Colum Lynch reported yesterday that the Obama administration is working to stop the UN Human Rights Council from referring Syria to the UN Security Council.
That unusual posture is not, contrary to appearances, the latest example of the administration’s reluctance to criticize human rights abuses. Nor is it the result of a foreign policy that generally “works against dictatorial friends of America and does not oppose, in any significant way, all dictatorial foes of America.”
In fact, this time the Obama administration is doing the right thing in opposing European efforts to move the Syria issue through the Human Rights Council instead of directly through the Security Council. The administration evidently realizes that allowing the tyrannical regimes that control the Human Rights Council to refer a country to the Security Council would set a precedent that could be used against Israel and other western democracies.
Belatedly, the Obama administration seems to have learned that the Human Rights Council is a farce that ignores human rights abuses around the world while persecuting Israel even more aggressively than its predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission.
At first, the administration was eager to run for a seat on the Council, proudly overturning previous American policy and supposedly restoring the global reputation of the United States. President Obama ignored warnings that all he was doing was legitimizing a fatally flawed institution–an institution whose corruption was underlined by the fact that China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia were elected at the same time as the USA in May 2009.
A year ago, the Obama administration practically beamed with pride as it presented the United States to the Council for “Universal Periodic Review” of its human rights practices–calling international calumny down upon Arizona’s immigration law, among other alleged American weaknesses.
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Yet now, chastened by experience–and by effective domestic opposition to its anti-Israel policies–the Obama administration is starting to realize it made a terrible mistake by joining the Human Rights Council.
In a spirit of self-righteous moral preening and hubristic self-regard, President Obama thought that he could correct whatever flaws existed in the Council, succeeding where the sincere and arduous efforts of President George W. Bush had failed.
Perhaps he still believes he can do so. But wiser heads, exposed to the daily reality of international hypocrisy at Turtle Bay and in Geneva, and less prone to self-congratulation over imagined achievements, have at least realized that the Human Rights Council remains fraught with danger for the U.S. and its allies.