Sunday, March 1, 2009

American People to Obama Administration: Do NOT Surrender....To Global Governance!!

The following blog entry features an article authored by John Bolton, former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and former Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, which counters a recent report prepared by the Brookings Institution, Washington, DC. In addition, there are two reviews of a book authored by Strobe Talbott, former Deputy Secretary of State, former Ambassador-at-Large and Special Adviser to the Secretary of State on the New Independent States (NIS), and current President of the Brookings Institution. And, there is also a Washington Post article reviewing the works of both Messrs. Bolton and Talbott.

The essence of the disagreement between these two authors follows from the different notions of sovereignty each is promoting: Bolton - 'shared sovereignty'; Talbott - 'responsible sovereignty'. Arguably, Bolton's vision of sovereignty would permit the U.S. to retain a great deal more of its national sovereignty, than would Talbott's. Indeed, Bolton believes that were the US to adopt Talbott's vision of sovereignty, US national sovereignty would be irreversibly surrendered.

To better understand what a 'surrender' of US national sovereignty would entail emotionally, it is helpful to review the lyrics to Classic Rocker Tom Petty's popular song 'Surrender':

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Surrender (1977)

Don't talk crazy now
Take it easy
You just can't hold out forever
Don't you lie to me
You said you loved me
Don't say you don't remember
'Cause you told me
Yeah, you did
And I'm not gonna let you forget
Well, I'm down on my knees
And I'm begging again
You tell me why that you have to pretend
I know you want me
Why don't you give in?


Don't let me down now
I just can't hang around
Feeling this way forever
On your balcony
You said you loved me
Don't say you don't remember
'Cause you told me
Yeah, you did
And I'm not gonna let you forget
Well, I'm down on my knees
And I'm begging again
You tell me why that you have to pretend
I don't like the way you're looking at him

Surrender... to me
Baby, Surrender


Surrender... to me
Baby, Surrender


It is essential to understand the major premise underlying The Brookings Institution report and the Talbott book. They each emphasize the moral and ethical imperative to pursue supranational global governance for the sake of achieving a perpetual global peace. Unfortunately, this requires the surrender of national sovereignty by all independent States. In large part, the foundations for this pursuit are grounded in the writings of German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

It is arguable that EU multilateral initiatives rooted in the United Nations, contain several elements of Kant’s philosophy of international relations. First and foremost, are EU efforts to bolster the image of the United Nations as the only universally legitimate institution through which individual countries can work collectively for the good of the global community on matters ranging from the environment to finance to healthcare to security. Similarly, EU efforts to establish General Assembly declarations, resolutions and draft norms on matters of the environment, health and corporate accountability to society as ‘soft’ norms of international law can arguably be traced to Kant’s theories. Likewise, continuing EU efforts to execute and interpret international conventions as enforceable obligations of the global community can also arguably be traced, in part, to this philosophy, which may be viewed as a possible framework for EU and UN notions of regional and supranational global governance.

For example, in his treatise on Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, Kant “advocates a federation of free States, bound together by a covenant forbidding war. Reason he says, utterly condemns war, which only an international government can prevent.” [See Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, Simon and Schuster © 1945, 1972, at p. 712.] During the post-war [post-WWII] years, Kant’s theory seems to have prevailed in Europe over that advanced by Hegel. This may explain why the newly created EU institutions continually seek to persuade the European public in the areas of health and safety, the environment, finance, trade, etc. that they exist for the good of all Europe’s diverse citizens, rather than for the sake of any one nation's citizens or for the sake of the supranational institutions themselves.

This conscious effort may, perhaps, be rooted in a wholesale rejection of Hegel’s political philosophy. That philosophy glorifies the State as “the reality of the moral idea” or as “the rational in and of itself”. It also defines duty as “…solely a relation of the individual to his State…The duty of a citizen is entirely confined (so far as the external relations of his State are concerned) to upholding the substantial individuality and independence and sovereignty of his own State.” This philosophy also claimed that, “The purpose of the State is not merely to uphold the life and property of the citizens, and this fact provides the moral justification of war.” And it also “opposed…the creation of institutions – such as a world government – which would prevent such situations from arising, because he thinks it a good thing that there should be wars from time to time.” [Ibid., at pp. 740-741, 744.]

"In this writing of Kant, he argues in favor of civil constitutions with Republican forms of government, world citizenship, free states, the abolishment of standing armies and for states not being able to use force to interfere with the constitutions or governments of another given state." [See: Summary of Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, 1795, BordersOnline (June 20, 2008) at: ].

Considering these diametrically opposed philosophies and the different consequences that would have followed had the Hegelian model survived, it may, therefore, be argued that the forty-year drive to create a united Europe organized around purely European institutions has indeed been a significantly successful and profound undertaking. “[I]n disposing of [the] trappings of national sovereignty, Europe is putting aside something else: its long history of nationalism, bitter rivalries and ideological divisions, and war.” [See Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, The Commanding Heights – The Battle for the World Economy, Touchstone Publishers © 1998, 2002, at pp. 336-337.]

