To Turtle Bay He Goes!

As Matt reported below, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee formally approved Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s nomination for United States Ambassador to the United Nations. During his hearing two weeks ago, Khalilzad offered welcome testimony affirming the centrality of the United Nations to American foreign policy objectives. You can read Khalilzad’s full statement here and UN Foundation President Tim Wirth’s enthusiastic endorsement of Khalilzad here.

Highlights from Khalilzad’s testimony are below the fold.

The Vital Role of the UN

The United Nations is an important and valuable institution. Historically, the challenge of creating an effective collective security organization has bedeviled mankind. The United Nations, which was a signal achievement in the great period of international institution building after the Second World War, stands as the most successful collective security body in history. No other such organization has been able to undertake peace enforcement actions comparable to the one in Korea in 1950, to lead scores of peacekeeping missions over the course of decades, to achieve consensus on endorsing such strong actions as the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 or the toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001. In light of this record, I agree with the view of the Gingrich-Mitchell report that an effective United Nations is in America’s interest. As one of the principal architects of the United Nations, the United States placed at the foundation of the U.N. certain fundamental purposes and values – preserving peace, promoting progress, and advocacy of human rights. It is therefore vital for the United States to enable this institution to make the greatest possible contribution to advance those founding objectives.


At the same time, the United Nations has limitations, resulting from the nature of the U.N. Charter, the failure of the members of the Security Council to come to agreements on all issues, and the unwillingness or inability of the U.N. system to confront the problems of corruption and inefficiency. When members of the Security Council cannot come to agreement, action is stymied or watered down. The organization, formed at a time when direct aggression was the principal security concern, has not always found effective means to deal with aggression undertaken through insurgency or terrorism. It has also struggled to cope with new realities that put respect for state sovereignty in tension with the imperative to address security threats emanating from failed states or transnational networks or the humanitarian consequences of massive violations of human rights inflicted by governments on their own peoples. The U.N.’s actions have sometimes been driven by coalitions with a myopic focus on a single issue or applying double-standards in judging the actions of states, particularly in the area of human rights. Also, the United Nations itself has had recent internal failures, including the Oil-for-Food scandal, instances of peacekeeping forces sexually abusing members of the local populations that they are supposed to protect, and weaknesses in management and accountability.

The challenge for the international community is to strengthen the United Nations in those areas where it has proven effective and to address the shortcomings in areas where its performance has been poor. If confirmed, I will put the weight of U.S. influence toward this end. Working with the representatives of other countries and the Secretary General, I will seek to increase the contribution of the United Nations to addressing the central security issues of our times and to make the U.N. itself a more effective institution through needed reforms.