Biden UN Ambassador's Attack on America Won't Win the U.S. Any Friends | Opinion

Will UN ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield's indictment of America help the Biden administration advance the cause of human rights around the world? The diplomat delivered a stunning speech last week to racial huckster Al Sharpton's National Action Network which echoed a similar speech she gave to the UN General Assembly last month. Thomas-Greenfield spoke of her experiences of racism and condemned the nation she represents for "the original sin of slavery" which "weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles."

Thomas-Greenfield isn't wrong to say slavery and racism constitute the "original sin" of American history. Toleration of slavery was not just morally wrong but also a blot on the young republic's international reputation and undermined its claim to have transcended the problems of Europe that most of its citizens had fled. It's also true that in the America in which the ambassador grew up, racism was still commonplace.

But saying so, whether to Sharpton's group or on the floor of a world body—many of whose members are brutal dictatorships that respect no one's human rights but those of their rulers—does not enhance America's ability to effectively advocate for freedom throughout the world.

That's not just because Thomas-Greenfield's parroting of critical race theory talking points about America being an irredeemably racist nation—straight out of The New York Times' fallacious 1619 Project—gets the nation's history wrong. Nor is it just that her talk of pervasive "white supremacy" in a country that elected a black man as president and now sends an African-American woman to represent it at the UN doesn't add up.

It's that Thomas-Greenfield's embrace of Black Lives Matter ideology dovetails with the Biden administration's pride at rejoining the largely meaningless Paris Climate Accord and the UN's toxic and virulently anti-Semitic Human Rights Council in the name of American "humility." Thomas-Greenfield seems to think rejecting American exceptionalism enhances her credibility to advocate for the values her nation has always stood for, albeit sometimes imperfectly. But an ambassador who sounds as if she is reading out of a Chinese Communist Party playbook trashing the United States as having no right to criticize China's routine human rights abuses will only invite contempt, not respect. It sends a signal to tyrannies as well as fellow democracies that this administration cares more about ingratiating itself with countries that don't share America's values than about fearlessly advocating for them.

Many of America's UN ambassadors have been career diplomats like Thomas-Greenfield. Most of them, whether appointed by Republicans or Democrats, regarded their job as fitting in with the international community rather than seeking to change it. A few, notably Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1975-76), Jeanne Kirkpatrick (1981-85), John Bolton (2005-6) and to some extent Nikki Haley (2017-18), instead regarded themselves as leaders of an American resistance inside the building on Manhattan's Turtle Bay. They were there to stand up to an international community that regarded its host and its values with contempt.

Thomas-Greenfield fits into a different tradition—one that began with Jimmy Carter's UN pick, Andrew Young (1977-79), and continued with Barack Obama's choices Susan Rice (2009-13) and Samantha Power (2013-17). Their embrace of multilateralism seems to embody a belief that, rather than the UN needing to listen more to America, Washington must bow to the dictates of Third World dictatorships. Under that approach, the United States meekly accepts the world body as a place where the West and its allies—like the state of Israel—are permanently in the dock, where they can be falsely judged for their original sins of imperialism and colonialism.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield
US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and President of the Security Council speaks during a press conference for the Security Council programme of work in March at the UN Headquarters in New York on March 1, 2021. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

As Obama proved conclusively during his apology tours for America and the West—in which he disavowed his country's past actions in Latin America and Iran and drew a moral equivalence between the Palestinians' grievances against Israel and the Holocaust—the nations he sought to appease with such talk didn't reciprocate with admissions of their faults. On the contrary, Obama's efforts to win over Leftist dictators and the Muslim world fell flat. The president's interlocutors concluded, not unreasonably, that an America that no longer believed in itself wasn't worthy of respect.

While the Obama administration congratulated itself on its popularity around the world, its policy initiatives—whether to support pro-democracy protests or to advance human rights—went nowhere. Its only foreign policy triumph, the Iran nuclear deal, was achieved at the cost of the United States abandoning all of its demands, acquiescing to Tehran's retention of its nuclear program and granting the Islamic Republic an eventual legal path to a bomb via sunset clauses.

Thomas-Greenfield's speeches seem to promise more of the same.

It is particularly disgraceful for an American diplomat to prioritize trashing her own country while making only a few token references to the Uighurs or the Rohingya in Myanmar. Thomas-Greenfield identified racism as a worldwide problem and Beijing's totalitarian oppression of minorities bears that out. But the implicit comparison between contemporary America and an actual genocide shows how utterly lacking her stance is in intellectual or moral rigor.

It is hardly surprising that America's envoy to the world would speak in that manner given that the entire Biden administration has bought into the same tone-deaf approach to the past and similarly portrayed the BLM movement and its false narrative about "white privilege" as analogous to those who resist tyranny in places like China or Myanmar. An envoy who seems so oblivious to the arc of American history—which has continuously advanced toward greater freedom—cannot hope to be taken seriously by nations all too willing to view America as a great sinner to be censured rather than an enlightened democracy to be emulated.

Under Biden, the liberal establishment is firmly back in charge after Donald Trump's four-year-long departure from its devotion to international institutions for their own sake rather than for the advancement of American interests or values. There was little reason to believe Biden's foreign policy team would ask the world to learn from America's history of advancement toward greater freedom when it spends so much time apologizing for the country.

Thomas-Greenfield's view of America abdicates its historic role as the world's greatest bastion of freedom. That sort of blind faith in multilateralism isn't a praiseworthy expression of humility so much as an example of what happens when elites lose faith in their own nation's historic mission.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org, a senior contributor to The Federalist and a columnist for the New York Post. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.