Most Americans have come — correctly, if reluctantly — to the conclusion the United Nations has been a failure. Sixty years ago, the U.N.’s founders envisioned it as an engine of freedom, an international mechanism in which sovereign nations would come together to protect liberty and to facilitate its spread throughout the world.
Instead, for most of its life, the “world body” has been dominated by the unfree. Under their influence, the U.N. has morphed into a protection racket for the world’s despots and, effectively, an abettor of those who would supplant liberty with corrupt authoritarianism, or worse.
In recent months, evidence of how far the United Nations has strayed from its original purpose has steadily leached into plain sight. The staggering Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal has implicated senior members of the U.N. leadership including, it would appear, Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Others in the Secretariat have engaged in embarrassing personal and official misconduct. The bureaucracy is notoriously bloated and inefficient. The agenda remains dominated by anti-Israel and anti-American initiatives. And the reputation of U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world has been sullied as some of the foreign troops assigned to them have turned into rape squads and sex-traffickers.
Against this backdrop, even the United Nation’s most assiduous supporters have been obliged to pronounce they favor “reform” of the organization. But it would appear what most have in mind is little more than reshuffling the proverbial deck chairs.
For example, proposals advanced to date by Mr. Annan would perpetuate the fundamental problems arising from the pre-eminence of nations hostile to the United States and/or freedom and the malfeasance, if not malevolence, of the U.N.’s largely unaccountable staff.
History shows there is only one way to effect constructive change at the United Nations: By the United States exercising the power of the purse.
Each year, the U.S. is obliged to pony up a quarter or more of the United Nation’s roughly $2 billion budget — far more than any other member state. This represents, by the way, just the contribution for which America gets credit. In addition, we provide untold billions worth of support (notably, that of the U.S. military for logistical and other assistance to U.N. peacekeepers) which is neither acknowledged nor reflected in calculations of what we “owe” the organization.
In light of past experience and present problems with the United Nations, the U.S. House of Representatives recently endorsed by a wide margin the recommendation of the distinguished chairman of its International Relations Committee, Rep. Henry Hyde, Illinois Republican. It makes future U.S. payments to the “world body” contingent upon U.N. adoption of a set of sensible and wide-ranging reforms.
The U.N. is determined to deny the United States such leverage and to insulate itself from further American pressure for systemic change. On Sept. 14-16, the U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to hold a high-level plenary meeting to consider the implementation of “Millennium Development Goals” contained in the report of the U.N.’s 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development. According to this so-called “Monterrey Consensus,” the United States and other developed nations are obliged to provide 0.7 percent of their gross national income in foreign aid (also known as Official Development Assistance or ODA).
Secretary-General Annan’s special adviser, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, contends the United States has only provided 0.15 percent of its GNI. Mr. Sachs and his friends at the United Nations maintain we therefore “owe” the international community $65 billion each year from 2002 to the target year of 2015, for a total of $845 billion in additional foreign aid.
Since no one in their right mind expects either this president or any other — let alone any foreseeable U.S. Congress, to provide these vast amounts in notoriously ill-spent foreign aid, the U.N. types have come up with an alternative means of making Americans pay their huge “debt” to the undeveloped world: international taxation (hereafter known as “globotaxes”).
Incredible as it may seem, a Bush administration viscerally opposed to raising taxes has not shown the sort of vehement resistance to this initiative that it should.
In fact, Annex II of the Gleneagles G-8 communique (titled “Financing Commitments”), reveals the U.S. agreed to create a working group proposed by France, Germany, Italy and Great Britain to consider carrying out “innovative financing mechanisms” to “help deliver and bring forward the financing needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”
Among “financing mechanisms” to be weighed is a “solidarity contribution on [international] plane tickets.” French President Jacques Chirac has declared he believes this “small levy” would bring — presumably into U.N. coffers — at least $3 billion.
If the United States goes along with this arrangement in September, it will allow a precedent to be set for taxation without representation that would send America’s Founders spinning in their graves. It can forget about the modest constraint its ability to withhold “dues” has exercised on U.N. behavior. It can be sure real U.N. reform will not be in the cards. And it can expect other globotaxes will soon be proposed.
The mother of all globotaxes is an idea that has been kicking around the East River for some time and named after the Yale Nobel Laureate who first proposed it, Dr. James Tobin. The “Tobin tax” would theoretically raise an estimated $13 trillion — yes, trillion — from a small levy on international currency transactions. Imagine what the One Worlders and U.N. bureaucrats could do to our sovereignty and interests with that kind of wherewithal.
If the Bush administration is unable or unwilling to resist such globotaxes, it will fall to the Congress to do so. With the August recess looming and the U.N. fund-raiser coming right after Labor Day, there is no time to waste.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.