[H/t Don’t trip up]
From the crisis in Darfur to the genocides of Rwanda and Kosovo, the United Nations has repeatedly been embarrassed by its inability to act. Certain member states with seats on the Security Council have managed to block attempts to intervene in instances of genocide and mass murder, with tragic consequences. It is not the multilateral institution that has failed, it is some of its members who have blocked much needed action.
It is that failing that makes the idea of a league of democracies so appealing (promoted recently by John McCain, but the idea has a wider history). The liberal internationalist dream would stand a chance of being realised if a multinational organisation was not hamstrung by illiberal members.
Such an organisation would stand a chance of acting when foreign peoples were in need of intervention. It might be able to act to force Robert Mugabe out of Zimbabwe or for Burmese military junta to open up their borders to aid workers.
This League of Democracies would not supplant the United Nations or other international organizations. It would complement them. But it would be the one organization where the world’s democracies could come together to discuss problems and solutions on the basis of shared principles and a common vision of the future.
I commend McCain for stating the organization could apply more serious sanctions against Iran and act “without approval from Moscow or Beijing”. I disagree with McCain regarding the need to supplant the U.N. As Stephen notes above, the recent actions of China and Indonesia regarding blocking aid to Burma should make it clear that the organization is impotent to act in the most pressing cases (famine, war, genocide). But somehow the U.N. always finds a way to get together to discuss yet another anti-Israel resolution or to fund another “Zionism = racism” conference.
I am also skeptical about the capacity and/or will (in many cases both) of other democratic countries in the League to use force. As others have noted, besides the U.S., U.K. and Australia, which other democracies are going to volunteer the troops necessary for these operations? Canada? France? Spain? Italy? the Netherlands?
Robert Kagan: The case for a League of Democracies
Atlantic Review: John McCain’s Leauge of Democracies
Security Dilemmas: How a League of Democracies Could Work
The Economist: League of Democracies