I am amazed at my own naiveté. For years I have been under the impression that the basic problem with the UN is what I call the Myth of Domestication: The attitude that says that if the nations of the world all pretend they are part of a single community, ruled by laws and a measure of goodwill, then in fact the world will be as such.
But then there is the new United Nations Human Rights Council. Its centerpiece is the Universal Periodic Review, in which every nation has its ongoing human rights record evaluated by representatives of three other states, chosen at random. Now it’s Israel’s turn, and it is being judged by Azerbaijan, Nigeria, and South Korea.
To illustrate the stupidity of the mechanism, let us imagine you were do this on an individual level: To pack a room with a random sampling of people picked at random, ranging from philanthropists and ordinary honest people to liars and organized crime bosses, and create a “morality review” in which each person were to be judged by three others. The results would be announced publicly, with good people commended and bad people assailed.
Assuming no politicking or conniving or backroom deals, the results would be not objective, but simply incoherent: Every individual would be rated according to the triangulated worldviews of whoever happened to sit in judgment: If you happened to have two really good people on your panel, you’d be judged according to better criteria than if you happened to have two scoundrels on your panel.
But then add the element of politics and power realities: What would most likely happen is that powerful people would conduct round-the-clock talks and deals, each person engineering maximum external pressure on his judges to give them a wonderful grade, and the results would be that the strongest would win out–the exact opposite of what the morality review was meant to achieve. Instead of giving us any objective indicator of moral probity, we would have a formal public endorsement of the status quo, enshrining the power of the powerful and the weakness of the weak.
Is it not obvious that this can be the only reasonable result of the Universal Periodic Review? If this is not convincing enough, maybe a better parallel is to look at a more reasonable version of this idea, which the Review is probably emulating: The idea of being judged by a jury of one’s peers. In American law, jury selection is a long process, in which the vast majority of potential jurors are rejected, on grounds that they might have the slightest bias or personal interest that would skew their judgment. Imagine that you were on trial, and instead of twelve jurors, there were only three; that the jury pool consisted of 191 people, all of whom know you personally and the majority of whom have something against you; and that you only were allowed to reject one of the three chosen, requesting a replacement just once. What are the chances of a fair trial?