The Case for US Withdrawing from the UN

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Written By Maya Cantina

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Nigerian physicians being trained by the World Health Organization (WHO) on how to put on and remove personal protective equipment (PPE) to treat Ebola patients. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot of legitimate reasons to criticize the United Nations. It is ineffective, expensive, threatens U.S. sovereignty, and impedes U.S. foreign policy objectives. But mostly, it is completely ineffective.

Earlier this month, North Korea tested a hypersonic weapon. Kim Jong Un is obsessed with developing nuclear missiles capable of striking South Korea, Japan, and the US. The United Nations expressed grave concern over the North Korean nuclear program but has been unable to slow it, much less stop it.

During COVID, China influenced the UN’s health body, the World Health Organization (WHO), to advocate for masks, lockdowns, school closures, and vaccines. The global economy still has not recovered, while children all over the world lost roughly two years of schooling. Teachers in the US are reporting that not only are children behind academically, but truancy has doubled compared to pre-COVID times, and classes are unruly.

Last December, Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) introduced a bill to Congress calling for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations. The bill, titled the Disengaging Entirely from the United Nations Debacle (DEFUND) Act, proposes withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO), ceasing participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations, including providing funding, personnel, and equipment. Additionally, it would revoke diplomatic immunity in the U.S.

Among Senator Lee’s objections were the loss of sovereignty and the ongoing funding for the UN, which comes at the expense of US taxpayers. The US is the single largest funder of the UN, accounting for about one-third of the organization’s budget. In 2022, the US contributed $18 billion.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) supported the bill, citing corruption within the UN and the UN’s protection of Hamas in the current conflict with Israel. A further complaint was that China, a country the US has sanctioned for committing numerous human rights violations, particularly genocide against the Uyghur ethnic minority in Xinjiang, sat on the Human Rights Council.

Republicans have been criticizing the UN for years. Regarding a US pullout from the Human Rights Council, Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said, “When organizations undermine our national interests and our allies, we will not be complicit.” He was attacked by Democrats, liberals, and the mainstream media, who apparently value globalism over the national interests of the United States. When the Council was first formed in 2006, then-President George W. Bush refused to join.

At that time, Representative Tom Lantos of California, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, said, “This is a major retrenchment in America’s long struggle to advance the cause of human rights around the world, and it is a profound signal of U.S. isolation at a time when we need to work cooperatively with our Security Council partners.” The point Rep. Lantos is missing is that the US can be committed to human rights without joining the UNHRC.

The Brookings Institute said, “This telling remark illustrates that this administration’s North Star is toward a nostalgic past in which states had greater independence from international laws and multilateral diplomacy.” Countries, particularly the United States, having autonomy to join or not to join, to act without joining, is not a matter of nostalgia. It is a matter of choice. Throughout the decades, American Republicans have chosen for the U.S. to be independent and autonomous. Furthermore, there is the very real issue that when Washington joins these multinational organizations, the U.S. winds up footing the bill.

In 2018, Brookings said that US participation in the UNHCR was crucial, “investigating and condemning human rights abuses by some of the worst violators of human rights—Syria, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan, Cambodia, Belarus, Burundi, and Eritrea, to name a few.”

Looking at this list, 18 years later, it is obvious how ineffective the UNHCR is. Syria remains a basket case of instability, Iran is the single most disruptive force in the Middle East, the Myanmar junta has bombed more civilians in the last two years than Russia has in Ukraine, Sudan is still facing civil war. Hun Sen, who ran Cambodia as his own pocketbook for 30 years, retired, transferring power to his son, Hun Manet. Belarus is a pariah state, one of Russia’s closest allies, and Eritrea is on the brink of war with Ethiopia, again. Burundi only has limited rebel activity now, with only 20 people killed in December. They also have border disputes with Rwanda, but have not declared war. So, maybe the globalists count that as a success.

Supporters of globalism cite the importance of the UNHCR in protecting LGBTQ and women’s rights. Meanwhile, about 30% of UN member countries are Muslim-majority countries where LGBTQ may be illegal, and where women have very few rights.

Ironically, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, and Venezuela have all sat on the UNHCR despite being some of the most oppressive countries that regularly repress human rights. The UNHCR has done nothing to change the world’s worst regimes, guilty of gross human rights abuses: Algeria, China, Cuba, Egypt, Gaza, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and Zimbabwe. Additionally, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have sat on The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The UN Security Council is similarly useless and farcical. China and Russia sit on the council and have veto power to stop UN actions against genocide or against China or Russia, two of the world’s biggest violators.

Trump tore up the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal. He even threatened to withdraw the US from the UN and NATO. While these may seem extreme actions, why is it so wrong for the US to act in the best interest of the US? Furthermore, why should the US continue to pay money and lives for institutions that fail to prevent wars or mitigate crises but which can infringe on US autonomy?

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