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Watching for government waste!

From Volume VIII, Number 9


The United States, which has only one vote in the 185-member United Nations General Assembly, will continue to be assessed to pay 25 percent of the organization's budget. As reported in The New York Times (12/29/97, p. A4), when "the General Assembly agreed last week on what percentage of the United Nations budget each of the organization's 185 members would pay over the next three years, most attention focused on one issue: How much to charge the United States?"

"But if Washington --- which was unable to persuade the United Nations to lower its longstanding 25 percent assessment, as Congress has been demanding --- was the primary loser, there were some less publicized victories.

"China, a permanent member of the Security Council and one of the world's largest and fastest-growing economies, managed to keep its dues below 1 percent of the United Nations budget, despite United States' hopes that Beijing could be persuaded to be more generous.

"Next year, China, with a 0.90 percent rate, will pay less than Australia, at 1.47 percent; Belgium, at 1.09 percent; Brazil, at 1.51 percent; Canada, at 2.82 percent; Mexico, at 0.94, or Sweden, at 1.09....

"Among other permanent Council members, Russia saw its percentage drop to 2.87 from 4.27....

"The remaining permanent members --- Britain and France --- had mixed results. France's portion of the budget rose slightly, to 6.49 percent from 6.42 percent. Britain's fell, to 5.07 percent from 5.32 percent.

"Germany, which is campaigning for a permanent Council seat with American backing, will pay more than either Britain or France, 9.63 percent. Germany's ability to contribute substantially is considered a strong argument in its favor, since permanent Council members shoulder extra burdens, including larger assessments for peacekeeping. Those assessments are separate from regular dues....Congress had wanted American payments to drop to 20 percent by 2000, a target the United States is unlikely to hit...."

From Volume VIII, Number 6: June, 1997


They are UNTSO, UNMOGIP, UNFICYP, UNDOF, UNIFIL, UNIKOM, UNAVEM (2 and 3) and MINURSO. But, who/what are they? C’mon, at least try. Give up? Well, you ought to know. Because you are helping pay for these things with your hard-earned Federal tax dollars.

These are the eight longest, on-going United Nations so-called "peace keeping" operations. Here are their full names, the dates they were authorized and where they operate: UN Truce Supervision Organization, 1948, Israel/Egypt/Lebanon/Syria; UN Military Observer Group In India/Pakistan, 1949; UN Force In Cyprus, 1964; UN Disengagement Observer Force, 1974, Israel/Syria (Golan Heights); UN Interim Force In Lebanon, 1978; UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission, 1991; UN Angolan Verification Mission, 1991, Angola; and UN Mission For The Referendum In Western Sahara, 1991.

According to a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) report, titled "UN Peace Keeping: Status Of Operations And U.S. Interests In Supporting Them" (GAO/NSIAD-97-56), these eight operations have cost about $6 billion (over one-third) of the $17 billion the UN has spent on "peace keeping" since 1948. The United States pays for approximately 25 percent of the UN’s budget. This GAO report says that for 1996 the U.S. share of the estimated cost of these eight operations was about $148 million. A footnote in this report notes that all dollar amounts for these eight operations since 1948 have not been converted to constant dollars to reflect inflation because (surprise!) "UN officials could not allocate the costs of these operations by year."

It is said that, according to UN and US policies, the main objective of these "peace keeping" operations is to provide "finite windows of opportunity" and "a limited period of time" for diplomatic efforts to achieve "just and lasting settlements of the underlying conflicts." How’s that again? "Finite" and "limited" --- since 1948 and 1949?! Yep, that’s the theory anyway.

The GAO points out, however, that these eight long-standing operations "are deployed in environments where the underlying conflicts have defied diplomatic resolution, sometimes for decades(!), and have become, essentially, costly and open-ended commitments. Nevertheless (get this!), US officials currently see no reasonable alternative to continuing these operations because they help stabilize conflicts in key areas of the world." Amazing, no? True, most of these eight bottomless ratholes may show no sign of ever being filled up. But, hey!, at least they "stabilize" things.



The GAO says that six of these operations have "only partially carried out their mandates or had not carried them out." In seven of these eight operations diplomatic efforts to settle these conflicts have "stalled." Five of these eight operations are among the 10 most costly UN actions ever taken.

In continuing these operations, the GAO adds, "the executive branch does not appear to give adequate consideration to other factors articulated by US policy that seek to ensure that peace keeping operations are limited in duration, linked to concrete political solutions, and have exit criteria and identified end points for UN involvement." In fact, it is said that US officials told the GAO that some of these UN operations "probably would not have been initially approved under current UN and US peace keeping policies"!

But, but, these operations must continue because (remember) their continuation does "stabilize" things in their areas.

The operations said to have "generally" carried out their mandates are UNDOF, which has cost $662 million, and UNIKOM, which has cost $312 million. But, why can’t Syria and Israel pay for UNDOF? These are not poor nations. Israel is one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid. Ditto UNIKOM. Why can’t Iraq and Kuwait pay for UNIKOM? Kuwait is awash in billions of dollars worth of oil money. You have problems on your borders, then you pay to solve these problems.

