With the defeat of the Axis Power in 1945, the United States emerged as the strongest military, economic and cultural power on earth. Rather than emulate hegemons of the past, American leaders envisioned a new and different world order.
Their goal was to organize an “international community,” establish “universal human rights” and a growing body of “international law.” This project required new institutions, in particular the United Nations. President Truman predicted that the U.N. would become “the means of preserving the international peace and of creating conditions of mutual trust and economic and social well-being among all peoples of the world.”
Though the U.N. never lived up to such high expectations, for years one could credibly argue that it did more good than harm and might improve over time.
Today, it requires willful blindness to deny that the U.N. and most other international organizations have become bloated and corrupt bureaucracies, increasingly serving the interests and expressing the values of the world’s despots.
Over recent days, evidence supporting this conclusion has been especially abundant.
Start with the U.N. Human Rights Council, the “main intergovernmental body for human rights in the U.N. system.” It is dominated by egregious human rights violators who, within this forum, are rarely criticized and often praised. One example: The concentration camps where China’s rulers have incarcerated several million Muslim Uighurs were recently lauded as “vocational skills education and training institutions.”
Summoning extraordinary chutzpah, UNHRC members China and Russia last week demanded that America root out racism and police violence. Cuba called on Washington to provide equal access to health care during the coronavirus pandemic. The Islamic Republic of Iran and Venezuela chimed in as well. Even North Korea felt emboldened to “express grave concern over violations committed by the United States at home and abroad in breach of international human rights law.”
America’s allies sprung to our defense, right? Quite the contrary. Reuters reports: “France called on U.S. authorities to halt executions at the federal level, close Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and ‘guarantee women and girls access to their rights and sexual and reproductive health.’ Britain called for ‘ensuring access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.’”
Move on to the World Health Organization whose inquiry into the origins of the pandemic is to be led by Helen Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand. U.N. Watch, an independent organization, has documented her close ties with Beijing and her praise of the WHO’s response to the spread of the fearsome pathogen — a response that, by any objective measure, was neither competent nor honest.
U.N. Watch also has pointed out that Ms. Clark has a close professional relationship with James Chau, a WHO “Goodwill Ambassador.” In June, Mr. Chau was the subject of a complaint filed by 100 non-governmental organizations alleging he “systematically abused his U.N. position to whitewash Beijing’s role in the virus outbreak.”
In a related effort to ingratiate itself with Beijing, the WHO named Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, as another Goodwill Ambassador. UNESCO (the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has designated her as a “special envoy” as well.
Last week, the WHO’s annual assembly spent hours beating up on Israel for such imaginary misdeeds as violating the health rights of Syrians.
Israel has long been the U.N.’s favorite whipping boy. Earlier this month, the U.N. unmistakably escalated from anti-Israelism to anti-Semitism when 138 member-states approved a resolution referring to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in the world for Jews (Israeli or otherwise) as an Islamic holy site and nothing else — in effect, denying Jewish history. Among the countries supporting the resolution: France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Britain and, yes, Germany.
Yet another organization working to defame America is the International Criminal Court. It was created by a treaty not ratified by the U.S., which means that under international law the U.S. is not subject to its jurisdiction. What’s more, according to its own rules, the ICC is to refrain from intervening in nations that have credible judicial systems.
Nevertheless, the court’s prosecutors are targeting U.S. military and intelligence personnel for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. Israelis are also in their sights for defending themselves from Hamas’ terrorist attacks.
In response, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on ICC officials. In response to that, more than 70 nations have now openly sided with the ICC — including several NATO allies that depend on the U.S. to defend them.
“By giving our full support to the [ICC] and promoting its universal membership, we defend the progress we have made together towards an international rules-based order, of which international justice is an indispensable pillar,” declared German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen.
The U.N. and affiliated international organizations can be reformed. But it won’t be easy. No administration, Republican or Democratic, has made a serious attempt. Short of that, the U.S. could stop paying the lion’s share of the U.N.’s bills. That would require both the White House and Congress agreeing to make such cuts.
Another possibility would be to construct one or more new organizations that would include only free nations and those moving toward that goal. These organizations would compete with the U.N. in such critical spheres as human rights and health.
What if America’s leaders take no effective actions over the years ahead? In that case, we should expect the “international liberal rules-based order” to increasingly become supranational and illiberal, with rules made in Beijing and other capitals of unfree empires.
Americans will then have a choice: Surrender sovereignty to what China’s rulers delight in calling “the will of the global community” or become the global odd man out.
• Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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