This morning, the U.S. State Department announced that the U.S. had submitted its “Report of the United States of America” to the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights. This report was submitted as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) conducted by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). In November, the U.S. Administration will formally present the findings of its report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Judging from the content of the U.S. report, that November presentation will consist of much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the inadequacy of America.
The U.S. report is revealing of how the current administration views the American people and America’s place in the world. The first section of the report (entitled “A more perfect union, a more perfect world”) begins by quoting the Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and Obama White House documents, including President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Though presented as coherent and harmonious thoughts, the intellectual inconsistency among these documents is striking.
Whereas the Declaration and the Constitution assert American independence and a realistic assessment of human nature, the U.S. UPR report declares that America’s international role is to help “build a world in which universal rights give strength and direction to the nations, partnerships, and institutions that can usher us toward a more perfect world, a world characterized by, as President Obama has said, ‘a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual.’” With this in mind, the White House, cannot be satisfied with imperfection at home in America. Addressed to an international audience, the report contains many statements of dissatisfaction with America’s record, including:
We are not satisfied with a situation where the unemployment rate for African Americans is 15.8%, for Hispanics 12.4%, and for whites 8.8%, as it was in February 2010. We are not satisfied that a person with disabilities is only one fourth as likely to be employed as a person without disabilities. We are not satisfied when fewer than half of African-American and Hispanic families own homes while three quarters of white families do. We are not satisfied that whites are twice as likely as Native Americans to have a college degree….
At our UPR consultations, including the meeting in Detroit, Michigan, Muslim, Arab-American, and South Asian citizens shared their experiences of intolerance and pressed for additional efforts to challenge misperceptions and discriminatory stereotypes, to prevent acts of vandalism, and to combat hate crimes. The federal government is committed to ongoing efforts to combat discrimination: the Attorney General’s review of the 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (discussed below), as well as efforts to limit country-specific travel bans, are examples….
In addressing the war against Al Qaeda, the UPR report stated, the White House has “directed that individuals detained in any armed conflict shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to violence to life and person, nor to outrages upon personal dignity, whenever such individuals are in the custody or under the effective control of the United States Government or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by the United States. Such individuals shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2-22.3, which explicitly prohibits threats, coercion, physical abuse, and water boarding.”
Disappointed in both America’s history and current situation, the UPR report declares to the world that the Obama Administration looks “to the future with pride and hope.”
When reading the UPR report, the salient words of Alexander Hamilton should come to mind. In Federalist No. 6, Hamilton warned Americans not to listen to “visionary or designing men, who stand ready to advocate the paradox of perpetual peace” and who wish to “soften the manners of men.” If someone can honestly believe that perfection and peace is possible through politics, then that person, according to Hamilton, “must be far gone in Utopian speculations.” It would appear that the White House is fundamentally dissatisfied with life on planet earth, and the United States of America, in particular. Yet, there are things government can do, and things government cannot do. The Obama Administration should focus on the former, and stop lamenting the absence of utopian peace on earth.