An Old New Proposal: John McCain’s League of Democracies

by Julian Ku

Apparently, U.S. presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is reading Anne Marie Slaughter (but then again, who is not)? Yesterday, McCain delivered an address outlining his vision of a “League of Democracies” that could act outside the U.N. system.

We should go further and start bringing democratic peoples and nations from around the world into one common organization, a worldwide League of Democracies. This would not be like the universal-membership and failed League of Nations’ of Woodrow Wilson but much more like what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace. The new League of Democracies would form the core of an international order of peace based on freedom. It could act where the UN fails to act, to relieve human suffering in places like Darfur. It could join to fight the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and fashion better policies to confront the crisis of our environment. It could provide unimpeded market access to t hose who share the values of economic and political freedom, an advantage no state-based system could attain. It could bring concerted pressure to bear on tyrants in Burma or Zimbabwe, with or without Moscow’s and Beijing’s approval. It could unite to impose sanctions on Iran and thwart its nuclear ambitions. It could provide support to struggling democracies in Ukraine and Serbia and help countries like Thailand back on the path to democracy.

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.

This idea is clearly drawn from the “Concert of Democracies” idea that has been floated by Dean Anne Marie Slaughter and Professor G. John Ikenberry at Princeton (See here for a short version). Neither of these folks seem like natural foreign policy advisers for a McCain Administration, but clearly he’s been reading their stuff. Whatever you think of McCain, you have to admit that this is the most interesting thing any U.S. presidential candidate has said so far about a long term vision for American foreign policy.

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