Also, instructive are Kant's views on morality, specifically, as they relate to Europe's quest to achieve global sustainable development (e.g., climate change) objectives.

The EU has focused obsessively on sustainable development as an absolute moral duty (viewing it as an end in itself) and on the precautionary principle (as a means to that end) may, in part, be traced back to the system of morals/ ethics developed by Immanuel Kant. Arguably, a number of European conceptual rights and obligations have evolved from this notion of morality. They include: a) the obligation to treat all stakeholders equally (e.g., individuals and corporations); b) the absolute right of citizens to know through product labeling the ingredients of and processes by which products are made, when potential harms are believed to be posed by certain process and production methods; c) the right of all citizen stakeholders to participate in the Commission’s environmental policy formulation process and to be informed about planned company activities affecting the environment (as required by the Aarhus Convention[i]); and d) the pursuit of social and environmental justice for the good of the European Community and of the world (through internalization of environmental costs and implementation of the polluters pay principle), as a universal categorical imperative.


[i] See: “Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters”, done at Aarhus, Denmark on 25 June 1998. Its objective reads as follows: “In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.”

According to Kant, as set forth in his famous treatise, The Metaphysic of Morals, “Moral worth exists only when a man acts out of a sense of duty; it is not enough that the act should be such as duty might have prescribed…The essence of morality is to be derived from the concept of law; for, though everything in nature acts according to laws, only a rational being has the power of acting according to the idea of a law, i.e., by Will. The idea of an objective principle, in so far as it is compelling to the will, is called a command of the reason, and the formula of the command is called an imperative."

"There are two sorts of imperative: the hypothetical imperative, which says ‘You must do so-and-so if you wish to achieve such-and-such an end’; and the categorical imperative, which says that a certain kind of action is objectively necessary, without regard to any end’…"

"[T]he categorical imperative is a single one…‘Act only according to a maxim by which you can at the same time will that it shall become a general law.’ Or: ‘Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a general natural law’.

…Kant…states…that virtue does not depend upon the intended result of an action, but only on the principle of which it is itself a result…Kant maintains…that we ought to act as to treat every man as an end in himself. This may be regarded as an abstract form of the doctrine of the rights of man…If taken seriously, it would make it impossible to reach a decision whenever two people’s interests conflict. The difficulties are particularly obvious in political philosophy, which requires some principle, such as preference for the majority, by which the interests of some can, when necessary, be sacrificed to those of others. If there is to be any ethic of government, the end of government must be one, and the only single end compatible with justice is the good of the community. It is possible, however, to interpret Kant’s principle as meaning, not that each man is an absolute end, but that all men should count equally in determining actions by which many are affected. So interpreted, the principle may be regarded as giving an ethical basis for democracy…” [See Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, supra, at pp. 710-712.]


“For Kant perpetual peace is not an ideal, not merely as a speculative Utopian idea, but as a moral principle, which ought to be, and therefore can be, realised. Yet he makes it perfectly clear that we cannot hope to approach the realisation of it unless we honestly face political facts and get a firm grasp of the indispensable conditions of a last peace.

To strive after the ideal in contempt or in ignorance of these conditions is a labour that must inevitably be either fruitless or destructive of its own ends. Thus Kant demonstrates the hopelessness of any attempt to secure perpetual peace between independent nations. Such nations may make treaties; but these are binding only for so long as it is not to the interest of either party to denounce them. To enforce them is impossible while the nations remain independent.

‘There is…only one way in which war between independent nations can be prevented; and that is by the nations ceasing to be independent’.

But this does not necessarily mean the establishment of a despotism, whether autocratic or democratic. On the other hand, Kant maintains that just as peace between individuals within a state can only be permanently secured by the institution of a ‘republican’ (that is to say, a representative) government, so the only real guarantee of a permanent peace between nations is the establishment of a federation of free ‘republican’ states. ‘For if Fortune ordains that a powerful and enlightened people should form a republic – which by its very nature is inclined to perpetual peace – this would serve as a centre of federal union for other states to join, and thus secure conditions of freedom among the states in accordance with the idea of the law of nations. Gradually, through different unions of this kind, the federation would extend further and further’.

…According to Kant, pure reason has two aspects, theoretical and practical…The fundamental imperative of the practical reason is…

‘Act so that thou canst will that thy maxim should be a universal law, be the end of thy action what it will”.

If the end of perpetual peace is a duty, it must be necessarily deduced from this general law. And Kant does regard it as a duty. ‘We must desire perpetual peace not only as a material good, but also as a state of things resulting from our recognition of the precepts of duty’. This is further expressed in the maxim:

'Seek ye first the kingdom of pure practical reason and its righteousness, and the object of your endeavor, the blessing of perpetual peace, will be added unto you.’

…[S]ince the idea of perpetual peace is a moral idea, an ‘idea of duty’, we are entitled to believe that it is practicable.

