Uncoupling the U.S. from the U.N.

Over the past sixty years, the political architecture and mathematics of the United Nations have changed drastically. Not only has the number of Security Council non-permanent members been increased from six to ten, but the pivotal position in the General Assembly once held by Latin America is now held by third-world countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They have hijacked the United Nations and transformed it into one of the most anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-democratic organizations on the planet.

They are also determined to make the U.N. the substitute for sovereignty and the surrogate for a sovereign state's decision-making institutions. Except when their own interests are at stake, they preach that the Security Council is the Government of the Earth and that the General Assembly is the Parliament of Mankind.

America can keep the Security Council at bay because it has a veto there. But in the veto-free General Assembly, America, which pays twenty percent of the United Nations' regular budget and about a third of its peacekeeping budget, has only four options: abstain on an unpalatable resolution, support it, introduces a more workable one, or water down the offending resolution to utter ineffectiveness. This last option will allow for the two-thirds vote required to pass a General Assembly resolution unrecognizably different from the one the U.N.'s founders envisaged in San Francisco in 1945. 

The situation is now so bad that it forced John Bolton, then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, to remark: "Many people want me to be the U.N.'s ambassador to the U.S. That is not my job. I am the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and my primary duty is to advance U.S. foreign policy."

States, like individuals, can be inert. They remain tied to policies and processes long after they have ceased serving their intended purposes. One example is America's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: Only God knows why the United States still belongs to NATO. NATO is a Cold-War-generated anachronism whose only purpose was to deter Soviet aggression in Western Europe. Soviet Russia is gone, but the Europeans still want America to help them whenever they get into trouble. However, they have neither the means nor the will to help America when the tables are turned.  

Another example of how inertia triumphs over intelligence is America's membership in the United Nations. Although the United States was one of the organization's founding members, it is time to separate from that body. And in the process, the United States ought to encourage the United Nations to move its headquarters from New York City to a place more congenial to its orientation. Perhaps the United Nations headquarters should be in the middle of Khartoum or in a suburb of Pyongyang.

Whatever usefulness the U.N. had in its early years has been dissipated by its indecency and irresponsibility since. A case in point is the U.N.'s incessant denunciations of Israel, to which it gave birth and legitimacy when it adopted the Palestine partition resolution in November 1947. Palestine and Israel aside, really important events, such as America's recognition of Communist China, the ending of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the defusing of the Cuban missile crisis were settled not by the United Nations, but by diplomats operating outside the world organization.

To those who would argue that America's jettisoning the United Nations would mean its return to pre-Second World War isolationism, one should note that in the age of the computer, the internet, and the high-speed airplane, America can defend its vital political and socioeconomic interests in old-fashioned ways: ambassadorial diplomacy, summit meetings, bilateral and multilateral treaties, trade talks, and cultural and scientific exchanges.

In short, when a more pro-American administration comes to power again in Washington, one of its first moves after ending the current recession and so-called jobless recovery must be to start the legal and administrative process of extracting the United States from the United Nations -- and the United Nations from the United States.

Surely, when they put their heads together, the city, state, and federal governments will find a better use for the U.N.'s expensive and untaxed property along New York's famed East River. 

Edward Bernard Glick is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Temple University