On Thursday, June 23rd, 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. This sparked a wide range of reactions, both within the United Kingdom and globally. Many have criticized the move, while others have used it as a jumping point to discuss the hypocrisy of the UK’s colonialism.
And more still, politicians have taken inspiration from the Brexit. And not just the presidential nominees, each responding in different ways, but so have our real lawmakers currently in office. A few house Republicans have taken this Brexit as an excuse to make an Amexit. Not from the European Union, though. Instead, they’d rather us leave that international body that sets guidelines for the world: The United Nations.
At first glance. This doesn’t seem so bad. Maybe it’s right that the United States shouldn’t have to listen to any other country in the world when we make our decisions. Doesn’t the United Nations violate our national sovereignty? Congressman Thomas Massie (R, KY) made that argument in his Facebook post promoting H.R. 1205, a bill he sponsored that would remove the US from the UN.
He mentions our national sovereignty in the comments, in response to a question of why this would be a good decision in the first place.
The thing is, he’s wrong. As anyone who has (like your’s truly) participated in Model UN or studied the first thing about international politics would know, the United Nations takes national sovereignty into consideration with every resolution they pass. Aside from Security Council resolutions, the UN’s language “suggests,” “recommends,” and “encourages” certain changes in other countries.
The UN can create and authorize, but only in a few circumstances. The UN has the authority to create new UN bodies. The UN Security Council (UNSC) also has the ability to authorize peacekeeping forces in areas of conflict, as well as sanctions against nations who have committed human rights violations. This sounds like that violation of sovereignty we saw Congressman Massie mention. But it isn’t, at least for us.
The United States is a permanent member of the UNSC, meaning not only are we present at any and every proceeding of the UNSC, we also have veto power. This means what you would think it means. If the United States, or any other permanent member of the UNSC (UK, France, China, or Russia) vote “no” on a UNSC resolution, then it is automatically vetoed and does not pass.
So the United States is safe. There’s no reason for us to leave the United Nations, or at least the reason provided by these congressmen is faulty. The United Nations definitely has its issues, but these will not be solved by an exit by the United States. Instead, our leaving the United Nations would only decrease the power we find so valuable when it comes to our influence over the world.
But I can write as many outraged, fact-checked opinion pieces as I want, and nothing will change. The only thing that will keep us in the UN is if we vote. Not just for the president, but for congresspeople, senators, and for our own state legislatures. While our president plays a vital role in our political process, we also need to pay attention to who is writing and voting on the laws that affect us.