Democracy's Trojan Horse

Democracy's Trojan Horse

Mini Teaser: In the 21st century, the gravest threat to representative government may come from within.

by Author(s): John Fonte

JUST BEFORE the new century began, Marc Plattner, co-editor of the influential Journal of Democracy, wrote of the brave new globalized world coming into existence:

A borderless world is unlikely to be a democratic one. For while the idea of "world citizenship" may sound appealing in theory, it is very hard to imagine it working successfully in practice, Indeed, some aspects of globalization, "point to a long range danger  to democracy."

While Plattner is uneasy about these developments, other observers, such as Strobe Talbott, largely discount the risks. An entire industry of transnational agencies and non-governmental organizations is pushing forward changes designed either to deny or override the national sovereignty of democratic states against surprisingly muted or inchoate opposition. Taken together, these changes amount to a serious political and intellectual challenge to democratic sovereignty vested in the liberal democratic nation-state.

It is a distinctly new challenge. Until now, democrats have faced two major opponents: pre-democrats and anti-democrats. The pre-democrats, adherents of some form of ancien regime (of throne, altar, tribe or clan), have been mostly vanquished over the past several hundred years.

Since 1917 three anti-democratic ideologies have presented an alternative vision to liberal democracy: first Nazism/fascism, then communism, and today militant Islam or Islamism.

The radical Islamist threat is both deadly and serious, and it could last for a considerable period of time. Islamists might gain powerful weapons and thereby cause much death and destruction. Nevertheless, it is in the highest degree unlikely that they will in the end conquer liberal democracy.

Yet the 21st century could well turn out to be not the democratic century, but the "post-democratic" century--the century in which liberal democracy as we know it is slowly, almost imperceptibly, replaced by a new form of global governance.

The ideology and institutions already exist in embryonic form and are developing rapidly. The philosophical basis for global governance begins with the premise that all individuals on the planet possess human rights. International law is the paramount authority that determines those rights, while international agreements establish and expand new rights and norms. International institutions (for example, the UN, the International Criminal Court and the World Bank) monitor, adjudicate, negotiate, cajole and administer the international agreements and laws in varying degrees. International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) claim to represent "global civil society", or the "peoples" of the planet. And the NG0s work with international institutions and participate in international conferences helping develop the new norms for global governance. Moreover, global governance is not really "international", but "transnational" in the sense that it is not concerned strictly with relations between nations, but with political arrangements above and beyond nation-states. Indeed, it could also be described as "post-international."

The global governance regime is promoted and run by complimentary and interlocking networks of transnational (mostly Western) elites including international lawyers, international judges, NGO activists, UN and other international organization officials, global corporate leaders, and some sympathetic officials and bureaucrats from nation-states. These transnational elites are, for the most part, ideologically compatible. They could be described as "transnational progressives" (many are "Sixty-Fighters") supporting what they perceive as "progressive" causes across national boundaries (that is, supporting the "other", the oppressed, minorities and opposing the death penalty, unilateral military action by the United States, and so on).1 Denationalized corporate elites who are non-ideological, but seek economic advantage, often have a symbiotic relationship with the transnational progressives. Global governance is not to be confused with world government. Nation-states (both democratic and undemocratic) continue to exist, but their authority is increasingly circumscribed by the growing strength of the global institutions, laws, rules, networks and ideological norms noted above.

Unlike democratic sovereignty, global governance can provide no straightforward answers to the most important questions of political science (Who governs?, Where does authority reside? How is legislation enacted?). In a democracy, authority resides in a self-constituted people ("government by consent of the governed"). These self-governing people choose their rulers through elections and can replace them if they are not responsive to the people. The people limit the power of rulers through a constitution and basic laws. Bad laws can be changed by elected national legislatures.

In theory, human rights and international law are the moral basis for the global governance regime, but both of these concepts are fluid, porous and constantly "evolving." They are, at any given moment, what transnational elites tell us they are. NGOs participate in the writing of global treaties alongside democratic and non-democratic governments, but they are essentially pressure groups, elected by no one and responsible only to themselves. Nor are the other elites, the international lawyers, judges, activists and officials who participate in the global governance system responsible or accountable to any self-governing "people." How can these rulers be replaced? How can "the governed" repeal bad laws and regulations that their "governors" have imposed upon them? Global governance provides no democratic answers to these questions.

Global governance is implicitly a grand ideological project (and a utopian and coercive one, with universal aspirations). It is post-democratic in the sense that it originates from but transcends democracy just as the "postmodern" originates from but transcends modernity. Its success would mean that liberal democracy very well might be replaced with a new form of regime.

