Libertarian meat eater, right wing in the sense of conservative with a small c.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

An overdue idea

There are as any fule no a number of problems with the UN. As an international talking shop the UN has few peers, sadly when it comes to doing anything more than talking you run into problems. This can hardly be surprising, if you set up a system where vastly disparate values are represented then you are unlikely to get a coherent voice.

If the charter of the UN was confined to the preamble it would be an admirably brief document but even in this section we run into difficulties:

to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

The first clause is sadly unobtainable at the moment and the last can mean whatever you wish it to. The second and third clauses are possible but only in a specific model of government, Democracy (I am aware that there may be some hypothetical mode of governance where they are achievable without democracy but I have yet to see it).

So it is interesting that McCain (and others) have postulated the idea of a "League of Democracies". I think it would be a worthwhile project, simply to help coordinate the response of democracies to regimes less favourable to the human condition. The UN could remain but be acknowledged as what it is, a convenient place for negotiators to meet rather than an international force.

The League would not always agree and nor should it be binding in matters such as war or sanction (though it should require those who disagree to state their reasons publicly).

Those governments that fail to meet the criteria of democracy have no interest in obtaining the second and third clauses for their or anyone else's countries. It's time we stopped pretending that they did and freely condemn them.


John B said...

(I am aware that there may be some hypothetical mode of governance where they are achievable without democracy but I have yet to see it).

Hong Kong 1976-1997? Also tempted to mention Cuba, if only for troll value (although per my next point, Cuba does have a lot more respect for human rights than probably 50% of the places that call themselves 'democracies'...)

The League of Democracies is a nice idea, but falls down on the same grouds as humanitarian intervention - how the hell do you decide what is a democracy? Either anywhere which holds elections is in ("hello Iran! hello Kazakhstan!"), or the definition becomes incredibly subjective and will inevitably end up meaning "people who support the US".

Tomrat said...

John B,

"how the hell do you decide what is a democracy?"

How about - "A country that allows its people to elect its leaders in a free and fair election, and which can be monitored by independant groups in the external members of the league of democracies without impediment"

That makes it:

- Open
- Clear
- Honest

Here hoping McCain wins and tries this as I am sick to my back teeth of the UN having some sort of moral mandate on the world, despite being one of the most corrupt supranational bodies in history.

John B said...

"A country that allows its people to elect its leaders in a free and fair election, and which can be monitored by independant groups in the external members of the league of democracies without impediment"

OK, now define "free", "fair" and "without impediment" (clue: all of them can mean various different things depending on what you want them to mean, and will be interpreted as such).

Any attempt do do this sort of thing *will* reduce to a League Of Me And My Mates, as does any attempt to split Good People from Bad People, but it will be a Leage Of Me And My Mates that believes it's the League Of All That's True And Right And People Who Disagree With Us Are Objectively Evil. Which is a recipe for doing terrible things under the belief that they're right [see: Iraq 2003-08].

The good thing about the UN is that at least it avoids that kind of spurious nonsense - the only criteria for joining is "being a state" not "being a good state", everybody knows that, and everything that it does is within those limitations. Let's keep it that way, and then keep the Me And My Mates Clubs to places where that's explicitly the case, like the EU and NATO.

John B said...

Some concrete examples - would you let them into your gang?

1) the despotic PM has refused to allow external electoral observers and is suspected of widespread fraud

2) the elections are widely internationally monitored, with limited levels of fraud reported which would not materially affect the result. However, one of the candidates is backed by the retiring president and has received disporportionate support from state-controlled media

3) the elections are internationally monitored and fraud is low. However, candidates affiliated to the former PM achieve greater coverage in national media, and those who disparage the former PM are fined or even jailed

4) a crooked tycoon who controls the majority of non-state media runs a massively financed campaign including relentless propaganda in his favour (state TV in this country is run at arm's length and covers the election on a neutral basis). The crooked tycoon wins.

5) the elections are internationally monitored as fair and free in themselves, but the candidates are pre-vetted by a committee of political activist judges

6) the region-by-region political system causes the the nationwide election comes down to a few thousand contested votes, which are awarded to one candidate by a court controlled by political appointees of the same party, making him overall winner. The other candidate wins the popular vote nationwide by a large margin, and it later transpires that he have won the region in question if the court had allowed recounts to take place.

Anonymous said...

However you define democracy, it will currently exclude the UK and the EU Empire from membership of the League of Democracies. That might shame the politicians of both sides to do something about it, but then they might take it as a badge of pride. We are in for a prolonged rough ride.

Don said...

Well put, John B.

A league of Democracies is all fine and well, but what would be the point of it? The one benefit of the UN is that with every country in the building, international disputes can at least be given an airing. It forces the 'bad guys' to answer for themselves, and if they are full of sh*t, then we all see it for what it is.

Tomrat - how would the league of democracies inspections be and different from the UN? And how would the league of democracies avoid the corruption that the UN suffers from? And as for the moral mandate - that's the whole point in having your own little club! It's so you can say 'we are better than you lot' and 'we are right'.

The problem with the UN is that it is almost impossible to get a mandate on anything, because diplomacy and politics will always get in the way - every country usually has some angle they want to work on. Foreign policy is pure national self interest - whether for a direct or indirect gain. Look at NATO in the Cold War for example - united for one simple purpose, and yet still riven with politics.

Rename our international band of mates as we like, but let's not delude ourselves that we will be doing anything more than re-inventing the UN wheel. It will still remain an organization riven with factions and politics, moralizing, fraud and cynicism. The only arguable difference would be of degree of factions, politics, moralizing, fraud and cynicism.

Thud said...

Anything has to be better than the demeans us as a nation being part of it.Besides its rampant corruption and co opting by radical nations, its inaction causes the death of countless thousands.

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