‘Nature guarantees the coming of perpetual peace, through the natural course of human propensities; not indeed with sufficient certainty to enable us to prophesy the future of this ideal theoretically, but yet clearly enough for practical purposes’.

[See Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, 1795, By Immanuel Kant, Translated by Mary Campbell Smith (Publ. S. Sonnenschein & Co. © 1903), at Preface pp. vi-xi, at: ].


FIRST DEFINITIVE ARTICLE FOR PERPETUAL PEACE - "The Civil Constitution of Every State Should Be Republican"

SECOND DEFINITIVE ARTICLE FOR A PERPETUAL PEACE - "The Law of Nations Shall be Founded on a Federation of Free States"

THIRD DEFINITIVE ARTICLE FOR A PERPETUAL PEACE - "The Law of World Citizenship Shall Be Limited to Conditions of Universal Hospitality"

[See Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch by Immanuel Kant 1795]


The Coming War on Sovereignty

By John Bolton

Commentary Magazine Article Preview

March 2009

Barack Obama’s nascent presidency has brought forth the customary flood of policy proposals from the great and good, all hoping to influence his administration. One noteworthy offering is a short report with a distinguished provenance entitled A Plan for Action,1 which features a revealingly immodest subtitle: A New Era of International Cooperation for a Changed World: 2009, 2010, and Beyond.

In presentation and tone, A Plan for Action is determinedly uncontroversial; indeed, it looks and reads more like a corporate brochure than a foreign-policy paper. The text is the work of three academics—Bruce Jones of NYU, Carlos Pascual of the Brookings Institution, and Stephen John Stedman of Stanford. Its findings and recommendations, they claim, rose from a series of meetings with foreign-policy eminences here and abroad, including former Secretaries of State of both parties as well as defense officials from the Clinton and first Bush administrations. The participation of these notables is what gives A Plan for Action its bona fides, though one should doubt how much the document actually reflects their ideas. There is no question, however, that the ideas advanced in A Plan for Action have become mainstays in the liberal vision of the future of American foreign policy.

That is what makes A Plan for Action especially interesting, and especially worrisome. If it is what it appears to be—a blueprint for the Obama administration’s effort to construct a foreign policy different from George W. Bush’s—then the nation’s governing elite is in the process of taking a sharp, indeed radical, turn away from the principles and practices of representative self-government that have been at the core of the American experiment since the nation’s founding. The pivot point is a shifting understanding of American sovereignty.

...While the term “sovereignty” has acquired many, often inconsistent, definitions, Americans have historically understood it to mean our collective right to govern ourselves within our Constitutional framework. Today’s liberal elite, by contrast, sees sovereignty as something much more abstract and less tangible, and thus a prize of less value to individual citizens than it once might have been. They argue that the model accepted by European countries in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which assigned to individual nation-states the right and responsibility to manage their own affairs within their own borders, is in the process of being superseded by new structures more appropriate to the 21st century.

In this regard, they usually cite the European Union (EU) as the new model, with its 27 member nations falling under the aegis of a centralized financial system administered in Brussels. On issue after issue, from climate change to trade, American liberals increasingly look to Europe’s example of transnational consensus as the proper model for the United States. That is particularly true when it comes to national security, as John Kerry revealed when, during his presidential bid in 2004, he said that American policy had to pass a “global test” in order to secure its legitimacy.

This is not a view with which the broader American population has shown much comfort. Traditionally, Americans have resisted the notion that their government’s actions had to pass muster with other governments, often with widely differing values and interests. It is the foreign-policy establishment’s unease with this long-held American conviction that is the motivating factor behind A Plan for Action, which represents a bold attempt to argue that any such set of beliefs has simply been overtaken by events.

To this end, the authors provide a brief for what they call “responsible sovereignty.” They define it as “the notion that sovereignty entails obligations and duties toward other states as well as to one’s own citizens,” and they believe that its application can form the basis for a “cooperative international order.” At first glance, the phrase “responsible sovereignty” may seem unremarkable, given the paucity of advocates for “irresponsible sovereignty.” But despite the Plan’s mainstream provenance, the conception is a dramatic overhaul of sovereignty itself.

“Global leaders,” the Plan insists, “increasingly recognize that alone they are unable to protect their interests and their citizens—national security has become interdependent with global security.” The United States must therefore commit to “a rule-based international system that rejects unilateralism and looks beyond military might,” or else “resign [our]selves to an ad-hoc international system.” Mere “traditional sovereignty” is insufficient in the new era we have entered, an era in which we must contend with “the realities of a now transnational world.” This “rule-based international system” will create the conditions for “global governance.”

The Plan suggests that the transition to this new system must begin immediately because of the terrible damage done by the Bush administration. In the Plan’s narrative, Bush disdained diplomacy, uniformly preferring the use of force, regime change, preemptive attacks, and general swagger in its conduct of foreign affairs. The Plan, by contrast, “rejects unilateralism and looks beyond military might.” Its implementation will lead to the successful resolution of dispute after dispute and usher in a new and unprecedented period of worldwide comity.

