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US Should Abstain at UNGA, All the Time, Not Just on Cuba

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is a dictator’s playground, a political wasteland where rogue regime attempt to acquire a patina of political legitimacy. Dullness is a natural byproduct that comes with being evil and corrupt. No amount of intellectual rubbing of the elbows can ever remove the tarnish from the image of these nation-states.

Later today the UNGA will consider, and likely approve, yet one more resolution condemning U.S. policy toward Communist Cuba, specially the economic sanctions. It is part of an annual ritual that comes with beating up on the United States, capitalism, and the free world. These are the same type of resolutions used against Israel and other genuine democracies. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the pro-Communist Cuba lobby in Washington, DC is spinning a possible U.S. abstention as a “win,” for example:

Both parties in Congress should pay attention to the UN vote today. While other global issues expose deep differences among nations, on this topic they are nearly unanimous: It’s time to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba, statement from Engage Cuba.

I’m not sure what these groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, think they are trying to advance with these propaganda campaigns, but it is surely not U.S. interests.

U.S. abstention at UNGA on the Cuba question would not even be a Pyrrhic win, but rather a colossal waste of time and possibly going against the President’s constitutional duty to make sure that U.S. laws be faithfully executed (see embedded document). These resolutions are meaningless and have no force of law, or much of anything else. They make proponents feel good, and not much else. A close friend and former UN diplomat calls UNGA resolutions the narcotic of choice of failed or corrupt states, “it gives them a temporary high, helps them forget how degenerate they are and they cost relatively little money. So like drug addicts, they come back for more because civilized nations allow it.”

I agree with columnist Jeff Jacoby, an opponent of the President’s Cuba policy, that the US ambassador to the United Nations should never cast an UNGA vote. In an op-ed last month,  Mr. Jacoby reminds us that the idea of abstaining from all UNGA votes was probably first “proposed in the 1960s by the political theorist James Burnham” who argued that for the United States to vote for UNGA “resolutions is to lend them an authority to which serious countries like the United States know they aren’t entitled.” Jacoby’s piece is a great read and is available here.

Since the early 1990s, I’ve visited the UN many times and was even able to testify before one of its Special Committees. While there are a lot of well-meaning people working at the UN and, indeed, there are some redeeming qualities of the organization, more than good feelings and intentions are needed to build a quality organization. At best, the UN has become a debate society in serious need of overhaul and reform. At this juncture, the bad substantially outweighs the good the organization may have done since its creation in 1945.

The Obama Administration, if it decides to abstain from the Cuba vote today, should make it a practice from here on out; future administrations should do the same. The United States has no business legitimizing rogues regimes, or undermining U.S. interests, via the UN General Assembly or another international organization.

Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996

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