There Is No ‘United Nations.’ So Let’s Stop Paying For It.


The worst people in the world gathered in New York on Thursday to condemn the United States for exercising its sovereign right to establish its embassy in Israel at Israel’s capital. The United States, which funds the lion’s share of the United Nations, hosts the organization in its most populous city, and offers $50 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned money annually in foreign aid to member countries, did not take the condemnation of human rights abusers and terrorists lying down. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley explained,

When a nation is singled out for an attack in this organization, that nation is disresepected. What’s more, that nation is asked to pay for the privilege of being disrespected. In the case of the United States, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege. Unlike some U.N, member countries, the United States government is answerable to its people, as such we have an obligation to acknowledge when our political and financial capital is being poorly spent. We have an obligation to demand more for our investment, and if our investment fails, we have an obligation to spend our resources in more productive ways. Those are the thoughts that come to mind when we consider the resolution before us today.

Ahead of the vote, both President Trump and Ambassador Haley threatened to withdraw foreign aid to countries that voted to condemn the United States. Nevertheless, representatives from some of the most brutal regimes on earth, including North Korea, Yemen, Turkey, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and Iran, spoke in support of the measure; and 128 members countries, including many of our alleged allies, voted in lockstep with them. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had the temerity to whine that his benefactor might withdraw the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that it regularly provides to the increasingly hostile regime. “We were all asked to vote no or face consequences,” complained Cavusoglu. “Some even threatened to cut development aid. This is bullying. It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale.”

The United States pays 28.5% of the $7.3 billion U.N. peacekeeping budget and 22% of its $2.7 billion core budget in addition to hosting the international body in New York. A look back at the U.N.’s record at maintaining peace and the international order show this investment has failed to generate significant returns. Throughout the Cold War, the U.N. largely stayed out of the peacekeeping business. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, peacekeeping efforts have failed in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia. Although more than 98% of military and police personnel deployed in peacekeeping missions have a mandate to protect civilians, the U.N. has only even attempted to intervene and protect civilians in 20% of cases for which it was authorized to do so.

The U.N.’s persistent failure to fulfill its mission may owe to the rampant fraud and corruption it breeds. A 2007 U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services analysis showed that 40% of peacekeeping contracts reviewed contained “significant” corruption schemes to the tune of $619 million. The U.N. mission in Sudan alone squandered tens of millions of dollars on waste, fraud, and abuse. More recently, leaked documents have shown “peacekeepers’” widespread fraud in Western Sahara and illegal reselling of food in Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In 1975, the U.N. adopted the resolution, “Zionism is racism.” In 2011, the U.N. General Assembly held a moment of silence to honor North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. In 2017, it condemned the United States for establishing an embassy in a member nation’s capital city. It wasn’t always like this. During its founding period, the United Nations possessed greater moral clarity because it limited membership to countries that had declared war against the Axis powers in the Second World War. The modern U.N. bears no resemblance to that body.

More than 20 years ago, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton explained the relation between the United States and the United Nations with characteristic bluntness. “The League of Nations was a failure because the United States did not participate. The United Nations would be a failure if the United States did not participate,” he observed. “There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interest.”

The image of a United Nations that does not rely for its very survival on the goodwill of the United States is a dangerous fiction that empowers the worst actors on earth and conflates their vicious self-interest with American moral clarity. It’s time to defund the fantasy. When next the ingrate children leading U.N. member states desire our blood and treasure, as they constantly do, they can come to us and beg.