The attacks of 9/11 awoke some Americans — by no means all — to the threat posed by totalitarian interpretations of Islam. John Fonte, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, has long been concerned about another ideology that is perhaps no less dangerous to free peoples.
It goes by names that sound either vaguely utopian, such as “global governance,” or too wonky to worry about, such as “transnational progressivism.” But in a new book, Sovereignty or Submission, Fonte makes clear how this ideology, which is widely embraced in Europe and, increasingly, among elites in the U.S. as well, is stealthily undermining liberal democracy, self-government, constitutionalism, individual freedom, and even traditional internationalism — the relations among sovereign nation-states. To put it bluntly, while the jihadists call for “Death to the West!” the transnational progressives are quietly promoting civilizational suicide.
That may not be what they intend. In theory, they are only recognizing “global interdependence” and arguing that “global problems require global solutions.” In practice, however, their project is to shift political and economic power from the citizens of nation-states and their elected representatives to the U.N., unelected bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, and NGOs. These individuals and institutions are to wield not only transnational authority (power “beyond” nations) but also “supranational authority” (power “over” nations).
Transnationals are not so much anti-democratic as post-democratic. They believe that in the 21st century, democracy should be updated to include the enforcement of “universal principles of human rights” that they, of course, will enumerate and define. They talk not of surrendering sovereignty but of “sharing” it “collectively.” The result, they assert, will be a new age of “global authority” that will produce “global justice” under a “global rule of law.”
Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, transnational progressives have been establishing international laws — really supranational laws — that no voters can repeal or even amend. One way this is accomplished is to draft a treaty and apply international pressure to get the U.S. president’s signature and the U.S. Senate’s ratification. Judges — often from undemocratic countries — in transnational courts then interpret the treaty to mean whatever they want it to mean. There are no courts of appeal.
And if the U.S. rejects the treaty or agrees to only parts of it by issuing “reservations,” the transnationals declare that the U.S. is bound nonetheless — under what they call “customary international law” to which, they further insist, even the U.S. Constitution is “subordinate.”
It is on this basis that the argument is made that the U.S. is violating the Geneva Accords by declining to classify al-Qaeda terrorists as prisoners of war — despite the fact that the U.S. has never agreed that unlawful combatants are entitled to such honorable status.
Curiously and ominously, transnationals have been working hand in glove with Islamists to achieve such goals as a global prohibition of “Islamophobia” — which would represent a historic abridgement of free speech.
Fonte devotes an entire chapter to Israel, a subject on which the Islamists and the transnationals also find common ground. Israel, he writes, has become “the major target of transnational progressives who seek to expand global authority in determining the laws of war. If international-law precedents could be established against Israeli security policies, these precedents could be used later to subordinate U.S. defense policies to global law as defined by the transnationalists.”
Factions of the movement, including such major philanthropies as the Ford Foundation, such leading NGOs as Human Rights Watch, and sectors of the European Union, are “complicit in the worldwide Islamist campaign to delegitimize Israel as an apartheid state through the ‘boycotts, divestment, and sanctions’ strategy.” Fonte observes that Israel “is the most vulnerable of the world’s independent democracies, often targeted by the global governancers as a surrogate for the United States or for the independent democratic state generally.”
The dream of transnational progressives, Fonte concludes, is for Americans to embrace “the brave new world of global governance,” to voluntarily agree to “share” sovereignty with others, and to demonstrate “leadership” by submitting to a “supranational global legal regime. In effect, the American caterpillar is transformed into a global butterfly.”
Do any of the candidates running for office in 2012 understand this? Do any have the skills required to make it an issue — to ask voters whether they want to preserve what Alexis de Tocqueville admiringly called America’s distinctive “sovereignty of the people” or whether they would prefer to share sovereignty with others around the world, including dictators and Islamists?
My guess is that most Americans — by no means all — do not want to submit, do not want the 21st century to be a post-democratic and post-American era. But with an election year coming up, now would be a good time to begin the debate and find out.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.