Operations said to be "partially" carrying out their mandates are UNTSO, UNFICYP and UNAVEM. And, again, the same point can be made. If an Arab-Israeli truce needs to be "supervised," then let Arabs and Israelis pay for it. If there’s a "violence" problem between Turks and Cypriots, then let Turkey and Cyprus pay to try and solve it. If a negotiated settlement of the Angolan civil war needs help in being "implemented," then let the Angolans or other African countries pay for this.

Operations said to be "generally not carrying out" their mandates are UNMOGIP, UNIFIL and MINURSO. These involve, respectively, problems between India and Pakistan, restoring peace in southern Lebanon and the conflict between Moroccan and "tribal forces." But --- one more time, please --- these nations, and/or their neighbors, should be paying for these operations, not the American taxpayer.


The GAO singles out many reasons why there has been a "lack of success" in settling all these conflicts: (1) Many involve problems "that appear intractable given present circumstances"; (2) Most involve intrastate (civil) and ethnic conflict and unresolved issues related to decolonization; (3) Some are part of a larger conflict and negotiations do not include all parties with a substantial stake in or influence on the conflict; (4) Some conflicts involve disputing parties only "weakly committed" to a settlement or who are "not cooperating fully."

In fact, the GAO says that in some conflicts, according to all parties involved, "the long-standing operations themselves may contribute to the difficulty of achieving settlements by reducing tensions and making maintenance of the status quo seem more preferable to the parties than making the difficult choices and compromises necessary to achieve settlements"!

So much for the idea that "stability" is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But, but, again, "stability" rules and these UN "peace keeping" operations go on and on and on and on --- and we continue to help pay for them.

The GAO says that State Department and other US national security officials see "no reasonable alternative" to continuing these UN operations because, among other things, "the economic and military costs associated with such conflicts would exceed any savings achieved by ending these operations" and ending them would "send the wrong diplomatic signals to the parties or region, undermining important diplomatic efforts."

Well, maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. I can’t predict the future and neither can (of all people) State Department and other US national security officials.

But, as just one American taxpayer, I do see a "reasonable alternative." Indeed, I see two "reasonable alternatives" to our continuing to throw good money after bad down these bottomless UN "peace keeping" ratholes. And these alternatives are: (1) Get the UN out of these areas, and (2) Get the United States out of the United Nations.

Indeed, the UN itself is a bottomless rathole. Another GAO report --- "Multilateral Organizations: US Contributions To The International Organizations For Fiscal Years 1993-95" (GAO/NSIAD-97-42) --- says that during this time period the US "contributed" (how do you like that word? sounds like our Federal tax dollars are voluntary, doesn’t it?) about $6.3 billion to 130 worldwide UN organizations and programs not including "peace keeping."


From 1993-95, the UN Population Fund received a 141 percent increase in its budget with $89.5 million "contributed" by the United States. But, is it really any of our business to be telling people around the world how many children to be having or not having? I think not.

Oh, and we’ve also given a combined total of hundreds of millions of dollars to such UN projects as the Asian Vegetable Research And Development Center; Convention On International Trade In Endangered Species Of Wild Fauna And Flora; Indo-Pacific Tuna Development Program; International Center For Diarrheal Disease Research; International Conference On Former Yugoslavia; International Fertilizer Development Center; International Jute Organization; International Potato Center; International Seed Testing Center; Organization Of African Unity; UN Development Fund For Women; World Tourism Organization; International Office Of Epizootics; and (my own personal favorite) The International Network For The Improvement Of Bananas!

So, what, exactly, do we get from throwing billions of bucks down these bottomless UN ratholes? Well, if the subject wasn’t so serious, it would be humorous to tell you. In another GAO report titled "United Nations: U.S. Participation In Five Affiliated International Organizations" (GAO/NSIAD-97-2), we are told that "a large number" of American companies, non-governmental organizations, academia, and the general public "benefit financially" from the work on behalf of these five organizations: The World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), International Labor Organization (ILO), UN Conference On Trade And Development (UNCTAD) and UN Population Fund (UNPF).


How do we benefit? Well, we are told that in 1995, for example, "UNFPA purchased $1.8 million in contraceptives from Wyeth International, a company based in Philadelphia." Wonderful, no? But, the question is: How does the American taxpayer benefit, not some condom company in Philadelphia. Besides, as noted, it is none of our business to go around the world telling people which contraceptives to use and how many children to have or not have.

This GAO report says that US officials say that most of the "major threats" to peace, prosperity, and health are problems that national governments "are ill-equipped to deal with on their own." Well, I’m sorry that this is so and I don’t doubt that this is true. But, America is not --- and cannot be --- the solver of the world’s problems, with our money. No way.

We should get out of the United Nations and withdraw from these International Organizations. If private US companies, non-governmental groups, academia and private citizens want to give money to help solve some of these problems around the world, God bless them! Go to it --- but with your own money. No Federal tax dollars ought to be spent for this kind of thing --- none.

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