- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

Olmert’s truculence

Is it any wonder there is such dissension among Israelis? First, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agrees to release hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen funds and make access into and out of Israel easier as a gesture of peaceful negotiations. Now, Mr. Olmert has approved a new West Bank settlement and has already begun to lay the foundation, thus breaking a promise to the United States not to do so (“Israel OKs new settlement,” World, Wednesday).

It seems to me that Mr. Olmert’s blueprint for attaining peace is irrational, to say the least. Indeed, one would expect such moves from Israel’s adversary. The United States is firmly committed to helping Israel stand on its own as a shining example of a democracy.

Instead, such back-stabbing “strategies” will only give more ammunition to its enemies and put the nation of Israel at odds with its strongest ally, the United States.

Israel’s unwarranted action cries out for the United States to review its commitment to stand by Israel in these perilous times. Mr. Olmert also needs to review his latest decisions which will most certainly put that tiny nation in further peril besides jeopardizing its ties with the United States.

HERB STARK

Massapequa, N.Y.

Reforming the United Nations

Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, is disingenuous when he says “an effective United Nations is in everyone’s interest” (“U.N.-der strain,” Commentary, Wednesday). To many ultraconservatives “U.N. reform” is code for making it weaker.

To most liberals “U.N. reform” isn’t much more than wishful thinking to make it stronger. Mr. Feulner claims that “the United Nations has often gone out of its way to avoid getting involved in the world’s trouble spots,” listing Darfur, Iraq and Iran as examples.

The fact is, Mr. Feulner and and others have gone out of their way to make sure the United Nations never gets the power it needs to effectively get involved in the world’s trouble spots.

Money isn’t the cure for everything, but the United Nations’ budget and staff are both roughly the size of Disney World’s. These resources are completely inadequate for addressing such problems as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, famine, genocide, peacekeeping, nation building, international crime control, pandemic prevention and response capacity, poverty alleviation or environmental protection, just to name a few. Powerful governments like our own must be willing to devote sufficient resources to prevent or deal with them.

The Heritage Foundation has actively lobbied against the creation of a stand-alone U.N. peacekeeping capacity. The need for a standing force fully equipped and capable of immediate response to victims of genocidal governments like those in Darfur is obvious.

Instead genocidal victims must depend upon the largess of troops donated from moral governments that always find some excuse not to get actively involved in fulfilling their promise of “never again.”

The Heritage Foundation under Mr. Feulner’s leadership has also actively lobbied against the democratization of the United Nations. It opposes the creation of a third U.N. body of individuals elected by those repressed people that it claims to care about.

A new people’s assembly would be far more valuable than another “respectable body” of nations that believe they have a “clean human rights record.” Even the United States would have trouble getting accepted into this “club.” The veto power of the unelected few on the Security Council mirrors the rights of kings, not entities accountable to any election process.

Mr. Feulner’s believes that those who contribute most to the United Nations can “demand a solid return on their investment.” That might work well for shareholders in a corporation but real democracies or republics reject such a golden rule.

Finally, like the United Nations, our Congress and the administrative branch of our government are also “riddled with scandal and corruption.” And, I would add, incompetence. But there has been no call for new leadership by Mr. Feulner and his foundation to address these problems.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

Ed Feulner, in the article “U.N.-der strain,” points out the many failures of reform in the U.N. system. But his suggestion to organize a coalition of democratic nations may have come a few years too late — the appetite for building such alliances having abated.

But since Mr. Feulner was a member of the congressionally mandated U.N. Reform Task Force, it can be pointed out that the follow-up of such efforts has consistently been disappointing.

There appears to be no one to hold components of the U.N. system responsible for failure to ensure transparency and accountability. For instance, written commitments to Congress stimulated by Sens. Richard Lugar, Patrick Leahy, Mitch McConnell and Rep. Nancy Pelosi since 1998 to create a properly functioning internal justice system within multilaterals, they being immune from courts of law, have simply been skillfully thwarted.

Even when specialized agencies such as the World Bank come to Congress for billions of dollars of new resources, no systematic effort exists to reverse that record of failure.

Perhaps what is feasible is a coalition of think tanks like Mr. Feulner’s that can hold the U.N. system accountable by means of parallel hearings — there will be plenty of whistleblowers willing to testify. Otherwise, the empty assurances from U.N. spinmeisters will enable business-as-usual to continue forever, despite increasing consensus that multilateral efforts to solve pressing international development challenges comprise the positive steps to protect nations and societies from the scourge of instability and chaos.

DR. SUNIL CHACKO

Former special assistant

to the executive vice president

World Bank Group

McLean

Too much consumer choice

In “Prescription drug costs” (Op-Ed, Wednesday) the author says that with the private sector controlling the Medicare Part D drug program, a much greater “array of choices” is available than with government. He says that in 2007 there will be more than 50 different plans available.

But some clarification is needed.

First, are more plans really better?

Many seniors complain that trying to understand the profusion of different plans is a stressful and often fruitless effort. Some just give up and stay with their current plan. As a primary-care doctor, even I don’t know what to say when they ask me for advice. In some areas, volunteer groups have formed using computers to help them decide which plan is best. What greater evidence is needed to show that the very multiplicity of plans actually detracts from their social value?

Ironically, Medicare patients are advised to choose next year’s plan based on what they spent on drugs this year. But this is absurd because their health is often fragile and their drugs can change from month to month. It is impossible for them to predict what their drug bills will be next year.

Second, Part D premiums are supposed to rise by $1,000 this year. For many seniors this represents a burden. They are on fixed incomes and often have to balance the cost of their drugs with their living expenses. Too many plans and sudden premium rises may be a reason for joy in the marketplace but they spell misery for many Medicare patients.

Just as importantly, they should be a serious concern to lawmakers. For it is to them that our elderly look for protection and security from financial ruin when illness strikes.

DR. EDWARD J. VOLPINTESTA

Bethel, Conn.

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