Probably the Worst. Time. Ever. to Slash the UN Budget

House Republicans are apparently re-upping their effort this week to neuter the United Nations.  This is just crazy. From CQ:

House Foreign Affairs ChairwomanIleana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is putting the finishing touches on an update to her bill, first introduced in 2009, to overhaul the way the United States pays its dues to the United Nations. The chairwoman may introduce the bill — which also includes other proposed changes to the U.S. relationship with the world body — as early as the end of this week, but it is more likely to come next week, her spokesman said.House Appropriations ChairmanHarold Rogers, R-Ky., also has the United Nations in his sights. The weeklong stopgap funding proposal he unveiled April 4 would cut $237 million from U.S. contributions to the United Nations and its peacekeeping activities. Even though the White House and Senate Democrats called it a non-starter, Rogers’ bill, along with similar cuts in the House-passed funding proposal for the rest of the fiscal year (HR 1), demonstrate that House Republicans’ anti-U.N. rhetoric could have a real impact on the international body’s bottom  line.U.S. ambassador to the United NationsSusan E. Rice will appear Wednesday before the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, followed by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, to defend the organization. And U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is holding closed briefings with the two panels Thursday.Ban made a splash during one of his last Hill visits, in March 2009, when he complained to lawmakers that the United States was a “deadbeat” when it came to paying dues.

It is worth reviewing the number of ways in which the United Nations is advancing American interests around the globe…just this week.

Let’s go first to Ivory Coast. Earlier this week, President Obama said that presidential pretender Laurent Gbagbo had to go. Immediately.   On Monday, United Nations peacekeepers, along with French forces operating under a United Nations mandate, took on giant step toward making that actually happen.  As I type, Gbagbo is hours away from being forcefully removed from power–without nary an American boot on the ground.

Now, let’s travel closer to our shores. You may not have noticed, but Haiti completed its presidential election process yesterday. A former pop-singer won a run-off vote against a former first lady. President Bill Clinton, who serves as a special UN envoy to Haiti, is testifying about the election and the Haiti reconstruction today at the Security Council.  There are virtually no American soldiers in Haiti right now. Election assistance and security was provided by the United Nations.

And on to Afghanistan.  Those workers that were murdered in Mazar-i-Sharif last week were implementing key parts of the international community’s (read: American) strategy of civilian reconstruction.  That means tasks like building judicial systems, election assistance, economic development work and the multitude of things that make a country work.   Without the United Nations, who would be doing this kind of work?  The State Department? (And the House Republicans want to slash State’s budget too!)  On the other hand, if you do not think this kind of work is a vital compliment to American interests in Afghanistan, what, exactly do you think are American interests in Afghanistan?

And then there is Libya. The UN provided a ready platform in which the United States pursued a policy of protecting civilians at Benghazi and implementing a no-fly zone.  These were two policy preferences signaled by the President, and they were granted international legitimacy because of the United Nations. With that legitimacy, comes the support of NATO– the most powerful military alliance the world has ever known.

Without a fully functioning and funded United Nations, none of this would be possible. Laurent Gbagbo would probably have killed his opponent (who has been protected by UN peacekeepers since November); this week’s election in Haiti would have been a drain on American resources; civilian reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan would have a much more American face; and the United States would have been left to cobble together an ad-hoc “coalition of the willing” to pursue its policy in Libya.

Why House Republicans would want to trade these tangible American gains to score some ideological points against the United Nations is just beyond me.