...As the Obama years begin, we certainly do need a lively debate on the utility of diplomacy, but it would be better if that debate were not conducted on the false premise offered by A Plan for Action. In reality, in the overwhelming majority of cases, foreign-policy thinkers on both sides of the ideological divide believe diplomacy is the solution to the difficulties that arise in the international system. That is how the Bush administration conducted itself as well.

The difference arises in the consideration of a tiny number of cases—cases that prove entirely resistant to diplomatic efforts, in which divergent national interests prove implacably resistant to reconciliation. If diplomacy does not and cannot work, the continued application of it to a problematic situation is akin to subjecting a cancer patient to a regimen of chemotherapy that shows no results whatever. The result may look like treatment, but it is, in fact, only making the patient sicker and offering no possibility of improvement.

Diplomacy is like all other human activity. It has costs and it has benefits. Whether to engage in diplomacy on a given matter requires a judicious assessment of both costs and benefits. This is an exercise about which reasonable people can disagree. If diplomacy is to work, it must be preceded by an effort to determine its parameters—when it might be best to begin, how to achieve one’s aims, and what the purpose of the process might be. At the cold war’s outset, for example, Harry Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, frequently observed that he was prepared to negotiate with the Soviets only when America could do so from a position of strength.

Time is one of the most important variables in a diplomatic dance, because it often imposes a cost on one side and a benefit to its adversary. Nations can use the time granted by a diplomatic process to obscure their objectives, build alliances, prepare operationally for war, and, especially today, accelerate their efforts to build weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles that might carry them. There are concrete economic factors that must be considered as well in the act of seeking to engage an adversary in the diplomatic realm—the act of providing humanitarian assistance as an act of good will, for example, the suspension of economic sanctions, or even resuming normal trade relations during negotiations.

Obviously, the United States and, indeed, all rational nations are entirely comfortable paying substantial costs when they appear to be wise investments that will lead to the achievement of a larger objective. Alas, such happy conclusions are far from inevitable, and failing to understand the truth of this uncomfortable and inarguable reality has led nations to prolong negotiations long after the last glimmer of progress has been snuffed out. For too many diplomats, there is no off switch for diplomacy, no moment at which the only sensible thing to do is rise from the table and go home.

Has one ever heard of a diplomat working to fashion an “exit strategy” from a failed negotiation? One hasn’t. One should.

...Diplomacy is a tool, not a policy. It is a technique, not an end in itself. Urging, however earnestly, that we “engage” with our enemies tells us nothing about what happens after concluding the initial pleasantries at the negotiating table. Just opening the conversation is often significant, especially for those who are legitimized merely by being present. But without more, the meaning and potency of the photo op will quickly fade.

That is why effective diplomacy must be one aspect of a larger strategic spectrum that includes ugly and public confrontations. Without the threat of painful sanctions, harsh condemnations, and even the use of force, diplomacy risks becoming a sucker’s game, in which one side will sit forever in na├»ve hope of reaching a settlement while the other side acts at will.

Diplomacy is an end in itself in A Plan for Action. So, too, is multilateralism. The multilateralism the Plan celebrates and advocates is, of course, set in sharp contrast to the portrait it draws of a Bush administration flush with unilateralist cowboys intent on overturning existing international treaties and institutions just for the sport of it. Defining unilateralism is straightforward: the word refers to a state acting on its own in international affairs.2 It is a critical conceptual mistake, however, to pose “multilateralism” simply as its opposite.

Consider, for example, the various roles of the United Nations, the North American Treaty Organization, and the Proliferation Security Initiative. The UN, the Holy Grail of multilateralism, is an organization of 192 members with responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security lodged in its Security Council. NATO is a defense alliance of 26 states, all of which are Western democracies. The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), created in 2003 by the Bush administration, now includes 90-plus diverse countries dedicated to stopping international trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

Each organization is clearly “multilateral,” but their roles are so wildly different that the word ceases to have any meaning. For example, if the United States confronted a serious threat, it would be acting multilaterally if it took the matter either to NATO or the UN. Both options would be “multilateral,” but widely divergent in diplomatic and political content, and quite likely in military significance as well. They would be comparable related in the same way a steak knife is comparable to a plastic butter knife.

The PSI offers an even starker contrast, for unlike either the UN or NATO, it has no secretary general, no Secretariat, no headquarters, and no regularly scheduled meetings. One British diplomat described the initiative as “an activity, not an organization.” In fact, the model of the Proliferation Security Initiative is the ideal one for multilateral activity in the future, precisely because it transcends the traditional structures of international organizations, which have, time and again, proved inefficient and ineffective.

Multilateralism” is, in other words, merely a word that describes international action taken by a group of nations acting in concert. For the authors of A Plan for Action, however, multilateralism has an almost spiritual aspect, representing a harmony that transcends barriers and oceans.

Harmony is designed to stifle any discordant notes, and so is the multilateralism envisioned by an American foreign policy guided by “responsible sovereignty.” It is one in which the group of nations, of which the United States is but a single player among many, initiates policies and activities that would likely be designed to constrain the freedom of action of the United States in pursuit of that harmony—not only in its activities abroad, but also in its activities within the 50 states.

