For a League of democracies

, by Valéry-Xavier Lentz

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For a League of democracies

The Republican candidate to the US presidency put forward the proposal to create a League of democracies. How can this idea be interpreted ?

Whilst reading Richard Laming’s blog for a Federal Union, section britannique de l’UEF, I find out about the republican candidate John McCain’s idea of a League of democracies.

In an article addressing Europeans, « America must be a good role model », published in the Financial Times on March 18th this year, McCain states :

« We need to renew and revitalise our democratic solidarity. We need to strengthen our transatlantic alliance as the core of a new global compact – a League of Democracies – that can harness the great power of the more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests.

At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. We, Americans, recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we must pay “decent respect to the opinions of mankind”. Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed. »]]


At first glance, it’s an interesting idea. First of all, it shows a more multilateral orientation than the one practiced by the current Bush administration.

Furthermore, it recognises a principle that seems necessary in international relations: differentiation between democratic and non-democratic States. An elected government which respects human rights should not behave exactctly in the same way when it deals with a similar government and when it addresses, for example, Lybia , Tunisia or China , as these governments represent their State but not their citizens.

Democratic preference

I’ve often thought that the mechanism established in Europe through the Council of Europe, which ensures cooperation between democratic countries (currently all European States except for Byelorussia), and the European Court of Human Rights, a quasi-federal court of justice which ensures the defense of human rights, would benefit the rest of the world if it were extended globally.

Of course, the system cannot be transposed unchanged, as it would mean doing without the United States which don’t fulfil every criteria, namely concerning death penalty. Such an organisation, if it is established within good conditions, could become a precious tool for achieving a more people-friendly globalisation.

Of course, the French extreme-left, always prone to slide into the silliest form of primal anti-Americanism, promptly published several paranoiac papers on the matter.

Naturally, the way in which John McCain presents his project can raise some interrogations. Indeed, although he wishes for the United States to take notice of its democratic allies’ opinions, he seems to envisage this League of democracies as a means to act collaterally in economic, diplomatic but also military fields. Why not – after all, Europeans and Americans are already allied through NATO – but it would be imperative to clarify its objectives, its institutional framework, and most importantly its relations with the UN.

Indeed, the UN still plays an essential role insomuch as it is a communication platform for every country in the world. Even though it is consternating to see Lybia expressing her views on human rights only in an ad hoc commission, or to cope with the potential veto of regimes such as China or Russia , any new initiative must acknowledge and respect this institution as much as possible.

It’s also necessary to determine which countries are potential – and willing – candidates to join such a group. The case of Russia being the most prickly topic; as an approach on the basis of an initial group being a USA-EU cooptation could work very well. Democratic states are well known and the criteria is not as vague as what we are expected to believe. Several organisms have devoted themselves to studying the question, like the Freedom House.

Although it is likely that the idea initiated by McCain – particularly eager to impose the theme of foreign affairs in the American campaign, since the democrats have a reputation for being less convincing on the matter – will end in the garbage of History like Mitterand’s European Confederation or Guaino’s Mediterranean Union, it deserves to be examined.

Indeed, it seems more relevant to me than Balladur’s Western Union. Nonetheless, one should not forget other propositions for the improvement of international relations, such as the Campaign for a United Nations’ parliamentary assembly.

Image: the freedom mad in the world, bu the association Freedom House (green: free countries; red: non-free countries). Source : Wikipedia. Licence : GNU.

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