McCain Calls for ‘League of Democracies’

In a conference call with bloggers this morning, Senator John McCain argued that the United States should convene a League of Democracies to get friendly nations to put more severe pressure on Iran.

I was able to get in the first question and followed up on this idea, asking whether he was talking about a “NATO Plus” organization or something else. McCain replied that he envisioned something more along the lines of ASEAN or the G-8, a somewhat formal IGO that would have regular meetings but no standing forces. In follow-up, I inquired whether he thought this meant that NATO and the UN Security Council, as presently constituted, were failures. He said that, no, those organizations have their purposes but that NATO was a military alliance whereas his League of Democracies would focus mostly on non-military solutions such as economic sanctions, trade, diplomacy, and public relations.

The idea strikes me as a good one, although I’d prefer to see the use of existing organizations, notably NATO and the G-8, to achieve these ends. While NATO was formed as a collective defense alliance, that role was all but obviated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Transforming it into a collective security organization that marshals economic and diplomatic power, in addition to military, is essential.

The main advantage of McCain’s proposal is that it includes states not currently in NATO such as Japan and Australia. But, aside from not fitting in with the “North Atlantic” theme, there’s certainly no reason they couldn’t be brought into NATO.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    It is great to know that a major presidential candidate is getting his ideas for international relations from DC Comics.

    The Justice League vs. The Axis of Evil.

    McCain is brilliant.

  2. I think in this case it would be more of a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

  3. Michael says:

    I was thinking more A League of Their Own.

  4. jpe says:

    It’s hard to see what this organization would do, save for serving as another source of friction between these nations.

  5. davod says:

    I agree that we need something other than the UN.

    You might be better off starting with ASEAN and inviting in others. A single NATO partner has a blanket veto, much like the UN Security Council.
    Another problem – What constitutes a Democracy. is Russia a Democracy? Iran? Who decides?

    McCain must have a new minder. He seems to be saying the right things. I is a pity about his record.

  6. just me says:

    I have long said that part of the problem with the UN is that it legitimizes thugs and dictators and gives them too much power. It is essentially a good ol’ boys network for the currupt around the world and they do protect their own.

    Another problem – What constitutes a Democracy. is Russia a Democracy? Iran? Who decides?

    I do think this is the real problem though. Just because a country holds an election that doesn’t mean it is really a democracy. There are going to have to be other criteria for deciding who gets in and who doesn’t, and who gets to pick that criteria?

  7. Grewgills says:

    You might be better off starting with ASEAN and inviting in others.

    You should probably take a closer look at the current membership of ASEAN.

  8. Grewgills says:

    But, aside from not fitting in with the “North Atlantic” theme, there’s certainly no reason they couldn’t be brought into NATO.

    Being North Atlantic adjacent doesn’t seem to be a current requirement for NATO membership. Less than half of the member states have a border on the Atlantic.

  9. Steven Donegal says:

    I notice he didn’t include China in the new club. Particularly in dealing with Iran, China might be more useful than Australia. Just a thought.