Fast on the heels of yet another Republican-led attempt to withhold membership dues partially, should the UN not address some reforms that are of keen interest to its biggest underwriter, a bunch of former US ambassadors to the UN are saying, essentially, that pay should not be based on performance:
Eight former U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations sent a letter on Tuesday urging congressional leaders to reject a bill that would link reform of the world body to payment of American dues, warning that the legislation could actually strengthen opponents of reform.
The UN groupies cite the following precedence:
The United States is the biggest financial contributor to the United Nations, paying about 22 percent of its annual $2 billion general budget. After the U.S. government fell millions of dollars behind in arrears in the late 1990s, the United States almost lost its voting rights in the General Assembly.
The letter said that withholding money again would “create resentment, build animosity and actually strengthen opponents of reform.”
“The fact is reforms cost money and withholding dues impair the U.N.’s ability to make the changes needed,” it letter said.
So, let me get this straight: If the US pays up, reform will be had? Really? We’ve been paying for about 60 years now. Where’s the reform? The UN fell from the vision of its founders pretty much as soon as Uncle Joe decided that Eastern Europeans didn’t need human rights. “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung had no use for the UN, and the UN participated in the little chaos he started only because the Soviets thought an absence meant a veto, and Uncle Sam led the countercharge. The UN did nothing while Fidel flirted with fortune. The UN stood by while Israel was invaded on more than one occasion, and at every turn denounced Israel for fighting back. The UN did nothing for Afghanistan. Nothing for Tibet. Nothing for Kashmir. Nothing for Northern Ireland. Nothing for anyone unless some plucky nation had the courage to lead, like the Americans in Korea, the Americans in Kuwait, and the Australians in East Timor.
In the mean time, the UN has become a gaggle of goose-stepping anti-Americans, who champion Colonel Qaddafi (yeah, great dictator there, can’t even give himself a promotion) to chair the Human Rights Commission, who kick out oppressed Christians when they threaten the facetiously thin skin of Chinese cadres, who equate globalization and Zionism with racism, who think Hugo Chavez is Jesus reborn and Robert Mugabe is the next Nelson Mandela, and who, most egregiously, pass flowery resolutions encouraging Saddam Hussein to come clean, while undermining any effort to actually hold him accountable because too many corrupt officials would then be implicated in the Oil for Food racket.
Diplomacy was always a cynic’s game. Americans can appreciate cynicism, but aren’t terribly good at conducting it themselves (except, of course, the Democrats). All that the House panel asks is for there to be better accountability and more transparency. These are reforms that make businesses run better, and earn more trust with shareholders. We even demand it of our own governments. (For example, as much as we despise waiting in line at the local DMV, the work pretty much gets done as it should. Why, just last week, I renewed my vehicle license registration online, and already got the new registration card last night.)
By the way, just who are these “opponents of reform” that the UN groupies are pointing to? I imagine some tinpot dictator strutting about, telling his latest mistress that if the damn Yanks don’t pay up, then no reform will be had. And if they do pay?, she asks. Jacques laughs: Well, why then we’ve got the money anyway, so what do we care?
This isn’t to say that there aren’t worthy branches of the United Nations; but I fail to understand why such things as the General Assembly or the Commission on Human Wrongs is so necessary to continue the good works of UNICEF or maybe even UNESCO. In fact, maybe it’s time we broke up “Ma UN” into smaller groups that work better together.
Indeed, to a certain degree, specialists in different international niches have already been around. The International Committee of the Red Cross and Medicins Sans Frontiers already run relief efforts. NATO spearheaded the action in the Balkans. A quickly built coalition was able to coordinate relief efforts in Banda Aceh after the Boxing Day Tsunami. And, not to be terribly morbid, but we don’t need a bureaucracy to criticize the US while sparing Third World dictatorships when Amnesty International has made such an art of it, and we don’t need UN peacekeepers engaging in lurid acts of sexual predation when various militant groups (such as the Janjaweed) already do it so well. Besides, those blue helmets are just screaming “I’m a target“!
Can the UN be reformed? Sure. Should it be reformed instead of trashed? Probably. But I, the American voter, expect my government to get me a good deal on my international bureaucracy, dammit. So, if we can’t split the UN up, how about we just buy different parts of it? If we really want GA membership, we pay for that. If we think UNICEF’s good but UNESCO’s not, we pay for the first but not the second. Or if they’re both good, we pay for UNESCO, a little bit for UNICEF, and wait for those little collection tins to go around at the office for the rest of UNICEF. It’ll be like modding a car: You buy the really basic model, and swap out the things you don’t like for things you do like.
Ah yes, when was the last time you tried swapping out a bureaucracy, democratically appointed or not?
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]