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Renewing the U.S.-U.N. Relationship By: Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A full-page ad appeared last week in the New York Times calling upon President-elect Obama to “revitalize the U.S.-UN relationship as a symbol of America’s commitment to constructive international cooperation.”  The flawed premise of the ad, co-sponsored by Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation, is that only our strong unconditional support for the United Nations will “enhance our standing internationally and strengthen our ability to keep America safe and strong.”  There is not a single line in the ad that acknowledges the many critical flaws in the world organization or its need for a major overhaul of its own.

The ad lays out some concrete steps that the Obama administration should take to repair our relationship with the UN.  Most of the suggestions are fairly innocuous but three of them are ludicrous attempts to enable a dysfunctional corrupt organization to continue on its present self-destructive course.  

1. “Pay our debts on time, work to remove Congressional caps, and alter the schedule of U.S. payments so that we are in a position to honor our treaty obligations”.

In other words, Obama and the Democratic-run Congress are being urged to write the United Nations a blank check with no effective means to enforce accountability through the power of the purse. 

Unfortunately, it may not take much persuasion for the liberal crowd taking over the reins of power in Washington to throw good money after bad, propping up a corrupt bloated bureaucracy.  They will continue to pay nearly one quarter of the total funding – perhaps even more if present funding caps are lifted - for wasteful, corrupt and at times immoral programs.  

Instead, we should insist on rigorous zero based budgeting processes for every funded UN project and demonstration of results against measurable objectives.   Managerial deadwood in the UN bureaucracy should be identified and eliminated, with performance based evaluations and compensation replacing the status quo that is driven by seniority, favoritism, politics and geographical distribution.  We should continue to insist upon including an American representative on the member state budget committee and add a right to opt-out of contributing to programs which do not meet criteria we set as the largest contributor for effectiveness, efficiency and fairness. 

There must be independent outside audits supplementing an adequately funded internal audit and inspection function.  The results of all audits should be made available to all member states on a regular, transparent and timely basis.  

2.  “Obtain a seat on the faltering Human Rights Council and work to influence it from within.”

We have been down this hapless route before.  We tried working from within the discredited Commission on Human Rights, which was replaced by the current Human Rights Council.  We attempted to address the main short-comings of the predecessor commission, which was run by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers, and not repeat them in setting up the Council.  We fought to truly reform the UN’s human rights apparatus.  We failed.

Instead, the General Assembly – dominated by Islamists and other autocratic ‘non-aligned’ nations like Cuba and Venezuela – set up the new council that is as bad, if not worse, than its predecessor.  It is still run by many of the same human rights abusers.  It still attacks Israel in a grossly disproportionate fashion while absolving the Palestinian terrorists of any responsibility for their rocket attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.  And the Human Rights Council’s structure is set up to marginalize the influence of Western democracies even more than was the case with the defunct Commission on Human Rights.

The Human Rights Council has become an arm of the Organization of Islamic Conference.  Hence it is now out-of-bounds to utter a word of criticism of any activities conducted in the name of Islam during Council proceedings.  The Council has also pushed the campaign by Muslim countries to make it a violation of international law to criticize religion, especially Islam.   This would suppress the right of free expression including the publication of any article pointing out that the most lethal terrorists profess to be carrying out the word of Allah and of their prophet Muhammad.  The very same Muslim countries who want to use the United Nations to shield Islam from any criticism in the Western press regularly defame other religions in their own state-run press and school books and refuse to allow the free practice of other religions within their borders.

The only effective way to ‘influence’ the course of this immoral, corrupt body is to work unceasingly to abolish it and to replace it with a new human rights council, run by a supermajority of democracies and excluding countries under UN sanctions such as Iran and Sudan.  That means cutting off all U.S. funding for the present council’s operations, including the upcoming Durban II conference.  We must kill this malignant tumor, not prolong its life.

3. “Underscore our commitment to the system of international agreements and treaties by seeking Senate consent for key treaties signed but not ratified.”

