The Tea Party meets the world

Since the Middle East uprisings began, assistance from the international community and, in particular, from the U.N., has been vital. With Gadhafi refusing to end his brutal campaign against civilians, the recent vote at the Security Council to authorize a military response – a notably sweeping Chapter VII resolution – is an essential step towards sustaining our global alliances.

As President Obama recently stated, “Gadhafi [c]ould commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.”

In fact, shortly after the leaders of neighboring Tunisia and Egypt were forced out by popular revolts, the U.N. refugee agency stepped up its work to help the region cope with more than 320,000 refugees, mainly migrant workers, who began to flee Libya.

As the devastation in Japan also indicates, political legitimacy and cost savings are not the only reasons we need the U.N. The recovery process currently underway in Japan is a stirring example of burden sharing in an interdependent world. The U.N. is uniquely suited to pool specialists from around the globe, ensure a timely response to both natural and man-made disasters, and function as an objective coordinating and implementing body. The United States, as a major donor, is able to influence decision making in ways that also help serve our national interests. Without that financial contribution, we lose this leverage at a time when we need it most. 

Similarly, as we draw down our troops in Iraq and seek to redeploy from Afghanistan, we need the United Nations to assume a leading role toward ensuring long-term stability and security. Tea Party activists, however, jeopardize all of that by continuing to urge America to cut and run from the U.N. – a tactic that will ensure we’re left holding the bag, alone, down the road.

As we transition to a civilian mission in Iraq and move towards redeployment in Afghanistan we need the U.N. more than ever. With more than 20 offices across Afghanistan and a strong mandate to assist the Iraqi government in the contentious areas of elections, reconciliation boundary resolution the U.N.’s role should not be underestimated.

Undeniably, the stability of these two countries – and the surrounding regions – will be dependent, at least in part, on the U.N.’s willingness and ability to put their uncompromised neutrality to work. In addition, if we lose our seat at the table because of slashed funds, we might not see the U.N.’s strong mediation and conflict resolution expertise put to work in any political solution, the outcome of which may very well be essential to ensuring Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a terrorist safe haven.

Continuing our engagement at the U.N., while pressing for greater reform to make it more effective, will encourage other countries to shoulder their portion of our shared global responsibilities, and will enhance our ability to promote our agenda by leveraging key actors.

Sure, multilateralism can be messier and more opaque. But if we walk away from the very global institutions we helped build, we’re likely to end up playing a larger, lonelier, and more expensive role down the line. Does that sound like something the Tea Party would support?

Sarah Margon is the Associate Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress. She previously served as a senior foreign policy advisor to former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).