I said, almost two years ago, that leaders should be considering some sort of a Committee to Save the World. It’s a fairly popular idea in many academic circles, in several think tanks, and in a few governments. Now I see, in a very recent article in Foreign Affairs, that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken up the idea. He proposes a G-10.
Prime Minister Johnson, the article says “proposed forging an alliance of ten leading democracies—consisting of the G-7 countries plus Australia, India, and South Korea and dubbed the “D10”—to coordinate telecom policy and develop an alternative to China’s market leader Huawei, whose dominance in 5G technology has created widespread security concerns … [but] … Shortly thereafter, Trump canceled a G-7 meeting that was scheduled to take place in June and suggested a “G-11” summit in the fall instead. One-upping Johnson’s proposal, Trump’s new grouping would comprise the same countries as the D10 but also include Russia.“
President Trump’s proposal is nothing short of being monumentally stupid, as the authors explain. It amounts to giving the fox the keys to the hen-house. It’s so nearly insane as to be a non-starter amongst the “leading democracies.” Even Justin Trudeau, a foreign policy/strategic nincompoop, knew enough to reject the idea out of hand.
In my view, there already is, as there needs to be, a de facto G-2, which, in any really important matters, has already replaced the worthless United Nations Security Council. The two super-powers may be at each other’s throats and may be on the brink of an actual war, but so were the USA and the USSR for the better part of 40 years, but that now-dead G-2 kept the peace, thanks to the nihilistic but workable doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. MAD focused the mind then and it still does now. Trump is reported to want to bring Russia into the fold to use it against Beijing. Russia and China are already enemies, they both know it; and Russia has nothing at all in common with “leading democracies,” liberalism or the West. Russia is a pariah state that is flailing about as it withers and dies.
The United Nations Security Council is the still (barely) floating wreckage, the flotsam, of a long-dead dream of great power cooperation. There is little hope of reforming it, and even less of disbanding it; but it gives both Britain and France a seat at a “high table” where they can both pretend they still matter. It’s harmless … worthless, but harmless.
IF there is going to be a new G-10 then it should totally replace the current G-7 and the G-20, too. Not all the current G-7 members should be welcomed into the G-10. IF this is a Committee to Save the Liberal World Order, then it should be open only to a select few. Being a Canadian, I think that Canada, being a charter member of the liberal West and a trillion-dollar economy, too, deserves a seat … despite being so politically immature that its voters elected and then reelected Justin Trudeau.
From the Asia-Pacific region Australia, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea should all be members. Europe should be represented by Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and, say, the Czech Republic. (Note that France is not on my list. It is an illiberal and a failing state that pretends to be powerful. It is, to quote a French diplomat commenting on another nuclear-armed state, nothing much more than “a shitty little country.”) The Middle East should be represented by Jordan and Africa by South Africa. Latin America should be represented by Argentina … both democracy and liberalism are at risk in Larin America, as they are in the Middle East and Africa but that does not mean that those regions should go unrepresented.
Of course, despite Donald Trump, the USA must be a member.
That makes a G-15, rather than just a G-10, but it is a global G-15. One could argue for a global “Big Four,” America, Germany, India and Japan and a group of ted, eleven or a dozen or more lesser states within the G-15 (or G-13 or G-17) but it will only work if, despite the disparate wealth and power between, say, America (almost ¼ of the world’s GDP) and, say, Jordan (½ of 1% of the world’s GDP) the members are equal, no vetos, no publicly acknowledged “leader.” In any event, people like King Abdullah, Angela Merkel, Scott Morrison and Mark Rutte are better leaders, in every respect, than either Donald Trump or Joe Biden could ever hope to be. A dozen to (something less than) 20 prosperous democracies can work together for the common good to bind the liberal (and would-be liberal) world together.
Edward Fishman and Siddharth Mohandas, the authors of the Foreign Affairs article say, and many will agree that “Johnson’s D10 is just the type of body the world needs: a group of capable, committed, and cohesive democracies that could muster political will and real resources. It takes the historic strengths of the G-7 and expands them by bringing in the most internationally minded major democracies in Asia. South Korea has led the world in COVID-19 containment and burnished its soft power by helping the rest of the world fight the virus. Australia has established itself as an influential “middle power” and recently adopted an ambitious new defense strategy. And India is Asia’s other emerging giant, and after its recent clash with China high in the Himalayas, it may elect to pursue closer ties with the United States.“
My main problems with Boris Johnson’s idea are:
- America is, currently, unwilling. That may change in 2021, it will almost certainly change in 2025; and
- The group is unrepresentative of three important regions: Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Without at least some representation from regions which are (relatively) poor, undemocratic and illiberal the group will lack the sort of legitimacy that the United Nations Security Council (which needs to be sidelined) and the G-20 (which it should replace, while remaining a key forum for central bankers (a group to which the EU would be invited)) both have. Hence my G-15. In addition to the rich and responsible from Asia, Europe and North America it needs the least undemocratic and least illiberal nations from Africa, Latin America and the troubled Middle East.
The aim is nothing less than to save the global, liberal, world order from all of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping and their clients. It is the duty of liberal democracies, including Canada, to at least try …
For Canada, that means making foreign policy matter again. It means standing up for something (see tomorrow’s post for more about that, please); it means getting off our knees and acting less like a weakling and more like a respectable middle power. For Canada, that means a new government … one in which the likes of Justin Trudeau, Gerald Butts, Chrystia Freeland, Ahmed Hussen, Maryam Monsef, Bill Morneau, Elder Marques and Katie Telford, have no role at all.