Under the United Nations umbrella, treaties —sometimes referred to in UN-speak as conventions, covenants or protocols — have been increasingly used as instruments to establish global rules and institutions that have pushed further and further into areas that have been historically the exclusive domains of each member state’s own sovereign government to decide for its own people. 

Thus, it is more critical than ever that President-elect Obama and the Senate exercise extreme care in analyzing the implications of every treaty they consider for U.S. participation.  Otherwise we may end up tying ourselves up in a knot of norms and restrictions embedded in treaties we carelessly agree to that may needlessly conflict with our core values and restrain our economic growth. 

To help prevent such an undesirable outcome, a rigorous evaluation of treaties considered for submission to and ratification by the U.S. Senate might be helped by applying certain tests such as the following:

· Are the benefits and burdens of the treaty distributed fairly without disproportionately penalizing the United States?

The current Kyoto Protocol is an example of a treaty that clearly fails this test.  Had the United States joined this disastrous treaty, we alone would be carrying nearly 66% of the economic burden of carbon reduction for the whole world even though we produce a little under 22% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product and account for no more than 25% of global emissions of carbon dioxide.  The Kyoto Protocol did not include any binding targets and timetables for developing countries.  Thus, countries like China and India could continue their rapid growth and emit greenhouse gasses without penalties while the United States would be severely penalized under present formulas. 

Negotiations are underway to extend and broaden the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.  President-elect Obama reportedly favors climbing aboard this bandwagon, saying recently that "once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations.”  We can only hope that we don’t drastically exacerbate our economic crisis in the process.

·  Do any treaty provisions conflict with Constitutional provisions or any current domestic legislation?

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which established a permanent global court with universal jurisdiction to prosecute those individuals accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, and crimes of war, is a prime example of such a treaty.  A permanent international court consisting of judges -  neither elected with any participation of the American people nor appointed by their elected representatives -  would have direct enforcement powers against individual American citizens (including orders to arrest, extradite, try and sentence) even if those individuals are acting under the authority of American law on behalf of our country’s security.   

This foreign court would have the power to prosecute and try these alleged crimes by American citizens even if taking place entirely within the U.S., superseding the powers solely and expressly granted to the U.S. Supreme Court and its inferior courts established by the U.S. Congress to adjudicate such "cases and controversies".   President-elect Obama should continue to keep us out of this trap.

· Does the treaty impose taxes, whether by name or under other nomenclatures such as user fees?

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which  the United States Senate has not yet ratified, is an example of a treaty containing the potential for hidden global taxes.  The treaty created the International Seabed Authority, which has the authority to levy license fees and taxes on economic activities in the deep seabed.  President-elect Obama is likely to push for ratification of this treaty, which even the Bush Administration has supported, but there first needs to be clarification that the role of the International Seabed Authority does not include the levy of global taxes.  The same caution should apply to the negotiation of the next round of the Kyoto Protocol where a global carbon tax is likely to emerge as a major issue.

·  Is the national sovereignty of the United States respected in the implementation and enforcement of the treaty?

The UN Charter specifically stipulates that the United Nations is not allowed to "intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state."  Nevertheless, the UN establishment has delved deeply into issues traditionally associated with the internal affairs of each member country and spends our taxpayers’ money telling us what we should be doing to ensure adequate education, housing, accommodations for the disabled and other domestic entitlements for our own people.  That is none of the UN’s business. 

President-elect Obama told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week that the United States "should rededicate itself to the organization and to its mission." However, that only works if the UN can somehow free itself from the grip of those who are intent on using its machinery and the funding we largely supply to serve their own twisted agendas.

To his credit, Obama did urge Ban Ki-moon to embark on "far-reaching reform" of the world organization.  And in the past he has criticized the “broken politics” of the UN that have caused it to fall short of its founding principles set forth in the UN Charter.  The question is whether Obama the reformer or Obama the placater will emerge as president.

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