From the June 18, 2008 Family Security Matters
June 18, 2008
by John Fonte
While the governing center-Left has internalized global governance and is prepared to promote it, in some form at least, the governing center-right has for the most part failed to engage on the issue (with some exceptions that will be discussed later). The main problem for the governing center-Right could be described as one of underdeveloped conceptualization. There are a number of obstacles standing in the way of clear and comprehensive thinking on the challenge of transnational progressivism. I will list five.
(1) The Fukuyama Paradigm. The first obstacle is that the governing center-right has internalized the core elements of the Fukuyama paradigm. In the main, the bulk of the center-right would agree with Fukuyama that the core principles of liberal democracy face no serious rival with a universal appeal in the world today. To be sure, the rival ideologies that the center-right considers rival ideologies - radical Islam, Chinese nationalism, Russian nationalism, and "Asian values" - do not, unlike Marxism, have wide appeal for Western intellectuals. But as argued in this essay the institutions of global governance and the ideology of transnational progressivism: (1) constitute a root-and-branch challenge to both the principles of traditional liberalism and to majority-rule democracy within the liberal democratic nation-state; and (2) possess universal appeal and a critical mass of widespread support among Western intellectuals.
(2) Viewing radical Islam as the sole overarching threat. Unlike large chunks of the Western left who speak only in terms of generic "terrorism," "extremism," or "violence," the American center-right, to its credit, has identified radical Islam as major threat to liberal democracy. Radical Islamists are capable of inflicting tremendous damage, but it would be a mistake to focus solely on the struggle against the radical Islamists because they are not the only "transcendent" threat facing American constitutional democracy in the 21st century.
First, as the century progresses, the indirect, "soft," non-violent (but coercive) challenge from transnational progressivism (that has great appeal within the West) should prove to be as great a threat (if not, ultimately, a greater threat than radical Islam) to the continuing existence of the independent liberal democratic nation-state in general and to American constitutionalism in particular. Second, the transnational progressives constitute a major obstacle in the conflict with radical Islam by refusing to acknowledge both the seriousness and the ideological nature of this conflict.
The center-Right and anti-radical Islamists in general will have to fight on two ideological fronts. They will have to wage major ideological (and increasingly, as Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, lawfare) battles with both the radical Islamists and a significant contingent of Western anti-anti-radical Islamists (the John Espositos, the Juan Coles, the ACLUs, Amnesty Internationals, etc.), who are essentially transnational progressives. This state of affairs parallels the Cold War era, when anti-communists had to fight an ideological civil war within the West against the anti-anti-communists as well as against the communists themselves. Thus, the conflict with radical Islam is intertwined with and cannot be separated from the challenge of transnational progressivism.
(3) The Kagan narrative. In his new book The Return of History and the End of Dreams and in a long New Republic article ("The End of the End of History") Robert Kagan alters the core Fukuyama narrative by arguing that "autocracy" has been revived (both in theory and practice) during the past decade in China and Russia. What this means according to Kagan is that the more than two-hundred-year-old conflict between liberal democracy and autocracy has been renewed and will become the main event of the 21st century. The conflict with radical Islam, while extremely dangerous, is secondary to the emerging struggle with the "great autocratic powers" of China and Russia, who are (among other things) enablers of the Iranian regime and other Islamic radicals.
Kagan tells us that the conflict between democracy and autocracy started during late eighteenthcentury; was inspired by the Enlightenment world view that promoted an emerging liberal world order; and involved the young American republic from the beginning firmly on the liberal side. While containing some truth, this is essentially an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of history and contemporary world politics. While Kagan presents a more or less monolithic Enlightenment promoting progress, Gertrude Himmelfarb and others have noted differences between the Anglo-American and French Enlightenments that have led to very different revolutions and political regimes.
In a previous book (Of Paradise and Power) Kagan declared: "Americans, as good children of the Enlightenment, still believe in the perfectibility of man, and they retain hope for the perfectibility of the world." Of course, the American Founders did not believe in the "perfectibility of man" and created a constitutional republic of checks and balances that recognized a flawed human nature. During the early republic the American governing center-right (Washington, Adams, Hamilton) opposed the utopian wing of the Enlightenment and its offspring the French Revolution both in principle (Adams debated Condorcet) and practice (quasi-war with the French republic).
The ideological geopolitical struggle was tripolar, with American constitutional democrats in conflict with both radical utopians and autocrats (including Islamists from the Barbary Coast), rather than simply bipolar as presented by Kagan. Today, too, Kagan's bipolar conceptualization (liberal democracy vs. autocracy) is inadequate because liberal democracy again faces a tripartite challenge (from both anti-democratic autocracy and post-democratic transnationalism). In one sense transnational progressivism - with its utopianism, transformative view of human nature, substantive equality, and militant secularism - is the heir to the radical wing of the Enlightenment, while the liberal democratic nation-state is the progeny of its moderate wing. As noted earlier in this essay transnational progressivism represents the de-liberalization of the West (it is a post-liberal project) and therefore Kagan's view of a unified liberal West in conflict with autocracy is a very thin reed on which to build a conceptual model of global ideological politics.
