Will Americans rule themselves or be ruled by others?
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is John Fonte, a senior fellow and director of the Center for American Common Culture at the Hudson Institute. His analysis of “lawfare” was listed among the most noteworthy ideas of 2004 in the New York Times Magazine’s “The Year in Ideas: A to Z.” He is the author of the new book, Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or be Ruled by Others.
FP: John Fonte, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Fonte: Thank you delighted to be here, and hats off to the great work you do.
FP: Thank you.
What inspired you to write this book?
Fonte: I closely observed the march of multiculturalism through our educational institutions. Multiculturalism and the ethnic-racial-gender group consciousness of the so-called “diversity” project are antithetical to core American principles based on individual citizenship and equality of opportunity. Many conservatives and center-right thinkers were claiming that with the fall of communism we had “won the war of ideas.” Francis Fukuyama famously declared that liberal democracy had triumphed and would never again face a serious ideological foe with universal appeal.
Yet right before my eyes, I could see multiculturalism-diversity gaining many adherents among American elites. The multiculturalists repudiated traditional liberal democratic principles such as individual (rather than group) rights, free speech, equality before the law and equality of opportunity. They favored a new form of “corporatism” based on ethnic-racial-gender group consciousness and rejected Lockian liberalism. The multiculturalists were also contemptuous of America’s role in the world; American history; and American patriotism. In the mid-1990s I worked with Lynne Cheney at AEI against the multiculturalist “National History Standards” devised by radical historian Gary Nash at UCLA.
At some point I realized that the leading multiculturalists had become “transnationalists.” The same elites in education, academia, law, media, and government, that formerly had promoted a “multicultural society” now talked about “global society,” global education,” “global citizenship” and “global governance.” By 2009-10 the world’s leading political actors keep repeating the mantra that “global problems require global solutions.” Thus, today the forces of global governance are a major actor in world politics and a serious adversary of our constitutional regime. My book is a moral and intellectual defense of democratic, or what I call “Philadelphian” sovereignty.
FP: Specify for us a few of the incompatibilities that exist between democratic ideals and the agendas of the global governance movement. How are American sovereignty and constitutional freedoms threatened?
Fonte: It is important to emphasize that the main threat to American sovereignty comes, not from the UN or other international institutions, but from American globalists themselves. The UN and international law per se, can not force us to do anything, but many, among our elites, are promoting American subordination to global authority.
I’ll give you a few examples. Leading American “human rights” groups including Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Arab-American Institute, La Raza, Mexican American Legal and Education Foundation (MALDEF) and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights have called for the United States to accept all UN human rights treaties without any reservations (including First Amendment, Second Amendment and Tenth Amendment, i.e., federalism, restrictions on international law) This would effectively subordinate the American constitution to UN-made “global rules” The “global rules,” these American human rights groups demand include: racial and gender preference quotas in all aspects of public and private life; official multilingualism; the ending of any serious border enforcement; the abolition of capital punishment; the payment of U.S. reparations for slavery; and much more.
These are not legitimate global human rights norms, but the policy preferences of elements of the American progressive left. Wade Henderson, the head of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights told the UN Human Rights Commissioner that these American groups had tried but failed to enact their policies through the states and federal government “so in our frustration we now turn to the United Nations.” In other words, having failed to enact their leftist agenda through the normal process of American constitutional democracy they would attempt to impose their policy preferences though “transnational politics” with the use of UN treaties.
In practice, this means the transnational progressives will file lawsuits declaring the US in violation of international law. They will call on sympathetic judges to implement their left-wing globalist agenda. As former Yale Law Dean and current Obama State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh has stated, American “courts must play a key role in coordinating U.S. domestic constitutional rules with the rules of foreign and international law.” Ed Whalen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, pointed out, this means subordinating American constitutional law to global law.
FP: What are the key arguments of American globalists? Where are they wrong? What is it they are really trying to perpetuate?
Fonte: There are two types of American globalists. The first are the ideological leftists that I just described, whose argument is simply that the broad leftist agenda represents real substantive rights (equality of result), as opposed to the individual rights of a capitalist democracy.
