Who Thinks Military Force Is OK Without UN Approval? [Charts]

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The U.N. Security Council couldn’t agree on whether to approve a British proposal that called for use of military force against Syria on Wednesday.

But how much weight do U.N. Security Council decisions really carry with residents of sovereign nations? It turns out a lot of people around the world think U.N. approval isn’t needed before using military force, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in 23 countries in 2011.

In the U.S., residents were almost evenly divided on the question. Forty-five percent said that U.N. approval is necessary before the use of military force, while 44 percent said that waiting for approval was not really necessary.

But that was then, and this is now. Ever since the news of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria came out, the Obama administration has been reluctant to participate in Security Council decision-making on the matter.

According to a statement released by the White House on Aug. 29:

“The U.S. will continue to consult with the U.K. government — one of our closest allies and friends. As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States. He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

Here’s a map of the 23 countries polled by the Pew Research Center, color-coded by the majority opinion:

un approval-01 Nine nations out of 23 have a majority that say U.N. approval is not necessary to use military force.

Here’s a bar chart of the proportion of people in each country who feel that U.N. approval is necessary, and those who disagree:

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