Jeane Kirkpatrick

UN Ambassador Confirmation Hearings Opening Statement

delivered 15 January 1981, Washington, D.C.


Senator Percy, Senator Javits, it's both an honor -- and members of the committee:

It is both an honor and a privilege to appear before this committee today, as President-elect Reaganís nominee as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.  My opening statement will be brief this morning, after which Iím prepared to answer any and all questions you may have.

I hope, by way of preface, that those members of the committee with whom I have not yet had the opportunity to meet personally, will accept my apology for my overcrowded schedule, which meshed badly in some cases with your overcrowded schedules, and has forced a delay in those meetings.  I hope to speak individually to each and every one of you following these hearings today and to solicit your advice and counsel.

This committee, it seems to me, is an especially appropriate forum in which to raise the vital questions concerning the American Ambassadorship to the United Nations.  In April 1945, two of the most distinguished former members of this committee; Senator Tom Connaly of Texas a Democrat, and Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, a Republican, served on the delegation to the San Francisco Conference, which founded the United Nations.

The tradition of bipartisanship in dealing with United Nations affairs is an old one.  It was initiated by Franklin Roosevelt, continued under Harry Truman, who appointed a Republican Senator, Warren R. Austin, as his ambassador to the UN in 1946.  President Gerald Ford turned to a Democrat, now one of your distinguished colleagues, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, for his ambassador.  And Republican President-elect Ronald Reagan has asked another avowed Democrat to occupy this post.

In appearing before you today, I therefore, remain deeply conscious of the legacy of bipartisanship, which this committee has guarded so zealously.  As you know, I have not come to this position from a background as a professional diplomat.  The same could be said, of course, for a number of previous ambassadors of the United Nations -- dedicated men such as Adlai Stevenson and Henry Cabot Lodge, Pat Moynihan and John Scally.

My own career, like that of Senator Moynihanís, has been involved primarily with teaching, writing, political life and family affairs.  The committee already has my biographical sketch.  For the last several years, Iíve been Leavey Professor of Government at Georgetown University and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.  Iíve traveled a good deal, and Iíve written a good deal.  I think you have copies of a number of my articles also, before you.

My political background is itself, irreproachably or depending upon the beholder, reproachably bipartisan.  I have been an active Democrat for most of my life, my adult life.  I served in several National Democratic Party posts during the 1970s, have been a co-chairman and a founder of the Coalition for Democratic Majority.  In the past presidential election, I supported Governor Reagan and served as one of his foreign policy advisors, a fact which, doubtless, helps to explain why we meet today.

Mr. Chairman, a number of people have asked me since President-elect Reagan nominated me for this position, what my conception of the United States Ambassadorís job is, and how would I approach it.  And my answer has been, generally, that I would approach it carefully.  Until I assume my new responsibilities, and learn a great deal about them, should the Senate confirm my confirmation, I think that I will do best if I focus on what I think the job is not.  And Iíd like to focus just now on a few things I think this job is not.

I think the United Nations Ambassador does not and should not devise her own foreign policy in New York.  On this point, I agree completely with the views expressed before this committee last week by Secretary-designate Haig when he said, ďThe United States government must speak to other nations with a single voice, the Presidents.  The President needs a single individual to serve as the general manager of American diplomacy.  President-elect Reagan believes that the Secretary of State should play that role, and so do IĒ.  And so do I, let me say.  So does Secretary-designate Haig, and so do I.

I also believe the United Nations Ambassador should not be merely a passive reflector, a ventriloquist dummy, if you will, for policies in which she has no role in formulating.  As a member of the Cabinet of this administration, if confirmed; I expect to make a regular and meaningful contribution to the development of foreign policy of the Reagan administration, which at the UN, it will then be my job to articulate, explain and defend.

I think the United Nations Ambassador also does not ever undermine administration policies, either publically or privately.  I take a firm, strict constructionist view of an ambassador'sí role.  I intend to represent as persuasively as possible, the policies of the Reagan administration without reservations, and effectively.  I anticipate that I will have no problems of conscience or intellect in doing so.

