Few institutions are more cosmopolitan than the American media. Top journalists are on the best panels at Davos and see themselves as servants to the world. After 9/11, members of the media had a huge internal debate about whether it was an ethical breach to pin tiny American flags to their lapels. American journalists once proudly wore U.S. military uniforms, but in 2001, many concluded that, yes, wearing an American flag was simply too jingoistic. For the media, this is an issue in which economic interests and values coincide.
Many news outlets use the same excuse as the makers of "Superman Returns": We are competing in a global marketplace, and so we can't seem too "American." Hence, CNN bans the word "foreigners," and Reuters refuses to use the word "terrorist" and gives al-Qaida and other such groups so many benefits of the doubt - so as not to offend Middle Eastern readers and Harvard faculty - that critics have dubbed it "Al Reuters."
One institution that has hopped aboard the cosmopolitan bandwagon is the Supreme Court, particularly the more liberal slice of it. Long before the Hamdan decision came down, the court was embroiled in various controversies about its increasingly cosmopolitan jurisprudence. When she was still on the bench, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor predicted that justices "will find ourselves looking more frequently to the decisions of other constitutional courts" because globalization is creating "one world." Justice Stephen Breyer has defended his reading of Zimbabwean law to better understand the U.S. Constitution. Justices David Souter, John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy concur that international opinion in general, and the decisions of foreign judges in particular, may influence how the court should view our laws and Constitution. To do otherwise, warns Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, would be to follow a "Lone Ranger" approach.
There are plenty of good-faith arguments on both sides of the Hamdan decision, which invalidated the Bush administration's policy at Guantanamo Bay. But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the ruling holding that the U.S. must be bound by Article 3 of the Geneva Convention - even when dealing with terrorists who are not signatories to the convention - stems from a certain cosmopolitan embarrassment over U.S. unilateralism. Working outside the Geneva Convention - even when legal - is apparently wrong because that's the "Lone Ranger" approach.
Of course, Superman has always changed with the times. During the New Deal era, he was a "champion of the oppressed." What is disturbing is that "the American way" now seems to have become code for arrogant unilateralism that falls somewhere outside truth, justice and all that is good.
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