Even before it was officially born, the U.N. was beset by tensions. President Roosevelt floated the concept of a "United Nations" during World War II. It seemed achievable: After all, free countries such as the United States, Britain and Australia managed to set aside their differences with the Soviet Union long enough to defeat Nazi Germany.
But once the war ended and the U.N. charter was ratified, the Soviets formed a bloc of communist countries and began opposing measures proposed by the free world. The U.N. General Assembly became a farce -- a debating society where little was accomplished.
Today, the Soviet Union is long gone, but the bloc system remains alive and well at the U.N. And it's still working to stymie the United States.
In 2005, according to the State Department, the General Assembly voted against the United States 75 percent of the time on non-consensus votes. Granted, that's a higher-than-usual level of anti-Americanism. Over the past two decades, members of the assembly opposed U.S. positions "only" two-thirds of the time on average.
This overwhelming, knee-jerk opposition to American-held positions has severely blunted U.N. effectiveness. Washington should be able to use the U.N. to promote policies, such as democracy, human rights and economic freedom, which would benefit the entire world. That can't be done unless we build support for U.S. positions.
No nation hands out more foreign aid than the United States. But that largess obviously hasn't created much goodwill at U.N. headquarters. According to The Heritage Foundation's Brett Schaefer and Anthony Kim, in 2005 more than 90 percent of U.S. foreign-aid recipients voted against the United States a majority of the time in the assembly. Three out of four aid beneficiaries voted against the United States a majority of the time on votes deemed important by the State Department.
So what should the United States do to help the U.N. live up to its promise? Form a bloc of its own -- a Freedom Coalition within the U.N. to promote economic and political liberty. Here's why: Freedom works. Statistics show that as nations become freer, the policies they support tend to mirror those proposed by the United States.
It's no coincidence that most American proposals at the U.N. are aimed at increasing freedom and democracy worldwide, and free nations tend to support us in that mission. It's the unfree and undemocratic that line up to oppose us. A coalition of free nations would encourage others to vote with us on major proposals.
We should encourage the spread of freedom by focusing our foreign aid on countries that advance political and economic freedom. We've already seen that a shotgun-aid approach -- giving money to virtually everyone -- doesn't necessarily promote our interests. It's time to reward those countries that make progress. The Bush administration's Millennium Challenge Account program is a good first step. We should expand it, even as we phase out other foreign-aid programs.
According to its charter, the U.N. aims "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small." We can make this ideal a reality -- through a coalition of free nations, working to spread that freedom far and wide.
Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times