Wednesday, May 02, 2007

League of Democracies?

Senator John McCain unveiled his idea for a League of Democracies and pledges that, if elected to the presidency, he will call a summit of the world's democracies within his first year of office.

The Senator observes:

"The new League of Democracies would form the core of an international order of peace based on freedom. It could act where the UN fails to act, to relieve human suffering in places like Darfur. It could join to fight the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and fashion better policies to confront the crisis of our environment. It could provide unimpeded market access to those who share the values of economic and political freedom, an advantage no state-based system could attain. It could bring concerted pressure to bear on tyrants in Burma or Zimbabwe, with or without Moscow's and Beijing's approval. It could unite to impose sanctions on Iran and thwart its nuclear ambitions. It could provide support to struggling democracies in Ukraine and Serbia and help countries like Thailand back on the path to democracy."

If you build it, they will come. The problem, of course, is that nothing has prevented an ad hoc coalition of democracies (or even democracies and non-democracies) from already acting on any of these issues. We saw how an informal "democratic entente" of the United States, Japan, India and Australia responded in the aftermath of the tsunami.

What McCain lays out sounds like a talking shop--a place for democracies to consult and discuss about problems and solutions. This is already happening. If we are not seeing more effective action on Darfur, it is not because there is no League of Democracies but because states are using the UN as cover for their own reluctance to get involved.

How or why would this proposal improve upon the Community of Democracies which has not really fulfilled its promise to be the global coordinating council? FDR improved on the League of Nations to create the UN; what is new here to prevent the LoD from duplicating the CoD?

Is the League going to have a collective security component? How will it coordinate joint action? What do you do about a democracy like India which is also an observer at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?

Finally, how does the Senator get past the point that Paul Saunders made in the last issue of The National Interest (and which so many people seem reluctant to want to engage with him on)--that the test of any League or Concert or Community of Democracies is the Franco-American relationship? Are the world's major democratic powers interested in this idea? I've never heard support for this idea from any major European democratic power (from people in government). And if you take John Lee's assessment of what's going on in the ASEAN region (in the current issue of TNI), I don't see the major ASEAN democracies jumping on board. Or is this going to be another "coalition of the willing"?

NATO served specific strategic interests (and it had non-democratic members); the U.S. alliances in east Asia were based on strategic considerations. Alliances that start on the basis of supposed shared values are always stillborn.

Finally, on the east European/Eurasian points. I have never seen evidence that the Kremlin particuarly cares whether governments on its periphery are democratic, autocratic or some mix of the two. What they do care about is whether their interests are safeguarded. Witness the good relations Russia has with states like Hungary and Bulgaria. To the extent that nationalism in Russia's neighbors tends to be anti-Russian, then democracy will produce anti-Russian governments and authoritarian rulers will also use anti-Russian sentiments to prop up their own governments (e.g. Turkmenistan under Niyazov).

One final note: there has been a major sea-change in Republican thinking. McCain says the U.S. is safer when the world is more democratic. Perhaps democratic here is meant in a looser sense, of governments that rule with the consent of the governed or for the benefits of their populations. But that was not the traditional American stance. The traditional stance was the world was safe when every country was free to make its own choices free from the pressure or interference of others. If other countries wanted to choose our form of government, wanted to follow our example, wanted our help in making the transition, that was one thing; but we defined international peace and security via self-determination and through "peaceful competition" of different social systems. Americans didn't feel until quite recently that the existence of other forms of governance undermined our own republican system or delegitimized its appeal. This is a profound shift--and seems to reflect a certain insecurity about America's ability to continue as a global leader.

Nick, quite telling that midway in the speech he says that our allies have to be willing to stand up for the common defense of freedom--which reads to me like code for: the U.S. gets to determine this and if you don't agree then you are an enemy of freedom.

