October 31, 2010

New administration brings chance to redeem U.N. (originally published Feb. 18, 2009)

In allowing U.S. representatives to attend consultations this week in Geneva, in a serious attempt to detoxify the Durban Review Conference in April, President Obama has taken one of his first concrete steps to show the world that the United States is not afraid to engage and on our own terms.

Rather than immediately recasting the confrontational image perceived by so many during most of the Bush years, the new administration may take advantage of the lingering resentment and apprehension as well as Barack Obama's credibility as an agent of progress and change.

The world and the United Nations have been optimistically curious about Obama's internationalist agenda and his new team. As those preparing the new U.S. strategy know well, "new politics" has not overtaken the United Nations or many of the regimes represented at its headquarters in New York and Geneva. The U.N.'s notoriously cynical human rights agenda is no exception.

By exacting a price for joining the Durban process and other high-profile human rights mechanisms, and possibly even giving a second chance to the International Criminal Court, the post-Bush United States might be able to strike a better deal if it does so before the diplomatic swords are turned into ploughshares. The American Jewish community should be a natural advocate for this approach.

Read full op-ed at JTA.org.

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