The United States has used its veto in the UN Security Council 14 times since 2000, and 12 of those 14 were exercised to protect Israel from biased and destructive resolutions.
But today, the Biden administration is co-sponsoring a UN General Assembly resolution that goes down the path leading to a delegitimization of the veto itself. Forty-four countries, at last count, are supporting a text that requires any country that exercises the veto to defend that veto in the General Assembly. This resolution will pass in the General Assembly and taken alone, it isn’t a very big step. The United States always gives an “EOV” or explanation of vote in the Security Council when it vetoes a resolution. It can easily enough transmit that EOV to the General Assembly.
But here it’s the thought that counts, and the thought is to make the Security Council report to the General Assembly. It is one step in a long process that is meant to change the way the Security Council works, eventually by adding members and removing the veto—or making it subject to override by the General Assembly.
A moment’s thought shows how damaging this might be to U.S. interests. The United States is a global power that has been involved in military activities repeatedly. Without our veto power, the Security Council could do literally anything: subject American troops to International Criminal Court jurisdiction; subject the United States to new international treaties or agreements that impose standards to which we object and outlaw military activities we consider vital to our national security; and outside the area of national security, adopt standards relating to parents, children, family law, and gender rules that we find objectionable, or impose rules against “insults to religion” that clearly violate the First Amendment. Without the veto there is simply no way to protect against limitless actions against our national interest.
Moreover, the long list of U.S. vetoes of resolutions reflects the terrible, long-lasting bias of the United Nations against Israel. Of course those who specialize in attacking Israel, and U.S. support for Israel, want the veto eliminated—and that is another very good explanation of why it must be maintained. Delegitimizing the veto is a step toward delegitimizing Israel.
The UN is debating the resolution today, April 19. There can be no doubt that Russia and China have used the veto to protect malicious behavior on their own part and that of their allies. The United States has used it, and must continue to do so, to protect legitimate interests of our own and those of our democratic allies. The Biden administration should make it clear that we will vote against any effort to limit the veto—even if the administration wrongly supports this not-so-innocent reporting requirement. A Security Council majority whose power is not limited by the veto would simply be too dangerous for the United States.