Republican presidential candidate John McCain published this op-ed on March 18, 2008 in the Financial Times newspaper.
Americans and Europeans share a common goal – to build an enduring peace based on freedom. Our democracies today are strong and vibrant. Together we can tackle the diverse challenges we face, whether radical religious fanatics who use terror as their weapon of choice, the disturbing turn towards autocracy in Russia or the looming threats of climate change and the degradation of our planet.
But the key word is “together”. We need to renew and revitalise our democratic solidarity. We need to strengthen our transatlantic alliance as the core of a new global compact – a League of Democracies – that can harness the great power of the more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests.
At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. We Americans recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we must pay “decent respect to the opinions of mankind”. Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed.
We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe that international action is necessary, whether military, economic or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must also be willing to be persuaded by them.
The nations of the Nato alliance and the European Union, meanwhile, must have the ability and the will to act in defence of freedom and economic prosperity. They must spend the money necessary to build effective military and civilian capabilities that can be deployed around the world, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, from Chad to East Timor.
We welcome European leadership to make the world a better and safer place. We look forward to France’s full reintegration into Nato. And we strongly support the EU’s efforts to build an effective European Security and Defence Policy. A strong EU, a strong Nato and a true strategic partnership between them is profoundly in our interest.
We all have to live up to our own high standards of morality and international responsibility. We will fight the terrorists and at the same time defend the rights that are the foundations of our societies. We cannot torture or treat inhumanely the suspected terrorists that we have captured. We must close the detention facility at Guantánamo and come to a common international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control.
International responsibility also means preserving our common home. The risks of global warming have no borders. Americans and Europeans need to get serious about substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years or we will hand over a much-diminished world to our grandchildren. We need to reinvigorate the US-European partnership on climate change where we have so many common interests at stake. The US and Europe must lead together to encourage the participation of the rest of the world, including most importantly, the developing economic powerhouses of China and India.
I have introduced legislation that would require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but that is just a start. We need a successor to Kyoto, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner. New technologies hold great promise. We need to unleash the power and innovation of the marketplace in order to meet our environmental challenges. Right now safe, climate-friendly nuclear energy is a critical way both to improve the quality of our air and to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.
That dependence, I am afraid, has become a vulnerability for both the US and Europe and a source of leverage for the oil and gas exporting autocracies. The US needs to wean itself off oil faster. Europe needs a comprehensive energy policy so that Russia’s oil and gas monopolies cannot behave as agents of political influence.
The bottom line is that none of us can act as if our only concerns are within our own borders. We cannot define our national interests so narrowly that we fail to see how intimately our fate is bound up with that of the rest of humanity. There is such a thing as good international citizenship. If we wish to be models for others, we must be model citizens ourselves.
Certainly the US must be that model country. Leadership today means something different than it did in the years after the second world war, when Europe and the other democracies were recovering from the devastation of war and the US was the only democratic superpower. Today, there is the powerful collective voice of the EU, India, Japan, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Turkey and Israel, to name just a few of the leading democracies. And there are the struggling young democracies, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, that need and deserve help – more, in fact, than we have been giving. In Russia, democracy has been temporarily suppressed, but we all have an interest in seeing this great nation return to the democratic path soon.
This is not idealism. It is the truest form of realism. It is the democracies of the world that will provide the pillars upon which we can and must build an enduring peace.