TCS Daily

Sovereignty Redefined

By Edward B. Driscoll - November 3, 2005 12:00 AM

After reviewing hundreds of books on the popular Brothers Website, it's not surprising that the brother with the most blisters on his fingers, Orrin Judd, (who also contributes to TCS from time to time) has released a book of his own. And it's a theme that couldn't be timelier.

Redefining Sovereignty is over 500-pages of speeches and essays written by some of the most powerful statesmen of the late 20th century to the present, from President Ronald Reagan to Kofi Anan, through which Judd weaves an interconnecting narrative.

At the book's heart is a look at transnationalism, which Judd, like many of his potential readers, first came across via John Fonte's essay, "Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism." That article, published in 2002, received widespread circulation in the then-nascent blogosphere. Judd describes Redefining Sovereignty as "a blog in book form".

Defining Transnationalism

Judd says that there are number of ways to define transnationalism, but in Redefining Sovereignty, "I chose to frame it as 'the movement on the intellectual Left which views the nation itself as a hindrance to the realization of certain social goals.'" Judd defines transnationalists as wanting nations to sacrifice their sovereignty and replace self-government with expansive centralized bureaucratic institutions "who will then establish and enforce liberal, or progressive, policies irrespective of the objections of discrete majorities".

The European Union has emerged as a "model transnationalist institution" in Judd's rendering. Right from its conceptual birth in the 1950s, "they designed a system that's very unresponsive to popular opinion", the writer Mark Steyn told radio man Hugh Hewitt back in June, shortly after the French and Dutch rejected the EU's constitution (which stopped the dreams of the EUcrats not a whit). "And I think that's one of the disasters of it, that it's run by this kind of remote, unrepresentative, unaccountable clique", Steyn added. "It would be unthinkable in the United States to have a system where basically you cannot remove these people."

Particularly in contrast to the EU, US elected officials are much more responsive to voters, and much more easily replaced (as witnessed in 1994). Which is why, here in America, the courts are typically the province of transnationalists. "Recall that the death penalty was banned in the United States by the one branch of government that isn't accountable to the electorate, the courts", Judd notes. "What elites had been unable to win in the democratic sphere they did win, at least temporarily, when they had a liberal majority on the Court."

Now that a moderate Court has reinstated the death penalty, its opponents look to transnationalism to attack it. Judd notes that in a recent case concerning capital punishment for juveniles, "even the reasonably conservative Justice Kennedy wrote that 'the overwhelming weight of international opinion [is] against the juvenile death penalty' and went on to say that 'the opinion of the world community, while 'not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions.' Once again, having failed to convince a majority of Americans via normal democratic processes, they resort to external standards."

But as Judd observes, "What's especially revealing in this regard is that the opinion Justice Kennedy is referring to isn't popular opinion in the rest of the world", as opinion polls consistently show that large majorities of the British people favor reinstating their own death penalty, just as an overwhelming majority of Americans support ours. "Rather, abolition of the death penalty is a requirement of membership in the European Union, irrespective of the opinion of a nation's people."

Judd traces the birth of transnationalism today to the outcomes of World Wars I and II. The breakdown of peace and stability in Europe and the brutality of the conflicts led to the creation of the League of Nations and its successor, the UN, two early transnational institutions, along with the first rumblings of "One World Government" and the birth pangs of the EU. Judd notes that "Europeans in particular, after tens of millions of deaths in the wars, were willing to trade some considerable measure of their freedoms in order to obtain the peace and security that transnational government seemed to offer". He adds parenthetically that because America escaped much of the devastation of the wars and has always been more strongly oriented towards freedom than other nations, it "did not much succumb to the transnationalist sales pitch, even refusing to join the League of Nations".

America Has Redefined Sovereignty Herself

The second section of Judd's book illustrates how America and its allies represent a great threat to the idea of classical sovereignty, "because of our willingness to impose liberal democracy abroad, to effectively hasten what contributor Francis Fukuyama has dubbed the 'end of history.'" The essays that Judd chose for this section illustrate his opinion that America itself has redefined sovereignty so that the right to maintain the governance of a nation now depends on a regime's ability to maintain basic civil rights, and a conform to liberal democratic norms.

Judd notes that the isolationist (or non-interventionist) Right has been quite hostile to this development, "which does of course involve us in the internal affairs of states from Syria to Burma to Somalia to Haiti." However, Judd's selections demonstrate that this is consistent with America's past. Americans after all settled the continent all the way to the Pacific, fought a Civil War at home, and abroad fought Imperialism, Nazism, and Communism successively, all the while requiring other peoples to adopt our own foundational principles.

Judd hopes that his book will help "to convince Americans in general, but reluctant conservatives in particular, that George W. Bush's expansive mission of democratizing the Middle East is not just vital to the future of the region and our own national security, but entirely consistent with American history, is indeed quintessentially American.

"Whereas some argue that we have no right to tell others how to govern themselves" Judd says, "we always have, and our Declaration of Independence makes universalist claims that there is a duty to organize regimes as we've organized our own".

Given the book's form and content, it's probably not surprising that Judd has also organized a blog titled with further posts on the issues it addresses and links to other essays by, and info about, the contributors -- and with comments enabled to further discussion. Which should be considerable -- in stark contrast to the way that much of transnationalism has become part of the vernacular with little or no debate from the people it has been imposed upon.


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