McCain's League of Democracies
8:34 AM, May 3, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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:
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.
God forbid this League of Democracies ever aspired to anything more than dealing with problems that the U.N. has failed to address: Darfur, sanctioning Iran, human rights, etc. The goal here would not be to build an effective international institution that might one day serve as yet another framework for restraining the United States. Instead, it would be a symbolic organization that simultaneously undermined the United Nations, bolstered maligned democracies like Israel and Taiwan, and ostracized antidemocratic regimes like those in Beijing and Moscow. Of course, we reserve the right to take military action against Iran, or Sudan, or anyone else, with or without the support of the United Nations, or any other international institution.
Conservatives shouldn't disdain a proposed international institution because it would be ineffective. After all, the real problem with the United Nations isn't its ineffectiveness, but rather its effectiveness in coddling dictators, protecting human rights abusers, and constraining our freedom of action.