American Involvement Has Not Made the United Nations Any Better

October 4, 2023 | Richard Goldberg and Enia Krivine
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Last week, Russia’s announcement that it is seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) stirred some outrage in the West. To anyone familiar with that organization—where such countries as China, Cuba, and Qatar join in libeling and condemning Israel while diverting attention from their own human-rights abuses—it will be no surprise if Moscow’s bid succeeds. And this sort of corruption is endemic to the United Nations as whole. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for instance, recently made the ancient city of Jericho a “world heritage site” with a statement that ignored any ties to Jewish history.

As Richard Goldberg and Enia Krivine point out, the U.S. had left both the UNHRC and UNESCO because of such behavior. The Biden administration has rejoined, on the grounds that “engagement” is the only way to obtain reform—with little success:

The U.S. rejoined [UNESCO] and began paying down more than $600 million in arrears in July, only to be sucker-punched with another anti-Semitic act as the president arrived in New York last week. The administration had demanded the legal ability to rejoin UNESCO, claiming it necessary to counter China within the UN system. But . . . the Biden administration’s track record of countering China at the UN is abysmal.

The administration didn’t even try to challenge the WHO’s Beijing-influenced director-general despite China’s continued cover-up of COVID-19’s origins. A U.S. attempt to hold China accountable inside the Human Rights Council for its genocide in Xinjiang failed. And China still works with Russia to stymie Washington in the Security Council. The goal of countering China within the UN system is noble. Believing that it can be achieved by abandoning U.S. leverage is woefully misguided.

Countering China, however, is not the real reason the U.S. has rejoined a UN organization that continues to spew anti-Semitism. The real reason is the Biden administration’s unshakable ideological belief in the utility of UN engagement for engagement’s sake—the notion that swimming against anti-American currents in a sea of dictators will produce positive results for U.S. national security. The overwhelming evidence suggests the opposite is true.

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