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The next US President and the notion of a coalition of democracies

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The next US President and the notion of a coalition of democracies
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The process to elect the next President of the United States has reached the stage where Senators McCain and Obama have been identified as the contenders for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. Their respective positions relating to internal and external issues of US national interest would impact seriously on the lives of millions, both in the US and throughout the world, depending on who would finally be elected President.

Even though their positions on most issues are bound to be different it is reported that advisors to both contenders are in agreement regarding one Foreign Policy issue, that being the need to institutionalise an arrangement wherein a coalition of democracies commit themselves to meet global challenges when necessary, but outside the jurisdiction of International Institutions such as the United Nations. The McCain camp describes such an arrangement as a "League of Democracies" and the Obama camp describes it as a "Concert of Democracies".

The concept of a "Concert of Democracies" emerged from the Princeton Project on National Security. This project was undertaken by a group of eminent persons to study how the US could orient itself to deal with security concerns of the 21st century (FORGING A WORLD OF LIBERTY UNDER LAW - U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY IN THE 21st CENTURY, September 27, 2006). The first challenge encountered in the 21st century was when the US failed to secure Security Council approval to invade Iraq over the objections of Russia and China. This led the US to create a "coalition of the willing" outside the international order of the United Nations and in clear violation of accepted International Laws and, furthermore, over the objections of democracies such as Germany and France to support the invasion of Iraq.

This experience caused the liberal democracies to explore arrangements to meet challenges to their interests, without the constraints of Russia and China. In the meantime, international bodies such as the United Nations afflicted with the guilt of non-intervention to prevent human rights catastrophes in former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, also explored arrangements that could be deployed in instances of humanitarian crisis. The outcome was initially, the concept of Responsibility to Protect or R2P. This has been followed by the "Concert of Democracies". Both concepts accept the imperative to function within internationally accepted norms. This means having to deal with both Russia and China in any international body. It is considered that one way to exclude them would be to create a coalition of democracies that could justifiably exclude both Russia and China on grounds that they are not liberal democracies.

Responsibility to intervene

The international arrangements these liberal democracies hope to create would give them opportunities to act in the pursuit of their national interests under cover of global security and humanitarian causes. The three ongoing crises these democracies are overtly focused on are Darfur/Sudan, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. The problems faced by these countries have their roots in their colonial past left by some of these selfsame liberal democracies. Having created the problems, they now consider it their responsibility to intervene whenever a crisis occurs in the former colonies in Africa and Asia. The fact that all the countries they wish to intervene in have resources, oil being one of them, is apparently by the way.

When one considers Africa, practically every one of today's sovereign states have been created by these very same liberal democracies by drawing boundaries, dividing ethnic and tribal groups that had lived together for centuries into political entities that in a brief span of 50 to 60 years are expected to live by democratic norms and the rule of law, as in countries that had taken centuries to evolve. The legacies left behind by today's liberal democracies during the era of Western colonialism in the pursuit of their national interests, denies them the moral right to intervene today, even on humanitarian grounds. These liberal democracies have to take responsibility for creating the problems that these political entities face today. The price for having created the problem must be a denial of the right to intervene, whatever the reasons and whatever the circumstances.

The conditions created within political units during colonial times by the colonial powers that today form the liberal democracies are fertile grounds for ethnic/tribal or religious groups within these states to compete for political power, because political power translates itself into economic rewards for the particular groups in political power. Consequently, the outcome of elections becomes all important, and is the reason for ongoing tensions in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, the crises in Darfur in Sudan and Zimbabwe to name a few. These tensions have exploded into violence causing death and destruction to several thousands. A "Concert of Democracies" is not only ill equipped to resolve these tensions with their ensuing consequences, but also should be denied involvement on moral grounds. They need to be resolved by the countries concerned themselves, with the assistance of perhaps regional bodies, and not by international agencies or by a self appointed "Concert of Democracies".

Regional bodies such as the African Union and similar bodies in Asia such as SAARC should take upon themselves the task of dealing with humanitarian catastrophes in their respective regions of influence. This concept should be actively pursued by emerging democracies because liberal democracies have forfeited the right to intervene. Permitting liberal democracies the right to intervene however serious the circumstances would result in giving the perpetrators of today's problems opportunities to compound matters even further.

This was amply demonstrated in Iraq. Having carved out the state of Iraq, not to mention the rest of the Middle East, Iraq was invaded by the US and Britain on the pretext of regime change to liberate the peoples of Iraq from the tyranny of a despot and democratise it. Britain, one of the members of the "coalition of the willing", is now preparing to abandon Southern Iraq (Basra), leaving a total mess behind. According to an Iraqi Army official "The British legacy in Basra is criminal gangs, a corrupt and infiltrated police force, and borders open to all". In the meantime, the US is seeking arrangements to station 60 military bases in Iraq indefinitely, which the Iraqis claim amounts to "the colonisation of Iraq"(The Washington Post, June 11, 2008).


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