Disagreements are a part of our process
One of the unfortunate results of today’s highly charged political environment is that any criticism of a federal program or agency is interpreted to mean you are totally against it. Supporters start to mobilize against you even if you simply express interest in reforming one.
As a congressman, I had the honor of representing five military installations. Serving on the Defense Appropriations Committee I worked hard to make sure there was adequate funding for soldiers, their families, their training, and weapons. Yet, when I worked with Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum to reduce soldiers’ wasteful NASCAR sponsorships I was accused of being anti-military and of course anti-NASCAR — not a good position to be in while in a Deep South congressional seat.
When it comes to the United Nations, the president has not sat back quietly. He pulled out of UNESCO and the Human Rights Council. He openly criticizes the World Health Organization (WHO) and promises the U.S. will withdraw from WHO due to its handling of coronavirus. In one speech he called the UN weak and incompetent. Predictably his critics charge him with hating all things UN. I strongly disagree.
Despite the rhetoric, most U.S.-UN engagement remains intact. We still send them $10 billion a year which is about the same amount that we sent the last year of the Obama administration. One specific example is the World Food Program (WFP) receives nearly half of its $8 billion annual budget from US taxpayers. In fact, under the Trump administration, the WFP was awarded its first Nobel Peace Prize. Accepting the honor on behalf of WFP was Trump’s appointed director, former South Carolina Democratic Governor, David Beasley.
Winning the Nobel Peace Prize is an accomplishment in which Americans — Democrats and Republicans — should take pride. Although it is a UN program, it has been run by an American for nearly 30 years. With 80 offices spread around the globe, WFP is the largest humanitarian assistance program in the world. It has served over 97 million people. Most of their efforts have been in war, conflict, or disaster zones. Danger and difficulty do not deter them.
Recently I visited the WFP activities in Beirut. Lebanon was already suffering from high-unemployment, coronavirus, and nearly 900,000 Syrian refugees when a chemical explosion in the heart of town killed at least 160 people and rendered some 300,000 homeless. This was one of the largest registered non-nuclear explosions in history.
WFP immediately deployed and set-up an onsite operation. Since the explosion happened at the port their first challenge was clearing enough space for importing food and erecting temporary facilities and truck lanes for distribution. Despite these enormous challenges the WFP worked with local volunteers and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) to assemble an army of 150 workers – many are still on the ground.
Americans should be proud. It is okay for us to debate the virtues and politics of the UN. It is fine to push for more efficiency and transparency. We can drop out of programs, boycott certain actions, but we are still engaged. What more is the WFP shows we can still support good programs.
As a former legislator, I believe that disagreement is a part of the process. It is often acrimonious, messy, and unpleasant. However, in the rough and tumble of the process, there are still victories. And when victories come, we should stop, raise our glasses high, and toast accomplishments. To David Beasley and his WFP family, together let us all salute a job well done.
Jack Kingston is a former Republican congressman from Georgia and former advisor to President Trump’s campaign. He served as a chairman of the Georgia Republican Party Foundation and is a principal at the law firm Squire Patton Boggs. Follow him on Twitter: @JackKingston.