John McCain and the League of Democracies!

Matt Welch has a terrific rundown about McCain’s foreign policy and the absurdity thereto, both of McCain’s actual policies and the media’s hilarious (yet sad) distortions of same to give it the perception of centrism, rather than the reality, which is pretty much blatant American imperialism on a grand scale. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, but one of the best bits is on McCain’s proposal to build a League of Democracies! under American leadership to combat evil regimes.

Now, there have been times that I have been intrigued by a League of Democracies, as has Jonathan Rauch, but regardless of whatever Rauch, Welch or McCain might think about a 21st century League of Nations, the main point is that there is no way in hell anything remotely like this is happening any time in the next decade. After eight years of a cranky, go-it-alone White House that won re-election in part by bashing limp-wristed Euro-weenies, the chances of another interventionist Republican winning enough good faith among grumbly allies to create a brand spanking new America-defined Club of Winners are something approaching zero.

I think that’s pretty much exactly right. Frankly, I think there’s a real danger of forming an organization like McCain proposes, because it’s pretty much going to guarantee that large economic powers that don’t fit the membership criteria are probably going to form some sort of alliance to oppose it (a Legion of Autocracy?), which is only going to entrench positions, provoke hositilities and diminish our influence and working relationships with those countries.

We’d be much better off, in my opinion, with working to form a coalition with other liberal democracies to work for common interests within the framework of the United Nations. True, the United Nations isn’t perfect, but as Matthew Yglesias points out, much of the dysfunction at the U.N. has to do with the indifference of countries in participating into it. There’s a great potential for making the U.N. a stronger, more effective body. But that does require actually working with the U.N., instead of doing nothing and then complaining that the U.N. “doesn’t do anything.”

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, World Politics, ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    We’d be much better off, in my opinion, with working to form a coalition with other liberal democracies to work for common interests within the framework of the United Nations. True, the United Nations isn’t perfect, but as Matthew Yglesias points out, much of the dysfunction at the U.N. has to do with the indifference of countries in participating into it.

    Much depends, I suppose on your seeing the indifference as a root cause, or as a reaction to what they see as a waste of time. Certainly, the UN has revealed itself as that, many times over…

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    Look at the UN human rights commission and then tell me just a tweak is needed.

    But we now have Alex on record on being against multi-lateral solutions to international problems (at least if saint Obama hasn’t told him its okay).

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Look at the UN human rights commission and then tell me just a tweak is needed.

    I would never dispute that the UN doesn’t have problems. I just don’t see why we can’t, you know, work within the UN to solve them.

    But we now have Alex on record on being against multi-lateral solutions to international problems

    Explain to be how being opposed to a particular multi-lateral policy automatically makes one opposed to all multi-lateral solutions. You logic escapes me.

  4. Scott_T says:

    because it’s pretty much going to guarantee that large economic powers that don’t fit the membership criteria are probably going to form some sort of alliance to oppose it

    So you are talking Iran, Russia, China and all the tin-pot nations in Africa/SE Asia?

    And your point is?

    Seriously, look at the nations which aren’t true democracies (ie China/Russia don’t count) and how free their people are compared to other democracies.

    Compare those nation’s GDP to the EU/USA, who wins their?

    A League of Autocrats will only try to appeal to those nation’s which have/are failing (ie Africa). It certainly won’t appeal to a nation which is successful (EU), or striving to be successful (ie most of South America).

    Most democratic nations which are gaining power/growing, their biggest problem is corruption (ie India, South America), not internal strife.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    A League of Autocrats will only try to appeal to those nation’s which have/are failing (ie Africa). It certainly won’t appeal to a nation which is successful (EU), or striving to be successful (ie most of South America).

    Exactly right. So why isolate them? Why not engage them and extend our relationships and influence with them, instead of undermining it? It doesn’t make any sense.

  6. Bithead says:

    I would never dispute that the UN doesn’t have problems. I just don’t see why we can’t, you know, work within the UN to solve them.

    Why?

    Look, Alex, we’re been working within that framework for 50 years, now…and it has demonstrated itself beyond ‘fixing’, may times over. How much money, time and effort goes into this nonsense, how many lives will get lost, how many rights will get trampled, before we call in an airstrike on Turtle Bay and start over?

  7. just me says:

    I just don’t see why we can’t, you know, work within the UN to solve them.

    Because the UN is really nothing more than a good ol’ boys network international style that gives legitimacy to rogue nations.

    I think the human rights commission is a great example of this problem.

    So if you want to work within the UN what do you propose be done?

