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Gingrich was for the United Nations before he was against it

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is calling for the United States to cut off its contributions to the United Nations, but only a few years ago, he helped lead an effort calling for reforms at the United Nations that recommended increased U.S. funding for several of its programs. Gingrich, in a Wednesday op-ed entitled, "Suspend ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is calling for the United States to cut off its contributions to the United Nations, but only a few years ago, he helped lead an effort calling for reforms at the United Nations that recommended increased U.S. funding for several of its programs.

Gingrich, in a Wednesday op-ed entitled, "Suspend U.N. Funding Now!" criticized the United Nations for entertaining an expected resolution that would grant statehood recognition to the Palestinian territories. He said that the United States should suspend all of its contributions to the United Nations if the resolution is allowed to proceed.

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

More broadly, Gingrich criticized the Obama administration’s commitment to working within U.N. institutions, calling it "clearly a corrupt organization."

"The administration’s commitment to ‘multilateralism’ at the U.N. is nothing more than appeasement," he wrote.

But back in 2005, Gingrich was singing a different tune. He co-chaired a task force on how to improve the United Nations with former Senate majority leader and recently departed Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell, and issued a report written with the help of the United States Institute of Peace.

"The American people want an effective United Nations that can fulfill the goals of its Charter in building a safer, freer, and more prosperous world," Gingrich and Mitchell wrote in a joint statement at the top of the report. "What was most striking was the extent to which we were able to find common ground, including on our most important finding, which was ‘the firm belief that an effective United Nations is in America’s interests.’"

The task force featured a bipartisan set of foreign policy leaders, including Anne-Marie Slaughter, Thomas Pickering, Danielle Pletka, Wesley Clark, and James Woolsey.

The report did include a great deal of criticism of the United Nations, the U.N. Human Rights Council, and its ineffectiveness in protecting victims of genocide around the world. But Gingrich and Mitchell saw the answer to these problems as increasing funding for U.N. institutions, not withholding U.S. contributions from the United Nations.

They called for more staffing and funding for peacekeeping operations, more funding for the international mission in Darfur, a doubling of the budget for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and more funding for the World Health Organization.

As Mark Goldberg pointed out today on the U.N. Dispatch blog, the  $7.6 billion the United States contributes to the U.N. largely goes to support exactly those programs that Gingrich once saw as important enough to warrant budget increases. Moreover, U.N. supporters argue that withholding contributions gives the United States less influence over U.N. actions, not more.

"If the USA stopped paying its U.N. dues, it would be stripped of its voting rights at the U.N. Presumably, that would it much harder to defend Israel at the Security Council and General Assembly," Goldberg wrote.  "I can’t help think that the Gingrich of 2004 would be appalled at the reasoning of 2011 Gingrich."

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is calling for the United States to cut off its contributions to the United Nations, but only a few years ago, he helped lead an effort calling for reforms at the United Nations that recommended increased U.S. funding for several of its programs.

Gingrich, in a Wednesday op-ed entitled, "Suspend U.N. Funding Now!" criticized the United Nations for entertaining an expected resolution that would grant statehood recognition to the Palestinian territories. He said that the United States should suspend all of its contributions to the United Nations if the resolution is allowed to proceed.

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

More broadly, Gingrich criticized the Obama administration’s commitment to working within U.N. institutions, calling it "clearly a corrupt organization."

"The administration’s commitment to ‘multilateralism’ at the U.N. is nothing more than appeasement," he wrote.

But back in 2005, Gingrich was singing a different tune. He co-chaired a task force on how to improve the United Nations with former Senate majority leader and recently departed Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell, and issued a report written with the help of the United States Institute of Peace.

"The American people want an effective United Nations that can fulfill the goals of its Charter in building a safer, freer, and more prosperous world," Gingrich and Mitchell wrote in a joint statement at the top of the report. "What was most striking was the extent to which we were able to find common ground, including on our most important finding, which was ‘the firm belief that an effective United Nations is in America’s interests.’"

The task force featured a bipartisan set of foreign policy leaders, including Anne-Marie Slaughter, Thomas Pickering, Danielle Pletka, Wesley Clark, and James Woolsey.

The report did include a great deal of criticism of the United Nations, the U.N. Human Rights Council, and its ineffectiveness in protecting victims of genocide around the world. But Gingrich and Mitchell saw the answer to these problems as increasing funding for U.N. institutions, not withholding U.S. contributions from the United Nations.

They called for more staffing and funding for peacekeeping operations, more funding for the international mission in Darfur, a doubling of the budget for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and more funding for the World Health Organization.

As Mark Goldberg pointed out today on the U.N. Dispatch blog, the  $7.6 billion the United States contributes to the U.N. largely goes to support exactly those programs that Gingrich once saw as important enough to warrant budget increases. Moreover, U.N. supporters argue that withholding contributions gives the United States less influence over U.N. actions, not more.

"If the USA stopped paying its U.N. dues, it would be stripped of its voting rights at the U.N. Presumably, that would it much harder to defend Israel at the Security Council and General Assembly," Goldberg wrote.  "I can’t help think that the Gingrich of 2004 would be appalled at the reasoning of 2011 Gingrich."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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