2006 poll was of 1000 adults.) Some ranking leaders of the United Nations have suggested that the United States government has been projecting a negative image of the UN, although this allegation is denied by the US. The popularity of the United Nations in the United States continues to decline to this day. Few observers expect the "U.S. out of U.N. (a pun on the initials for the United States and the pronoun "us") movement to result in the US actually withdrawing for the foreseeable future. The appointment of John R. Bolton, who had been a vocal critic of the United Nations, as US Ambassador in July 2005 was generally viewed as an indication that the George W. Bush administration was skeptical of the merits of the UN. Some Controversy occurred in 1992 when US Army medic Michael New protested the United Nations by refusing to wear the UN insignia on his uniform during a peacekeeping mission to Macedonia. Michael New faced a court martial and was subsequently discharged for his disobedience to his commanding officer; to this day he still has the belief that he was correct to refuse service under the United Nations.


In 1997 legislation H.R.1146 was introduced in the United States House of Representatives under the label "American Sovereignty Restoration Act". In addition to withdrawal, the bill also proposed expelling the United Nations Headquarters from its territory within the City of New York and no longer providing the large plurality of funds which the US contributes to the UN annually.

The bill was met with minimal support. Further legislation has been suggested, although none has been organized in the form of a comprehensive bill. H.R.1146 has been introduced annually by the same congressmen since 1997, most recently in 2007. On January 19, 1995 another separate legislation labeled "The National Security Revitalization Act" was introduced by Congressman Don Bush

It was similar in form to bill H.R. 1146, although it had far more provisions such as a reaffirmation of the US support for NATO, and was therefore not exclusively a withdrawal bill. Representative Bush claimed "I had about 25 legislators that signed up for it and there was a lot of other support. The leadership in the House kept it from coming out on the floor."


Unilateralism has had a long history in the United States. In his famous and influential Farewell Address, George Washington, the first President of the United States, warned that the United States should "steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world". Many years later, this approach was labeled as Isolationism, but some historians of American diplomacy have long argued that "isolationism" is a misnomer, and that American foreign policy, beginning with Washington, has traditionally been driven by unilateralism. Recent works that have made this argument include Walter A. McDougall's Promised Land, Crusader State (1997) and John Lewis Gaddis's Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (2004). Advocates of American unilateralism argue that other countries should not have "veto power" over matters of U.S. national security. Presidential Candidate John Kerry received heavy political heat after saying, during a presidential debate, that American national security actions must pass a "global test". This was interpreted by Kerry opponents as a proposal to submit American foreign policy to approval by other countries. Proponents of American unilateralism generally believe that a multilateral institution, such as the United Nations, is morally suspect because, they argue, it treats non-democratic, and even despotic, regimes as being as legitimate as democratic countries, and withdrawing from the United Nations would be a symbolic move at further distancing the United States from foreign control.

Arguments for withdrawal

The relevance of the UN in the modern world is questioned by its critics, to which it is seen as nonproductive, morally and practically. This in part stems from a desire to ensure that sovereignty stays with national bodies, and not be yielded to any sort of extranational organization. Another possible reason for this dissent is its use as a negotiation tactic; by threatening to walk out, the US is voicing its displeasure and putting pressure on the UN to address US concerns and interests. Yet another motivation is dismay at the perceived failure of the UN to fulfill its goals in such areas as peacekeeping and human rights.

Arguments against withdrawal

Opponents of withdrawal cite that leaving the United Nations at this point in time would only serve to decrease the sphere of American influence and Pax Americana around the globe. They argue that the United Nations can be salvaged and reformed, and that leaving would cause more problems than it would solve. They often also argue that the purpose and power of the UN is frequently misunderstood, and that the subversion of sovereignty cited by critics does not actually exist, as the UN can only infringe on national sovereignty in limited circumstances that practically speaking can never be imposed on veto members of the Security Council such as the United States.

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