Tuesday, May 27, 2008

League of Democracies, Us vs Them

Picture it. John "McBush" McCain and Nicolas Sarkozy standing side by side. Except instead of wearing normal suits and ties, they're wearing superhero suits. I picture Super Sarkozy as Superman and McBush as Ironman. (Sorry Prime Minister Brown, I don't think you'll be around long enough to try on the tights) Yes, it's the new and improved Justice League, but this time it's called the League of Democracies. I have to admit, I missed it the first time and second time around. Apparently John "McBush, McWar" McCain gave a foreign policy speech a little over a year ago and yet again a couple months ago in which he advocated the establishment of a new League of Democracies. So what is it you may ask? Well, you take the countries who you like, you bring them all together, slap a name on it, something with democracy in it, and use it to forward your foreign policy goals. The first two questions that popped into my head were why would we need it and who would be included, let's take a look shall we.

The obvious answer to the why question is the necessity the McBush campaign feels to distance themselves from the disastrous foreign policy followed for the last eight years by George W Bush. The dangerous mix of the "war on terror" and the "global freedom agenda" has been an utter failure, leaving the world a more dangerous place than ever and the image of America in ruins and even Joe Voter is beginning to understand this. So, combining the attack of Obama's diplomacy strategy with the idea of a new "modern" UN to cope with global problems, Joe Voter sees new hope, all without having to talk to the enemy. A few excerpts from McWar's speech of over a year ago, a speech in which he quoted Hamilton, Truman, Madison, T. Roosevelt and Reagan!:
"...our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom, knowledge and resources necessary to succeed. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we must work to persuade our democratic friends and allies that we are right."
"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."
All sounds pretty good, except for the fact that we already have a world body called the United Nations that's supposed to do all that. Looking past it's obvious flaws (hello security council veto power) wouldn't it make more sense to try to improve the model we already have, one that includes all nations, instead of excluding a whole group of nations from the process. Wouldn't this new league inevitably lead to the formation of an international counterweight, perhaps a real life axis of evil...?

Which brings me to question number 2, who would be part of this new league? I wonder how they would decide on membership. Do you think there would be a slumber party at the White House and McBush, Sarkozy, Merkel et al. would stay up all night talking about boys, I mean other countries, which ones would be just right? If we take the number of countries that McBush threw out there of 100, how would we decide which 100 nations are democratic enough to join? Maybe they'd draw up a chart similar to say the one use by the Economist in their democracy index, or maybe the freedom of the world scores compiled by Freedom House. Let's take the Economist's list as it's much easier to read. I guess the 28 "full" democracies would be no-brainer choices (Sweden at number 1 and Iceland at 2, damn, I've gotta get to Iceland some day, also the happiest people in the world). If we're to get anywhere near 100, we also have to assume the 54 "flawed" democracies also get in there bringing our total to 82. This is a leap of faith though as we've got such democratic heavies as Timor Leste and Mali in there, plus the fact that Palestine and Israel would have to find a way to play nice together. This "coalition of the willing" still needs another 18 member to get to a hundred, and the pickings are pretty slim from here on in, what the Economist terms "hybrid regimes". OK, maybe a Turkey, a Ghana or even Tanzania, but Iraq? or Kenya? of course not Russia, it comes in at 102.

The biggest flaw in the reasoning is the idea that just because they are democracies, these nations will share the same interests on different fronts and will be able to work together as a whole by this virtue. The UN has international legitimacy because every nation in the world participates in its decisions. Democracies' legitimacy comes from the consent of the governed, once they act outside their borders, no such legitimacy applies. Yes, the UN needs to be reformed and re-thought to meet the challenges of the 21st century, but I'll take it any day over the idea of a League of Democracies.