Stop Acting Like the UN Vote is a Huge Deal

Stop Acting Like the UN Vote is a Huge Deal

After the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to denounce his decision. The resolution, which is nonbinding, declares the US action on Jerusalem "null and void," and was supported by a margin of 128-9, with 35 abstentions and 21 absences. 

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, responded aggressively: 

 Ambassador Haley adressing the General Assembly before Tuesday's vote

Ambassador Haley adressing the General Assembly before Tuesday's vote

"When a nation is singled out for an attack in this organization, that nation is disrespected. What's more, that nation is asked to pay for the privilege of being disrespected. In the case of the United States, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege. Unlike some U.N, member countries, the United States government is answerable to its people, as such we have an obligation to acknowledge when our political and financial capital is being poorly spent. We have an obligation to demand more for our investment, and if our investment fails, we have an obligation to spend our resources in more productive ways. Those are the thoughts that come to mind when we consider the resolution before us today."

And judging by the media response, there are quite a few people who agree with the ambassador. The Daily Wire ran an article advocating that the US cut funding, Newsweek ran an editorial slamming the U.N. for corruption and failed peacekeeping efforts, and the influential Fox and Friends morning program ran a segment calling the UN an "anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic cesspool." Each of these positions is in line with that of the President, who threatened to cut foreign aid to nations who voted against the United States. 

Each of these news outlets (and the Ambassador's comments) offered some relevant critiques: we fund a very large portion of the UN, far more than any other country; UN programs for peacekeeping are rarely successful; UN aid is often rendered impotent by egregious levels of corruption; many UN member countries are dictatorships which oppress their people, making their moral preening a somewhat moot point -- all of these claims are true. The reaction to this vote, however, is clearly disproportionate -- "The lady doth protest too much" -- and likely a manifestation of the now-apparent anti-globalist sentiments on the right rather than any legitimate grievance. 

The reality is that the UN vote has absolutely zero effect on anything. It simply does not matter. The United States has the sovereign right to put its embassy and all that entails wherever it pleases (provided Israel consents), and could just as easily build a 20 story waterpark in the middle of the desert given the motivation -- the UN General Assembly would have no power to challenge it. One can agree or disagree with the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish homeland, but attempts to characterize the vote as a coup for UN leadership or anything more than minor disturbance are intellectually dishonest.

It is also patently absurd that the Ambassador and those agreeing with her should characterize the vote as an example of the United States "paying to be disrespected," as if this is some sacrilegious exercise of the fearsome power of the General Assembly. The UN is not a Kangaroo court; we do not give it prime real estate in New York City and $8 billion a year just so we can watch the expensive puppet dance. The United Nations is an attempt to recognize the common interest of nations around the world in maintaining peace and improving cooperative approaches to humanitarian crises, socioeconomic ailments, and bridging cultural divides. It is an exercise of our better selves, an undertaking which seeks to remove the politics from saving lives and improving prosperity. We should not be demanding infallibility or supplication--it is arrogant and unproductive. 

Yes, the United States was disrespected, and it might be worth noting that every country who voted without being aggressively coerced voted against the United States. But in reality, nothing titanic occurred. Using this event to underscore one's agenda for removing the United States from the world stage is regressive and dishonest. The best leaders realize that they are not perfect, and we should ask ourselves if we want to be the kind who throws a hissy fit when their leadership is questioned. 

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