The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing the week before last on the funding of UN peacekeeping missions which slipped under the radar but deserves more attention. Chairman Bill Delahunt, in his opening statement (.pdf), made the good point that the billing formula needs to be updated to better reflect current economic realities: the U.S. is currently billed 25% of U.N. peacekeeping costs, compared to 3% for China and 1% for
Gazprom Russia. Be that as it may, Delahunt also pointed out that U.N. peacekeeping missions address some vital American national security interests at one-eighth of the cost of an American military operation. So there’s really every reason to poney up the arrears that we owe. Delahunt put that at $1 billion dollars:
. . .That sounds like a lot of money. And it is a lot of money. But let’s compare that to the burden that American taxpayers are shouldering in Iraq.
1 billion dollars is about the cost of three days in Iraq. Let me repeat that. For the cost of three days in Iraq, we could fight Islamist terrorists in Somalia. Keep the peace in West Africa. Prevent a refugee crisis in the Caribbean. And protect Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. In my opinion, that is a bargain. And well worth the money. Especially when no US troops are at risk.
The State Dept.’s Kristen Silverberg got into the nitty gritty of the accounting procedures (.pdf) to demonstrate that we might not owe that much. But given the shortage in peacekeeping forces, and the proliferation of post-conflict stabilization operations, this should really be a priority, both for funding and reform, since there’s tons of room for improvement in the way these missions are generated, supplied and controlled.
As a side note (via Abu Muqawama) Jane Holl Lute, UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations and the hearing’s star witness (no prepared statement), is married to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Bush administration’s invisible “Iraq War czar.” Says AM: “Abu Muqawama has no idea how that marriage works, but that’s pretty awesome.”