Monday, August 13, 2007

Another Response to a Response

Another response, forwarded by my friend from one of his:

well (standard disclaimer), i ain't no expert on international politics, but...

Relax, you seem to know plenty from what I can tell.

first, i'm not sure if that whole bit about the british empire still being in tact if the king had allowed parliamentary representation for colonies is serious.

Admittedly, that's pretty speculative. Then again alternate history always is.

it seems a huge stretch in any case. after all, britain just gave independence to all of those colonies (with the exception of the US).

Right, and that was the first exception, which set the precedent to follow (just with less bloodshed.) The idea of letting the colonies mature into independent nation-states - the whole white-man's burden thing of civilizing the natives - didn't really come along until after Britain conceded the War of Independence. Acceding to the colonists' request for representation would have set a completely different precedent.

in canada's case, it wasn't exactly a hard fought independence either. is it really plausible to think that Canadians, for example, would accept a central gov't from across the atlantic so long as they were able to send a few MPs to represent their interests?

As a Canadian, I can say: yes, that's pretty plausible. Canadians fought in a number of wars in which they had absolutely no direct interest (Boer, WWI, WWII) out of nothing more than a feeling of loyalty towards Great Britain. Accepting a distant central government was never much of an issue anywhere in the colonies; the British loosely administered a very large part of the planet for quite a long time, and there is no reason that loose administration could not have continued. With the precedent set by American representatives sitting in the House of Commons, there's every reason to believe the British - being relatively fair-minded - would have extended the same privileges to the Canadian and Australian colonies, and every reason (given those colonies' behaviour for decades following independence) would have accepted the deal.

anyway, i'm not sure if that was serious.

Presented, as I said, in speculation.

Anyhow, on to the meat of it:

he said "The US doesn't go in for direct control, but nevertheless it's been doing its best to draw up an international parliament for a hundred years now." I could be wrong, but I don't recall the US being the biggest backers of the League of Nations. I think they were reluctant to be a part of it and only agreed to membership on their own conditions (Wilson's 14 points).

I might have been wrong about that. I always thought Wilson was one of the LN's architects. It's certainly correct that the LN was a primarily European project, much more limited in scope than the UN.

Following ww1 the US became extremely insular. Clearly, their objective was not to govern the world or contribute to any such body. instead, they wanted europe to recover, but to deal with it's own problems. i thought the primary purpose of the League was to avoid having another devastating war in europe (which it obviously failed to do)...partly b/c of the terms of the War's peace.


This guy doesn't seem to think the EU is terribly effective (at whatever he thinks it ought to be achieving). but economic (and to some degree political) integration was the intention: the end was to avoid future wars in europe. If it's not in any country's interests--defined in whatever way you'd like to define interests-- to go to war, they won't. in this sense, the eu has been effective. this is admittedly a realist way of looking at international politics. i don't think this guy is taking a realist view, thus his idea to create the udse (which, in my opinion, is fancifully idealistic and completely ignores any reference to reality).

Er, no, I don't think the EU is ineffective. I'd say the EU is brilliant but flawed. It's the closest existing thing to the UDSE, the sole difference being that the decision-making power is mostly unelected. That guy seems to think that political integration without democracy is somehow a good thing; this guy thinks that not having an elected congress stunts the EUs potential.

why doesn't the un work? b/c it's not a government, it's just a forum for countries to meet. the international political scene is anarchic (i.e. there is no governing authority). he seems to suggest that this is because one doesn't YET exist. I would argue that this is b/c it's not in the interests of the power holders for it to exist (ie, the US). Why would the US ever subordinate its ability to make foreign policy to a third party?

Good point. Next time the US gets the itch to invade a country that will require a decade of occupation, the logical thing for it to do will be to go in without consulting a single other country. Just like in Iraq. Oh, wait, they spent a year trying to get UN approval for the invasion (or, more accurately, get that approval for the 17th time, as they already essentially had it from 16 previous resolutions passed by the general assembly over the preceding decade.)

I don't think it's too hard to see the US subordinating its foreign policy to a third party.

foreign policy is about national interests. the iraq war was a great example. the us decided that it was in its national interests to invade iraq. it went to the UN where france, russia, and china told it that it was not in their interests to invade iraq.

Russia and China are advanced thug-states that would not have been voting members in a UDSE. Remember, to get in you need two things: democracy and decent human rights. Narrow it to those sort of countries, and you've got a very different dynamic.

so, the US invaded iraq. i don't understand why the US would submit to any scheme which would undermine its ability to make these foreign policy decisions. Let's say that the US was actually under threat from Iraq, but France and Russia decided they didn't care because they had huge oil interests in the country. Would it then be decided that the invasion would not take place? Would the UN just decide policy based on a majority vote? Or would the UN simply be composed of philosopher kings, not political ambassadors from each country? I suppose that'd be nice.

And it'd be great if Optimus Prime took on Godzilla (seriously, it'd be cool), but that's off topic. Just like talking about the implausibility of the US submitting itself to the UN in anything but a symbolic way, in an attempt to dismiss the plausibility of the US submitting itself to a UDSE.

This guy (apparently a Master's of Political Science) exhibits the symptoms of expert's pessimism: deep knowledge of a subject leading to a great deal of skepticism that meaningful change can take place. It's the same kind of thing that leads to people saying things like 'The human genome project will take a thousand years', 'I could see a day where the world has five computers', or 'No heavier-than-air craft will ever be able to cross the Atlantic ocean.' OK, so those are all engineering analogies. People said the same kind of thing about the American political project, back when it was first getting started and for a long time afterwards. 'People governing themselves? Preposterous. It'll never work.'

A demosphere? I figure that's about equally preposterous.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: