UN Needs Reform, Not an Expanded Role

PRESIDENT Clinton went to the UN recently and said things Americans want to hear. Mr. Clinton warned the UN not to become engaged in every one of the world conflicts. He expressed America's desire to reduce its assessed costs for peacekeeping operations and encouraged the UN to make serious efforts to reduce wasteful spending.

Unfortunately, the president's actions do not match his speech. For months, his team has been preparing Presidential Decision Directive (PDD)-13 and its annex Presidential Review Document (PRD)-13. These two documents are the heart of a dangerous, expensive administration plan to strengthen the UN.

Among the many proposals included in PDD-13 are: placing United States troops under UN command; sharing classified intelligence with the UN; repealing the law that limits the amount of troops the US can commit to peacekeeping operations without congressional approval; and bypassing congressional approval for UN operations by establishing an account for peacekeeping and peacemaking operations.

Despite Clinton's admonition that the UN must learn to say no to new peacekeeping operations, the US voted for and promoted questionable new operations over the last three months in Liberia, Rwanda, and Haiti. In August, the US voted to send an 88-man UN observer force to a war-torn area of the former Soviet Georgia. In fact, the administration is now working with the French on a possible second UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda.

So far the administration has refused to provide PDD-13 or PRD-13 to Congress, although they have been leaked to the press. Clinton has sent bits and pieces of his proposals to Congress without disclosing his full intentions. In every case Congress has refused to fund his plan. In fact the House Appropriations Committee took even stronger action. The defense appropriation bill for fiscal year 1994 included language requiring 15-day notification to Congress before any new humanitarian operations can take place. The bill also includes language that directs the administration to report to Congress on its proposals to strengthen the UN and forbids the administration from renovating and donating to the UN a defense facility for use as a UN peacekeeping headquarters.

Unfortunately, the Democrat leadership, probably acting at the request of the Clinton administration, stripped on procedural grounds the 15-day notification period from the appropriations bill.

The dismal performance of the United Nations in Somalia should make anyone nervous about giving the UN a blank check to commit American forces or funds to any peacekeeping operation it sees fit to create. Even the ``success'' story of the UN peacekeeping operation in Cambodia has documented tens of millions of dollars in waste and fraud, including equipment never needed or unpacked and millions in contracts given to preferred contractors even though their bids were far higher than those of other companies. The UN refuses to officially provide the US copies of the internal audits documenting the widespread fraud.

The UN's problems go deeper than its overreach on peacekeeping. As one member of the US Commission on Improving the Effectiveness of the UN, Gary MacDougal, notes: ``If the organization did not already exist no rational human being would recommend that anything resembling the present structure be created. This unfortunate starting point is compounded by a UN Secretariat leadership that readily takes on additional responsibilities and shows every indication of being a bottomless financial pit.''

In one respect, Clinton is right: Putting our economic house in order cannot mean we shut our windows to the world. But the solution to the UN problems is not more American money or troops. The US must use its influence and our allies must use their influence to reform UN operations.

We don't have to write a big check to expand UN peacekeeping operations. According to some estimates, reforms within current peacekeeping operations alone would save $100 million a year. By insisting that the UN grows and reforms like the world around it, we can help achieve the noble goals of its founders.

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