On the eve of the president’s trip to Africa last march, Justin Rood of ABC News was the only mainstream reporter to pick up on the fact that the president’s just-released budget severely underfunded peacekeeping missions in Africa. At the time, Rood’s sources told him that the backlog was temporary, and that the requisite funds for peacekeeping missions in places like Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Cote D’Ivoire would be added in the emergency supplemental.
Well, the supplemental came out recently, and sure enough it provides no additional funds for UN Peacekeeping missions in Africa. Rood, once again, is on the story:
“It’s a very tight budget year,” conceded Kristen Silverberg, assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, acknowledging that neither she nor Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thought the funding request made for “an ideal situation.”
The administration released its proposed peacekeeping cuts days before President Bush was scheduled to make what one paper termed his “victory lap” through the African continent. White House officials talked up the trip and Bush’s commitment to the continent, telling reporters how the president “really cares about Africa.”
In her testimony, Silverberg said U.S. funding for U.S. peacekeeping operations this year could reach $2.1 billion, but the administration had requested less than $1.5 billion to cover its share of the costs of U.N. peacekeeping efforts for 2009.
Just to recap, the UN’s entire peacekeeping budget for some 19 missions and over 100,000 troops is about $6 billion a year, or roughly what the United States spends in Iraq in one month. What we get for this money is the deployment of foreign soldiers to International hot spots that we, ourselves would rather not go. I personally do not want to see American soldiers deployed in great numbers to Sudan, Chad, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Haiti. But neither do I want to let these places simply fester.
Faced with the option of doing nothing, or turning these conflicts over to international troops, the United States seems to think that the latter is a good option because it is continually authorizing new missions at the Security Council. If it thought that paying for these missions just isn’t worth it, it could use its veto. The current situation–approve each and every new mission, but fail to provide funding–is simply unsustainable and a recipe for disaster.