The General Assembly Just Rebuked US Hegemony

The significance of the December 12 UN General Assembly vote goes well beyond the demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. It is a striking repudiation of US hegemony. The significance is not just in the content of the vote but in the context of the vote.

US planners have long believed that the US can lead the world most legitimately and effectively through international bodies like the UN. Though the result of the vote is significant for Israel, it is the context in which the vote was called that is significant for the US.

On December 8, in response to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ invocation on Article 99 to demand the attention of the Security Council to protect international peace and security, the fifteen member council voted on an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Thirteen countries voted in favor, the UK abstained and the US used its veto.

In response to the American use of the veto, the General Assembly invoked the seldom used Resolution 377A. The desperate move answered the need to get around US leadership. It was the response to what was perceived as the US’ irresponsible use of its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council. It was a push back against US hegemony and a reminder of the need for Security Council reform and of the call for multipolarity.

The US vetoed the call of most of the rest of the Security Council, the General Assembly and most of the world. But the General Assembly, representing the world and not just the archaically ensconced permanent members of the Security Council, had recourse.

Article 377A first reminds the five permanent Security Council members that, in the exercise of their primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, it is their duty “to seek unanimity and exercise restraint in the use of the veto.”

In the eyes of the General Assembly, the US abused its privileged power by doing neither, instead placing its own foreign policy ambitions ahead of the foreign policy desires of the world it is meant to responsibly lead. So, the world rebuked the US and exercised its Article 377A right.

Article 377A, Uniting for Peace, says that “If the Security Council, because of a lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security . . . the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures . . . to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

The General Assembly “considered the matter” by voting on the very resolution the US vetoed in the Security Council. 153 countries voted in favor of the US denied resolution, 23 abstained and only 8 joined the US and Israel with a no vote. In this forum, the US had no veto.

Though the “appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures” are nonbinding, the making of them sends a clear message to, and is a powerful rebuke of, the US. Article 377A, which was adopted in 1950, can be invoked by the Security Council or the General Assembly. It has been invoked by the General Assembly only four previous times and not once since 1997. The world majority dug out this seldom used right in order to make its will heard when the US was denying it that right and to move the UN to act in a manner that reflects its membership when the US was obstructing such action in favor of its own preferred action. The world majority flexed its right in the General Assembly to liberate itself from US hegemony in the Security Council.

The content of the December 12 General Assembly vote is the very significant call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Its significance, though, also goes beyond that. It is a near unanimous repudiation of US primacy that uses international bodies like the UN to advance its own goals instead of using its leadership in those bodies to advance the goals of the whole international community. On that day, a frustrated global majority invoked a seldom used right to free the international community from US control, to get around US leadership and to rebuke US hegemony. The use of Article 377A is a strong message to the American hegemon from an increasingly assertive multipolar world.

Ted Snider is a regular columnist on US foreign policy and history at and The Libertarian Institute. He is also a frequent contributor to Responsible Statecraft and The American Conservative as well as other outlets.  To support his work or for media or virtual presentation requests, contact him at