House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations is expected to pass major cuts to American diplomacy and development budgets in a vote later today. This includes passing a State Department and Foreign Affairs budget authorization that sharply limits the amount that the United States would pay for its fair share of United Nations operations.
The budget will almost certainly pass along a strict party line vote. (In nearly every amendment offered to the budget during last week’s “markup” the GOP amendments passed while the democrat’s attempts at moderation failed.) So, what we will get is a foreign affairs budget reflective of a certain strand of American politics. Still, it is worth remembering that there is still an opposition out there — not all American policy makers are cut from the same unilateralist cloth.
Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, for example, offers a countervailing view in The Hill newspaper yesterday.
At a time when our nation is balancing competing priorities, reducing federal spending and strengthening U.S. global leadership, it is worth highlighting a modest investment that has yielded strong returns for our nation — our contributions to the United Nations.
While many of my colleagues have adopted an almost knee-jerk reaction against the U.N., I stand with 85 percent of Americans who, across party lines, believe the U.S. should maintain an active role in the world’s preeminent international organization. And I stand with 60 percent who favor paying our yearly dues to the U.N. in full and on time. That is why, in a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee markup of the FY 2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, I voted against an amendment that would reduce our contribution to international organizations by 25 percent and for amendments that would increase our contributions to international peacekeeping activities and lift arbitrary caps on U.S. peacekeeping operations. America cannot retreat from its global responsibilities.
From terrorism to the threat of pandemics, the United States faces challenges that are beyond the power and financial means for any single nation, no matter how powerful, to address alone. Our contributions to the U.N. enhance our national security and our foreign policy priorities, save dollars while growing jobs and our economy and strengthen our leadership in the international community
But in a sluggish economy, it is important to know that we are getting a bang for our buck. To put it in perspective, our contribution to the U.N. budget — which covers immunizing children from infectious diseases, halting the spread of such pandemics as swine flu and SARS and deploying peacekeeping missions around the world — is less than $2.7 billion per year. Compared to the $100 billion per year we are sinking into the war in Afghanistan, it is a great value. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.N. peacekeeping — in which other countries carry the burden of providing troops — is eight times less expensive than fielding a comparative U.S. force.