There is a precedent for this in the conduct of the European Union, whose 27 nations now possess a common currency in the form of the euro and an immensely complex series of trade and labor policies intended to cut across sovereign lines. The EU is the model A Plan for Action proffers for the “responsible sovereignty” regime its authors wish to import to the United States. EU bureaucrats based in Brussels have been reshaping the priorities and needs of EU member states for a decade now, and proposing a system based on the design of the EU suggests a desire to subject the United States to a kind of international oversight not only when it comes to foreign policy but also on matters properly understood as U.S. domestic policy.

That very approach has been on display at the United Nations for years in an effort to standardize international conduct that has come to be known as “norming.” In theory, there is good reason to create international standards—for measurement, for example, or for conduct on the high seas. But “norming” goes far beyond such prosaic concerns. The UN has, for example, repeatedly voted in different committees to condemn the death penalty, in a clear effort to put pressure on the United States to follow suit. Similar votes have been taken on abortion rights and restricting the private ownership of firearms.

...Such issues have been, and likely will again be, the subjects of intense democratic debate within the United States, and properly so. There is no need to internationalize them to make the debate more fruitful. What is common to these and many other issues is that the losers in our domestic debate are often the proponents of internationalizing the controversies. They think that if they can change the political actors, they can change the political outcome. Unsuccessful in our domestic political arena, they seek to redefine the arena in which these matters will be adjudicated—moving, in effect, from unilateral, democratic U.S. decision-making to a multilateral, bureaucratic, and elitist environment. For almost any domestic issue one can imagine, there are likely to be nongovernmental organizations roaming the international arena desperately trying to turn their priorities into “norming” issues.

This is what “responsible sovereignty” would look like. For the authors and signatories of A Plan of Action, sovereignty is simply an abstraction, a historical concept about as important today as the “sovereigns” from whose absolute rights the term originally derived. That is not the understanding of the U.S. Constitution, which locates the basis of its legitimacy in “we the people,” who constitute the sovereign authority of the nation.

“Sharing” sovereignty with someone or something else is thus not abstract for Americans. Doing so by definition will diminish the sovereign power of the American people over their government and their own lives, the very purpose for which the Constitution was written. This is something Americans have been reluctant to do. Now their reluctance may have to take the form of more concerted action against “responsible sovereignty” if its onward march is to be halted or reversed. Our Founders would clearly understand the need.

About the Author
John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, served as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations (2005-2006) and as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (2001-2005). He is the author of Surrender Is Not an Option.


1 The report can be downloaded free of charge at .
2 An important subtext is the continuing confusion between unilateralism and isolationism, confusion especially evident in Europe in the late 1990’s. Even before the Bush administration, I tried to explain the distinction in “Unilateralism Is Not Isolationism” in Gwyn Prins, ed., Understanding Unilateralism in American Foreign Relations, Chatham House, 2000. More recently, Mackubin Thomas Owens makes a similar point in “The Bush Doctrine: The Foreign Policy of Republican Empire,” Orbis, Winter, 2009


A Plan for Action - A New Era of International Cooperation for a Changed World: 2009, 2010, and Beyond

"... U.S. domestic and international opinions are converging around the urgent need to build an international security system for the 21st century. Global leaders increasingly recognize that alone they are unable to protect their interests and their citizens—national security has become interdependent with global security.

Just as the founders of the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions after World War II began with a vision for international cooperation based on a shared assessment of threat and a shared notion of sovereignty, today’s global powers must chart a new course for today’s greatest challenges and opportunities. International cooperation today must be built on the principle of responsible sovereignty, or the notion that sovereignty entails obligations and duties toward other states as well as to one’s own citizens.

...[T]he forces of globalization that have stitched the world together and driven prosperity can also tear it apart. In the face of new transnational threats and profound security interdependence, even the strongest nations depend on the cooperation of others to protect their own national security. No country, including the United States, is capable of successfully meeting the challenges, or capitalizing on the opportunities, of this changed world alone. It is a world for which we are unprepared, a world that poses a challenge to leaders and citizens alike to redefine their interests and re-examine their responsibilities.


While that is true of every country, it is especially true of the most powerful—which must exercise the most responsibility. U.S. foreign policy has lagged behind these realities. A new approach is needed to revitalize the alliances, diplomacy, and international institutions central to the inseparable relationship between national and global security.

...[T]he vision necessary for a 21st century international security system is clouded by a mismatch between existing post-World War II multilateral institutions premised on traditional sovereignty—a belief that borders are sacrosanct and an insistence on noninterference in domestic affairs—and the realities of a now transnational world where capital, technology, labor, disease, pollution and non-state actors traverse boundaries irrespective of the desires of sovereign states.

The domestic burdens inflicted by transnational threats such as poverty, civil war, disease and environmental degradation point in one direction: toward cooperation with global partners and a strengthening of international institutions.