Finally, I think the United Nations Ambassador should seek neither confrontation with other delegates, nor shirk from confrontation when that is necessary to defend American values or national integrity.  I assure you that I will engage neither in bluster and bragging, nor in self-abasement in my dealings public or private with delegates from the United Nations' other 152 members.

The three essential principles of Reagan foreign policy which Secretary-designate Haig outlined here last week: consistency, reliability, and balance, will apply in our dealings at the United Nations, as surely as they apply in all other aspects of American foreign relations.

Mr. Chairman, I believe, as Iíve already indicated to you in our private conversations, that the United Nations has, since its inception in 1945, done very well sometimes and done very badly at others.  Itís mobilized free nations to resist aggression, as it did during the Korean War, and it has galvanized world public opinion against inhumanity.  At its worst, however, the United Nations has been little more than an international forum, whose only official language is doublespeak.  And I'd like to say a word about that doublespeak, if I may, and about speech in general.  I am profoundly convinced that speech is action, and important action.  Speech both reflects and conditions our understanding of the world, and of each other.  We understand the world through words.  One of my goals, Mr. Chairman, as this countryís ambassador to the United Nations, will be to speak clearly and to ensure that others presenting the United States position speak clearly.  I hope to make certain that before this countryís representatives respond to a proposal or initial a document, we are all reasonably certain about what it actually argues or proposes.  Clarity is an essential component of effective communication, and communication is what Iím most interested in.

Both Americaís friends and neutrals and adversaries at the United Nations, and the broad spectrum of countries indeed that one finds there, will find me ready to listen and prepared to learn.  But as you know, Iím also charged with making certain that the limited funds of the United Nations and specialized agencies, of which 24 percent comes from the United States, or came in fiscals 1979, are not wasted.  As Iím sure some of you also know, the General Accounting Offices' August 1979 report on US participation in the UN; suggested that we lacked objectives in our participation in international organizations, and that the benefits that we derived from participation in these organizations are uncertain, in part because of our lack of clear objectives and proposed that further systematic assessment of performance was in order.

We are the worldís largest contributor to the United Nations, and have been since its inception.  And as Secretary-designate Haig indicated in his testimony; and Iíd like to underline, we intend to continue to play a prominent role in that organization.  It is my expectation that those United Nations agencies which demonstrate commitment to human betterment and international well-being, can count on my support, and that of the Reagan administration.

On the other hand, agencies which engage in mischievous ideological struggle against the fundamental principles and interests of the United States and its friends, should know that the patience of the American people is running very thin.  The United Nations, Mr. Chairman, has sometimes strayed a good distance from the idealistic roadmap which its founders established for it after the Second World War.  That older roadmap is still the correct one for those of us in democracies, or those who aspire to be in democracies, who, fresh from defeating the Axis powers, staked out a trail for the UN to follow.  That trail was marked by such signposts as rule of law, individual dignity, human liberty and the four freedoms.

During the 1980s, it should become a first priority for the United States and other friends of democracy and freedom, to restore the United Nations to these initial commitments and values.  Like all other institutions, the UNsí worth must be demonstrated, now and in the future.  Not simply to new nations, but to this country and its citizens as well.

The goals of the Reagan Administration concerning cooperation with the United Nations, are I believe, both less utopian and more modest than those of some previous administrations.  This should, I believe, make them in the end more realistic and achievable goals, and provide us with more workable guides.

What does the United Nations actually do?  We Americans sometimes forget how complex and wide-ranging the organization's activities have become in the last 35 years.  I have had no time today to rehearse -- I have no time and you have no time, for me to rehearse for you the wide range of UN activities; most of which are thoroughly familiar to this committee.  The detailed workings of the UN's six major components; the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Secretariat are all, of course, exceedingly complex and a proper study for years, not for a single morning.

