We’ve come a long way from Daniel Patrick Moynihan excoriating the UN’s 1975 "Zionism is racism" resolution in one of the finer exhibits of righteous indignation in the history of American speechifying.
The Obama administration acceded to — and, reportedly, assisted behind the scenes — a less notorious but still noxious Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. By the administration’s lights, the action is clever - it will be extremely difficult to reverse and will increase Israel’s international isolation.
But the bipartisan outrage over a resolution that, once again, demonstrates the UN’s hostility to our closest ally in the Middle East affords an opportunity to force an overdue crisis in the US-UN relationship. We are the chief funder of a swollen, unaccountable UN apparatus that has been a gross disappointment going on more than 70 years now.
We came up with the idea for the United Nations. Franklin Roosevelt thought that the four policemen; Britain, United States, Soviet Union and China would keep the peace in the post-World War II world. This vision immediately foundered on the reality of power politics. The first major event in the UN’s life after the Security Council began meeting in New York City was a threatened Soviet walk-out.
It turned out that states with different interests and values weren’t going to act as a band of righteous international enforcers. In fact, as demonstrated in Rwanda and the Balkans, when confronted by hideously predatory forces bent on mayhem and murder, UN peacekeepers would simply stand aside.
In the decades after the UN’s founding, the influence of Third World dictatorships grew, and so did the institution’s anti-Western and anti-Israel orientation, culminating in the Zionism resolution. That vote was finally reversed in 1991, but prejudice against Israel has become one of the UN’s core competencies — as well as impenetrable bureaucracy.
We pay more than anyone else to the UN, about 22 percent of the UN’s budget. As Brett Schaefer of The Heritage Foundation notes, "the US is assessed more than 176 other UN member states combined."
It’s hard to even know how much the US pays in total, but it’s probably around $8 billion a year. We should withhold some significant portion of it, and demand an end to the UN’s institutional hostility to Israel and the implementation of reforms to increase the organization’s accountability. There are individual UN agencies that do good work, and we can continue to support those.
Realistically, though, the UN will always be a disappointment. The fact is that the closest thing to what FDR envisioned in the UN is NATO, a like-minded group of nations that has been a force for peace, order and freedom. This is why President-elect Donald Trump should embrace NATO and turn his critical eye to the UN, where there is the genuine opportunity to, if nothing else, save the US some money and rattle the cages of people taking advantage of our beneficence.
Charles de Gaulle dismissively called the UN "the thing." The thing will always stumble on, but maybe Donald Trump can teach it a lesson or two about how we truly value our ally and its nemesis, Israel.