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Irrelevant and Dangerous

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
WASHINGTON -- Last week, this column prognosticated that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at the United Nations General Assembly would be celebrated by those who hate America. That's certainly true. So, too, was the prediction that Ahmadinejad would claim the mantle of "humanitarian" and be showered with praise for the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal -- the two Americans held by Tehran since they were detained on the Iran-Iraq border in 2009. And then there was the forecast that this week's General Assembly session would be devoted to bashing the United States and Israel, demanding "Palestinian independence" and ignoring the most serious threat to world peace: Iran's nuclear weapons program.

It was all spot on, but none of it required the gift of prophecy. All that's required to foretell what will happen at the U.N. is to look back at history and acknowledge what the United Nations has become: a global hate-fest toward the United States. Until now, most American presidents have been wise enough and sufficiently experienced to anticipate what was likely to happen inside the U.N. chambers -- and act accordingly to preserve U.S. interests. That's no longer the case.

Harry Truman, the first U.S. president to contend with the vagaries of the United Nations, personally engaged in formulating U.N. Resolution 181 -- the plan to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs. Thanks to astute diplomacy and careful planning by his two successive ambassadors to the U.N., Herschel Johnson and Warren Austin, the measure passed the General Assembly 33-13 on Nov. 29, 1947. When Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, Truman became the first head of state to recognize the Jewish state.

When the North Korean People's Army attacked the Republic of Korea in June 1950, Truman anticipated a Soviet veto on a U.N. Security Council resolution for using force to repel the invaders. He instructed Ambassador Austin to press the issue when Soviet Ambassador Yakov Malik was absent. The resolution passed. Though it took a long and bloody war to finish what the North Koreans started, South Korea was saved and remains one of our staunchest allies.

In 1962, the Soviets began installing nuclear missile sites in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy instructed Ambassador Adlai Stevenson to reveal classified U-2 photos at the U.N. Historians describe Oct. 14-28, 1962, as the closest we ever have come to a nuclear war. But Kennedy's astute management of "public diplomacy" and Stevenson's description of the missile deployments as "aggression" at the U.N. were key components in defusing the confrontation.

By the time Lyndon Johnson became president, the U.N. was fast becoming the anti-American forum it is today. Johnson's efforts to use the international body to build support for U.S. and allied military operations in Vietnam -- and to use the U.N. as a place to negotiate an end to the war -- were ultimately scuttled, along with his presidency.

President Richard Nixon came to office knowing the U.N. was an "adverse environment." He once told me he considered it to be enemy territory. "I didn't care if they liked me," he said. "I just wanted to be sure they respected the United States." Nixon used the threat of cutting off funds to various U.N. entities to gain leverage on issues he deemed important. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush -- a former U.N. ambassador -- took the same approach.

President Jimmy Carter was obsequious in every appearance at the U.N. Bill Clinton was little better. Madeleine Albright, who served as Clinton's U.N. ambassador and went on to become his secretary of state, was a vocal proponent of relying on the U.N. to deter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Her colorful zeal for U.N. effectiveness yielded nuclear weapons in North Korea and Pakistan and the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

President Barack Obama has gone even further. His U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, is a Madeleine Albright protege. It's clear from his remarks at this week's General Assembly session that the O-Team's naivete about the global body's effectiveness and his legendary hubris are unabated. So, too, is his penchant for revisionism.

In his lecture at the assembly, Obama enthusiastically endorsed new "measures" by the U.N. to deal with Tehran's nuclear weapons program -- though nothing the U.N. does has any effect. He used the words "I" and "me" no fewer than a dozen times in the course of three paragraphs but neglected to mention his assurance that the six-month U.N.-sanctioned operation in Libya would "last days, not months." And in a surreal description of what really happened, he said, "Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him." Try telling the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden that it wasn't a violent encounter.

Worse still, Obama appears to have been completely blindsided by the well-telegraphed effort to have the United Nations create an "independent Palestinian state." His hastily arranged meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did nothing to ameliorate the latest diplomatic debacle.

Protecting the American people from the dangers we face and salvaging American credibility from U.N. irrelevancy are presidential responsibilities. We should pray our next head of state is up to the task.

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