United Nations Headquarters in New York
(Flickr/Philip Tellis) United Nations Building

At the United Nations, countries collectively rebuked the United States over its Jerusalem decision this week.

With an overwhelming margin, the UN General Assembly condemned Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Only nine members voted with the US.

Most states defied both President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN.  In the last few days, both had issued threats to both the UN and its member states over the vote.

In practical terms, the General Assembly resolution was of course meaningless.  It is not going to change the ground realities in the Middle East.

Therefore, I hope the struggles between the US and the UN member states and the United Nations itself are just political posturing.  Attacking the UN is a favorite activity for extreme Republicans.

United Nations as Punching Bag for Republicans

For many right-wing Republicans, the United Nations is a favorite target.

Trump is not the first GOP President to criticize the UN for its various ills. Nor will he be the last.

Many Republicans who are ignorant or have brains addled by right-wing propaganda detest all global bodies. A recent example was the resurgent fury against UNESCO.

Prominent Republicans have made bizarre to offensive comments about the UN.

Kelli Ward, a leading candidate to replace Jeff Flake as Arizona Senator, has warned citizens to be vigilant about UN helicopters. In the 1990s, John Bolton, eventual US ambassador to the UN, said several floors of UN headquarters “could be lopped off without being missed.”

As for Nikki Haley, she is positioning herself for a future in Republican national politics. After her term as South Carolina governor, her UN position gives her some credentials to talk about foreign policy.

Besides, Haley’s bluster about anti-Israeli positions at the UN is also smart politically. Haley’s statements will endear her to right-wing donors and grassroots groups who favor current Israeli government policies.

United Nations: Always Under Threat

Over the years, member-states have found fault with the UN for many things. Corruption, ineffectiveness, and power imbalances are among common complaints.

Frequently, the UN also upsets individual states. Israel, and often the US, are frequently at loggerheads over the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Like the US, other states that donate a lot of money to the UN have exerted pressure against the body for negative statements.  For example, Saudi Arabia and the UN have had disputes over Yemen in recent years.

Other countries have been upset over what they see as UN interference with “internal” issues.  Still, no state has left the United Nations permanently. They recognize its value.

United Nations: Good for World including US

I may be biased because of my previous work with the UN. But any serious analysis would show the UN does make the world a better place.

Without the UN, the US would have to contend with crises of violence, disease, and migration – just to cite a few examples – on its own.  That would be even costlier and dangerous than the UN handling these crises.

No wonder, most Americans believe that the United Nations is good for the United States.

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