Let’s Build a League of Democracies

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 January 28, 2017|
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When Sir Winston Churchill wrote his epic four-volume book, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, he attempted to chart the divisions embedded within the English-speaking countries of the world. This work represents Churchill’s abiding commitment to enhancing the affinities among people who, though separated by geography and national borders, share a common culture and language. In many respects, this was the basis of the “Special Relationship” that has continued to define the British and American alliance since World War II.

It was with this in mind that I listened to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech in Philadelphia. In her speech, the PM outlined the key driver of conflict today: the worldwide wave of popular, anti-globalization nationalism. In the West, this has empowered the rise of right-wing populist movements. Indeed, both Prime Minister May and President Trump rode this wave to power.

Building on this theme, May identified the need for countries to empower themselves by respecting national sovereignty. To May and Trump, national sovereignty is an absolute requirement for effective governance. Over the last three decades, national sovereignty has been under assault by globalization. These leaders have a shared interest in reasserting their national boundaries to shore up their sovereignty.

Yet, the May also underscored her country’s continued commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was a vital component in defeating the Soviet Union during the Cold War. A collective security agreement formed in 1949, NATO bound the United States (and Canada) to Western Europe militarily. The agreement was predicated on the concept that an attack by the Soviet Union on one member of the alliance was an attack on all (this is known as Article V in the NATO charter).

For nearly five decades, NATO kept the peace. After the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, however, NATO continued on. Or, rather, the U.S. burden for carrying NATO continued while the rest of Europe passed into its post-historical malaise.

By the time of the 9/11 attacks, the United States was prepared to defend itself whereas many of its European allies (other than Britain) were feckless and weak. While NATO invoked Article V and went into Afghanistan alongside the United States, overall European commitment to the War on Terrorism was tepid at best. Even in Afghanistan, most NATO countries were too restrictive with their rules of engagement. Many of them simply couldn’t accomplish vital missions. In the case of Iraq in 2003, NATO partners such as France and Germany were actually diplomatic enemies that insisted on harming U.S. war efforts at all costs. (Regardless of one’s opinion of the war, the way that the French and Germans opposed America was unacceptable for supposed “allies”).

Allies Remain Essential

The world has changed fundamentally in 25 years. No longer can we rely on global solutions to save us. There are simply too many competing interests now. As we have recently seen, international organizations are not only anti-American, but they are totally ineffective at serving American interests.

Prime Minister May is correct: no country can simply go it alone on the world stage. Allies are essential. As such, in this time of constrained budgets, the Trump Administration must follow through on its campaign promises and seriously reassess America’s commitment to costly globalist endeavors, such as the United Nations and NATO.

America cannotshould not—retreat from the world stage. At the same time, however, the United States cannot continue doing business as usual. It must accept that the world has entered into a quasi-tripolar dynamic among the United States, China, and Russia. That means America should be far more judicious, not only how it involves itself globally but also how it forges alliances (and with whom).

A good place to start would be to simply look at the cultures and capabilities of potential allies.

New International Deals

It’s telling that the first foreign leader to visit with President Trump following his inauguration was Theresa May. It is also worth noting that both Trump and May are in favor of a new trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom. Despite what his detractors have said, Trump is not opposed to international trade agreements. He simply favors shorter-term, bilateral deals where the United States can actually benefit (as opposed to a handful of special interests benefiting).

When she was still prime minister, Margaret Thatcher was a consistent critic of Britain’s greater political union with Europe. Instead, she favored the UK becoming integrated with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Obviously, expanding NAFTA is not an option today, since the United States is looking to renegotiate the agreement or perhaps pull out entirely. However, a bilateral trade agreement between the United States, the largest economy in the world, and Britain, the fifth largest economy in the world, is a brilliant idea.

Further, increased bilateral military ties are essential for securing America’s global interests. But, there’s more. The Trump Administration’s interest in greater bilateral ties with other states, coupled with its commitment to securing Western Civilization from external threat, should compel the United States to seek greater alliances with likeminded states around the world.

Why We Need a New Institution

The United States must take a more active role in using nation-to-nation relations to increase its own standing throughout the world. Gone are the days of international institutions like the United Nations being anything more than a sop for anti-American illiberalism. An Anglo-American bilateral trade and military alliance is the vital next step. From there, the United States can link up its alliance system with fellow like minded states. It should start with uniting the English-speaking peoples, which share a common culture and political system.

Then, the United States should move out toward creating intensive bilateral alliances with fellow democratic countries. Imagine a U.S.-led alliance consisting of the UK, India, Japan, Australia, and several other Westernized, democratic states. Together, this “league of democracies” would be far more beneficial to maintaining global stability. This league would stand together against the agitations of China in Asia, the aggression of Russia in Europe, and jihadist violence in the Middle East. It would do far more to protect American national interests than either the NATO alliance or the United Nations in today’s world order.

At the same time, the United States would need to foster healthier relations with great, rival powers, such as Russia. But, these relationships must be based on mutual respect and strength of resolve.

