Jonah Goldberg: Inventor of Facts

Writing in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Jonah Goldberg gnashes his teeth over the apparent failure of United States Ambassador to the UN John Bolton to win Senate confirmation. And in the process of praising Ambassador Bolton, the conservative columnist goes out of his way to trash the UN and simply make things up about Kofi Annan. Goldberg trots out the tired, and repeatedly disproven, claim that “most Americans think the UN is the problem.” Polls consistently show otherwise: Americans overwhelmingly favor multilateral engagement with other countries through the United Nations. This poll by the Mark Mellman group shows that 60% of respondents preferred to “work through the U.N. because such efforts will be seen as more legitimate and allow us to share the costs and risks for ensuring peace and security.”

Goldberg also credits Ambassador Bolton for scuttling “Kofi Annan’s attempts to ban weapons in space and to, in effect, tax wealthy nations through a wealth transfer scheme that ignores U.N. inefficiency and corruption.” Regarding the first charge, I assume that Goldberg is referring to the non-binding resolution on Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space, which was generated by the General Assembly (not Annan) and was voted against by the United States. As for the second charge that Kofi Annan has some sort of scheme in place to redistribute wealth among nations, I have simply no idea what he is talking about. I sort of assume he is just making that up, perhaps for the sake of the black helicopter crowd. However, if by a “wealth transfer scheme,” Goldberg is referring to the way in which United Nations dues have always been assessed then he is sorely missing the point. The U.S. pays 22% of a nearly $4 billion operating budget. In the large scheme of things, that is not a tremendous outlay for the United States government. But the return on that investment– having a United Nations–is huge. Without America’s financial contribution to the United Nations, the lights would shut off and essential programs would dry up.

Finally, Goldberg praises Ambassador Bolton for standing up “on principal” against the new Human Rights Council. But Goldberg fails to point out that Bolton’s main objection to the council was centered around a rather fine detail. Bolton’s position was that the members of the council should be elected by a 2/3rds majority. The resolution stipulated that new members to the council would be elected by an absolute majority (that’s at least 96 countries.) In the end this made little difference; had the 2/3rds criteria been applied, only Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic and Poland would have been kept off the Council.

Obviously, this column by an avowed conservative panders to a certain crowd that is intrinsically hostile to the United Nations. I just wish he would stick to the facts. There is plenty of room for a healthy debate about the role of the United Nations in American foreign policy without having to simply make things up.