NOW LET us more closely examine post-democracy in practice. Understandings of human rights and international law have been transformed in the past several decades. New concepts of human rights and the "new" international law have been heavily influenced by the de facto post-democratic ideology and material interests of transnational elites. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, human rights were associated with the values of the Anglo-American democracies in the struggle against totalitarianism: the rights of free speech, free elections, the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of association and the like. Many Americans, in particular, wanted to qualify and narrow the concepts of social, cultural and economic rights that were incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Today, the idea of what constitutes "human rights" has been vastly expanded. For example, an international agreement on "children's rights" ratified by most nations in the world (but not the United States) and enthusiastically supported by leading NGOs, declares that it is a basic human right that any child, "shall have ... freedom to seek, receive, and impart information of all kinds ... in print, in the form of art or through any other media of the child's choice;" and that "no child shall he subject to arbitrary ... interference with his or her privacy ... or correspondence."

The concept of international law has undergone considerable alteration as well. In an important article in The National Interest (Winter 2000/01), international lawyers David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey argue that instead of concerning itself with relations among nations (the traditional Law of Nations),

This new international law purports to govern the relationship of citizens to their governments, affecting such domestic issues as environmental protection and the rights of children.

It also seeks the power to "promote the criminal prosecution of individual state officials by the courts of other states and international tribunals...."2

Two major NGOs, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA, are exemplars of the conflict between democracy and post-democracy. These two organizations have waged what could be characterized as "lawfare" against the exercise of democratic sovereignty by the American nation-state. They continuously pillory America's liberal democracy as an "oppressive" regime that routinely violates human rights.3

Immediately following the attacks of September 11, they objected to describing the conflict as a "war", preferring to characterize them as a "crime" that should be pursued under the auspices of international law. As American planes began bombing the Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001, the NGOs sought ways to limit American military operations by complaining about possible collateral damage and the use of weapons of which they do not approve, such as cluster bombs.

Again and again, the NGOs have charged that civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq could have been prevented by the U.S. military. For example, the HRW website condemned air strikes aimed at Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders because they resulted in a small number of civilian deaths. HRW admitted they did not try to find the exact numbers of civilian deaths and retorted that, "focusing on the exact number of deaths misses the point. The point is the U.S. military should not have been using these methods of warfare."

It is important to note that the NGO attack is not simply opposition to the policies of the Bush Administration. America was also pilloried during the Clinton era as a "persistent" violator of human rights and international law. In a 1999 report, Human Rights Watch complained that

the United States continued to exempt itself from its international human rights obligations, particularly where international human rights law grants protections or redress not available under U.S. law. In ratifying key human rights treaties it has typically carved away added protections for those in the United States by adding reservations, declarations, and understandings. Even years after ratifying key human rights treaties, the U.S. still fails to acknowledge human rights law as U.S. law  [emphasis added].

In contrast, the NGOs believe that if international human rights laws and U.S. laws are in conflict, international laws supersede U.S. laws, even though these international laws have not been approved or enacted into American law by the relevant legislative bodies (Congress or a state legislature) through the normal processes of American constitutional democracy. What these "reservations" declare is that nothing in the international agreement supersedes the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States. For example, the United States ratified a UN treaty to eliminate racial discrimination but attached reservations stating that hate speech restrictions on free speech in the treaty that were incompatible with the First Amendment would not be accepted by the United States.

One of the clearest examples of post-democratic action by NGOs occurred in connection with the UN Durban Conference Against Racism. About a year before the UN conference, a large group of American NGOs sent a letter to then UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson calling upon the UN to "hold the U.S. accountable" for the "persistent" problems of discrimination that minorities "face at the hands of the U.S. criminal justice system."4 A spokesman for the group declared that the NGO demands, "had repeatedly been raised with federal and state officials but to little effect.... In frustration we now turn to the United Nations." In other words, NGOs are attempting to make an end run around the democratic process by implementing through international pressure measures that were rejected by Americans in the domestic democratic process.

Take, for example, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW has not been ratified by the Senate, even though Senators Joseph Biden (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-DE) have argued that the treaty is simply an "international bill of rights" for women. But the experience of Britain and other democracies with CEDAW is quite illuminating.

