US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee, kicked up a political storm this week. On Tuesday,
Ros-Lehtinen introduced the United Nations Transparency, Accountability and
Reform Act. If passed into law it would place stringent restrictions on US
funding of the UN’s budget.
The US currently funds 22 percent of the UN’s
general budget. That budget is passed by the General Assembly with no oversight
by the US. America’s 22% share of the budget is nonvoluntary, meaning the
US may exert no influence over how its taxpayers’ funds are spent.
Ros-Lehtinen’s act is passed into law, the UN will have two years to enact
budgetary reforms that would render a minimum of 80% of its budget financing
voluntary. If the UN does not make the required reforms, the US government will
be enjoined to withhold 50% of its nonvoluntary UN budget
Beyond this overarching demand for UN budgetary reform, the
act contains several specific actions that are directed against UN institutions
that advance anti-American and anti-Israel agendas.
would defund the UN Human Rights Committee until such time as it repeals its
permanent anti-Israel resolution, and prohibits countries that support terror
and are under UN Security Council sanctions from serving as its members. It
would also prohibit the US from serving as a member of the UNHRC until such
reforms are enacted.
Ros-Lehtinen’s bill defunds all UN activities
related to the libelous Goldstone Report, and the anti- Semitic Durban process.
It vastly curtails and conditions US funding of UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee
agency permeated by members of terrorist organizations. UNRWA’s facilities are
routinely used to plan, execute and incite terrorism against Israel and to
indoctrinate Palestinians to seek Israel’s destruction.
The bill pays
special attention to the Palestinian Authority’s plan to have the UN Security
Council and General Assembly vote in favor of Palestinian statehood later this
month. The bill would cut off US funding to any UN agency or organization that
upgrades the Palestinian mission to the UN in any way in the aftermath of a
General Assembly vote in favor of such an upgrade in
Ros-Lehtinen’s bill, which has 57 co-sponsors, provides
detailed explanations for how the targeted UN agencies and activities harm US
interests. It notes that the US’s membership since 2009 in the UN Human Rights
Council has had no impact whatsoever on the UNHRC’s anti-Israel and anti-
American agenda. The US has been unable to temper in any way the UNHRC’s actions
and resolutions, including its decisions to form the Goldstone Committee and to
endorse the findings of the Goldstone Report, and its continued support and
organization of the anti-Semitic Durban conferences in which Israel is attacked
and libeled as an illegitimate, racist state.
The bill notes that despite
US efforts to extend oversight over UNRWA’s hiring process, UNRWA continues to
hire members of terrorist organizations. The bill provides a long list of
UNRWA employees who have perpetrated terrorist attacks.
fact-based assessment of UN failings, the Obama administration has rejected the
Ros- Lehtinen bill out of hand. Speaking to Politico, an administration source
panned the bill, claiming, “This draft legislation is dated, tired and frankly
unresponsive to the positive role being played by the UN.”
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland attacked the bill, saying it would
“seriously undermine our international standing and dangerously weaken the UN as
an instrument to advance US national security goals.”
office, Barack Obama has taken concerted steps to place cooperation with the UN
at the top of his foreign policy agenda. Through word and deed, Obama has shown
that he believes that the US should minimize the extent to which it operates
independently of the UN on the global stage.
Obama and his advisers give
four arguments to support their view that the UN should effectively replace the
US as the global leader. First, they say that the US cannot operate unilaterally
on the global stage.
Second, they insinuate that operations undertaken
outside the UN umbrella are somehow illegitimate.
To support this
contention, they intimate that the reason the US was bogged down in Iraq
following its 2003 invasion was because it did not receive specific Security
Council permission to invade. In contrast, they point to the current Security
Council-sanctioned military operation in Libya and the 1991 Security
Council-sanctioned Persian Gulf War as success stories. And they attribute those
missions’ successes to their conduct under the UN aegis.
argument, which comes across clearly in Nuland’s statement, is that to have
credibility in global affairs, the US must not throw its weight around at the
UN. If it objects too strenuously to the way things are done, or makes its
support for the UN conditional on UN actions, then all the other UN members will
be offended and refuse to cooperate with the US.