  8. Minus the big stick, or at least the US’ big stick, isn’t this League of Super Friends Democracies pretty much what NATO is turning into?

  9. Scott_T says:

    Alex Knapp,

    Do you really think the Mugabe’s and Sudan’s of the world would really come to the US and engage us (on their own behalf) to better the country, or to better their elite?

    The US, *SHOULD*, want to better their people, for all (in an ideal world), in the World of Autocrats, they’ll only look out for the Autocrats, no matter how many backs of their people they break.

    Sure, I would encourage the US to work with them to DEVELOP to a democratic nation, which will advance all of their people.

    We’ve seen before that other countries already work to prop up the autocrats so Russia/China/Iran gets 1st access to the country (or sells prime goods to them, like guns).

    Is it that hard to fathom, that minor-league autocrats would look to big-league autocrats for support to keep their regime’s in power, instead of looking to the US/EU to keep them in power?

  10. John425 says:

    There is one thing that the UN COULD do. Vacate the building by Turtle Bay, decamp to any Third World country of their choice and let Mayor Bloomberg convert the building into desireable and affordable condos.

  11. Bithead says:

    Do you really think the Mugabe’s and Sudan’s of the world would really come to the US and engage us (on their own behalf) to better the country, or to better their elite?

    Precisely.
    And such people have been far more successful at advancing such, than we have in advancing western values there. Mostly because of all the groups and cultures represented at the UN, we’re the only ones trying to ‘respect all cultures and governments’. The UN by it;s very design gives such nonsense a tool they would not otherwise have; legitimacy. We’ve seen over the past half century how that’s worked out.

  12. Steve Plunk says:

    It is reasonable to conclude the UN beyond any chance of meaningful reform. Since that is reasonable it is also reasonable to look forward and plan possible replacements for it’s role (or lack of) in the world.

    Throwing out words like “imperialism” and “absurdity” makes it clear this topic is not one some want to address in a rational manner.

    Americans have been dissatisfied with the UN for years. Many foreign policy experts have been dissatisfied. What is wrong with talking about alternatives? What is wrong with a minimal requirement of democracy for membership? What is wrong with strong leadership instead of compromising away principles?

  13. Bandit says:

    There’s a great potential for making the U.N. a stronger, more effective body.

    Sorry – but after you write that how can you expect anyone to take anything you write seriously? When you put free countries on the same level as totalitarian slave states then the goal shouldn’t be to make you any stronger or more effective.

  14. underground politics…

  15. Bithead says:

    OK, gang, ya know, perhaps we’re being unfair.

    Alex,
    What, to your mind should be the goals of the UN, and why is the UN the way to go to get to those goals? In that same context, what, to your way of thinking would constitute ‘repair’ toward that end?

  16. Alex Knapp says:

    Bit –

    What, to your mind should be the goals of the UN, and why is the UN the way to go to get to those goals? In that same context, what, to your way of thinking would constitute ‘repair’ toward that end?

    That’s an excellent question, and I don’t think a comment will do it justice. Let me organize my thoughts on the subject and I’ll post in the next couple of days.

  17. Bithead says:

    It may help in your writing, to understand the reasoning behind the question; I’m looking for specifics. So much of the discussion about the UN is glad-handing generalisations, having no real world application, other than making people feel good about the UN. Even in this thread, here, the discussion works in generalities, from both sides.

  18. Brian says:

    Look, Alex, we’re been working within that framework for 50 years, now…and it has demonstrated itself beyond ‘fixing’, may times over. How much money, time and effort goes into this nonsense, how many lives will get lost, how many rights will get trampled, before we call in an airstrike on Turtle Bay and start over?

    But we haven’t consistently and exclusively worked within that framework as a global influence to lend the proper credence the U.N. requires in order to work. Would we concede to its authority in international affairs, it could be remarkably effective.

  19. Cernig says:

    Alex,

    There’s a great potential for making the U.N. a stronger, more effective body. But that does require actually working with the U.N., instead of doing nothing and then complaining that the U.N. “doesn’t do anything.”

    Exactly – and as the commenters here illustrate, that’s the biggest part of the problem.

    Thought experiment – if the UN is so useless and powerless, then both McCain commenters here should be OK with the US giving up its veto on the UNSC but allowing the other veto-holders to keep theirs. After all, what difference would it make? How would that play to the nationalist and UN-hating base?

    Personally, I think the first step in reform is to have all the vetos done away with – and only the US could lead that push with any hope at all of success. Maybe McCain could suggest it. 🙂

    Regards, C