The British were told to "reconsider" their Sex Discrimination Act "in light" of CEDAW and implement gender preferences or quotas, euphemistically described as "temporary special measures." They were also told that the UK's Equal Pay Act was "outdated", because it did not employ "the vast amount of research in the United States on equal pay for work of equal value" or "comparable worth." Furthermore, they were told that to get men to take parental leave on a rate of parity with women, "forceful measures were sometimes needed." In 1999 the UN Committee monitoring Britain expressed "concern" that the percentage of women in Parliament was too low. (CEDAW calls for measures to ensure equal representation of women and men in all decision-making bodies, including national legislatures.)

The Israelis were chastised because their public health system allocated considerable resources to in vitro fertilization, yet contraceptives were not free. They were also told by UN monitors to develop programs for "gender sensitization of the judiciary, police, and health professionals." The Slovenians were told that the number of children in day-care facilities (30 percent) was too small (apparently too many children were being taken care of at home by their parents); and even the compliant Belgians were admonished because (despite gender preferences) some elements of their work force were still dominated by men.

CEDAW is not simply an "international bill of rights for women"--as its adherents claim. Surely, questions of parental leave, the cost of contraceptives, day-care policy, gender parity in parliament, and sensitivity training for police are issues that liberal democracies can work out for themselves. Missing in the CEDAW treaty is any concept of "government by consent of the governed."

Symbiotic Relationships

WHILE THE evolving concepts of human rights and the "new" international law provide the ideology, NGOs supply the interest groups and activists, and international agreements the regulatory framework. At the same time, international organizations including the UN and its related agencies assist in the promotion of new structures of post-democratic governance. What Professor Kenneth Anderson has called a "symbiotic relationship" exists among the UN, its agencies, the NGOs, human rights lawyers and the international law community. The transnational elites and their activist allies are part of the same networks, share the same ideological predispositions and have similar material interests (career advancement, influence, power) in strengthening transnational institutions and norms at the expense of the institutions and laws of liberal democratic nation-states.

This is why they agree that the UN is the "sole source of legitimacy" for deciding when a democratic nation state can use force; promote unelected NGOs as representatives of "global civil society" in an attempt to create a type of democratic legitimacy that they do not possess; and work to strengthen the "new" international law and intrusive international agreements that transfer power (even on domestic issues) from democratically elected governments to transnational authorities.

Challenging Democracy

WHAT DOES the challenge of post-democracy mean philosophically for the advance of genuine democracy in the world, and practically for American global strategy? This essay suggests that ultimately the greatest challenge to liberal democracy in the 21st century will come from within. What I have described as "post-democracy", is, unfortunately, a serious alternative regime to the liberal democratic nation-state and the principle of democratic sovereignty. Thus, history may not end with the ideological triumph of liberal democracy.

As noted, this alternative regime would consist of networks of overlapping transnational institutions, organizations, agreements, treaties, laws, regulations, and rules; run by transnational elites and informed by a transnational progressive ideology. This ideology is an amorphous and eclectic mix of soft academic Marxism or Gramscian thinking, social democracy (minus its George Orwell-Tony Blair "armed democracy" wing), multiculturalism, radical feminism, environmentalism, or whatever else constitutes the latest in progressive thought at a particular moment. That said, the public face of transnational progressivism is slick and PR-savvy. Its sophisticated advocates (for example, Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth or Amnesty International USA's William F. Schulz) work with corporate heads, foundation officials, and American, EU and UN bureaucrats, who provide funding and with whom they are locked in a symbiotic relationship.

If this sounds incoherent, a good part of the strength of post-democracy lies in its incoherence. By disguising what and how political decisions are made, it renders them unstoppable and perhaps irreversible. As noted above, global governance provides no serious democratic means for the "governed" to repeal decisions that they may find repellent, but that their new "governors" have, nevertheless, imposed upon them without their consent.

Another strength is that post-democracy has support from elites of the Right as well as the Left. It should not surprise us that the transnational project has been rhetorically (and sometimes financially) embraced by many multinational American-based corporations. It is perhaps understandable that transnational corporations should seek to emphasize that they are global rather than national entities. Yet it was also rather unseemly for the corporate counsel of Motorola to denounce as "nationalistic" Ralph Nader's suggestion that American-based corporations begin their stockholder meetings with "The Pledge of Allegiance" to the "country that bred them" and "defended them."

Likewise, it was unseemly when the late Carl Gerstacker, chairman and CEO of Dow, wrote several decades ago that he dreamed of establishing the world headquarters of this American chemical giant on the "truly neutral ground" of an island "beholden to no nation or society." Of course, Dow, Motorola and a host of other corporations, whose executives have made foolish comments about their company's relationship to America, are, indeed, "beholden" to the American nation. Without American sovereignty, mores, culture, laws and military power, they would be neither prosperous nor protected.

