Divided We Stand, United They Fall

Posted: May 15, 2001 12:00 AM
One, it's a small point, but worth noting, that Sudan did not replace the United States on the U.N. Human Rights Commission. The United Nations elects members to the commission in blocs. The United States sought a seat among Western and European nations, but came in last among four nations seeking three open seats. France, Austria and Sweden beat out the Greatest Country on Earth. Sudan -- a nation that condones slavery and religious persecution -- won a seat among the African bloc in a separate, despicable act. Other countries that don't belong on the committee are Algeria, Libya, China, Saudi Arabia and Cuba. Two, the Bush administration screwed up. U.S. diplomats should have persuaded one of the three European nations not to run for the commission, created at the urging of Eleanor Roosevelt more than half a century ago. Instead, Secretary of State Colin Powell put trust in "43 solid, written assurances" from countries that pledged support. A number of those countries went back on their word, however, and Uncle Sam garnered a mere 29 votes in the secret ballot. Europeans may sneer about American unilateralism, but they hardly look better with their continental duplicity. Three, France, Germany and Sweden look bad when they complain about President Bush's walk away from the Kyoto global warming treaty. It's not as if they have ratified the treaty. Au contraire, Romania is the only industrialized nation to ratify the pact. Others blame the United States refusal to vote in favor of a measure against land mines. Or the Bush statements against the ABM Treaty. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright explained that U.S. pronouncements had been too "unilateral" of late. These laments only serve to expose U.N. diplomats' unhealthy obsession with process and tone. Don't they see what's wrong with this picture? They'd kick out the United States for not voting against land mines, then admit a slave state? Four, Americans will never give the United Nations the respect it craves as long as diplomats care more about talk than action. "It's time for an ongoing dialogue between countries that respect each other," the Swedish ambassador to the United Nations said in reference to the Kyoto treaty. Does Sweden grant said respect to the jailers of the Falun Gong (who are exempt from Kyoto emissions reductions)? Five, the House was wrong to vote to delay a future negotiated payment to the United Nations for $244 million in back dues until America is back on the Human Rights Commission. It's time to move the debate on U.S./U.N. relations so that it focuses not on U.S. arrears, but on what the U.N. can do better. The House vote showed especially poor form since the commission ouster would have been avoided if Team Bush had played the diplomacy game better. Six, the United Nations has a far bigger public relations problem than the United States. If those in the "international community," as insiders like to call it, can't see that those who enslave are worse than those who talk bluntly, they have been in diplomacy too long. When European diplomats are more enraged at a country for not embracing a treaty barely ratified by industrial nations than they are at nations such as Pakistan that coddle the murderous Taliban and mistreat women, they have lost their way. In this latest episode, the United States comes across as inept, but U.N. diplomats look much worse: they come across as positively clueless. They're supposed to care about human rights, but can't stop blathering about who overturned the finger bowl.