The U.S. Is Going Backward at the United Nations | Opinion

Will the United States hold the United Nations to its highest ideals, and serve our national interests? Things aren't looking good. The UN's health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), just elected Syria to its executive board, despite that regime's use of chemical weapons against women and children. The UN Human Rights Council is preparing for a new round of ridiculous anti-Israel "investigations." Yet as dictators, murderers and thieves continue to use the UN for their own evil ends, the U.S. under the Biden administration seems content to go along for the ride. A different approach is needed—fast.

As history shows, and as I personally saw, the United States is best at the UN when we stand strong. We must stand up to our adversaries, unmistakably and unapologetically. We should stand by our friends, boldly and bravely. And we must stand for our principles, confidently and clearly. The moment we fail to do any of these things, our adversaries and their lackeys will make the most of it. China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and North Korea get the joke: The UN is too dysfunctional, divided and open to dictatorship to be effective. They know that when the United States backs away from what's right, it's easier for them to take the UN—and the world—in the wrong direction.

Our adversaries are adept at using the UN's structure and flaws to their advantage. Take Russia. As a permanent member of the Security Council, it can stand in the way of almost anything serious we pursue at the UN. So can Communist China: Like Russia, it uses its seat on the Security Council to block justified and moral measures. As concerning, China is quietly working to corrupt UN agencies from top to bottom, with disastrous results.

The WHO is the latest proof. For years, China gained leverage over the WHO through a combination of funding and pressure. It then manipulated the agency during the coronavirus pandemic. The WHO adopted the Chinese party line despite being banned from entering the country during the initial outbreak, praised China's response despite clear evidence of a cover-up and continues to cooperate with China despite the country's unwillingness to share key information on the virus' origins and spread—see the WHO's bogus "report" from March. China's stranglehold on the WHO contributed to the death of more than 3 million people, including more than 500,000 Americans.

FormerU.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley chaired a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at UN headquarters, September 17, 2018 in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The WHO illustrates another reality: Many UN agencies are broken. Worse, some can't be fixed, like the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). It's a cesspool of human rights violators—from Cuba to China to Venezuela to Russia. In 2018, I led the effort to withdraw the United States from UNHRC. The reason was simple: We care too much about human rights and individual freedom to be part of a group that undermines both while attacking our ally Israel more than any other country. This logic equally applies to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which fosters hatred toward Israel more than it supports Palestinian refugees.

Sadly, the Biden administration has made the United States rejoin UNHRC and has renewed funding for UNRWA. These actions give legitimacy to anti-American tyrants while hurting key allies. The new U.S. ambassador to the UN has also criticized our country, saying she has seen "how the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles." And to top it off, the U.S. is failing to use the bully pulpit of the Security Council. In the face of aggression and insults by Russia, China and other adversaries, the U.S. sits still and stays silent when it should stand tall and speak the truth.

On the whole, the Biden administration has made it significantly harder for the United States to advance the cause of security, prosperity, peace and personal freedom. It has done so in the name of making friends and showing that we're a "team player." Yet the U.S. doesn't have to prove anything at the UN. We have already saved the world multiple times in multiple ways. Thanks to our leadership, humanity has risen to historically unimaginable heights of accomplishment and prosperity. We don't need the UN to validate our history or our continued efforts.

If the Biden administration wants to make the most of the United Nations, it should adopt an approach that actually works. Make progress where we can, walk away when we can't and hold the line when we must.

Nikki Haley served as governor of South Carolina (2011-17) and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2017-19). This piece is adapted from her foreword to "A Better Blueprint for International Organizations: Advancing American Interests on the Global Stage," out today from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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