It should not surprise us that corporations that accept the progressive agenda at home (racial/gender preferences, multiculturalism, etc.) are willing partners of NGOs who promote this agenda abroad. Nor is it surprising that that a Supreme Court justice like Sandra Day O'Connor (who was apparently guided by corporate attitudes in deciding the major domestic affirmative action case) has praised "transjudicialism" and called for a more robust "transnational jurisprudence." O'Connor states that foreign judicial opinions "although not formally binding" should "at times constitute persuasive authority in American courts." Three other Supreme Court justices (Ginsberg, Breyer and Kennedy) appear to have embraced this view as well.

If present patterns of discourse continue, in the end, the transnational regime would claim to be the ultimate fulfillment of democracy. Democracy, it would be explained, has simply "evolved", like "human rights" and the "new international law." It no longer means what it used to mean--majority rule with limited government based on equality of citizenship within a nation-state--in much the same way that "civil rights" no longer means equality of opportunity for individuals but rather "substantive" equality of condition for groups. Outward forms and symbols of 20th-century liberal democracy would be maintained (devoid of their original understandings) just as Augustus maintained old Roman Republican forms and symbols even though they had lost their substantive meaning. And no doubt a weakened and hollowed out shell of a nation-state would still exist.

In some respects the European Union is the model of post-democratic governance. If there is one thing that both friends and foes of the European Union agree upon, it is that the EU has a "democracy deficit." Although power is technically supposed to reside with the member nation-states through the Council of the EU (that is composed of representatives from the nation-states) and the European Parliament (elected by citizens in the nation-states), in actuality a great deal of the authority is wielded by the unelected bureaucracy--the European Commission (EC) in Brussels. The EC has a monopoly on initiating legislation, in essence, an advance veto. In contrast, the Council and Parliament--theoretically responsible to voters--can only withhold approval of policies already formulated by the Commission, something they rarely do in practice.5

Many Continental European elites are already committed to slowly and steadily building some form of transnational post-democratic regime, that would--as its top priority--limit and constrict the democratic sovereignty of the United States. They would also like to limit the sovereignty of other democracies, particularly those allies of the United States that are outlier democratic nation-states, like Britain and Israel, who in different ways, have stood aloof from the continent's politics and modes of thought.

One of the more clever arguments for transnationalism revolves around the concept of the American nation-state leading the world to its transnational future. Of course, in achieving this goal, the American democratic regime slowly metamorphizes into a different type of entity. The American caterpillar becomes the transnational butterfly, but "don't worry", elites tell us, the withering away of American constitutional democracy and American national identity serves "our interests and our values." In the end, American "leadership" comes from "following" the "international community", i.e., the worldview of transnational progressive elites.

Thus, American foreign policy would "lead the world" by following transnational elite opinion on such as issues as the necessity of UN approval for the use of force, downgrading support for the security of Israel, abandoning constitutional protections for American soldiers in order to adhere to the International Criminal Court, the abolition of the death penalty, and the like. In order to "lead", the United States would voluntarily put itself in harness and embed itself in the network of agreements, treaties, arrangements and new forms of law. As Madeline Albright put it in 1999:

I think that we are in the process of developing different kinds of entities, and that great nations who understand the importance of sovereignty at various times cede certain portions of it in order to achieve some better good for their country.... The way we are all operating as a global community means that we are looking at how the nation-state functions in a totally different way than people did at the beginning of this century and will be doing at the beginning of the next.

In this new system, the United States would become the key actor, the primary engine of a different type of regime, but hemmed in on all sides by constraints to its democratic sovereignty. Gradually, after decades, (or perhaps, as Strobe Talbott predicted in July 1992, sometime near the end of the 21st century), it would cease to be an independent democratic nation, in the sense that it is today. Thus, "America" would become in reality Post-America, the core of a new post-democratic system of global governance. The "international community" would dictate policy on issues such as national defense, the Middle East, and the like, to liberal democratic nation-states. America (having brought about this state of affairs) would have betrayed the great principle of self-government (consent) upon which (along with natural rights) our nation was founded.

What Is To Be Done?

BUT DEMOCRACY can defeat post-democracy. The first step is the recognition and intellectual conceptualization of the post-democratic threat. Forgive me for writing this in one of our nation's premier realist journals, but to get a firm grip on the post-democratic problem we must think ideologically--even more ideologically than the neoconservatives have to date. Ironically, the current neoconservative critique is insufficiently ideological. It offers an incomplete dialectic that abruptly stops after democracy triumphs. Following Hegel (and Kojeve and Fukuyama), the critique roughly posits that the dialectic (and thus serious ideological conflict) is completed with the victory of modern democracy.