(4) Corporate elite and libertarian ambiguity. Another obstacle to clear thinking on global governance is that elements of the broader center-Right coalition, specifically many corporate leaders and some libertarians, are ambivalent about the nation-state and transnationalism. Many American business leaders have internalized the core global governance arguments. They take great pains to tell us that American brand-name businesses are not "American." Jeff Seabright, vice president of Coca Cola, emphatically stated: "We are not an American company." A leading Colgate-Palmolive executive declared, "There is no mindset that puts this country (the USA) first."
Samuel Huntington describes these American business leaders as "economic transnationals" who identify more with their colleagues among the global elites than with their fellow citizens. In 2003 the annual World Economic Forum in Davos launched its Global Governance Initiative (GGI). A team of forty experts is the core of the project. They are almost all left-of-center globalists like Strobe Talbott, Mary Robinson (who organized the UN Durban conference), John Ruggie (Kofi Annan's former deputy), Tim Wirth (President of UN Foundation), and the Canadian Maurice Strong (organizer of UN Rio Earth Summit, the precursor to the Kyoto Treaty). The American business leaders who have internalized the global governance project are not, of course, ideologues, but they could be described as "transnational pragmatists" and as essentially "post-Americans."
For some (clearly not all) libertarians opposition to the "state," even the constitutional democratic nation-state leads to an affinity to transnational (as opposed to international) politics. Indeed, on Cato's website, adjunct scholar Arnold Kling (formerly senior economist at Freddie Mac and staff economist at the Federal Reserve) "proposes" an "alternative ideology" that "might be called transnational libertarianism." Ideally, in this regime, Kling declares, "governments would be local rather than national." Closer to the political mainstream is Cato's congressional handbook, which declares that, "the right to trade is a fundamental human right" and "protectionism violates human rights. It is an act of plunder that deprives individuals of their autonomy." Protectionism is usually bad policy, but to describe it as a "violation of human rights," redefines (and thus fundamentallydilutes) the concept of human rights in much the same way that transnational progressivism does.
On China, Cato insists that "trade policy should be de-coupled from [political] human rights"; all sanctions such as Jackson-Vanik should be repealed; and that nation should be afforded "unconditional" MFN (most favored nation) trading status. Even closer to the political mainstream and at the core of the governing center-right was the persona of the late editor of Wall Street Journal, Robert Bartley, who is reported to have told a Forbes journalist, "the nation-state is finished."
(5) Ellis Island Nostalgia and the failure to embrace the essentials of the Huntington critique of de-nationalized elites. Large-scale immigration to the United States in the 21st century is occurring under entirely different circumstances than existed during the last great wave of immigration at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, besides the technological (inexpensive travel, instant communications), geographic (many immigrants coming from a single contiguous country), and linguistic (predominance of Spanish as opposed to many tongues) differences, the ideological landscape among the American elite has been totally altered. One hundred years ago elites unapologetically promoted "Americanization."
Today an anti-assimilation ideology and infrastructure is in place, including the following: multilingual ballots; bilingual education that includes using Mexican textbooks and importing Mexican teachers to instruct American children of Mexican descent in US history in Spanish; Executive Order 13166 that requires official multilingualism in all institutions receiving federal funds; transnational citizenship or dual allegiance with naturalized Americans violating their oath of allegiance by voting and running for office in their birth nations; and the promotion of multiculturalism over American unity in public schools. Not surprisingly, the strongest indicator of assimilation, intermarriage between immigrants and native-born and among ethnic groups, has declined for the first time since the 1970s. At the same time, among newly naturalized citizens self-identification as "Americans" is lower than self-identification with their birth nation. In short, the situation is not Ellis Island revisited no matter how much some conservatives tell us it is.
Let us examine how integration works "on the ground" in Illinois. In that state, "immigrant integration" is administered by Jose Luis Gutierrez, the head of the Office of New Americans. Mr. Gutierrez is a political appointee of Governor Blagojevich. His concept of integration is different from that of, say, Theodore Roosevelt; it is the ampersand and diaspora rather than the hyphen and the melting pot.
Gutierrez told the Chicago Tribune in April 2007 that, "The nation-state concept is changing. You don't have say, I am Mexican or I am American. You can be a good Mexican citizen and a good American citizen and not have that be a conflict of interest. Sovereignty is flexible." Further, Gutierrez stated that he and others like him form a "third nation" that "transcends the border and is built on a new political consciousness." Gutierrez is a dual citizen and clearly a proponent of the ampersand model. He organizes the involvement of Mexican immigrants including American citizens in Mexican politics. His political loyalty is clearly as much to the Mexican regime as much as the American regime. Mr. Gutierrez and the ampersand could very well be the face of the future.
