United Nations History/League of Democracies

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McCain's view[edit]

The Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, has espoused a proposal put forward by specialists in international relations close to the Democratic Party, such as John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter. The proposal is to set up a new international organization that can accept as members only countries with a democratic government, a kind of League of Democracies (sometimes also called a Concert of Democracies). Senator McCain did not go into detail concerning the characteristics this institution would have to have. He merely stated that “it could act where the UN fails to act."

Commentary[edit]

With global tensions rising, what do you suppose keeps some foreign policy columnists up at night? It is the idea of a new international organization, a league of democracies. On both sides of the Atlantic the idea - set forth most prominently by Sen. John McCain a year ago and again in the first presidential debate Sept. 26 - has been treated as impractical and incendiary. Perhaps a few observations can still this rising chorus of alarm.

The idea of a concert of democracies originated not with Republicans but with Democrats and liberal internationalists. Madeleine Albright, President Bill Clinton's secretary of state, tried to launch such an organization in the 1990s. More recently, it is the brainchild of Ivo Daalder, a foreign policy expert and senior adviser to Barack Obama. It has also been promoted by Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and professor John Ikenberry, the renowned liberal internationalist theorist. It has backers in Europe, too, such as Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, who recently proposed his own vision of an "alliance of democracies."

American liberal internationalists like the idea because its purpose is to promote liberal internationalism. Ikenberry believes a concert of democracies can help re-anchor the United State in an internationalist framework. Daalder believes it will enhance the influence that America's democratic allies wield in Washington. So does McCain, who talks about the need for the United States not only to listen to its allies but to be willing to be persuaded by them.

A league of democracies would also promote liberal ideals in international relations. The democratic community supports the evolving legal principle known as "the responsibility to protect", which holds leaders to account for the treatment of their people. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, suggested it be applied to Burma, where the ruling generals refused international aid to their dying people. That idea was summarily rejected at the United Nations, where other humanitarian interventions - in Darfur today or in Kosovo a few years ago - have also met resistance.

So would a concert of democracies supplant the United nations? Of course not, any more than the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations supplants it. But the world's democracies could make common cause to act in humanitarian crises when the U.N. Security Council cannot reach unanimity. If people find that prospect unsettling, then they should seek the disbandment of NATO and the European Union and other regional organizations which not only can but, in the case of Kosovo, have taken collective action in crises when the U.N. Security Council was deadlocked. The difference is that the league of democracies would not be limited to Europeans and Americans but would include the world's other great democracies, such as India, Brazil, Japan and Australia, and would have even greater legitimacy.

Community of Democracies[edit]

The Community of Democracies (CD) is an intergovernmental organization of democracies and democratizing countries with a stated commitment to strengthening and deepening democratic norms and practices worldwide. The CD is composed of both a governmental component made up of government representatives, and a non-governmental component comprising civil society organizations who meet as a group at biennial ministerial conferences. In 2004, CD governments also organized themselves into a Democracy Caucus in the United Nations (U.N.).

Princeton Project[edit]

The Princeton Project on National Security is a multi-year, bipartisan initiative to develop a sustainable and effective national security strategy for the United States of America. Under the stewardship of honorary co-chairs George P. Shultz and Anthony Lake, the Princeton Project brings together leading thinkers on national security from government, academia, business, and the non-profit sector to analyze key issues and develop innovative responses to a range of national security threats.

Through support from the Ford Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, Mr. David M. Rubenstein, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, the Princeton Project has:

• Convened and published the findings of seven working groups that addressed different aspects of national security—including grand strategy, state security and transnational threats, economics and national security, reconstruction and development, anti-Americanism, relative threat assessment, and foreign policy infrastructure and global institutions;

• Held ten conferences in the United States and abroad to explore major issues pertaining to U.S. national security ranging from the use of preventive force to the role of the private sector;

• Commissioned seventeen working papers on critical security topics.

The Princeton Project culminated with the release of its final report, Forging A World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century, by project co-directors G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Released on September 27, 2006, the report proposes that the United States must stand for, seek, and secure a world of liberty under law. It argues that Americans would be safer, richer and healthier in a world of mature liberal democracies. Getting there requires: 1. Bringing governments up to PAR (Popular, Accountable, Rights-Regarding); 2. Building a liberal order through reform of existing international institutions and the creation of new ones, such as the Concert of Democracies; and 3. Rethinking the role of force in light of the threats of the 21st century.