Otherwise, is McCain seriously suggesting that as president he would NOT have gone into Iraq over the objections of France and Germany?
Nik, give up your attempts to try and prevent the approaching U.S. - Russia clash. McCain, Clinton, Biden (who calls Russia an enemy), etc.--they have decided that they want a new cold war because the old one didn't turn out with total American victory. League of democracy is code for anti-Russia/anti-China alliance. By the way you then push both of these two powers together.
This is another variant of the Global NATO proposal. The problem is that most of the other countries that want it want the U.S. to provide security for them, not to provide security for each other (e.g. would South Korea come to the defense of Georgia?) So looks great on paper but not a practical concept.
This is another variant of the Global NATO proposal. The problem is that most of the other countries that want it want the U.S. to provide security for them, not to provide security for each other (e.g. would South Korea come to the defense of Georgia?) So looks great on paper but not a practical concept.
India is not going to go against any of the following countries:
Iran (Oil & Strategic depth against Pakis)
Burma (Oil & leverage against north east separatists)
Zimbabwe (Minerals and listening post on the south of Africa.)
While India may support a league of democracies, cometh the hour to move against any of the above, I suspect they will take the high moral ground again.

Yes, the USG is provoking another Cold War, on a bipartisan basis.

This one won't go nearly so well though. We're in atrocious financial shape for it, not to mention we've wrecked our Army and made ourselves unpopular just about universally.

Oh, and Russia has no need to maintain her present level of energy exports. They could balance their books on half that level, so if we get hostile all they need to do is dial back the flow.

Try being the "Sole Superpower" running a world with 4 mbpd less oil and 300 million m3/day less gas.
Don't worry, Dick Lugar says there's plenty of corn to turn into ethanol, Anonymous 4:02!
Anonymous 4:02 AM:

There is also the added consideration that Russia is not percieved as a threat by other states: in Latin America, in the Middle East, in Asia, or in Africa.

A New Cold War will be an alliance of US & EU against Russia. Excepting the usual suspects (Israel, Japan, Georgia) almost every other state will sit this one out.

This is plain foolish and its proponents should be fired or removed from power. It is bad for America and bad for EU. And I cannot see it helping Japan, Israel, and South Korea.

A New Cold War will be an alliance of US & EU against Russia.

No serious policymaker in the United States wants trouble with Russia, but if Russia treats its citizens like Mugabe, it will be treated like Zimbabwe. Inevitable.

I agree with you, Nick, that the League of Democracies is not as good of an idea as it sounds. If taken seriously, it would undercut the U.N., which might suffer membership losses. This could be a significant factor in creating a new bipolarity in the global system that benefits no one, taking us back to a 1930's scenario. People underestimate the real impact the universal nature of U.N. membership has on calming down disputes.

On the other hand, if this organization could be integrated into the U.N. system... might be more promising.
Sounds a great idea to me. This would balance out the united nations nicely, providing an organisation to give incentive to accountability alongside one which gives incentives to peace.

This would get my vote, and I'm a social-democrat.
El Tom:

It would be a great idea if it weren't being promoted by the United States. It is not going to function in the way you expect because McCain and others don't want to be accountability even to other democracies.
I think the League of Democracies is an infantile idea - what are we going to have next, worship the Goddess of Democracy?

I am with Jordan W. on this and his sensible observations regarding the importance of UN.

There is also a historical and an analytical problematic with the notion of democratic state. Historical because there have been many wars among democracies: US & CSA, US & UK in 1812, US & Mexico, US & Spain, WWI, Germany & France in the 19-th century, etc.

Moreover, the notion of democracy that many people have in mind conflates several distinct concepts: representative system of government, the rule of law, and small state sector in the economy.

If you consider the first two criteria above, namely representative system of government and the rule of law then there are only 24 "Democracies" in the world; almost all of them by and for the European peoples. If you include the third criterion the number shrinks further.

So, you are left with a league which is almost exclusively mono-cultural and mono-racial. I do not think this where we want to go and such a league will be ineffective internationally because once again it pits the White Man against everyone else.
This is just one more example of the need to recognize that this is..
One Planet, One world
and we are all citizens of that world.
Enforced Democracy?
Think of it.
A world where the common good, education, Health, Economy and ecologies are all based on Equality...
Education is the key, of course.
The league of Nations, The united nations, League of Democracies?
There is only one is Earth, and we are all its citizens...
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