In the past, the United States could depend on the strength of its alliances to buttress its dealings with Moscow and other hostile regimes. Now, however, the limitations of these age-old alliances have been laid bare. NATO has been consistently underfunded for years, leading to the formation of gaps in its capabilities.

The United States is usually the only NATO partner that takes up the slack. Yet, the slack becomes greater with each passing year, with no reprieve in sight. Besides, Putin has taken great relish in testing the limits of NATO and seeing its members equivocate and compromise with each one of his aggressions.

The line must be drawn. A new Age of Nationalism is upon us. The period of globalization officially has ended. The world is built not on Wilsonian concepts of liberal internationalism and collective security. Rather, the world is predicated on the nation-state system that the Treaty of Westphalia created in 1648. This system remains the dominant international model today.

The Character of Nations  

America is a Judeo-Christian state. It is a republic. As such, the United States is beset by jealous, illiberal powers seeking to do America harm. These powers will not stop in their pursuit of ways to weaken and isolate the United States. Their goals are to untether America’s allies, to stunt the allure of America’s economy, and to deny America its security by destroying the alliances that the United States has come to depend upon.

Why play their game?

We live in a world of choices. Creating an informal alliance system of likeminded democracies would play to our strengths and respect the sovereignty of each one of those states. In peacetime, such an alliance would prevent revanchist powers from acting too boldly on the world stage. In wartime, it would bring to bear the wealthiest states with the most advanced militaries in the world.

After all, not only would we share a government structure and cultural worldview, but we would also be under threat from the same regimes. As such, rather than having to battle through endless mounds of bureaucracy (as we do in the U.N.), or trying to convince fickle allies (as we do in NATO), whenever a threat cropped up in the world, the United States could cherry-pick which fellow democracies it could rely on. This would not only cut down on costs, but it would also increase efficiency. America needs to build a League of Democracies today. It is the only cost-effective way for the United States to secure its interests abroad.

About the Author:

Brandon J. Weichert
Brandon J. Weichert is a contributing editor to American Greatness. A former Republican Congressional staffer and national security expert, he also runs The Weichert Report, www.theweichertreport.com, an online journal of geopolitics. He holds Master's degree in Statecraft & National Security from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. He is also an Associate Member of New College at Oxford University and holds a B.A. in Political Science from DePaul University. He is currently completing a book on national security space policy due out next year.
  • tz1

    NOT Democracies. We need a league of LAW – the rule of law where rights are respected, and everyone is equal under the law. That said, English common law would allow the UK, US, CA, AU, and NZ to easily for a zone, and I’d even add Hong Kong, maybe.

    • Brandon Weichert

      Agreed. It was implied in my article. Let’s face it, most English-speaking countries are democracies of some form. Those countries also have the most holistic (and fair) forms of law. And, yes, you’re right: Hong Kong having English law is a huge component for the province’s success. Although, the Chinese are desperately trying to impose “Chinese law” (read, cronyism) upon Hong Kong, which is why the Hong Kongers voted the way they did in their last provincial “election.” I was using a generic form of democracy which I attempted to elaborate as being mostly the Anglosphere countries. Excellent points though. Thanks for reading.

  • VXXC2014

    We need to defend America and from Americans.

    Europeans need to defend their national existence from Brussels.
    We need to pare back to our interests and fight for our own soil.
    Finally Historically there’s nothing special about Democracies and certainly their track record of war and alliances from Athens to now isn’t encouraging.

    NO for God’s Sake no more alliances. We’re committed to defend 68 nations by treaty and in practice #69 is Israel. We need to focus inward and withdraw from others. All we’re doing in Europe and Japan is holding them back from self-defense and their own survival.

    • Brandon Weichert

      My concept of alliance is not like the NATOs and UNs of the world. I am talking about informal alliances that operate in a plug-and-play/as-needed basis. No stifling bureaucracy (like NATO). No overcommitment (like the UN) of American personnel and resources. NO NATION BUILDING. But, when problems arise in the world, it is always good to have allies. Those allies should first be those who speak and view the world as we do. That’s most assuredly the Anglosphere. Besides, most of the Anglosphere states are democracies, but they are not democracies like Athens. There is a good deal of law and history that points to a degree of responsibility not shared by the non-democracies (domestic spending patterns notwithstanding). My proposal would encourage allies to take up the slack vis-a-vis their own defense. But, when problems came a knocking that they couldn’t deal with (so long as they threatened our global primacy), we move in to back their play.

      • VXXC2014

        We need to get rid of all our toxic alliances with 69 nations and handle future cases on the circumstances of the particular problem.

        We’re committed to war for 68 nations and #69 is Israel.
        Outside of the Anglo-Sphere and the Western Hemisphere our interests are not on land but on the sea and in the Air.

        Our worst enemies aren’t abroad in any case. Time for us to retrench.
        Good Day.

  • ricocat1

    I would rather suggest that the United States build alliances based on shared common interests. Ronald Reagan defeated Communism not just with the the help of democracies but also with the help of some rather unsavory dictators. WWII was won not just by democracies but also with the help of Russia and China. There should be no ‘litmus’ test for alliances, winning should be the goal. If the target enemy is radical Sunni terrorism we should welcome the support of all willing allies. Accept alliance with anyone keeping in mind the need to put the interests of America First.