The final argument they
make is reflected in the statement the unnamed administration source gave to
Politico. Quite simply, in their view, trying to hold the UN accountable for its
actions is old fashioned. In today’s world, accountability is out. And
anyone who doesn’t understand that is simply out of touch, “dated,
All of these arguments are false. In the first instance, it is
simply untrue that the US is incapable of operating unilaterally. Aside from
Saudi Arabia in 1991 and Kuwait in 2003, the US did not need its partners in
Iraq. Of all the non-American participants in the US military campaigns in Iraq
and Afghanistan, only Britain made an impact on fighting. And frankly, the US
would have secured Saudi, Kuwaiti and British cooperation without ever involving
Indeed, under both Democrat and Republican administrations, the
US has frequently acted successfully outside the UN framework. In 1999, the
Clinton administration could not get UN Security Council agreement to fight in
Kosovo, and so it ignored the UN and fought alongside its NATO
The US had 21 allied militaries fighting alongside its forces in
Iraq, despite the fact that the operation was conducted outside the UN Security
The US-initiated Proliferation Security Initiative
founded in 2003 is arguably the US’s most successful multilateral effort to stem
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Operating completely outside
the UN framework, the PSI has 98 members.
As for the two major US
military operations that have been carried out in recent memory by force of UN
Security Council resolutions, the jury is still out on both. Due to the Security
Council’s restrictions on the mission of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the US
permitted Saddam Hussein to remain in power after removing his invasion forces
In the 12 years between that war and the 2003 Iraq war,
Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who – at US urging – tried to
overthrow him. He exploited the Security Council sanctions to starve his people
for propaganda purposes while he and his cronies enriched themselves through
corrupt UN oil-for-food contracts.
Had Saddam been overthrow in 1991, his
replacement by a pro-Western successor regime could have been enacted more
smoothly and at far smaller cost to the US and the Iraqi people.
Libya, reports from Tripoli indicate that critics of the UN mission were
correct. In overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi, the US has apparently enabled a
situation in which any successor regime will likely be dominated by
al-Qaida-aligned political and military forces allied with Iran.
that the US will lose influence in international affairs if it is perceived as
bossy by its fellow UN nation states is similarly groundless. The hard truth is
that no one goes along with the UN simply because it is the UN. States are
reasonably and consistently opportunistic in their cooperation with the UN. They
support the UN when it supports their interests and they ignore the UN when it
opposes their interests.
States do not oppose the US at the UN because
they consider it bossy. They oppose the US at the UN because they believe it
serves their national interests to oppose the US and its interests.
due to clashing interests, not the comportment of US representatives, that the
Obama administration to fail to exert any influence over the UNHRC’s agenda
despite its commitment to “engagement.”
Clashing national interests are
the reason the Obama administration has failed to secure Security Council
support for anything approaching effective measures against Iran’s nuclear
The final administration argument – that it is déclassé
to demand that the UN stop advancing the causes of America’s enemies – is not
simply peevish and insulting. It is indicative of the culture that motivates the
administration to cling to its UN-centered agenda despite its obvious and
As the easy refutation of all the administration’s
arguments makes clear, the agenda is not a product of rational thought. It is
the product of the groupthink that is endemic at the universities whence Obama
and his advisers have emerged. This groupthink is directed by
unquestioned clichés that are passed off as sophisticated
reasoning. These include such pearls of wisdom as “global governance,”
“Twitter revolution,” “multilateralism” and “interdependence.”
clichés have become articles of faith that are impermeable to fact and reality.
As a consequence, those who adhere to them will never acknowledge their failure
to deliver on their utopian promises. Instead they attack anyone who points out
their failure as “dated,” and as “tired” old fogies who are too unsophisticated
to understand the world.
We see this attitude at work in all aspects of
Obama’s foreign policy. For instance, Obama came into office with the view that
the reason all efforts to date to successfully complete a peace deal between
Israel and the Palestinians failed because the Palestinians didn’t trust the US
to “deliver” Israel. To remedy this perceived problem, Obama has consistently
sought to “put daylight” between the US and Israel. This policy has failed
abysmally, as the PA’s current UN statehood bid shows. And yet the
administration continues to cling to it, because acknowledging its failure would
involve renouncing a cliché.
So, too, the administration’s policy of
engaging Iran has brought the mullocracy to the brink of a nuclear arsenal,
empowered it to violently repress pro-American democracy protesters, expand its
influence in Iraq and Afghanistan, take over Lebanon, and make inroads in Egypt,
Libya and beyond. And yet, despite all of this, the administration refuses to
admit its policy is wrong and adopt a more effective one, because doing so would
involve acknowledging that “engagement” is not the panacea it was cracked up to
Ros-Lehtinen’s bill is expected to be blocked in the
Democrat-controlled Senate before Obama has the opportunity to veto it. This is
a pity not simply because the bill would advance US interests and the cause of
freedom. It is a pity because it shows that the foreign policy debate in the US
is now a fight between those who trust facts and those who trust