Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Unpredictable Relations

On Monday, in stating my objections to Kagan's concept of the league of democracies, I noted Richard Haass' point about the world entering the "Palmerstonian moment." In today's Financial Times, he previews his NI essay and makes some crucial observations, among them:

"But there is another reason for the likelihood that the transatlantic alliance will count for less, one that reflects not so much what is going on in either Europe or the US as changes in the world as a whole. Alliances require predictability: of threat, outlook and obligations. But it is precisely this characteristic that is likely to be in short supply in a world defined by shifting threats, differing perceptions and societies with widely divergent readiness to maintain and use military force. The 21st-century world is far more dynamic and fluid than the relatively stable and predictable period of the cold war.


"This assessment is not limited to transatlantic ties. The same will hold for US ties with, say, Japan, South Korea or Australia. In the case of Japan, what will limit the depth of the relationship will be the lack of political consensus in Japan favouring a robust role for that country in the region and the world. South Korea will be preoccupied by events on its peninsula. Australia will be selective in its willingness to partner the US, as the recent decision by the new prime minister to reduce its role in Iraq underscores."

Here's another idea that sort of drills deeper into Richard Haas' point. Why are the value of formal alliances declining?

One reason is that great-power war, inter-state high-intensity conflict, and forced territorial expansion are declining. The military value of a "League of Democracies" is superfluous, given NATO, informal collusion, and the above.

However, there other area of international relations that could be influenced by this league is economics. But there's no room here currently for that, either, because the WTO has locked the world into free trade with dictators.

I don't approve of replacing the UN with a league of democracies, because I think it would make war more common and possibly harm its own intended cause. However, I would be up for replacing the WTO with it.

I don't really believe that trade creates political liberalization anymore.
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