President Trump will need to act seriously on what he and Amb. Haley said last week.
There is never enough time or space to mock the United Nations adequately. Almost since the moment it was created the UN’s principal purpose has been to provide a forum for the dictators, despots, rogues, and terrorists to bash the United States, to vote to condemn America or Israel — or both — without fear of even the most modest reprisal.
After last week, that may change because President Trump and Ambassador Nikki Haley have threatened to cut foreign aid to those nations that voted against us last week. They may also cut our annual funding of the UN. It’s high time for us to do so.
Preparing to write my book about the UN, Inside the Asylum, I interviewed British historian Paul Johnson. He told me, “The UN is now a central problem for the world because we take too much notice of it.” Since we spoke, it has only gotten worse.
The United Nations is a decaying house of cards kept standing by the roughly $8 billion the United States pays in every year. Many, if not most, of its 192 other members receive some U.S. funding every year.
Mr. Trump is fond of overturning long-held political assumptions. The assumptions on which the UN depends — that every nation and faux-nation such as the Palestinian Authority are of equal importance, and that no penalty need be paid by any tinhorn dictator making another U.S.-bashing speech or vote — are perfect targets.
Last week, the Security Council voted on a resolution proposed by Egypt that purported to require President Trump to reverse his determination that the U.S. embassy in Israel would be relocated to Jerusalem, Israel’s historic capital for, oh, about three thousand years. Amb. Haley vetoed the resolution that was supported by all fourteen other members of the Security Council, including our allies, the United Kingdom and France.
That vote was followed a few days later by a General Assembly vote in which 128 members of the UN voted to declare our embassy move void. (Eight others voted with us and Israel, and 35 abstained and 21 didn’t show up to vote.) Before that vote, Mrs. Haley made a forceful — and brilliant — speech warning that regardless of how the GA voted, we’d move our embassy to Jerusalem.
That’s part of the problem with the UN. The Security Council resolutions supposedly have the force of international law, which means nothing at all unless the nation or nations at which they are aimed decide to obey them. or other nations undertake to enforce the resolutions by military force.
The General Assembly’s resolutions have no effect whatever. Everyone knows this, but the GA often — and loudly — passes dozens of resolutions, usually to praise some despotism or criticize the U.S. or Israel. So do other UN agencies and committees such as the UN Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Commission. Those bodies are usually chaired by human rights stalwarts such as Iran and Pakistan.
After the GA vote, Haley promptly issued party invitations to the 65 nations that sided with us, abstained or didn’t show up. Among those who were invited were the Czech Republic and Romania. Both recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and latter’s parliament is about to consider moving its embassy there.
Among those not invited were Russia, China, France, Japan, almost all Muslim nations and those who almost always vote against U.S. interests. Among them are some of the recipients of our largest annual aid payments.
The president and Amb. Haley are on the right track. Funding should be cut — substantially — to the nations that vote against us and also to the UN as a whole.
As tempting as it is to simply get the U.S. out of the UN, we can’t just quit. As the votes and speeches by Haley proved redundantly, we have to be there if only to protect ourselves (and Israel) from its actions.
But that doesn’t mean that we have to continue to pay vastly more to the UN than any other member. The UN assesses us dues that amount to over 22% of its regular budget, $622 million in 2017. According to a Fox News report, in addition to that, we paid over $2 billion as our “share” of the UN’s peacekeeping budget. As that report shows, we pay more than 176 member states combined for our dues and more than 185 nations combined for the peacekeeping budget.
Many UN members pay less than $30,000 in dues and even less for the “peacekeeping” budget which, by the way, goes to support “peacekeepers” who are frequently accused — correctly — of rape, embezzlement, and other criminal behavior.
And then there’s the UN bureaucracy, stationed not only in New York but around the world. That the federal government is too large, and its bureaucrats too highly-paid, is illustrated by the facts that the federal government is the nation’s largest employer with over two million employees about 500,000 of whom are paid more than $100,000 a year.
UN bureaucrats aren’t — yet — that numerous but they’re on average paid over 30% more than U.S. government employees. It’s a great sinecure for thousands.
And it’s no wonder that so many nations’ representatives vote against us regularly. I interviewed my friend Amb. Jose Sorzano in preparing to write Inside the Asylum. Jose was the deputy to our greatest UN Ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, during the Reagan years.
The UN is, naturally, a hotbed of espionage. Jose told me about a fun exercise he engaged in with his Soviet counterpart. They both went to their intelligence contacts — the CIA and KGB — and asked how many of the UN representatives were instructed how to vote by their governments.
When Jose and the Soviet met for a lunch a few weeks later, they compared notes. The CIA found that only thirty of the then 159 delegates were getting instructions from their governments. The KGB found the same and added that only two actually read the instructions (and one of those two underlined).
In short, the UN is a playground. Its representatives are used to its plush atmosphere, comfortable in their ability to get the attention of the media whose eagerness to publish their anti-American screeches is bottomless.
It’s more than thirty years since Jose was at the UN. Things haven’t improved. Russia has recovered from the fall of the Soviet Union, the Chinese are bidding to be both the biggest economy in the world and the strongest military, the North Koreans are an enormous threat, and the Iranians are still chanting, “death to America.”
The dictators, despots, rogues and terrorists have only increased in number and some — including some of our former allies — have become enemies. The best (worst?) example is Turkish President Erdogan.
Erdogan wants to be the leader of all the Arab nations, a pan-Arabist in the mold of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, who tried (unsuccessfully) to unite the Arab nations behind him for nearly two decades. Erdogan is trying his best to do the same.
Erdogan is a radical Islamist who has turned his nation from its role as a secular cornerstone of NATO into an ally of Russia, Iran, and Syria. He signed a treaty with Russia and Iran earlier this year vowing to help protect the Assad regime in Syria.
Of course, Turkey voted against us in the UN. But Erdogan went farther. He said the UN should punish Trump for his announced embassy move and said Turkey would move its embassy to East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians — who aren’t a nation — insist is their capital.
The more we feed the UN, the less we can expect its respect. President Trump has an opportunity that none of his predecessors have taken. He can — and should — drastically reduce our funding of the UN, thus reducing its ability to function.
There will be enormous opposition to his doing that from both our allies and our enemies. Congress will have conniption fits, the caterwauling from the media will be beautiful to behold. But Trump can reduce the UN’s importance, and grow America’s standing in the world by cutting the UN down to size.
Trump should slash its funding, and that of the nations that vote against us when we’re in the right. We don’t demand that our allies march in lockstep behind us. But they — and the rest of the UN members who we pay — should not believe there is no price to pay for opposing what we do.
Ad Meskens/Creative Commons; Arild Vågen/Creative Commons