A Double Standard

(From a speech to the Cosmopolitan Club, New York City, February 5, 1992)

There is an extraordinary double standard in the public and government perception of the financial problems of the United Nations. The cost of two days of Operation Desert Storm, at about a billion dollars a day, would have easily covered all the UN’s expenses, including peace-keeping and emergency operations, for a whole year. Yet nobody ever questioned the costs of Desert Storm, whereas governments never cease to bemoan the costs of UN peace-keeping. At the moment there are complaints that the operation to try to rebuild Cambodia as a peaceful state may cost up to $2 billion. There is also much concern at the projected cost of about $650 million for a UN peace-keeping force in Yugoslavia. It is worth recalling that this sum is to be used to create a peaceful future for large numbers of people in several countries, while one B-2 bomber costs $880 million.

If governments really find it difficult to pay their assessments for peace-keeping, which is true at the moment of the United States and a number of other countries, maybe the cost of peace-keeping should be shifted to defense budgets, which are infinitely larger than diplomatic or foreign aid budgets. After all, an effective system of peace-keeping should have the result of reducing defense costs worldwide. Other possibilities would be to have some kind of levy on the parts of the private sector, such as shipping or airlines, which profit greatly from peace-keeping activities—or perhaps to have a 1 percent levy on all international arms transactions. Peace-keeping has proved itself to be a bargain by comparison with its alternative, war. It therefore makes no sense to complain that it is too expensive.

From a speech to the Cosmopolitan Club, New York City, February 5,

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