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McCain's League of Democracies

8:34 AM, May 3, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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In a speech to the Hoover Institution on Monday, Senator McCain promised that if elected, within his first year in office he "will call a summit of the world's democracies" in an effort to promote a new international organization: the League of Democracies.

Here's how McCain described it:

. . . We should go further and start bringing democratic peoples and nations from around the world into one common organization, a worldwide League of Democracies. This would not be like the universal-membership and failed League of Nations' of Woodrow Wilson but much more like what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace. 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 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. . . .

"This League of Democracies would not supplant the United Nations or other international organizations. It would complement them. But it would be the one organization where the world's democracies could come together to discuss problems and solutions on the basis of shared principles and a common vision of the future.

Interestingly, the response among conservative bloggers seems to have been a collective shrug. Everyone likes the idea of an organization that would marginalize the United Nations--as Poweline's John Hideraker wrote, "A league of democracies could render the U.N. more or less obsolete if it proves able to act effectively." But whether it would be able to do any such thing seems to be a cause of concern.

Over at Hot Air, Bryan writes that "McCain's League would end up replacing a Chinese veto with a French one." Instead, Bryan suggests putting together an organization that would exclude China but also "minimize France in favor of stronger democracies like Japan and India, who also happen to see the world more like we do than France does."

Captain Ed labeled the idea "conservative red meat," but he also isn't enthusiastic. "Some of the democracies [France and Germany] don't behave," he says, "it sounds like a good idea, but in reality would go almost nowhere."And Jules Crittenden is even more derisive, calling McCain's proposal the "League of Blah Blah Blah." The lack of reliable democratic partners that "give a damn and are actually willing to do something," invariably means this will "be a pretty small club," he says.

Okay, so a League of Democracies isn't going to cure the world's ills overnight. But it's certainly a step in the right direction. Undermining the United Nations is a long-term project, and a parallel, more legitimate organization that helps to erode the UN's credibility with our more internationalist allies in Europe would seem a logical next step. Forming ad hoc coalitions will continue to be this country's only real choice for confronting serious threats, but these folks are missing the point if they think that the problem will lie in the organization's ineffectiveness.

International organizations are inherently ineffective. The only institution that has preserved any measure of credibility with conservatives is NATO, and that's because it is based on collective security rather than the idea of international law. And of course the only real test that NATO has faced since the end of the Cold War, the war in Afghanistan, has shown that it, too, leaves much to be desired.