    • Brandon Weichert

      I was only saying that the first line of defense must be built around shared language and culture. I completely support aligning with autocrats who happen to share our enemies, but I think that the great line should always be drawn whereby it places the world’s Western democracies on the same side. It should be based off of the US-UK special relationship. It would also not be a permanent (or formal) alliance either: it would be a plug-and-play model of informal alliances. As such, no need for the stifling bureaucracy of NATO or the anti-Americanism of the UN. But the preference should always be for those who share our culture and values (i.e. rule of law, open systems, basic Western civilization). We’re saying (and want) the same thing.

  • MrLynn

    I think it might have been John McCain, in a rare moment of lucidity some years ago, who proposed a similar-sounding Alliance of Democracies, in lieu of the anti-American United Nations. I liked the idea then, and still do. Basing it on the English-speaking world is an interesting idea–does that mean a new Commonwealth, headquartered in the US and not the UK? Would that include, say, Nigeria? And considering the number of countries that use words like ‘Democratic’ and ‘Republic’ in their names that are in fact neither democracies nor republics, we’d have to tread carefully about membership. tz1’s idea of a ‘League of Law’ is an interesting one.

    Clearly we should stop supporting that ragtag collection of dictators, tyrants, and other anti-American third-world hell holes, whose efforts seem to be entirely devoted to destroying the only state ever created by the United Nations, Israel. But NATO is another matter. Russia may be weak economically, but she remains a military threat to Eastern Europe, and we cannot go back on our word to defend the former Warsaw Pact nations against the Russian bear. But arguably NATO should be committed to that aim, and no broader ones.

    /Mr Lynn

    • Brandon Weichert

      John McCain did propose a similar concept come to think of it. It was a rare moment of lucidity indeed. I noticed he had quickly dropped it when he started campaigning for POTUS. God, his campaign was a freaking disaster. I mean, talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. My idea is very similar to his, although mine would be much more informal. It would be a plug-and-play model also (whereby the democracies most threatened by a given problem would take point in resolving the matter). As for a new Commonwealth, that’s kind of what I’m going for, but we would want to avoid permanent bureaucracy like the plague. I envision it like a series of concentric circles. The inner circle would be America, the UK, and a few other key democracies. Then, we move out to states that may not be democracies but do share our interests. Think of them as observing members of this league. The key would be to focus on culture, language, and then interests.

      As for NATO: I agree that we have committed ourselves to defending many of the former Soviet Eastern European states. However, I seriously doubt our willingness to send kids from Zionsville, Indiana to fight and die for Moldovan independence. I also doubt Paris or Berlin’s willingness to do the same (especially since Berlin seems to be flirting with Moscow these days). I advocate (and did advocate to a NATO general back in October) for the U.S. through NATO to begin arming up and supporting the Viségrad Battle Group and the Nordic Battle Group states. These sub-regional blocs will be the key to keeping the Russian bear in check.

      Thank you.

  • hamburgertoday2017

    I like this idea. It’s like a League of English Accents.

    • Brandon Weichert

      Yes, exactly! Though, I can envision a new age Monty Python sketch about this. 😀

  • Em_ptySkin

    Holy crap, is this unoriginal and uninformed historically. And, uh, gee whiz, actually promotes what already exists.

    A few things

    Tripolarity – Tripolarity in this article is different from tripolarity in global politics. 3P has always been the main staple of understanding the global order

    British strategic thinking; between between Europe and the US, there is Atlanticism.

    “increased bilateral military ties are essential for securing America’s global interests.”

    That’s a terrible idea. Either, the US commitments will be weak like NATO is now, or everyone else will be. What would George Washington say? Oh, that doesn’t matter because we’re taking advice from Thatcher and Churchill. Not once is an American even referred to in this article.

    “An Anglo-American bilateral trade and military alliance is the vital next step. ”

    It’s existed since 1902! I don’t disagree with the strategic necessity of the UK, but let’s not put them on a pedestal, here. They should be listening to us, not giving us advice. We should be creating something new. Oh, look – “New College at Oxford University.” It’s not Balliol and it is not quite All Souls, but it registers, methinks.

    “the United States should move out toward creating intensive bilateral alliances with fellow democratic countries. Imagine a U.S.-led alliance consisting of the UK, India, Japan, Australia, and several other Westernized, democratic states. Together, this “league of democracies” would be far more beneficial to maintaining global stability.”

    I’m beginning to wonder if you’ve ever read a book about international relations in your life.

    This entire article simply promotes to ignorant people the same god awful transatlantic cosmopolitanism that already exists. Either the author does not know how ignorant he is and how unoriginal these ideas are, or, as Trump would say, worse than that, he is a plant to co-opt the dumb Trump supporters from their nationalism, and to place those dumb Trump supporters on a conveyor belt for supporting the US/UK “special relationship.”

    Boy, do I dislike the British and their methods.