American support for tough action abroad rises when backed by the United Nations.  And international support soars when gaining U.N. approval.

Why? Everyone respects, if not adores, the concept of the international organization.

That’s all well and good, except it’s not the concept, but the reality that busts the balloon.

On Monday, Libya won “election” as the new chairman of he U.N.’s Human Rights Commission:

--Libya, the model of a terrorist state bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction, before Iraq and North Korea took over that mantle;

--Libya, which for 33 years, has been ruled by the madman Muammar el-Qadaffi;

--Libya, still under some U.N. sanctions for master-mining the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which murdered 270 passengers and crew;

--Libya, which Freedom House distinguishes as among the “Most Repressive Regimes” of 2002; and

--Libya, which the State Department’s latest Human Rights Report says has a poor human rights record with “summary judicial proceedings to suppress domestic opposition,” whose “security forces torture prisoners during interrogations and as punishment” with “political detainees…held for years without charge,” etc.

The Europeans, whose adoration of the United Nations rises even higher than Americans, couldn’t take a collective decision to oppose Libya’s ascension. Most European representatives -- who yell so vehemently against alleged human rights abuses by Israel -- were mum about Libya’s heading the Human Rights Commission. Some European reps may have voted for Libya.

Were this a single incident of U.N.-foolery, one could let it pass.But it comes on the heels of Syria -- another of Freedom House’s 10 “Most Repressive Regimes” -- presiding over the U.N. Security Council when collective action against Iraq was being hotly debated a few months back.

With the official representatives of Libya and Syria having control over key United Nations agencies, you wonder just how much wisdom the U.N. can impart to guide American foreign policy.

Far more prominent these days is, of course, Hans Blix. Having worked with him in the 1980s -- when I was a U.S. ambassador to the U.N., with bodyguards protecting us from Libyan assassins at U.N. headquarters -- I know Blix to be a terribly nice man.

It’s only that he’s not a terribly effective weapons inspector that raises problems for me.

After all, when it most counted before, Blix showed less than exceptional abilities. This Swedish lawyer whose entire career has been with United Nations agencies, had long been responsible for stemming nuclear weapons proliferation. As such, he gave Saddam Hussein’s Iraq an “exemplary” rating for its adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Shortly thereafter, the first international weapons inspectors after the Gulf War found that Iraq with at least three nuclear weapons programs. Not exactly an exemplary performance.

Despite what many presume about American “arrogance” or Ugly American behavior abroad, Americans instead need more confidence in our own values and leaders.

I’m far more comfortable with the freely-elected and constitutionally-bound leaders guiding our foreign policy than representatives of the tyrannies of Libya and Syria -- or even nice men from Sweden without a strong track-record behind them.

Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com