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June 17, 2005
Congress Delivers Ultimatum To UN: Reform Or Starve

Henry Hyde has proposed a bill that would require thirty-nine separate reforms for the United Nations to complete by 2008, 32 of them by 2007, in order to avoid having half of its American dues withheld. It will compete against a bill by Tom Lantos that demands reform but doesn't require a cutoff of dues, leaving that question to the State Department. The two bills will come up for a vote today, sending a message to Turtle Bay of American exasperation with its corruption, graft, and lack of accountability:

"Over the years, as we listened to the counsels for patience, the U.N.'s failings have grown," said House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., sponsor of the measure. "The time has finally come where we must in good conscience say 'enough.'"

Hyde was joined by lawmakers with a litany of complaints against what they said was the U.N.'s lavish spending, its coddling of rogue regimes, its anti-America, anti-Israel bias and recent scandals such as the mismanagement of the oil-for-food program in Iraq and the sexual misconduct of peacekeepers.

The Telegraph in the UK sounds a more desperate note about the response:

American diplomats tried to rescue the United Nations yesterday. They urged congressional leaders to reject legislation which would effectively bankrupt the world body.

A Republican-sponsored Bill which would cut the American contribution to the UN by half reached the House floor yesterday. As America contributes 22 per cent of the budget, such a reduction would cripple UN activities.

"Withholding US dues to the UN may sound like smart policy but would be counterproductive," the eight former ambassadors wrote. "It would create resentment, build animosity and actually strengthen opponents of (UN) reform."

The group included prominent former American representatives at the UN, including Madeleine Albright.

The Telegraph doesn't mention that the group also includes conservative stalwart Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who also apparently speaks for the Bush administration. While one can imagine that the Hyde version appeals to the White House's attitude towards the UN these days, officially Bush opposes cutting off UN funds. And as odd as it sounds, the Lantos approach actually makes more sense.

Looking at this problem of UN corruption rationally, it becomes rather obvious that we don't have that many options and only a couple of opportunities for any real leverage. No mechanism exists for expelling a corrupt and/or incompetent executive, and even if one did, the US would quickly find itself in the minority in both the Security Council and the General Assembly. The kleptocracies and tinpot dictatorships will want to keep Kofi right where he is; it's helpful for to have someone for sale in charge at the UN -- especially when they know his price. The rest of the countries will hang onto him just to keep the US from getting a pro-American Secretary General to replace him.

The only item we hold over the UN and Annan is the amount of dues we pay to keep the doors open. However, that's a gun that only fires once. After we cut off the funding, we can only keep it off; we have no effective follow-up option for leverage. Hyde addresses this in part by having us cut off funds in stages, but with a 50% drop as our starting point, the remainder becomes less relevant. In this case, the threat of suspending all or part of our payments probably provides more of an incentive than the actual suspension would do.

Let's try the Lantos approach. I don't think that Bush and Rice would hesitate to use that power if they saw it would create more benefit for the US to starve the failure rather than feed it. I like the idea of the decision to do so remaining with the executive, in this case. While Hyde is correct that Congress controls the purse, the Executive should control foreign policy, as they conduct diplomacy and remain closer to the problems and solutions than Congress. In 2007 and 2008, if reforms are not forthcoming and the Bush administration proves itself too timid to demand them --so far, not a problem -- then revisit the Hyde approach.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 17, 2005 6:48 AM

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» Hyde To UN: Reform Or Die from Jay
Congressman Henry Hyde has sponsored a House bill that would push for the UN to enact 39 separate reforms or the US will withdraw half its funding. The US contributes 22% of the UN budget. “Over the years, as we listened to the counsels for pati... [Read More]

Tracked on June 17, 2005 7:51 AM

» Kofi Vows To Slash Rape Budget If US Cuts Funds from Point Five
Kofi Annan angrily denounced today's Congressional action to tie US financial support to radical reforms. Firing back with his own counter-threat, Annan promised to gut the budgets for the UN's highly effective child rape programs in Africa... [Read More]

Tracked on June 17, 2005 5:07 PM

» Congress versus the UN from Weapons of Mass Destruction
The House, always willing to tap into or perhaps express popular sentiment, passed a bill that would cut US funding in half for the UN unless specific reforms were undertaken.The 221-184 vote, which came despite a Bush administration warning that [Read More]

Tracked on June 17, 2005 5:45 PM

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