Political Science

Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is to assess whether you understand what functions the United Nations performs, the authorities it possesses and its limits in seeking to solve world problems. By completing this assignment, you will acquire a better appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations as a tool for global governance and be able to better differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate criticisms of this institution.


Imagine the following hypothetical scenario: you join your family around the table for a large dinner over the Thanksgiving holiday. After eating several helpings of sweet potatoes, your uncle turns to you and says: “So I hear you’re taking a class on International Organizations in college. Maybe you can answer a question for me: what good is the United Nations if it can’t prevent a country like Russia from invading a country like Ukraine? The UN strikes me as nothing more than a useless, bloated bureaucracy that is all talk and no action. I think the US should just pull out of the UN since it is obviously useless for solving global problems, and most Americans don’t even want to remain a member anyway.” How would you respond to your uncle?

Write a two-page memo (double-spaced, 12-inch font, 1-inch margins) which summarizes the response you would give to your uncle. Focus on addressing all the points that your uncle raises about the UN, noting where his criticism is legitimate, where it rests upon a misunderstanding of the power and purpose of the UN, and where it is simply untrue. You do not need to defend the UN in your response, but you should discuss what the UN is capable of doing, what roles it is designed to play in world politics, and what are the limits of its power and authority.

In order to do well on this assignment, you must demonstrate that you understand the power and authority the UN has been given and the limits of that power. You should, for example, clearly explain the role the UN and its various organs is intended to play in preventing war and promoting international security and why the UN was unable to prevent the Russian invasion of Ukraine. You should also discuss whether you think this means the UN is a “useless” organization. You should also address your uncle’s criticisms that the UN is a bloated bureaucracy that is all talk and no action. What elements of this criticism are true? What elements are overstatements or simply false?

Finally, be sure you also address your uncle’s claim that the US should pull out of the UN. Does the US derive any benefits from remaining a member of the UN? Is the UN useless as your unclear claims? How do most American’s feel about the UN (on this point, see the slides from our in-class discussion in week 7)?

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