While the United Nations was founded in October 1945, before the United States could become involved, it needed the U.S. Senate (along with many other countries’ political bodies) to ratify the United Nations Treaty. This happened with an overwhelming majority on December 4, 1945.
The United Nations was designed to prevent war. It followed the unsuccessful League of Nations, founded following World War I. There were many problems with the League of Nations, but a fatal one was that the United States Senate refused to ratify the treaty, weakening the League from the beginning.
The writers of the American Constitution were very concerned about concentrating too much power in the hands of the president. They understood that the executive branch needed to have a single leader, but they wanted to limit that leader’s authority. One area that particularly concerned them was foreign policy. They therefore gave to Congress as a whole the power to declare war, and to the Senate the responsibility to ratify treaties.
The last time the United States declared war was in 1942, in the early stages of World War II. Since then, all conflicts have been treated as something less than a war.
Similarly, presidents in recent years have shied away from proposing treaties to the Senate for ratification, fearing that the requirement that two-thirds of the Senate approve will be impossible to meet under our current divided government. Without Senate ratification, however, agreements by one president are not binding on the next, and as a result foreign policy has become less stable.
- There are many important foreign policy issues facing the country – the regulatory response to rising CO2 levels, trade policy, and immigration all come to mind. On which of these issues do you believe a bipartisan treaty could be crafted (meeting the two-thirds requirement)?
- The reason the Senate refused to ratify the League of Nations was a fear of “entangling alliances,” of which George Washington warned in his farewell address. Do you believe the United States has too many “entangling alliances” today? Would we be better off if the United States had a less active foreign policy? What about the world?
Bornholtz, Steven. UN Photo [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mandates-and-legal-basis-peacekeeping