...To protect national security, even to protect sovereignty, states must negotiate rules and norms to guide actions that reverberate beyond national boundaries. Responsible sovereignty also implies a positive interest on the part of powerful states to provide weaker states with the capacity to exercise their sovereignty responsibly—a responsibility to build."

...Responsible sovereignty, in sum, is a guidepost to a better international system.

...The Political Moment: U.S. and International Convergence

A new vision for global security will only succeed if it is powered by political commitment and has the support of diverse regions and influential constituencies. International politics and global realities are converging to make such cooperation possible.

...[C]urrent global realities leave no alternative to cooperation. On January 20, 2009, the next American President will inherit crises in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, Darfur, Pakistan, and the Middle East. There will be many regional and national challenges to a viable foreign policy: the rise of India and China, an energy-brash Russia, and an African continent caught between new economic opportunities and a legacy of conflict and failed governance. The international community will demand action on climate change and the global food crisis. An American recession will focus attention on vulnerabilities in the global financial system. Key U.S. allies will seek renewed U.S. commitment to multilateralism.

The United States cannot retreat from this agenda any more than it can manage it alone. America needs global partners...It is in America’s self-interest to act now, while its influence is strong, to model leadership for the 21st century based on the premise of partnership and recognition of interdependence.

...Historically it has taken war or catastrophe to bring about a redefinition of sovereignty and a re-building of international order. Our challenge is to use the urgency of looming security challenges, and the prospect for positive results, to drive progress.

[See Report at pp. 6-15.]


BOOK REVIEW: The Great Experiment: the Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States and the Quest for a Global Nation

By Strobe Talbott

(reviewed by Robert A. Enholm, Citizens for Global Solutions)

Strobe Talbott's newest book is a call for the United States to return to the principles of international cooperation and the rule of law that have served our country well since its founding. He builds his case both by surveying philosophical and political history - from ancient to modern times - and by summarizing episodes in recent U.S. foreign policy in which he participated. As president of the Brookings Institution and a former deputy secretary of state, his insights on world affairs are profound. The result is a book that is engaging and persuasive while also being thought-provoking and entertaining.

In The Great Experiment, Talbott has shouldered the task of explaining the wisdom of "global governance," chronicling the evolution of its philosophical underpinnings, reviewing historical progress toward that goal, and explaining the practical benefits of continuing in that direction.

In the first part of the book, he tracks the idea of "global citizenship" from its early religious and philosophical principles to the modern day, bowing along the way to Socrates, Dante and Kant, and acknowledging the World Federalist Movement with which Citizens for Global Solutions is affiliated. Talbott goes on to discuss how American leaders have wrestled with these ideas, from the founding fathers to twentieth century presidents.

In the process, Talbott sheds new light on the significance of recent events, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the invasion of Iraq, drawing on observations and anecdotes from his own experience. Relying on the historical framework he has established, Talbott sees clearly that "9/11 stands as one of the great missed opportunities of American history." He laments,

"The United States could have combined retribution on its own behalf with the formation of a global alliance against the perpetrators of terror everywhere and a comprehensive, sustained, sophisticated effort to address the root causes of the broader phenomenon...."

While Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt are often credited with establishing the precedents on which modern U.S. internationalism is based, Talbott describes the robust and progressive internationalism of Republican leaders, from Teddy Roosevelt through Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Modern-day Republicans may be surprised to learn that Reagan spoke favorably of a standing U.N. military force and philosophically rejected preemptive war, or that, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Bush spoke encouragingly of a "new world order."

As Republicans consider in what direction the party should advance in the future, they may want to reconsider ideas on international engagement championed by party leaders of the past, and that are still promoted by prominent politicians such as Senator Richard Lugar and former Senator Chuck Hagel.

In the final chapter of the book, written before the November elections, Talbott offers some prescriptions to guide U.S. foreign policy into the future, warning that "two clear and present dangers" - nuclear proliferation and climate change -will require "multilateralism on a scale far beyond anything the world has achieved to date." He also notes the unique responsibility the United Sates bears in addressing these dangers, as the most heavily armed nuclear state and the greatest producer of greenhouse gases.

Ultimately, Talbott's book is optimistic. He sees humankind progressing relentlessly toward greater and greater international cooperation and, despite episodic setbacks, with greater and greater success.


Ronald J. Glossop's book review of The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation by Strobe Talbott

[New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: Simon & Schuster, 2008]

Citizens for Global Solutions

April 3, 2008

Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institute, provides us an excellent overview of human political history enriched by personal experiences and comments, all organized to show how humanity is slowly but surely creating ever larger political units to the point where now the next step is a creation of a global nation, a politically unified community that encompasses the whole Earth. Talbott gave us his general viewpoint in his 1992 article in TIME when he said, "I'll bet that within the next hundred years . . . nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority" (pp. 126-27) He now adds,"I have qualified my forecast somewhat, but not in essence" (p. 127). The book's vast historical sweep, apparent in the subtitle, is also evident in the three parts into which the 405-page survey is divided: "The Imperial Millennia" (roughly up to 1914), "The American Centuries" (roughly up to the end of the Cold War in 1990), and "The Unipolar Decades" (from 1991 to the present). There are also another 71 pages of notes in this carefully documented work.

