Sovereignty can’t be taken for granted

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - FRANK J. GAFFNEY JR.

Alikely up­shot of Pres­i­dent Bush’s meet­ings last week with his Cana­dian and Mex­i­can coun­ter­parts in Mon­te­bello, Canada, will be a fur­ther im­pe­tus to the ef­fort to en­gage in what is eu­phemisti­cally called the “har­mo­niza­tion” of the three coun­tries’ economies, reg­u­la­tory sys­tems and poli­cies. The ef­fect will be to con­trib­ute to what is on track to be­come one of the most wor­ry­ing lega­cies of Ge­orge W. Bush’s pres­i­dency: a sig­nif­i­cant, and pos­si­bly ir­re­versible, ero­sion in the na­tion’s sovereignty.

Sovereignty is an ab­strac­tion to which few Amer­i­cans give much thought. We take it for granted, like the air we breathe or the wa­ter we drink. Yet, the essence of the most suc­cess­ful po­lit­i­cal ex­per­i­ment in his­tory — the United States of Amer­ica — is the sov­er­eign power en­trusted by the peo­ple via our Con­sti­tu­tion to our elected, ac­count­able rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Un­for­tu­nately, such sovereignty is en­dan­gered by those who be­lieve the world of na­tion-states is too dis­or­derly for ef­fi­cient global com­merce and the peace­able res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes. Call them the Transna­tional Pro­gres­sives (con­ser­va­tive wit John O’Sul­li­van coined an ab­bre­vi­a­tion he in­sists must be spelled Tranzies). They pre­fer supra­na­tional ar­range­ments like the Euro­pean Union, run by wholly un­ac­count­able bu­reau­crats.

The trou­ble for the Tranzies is that a lot of folks who value their free­doms — no­tably, the Amer­i­can peo­ple and many who rep­re­sent them in Congress — gen­er­ally don’t fancy such ar­range­ments. They see them for what they are: big gov­ern­ment on steroids, un­wieldy, unchecked and un­re­spon­sive to the will of the ruled.

So it is nec­es­sary for the Tranzies to re­sort to ex­tra­or­di­nary means to sup­plant na­tional gov­ern­ments. The Euro­pean Union’s ar­chi­tects have ac­knowl­edged pri­vately they could never have pulled it off if the publics of the Con­ti­nent’s var­i­ous na­tions un­der­stood what was afoot.

To­day, we know a sim­i­lar ef­fort is at work be­hind the Se­cu­rity and Pros­per­ity Part­ner­ship (SPP) on the agenda at the Mon­te­bello Sum­mit. In fact, thanks to Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests doggedly pur­sued by Ju­di­cial Watch, we know there are some two-dozen tri­lat­eral “work­ing groups” whit­tling away our sovereignty — er, “har­mo­niz­ing” our rules and reg­u­la­tions on im­mi­gra­tion, the en­vi­ron­ment and health care with those of Mex­ico and Canada. This ef­fort, as one of the SPP’s ad­mir­ers has put it, in­volves the na­tion­state’s “ero­sion by stealth.”

The way this is be­ing done in the U.S. is by hav­ing the work­ing groups op­er­ate se­cre­tively, with es­sen­tially no trans­parency or ac­count­abil­ity to Congress, the me­dia or the pub­lic.

In fact, even some pro­po­nents of the SPP and the North Amer­i­can Union (NAU) it ul­ti­mately seeks to in­sti­tute, Greg An­der­son of the Univer­sity of Al­berta and Christo­pher Sands of the Hud­son In­sti­tute are be­gin­ning to worry about an approach they de­scribe as “es­chew­ing the more tra­di­tional diplo­matic and trade ne­go­ti­a­tion mod­els in fa­vor of talks among civil ser­vice pro­fes­sion­als and sub­ject mat­ter ex­perts within each gov­ern­ment [. . .] [which] places the ne­go­ti­a­tion fully within the author­ity of the ex­ec­u­tive branch in the United States.”

They went on in a pa­per pre­pared for a re­cent Hud­son event to de­clare “the [SPP ne­go­ti­at­ing] process must be made more trans­par­ent to an­swer le­git­i­mate cit­i­zen con­cerns about po­ten­tial out­comes [. . .] The de­sign of the SPP is flawed by the ex­clu­sion of Congress from the process.”

At the same time the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion is com­plicit in stealthy ne­go­ti­a­tions erod­ing U.S. sovereignty in our hemi­sphere, it is re­spond­ing to ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior by oth­ers in ways that seem sure to en­cour­age still more such ero­sions — if not vast new threats to our se­cu­rity.

For ex­am­ple, Rus­sia’s KGB thug­turned-pres­i­dent, Vladimir Putin, has an­nounced his coun­try would re­sume its Cold War prac­tice of send­ing nu­clear-ca­pa­ble, long-range air­craft on for­ays into or near the airspace of var­i­ous Free World na­tions, in­clud­ing ours. Ac­cord­ing to the New York Times, dur­ing such a mis­sion in July near U.S. bases on Guam, the Pen­tagon says it did not even bother scram­bling fight­ers to in­ter­cept the Rus­sian bombers.

A White House spokesman pooh­poohed this omi­nous be­hav­ior, say­ing “Mil­i­taries around the world en­gage in a variety of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties” and that “it is not en­tirely sur­pris­ing” that the Rus­sians would en­gage in this one.

Mean­while, The Wash­ing­ton Times’ Bill Gertz re­ports the Chi­nese mil­i­tary re­cently pro­posed that the Pa­cific be di­vided into spheres of in­flu­ence. Pre­sum­ably, what the PRC has in mind is get­ting the part that in­cludes Korea, Ja­pan, Tai­wan, South­east Asia and the Philip­pines and ac­ced­ing (for the mo­ment at least) to the United States hav­ing Hawaii. While a se­nior Amer­i­can gen­eral scoffed at the idea, Mr. Gertz says: “Some pro-China of­fi­cials in the U.S. gov­ern­ment [. . .] are said to fa­vor the Chi­nese pro­posal.”

Then, there is the Tranzies’ de­fec­tive Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes to get it rat­i­fied this fall with help from sen­a­tors will­ing to join in en­trust­ing 70 per­cent of the world’s sur­face — its oceans and in­ter­na­tional seabeds — to supra­na­tional agen­cies and tri­bunals. Think this can’t im­pinge upon our sovereignty? In fact, LOST lends it­self to myr­iad ero­sions of U.S. sov­er­eign con­duct via the treaty’s pro­vi­sions with sweep­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal, tax, busi­ness-re­lated and mil­i­tary im­pli­ca­tions.

The 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is an op­por­tune mo­ment for a na­tional de­bate about safe­guard­ing Amer­ica’s sovereignty. The ques­tion is: Will there be much of it left to safe­guard 14 months from now?

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Se­cu­rity Pol­icy and a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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