McCain’s “League of Democracies”

Presidential hopeful John McCain is campaigning on a new foreign policy agenda centered on global alliances. Included is his desire to create a “League of Democracies” which has gained support from the leaders of Germany, France and England. The main objective would be to avoid the “gridlock” of the United Nations and working to solve problems of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the crisis in the environment. He’d also like to put pressure on tyrants in Burma and Zimbabwe “with or without Moscow’s and Beijing’s approval.”


I guess McCain has no illusion that Russia might possibly be included on a list of “democracies.” I fail to see how the omission of China would greater benefit any type of environmental negotiation. After all, the primary objection to the Kyoto protocol was the lack of limitations on China. Any agreement among just ‘democracies’ would do just as good of a job of ignoring some of the largest polluters.

There’s no doubt that a more streamlined international organization could better help Sub-Saharan Africa, and that the UN Security Council does require some changes. Greater voice for G4 nations Germany, Japan, Brazil and India is needed, but will an international organization that omits world powers like China and Russia have nearly as much credibility? Regional organizations such as the Arab League, African Union, or ASEAN may be in a better position to pressure on any dangerous regime.

Diplomacy is the path to peace, but should we really turn to a form of diplomacy that embraces exclusion?


6 Responses

  1. There may indeed be issues that can be addressed in the UN rather than the league, but the reverse is also true. Suppose the league was to pipe free internet into various dictatorships. I seriously doubt China or Russia would want to help, especially China since it uses censorship of it’s own internet. Wouldn’t this be an argument FOR the league?

    You call it exclusion, but I would say the people of dictatorships like China are already excluded. So working to spread democracy actually embraces inclusion, not exclusion.


  2. “pipe free internet into various dictatorships”? How could anyone accomplish this? If you mean some sort of “Radio Free Europe”-style WiFi, well, WiFi isn’t like other radio broadcasting (like AM radio, shortwave, etc) which you can send over huge distances.

  3. Tom,

    Internet access isn’t just accomplished via 802.11. You can also use cell technologies. And satellite technologies.


  4. It’s true that a country like the United States could put up cell towers near the border of a country they deem hostile and provide 3G networks for use on the other side of the line, but there are a couple of problems with this approach:

    1) Coverage will extend only a few dozen miles, at most, past the border
    2) Users still need a receiving device, like a 3G-enabled (or even GPRS/EDGE) cell phone, and the ability to somehow register this device with the operators of the network (who are miles away across a tense border).

    The satellite approach does take care of the first problem (at the expense of bandwidth and latency, but we’ll probably both agree that the benefits a free internet provides are pretty outstanding even at low speeds), but the second problem is still there. How will residents of the country obtain access to the satellite dishes and modems (which can cost up to $2000) necessary for two-way satellite internet access?

  5. Satellite doesn’t cost that much. Honestly Tom, you’re getting lost in the details. There are many ways of using technology to support democratic growth. Even regulation would help….why do we allow google to censor the internet in China? That’s an incredibly outrageous thing for a democratic nation to tolerate. If you’re really of the opinion that democracies couldn’t find peaceful ways to promote democracy, please say so and I’ll come up with a list for you. But focusing on 802.11 really misses the larger point, that being democracies as a group would sponsor projects that dictators would never allow.


  6. The “point” is that if you’re talking about trying to “pipe free internet” to the citizens of totalitarian nations then you have to get the leaders of those totalitarian governments to agree to it, which is laughably difficult (if not impossible).

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