The United Nations is rarely held up as an exemplar of efficiency and good governance. But former UN employee-turned whistleblower, Michael Soussan, who helped lift the lid on the multi-billion dollar oil-for-food scandal, found even his limited expectations dashed. His story this month tells of a journey from the idealistic optimism of his first joining the UN, to a more sanguine view (informed by corrupt mentors, congressional hearings, and much soul searching) that the institution was fundamentally, and structurally, broken. His conclusion, unusually, is that liberals and leftists like himself—who tend to support the UN, and dismiss alternatives—should be more open to the notion of a “League of Democracies,” as promoted by John McCain and conservative thinkers like Robert Kagan. Soussan concludes that “John McCain’s proposal to form a ‘League of Democracies,’ and Barack Obama’s Berlin speech exhorting the need to strengthen the democratic alliance should both be considered as part of the choice between … trying to fix an ossified, outdated and impossibly ambitious institution, or beginning work on a new one.” Read it here.
Such a league has been widely rubbished, both by foreign policy realists (who view it as unlikely to work) and Wilsonian liberals (who view it as another, mistaken neoconservative adventure.) But is there anything to it? Building on Soussan’s story, this month we are also lucky enough to have a major debate between leading American thinker Phillip Bobbitt, and former UN diplomat David Hannay. Bobbit, who with the publication of his recent book Terror and Consent, confirmed his position among his generation’s most thoughtful foreign policy thinkers, reckons such a league is worth considering. Hanny, meanwhile, defends a future for the UN, asking “Is this really the moment, relatively soon after the ending of the cold war, for us to be dividing the the world between democratic sheep and undemocratic goats?”. Read the debate, in full, here.