I would like, however, to refer to just a few of the activities in which the United Nations engages; which though vastly different in their aims, share that positive sense of purpose, which speaks to the organization's oldest and highest ideals.  Ordinary people throughout the world, in both democracies and dictatorships, experience the presence of the United Nations in a variety of ways.

Few instances that I would like to mention are, first of all, UNICEF.  UNICEF, because we all know it by its acronym, I think, better than its full name, has performed valuable work with the underprivileged, the poor and needy babies and children of the world since 1946.  Our annual UNICEF collection at Halloween time has become a valued and traditional event, and an important symbol for millions of American children and their parents, of the United States involvement of the well-being of the world.

Second example is the United Nations Development Program, UNDP.  It is the United Nations central agency for funding social and economic development projects, and as such, the world's largest organization engaged in multilateral technical assistance.  There exists now, over 4.500 separate UNDP-supported projects.  And although the United States firmly disapproves of any funds provided by UNDP or any other UN component being given to terrorists' national liberation movements, many of the UNDP's projects clearly enhance the economic and social vitality of the developing nations.

Third example is the World Health Organization, WHO.  WHO is related to the United Nations by special agreement, as are a number of intergovernmental agencies.  Itís acquired over the years, an impressive reputation for its work on disease immunization programs and its research into the cause of widespread diseases wherever theyíre found.

Still another example that, I think, bears special note is the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, established in 1951.  It has concerned itself with resettlement, legal protection and all forms of assistance to refugees throughout the world.

A final example I would mention specifically is the office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator, which has taken on both emergency relief and longer term rehabilitation programs in the aftermath of floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.  These and other United Nations programs, funded significantly by the American government, in some instances a part of our overall yearly assessment and in others through special grants, have demonstrated beside -- despite certain individual projects of which we disagree.  But basically, they have demonstrated that the world organization can serve worthy and positive purposes, when it focuses on common needs and avoids disruptive and vindictive ideological struggles.

The United Nations, as you know, has also played an important role in encouraging international efforts of arms control and disarmament; efforts in which the United States, as in the past, will continue to view with appropriate interest and support.

And finally, although seriously flawed, from time to time the various peace-keeping forces, sponsored under the United Nations auspices since its inception, will I believe, continue to play a role in helping to prevent volatile international conflicts from erupting into war.

If confirmed, my goal will be to encourage those UN programs which display positive, practical and human results beneficial to all; and to discourage negative activities that exacerbate conflict among peoples.  It might be said of the Reagan administration, Mr. Chairman, and of myself; that as far as the United Nations is concerned, it intends, in the words of an old song of my youth, to accentuate the positive, even if it cannot eliminate the negative.

In this connection, I call the committee's attention to one current 1981 project sponsored by the United Nations: an international year of disabled persons.  The year's objective include promoting national and international programs to help disabled persons adjust physically and psychologically to their societies.  Surely, it should be possible to minimize polarizing political involvements in this worthy project.

Mr. Chairman, peace I believe, is one of mankind's oldest dreams and most elusive goals.  Like love, freedom, and justice; it is more often invoked than achieved.  More often wished for, than worked for.  But peace is not won by wishing.  It is won by the painstaking construction of institutions.  Institutions in which diverse peoples may come to know one another by the invention of processes through which conflict can be rationally explored and hopefully compromised by the careful cultivation of an environment in which habits of restraint, consultation and a degree of mutual trust can eventually grow.

Foremost among the institutions which the nations of the world can meet, discuss, explore and act, is the United Nations.  Like all other human institutions, the United Nations is imperfect.  Useful for some purposes, some of the time.  The basic problem of the United States policy toward the United Nations, I believe, is to discriminate carefully among these purposes and to be certain that the ideals and interests of the United States and its civilization, are being served.

It will be my task as US Ambassador to the UN, to determine often in close consultation with this committee and with the Congress, how best to deal with the many challenges and opportunities which the United Nations poses for this country.  I shall certainly need your help, as well as you vote of confirmation in this task. 

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Page Updated: 2/12/24

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