The second group of American globalists, are often foreign policy specialists, who believe that America is in decline. This group of globalists, argue in Orwellian fashion that the United States should exercise “leadership” and “engagement” by promoting a new global governance system over national sovereignty. They maintain, unrealistically, that if Americans agree to limit their own sovereignty and submit to global rules, the Chinese will be persuaded to do the same, thus “protecting American interests” in the future as China becomes stronger. This reveals the global governance project to be both naïve and dangerously suicidal, placing American security in the hands of an untested and unaccountable global system.
As noted, this globalist rationale is based on the idea that America is in decline, therefore, it is better to get agreements and set up a favorable global system now, while we are still strong, in order that these arrangements will be in place decades from now. Of course, there would be no guarantee that a weaker America would be able to enforce any of the agreements that a stronger America had engineered.
Besides failing on realist grounds, the globalists’ arguments also fail on idealist grounds. Global governance is not consist with American democratic principles. Our highest political principles rest on the maintenance of our constitutional self-government. How is ceding democratic decision making to non-citizens in supranational bodies outside of the American constitutional process consistent with our principles and values? The argument is an oxymoron.
FP The globalists have made their first significant inroads in Europe. What have the consequences been?
Fonte: Over the past sixty years the European Union has slowly evolved into a post-national, post-democratic, and post-liberal type of regime. Power has shifted from national parliaments (e.g., British House of Commons) in democratic nation-states to unaccountable bureaucratic institutions in Brussels. The EU Deputy Ambassador to Washington told me that 60-80 percent of European laws today are initiated in Brussels.
The consequences have been negative not only for democratic decision-making, but also for traditional liberalism (individual rights, free speech) and the cause of liberty generally. EU elites have a similar ideology (transnational progressivism) and governing style to that the American academic left. Thus, just as in American universities, across Europe today, progressive left administrators attempt to restrict free speech, appease Islamist radicals, denigrate national patriotism, and sanction those who actively oppose radical Islamist ideology. Sections of major European cities have become “no-go zones” for democratic citizens, abandoned to radical Islamists and thuggish gangs.
The euro was created as a mostly political (rather than economic) instrument to weaken the democratic nation-state; instead, it has succeeded in severely damaging Europe’s economy. The predictable response of EU elites has been to “double down”, proposing more power to unaccountable Brussels institutions, less power for the democratic nations. Meanwhile as they promote even greater centralization, the European elites could soon be asking for financial assistance from US banks and political support from the US government.
FP: The global governance movement is quite anti-Israel. Why? And what has it done to weaken the Jewish State?
Fonte: The democratic state of Israel faces two major adversaries: one anti-democratic and one post-democratic. The first, of course, consists of radical Islamists and Arab rejectionists who seek the total annihilation of the Jewish state. The second adversary is the global governance coalition consisting of leading Western and Westernized transnational progressive elites in the European Union, the UN, some European governments, international law circles, major universities, American foundations, and NGOs, particularly so-called “human rights” groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The globalists have launched a BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaign to de-legitimize Israeli democracy. They constantly wage “lawfare” against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) charging them either with “war crimes” on spurious grounds or with “violations” of “international law” for military actions (e.g., not warning enemy civilians before an air attack) that are not accepted as “international law” by leading democratic states including the US, India, and Israel itself.
For Western transnational progressives the existence of Israel as an independent democratic Jewish state is an affront to the globalists’ ideological conception of the subordination of nation-states to global legal authority. Both Israel and the United States because of their independence and refusal to submit to what the transnationalists portray as “global norms” and “global rules,” will remain targets of the Western Left in the decades to come.
FP: What are the chances that this world order might really come about? What will the world be like?
Fonte: The global governance project is utopian and, therefore, it is highly unlikely that a world order could be established along the lines that they propose (global peace, harmony, and a world-wide “rule of law” based on “progressive” principles.) Unfortunately, however, the globalists─both ideological transnational progressives and transnational pragmatists in corporate and establishment foreign policy circles─might obtain a considerable degree of influence among the American leadership class. If this happens─if globalist thinking becomes the conventional wisdom among American legal, academic, business, and political elites─the result would be, not the triumph of global governance, but the suicide of constitutional democracy. This would occur both in the realm of domestic self-government (as lawsuits replace national democratic politics) and in the arena of national security (as adherence to new global law cripples the ability of democracies, like the US and Israel, to defend themselves). Thus, although unable to achieve success on its own terms, the global governance project could disable and disarm liberal democracy in the US and throughout the world.
FP: John Fonte, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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