Four years before the end of World War II, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were already working on what their Atlantic Charter called “a wider and permanent system of general security.” In February 1942, twenty-six nations met in Washington and signed a “United Nations” declaration and in 1943, Vice President Harry S. Truman got involved in preparing the charter of what in 1945 became the United Nations.
Truman – who historians paint as a Midwestern common-sensical man – was, in the area of foreign policy, more of a dreamer than a realist. His favorite poem, which he had recited from a young age, was Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall” which contains this stanza:
Til the war-drum throbbed no longer and the battle flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the world
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe
And the kindly earth shall slumber lapt in universal law.
That, apparently, was Truman’s vision for the UN. But the creation of the United Nations was, like one comic said of second marriages, the triumph of hope over experience. Its predecessor, Woodrow Wilson’s post-World War I League of Nations, failed because its members refused to enforce or even abide by its resolutions.
The defects built into the UN Charter made its failure impossible to avoid.
First, the UN Charter establishes a false equality among nations. Its Article 2 says, in part, “The Organization is based upon the sovereign equality of all of its Members.” Our Declaration of Independence wisely says that all men are created equal. But – as history has proven since before Roman times – nations are not. From its beginning, the democracies in the UN have been outnumbered by enslaved nations. Now, with 192 members, the UN is dominated by rogues, dictators, despots and terrorists.
Second, any nation – or pseudo-nation – can become a member of the UN. If a free government is overthrown, any dictator can take its place at the UN table. Taiwan, for example, was expelled and replaced by Communist China.
Third, there are no checks and balances in the UN. Though the Secretary General is the chief administrative officer of the UN, he isn’t required to allow the member nations – even the U.S. which is by far the biggest financial contributor – to veto spending decisions or even audit the UN’s books. As a result, corruption and waste are rampant among UN programs and in the Secretariat as well.
Does the UN work? Consider its principal bodies.
General Assembly: This principal body fails because its meetings and works are reduced to political polemics designed principally to limit the ability of free nations to influence world affairs. Then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN General Vernon Walters said in 1985, “The United Nations has become a place where many countries seek to achieve the lynching of the United States by resolution.” Nothing has improved since Walters’s statement.
Security Council: This principal body is broken because the alliances it was built upon, such as NATO, have been emasculated and because the interests of the “Permanent Five” members – the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia – never were congruent. Under the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions supposedly have the force and effect of international law. But these resolutions, as has been proven over more than six decades of UN proceedings, are only obeyed by law-abiding nations.
Secretary General: The office of this principal body is broken because successive Secretaries General have sought to build the office into a sort of “super-president” of the world with policy-making power. And that power has been consistently wielded against the interests of the free nations of the world like the United States. The SG’s office has also become a shield for corruption such as the “Oil for Food” scandal by which Saddam Hussein looted an unknown amount of money – probably as much as $30 billion – directed by a Russian intelligence agent working undercover within the Secretariat who “diverted half a billion dollars from the program into the pockets of top Russian government leaders in both the Yeltsin and Putin presidencies,” according to Sergei Tretyakov’s account detailed in Pete Earley’s book Comrade J. That money was never recovered.
United States Payments: The U.S. pays 22% of the UN’s “regular” budget and over 27% of its peacekeeping budget. After taking office, President Obama’s FY 2010 budget requested $598 million for the U.S. payment toward the “regular” UN budget and more than $2 billion for the peacekeeping budget.
But that’s not all: the U.S. contributes to many other UN programs and agencies. The current U.S. contribution exceeds $5 billion each year according to the Heritage Foundation.
Other UN Member Payments: Compared with the U.S., China pays only 2.67% of the UN regular budget and 3.15% of the budget for its failed peacekeeping program. Russia pays only 1.2% and 1.42% of those budgets. And the 57 Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) nations – a group that includes many of the world’s wealthiest countries – together pay only 2.99% and 1.21% of those budgets. The G-77 nations – now 130 in number – pay a total of 8.81% and 5.26% respectively. The imbalance is staggering.
The imbalance, and the waste, fraud and abuse of UN finances are reflective of the members. Most of the UN’s members – and most of its thousands of employees – believe the U.S. treasury is the common heritage of mankind.
As British historian Paul Johnson has said, “The UN is now a central problem for the world because we take too much notice of it.” So what can we do about it?
- Sovereignty and the Primacy of U.S. Foreign Policy: First and foremost, we must make clear that United States foreign policy and our decisions to use military force are totally independent of the UN. During Kofi Annan’s tenure as UN Secretary General, he and his sympathizers sought to create a doctrine that limited the use of any nation’s military force to those occasions where the UN Security Council voted in favor of it. This “legitimacy scam” would give two of our principal adversaries – China and Russia – as well as genetically uncooperative France vetoes over U.S. sovereign actions.
