What America Really Needs To Do About the UN

This week brings fresh reports that the Trump White House wants to slash funding to the United Nations, possibly by as much as 50%. That would be a wise move, and if that's what actually happens, it would be a good start and a welcome signal -- the first from an American president in many years -- that it is time for the UN to stop treating Washington as a moronic sugar-daddy. It is way past time for the UN (and Washington itself) to stop treating U.S. tax dollars as a multi-billion-dollar annual entitlement for the bigots and thug governments that so amply populate Turtle Bay. It is time for the U.S. to stop shelling out roughly $10 billion per year for the benefit of a UN in which, for instance, the member states have just elected -- I'm not kidding -- the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism,  Iran, as head of the largest voting caucus at the UN assemblies in Vienna.

But behind any move to slash UN funding loom a number of questions. What, precisely, might America hope to achieve? Where can this go? If the aim is to reform the UN, is that even possible?

These are among the questions I address in a Broadside pamphlet published this week by Encounter Books, on "What To Do About the UN." 

The usual defense of the UN is that it may be "imperfect," but "it's all we've got" -- a refrain that tends to be accompanied by prescriptions for reforms that either won't stick, or won't work at all.

My argument is, if the UN is all we've got, then it is way past time to come up with something else.

And while it happens fairly often that columnists here and there (myself included) will call for defunding the UN, replacing the UN, supplanting the UN, and so forth, there is very little in the public domain that actually explores, in serious ways, in detail, with the benefit of real expertise, exactly how America might divorce itself from the UN, and avail itself of arrangements more appropriate to the 21st century.

In the elite circles of Washington and New York, there has long been an implicit taboo on any serious call for the U.S. to shrug off the UN. It's time to end that taboo. It is time for a real debate. It is time for some of those with the know-how, resources, and genuine goodwill toward future generations, to take a serious, in-depth look at the opportunity cost to America of cleaving to the UN. What possibilities are we passing up, in order to maintain this multilateral morass? Is the UN really the best we can do? Could we please start asking these questions not as a rhetorical flourish, but as serious questions?