In Who Are We: Challenges to American National Identity, Samuel Huntington argues that issues such as transnationalism, globalism, dual citizenship, "racial preferences, bilingualism, multiculturalism, immigration, assimilation, national history standards, English as the official language, Eurocentrism," and so on, are "all battles in a single war over the nature of American national identity." Huntington's core point is that "de-nationalized elites" are promoting the "transnational" and the "multicultural" in order to "deconstruct" America's creed and common culture.
Huntington did not use the term, but these controversies are (in James Ceaser's formulation) "regime issues." What is being contested is the nature of America's liberal democratic regime as it has been traditionally understood. Will this regime be perpetuated and transmitted to future generations or will it be transformed into a new type of transnational-multicultural-post-sovereign regime? Huntington's Who Are We is a tour de force that cuts to the heart of this question. Needless to say, Huntington was hysterically attacked by nervous "de-nationalized elites" on the left, who don't want these issues discussed openly.
However, even on the center-right, Huntington's core argument seems to have gotten lost in Harry Jaffa-style sectarian in-fighting over the extent to which America is a "proposition" nation and the persistence or disappearance of an "Anglo-Protestant culture." But, surely, it is possible to disagree with Huntington (which, to an extent, I do) on the creed vs. culture aspect of American nationhood; the degree to which American culture is still formed by the "dissenting Anglo-Protestant" tradition; and on the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, but still, at the same time, recognize the accuracy of his description of the comprehensive assault on our national identity by "de-nationalized" elites.
As a consequence of the center-right's failure to embrace the essentials of the Huntington critique, conservatives have continued to see a series of often unconnected "social" or "cultural" issues (racial preferences, politically correct history education, immigration without assimilation, NGOs at the UN Durban conference) or the rantings of academic post-modernists instead of a serious comprehensive ideological offensive directed at the traditional American regime. Thus, when state government officials in Illinois emphatically endorse transnational and "ampersand" citizenship, the center-right does not respond with principled arguments, but with silence or simply dismissive derision. And, as noted earlier, some conservatives, like the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, apparently are not troubled by ampersand citizenship. Ironically, a major problem with last year's "comprehensive immigration reform" bill was that it was not "comprehensive" enough and did not dismantle (or even discuss cutting back on) the anti-assimilation infrastructure that has accumulated for decades.
The good news. Two positive developments could be cited against the backdrop of the advance of transnational progressivism: (1) the American people remain strongly attached to our national identity and democratic nation-state, and (2) there are signs that some counter-elites on the center-right are starting to take the global governance challenge seriously.
In a review attacking Huntington's Who Are We in The New Yorker, Louis Menard wrote, "By nearly every statistical measure, and by common consent, Americans are the most patriotic people in the world." Menard pointed to polls conducted from 1989 through 2004 and cited that around 96% of the respondents were "proud" to be Americans. A recent survey by a major polling company found similar results, with 94% "proud" to be an American.
Moreover, on issues of transnationalism, Americans come down firmly on the side of affirming national sovereignty, the patriotic assimilation of immigrants, and meeting the threat of radical Islam. No less than 83% think of themselves primarily as American citizens, not "global citizens" (12%). Two-thirds (66%) believe the Constitution should be the "highest legal authority" for Americans if there is a dispute with international law (16% chose international law). Fully 60% believe it is a "bad thing" that some American companies consider themselves "global" with no particular attachment to the USA. Some 90% favored the "Americanization" of immigrants defined as "learning English and embracing American culture and values." Nearly three quarters, 73%, believe that naturalized citizens should "give up all loyalty" to their former homelands. And an overwhelming 86% believe that potential immigrants who favor replacing the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law should not be allowed to immigrate to the United States.
In April of 2008 the Federalist Society and the American Enterprise Institute launched the new website, GlobalGovernance Watch, with former UN Ambassador John Bolton giving the keynote address at an inauguralluncheon. Eight years ago, Bolton had organized the AEI conference, "Should We Take Global Governance Seriously." Bolton, of course, considers this challenge serious, and in the past few years a group of thinkers (dubbed the "New Sovereignists" by law professor Peter Spiro) have emerged who are defending the principle of liberal democratic sovereignty within the nation-state.
Besides John Bolton these analysts include, among others, Robert Bork, Jeremy Rabkin, David Rivkin, Lee Casey, Jack Goldsmith, Stephen Krasner, Curtis Bradley, Andrew McCarthy, Herbert London, John O'Sullivan, Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, James Kelly, David Horowitz, William Hawkins, Kenneth Anderson (formerly director of Human Rights Watch Arms Division), and liberal Yale Law professor and Bush Administration critic Jed Rubenfeld. At the same time, a new book published by the Manhattan Institute, The Immigration Solution authored by Heather MacDonald, Victor Davis Hanson, and Steven Malanga, takes a strong national sovereignty-assimilationist position and assails the diaspora-ampersand model on the issue of mass immigration.
John Fonte is a Senior Fellow and Director of Hudson's Center for American Common Culture.
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