American Greatness

Who Makes the ‘Rules’ in a ‘Rules-Based’ Liberal Global Order? – American Greatness

Who Makes the ‘Rules’ in a ‘Rules-Based’ Liberal Global Order? – American Greatness

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The forces promoting global governance represent a serious actor, driver, or player in world politics. Transnationalism or globalism has an ideology and a social-material base. And, crucially, it has a strong American connection.

The ideology is utopian, the age-old dream of worldwide peace and prosperity under a benevolent global regime. Further, the globalist project is bipartisan, in terms of both ideas and institutions.

Democrat Anne Marie Slaughter, who headed the Obama State Department’s office of policy and planning, declared that global governance meant nations would cede sovereign authority to supranational institutions in cases requiring global solutions to global problems. Thus, she maintained, transnational networks “can perform many of the functions of a world government—legislation, administration, and adjudication—without the form,” thereby creating a global rule of law.

Under President George H. W. Bush, Republican Richard Haass held the same position as Slaughter at the State Department. Haass is currently head of the Council on Foreign Relations. More than a decade ago, he said it was time to “rethink” sovereignty arguing that “sovereignty is not only becoming weaker in reality, but that it needs to become weaker.”

In 2008, Robert Kagan, then advising the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain, declared that the “United States . . . should not oppose, but welcome a world of pooled and diminished national sovereignty.”

The social-material base of the transnationalists is housed in many institutions and organizations. For example, in the leadership of the United Nations; with bureaucrats from the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank; with judges from the World Court in the Hague, the International Criminal Court, and the European Court of Human Rights.

For American transnationalists, global experts in international law, human rights, the environment, gender equity would have greater legitimacy in the creation of “global rules” than democratically elected officials. This is a prescription for post-democratic rule.

The social base certainly includes the leadership of the European Union (which is a model for supranational governance) and its administrators in the European Commission, judges in the European Court of Justice, and other EU officials. It includes international non-governmental organizations (e.g. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Greenpeace, George Soros’s Open Society foundations, etc.); and it includes “the Davoisie,” the global corporate leaders who attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Significantly, there is a strong American presence in the forces of global governance: major foundations (Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc.), the American academic world; the American Bar Association which openly advocates the “global rule of law”; and, of course, among leading American global corporations. Indeed, the vice president of Coca-Cola remarked, “We are not an American company.” Who knew? Coca-Cola is not an “American company.”

A top executive at Colgate-Palmolive declared, “There is no mindset that puts this country (the United States) first.” When she was a journalist writing for The Atlantic, current Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was told by a U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds that he was not concerned about the “hollowing out of the American middle class.” He said that if the global economy “lifts four people in China and India” into the middle class and meanwhile “one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade.” Samuel Huntington described this process as the “de-nationalization” of American corporate elites.

Even more significantly, the American nation-state under the Obama Administration was promoting transnational progressivism and diminishing democratic sovereignty. As Obama told the United Nations in 2016:

We’ve bound our power to international laws and institutions . . . I am convinced that in the long run, giving up freedom of action—not our ability to protect ourselves but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term—enhances our security.

With the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of conservative democratic nationalists throughout the West, the global governance project has been seriously challenged for the first time. It appears that the “arc of history” has been altered.

So, what is this conflict between democratic sovereignty and transnational progressivism (or globalism) all about?

It is about the oldest questions in politics, examined by Plato and Aristotle: who should rule and on what basis? Who makes the rules by which we are governed? What is legitimate and what is not?

The program for the National Conservative Conference states that since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many American conservatives have “grown increasingly attached to a vision of a ‘global rules-based liberal order’ that would bring peace and prosperity to the entire world while attenuating the independence of nations.”

So, let us examine this post-1989 “global rules-based liberal order.”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many conservatives embraced President George H. W. Bush’s call for a “new world order.” It appeared to be a consolidation of the West’s Cold War victory and, thus, the building of a Reagan-Thatcher global order based on expanding liberal democracy and free markets.

But the “rules” in this “rules-based” liberal global order began to “evolve” (as academics like to say). In the 1990s, the United Nations Landmines Treaty and the establishment of the International Criminal Court were enacted by globalist forces (including European nation-states, American NGOs, and foundations) against the concerns of American sovereignty.

Recognizing this new transnationalist challenge in September 2000, John Bolton, in a University of Chicago law journal article, portrayed a coming conflict between “Globalists and Americanists.” At that time, 19 years ago, Bolton warned that we must take global governance seriously as a threat to democratic sovereignty.

A decade later, the Obama Administration in the name of the liberal global order was strong-arming democratic nation-states into adhering to progressive social policies concerning radical feminism, abortion, LGBT, and gender issues.

Meanwhile, the EU forced the removal of democratically elected leaders in Italy and Greece, and, led by Germany, facilitated mass migration from the developing world without the consent of the people of Europe’s democratic nation-states. It appears that the “rules” have changed as the liberal global order envisioned by Reagan-Thatcher conservatives has morphed into the transnational progressive order of Barack Obama and Angela Merkel.