This book is a dramatic erudite narrative of human history told by a top-notch American scholar with an insider's view of current events. Strobe Talbott and Bill Clinton shared a house while both were Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University (p.17), and Talbott later was asked by Clinton to be his Deputy Secretary of State. Talbott's own account of his life and career, which includes 21 years with TIME, is in the "Introduction" (page 11).

World federalists will especially enjoy reading chapter 10 titled "The Master Builder," which covers the end of World War II, the beginning of the U.N., and the all-too-brief flourishing of the world federalist movement. Most readers will be surprised to learn that Harry Truman, from the time he graduated from high school in 1901, carried a scrap of paper in his wallet on which were written 12 lines of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Locksley Hall," including the lines "Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd, In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World." Talbott notes that "Truman recopied this text by hand as many as forty times during his life" (p.184) and that in a 1951 conversation with author John Hersey Truman said, "Notice that part about universal law. . . . We're going to have that someday. I guess that's what I've really been working for ever since I first put that poetry in my pocket" (p. 210).

The negative reaction of world federalists to the U.N. plus their arguments for a radical change are described in detail. One example is this quotation from Einstein's September 1945 letter to J. Robert Oppenheimer: "The wretched attempts to achieve international security, as it is understood today by our governments, do not alter at all the political structures of the world, do not recognize at all the competing sovereign nation-states as the real cause of conflicts. Our governments and the people do not seem to have drawn anything from past experience and are unable or unwilling to think the problem through. The conditions existing today force the individual states, for the sake of their own security based on fear, to do all those things which inevitably produce war. At the present state of industrialism, with the existing complete integration of the world, it is unthinkable that we can have peace without a real governmental organization to create and enforce law on individuals in their international relations. Without such an over-all solution to give up-to-date expression to the democratic sovereignty of the peoples, all attempts to avoid specific dangers in the international field seem to me illusory" (p. 197).

The book also contains several statements that suggest that world federalist ideas are having some influence in unexpected places. For example, Talbott notes that in the first edition of his 1948 classic POLITICS AMONG NATIONS prominent realist political theorist Hans Morgenthau noted that "the argument of the advocates of the world state is unanswerable. There can be no permanent international peace without a state coextensive with the confines of the political world [and] a radical transformation of the existing international society of sovereign nations into a supranational community of individuals" (p. 198). In 1992 Ronald Reagan said that he could foresee "a standing UN force--an army of conscience--that is fully equipped and prepared to carve out human sanctuaries through force if necessary" (p. 258). In his 2006 farewell address at the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "The United States has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level" (p. 391).

Talbott provides interesting inside accounts of crucial events and international meetings during the years of the Clinton administration as well as an insightful analysis of the actions and views of individuals in the current Bush administration. His last chapter, "The Crucial Years," focuses on the upcoming U.S. Presidential election and the policies Talbott believes the United States should adopt as well as the issues that must be addressed. "The next administration should . . . waste no time in demonstrating that respect for international law is once again part of the bedrock of U.S. foreign policy" (p. 393). There should be greater support for the United Nations, but beyond that "the UN needs to be incorporated into an increasingly variegated network of structures and arrangements--some functional in focus, others geographic; some intergovernmental, others based on systematic collaboration with the private sector, civil society, and NGOs" (p. 394). The United States should "encourage regional organizations to develop their own capacities as well as habits of cooperation with one another and with the UN itself" (p. 395). Also "ensuring a peaceful twenty-first century will depend in large measure on narrowing the divide between those who feel like winners and those who feel like losers in the process of globalization" (p. 395).

With regard to the most urgent problems to be tackled Talbott points to "two clear and present dangers. One is a new wave of nuclear-weapons proliferation; the other is a tipping point in the process of climate change. These mega-threats can be held at bay in the crucial years immediately ahead only through multilateralism on a scale far beyond anything the world has achieved to date" (p. 395). Talbott concludes with this comment: "By solving [these] two problems that are truly urgent, we can increase the chances that eventually . . . the world will be able to ameliorate or even solve other problems that are merely very important. Whether future generations make the most of such a world, and whether they think of it as a global nation or just as a well-governed international community, is up to them. Whether they have the choice is up to us" (p. 401). It seems to this reviewer that Talbott strays from his own basic insights when he suggests that the nuclear proliferation problem might be resolved by multilateralism on a grand scale in the absence of a prior revolutionary change to the global nation system (that is, to a world federation) which would substantially restrict national sovereignty.

Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Currently, Dr. Glossop is chairman of Citizens for Global Solutions of St. Louis, a member of the Political Action Committee of Global Solutions and Vice-President of the United Nations Association of St. Louis.


Global Governance - To Strobe Talbott, it's inevitable. To John Bolton, it's surrender.

Book Review

By Joseph S. Nye Jr.

