The recent spat between the UN and the new president of the Philippines is a good case in point.
When Rodrigo Duterte, the former mayor of Davao City, was running for president of the Philippines, he promised he would be a dictator. He said he would authorize the army and police force to wage a drug war and use extrajudicial killings against "suspects" (i.e. literally anyone) who resisted. He said he would shut down Congress if they ever tried to impeach him. But he also said he'd open the country up to foreign investment so the mainstream business press laughed it all off.
Newsflash: he wasn't joking.
For those who haven't been keeping track, since taking office in May Duterte has:
threatened martial law if the country's judiciary tries to stop him;
justified the assassination of journalists (but only "if you're a son of a bitch");
and fired every single government official that was appointed by a previous president (thousands in total).
In other words, he's the big strong dictator from the sky that dumbed-down populations around the world are hungering for in this age of rising authoritarianism. But what else would you expect from a man who patterns his administration on Hollywood predictive programming like Dirty Harry and Death Wish?
But however insane things may be in the Philippines these days, there are still "teachable moments" that we can get out of it all.
Take Duterte's most recent meltdown. In his Sunday morning press briefing, Duterte–pressed on a UN appeal to stop the extrajudicial killing spree that he has unleashed–lashed out: "Maybe we'll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you're that rude, son of a bitch, we'll just leave you." From there, he began attacking the UN in general, calling it "inutile" and "stupid."
"Look at the iconic boy that was taken out from the rubble and he was made to sit in the ambulance and we saw it," he said, referring to a propaganda photograph from Aleppo (taken by a man who proudly pals around with child-beheaders) that is being used for a new push to step up military intervention in Syria. "Why is it that United States is not doing anything?" Duterte asked, apparently miffed that the UN has not given the green light to a full-scale invasion of Syria. He then expressed the hope that China and Africa would start a counter-UN body and that Manila would get its financial contributions to the UN back.
Unsurprisingly, Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. was quick to walk those comments back this week. At a press briefing Monday morning Yasay passed the comments off as off-the-cuff remarks by a president who was "tired, disappointed and frustrated and angry" and assured the world that the Philippines was not withdrawing from the UN.
The surprising answer is they can't. No one can. There are no provisions in the United Nation's charter for the voluntary withdrawal of any member state. In other words, the UN is just like the Hotel California: "You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave."