Voting Practices at the United Nations

Dulles, Virginia – “The United Nations is nothing more than a forum for opposition to the United States,” a senior member of Congress told me last week during our discussion of the institution. “I agree,” I said, “so why do you keep funding them?” The second part of my reply wasn’t as welcome as the first. Perhaps that is because Turtle Bay’s collection of dictators and thugs is the only institution to which Congress — with 9 percent approval ratings — compares favorably.

The congressman, however, was correct in his assessment. The United Nations is hostile territory for America and her values. When the Bush administration said it would enforce existing UN resolutions on Iraq, Kofi Annan’s Secretariat did everything it could to prevent it. A U.S. effort last week to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe was vetoed by both the Russians and Chinese. This week at the UN, global interest groups will continue crafting a treaty to try to undermine what the Supreme Court just ruled as a fundamental right of Americans — the private ownership of firearms.

The hard evidence paints an even uglier picture.

For 25 years, the State Department has been compiling voting records at the United Nations, and the trend is troubling. Twelve years ago, the General Assembly and the U.S. were in agreement on half of the recorded votes — today, it is less than one in five. Specifically, the General Assembly voted with the United States only 18.3 percent of the time during 2007, according to State’s most recent congressionally-mandated report.

In part, that is because in the global legislature that is the General Assembly, the United States has no protector of political pride or enforcer of national interests. Even a strong ambassador like John Bolton can’t spend his days whipping votes and twisting arms like Lyndon Johnson used to do in the Senate. Anti-Americanism is on the rise at the UN and it is fashionable for diplomats to publicly express their disdain for Uncle Sam.

The UN’s voting coincidence with America was at a peak in 1995 when Bill Clinton was President. That’s not surprising since Mr. Clinton spent much of his administration traveling the world apologizing for America’s historical “mistakes.” Even during the Clinton years, however, international harmony with the United States declined dramatically. A 50.6 percent UN-U.S. voting agreement in 1995 dropped to 43 percent in 2000. When Mr. Bush took office in 2001, it plunged another 11 percentage points.

It gets worse when votes are segmented by issue. On arms control matters, the UN agreed with the United States position 66.1 percent of the time in 2000, but only 10.3 percent in 2007. In 1995, the UN and U.S. saw eye to eye on 81 percent of votes concerning human rights. Today, that ratio has plummeted to 32 percent. The United States, which has observer status at the UN Human Rights Council, said it would no longer participate because it is such a sham.

The top five countries that vote most with the United States are all small — Israel (86.4 percent), Palau (77.2 percent), Marshall Islands (70.3 percent), Kiribati (66.7 percent), and Micronesia (65.0 percent). Setting aside Israel, the remaining four have a combined population of 302,000. Rounding out the top ten are Australia, Canada, Great Britain, France, and Monaco, but their voting coincidence with the U.S. averages only 50.5 percent.

The 25 other nations that make up NATO, which the United States is obligated to defend militarily, vote with America only 40 percent of the time. As might be expected, representatives of the Islamic Conference do not bring red, white and blue pom poms to the General Assembly meetings. It’s 56 countries voted with the U.S. position only 8.5 percent of the time.

The top ten recipients of foreign aid from the United States are Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Colombia, Jordan, and Kenya. Removing Israel from the equation, the remaining nine countries received an average of $1.043 billion in 2007 from American taxpayers and voted with the U.S. an average of 8.74 percent. Another example of the diminished value of the dollar.

We’re often told that the United Nations is invaluable; that it serves America’s interests. President George W. Bush described it as a “great” and “vital” institution when he last spoke there. Yet his administration disagreed with three-fourths of what the UN put forward for consideration.

Ronald Reagan once said that somebody “who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and ally.” What, then, does that make the United Nations, which opposes us nearly 80 percent of the time?