August 24, 2005

A UN for Democracies?

Mickey Kaus finds, in the December 3, 1984 New Republic, an item on a list of "good ideas for Democrats to start chewing on" that seems "much more relevant today, actually, than it was back in 1984, before the fall of the Berlin Wall:"

A United Nations of the democracies. A world body composed only of nations that share our most important values might be a more effective forum for addressing some of the international concerns now being ignored or parodied in the glass house by the East River. The promise of membership in such a prestigious club, and the threat of expulsion, might even become effective incentives for democratic behavior by countries on the brink. The first issue a "democratic U.N." might usefully address would be a treaty to fight terrorism. A common, and not always unjust, complaint about the Democratic Party is that it has become isolationist. If the "liberal internationalism" that the Scoop Jackson wing of the party claims to long for is to be distinguished from the foreign policy of President Reagan, it must include cooperative elements like this, and not just a military buildup and concomitant snarling.
Comments Kaus:
You'd think President Bush... might be highly receptive to this idea. Of course, a U.N. that included only democracies could also provide--eventually--a legitimate framework for a nascent world government. That would ... er, reduce its appeal to many of today's Republicans. But should it bother Democrats?
A union of democratic nations actually already exists. It's called the Community of Democracies. A couple of years ago I reviewed Mark Palmer's Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025, in which Palmer touts the CD:
Palmer admits that CD is a work in progress, but he envisions it as a muscular force for democracy promotion -- a strong caucus in the United Nations, a broad security alliance -- and calls on it to endorse "all out and universal democracy by 2025" as its goal. Palmer would thus like to upend the traditional fastidiousness about interfering in other countries’ affairs and declare dictatorship itself a crime against humanity.
I expressed skepticism about this back then; democracies are going to have a lot of trouble agreeing that spreading democracy is a legitimate or even wise goal, especially in a world where democratic politics is often marked by divisions over anti-Americanism and pro-Americanism.

James C. Bennett's network commonwealth idea seems much more promising as far as organizing democracies goes. (In addition to the Anglosphere, Bennett has also, in a letter to The National Interest, posited that links between Spain and Latin America might grow into a "Hispanosphere.")

I'm not saying the CD idea is useless. (I don't take the world government worry very seriously, at least in the medium term; what Eugene Volokh would call the mechanism of this slippery slope strikes me as relatively weak.) For Democrats, who ascribe the UN with so much import, improving it is indeed a worthy goal.

Posted by John Tabin at August 24, 2005 09:32 PM