EARLY RETURNS. Russia, China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are among the inaugural members of the new Human Rights Council. In a perfect world, none of these countries would be entrusted with a seat on the council. But the world is not perfect, so it was inevitable that some countries with less than stellar human rights records would become members. The true test of the council, however, will not be its membership, but the actions it takes once constituted.
The United States decided not to seek a seat on the council, claiming that it was not enough of an improvement over the previous Commission on Human Rights. But because the United States became disinterested in the success of the (admittedly imperfect) council, I suspect that John Bolton did not do much to persuade countries to vote against admitting, say, Cuba. To a certain degree, the United States is reaping what it hath sowed; disengagement from the U.N. Human Rights Council has produced a council less favorable to the United States.
Now, my fear (which I expressed over on TPM Cafe yesterday) is that the White House will profit politically from a council that includes Cuba as its member. Without delving too deeply into the minutiae of U.N. reform, let me explain.