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Fukuyama and Sovereignty


Here’s something that brings together the Fukuyama issue with Jeremy Rabkin’s concerns about national sovereignty.  John Fonte (known for his warnings about the development of a new “transnational progressivism,” reviewed Fukuyama’s recent America at the Crossroads for NRODT and highlighted Fukuyama’s growing interest in transnational institutions.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Although almost all eyes are focused on Fukuyama’s break with the Bush administration and neoconservative thinking, the truly revolutionary part of the book is his embrace, however hesitantly, of an extra-constitutional transnationalism. To be sure, all of this is done with often contradictory “on the one hand, on the other hand” qualifiers, and further obfuscated with the language of social science.

Fukuyama calls for an “agenda of multiple-multilaterialisms.” He tells us that, as “realistic Wilsonians, . . . we do not want to replace national sovereignty with unaccountable international organizations” like the U.N. “On the other hand, we do not now have an adequate set of horizontal mechanisms of accountability between the vertical stovepipes we label states.”

“Horizontal accountability” would presumably mean some transnational mechanism that would make, for example, the American nation-state and the Canadian or French nation-state, democratically accountable to each other. “Horizontal accountability” between states is needed, Fukuyama says, first because it would facilitate globalization, and second because “few [nations] trust the United States” to be “sufficiently benevolent” without “the subjection of American power to more formal constraints.”

If Fukuyama were merely saying that Americans should, as a matter of prudential statesmanship, attempt to secure the support of major democratic allies before acting in important international crises, that would be fine. But he is hinting at something else: He is suggesting that new transnational organizations not accountable to American democratic institutions should make decisions concerning American foreign policy. How else to explain the following: “Although international cooperation will have to be based on sovereign states for the foreseeable future, shared ideas of legitimacy and human rights will weaken objections that the United States should not be accountable to regimes that are not themselves accountable.”

Why would Americans want to be accountable to the unaccountable? Because, Fukuyama says, Americans believe that if “unchecked power is corrupting in a domestic context,” the same holds true internationally. But, of course, the “checks and balances” of the U.S. Constitution already apply to both domestic and foreign affairs and are within the context of our accountable democratic system. What Fukuyama is suggesting is extra-constitutional, some new transnational mechanism of “checks and balances” outside of American constitutional democracy and genuine democratic accountability. Francis Fukuyama, one of our leading democratic theorists, may want to reconsider this flirtation with post-democratic thinking.”

For more from Fonte, see his essay “Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism.”


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