One Problem With A “League of Democracies”

Mark is right to call attention to the “new international institutions” that John McCain alluded to in his speech today. In proposing a “League of Democracies” — an idea that, interestingly, resembles a Bush administration proposal from September 2005 — McCain’s speech very neatly mirrors the foreign policy address he gave at the Hoover Institution over a year ago, when he first launched the idea of an organization that “could act where the U.N. fails to act.” What, exactly, does he have in mind? Straight from the horse’s mouth, courtesy of an op-ed he wrote in Financial Times last week:

The nations of the Nato alliance and the European Union…must have the ability and the will to act in defence of freedom and economic prosperity. They must spend the money necessary to build effective military and civilian capabilities that can be deployed around the world, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, from Chad to East Timor.

While McCain’s commitment to working together with other countries is welcome, his seemingly singular focus on a U.S.-Europe alliance could detract significantly from the objective of international cooperation. True, the UN General Assembly often grapples with tensions between the global “North” and the global “South,” between “developed” countries and the “developing” 130 countries in the so-called “G-77.” The existence of these tensions — which often frustrate American objectives — is not, however, a reason to exclude such a substantial number of states from the global decision-making process.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, the UN reached a seminal point in its history, welcoming a flood of newly decolonized countries in Asia and Africa. To create an alliance consisting largely of militarily strong ex-colonial powers would be, to say the least, a disturbing development, both philosophically and practically. If as President McCain is serious about working with the rest of the world to address the pressing problems of the day, then he should commit to working with the — admittedly imperfect, but hugely necessary — institution that already exists — the United Nations.