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America’s U.N. Ambassador Has Been AWOL


Richard Grenell, director of communications and public diplomacy for the United States permanent representative to the United Nations from 2001 to 2008, wrote a blog post today that is a must-read for those interested in U.S. policy at the United Nations. Grenell details how Amb. Susan Rice has essentially treated her position at the U.N. as a part-time job, spending half her time in Washington. Grenell notes that she has been

absent at many crucial Security Council meetings in New York during some of the world body’s most turbulent times. Rice was even missing from this week’s Security Council debate and vote to add new Peacekeepers to a beleaguered UN operation in Haiti. According to several UN veteran reporters and some US Mission staff, Rice has been missing from crucial negotiations on Iran too. They say that when Rice does attend UN negotiations, she is all too willing to avoid confrontation.

Jarringly, he reports that France has had to take up the slack in efforts to apply pressure on Iran in the U.N. Security Council.

Moreover, Grenell criticizes Rice’s non-confrontational style at the U.N. as harming a number of U.S. interests, including U.N. reform.

Rice’s weak and sporadic attention to U.S. priority issues actually damages the UN’s credibility by sending the message that U.S. tax dollars can be spent without regard to effectiveness. Americans have always demanded that the UN reform its bloated system and it has fallen to the American Ambassador to the UN to spearhead that reform. Under Rice’s leadership, the U.S. delegation has been astonishingly quiet on UN budget and reform issues. While Peacekeeping operations continue to be expanded without challenge and the UN Budget dramatically increased, Rice and her team have drawn few lines in the sand with the UN. . . . Demanding UN reform won’t endear you to other Ambassadors, but the American people expect it.

From the beginning, it was clear that the Obama administration’s approach to the U.N. would be far more conciliatory than that of the Bush administration. However, there was reason to hope that the Obama administration’s high regard for international negotiation and multilateral organizations such as the U.N. would lead it to demand that the U.N. live up to the lofty standard set by its many devotees.

Unfortunately, it appears that not even Ambassador Rice takes the U.N. seriously enough to try to make it work.

Brett D. Schaefer is the Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at the Heritage Foundation and editor of ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives.


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