From Whence Cometh the League of Democracies? And Does It Matter?

In his Washington Post op-ed this week, Jackson Diehl contends that John McCain’s proposal to create a “League of Nations” does not actually originate with McCain himself:

In fact, a league of democracies is not a new but a very old idea. In the past decade it has been promoted mostly by Democrats, including several of Barack Obama’s top foreign policy advisers.

Diehl then cites a number of various liberal thinkers who have proposed a “concert,” a “community,” an “alliance,” or any other sort of coalition of democratic nations. The problem, however, is that Diehl does not fully consider the nuances of each of these particular ideas, specifically failing to distinguish between initiatives meant to be an association of democracies under the umbrella of the UN and those that merely mouth adherence to the UN system, but are more likely than not intended to supplant the global body. Senator McCain’s proposal, it seems, falls under the latter category, and this, for reasons we’ve articulated before, is a very unproductive idea.

More broadly, though, the origins of the idea are ultimately moot. Whether Republicans or Democrats have endorsed a version of the concept will not matter much in the eyes of the rest of the world–and it is the 6.3 billion non-Americans who will likely be most affected by the creation of a new global body. Simply because an idea enjoys supposed bipartisan support (which McCain’s “League of Democracies” is far from able to claim) does not mean that it should be taken up by both parties. Any idea should be assessed based not on those who support it, but on the merits of the idea itself. And in the case of an idea with so much potential to harm the global order, both parties would be wiser to abandon it entirely.