The Daily Demarche
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
A Global NATO?
The following is re-published from American Future with the author's permission. We highly suggest spending some time perusing this blog, especially the series on terrorism and nuclear second strike as a deterrent.- Dr. Demarche

The Wall Street Journal recently suggested replacing the UN Security Council (which is "now beyond saving") with a larger coalition of democratic nations. No member nation would have a veto and the body would not presume to be the voice of international law.

Unfortunately, the Journal doesn't provide any details. What would be the criteria for membership, what would be the procedure for applying for membership, and who would decide to accept or reject membership applications? While the exclusion of vetoes means that unanimity wouldn't be required for the coalition to act, would a simple majority be sufficient or would a super-majority be required? Would members promise not to act if a sufficient number of member countries opposed acting (if they did, they would be relinguishing their sovereignty)? Would the williingness to act by members that have also given their approval to the International Criminal Court (ICC) be constrained by the threat of prosecution? Which (if any) of the permanent members of the Security Council would be willing to sacrifice their veto power by leaving the Security Council and joining the coalition? I'm sure there are other questions I have not though of. Clearly, the list of questions is long enough to show that creating a coalition of democratic countries wouldn't be a simple matter.

With one exception, I don't pretend to have answers. The exception pertains to membership criteria and procedures. NATO is a coalition which requires aspiring members to meet a set of criteria establishing their democratic credentials. Rather than navigating through a lengthy and undoubtedly heated debate to establish its own criteria, the coalition could simply adopt NATO's (perhaps with minor revisions). Of course, this would mean that all of NATO's members would qualify for coalition membership. Some countries -- for instance, India -- that are not now included on NATO's roster would qualify for membership. In effect, the coalition would be a global NATO, in terms of both its membership and its arena of action.

Simple enough? Not really. I've already suggested three issues that could kill the idea of a coalition of democratic countries before it gets off the ground: (1) the threat of exposure to ICC prosecution, (2) the partial sacrifice of sovereignty, and (3) the total sacrifice of veto power. This is a lot to ask of governments, including that of the United States.

There's another issue. China wouldn't qualify for membership in the coalition, and it's debatable whether Russia would. Perhaps the establishment of the coalition would tilt Putin toward greater democracy. No such hope exists for China, at least in the foreseeable future. So the coalition's creation would split the Great Powers into two camps. There would be a rump Security Council. Would the seats vacated by the democratic permanent members be filled with undesirables?

Then, of course, there's France. It seems highly unlikely that the French would sacrifice their veto, which magnifies its role in world affairs. The French might therefore opt to remain on the rump Security Council. If so, the split between the U.S. and France would become permanent.

Finally, there's the U.K. to consider. Given current attitudes toward America, there's little doubt in my mind that a majority of its citizens would reject opting out of the Security Council in favor of the coalition. Perhaps Prime Minister Blair would like to do so, but his support for Kofi Annan raises questions in my mind. In the short term, electoral politics dictate that Blair reject the notion of a U.K. departure from the Security Council.

It should come as no surprise then, that I doubt the feasibility of establishing a coalition of democratic countries. I wish it were otherwise.

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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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