Monday, August 06, 2007

The League that Wouldn't Die ... Sorry, A Concert

What's that line from "Never on Sunday"--"I wish I could put reason in place of fantasy in her mind?" The fantasy of a vast alliance of democracies all anxious and eager to support the United States in the world just refuses to die.

Today, two advisors--to Senators Obama and McCain--once again push this idea. All of the objections that have been raised before are just set aside and ignored.

Messers Kagan and Daalder, why not listen to what representatives of other democracies actually have to say? Listen to what Ambassador Mallias was telling us about European difficulties both in coming to a common position on Kosovo (which doesn't bode well for their assertion that democracies see the international order in the same way; the EU, as a regional "concert of democracies" should have a much more coherent foreign policy than it actually does)--and why and how the EU may have to part company with the U.S. when it comes to a unilateral action that bypasses the Security Council? Why not listen to close advisors to Angela Merkel telling us why Germany has a different perspective on how to deal with Russia? Or why Prime Minister Singh or President Mbeki have different ideas about engaging non-democratic neighbors like Burma (Myanmar and Zimbabwe)?

And what happens if the world's democracies "outvote" the United States? Didn't this happen with the Iraq war in 2003--tallying up France, Germany and India--that outweighs the "coalition of the willing"? (Or, as in Catch-22 or in the original proposals for the UN, does the U.S. get extra votes in any "Concert of Democracies")?

Sorry to rain on the parade, but the sooner we put a stake through the heart of this seductive idea, the better for U.S. foreign policy?

So does the coalition of the willing in 2003 serve as an example of the concert of democracies in action? If so, why isn't US action perceived as legitimate? And didn't these guys think that was a good move then?
Why not just start with an Anglosphere alliance--smaller, more compact, and indeed a series of countries that do share common values, common interests and common perspectives. "Democracy" is misleading because let's face it most of the countries we call democracies are not by our standards.

Anonymous 8:55, Iraq war 2003 showed that the Anglosphere concept can work in projecting power around the world--US, UK and Australia did the job. You can then attract occasional one-up allies as needed--say bringing in India, Japan, France, etc.
How much of this is fueled by the fact Gordon Brown didn't come to DC and say he wouldn't be Tony Blair--so now we think things are A-OK?
Let's get ready to intervene more times--when we've got two interventions on the verge of failure right now?

Oh, and Nick, apropos of your post on Friday, hey, no need to spend on domestic infrastructure--just let it collapse. Guess if you never leave the beltway don't need to worry about those bridges.
By "democracy" you are conflating 2 concepts: representative government and respect for the rule of law. As far as I can tell, there are only 22 states that currently satisfy those criteria and almost all of them are in North America and in Western Europe (excepting Australia and New Zealand).

India is not a "democratic" state according to the above 2 criteria since there is no respect for the rule of law in that country.

It is foolish to predicate policy options based on such a narrow spectrum of states - the global (pecking) order is based on state power. There are many many state actors out there that are un-democractic (China, Vietnam, N. Korea, Burma, Algeria, Egypt, Syria) or semi-democratic (India, Russia, Iran, Turkey, South Africa, Nigeria) whose interests must be taken into account.

Furthermore, while I can see the attraction of an Alliance of the English-Speaking White People to those from that racial and cultural background I do not see it useful to US. US does not need UK, Australia, and New Zealand to act. Nor does she need their political cover. This type of entaglement with foreing powers (based on a new conception of White-Man's-Burden) only will limit US freedom of action and raise a visceral anti-colonial response among the non-White people of the world with their memories of White domination still intact.

US already has an emotional relationship with Israel with all its negative consequences including the 9/11 attacks; she does not need to add to that.
My guess--and based on anonymous 11:48 comment about the number of "real" democracies--is that Kagan and Daalder will shift who is and who is not a democracy based on support for US policy. If Ethiopia is key ally in GWOT it is a democracy until it doesn't back us on something. Expect that Georgia is a democracy and Armenia is not; perhaps India's credentials will be called into question and guess Venezuela and Bolivia aren't either.
"And what happens if the world's democracies "outvote" the United States? Didn't this happen with the Iraq war in 2003--tallying up France, Germany and India--that outweighs the "coalition of the willing"? (Or, as in Catch-22 or in the original proposals for the UN, does the U.S. get extra votes in any "Concert of Democracies")?"

For Daalder and the Princeton National Security Project team (Ikenberry and Slaughter, in particular) this is a feature, not a bug. By restricting membership to liberal democracies, the organization would avoid the legitimacy problems of the UN, thus making it more difficult for the US to go on unwise adventures such as Iraq--but also preventing non-liberal democracies from blocking presumably less unwise uses of military force for the purposes of upholding liberal order.

Kagan, on the other hand, might be less happy about the scenario you envision.
Daniel Nexon,

So who determines who is a liberal democracy? The U.S.? The EU? Freedom House?

And can countries be expelled? Haven't seen any countries expelled from the Concert of Democracies?

And I thought we already had this in NATO.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous: why are you asking me these questions? I wasn't aware that pointing out an issue surrounding one of the criticisms of an idea implied an endorsement of the idea.

Presumably, membership would be decided by the "club," with all that entails. Since they have in mind an informal US project, at least initially, I imagine invitations would come with a return address of Washington, DC. Make of that what you will.

And yes, this does look a lot like post-Cold War NATO. But all of the proponents explicitly mention contemporary NATO as a precedent, so that's hardly a stunning criticism, at least without additional discussion of the current state of NATO.
Daniel, I'd think that a number of democracies would have problems with that return address right now. Can't even see Sarkozy or Merkel responding, not to mention Singh.
To clarify the previous post--Idon't mean to suggest that Sarkozy or Merkelwouldn't agree with the concept in theory, but not as a cloak for US foreign policy. And that begs a reverse question--would US sign upw tih a concert if the returna ddress was Brussels, or Berlin or Paris?
Isn't the issue of who gets invited to join or remain in the Community of Democracies also a contentious issue, because essentially it is in the hands of the convening group?
everyone talks the democartic game and then they follow their interests. sarkozy signed an arms deal with libya, with qaddafi! it's all talk.
Nick, I assume you saw the guest post by Mark Goldberg over at The Washington Note but wanted to post a section here which I found quite interesting:

In fact, as I respond in detail on UN Dispatch the Security Council frequently votes to authorize the use of force for humanitarian ends, China and Russia notwithstanding. The debates over Iraq and Kosovo are the only two instances over the last eight years in which the council failed to authorize the use of force when one or more of the P-5 democracies wanted it to. There are eighteen other examples to the contrary. We just don't hear about these cases all that often.
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