The power center of American foreign policy has seldom taken the United Nations very seriously. It has used the organization when convenient as an instrument for the pursuit of traditional foreign policy goals. Pursuing a global policy, U.S. officials may even have been surprised at the number of times they found a global body of use. Nevertheless, their resort to the United Nations was episodic, and they continued to regard it as marginal to the conduct of international relations.

That attitude is now changing. Slowly, a realization is spreading among U.S. policymakers that even a debating society-and the United Nations is more than that-can have a very significant impact on international relations depending on the subject debated and whether those speaking have influence on actions outside the forum of discussion. U.S. officials increasingly realize that U.N. debates do have this impact. As a result, whatever their

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  • Charles William Maynes is Director of the International Organization Program and Secretary of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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