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Huffington Post: We Cannot Go It Alone

March 28, 2011

This week as we have watched the nuclear and humanitarian crisis unfold in Japan, along with the democratic uprisings in the Middle East and Libya, it is increasingly evident just how important multilateral engagement has become. We are an interconnected world; no country can afford to practice "cowboy politics" and go it alone. Since 1945, the United Nations has been the vehicle through which we ensure that national sovereignty, democracy and human rights -- the values on which the UN was founded -- are respected and enforced throughout the world.

Yet, the Majority party seems determined to withdraw the U.S. from its obligations to the United Nations. In the Foreign Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, we have already had two hearings on the UN, while ignoring many of the larger, more pressing global issues. Though there have been demonstrable deficiencies at the UN -- the Oil for Food scandal being chief among them -- we shouldn't throw out the good in pursuit of the perfect. The UN and its allied programs serve an important humanitarian and peacekeeping function around the world.

Just as with their attacks on National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood, the efforts of the Majority Party to curtail our financial obligations to the UN will not have any discernable impact on the national deficit, but rather, it will score points for the Majority party with their conservative base. Though they dress up their objections to the UN as "fiscal conservatism," make no mistake -- their actions are based on pure ideology rather than any effort to curb government spending.

However, unlike the attacks on public radio and Planned Parenthood, the threat of withholding U.S. dues from the United Nations has an impact on the rest of the world. At a time of chaos and war, of natural disasters and calls for international aid, it sends a message to the rest of the world that there are those in this country who believe that the U.S. should no longer be a part of the world community. They believe that the U.S. should practice an isolationist foreign policy -- concerned only itself and its self-interest -- and our membership in the UN doesn't fit into that goal.

But the United Nations does serve this nation's interests, and the interests of its citizens. The UN International Civil Aviation Organization, for example, sets worldwide standards for cargo and passenger air transport, traveler identification, and cargo security, making the skies safer and more efficient for all of us. And with the global reach of U.S. businesses, the World Intellectual Property Organization helps to enforce international copyright and intellectual property laws, protecting American entrepreneurs around the world.

In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in that devastated Japan, the UN led the rescue efforts. They sent in their International Telecommunications Union to help establish communication capacity, top experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency are on the ground to help avert additional fallout from the two damaged nuclear reactors, and the World Food Program is on the ground coordinating supply chains for those displaced or affected by the disaster.

The UN also plays a vital role to our military operations around the world. Upon our eventual withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, UN and NATO forces, working alongside their Iraqi allies, will be essential to securing the peace. Last Thursday the UN Security Council voted 10-0 (with China, Russia, Germany, India, and Brazil abstaining) to authorize an international coalition to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to protect Libyan citizens threatened by Muammar Qaddaffi's air strikes. As I write this, military forces from the U.S., Britain, Italy, France, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates, have already begun operations over the North African nation, trying to ensure the safety of the Libyan people from Qaddaffi's oppressive regime.

The mission of the United Nations is essential to our globalized society. From monitoring elections in Sudan and peacekeeping missions in the Ivory Coast, to responding to worldwide health crises like the H1N1 virus or the disasters in Haiti or Japan, the UN brings nations together to ensure the functioning of our world as a whole.

As one of the founding members of the UN and the world's only true superpower, the United States has an obligation to support the United Nations and continue a foreign policy that moves our country forward towards our global future- not backwards to an isolationist past.

Likewise, the Majority party needs to deal with the pressing issues facing our country, rather than creating political theater to garner headlines.

This editorial was originally published in the Huffington Post.