The United States' standing on the world stage took another hit over the weekend. And, no, President Donald Trump didn't unleash another Sunday morning tweetstorm that the mainstream media spent the rest of the weekend breathlessly covering.

The United States' standing on the world stage took another hit over the weekend. And, no, President Donald Trump didn't unleash another Sunday morning tweetstorm that the mainstream media spent the rest of the weekend breathlessly covering.

    No, this time, the U.S. came out against, of all things, breastfeeding. Yes, you'd think the science was kind of settled on this one...you know, the whole researched-for-decades, undisputed fact that a mom's breast milk is best for her baby, versus the various formula products available on your average grocery store shelf.

    The story broke Sunday from this past spring's United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. A resolution encouraging breast-feeding and also calling on nations to be on the alert for misleading, inaccurate health-related claims made by formula manufacturers was expected to be approved easily. But the U.S. delegation had other ideas, according to several news articles. First, they sought to water down the wording of the resolution. When that didn't work, according to many diplomats and government officials who were there, the U.S. delegation turned its sights on the delegation from Ecuador, who was planning to introduce the resolution, and threatened to unleash punitive trade measures and withhold military aid to the Central American nation. The Ecuadorian delegation quickly gave into the U.S. demands.

    Stunned event organizations and breastfeeding advocates scrambled to find another resolution sponsor, but one nation after another, mostly ones of the small, poor variety, wouldn't step up out of fear of U.S. retaliation.

    “We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” Patti Rundall, policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended meetings of the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, since the late 1980s, said. “What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health."

    In the end, the U.S. delegation's attempt to show support for baby formula manufacturers mostly failed. The Russian delegation, of all people, stepped in to sponsor the resolution, and at that point the U.S. delegation leveled no threats against them.

    Apparently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is afraid mothers will lose their freedom and flexibility to use baby formula instead of breastfeeding. But a few words in a resolution aren’t going to come near to having a chilling effect on that level, or any level at all. This is a multi-billion dollar, global industry, after all. There will always be plenty of baby formula choices on the grocery store shelf.

    There's nothing wrong with negotiating. In Geneva, discussing potential changes to the resolution certainly seems like a worthwhile use of everyone's time. But threatening small, poor countries with punishment if they dare sponsor a pro-breastfeeding resolution that contains a few words the U.S. delegation would rather not see there? That's not how to conduct yourself when the world is watching.

    Perhaps most unfortunate of all is that we're growing more accustomed to the United States representing itself in front of a global audience in ways that continue to make us look out of touch and disconnected with the realities of the day.

– Mike Christopherson