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McCain’s League of Democracies

justiceleague.jpgI think Sen. John McCain’s (or perhaps more accurately, resurgent neocon Robert Kagan’s) proposal for a “league of democracies” is both unrealistic and very interesting. It’s unrealistic in that I don’t really believe that the campaign is serious about this proposal in its pure form – anyone who has as much experience as McCain in the U.S. Senate has a deeper, more complex understanding of diplomacy and the importance of the United Nations in the international system – despite the frustrations and flaws of authoritarian vetoes. Countries as large and economically important as Russia and China tend not to like it when they aren’t invited to dinner – after all, what good are nuclear weapons if not to serve as golden tickets to negotiating table? I do appreciate the fact that the creation of a group of democracies would put pressures on authoritarian states to carry out reforms and at least imitate some minimal democratic practices … but ultimately, such changes are only successful when carried out by the will of the sovereign people. I believe there are better, more constructive ways to achieve these changes. What could conceivably happen is that a “community of democracies” voting block could appear within the U.N., but that’s far different from the marginalization of China and Russia as foreseen in McCain’s bold words. But I do commend McCain and Kagan for at least opening up discussion on the growing cooperation between authoritarian governments and their coordinated activities within international institutions, often with the aim of subverting grassroots liberty movements within their own countries and in neighboring territories. For the moment, the League of Democracies seems as fictional to me as the Justice League, however as soon as the conversation begins about why we might need such an exclusionary body, already we are making progress in confronting some ugly truths that have long laid unsaid and diplomatically buried. Anyways, the whole reason for this rant is a column by Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, who argues that “I am all for spreading Western-style democracy, but not at the cost of making the world more warlike. Peaceful coexistence between different political systems is an attainable objective, and one to which all the world’s major powers can sign up.” There is plenty I disagree with in this Skidelsky piece – and those who read this blog often enough should be able to spot what I am talking about.