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the exclusive power to declare war and gives the president unilateral power to use military force even before Congress acts. Clearly, the authority to go to war comes from the Constitution not the UN Charter. As the late Jeane Krikpatrick, former UN ambassador, said, “There is no ground in the UN Charter or in precedent to support the position that the Security Council is the only source of legitimacy for the use of force…The importance of American sovereignty over American action is of the utmost importance.” We must never cede control of our sovereign actions to the UN or any other entity global or otherwise.
In the case of Libya, President Obama bypassed Congress yet sought approval directly from the United Nations to set up a no-fly zone. The vote of the Security Council’s “Permanent Five” members was only three in favor, with Russia and China abstaining.
In the case of Michael New: The United Nations Participation Act of 1945 expressly prohibits the president from deploying United States military personnel in the service of the UN for actions taken under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, without the approval of Congress. Clearly, the authority to deploy U.S. military personnel flows from the Constitution and is limited by U.S. laws not the UN Charter. Yet, in 1996, President Clinton, continuing to espouse a policy of “assertive multilateralism,” deployed U.S. military personnel, including U.S. Army Specialist Michael New, to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for peace keeping operations, under UN commanding officer General Engstrom of Finland. SPC Michael New, assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, Company A, refused an order to wear the blue UN helmet, beret, armband or patch for which he was court-martialed and dishonorably discharged.
The President of the United States, as Commander-in-Chief, should grant Michael New a full and unconditional pardon.
Second, we must never allow UN instrumentalities and their sovereignty subordinate UN treaties they so often propose to infringe on American constitutional powers. Prime examples are the UN’s International Criminal Court, the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Rio Earth Summit’s Framework Convention on Climate Change and Agenda 21.
- Reform of the UN: Even limiting its budget and creating adequate oversight of its spending is a wonderful idea that will never occur. Attempting to repair the UN’s flaws is a fool’s errand for one simple reason: to do it, you need the cooperation of the nations who are the problem. The despots and dictators, rogues and terrorists who dominate the UN General Assembly will never vote to change the UN Charter to make it an effective organization that actually promotes peace and freedom. But there are things we can do.
- U.S. Participation: First and foremost, the United States can and must refuse to participate in the UN’s organizations – such as the risible Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which is little more than a “bash Israel” fraternity – that act against freedom and democracy. By joining them, and participating in their actions, we grant those activities a legitimacy they do not deserve. President Obama reversed prior presidents’ actions and rejoined the human rights body. In a first-time report to the UNHRC in September 2010, the State Department bragged that the Obama administration had taken the state of Arizona to court to set aside its new law – S.B. 1070 – aimed at controlling illegal immigration. That report is an affront to our Constitution.
America should withdraw – again – as we did from the UN Commission on Human Rights and refuse to participate in its meetings.
Next, we should refuse to pay our UN “dues” and other contributions unless and until we are granted full access to the UN’s financial records with the ability to audit them.
- Outside Alliances: Most importantly, we should no longer take the UN seriously. When we are a nation at war, to prosecute that war – or any other American vital interest – we should create alliances outside the UN which have members chosen from among the democratic nations of the world and are purposed to achieve America’s best interests. The model for such alliances is the Bush-era “Proliferation Security Initiative” or PSI.
The PSI – which began with eleven nations and has had over sixty members – is aimed at interdicting shipments of nuclear and other materials and technologies (especially missile technology) to rogue states. Begun in 2002, the PSI nations have searched ships, aircraft and other means of transportation to stop such shipments. And they have succeeded.
PSI efforts searched a ship bound for Libya which had entered an Italian port. As a result, a major shipment of nuclear weapon-related materials was stopped. Faced with that exposure, Libya surrendered its nuclear weapons program in 2004.
The PSI model does not require a world headquarters and can be applied to any problem that requires international action for which the UN cannot be relied upon; which, unfortunately, means every international problem that requires action in the United States’ national interests.
The morally-bankrupt United Nations is, as Paul Johnson said, one of the largest problems facing the world today. Its members will oppose any of the necessary reforms that the United States might propose, and will act only in the interests of the undemocratic nations which dominate it. And, if the United States acts to limit its financial support of the UN, they will rebel. At that point, we should remember the words of Charles Lichtenstein, U.S. Ambassador to the UN in 1983. Lichtenstein said,
“If in the judicious determination of the members of the United Nations they feel that they are not welcome and treated with hostly consideration that is their due, the United States strongly encourages member states to seriously consider removing themselves and this organization from the soil of the United States. We will put no impediment in your way. The members of the U.S. mission to the United Nations will be down at the dockside waving you a fond farewell as you sail off into the sunset.”
They won’t go, but we should no longer allow them to pretend that what the UN does is beneficial to mankind. The UN doesn’t work; arguably, it never has worked. It is a costly anachronism with a vast array of intrusive instrumentalities for which the American taxpayer should no longer be burdened. Congress should spare the purse and the President of the United States should declare America’s withdrawal post haste.