The hand-over of power to Iraq by the victorious American forces has stimulated public discussion about a word that seems to have fallen in disfavor in the last few years: sovereignty. It is the ability of one government to act without being subject to the legal control of another government, country or international organization, restrained only by moral principles.
Sovereignty was transferred to Iraq on June 28, but when the question came up at a U.S. Senate hearing as to whether Iraq can the order U.S. troops to leave, the official answer was: not yet. Iraq won't become truly sovereign until it can do that, which won't happen until elections establish a permanent government.
The U.S. Constitution is based on the premise that we are a sovereign nation and we need not obey any power unless authorized in the Constitution. The Europeans, on the other hand, are rapidly abandoning their national sovereignty in favor of an international bureaucracy called the European Union.
European Union representatives are using "unilateralism" as a smear word to show their disdain for America's stubborn adherence to sovereignty. They assert the ridiculous proposition that U.S. actions cannot be legitimate without United Nations approval.
The enemies of sovereignty are squeamish about the term world government. They like the softer slogan global governance, which harbors undefined concepts such as human rights, sustainable development and international justice.
Unhappily, it's not only non-Americans who are trying to replace U.S. sovereignty with global governance. Former President William Jefferson Clinton told the United Nations he wanted to put the United States into a "web" of treaties to set the ground rules for "the emerging international system."
Clinton's chief foreign policy adviser was notorious for his Time magazine article of July 20, 1992, "The Birth of the Global Nation." Talbott opined that "national sovereignty wasn't such a great idea after all," and he predicted, "Nationhood as we know it will be obsolete, all states will recognize a single, global authority."
After then-President Clinton failed to get congressional authorization for his war on Yugoslavia, Madeleine Albright, his secretary of state, rationalized it by demanding that Yugoslavia surrender its sovereignty. She said: "Great nations who understand the importance of sovereignty at various times cede various portions of it in order to achieve some better good for their country."
Clinton signed the International Criminal Court treaty, which would have locked us into a global judicial order. He urged us to accept the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would have set up a global committee to monitor the way parents raise their children.
Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore were big fans of the Kyoto Protocol to the Convention on Climate Change, which would have set up a global tribunal to control our energy use. Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton demanded the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which would have created a global commission of feminist "experts" to regulate gender issues in our laws, customs, education and wages. Finally, the Convention on the Law of the Sea would have created an international seabed authority to control and distribute the mineral riches under the seas. Each of these Clinton-supported treaties would have grabbed a big slice of our sovereignty, but fortunately they were never ratified.
The World Trade Organization, which Clinton did get us to join, is a good example of how trade agreements can morph into global control. The organization is not "free trade" but a global bureaucracy and quasi-judicial system that manages world trade and has ruled against the United States a dozen times.
Likewise, the North American Free Trade Agreement was sold to the people as free trade among the three major North American countries. It spawned an international tribunal that has repeatedly overruled U.S. laws and courts, most recently to allow the immediate entry of thousands of Mexican trucks in violation of U.S. environmental law.
Some people are trying to expand the three-nation NAFTA into the 30-nation Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is an attempt to force the United States into a Western Hemisphere bureaucracy modeled on the European Union. President George W. Bush signed the Declaration of Quebec City on April 22, 2001, which was a "commitment to hemispheric integration" larded with favorite United Nations double talk such as "interdependent," "greater economic integration," and "sustainable development."
A new book, "The Case for Sovereignty," by Cornell University professor Jeremy A. Rabkin convincingly explains why the maintenance of U.S. sovereignty, rather than yielding authority to various international institutions, is essential not only for the security of the United States but is beneficial to world peace. He shows that sovereignty is compatible with international trade but not with international regulation of trade.
Our Declaration of Independence is, in essence, a declaration of U.S. sovereignty. Freedom in the United States depends on it and on avoiding European mistakes. U.S. citizens must never accept any governing authority higher than the U.S. Constitution.