Gingrich V Gingrich on the UN

Back in 2004, Newt Gingrich co-chaired a prestigious United States Institute of Peace study group on UN reform with George Mitchell.  The Gingrich-Mitchell Task Force, as it was known, affirmed the importance of the United Nations to American national security and came up with some solid recommendations for further UN reform.  Most of the reforms were implemented–such as the abolition of the bad, old Human Rights Commission. And some are still struggling, like having the General Assembly adopt a definition of terrorism.

By and large, the report advocated a smart, balanced approach that did away with 1990s vintage threats of withholding UN funding in exchange for USA-mandated reforms.

Fast-forward to 2011 and candidate Gingrich seems to have forgotten the reasonable recommendations he endorsed just a few years ago. In a breathless op-ed about the potential General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood, Gingrich writes that the USA should threaten to cut off all UN funding. 

The United States has the leverage to prevent this diplomatic disaster if the Obama Administration wants to use it: we are by far the largest donor to the U.N., financing roughly a quarter of its entire budget.

We should be willing to say that if the U.N. is going to circumvent negotiations and declare the territory of one of its own members an independent state, we aren’t going to pay for it. We can keep our $7.6 billion a year.

We don’t need to fund a corrupt institution to beat up on our allies.

To put this in perspective: $7.6 billion is about what the USA pays to support 1) every UN peacekeeping mission around the world–from Darfur to Lebanon;  2) The regular UN budget, which pays for things like UN missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, de-mining programs, war crimes tribunals, translators, and election monitoring; 3) Contributions to humanitarian organizations like the UN Refugee Agency, UNICEF, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization, among others.

If cutting of funding for each of these organizations in order to block a symbolic vote at the General Assembly sounds like a crazy idea that would undermine American national security, well, that’s because it is.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that even if defending Israel against symbolic votes at the United Nations was truly your number one foreign policy goal, cutting off all UN funding doesn’t even make sense as policy.   If the USA stopped paying its UN dues, it would be stripped of its voting rights at the UN. Presumably, that would it much harder to defend Israel at the Security Council and General Assembly.

I can’t help think that the Gingrich of 2004 would be appalled at the reasoning of 2011 Gingrich.