Two weeks ago, the Obama administration issued a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on alleged human rights abuses by the United States. In what marks an unprecedented act of elitism and arrogance by the political class in Washington, our own federal government has complained to a corrupt international organization about the purported sins of Americans.
In so doing, the White House attempted to redefine human rights in the socialist model and augment its liberal domestic agenda at home. It also set back the cause of those seeking freedom abroad.
The Obama report was issued to the fundamentally flawed U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Council came into existence in 2006 after its predecessor was criticized broadly for tolerating leadership from dictatorships among its members and doing little to advance individual rights globally. In classic U.N. fashion however, the reform led to something even worse.
Current Council members include systematic human rights abusers like China, Libya, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The Council has issued proclamations on things like climate change and environmental protection, but done little about regimes that routinely suppress the unalienable rights of their citizens.
It is to this deeply flawed organization that President Obama has criticized America. It seems the White House viewed this as an opportunity to advance its domestic agenda.
For example, the Obama administration criticized Arizona’s new illegal immigrant law in the report. In effect, our own federal government has complained to foreigners that Americans who favor controlling the border are would-be human rights violators. How it would be a human rights violation for the U.S. to try to control its border—as does every advanced nation—is left unexplained. But regardless of what one thinks of the Arizona law, Americans should be concerned that the federal government is criticizing before the corrupt U.N. the states and people it is supposed to represent.
The White House is also attempting to redefine human rights. In the American context, human rights constrain the power of government to control the individual. They are limitations on the government’s ability to censor us, govern us without our consent, prevent us from practicing religion as we see fit, take our property, take our arms, etc.
Socialists on the other hand reject these individual rights and talk instead about communal rights, group rights and rights to material goods and services. This basically involves hijacking the human rights moniker and using it to justify a larger government that redistributes wealth.
By bragging about Obamacare in its report to the U.N., and criticizing the U.S. for deficiencies in housing, jobs and healthcare for minorities, the Obama administration has essentially adopted this collectivist view of human rights.
Setting aside the principle in this radical shift, there is there question of its pragmatism. The White House may think that if we criticize ourselves, governments like those in China and Iran will also become self-critical and stop abusing their citizens. However, there is no historical instance where this has happened. Instead, undemocratic governments and those who struggle against them see this as U.S. weakness and diffidence.
When the U.S. itself gives in to moral equivalence, and sees itself as no different than the world’s tyrannies and thugocracies, freedom fighters lose their strongest ally in the world. Our adversaries are emboldened.
In the past, Congress would have something to say about this conduct. Not so with our political class in Washington, including on Capitol Hill. The current Congress has shown itself entirely unwilling to cross the Obama White House on any foreign policy issue of substance.
A better course would be for the United States to return to its bipartisan heritage of standing unequivocally for the rights of the individual—both at home and abroad. We should reject the socialist attempt to replace real human rights that limit government power with group rights meant to create unlimited government that redistributes wealth.
In addition, we ought to view this episode as one more reason the U.N. Human Rights Council is hopelessly flawed and the U.N. itself is counterproductive to the cause of freedom.
We should quit the Council and also deduct the amount of funds used for it from our annual dues payment to the UN. The U.S. should stand again for the advance of freedom globally, and do so by working with other pro-freedom governments, not the corrupt United Nations.
Christian Whiton is a former State Department senior advisor. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.
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Christian Whiton is the president of the Hamilton Foundation. He was a State Department senior advisor in the George W. Bush administration and a policy advisor on the Giuliani and Gingrich presidential campaigns. He is author of “Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War” (Potomac Books 2013).