Ironically, Mao was more perceptive in recognizing that even after the revolution, the dialectic (that is, history and ideology) continues, and that therefore, "there is always a Right and always a Left" and "things always divide one into two." Today, democracy begets post-democracy. Thus, we must say to our neoconservative friends (paraphrasing the Trotsky-Burnham exchange of the late 1930s), "You may not be interested in post-democracy, but post-democracy is interested in you."

Fortunately, for practical policymakers the conceptual tools needed to grasp the serious nature of the post-democratic threat to American principles and American interests are available. The intellectual spade-work identifying and conceptualizing this challenge has already been accomplished by specialists in international law, including John Bolton, Jeremy Rabkin, David B. Rivkin, Lee A. Casey, Robert Bork, Jack Goldsmith, John Yoo, Stephen Krasner, Curtis Bradley, Jed Rubenfeld and Kenneth Anderson. Policymakers need to read, absorb and build upon their work, some of which has appeared in the pages of this magazine.6

The United States should be prepared to champion not simply generalized notions of building democratic institutions and promoting "human rights" and "democratic values" that are susceptible to post-democratic manipulation, but the principle of democratic sovereignty within the institution of the liberal democratic nation-state. Hence, the concept of democratic sovereignty as a core American value should be officially incorporated into the National Security Strategy of the United States and promoted by the State Department, the National Security Council and the other institutions of the President's foreign policy apparatus.

Post-democratic challenges to American democratic sovereignty should be clearly identified and resisted. NGOs that consistently act as if they are strategic opponents of the democratic sovereignty of the American nation should be treated as such. They should not be recognized or supported at international conferences, not permitted to roam battlefields, and not given special briefings or access to U.S. government officials.

In particular, these NGOs should not be given the legitimacy and credibility that comes from a certain status as quasi-allies of American democracy in human rights arguments in non-democratic and developing countries. Most importantly, the post-democratic NGOs and their allies in the self-designated "international human rights movement" actually harm the cause of genuine human rights. They claim to speak for "humanity", as other utopian elites once claimed to speak for the "workers" or the "people." Yet like previous utopian elites they speak for a particular ideological movement. They purport to support the "rule of law." Yet they denigrate the "rule of law" as it is actually practiced in functioning liberal democracies, while constantly reinventing new utopian versions of "law." At the same time, this so-called "law" (really ideological politics or agitprop by other means) is--at the particular moment that it is evoked--touted as absolute bedrock human rights law. The astute Kenneth Anderson has labeled this phenomenon "serial absolutism." Thus, what is absolute human rights law today, was not human rights law in 1994 and will be different again in 2014. Apparently, "absolute" human rights law is, from decade to decade, or day to day, whatever "human rights" activists tell us it is.

As the United States expands its initiatives to foster democracy abroad these post-democratic NGOs and "human rights activism" should not be given federal funds and grants to promote what they will surely claim is "democracy building", but is, in realty, their own narrow ideological agenda. This issue has direct practical consequences since President Bush has called for a major effort and increased funds to promote democracy and democratic institutions. It is crucial that this initiative and these funds are not co-opted and captured by post-democrats.

For the most part, European support for American policies comes from countries acting as nation-states (for example Britain, Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal or Denmark), in opposition to the policy of the European Union. If a "common European foreign and defense policy" had existed, it would not have supported U.S. action in Iraq. Prudence and principle dictate that U.S. policy tilt toward the democratic nation-states of Europe and away from any further encouragement of the political (as opposed to the economic) integration of the European Union.

At the same time, the principle of democratic sovereignty means that the United States should not gratuitously oppose the domestic policy of democratic nation-states. For example, the recently announced French secular education policies (banning head scarves and overt religious symbols in schools) may not be consistent with our notions of religious pluralism, but they are consistent with French democratic and national traditions, and are being implemented within the context of the democratic nation-state. Our State Department should have remained silent on this issue, just as the French government should mind its own business on the U.S. death penalty.

Likewise, friends of democracy on both the Right and Left should be cheered by Sweden's "No" vote on the Euro, which concerned democratic politics, much more than economics. The "No" vote appears to have been a revolt of the Swedish people against their elites in order to protect their democratic right to maintain the Swedish social welfare state (Folkhemmet). We may not favor their policy preferences, but the Swedish vote constituted a victory for "government by consent of the governed."

