McCain’s League of Democracies and the Washington Bubble

Thomas Carothers reminds us that:

Proponents of a league only rarely mention the Community of Democracies, created by the United States in 2000, even though it closely parallels the proposed League of Democracies. They don’t speak of it because the community has been a serious disappointment, producing much talk but little action. Its weak record is not, as some suggest, due to the fact that a few autocratic governments are included. Rather, it reflects the reality that most democracies are unwilling to follow the United States in challenging national sovereignty when it comes to pushing for democracy.

Carothers notes this in light of a larger problem with recent U.S. foreign policy:

A punishing side effect of Bush’s policies abroad has been the despoilment of democracy promotion. Abuses of prisoners and detainees at U.S.-run facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere have undercut America’s standing as a defender of human rights. The constant identification of democracy promotion with the Iraq intervention and other regime-change policies has besmirched the very concept in the eyes of many people around the world. As a result, the last thing people in other countries are seeking from the next administration is a high-profile initiative tying democracy promotion to the global U.S. security agenda. The almost complete absence of any welcoming responses from outside the United States to the calls for a league underscores this fact. The idea of a league of democracies rests on the belief that democracies, by virtue of being democracies, have such common interests and perspectives that they will be able to act in unison on global problems. Yet most countries do not base their foreign policy primarily on the orientation of their political system. Instead, their actions reflect a constellation of diverse factors including regional identity, economic needs, historical traditions and religious outlook. Consequently, democracies can and do disagree seriously on basic matters. The United States does not, as Jackson Diehl suggested [op-ed, May 19], meet resistance at the United Nations to its policy initiatives only from nondemocratic states such as Russia and China. Most major developing-country democracies, such as Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa, differ deeply with United States, for example, on the question of interventionism as well as on trade policy, the war on terrorism and much else. Attempting to bind them together into a league with the United States would not change that. Yet excluding these countries from a league would render it a hollow, hypocritical institution. Also, if memory serves, wasn’t it some of Europe’s most established democracies that opposed the United States on Iraq? Would they, too, be left out in the interest of a league amenable to approving future U.S. interventions?

McCain’s utterances on foreign policy strike me as too similar to the disastrous policies pursued by the current Administration. His call for a League of Democracies should by itself disqualify him for serious consideration as the next President of the United States.