The Candidates’ Worst Ideas

(cross-posted at On Day One)

FP Passport just released its “top ten” list of John McCain’s worst ideas (it follows a similar run-down for Barack Obama last week), and sitting at the top is something we have frequently cautioned against here at Dispatch: the heroic-sounding, but ultimately dangerous, idea to circumvent the UN by investing in a “League of Democracies.” Though McCain’s foreign policy team — and some of Obama’s as well — has proposed that such an organization could come to the rescue in places like Georgia, Myanmar, and Darfur, where UN Security Council action is stalled by veto threats, creating a “League of Democracies” would inevitably prove counter-productive.

In addition to the concerns that Passport cites — it would dangerously weaken the United Nations, no one else in the world seems interested, and a previous iteration has not made much of an impact — McCain’s proposed “League” would provocatively antagonize key emerging powers, such as China and Russia, with which the next president will have to work closely, whether he likes it or not. This would sow unnecessary discord both between supposed “democracies” and “non-democracies” and within the ranks of democracies themselves, thereby accelerating global polarization and making it that much more difficult to tackle thorny issues. Far from being a harmonious squad of like-minded democracies, a “League” of “over 100 democracies” would find themselves bickering amongst each other far more often than taking unified stances against oppression and human rights abuses. The U.S.’s already struggling image in the world would take a further beating, and crises across the world would continue to fester.

The “League of Democracies” is not the only poor foreign policy idea that the folks at Passport have identified — on both sides of the aisle. McCain has also voiced support for the incredibly harmful “Global Gag Rule,” a restriction on U.S. foreign assistance that prevents funding for any group that even discusses the option of abortion. A particularly terrible idea to come out of Obama’s camp, on the other hand, was his support — since renounced — of the “coal-to-liquid” fuel process. This method is even worse for the environment than oil, would set back even moderate efforts to clean up “dirty coal,” and would emit the very greenhouse gases that other planks in Obama’s energy platform seek to decrease.

Let’s hope the candidates change their minds on some of these less thought-out policies before Day One in the White House.