We are watching the rogue state label become converted into a badge of honor, accepted as a point of pride by those countries it was supposed to stigmatize. Even if the current bond between “revolutionary brother-nations” Iran and Venezuela is more propaganda than substance, the trend towards closer cooperation between the “rogues” is problematic. Chávez has been trying to enlist other “underdogs” for his “Axis of Good”: his visits to Belarus, Zimbabwe, Russia, Cuba are ample evidence of this. North Korea is also on his shortlist of allies, even though a trip to Pyongyang in July 2006 was cancelled at the very last minute. Technological complementarities between these economies make this “parallel diplomacy” potentially viable. It is not hard to imagine these countries moving from rhetoric and symbolism towards a more meaningful cooperation in the future. It is already happening in the Iran-Venezuela nexus, albeit slowly. Pushing the “rogues” hard will only make them close their ranks more.
To confront this challenge, the West needs allies old and new: not only long-time partners such as Australia, South Korea, Japan or Turkey, but also major democratic emerging powers that can seriously contribute to the proliferation of Western ideals, such as Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa. Improving relationships with emerging powers now could mean that in the future they might once again see Western values as worth emulating.
The relative weakening of the West and the waning of the power of its ideals has negative repercussions on the further spread of democracy and peace in the world. Non-Western models of global order are often not fundamentally based on freedom. These alternative models feature regional or even global actors who oppose regional integration based upon equality between member states and pluralism. To reverse this trend, the West must commit to advancing its own concepts of liberty, prosperity and justice. This is not an argument for any form of democracy promotion by force: the West as a truly powerful actor on the world stage can only be reconstructed through the power of its ideals and values, and not through the power of its military machine.
As during the Cold War, respecting Western ideals at home will give Western foreign policy legitimacy and force: from liberty, prosperity and justice come comprehensive human rights and their protection, a high level of liberal democracy respecting the rule of law, and economic development to the benefit of all. The Western ideals are ethically ambitious and aim at liberating and empowering citizens. This is what should constitute their power of attraction. By strictly adhering to these self-imposed principles, the West could again find new friends and allies in different regions of the world.
Emerging powers must be convinced that they can become true partners of the West and share its values: Where a common basis of shared values exist, special technological and military relationships can be an effective instrument for a deepened partnership. This should include not only cooperation on security and defense matters—possibly including Western aid for multinational brigades in the world regions—but also the exchange (and supervision) of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. NATO and the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), the effective functional organizations in these policy areas, are the most important tools for such a partnership.
Another important stepping stone in building reliable and sustainable partnerships is Western support for (liberal) regional integration schemes in the world. In the long term, this could help forge regional identities that rely on mutual trust and respect—and thus decrease the likelihood of conflict in that region.
The West’s “rogue state” label was supposed to outlaw and isolate illiberal regimes and rally the allies of the West around the cause of democracy. Now, however, it is this international ban that provides the glue for this new “outcast diplomacy,” a very specific form of South-South-cooperation. In the medium and long term, this “rogue pride” could lead to a global “Axis of Good”, a true axis of rogues. The transatlantic partners should recognize this nascent trend and act on it now.
Christian E. Rieck is project assistant in the International Cooperation Department of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation (KAS) and Editor Latin America of the World Security Network (WSN). He is also a lecturer at Humboldt-Universität Berlin and member of the KAS Working Group on Foreign Policy.
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