Cliff May

The attacks of 9/11/01 awoke 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, like “global governance,” or too wonky to worry about, like “transnational progressivism.” But in a new book, Sovereignty or Submission, Fonte makes clear how this ideology – 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 UN, 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 imply 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 “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 they accomplish this: A treaty is drafted. International pressure is applied 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 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.”


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.