It's unfortunate that it took a catastrophe for the United States to agree to payment of back dues owed the United Nations. In this national crisis, America needs the support of other nations too badly to perpetuate its long-term bickering over the arrearage.
Our national leaders couldn't in good faith expect to get support from the international community when Congress has balked at owning up to the debts. It has been embarrassing that the United States heads the list of debtor nations to the U.N., and it only complicates President Bush's efforts to rally international support against terrorism.
Actually, the country's hand was forced on the issue. The debt has gone unpaid for 10 years, and to continue to ignore it now could aggravate the threat to national security. Plainly, it would have been to our detriment had the House not agreed in a voice vote to pay $582 million of the $819 million owed the United Nations. It was significant that House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas dropped his opposition. Earlier this year the Senate passed a similar measure.
The U.N. has its problems - over-reliance on the United States is one of them - and the American argument has not been without merit. Indeed, the House bill contains U.N. reforms, including a reduction of the country's share of the U.N. administrative budget from 25 percent to 22 percent. The House measure also decreases our contribution for peacekeeping operations from 32 percent to 28 percent.
Moreover, some $244 million in dues is still being withheld until the U.S. wins back its seat on the Human Rights Commission.
It's past time to set aside allegations that the U.N. was mismanaging money and disputes that U.S. taxpayers were paying too much for peacekeeping missions. The nation's leaders need every available option as it forms an alliance to confront the enemy.