As Jen noted this morning, it’s obvious how the Obama administration “understands” its role on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Last month, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, sent a letter to every member of Congress asserting that the Obama administration’s “sustained engagement” with the UNHRC had “reaped important dividends for both the U.S. and Israel” and proved that “engagement works.” He described the “hard-fought” victory of keeping Iran off the UNHRC, adding that Iran’s assumption of a seat would have delivered “a fatal blow to the UN’s credibility.”
Having saved the UNHRC from a fatal blow to its credibility, the Obama administration has continued to treat it as if it were a bona fide organization. Yesterday, the UNHRC voted 32-to-3 to condemn Israel and initiate a new Goldstone-type “investigation” to prove what it had just condemned. The key portion of the State Department news conference that Jen cites is the repeated statement by spokesman P.J. Crowley that the U.S. “understands” the action:
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we understand that. One of the reasons why we joined the Human Rights Council was that we hope that over time that it would take a more balanced and appropriate response to urgent situations. … And as our statement indicated, we believe that this particular resolution is a rushed judgment. It risks further politicizing a sensitive and volatile situation. … But we respect the fact that other countries may have a different view.
QUESTION: So in the 18 months that – or 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve?
MR. CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive.
QUESTION: And how did that manifest itself in this vote?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was – I mean, all we can do – we have a vote. (Laughter.) We don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council —
QUESTION: Well, the previous administration didn’t – I mean, didn’t – they basically ignored the whole council because of situations like this.
MR. CROWLEY: And we don’t think ignoring these issues —
QUESTION: So your no vote is enough?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work – I mean, we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court Review Conference. … But we understand that there’ll be times where our view may carry the day, and there’ll be times where our – other countries have different points of view.
The prior administration would not have joined the UNHRC in the first place; it would have quit after the Goldstone Report demonstrated the Council’s nature beyond dispute; and it would have quit after the Council voted yesterday to do it again. In contrast, the current administration “understands” the vote and will just keep on “engaging” and congratulating itself for its “positive and constructive” contributions.
You don’t have to be a horseman to spot a weak horse.