FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Would You Buy Tickets to Concert of Democracies?

BONUS LINK:  My entire (so far) grad school notes collection can be found here. 

Concert of Democracies as the Answer to the Impotent UN

           Kant held that a “perpetual peace” could only be reached after a long period of attempts and failure, but emphasized that once realized, it would solidify global  “republican freedom” (Doyle in Betts, 140).  Fukuyama held the global triumph of liberal democracy as the evolutionary embodiment of perfection in international relations (Fukuyama in Betts, 7).  The idea of a “Concert of Democracies (COD)” stand as Ikenberry and Slaughter’s answer, marriage and implementer of Kant’s and Fukuyama’s philosophical thesis.  The authors charge that ultimately U.S. Strategy is to guard its citizens and culture by ensuring safety within its borders, a thriving international economy, and a non-combative cooperative global security environment.  (Ikenberry and Slaughter in Betts, 625).   The COD achieves this strategy by bolstering security cooperation between liberal democracies of the world, effectively creating the framework to codify and implement the “democratic peace” (I and S in Betts, 627).   While Ikenberry and Slaughter’s COD theoretically appears to be viable solution, in execution it could potentially isolate and enervate non-democratic allies, worsen the already questionable efficacy of the United Nations (UN), and discount the critical and rising global role of non-state actors.           
            The merits of a COD fall into the realm of the benefits of collective strength and security.  This concert has already been done on a small scale with alliance building in the past.  There are many examples, most notably President Bush Sr’s first Gulf War coalition.  Although not composed entirely of democracies, the UN Security Council acted to ensure a collective security through a collective response (Lauren, Craig and George, 84).  The unanimity of the Western democracies and Japan acting in concert generated a moral certainty that contributed to the ability of states such as Syria and Egypt to send large combat units in support of alliance efforts.  Additionally, the effect on public opinion in democracies of an awareness that like political entities share a common cause cannot be underestimated in facilitating long-term support for a policy or course of action. 
            One drawback of such a concert is that it serves to isolate non-democratic allies needlessly. While there are few, if any, instances where China and Russia would be offended not to be included in such a concert, there are allies that might take offense. 
Morocco is one of America’s oldest allies but is certainly no democracy (although their diplomatic corps would argue otherwise)—this speaks to a major uncertainty—who makes the cut?  While Ikenberry and Slaughter state that membership will be “self-selective,” this is not always possible.  In making the cut you are unnecessarily excluding potential partners with shared interests, but without liberal democratic forms of government.  Perhaps the biggest drawback to a COD is that typically it will react slowly to a crisis in an effort solidify broad support among its fellow democratic states.  This sluggish response time only allows a crisis to worsen—and could costs lives.  Furthermore the susceptibilities of a COD to the vagaries of public opinion make the execution and sustainment of any decision difficult.  This stands in stark contrast to an authoritarian state that is less constrained and can make quick and unanimous decisions—this is especial problematic because they are the COD’s likely antagonists.  A less evident drawback is that smaller democratic partners may have a disproportionate voice in the course of the concert because of the negative perception that could result if the COD appears to fracture.  It is also dangerous to assume that simply because a nation is a liberal democracy means that they share our same core interests.  This can lead to the U.S. needlessly entangled with nations that possess divergent goals.
            Perhaps the largest uncertainty lies with the United Nations (UN).  Despite Ikenberry and Slaughter’s assertions to the contrary, the COD cannot coexist with the UN—at least not with the U.S. as a member of both organizations.  The success of the COD can only be inversely related to that of the UN.  This means that where the nations of the COD rise, the rest of the world falls.  Furthermore, a realist who espouses the temporality of democracies would have major issues with this concert because it unabashedly espouses the liberal democratic system as the ultimate evolutionary state of the global system.  They might further counter such a plan by echoing Lord Palmerston’s sentiment that “[there are] no eternal allies or perpetual enemies . . . only [national] interests” (Nye, 66).   Finally, conflicts that may require interaction with or intervention by the COD will increasingly involve non-state actors and there is considerable ambiguity with how the COD would interact with them.  These non-state actors include ethnic groups, rebel militias, and multinational corporations, all whose core interests may be asynchronous or non-tangential to the values of liberal democracies. Finally, the COD discounts the role of the most important non-state actor, the economy.  The rise in importance of the global economy as an institution/non-state actor rivals that of many nations that would join this concert.  This rationale is in accord with Fukuyama’s assertion that nations that have achieved their “end of history” (aka liberal democracies) will focus more closely on economic relationships than political and strategic ones. (Fukuyama in Betts, 15). 
            Ultimately, one must demand: to what end?  Realists might criticize that such a concert’s merits or detractors are irrelevant—what matters is the existing balance of power and how such a concert might affect it.  The alienation of non-democratic allies and the debasement of the UN’s efficacy would not only throw the realists’ balance of power into disarray but could end up stunting the spread of liberal democracies.  A COD likely will not make the world free from war, but perhaps may make the world more prone to “just wars.”  It remains to be seen if the COD could be the progression (or perfection) of Kant’s “perpetual peace (Doyle in Betts, 140).  To even have a chance for success the COD cannot coexist with the UN but must supplant them—a herculean—if not impossible, task.  Ikenberry and Slaughter would revel in Doyle’s assertion that “we are lovers of glory,” (Doyle, in Betts, 139), in the case of a concert of democracies, the liberal democracies of the world would be reveling too much in the glory of their “righteousness.”


1 comment:

  1. I don't think a COD discounts the role of non-state actors. It actually provides a stronger mechanism for dealing with them (ie. killing them).

    I'm not sure a COD and the UN are exclusive. If the goal is "security cooperation", the UN and a COD can exist much as NATO and the UN have. Lets face it, the UN is a complete failure and impotent organization. NATO is actually a pretty big success, so the framework of the COD should be a NATO-type expansion, not another UN-type mess.

    Realists won't just worry about the existing balance of power, but how their individual power shifts vis a vis other powers. If joining a COD bolster your standing while diminishing someone else's (like China/NK/Iran) in the zero sum game, they might very well be for it.