The United States backs down at the United Nations
Will the United States hold the United Nations to its highest ideals and serve our national interests? Things are not looking good. The United Nations health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), has just elected Syria to its board of directors, despite this regime’s use of chemical weapons against women and children . The UN Human Rights Council is bracing for yet another round of ridiculous anti-Israel “investigations”. Yet while dictators, murderers and thieves continue to use the UN for their own ends, the United States, under the Biden administration, seems content to participate. A different approach is needed: fast.
As history shows, and as I have seen it personally, the United States is the best at the UN when we are strong. We must stand up to our adversaries, unequivocally and unabashedly. We must support our friends, boldly and courageously. And we must stand up for our principles, with confidence and clarity. The moment we fail to do any of these things, our opponents and their lackeys will get the most out of it. China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and North Korea get the joke: The UN is too dysfunctional, divided and open to dictatorship to be effective. They know that when the United States turns away from what is right, it is easier for them to lead the United Nations and the world in the wrong direction.
Our adversaries are adept at using the structure and flaws of the United Nations to their advantage. Take Russia. As a permanent member of the Security Council, he can stand in the way of almost anything serious that we pursue at the UN. Communist China too: like Russia, it uses its seat on the Security Council to block justified and moral measures. As far as it is concerned, China is quietly working to corrupt UN agencies from top to bottom, with disastrous results.
WHO is the latest proof. For years, China has gained influence over the WHO through a combination of funding and pressure. He then manipulated the agency during the coronavirus pandemic. The WHO adopted the Chinese party line despite the country’s entry ban during the initial outbreak, praised China’s response despite clear evidence of a cover-up, and continues to cooperate with China despite the country’s reluctance to share key information on the virus’s origins and spread – see the WHO’s fake “report” from March. China’s stranglehold on the WHO has contributed to the deaths of more than 3 million people, including more than 500,000 Americans.
WHO illustrates another reality: many UN agencies are down. Worse, some cannot be fixed, like the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). It’s a cesspool of human rights violators, from Cuba to China to Venezuela and Russia. In 2018, I led the United States withdrawal effort from the UNHRC. The reason was simple: We care too much about human rights and individual liberty to be part of a group that undermines both while attacking our ally Israel more than any other country. This logic also applies to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which feeds hatred towards Israel more than it supports Palestinian refugees.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration pushed the United States to join the UNHRC and renewed funding for UNRWA. These actions give legitimacy to anti-American tyrants while hurting key allies. The new US Ambassador to the UN also criticized our country, saying she saw “how the original sin of slavery woven white supremacy into our founding documents and principles.” And to top it off, the United States is not using the intimidation chair of the Security Council. In the face of aggression and insults from Russia, China and other adversaries, the United States remains still and silent when it should stand up and speak the truth.
Overall, the Biden administration has made it much more difficult for the United States to advance the cause of security, prosperity, peace, and personal freedom. He did it in the name of making friends and showing that we are a “team player”. Yet the United States has nothing to prove to the United Nations. We have already saved the world several times in several ways. Through our leadership, humanity has reached historically unimaginable heights of accomplishment and prosperity. We don’t need the United Nations to validate our history or our continuing efforts.
If the Biden administration is to get the most out of the United Nations, it should take an approach that actually works. Advance where we can, walk away when we can’t, and hold the line when we have to.
Nikki Haley was Governor of South Carolina (2011-17) and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (2017-19). This article is adapted from its foreword to “A Better Blueprint for International Organizations: Advancing American Interests on the Global Stage”, published today by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.