For decades conservative thinking has ignored the globalist challenge. The good news is that the Trump Administration is taking the conflict between democratic sovereignty and global governance seriously.

In a “rules-based” global order the crucial question, of course, is who makes the rules? We are always reassured by the foreign policy establishment, dominated by self-styled “liberal internationalists” (who are, in reality, transnational progressives)—“don’t worry, Americans and their democratic allies will be making the rules.”

Yes, it is true that American elites will play an oversized role in the formation of global “rules.” Therefore, we should take a close look at what American elites are saying.

A leading international relations specialist, and supporter of global governance, Columbia University Professor G. John Ikenberry asks how do nation-states “reconcile the international liberal vision of increasing authority lodged above the nation-state—where there is a sharing and pooling of sovereignty—with domestic liberal democracy built on popular sovereignty.” He admits, “This is the unresolved problem in the liberal international project.”

Ikenberry’s answer is buried in several footnotes in his book, Liberal Leviathan. He cites American international relations scholars, Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye. Their argument is that national democracies cannot be relied upon to formulate the global “rules” because they disregard the interests of foreigners (Keohane cites the United States and Israel explicitly as major transgressors in this regard.)

Given the “limitations” of democratic sovereignty—of democratic self-government—American international relations specialists contend that the legitimacy of the rules-based order lies with “external epistemic communities” and “external epistemic actors.” You got that? “External epistemic actors.” In other words, for American transnationalists, global experts in international law, human rights, the environment, gender equity, and the like, would have greater legitimacy in the creation of “global rules” than democratically elected officials. This is a prescription for post-democratic rule.

Without a doubt, the American leadership class is crucial to the success of the post-democratic global governance project. Because of the power of the American nation-state, U.S. submission to global authority would have to be voluntary. And that, indeed, is the dream of American transnational progressives (including our corporate elites)—America would provide what they would loudly hail as “leadership” in first creating and then submitting to the “rules” of a supranational legal regime.

This is what the American Bar Association means when it advocates the “global rule of law.” This is what Robert Kagan meant when he asserted that the United States “should not oppose but welcome a world of pooled and diminished national sovereignty.”

This is what President Bill Clinton meant when he told his confidant Strobe Talbott that “we have to build a global social system” for a world in the future in which America was no longer the leading power. Talbott noted that Clinton was “careful not to broadcast” these beliefs “while in office.”

And this is what President Obama meant when he told the United Nations in 2016 that by “binding ourselves to international laws and institutions” and that by “giving up freedom of action” and “binding ourselves to international rules over the long term” America would actually enhance its security. Thus, in the utopian vision of the transnationalists, the American caterpillar is transformed into the global governance butterfly.

For decades conservative thinking has ignored the globalist challenge. The good news is that the Trump Administration is taking the conflict between democratic sovereignty and global governance seriously.

During his U.N. speech in 2017, President Trump mentioned sovereignty more than 20 times. He began by declaring “In foreign affairs we are renewing the principle of sovereignty.” He stated, “Our success depends upon a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace.”

The following year, President Trump told the United Nations:

[S]overeign and independent nations are the only vehicles where freedom has ever survived and democracy has ever endured . . . so we must protect our sovereignty and our cherished independence above all . . . We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in Brussels, declared “our mission is to reassert sovereignty, reform the liberal international order, and we want our friends to help us and exert their sovereignty as well.” The speech was called, “Restoring the Role of the Nation-State in the Liberal International Order.” In other words, Pompeo argued that the liberal global order has moved too far away from the ideal of sovereignty and needed to be “restored” and “reformed.”

Months later, Pompeo told the Claremont Institute:

Countries all over the world are rediscovering their national identities, and we are supporting them. We’re asking them to do what’s best for their people as well. The wave of electoral surprises has swept from Britain to the United States and all the way to Brazil.

Today, we are witnessing the awakening of a national conservatism that might have been dormant, but has always been with us. To answer the question posed in the conference program—national conservatism is not a “usurper” of political conservatism, but essential to the survival, not only of conservatism, but of the democratic nation state.

The old conservative formula, that essentially ignored the transnational progressive challenge externally—and the identity politics-multiculturalist challenge internally—is not adequate to face the contemporary threats from global progressive left-liberalism.

National conservatism (in our country, we could call it Americanism) is needed to frame the two core issues of our time: the external challenge from globalism that I have examined, and the closely related internal challenge from identity-politics, multiculturalism, intersectionality, political correctness, social justice, woke-ism, whatever you want to call it—that the Claremont Institute and several speakers at the National Conservatism Conference have identified as the major adversary facing our nation today.

On both fronts, externally and internally, we are now involved in a conflict that will determine, not simply the direction of politics, but the existence of the democratic nation-state in America, Britain, the West, and throughout the world.

This essay is an elaboration of a talk delivered on July 17 at the National Conservative Conference in Washington, D.C. 



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