The Corner

A Concert of Democracies

I just finished taping a bloggingheads segment with Matthew Yglesias. I go into my reasons for skepticism of the idea of a grand alliance of democracies. Paul Saunders goes through a somewhat different set of reasons in the Washington Post today. I think Saunders misses the point in this passage:

Strangest of all is the assertion that seeking consensus among democracies could be the basis for a new domestic consensus on when military action is appropriate. Daalder and Kagan imply that those elements of the U.S. foreign policy establishment who are determined to pursue an interventionist foreign policy — and it is a bipartisan group, though not necessarily a majority in either party — should try to persuade a reluctant American public by arguing that others, outside America, would support us. Beyond the fact that the extent of that support is questionable, this argument turns the American foreign policy process upside down. It is the American people who should decide when to use force, through their elected representatives and after an open and honest debate about the U.S. interests and values at stake.

There are some Americans who would be willing to support a foreign intervention if other countries supported it too. Does Saunders deny this? An interventionist who lined up foreign support for his favored intervention in order to boost domestic support for it would not be blocking the American people from making the ultimate decision. He would be trying to influence that decision, in part by persuading the American people that this intervention would not leave the country isolated and thus damage U.S. interests.

Taken seriously, Saunders’s argument against establishing a league of democratic nations is an arguments against having alliances at all. That can’t be right.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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