In the recent discussion “How are the US and UN Working Together to Combat Terrorism” former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Senior Advisor of the United Nations Foundation, Gillian Sorensen, discussed the necessity of strengthening the relationship between the US and UN. It is unfathomable that a single nation can address issues, such as terrorism that occur on such as grandiose scale. In her brief hour at American University, she touched on topics such as counter-terrorism, security, root causes of terrorism, and the current Iraq war.

Sorensen, when referring to US policy on the Iraq war stated that now is
“a time for tough love.” She was critical on the political decisions made by the United States post 9/11, affirming that the overwhelming international sympathy that the US received after 9/11 dissipated quickly because of US reaction. She stated that it is no secret that the America’s decisions have a larger than life impact, and that in making these choices the US should recognize the immediate and future impact of its actions and language.

Sorensen, as a clear believer in the policies of the UN, offered a unique perspective from an organization that focuses on resolution by means other than strong military action. While the increased international isolation of the US was due to factors including the controversial pre-emptive strike decision, refusal to listen to weapons instructors, Sorensen believes that the language chosen by the US was also a root cause of this international detachment. The Bush administration is known for its catch phrases: “get the job done”; “mission accomplished”; “stay the course”, etc. In the disarray that ensued immediately following 9/11 phrases such as “axis of evil” and “rogue states” were tossed around in an un-diplomatic fashion. This language ostracized potential relationships with students and activists throughout the Middle East and throughout the world. According to Sorensen, although talk may sometimes appear unavailing, talk is one of the more diplomatic options all nations can capitalize on – “talk always has potential.”

Like many us, when asked what our next option is in resolving the Middle East conflict, Sorensen slightly bowed her head and discussed a phased withdrawal. This is a “tragic mess of our own making” she said.

*The discussion “How are the US and UN Working Together to Combat Terrorism” took at American University’s Hughes Hall, in Washington, DC. It was co-sponsored by The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area Young Professionals for International Cooperation, Americans for Informed Democracy, American University Foreign Policy Association and Young Professionals in International Affairs.