Over the years, many observers have become disenchanted with the United Nations. Setting up international organizations to bring countries together for discussing and dealing with common concerns is an intuitively good idea. Unfortunately, like an unsupervised kindergarten class, the U.N. and many other international organizations have gotten off track.
What leads them astray are two common misconceptions.
The first is the wrong-headed notion that international organizations should supplant rather than serve sovereign states. Too many big thinkers and bureaucrats within these outfits, perhaps having watched too much “Star Trek,” start believing that their pet organization is the natural precursor to the World Federation.
Undisciplined, unaccountable, and unconstrained international organizations threaten popular sovereignty. States exist to serve the people, not the other way round. If states are accountable to international organizations, not their citizens, then basic human freedom is irreparably compromised.
The other big “no-no” is thinking that all nations are equal. They are not. Many malicious regimes have, from the start, used the opportunity to engage in international organizations as an invitation to make mischief. Giving authoritarian regimes positions of power in an international organization is the equivalent of letting Pennywise the Clown manage Amber Alerts. Yet we regularly see the world’s worst human rights abusers get elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Fortunately, we now have an administration that’s willing to push back against this sort of nonsense. It’s coming at a good time, too, because some of those international organizations, having convinced themselves that the U.S. is the real threat, and have trained their sights on America.
For example, the International Criminal Court (ICC) recently green-lighted an investigation into war crimes accusations leveled against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Time out. The U.S. isn’t even a party to the ICC. The court has zero jurisdiction over America.
“This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters. Faced with such brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty, merely ignoring the ICC is insufficient. It is time for the U.S. to go the offensive.
America should not only “end any remaining cooperation,” argues Heritage expert Brett Schaefer, but “take additional steps to protect its people from the illegitimate claims of jurisdiction by the court.”
If the U.S. does not pay attention and fight back, the ICC will not be the last international organization that our foes weaponized to use against us.
China’s behavior in this regard has become quite egregious. Beijing is pressing numerous international organizations to hire thousands of Chinese citizens—and it’s not because the National People’s Congress is looking to bump up its employment numbers. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to riddle organizations with operatives loyal to the party.
There is no end to the mischief that the CCP can accomplish by hijacking international organizations. Recently, it used its influence in the World Health Organization not only to hide China’s mismanagement of the response to the coronavirus, but to browbeat international officials into abetting the cover-up.
China also tried to press its candidate as the head of World Intellectual Property Organization—while being the world’s leader in stealing intellectual property. Letting Beijing control this outfit would be is a classic example of letting the fox guard the henhouse. Fortunately, the U.S. administration stepped in and led a global campaign to elect a more responsible candidate.
Going forward, we need a lot more of the same. Not every international organization is equally important or needs to involve the highest levels of U.S. government, but Washington must be ready and willing to apply such measures in critical cases. Shrewd and powerful offensives targeted on key international organizations now would both mark U.S. global leadership for a second century and tip the great power competition more in our favor.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times