The Obama team at the UN is weak

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has been on the job for 18 months now, but she doesn’t have much to show for it.  Her record of accomplishments and performance on behalf of the American people is embarrassing.  While Rice has been active in the social scene of Washington and The White House, a study released by the uber-serious non-profit group Security Council Report suggests that the past year has been the most inactive Security Council since 1991.  Rice missed crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, she failed to speak out when Iran was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women and three other UN Committees, she failed to call-out Libya when they were elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council, she recently delivered an Iran sanctions resolution with the least support Iran resolutions have ever had and she called her one and only press conference with the UN Secretary General on the issue of texting while driving.  For an administration that promised to utilize the UN and improve our reputation around the world, its dinner party circuit strategy isn’t making America more secure.

Much of the blame for the weakness belongs to Rice and her habitual silence.  Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues.  When Rice does attend UN negotiations, she is all too willing to avoid confrontation.  While other foreign Ambassadors speak fondly of Rice and the Obama Administration’s easy ways, they have been weak negotiators for the American people.

This lack of American leadership at the UN has resulted in the general Security Council inactivity spotlighted in the study by the Columbia University-affiliated group – Security Council Report.

The Report says:

“In 2009 the total number of Council decisions (resolutions and presidential statements) decreased by 26 percent from 2008. The number dropped from 113 to 83, the lowest level since 1991.

Resolutions dropped from 65 to 48 and presidential statements from 48 to 35.

This significant trend is also mirrored in a matching reduction in formal Council activity.  The number of formal Council meetings decreased by 20 percent, from 243 to 194.

The number of press statements, which is one indicator of Council decision making at the informal level, also decreased by 23 percent, from 47 to 36.”

While Rice launched her tenure at the UN with a glamour spread in Vogue Magazine by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz showing her kicking back in an empty Security Council Chamber, she seems to not enjoy the Chamber when it’s full of diplomats.  During the Haiti crisis, Rice was not only absent from the Security Council vote to expand the UN’s peacekeeping operation, but she also failed to call an emergency meeting in the immediate aftermath to request more help.  In fact, 7 days after the Haiti earthquake left tens of thousands of people in the streets without food or shelter, it was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that came to the Security Council to request more troops – the American Ambassador hadn’t bothered.