International headlines: “UN votes to suspend Russia from Top Human Rights Body.” The truth is, the UN is (with apologies to FDR and Churchill) a feckless, bloated bureaucracy, a shadow of 1945’s promise. The institution spends $6.37 billion a year, 22 percent of US tax dollars. The best it can do, facing mass genocide, is boot Russia from a human rights council while China, Cuba, and Venezuela remain members? Forgive a former diplomat’s incredulity. “ Blah, blah, so?” It is talk, proof courage is rare. S e, e.g., UN assembly suspends Russia from top human rights body; U.N. suspends Russia from human rights body, Moscow then quits; UN votes to suspend Russia from human rights council over killings in Bucha; UN suspends Russia from Human Rights Council.
It was bad enough was watching Biden pretend deterrence, telling Putin a “minor incursion” was permissible, then play the willow saying, US troops “would see” carnage when there, that Putin “cannot remain in power.” When who got where, if you please? And who has the bead on Putin, Mr. President? S e, e.g., Joe Biden’s “Minor Incursion” Russia Remark: History Proves It Was a Mistake; Biden tells US troops they’ll be in Ukraine in war gaffe; Analysis: Biden’s Putin power remark raises questions about long-term Russia strategy.
The sloppiness of this Administration’s foreign policy is not just disappointing and objectively tragic – it is dangerous. Failure in Afghanistan, abandoning thousands who trusted America, indulging China and Russia, and putting climate change above allied survival – Biden’s team is a mess. See, e.g., U.S. ‘left behind’ 78,000 Afghan allies in chaotic withdrawal: NGO report; Thousands of Afghan allies, families still trapped under Taliban control.
Now comes the UN and smiling UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announcing they have acted decisively, built a “coalition,” and produced an overwhelming (not really, 93 in favor, 82 abstained or against) vote against Russia. They are proud – of what? See, e.g., UN votes to remove Russia from Human Rights Council.
Where is the impact? What difference does that vote make? Russia resigned from the council it never belonged on, heavy with human rights violators, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and others. These governments imprison, torture, rape, murder, and silence all those hoping on freedom. See, .g., Election of the Human Rights Council (13 October 2020).
Exactly how does such a Council have legitimacy? How does a General Assembly sleep at night, having condoned such an illegitimate collection of murderous members on its “Human Rights Council?” The real question is – laugh or cry?
The council, founded 16 years ago by resolution 60-251, might once have aspired to legitimacy. Those days are long gone. Whatever it had, it hemorrhaged, evolved into another stagnant UN venue, a good place for libations and lies, principles absent.
How can a former Assistant Secretary of State say this? How can a believer in ideals not sign up for the UN, which after all came to life to prevent future wars, in honor of the millions killed in WWII, a more aligned, refined, and likely to be effective version of Woodrow Wilson’s erstwhile League of Nations?
Answer: Institutions, like people, sometimes change. What was, sometimes is no more. What might have been sometimes fades, tapers, weakens, loses steam, or goes right off the rails. Courage is – stopping cold, halting lies and pride, just saying so. Only timidity and cowardice pretend all is well.
All is not well. That’s where we are. The UN Human Rights Council is no more effective than the Soviet Bill of Rights or rights promised by China. They are all there – and none are there. See e.g. 1977 Constitution of the Soviet Union.
So, here is the rub. The UN is proving, once again, to be a chartered misfit, not up to the job. Bureaucracy is a money hog, a collection of tepid talkers, filled with the right mix of indignance and indulgence, quick to a crisis, only to stand around and talk.
Needed now is courage, action, and cohesion – but will we get it? Not likely, headlines have run, cocktail hour calls, Americans are paying, institution’s history holding the fort. Blah, blah, so? Just more UN talk.