The National Security Strategy rightly promotes flee trade as an important foreign policy tool of the United States. It is important that both the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) remain instruments to liberalize trade among nations and not expand into areas properly left to democratic decision-making. As the American Enterprise Institute's Claude Barfield has warned, the WTO needs to ensure that its judicial bodies do not indulge in "legislating new rights and obligations through judicial interpretation" that weaken democratic sovereignty. He has also recommended measures to "rein in" the WTO's judges.

Affirming Democracy

IN THE END, an affirmation of democratic sovereignty should stand on principle and morality, as well as interests. Democratic sovereignty is consistent with the morality and universal values of the American Founding. It is consistent with the idea of "government by consent of the governed" in which that government is limited by a constitution, which is the ultimate source of democratic legitimacy. Surrendering, or "ceding", or "pooling" democratic sovereignty beyond the authority of the Constitution and the American people would be government without the consent of the people and would be inconsistent with our democratic morality.

There is nothing particularly "universal" about the agenda of much of what passes for the "international community." On the contrary, their agenda (on group rights, new definitions of "human rights", limiting democratic sovereignty, abolishing the death penalty, and so on) is, for the most part, simply the views of "progressive" transnational elites. These are very rarely the views of democratic majorities in democratic nations. Opinion polls suggest that the elites would have considerable difficulty in winning majority support for their position on the death penalty in countries such as Britain, Italy, France and Sweden.

This is not to imply that raw majoritarianism within a nation-state is the ultimate moral position. But it is to suggest that the interpretation of what constitutes universal values should not be decided solely by international elites. It is also to suggest that the definition of "human rights" is too important to be left to human rights activists, just as the interpretation of "international law" is too important to be left to international lawyers. Finally, democratic procedures within democratic nation-states are a more effective, more comprehensive, and above all, more just way of deciding what are universal human values.

The next great ideological struggle for democracy will be against post-democracy. But democrats must recognize that they will be engaged in a two-front war. For even as they struggle violently against the anti-democrats of militant Islam, they will, at the same time, also have to fight peacefully, but fight nonetheless (through intellectual arguments and politics at home and abroad) against the post-democrats of the West. This situation of a "two-front ideological conflict" is similar to the Cold War, in which serious anti-communists not only fought against the communists, but, at the same time, had to engage in an ideological struggle with powerful anti-anticommunist elements among Western progressives, who considered their main adversaries Western anti-communist democrats, not the communists them selves, whom the progressive Left chose mostly to ignore.

For better or worse, the conflict between democracy and post-democracy will be, in large part, decided by Americans. In Clausewitzian terms, American opinion (elite and popular), is the "center of gravity", the crucial point on which all hinges, in the battle between democrats and post-democrats. American foreign policy should stand forthrightly for the principle of democratic sovereignty within the liberal democratic nation-state. As Abraham Lincoln knew, democracy's destiny and America's destiny are intimately inter-twined. And we have been there before. As George Washington reminded us,

the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

1 For an examination of transnational progressivism see Fonte, "Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism: The Ideological War Within the West", Orbis (Summer 2002), pp. 449-67.

2 Rivkin and Casey also declare that, "the new international law is profoundly undemocratic at its core" and a "real and immediate threat to U.S. national interests." They write, "First, as a philosophical matter", the new international law is an "attack on the principle of sovereignty", thus it "threatens the very foundation of American democracy." They state that if current trends "are allowed to mature into binding rules, international law may prove to be one of the most potent weapons ever deployed against the United States."

3 For example, they have charged that: The American nation-state is guilty of "a persistent pattern of human rights violations" domestically (M-USA); American courts are involved in "calculated killings" and "cruel thousands of American workers "cannot exercise a basic human right: freedom of association" (HRW).

4 The NGOs that signed the letter included: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International-USA, the Arab-American Institute, National Council of Churches, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Human Rights Law Group, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

5 "[W]e must beware the pretense of democracy when, in truth, the voice of the people does not reach decision-makers in any regular and constitutional way." Ralf Dahrendorf, "Can European Democracy Survive Globalization?" The National Interest (Fall 2001), pp. 17-22.

6 For example, Rabkin, "International Law vs. the American Constitution: Something's Got to Give", The National Interest (Spring 1999), pp. 30-41, and Rivkin and Casey, "The Rocky Shoals of International Law", The National Interest (Winter 2000/01) pp. 35-45.

John Fonte is director of the Center for American Common Culture and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.

Essay Types: Essay