That the United States failed to retain its seat on the UN Commission on Human Rights, on second thought, begins to look less and less outrageous when the long history of the nation's own violations is considered. Compounding those problems is resentment at the fact that the United States is the only truly global power. The administration of George W. Bush has not done much to allay concerns or ease tensions. Its unilateral decision to reject the Kyoto Agreement on curbing global warming, its resolve to withdraw from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty with Russia in order to pursue a National Missile Defense plan, and the refusal to send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Council on Racism in Durban, South Africa (and then the withdrawal of the delegation) all seemed to mark even more examples of American arrogance.
The Bush administration argued that it sent only a low-level delegation to Durban to protest the language already proposed by Arab delegates calling Israeli's treatment of Palestinians as racist; the president also objected to discussing reparations for past acts of slavery. Whatever the reasons, the Bush administration should have weighed the importance of the nation's past leadership in the field of human rights against its displeasure over particular language in draft texts prior to the start of the conference. David D. Newsom was right to call attention to the disparity between the ideals articulated by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, or Eleanor Roosevelt and the reality of the actions pursued or not by the United States. But Jimmy Carter was right when he argued that the nation could not shirk its duty to promote human rights just because of its own imperfections.