Washington Post

January 27, 2008

Defending America at the United Nations And Abroad

By John Bolton (Threshold)

THE GREAT EXPERIMENT - The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, And the Quest for a Global Nation

By Strobe Talbott (Simon & Schuster)

These two works -- each part memoir, part treatise on diplomacy -- serve as bookends in our current debate about America's role in the world.

John Bolton, most recently President Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, and Strobe Talbott, President Clinton's deputy secretary of state and now president of the Brookings Institution, have some things in common. Both attended Yale in the troubled 1960s: Talbott as a classmate of George W. Bush, Bolton two years later. Both are baby boomers who did not serve in the Vietnam War: Talbott went to England as a Rhodes scholar, while Bolton made a "cold calculation that I wasn't going to waste time on a futile struggle."

Their differences, however, far outweigh their similarities. Bolton, the son of a Baltimore firefighter, was a scholarship student who seems to have a chip on his shoulder about those he dismisses as the "High Minded." Talbott has a patrician background and refers to several illustrious relatives in his book, including a distant connection to the Bushes. He also reports that the current president "mentioned a grudge he bore against me as a bookish, hyperearnest undergraduate and a representative of the East Coast liberal foreign policy establishment" that represented "much of what he wanted to get away from."

After Yale, Talbott became a journalist for Time magazine, and Bolton became a lawyer, a fact he proudly mentions many times. Each writes with the grace of his original profession. Talbott's political approach is liberal in the old-fashioned sense of the word, and he quotes Edmund Burke that "nothing is so fatal to a nation as an extreme of self-partiality." Bolton's political style is aggressive, viewing diplomacy as "advocacy; advocacy for America." When Colin Powell, his former boss at the State Department, took a more multilateral approach, Bolton reports that he deliberately undermined Powell. "He knew it, and he knew I knew it."

From start to finish, these books reflect their authors' very different sensibilities. Bolton opens with his experience as a student campaign volunteer for Goldwater in 1964 and spends most of the book recounting his political battles in great detail. Talbott begins with a wide-ranging and lofty discourse on the concepts of empires, nations and states in world history. Both books conclude with a discussion of global governance, which is where they wholly diverge.

Talbott believes that global governance is coming -- that "individual states will increasingly see it in their interest to form an international system that is far more cohesive, far more empowered by its members, and therefore far more effective than the one we have today." Whether the United Nations will be the centerpiece of this new system is less clear to him.

In Talbott's view, the U.N. has the advantage of universal membership, global scope and a comprehensive agenda that makes it indispensable as a convener of governments and legitimizer of decisions, but also the disadvantage of being spread too thin; the sheer number and diversity of its members is a drag on its effectiveness. "To offset that defect," Talbott writes, "the U.N. needs to be incorporated into an increasingly variegated network of structures and arrangements -- some functional in focus, others geographic; some intergovernmental, others based on systematic collaboration with the private sector, civil society, and NGOs." In other words, what Talbott envisions is not a scary, all-powerful bureaucracy deploying black helicopters over Kansas but rather a flexible mesh of international agreements and organizations that support each other. Only in this way, he contends, will the world be able to deal with such clear dangers as a new wave in nuclear proliferation and a tipping point in global climate change.

Bolton is skeptical of such visions. He thinks the Eastern Establishment self-identifies with Europe in a way that is "both seductive and debilitating." In his view, the rapidly integrating countries of Western Europe show a proclivity to avoid confronting and resolving problems, "preferring instead the endless process of diplomatic mastication." This "decline in European will and capacity," he says, "is matched by the related phenomenon, beloved by many Europeans, of using multilateral bodies for 'norming' both international practice and domestic policy, a development that, over time, most profoundly threatens to diminish American autonomy and self-government, notions that to us spell 'sovereignty.' " In other words, they want to constrain us by questioning the legitimacy of our unilateral policies. To reform the U.N., Bolton adds, contributions should be voluntary, and America should pay only for that with which we agree.

Both books have a point. The world today is a mixture of traditional international laws and agreements based on the sovereignty of individual nations and an emerging set of international humanitarian laws and norms that intrude inside sovereign states. The two are in tension and likely to remain so for decades. In 2005, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution regarding a "responsibility to protect" those endangered within sovereign states -- a resolution that Talbott admires and Bolton derides. In practice, it has led to intrusive but inadequate interventions in such places as Darfur and Myanmar. Bolton is correct to warn that diplomacy is not cost-free and that U.N. diplomacy, in particular, is often convoluted and feckless. Talbott is correct to point out that "compromise, or at least the willingness to consider it, is at the heart of diplomacy," and that the Bush administration's efforts to act without international constraints rested on hubristic and flawed analyses of American power. We may not need permission from others to act, but we often need their help to succeed.

Talbott provides a far richer, deeper account of the idea of global governance in American foreign policy. He reminds us that as recently as 1949, 64 Democrats, including John Kennedy, and 27 Republicans, including Gerald Ford, sponsored a resolution in favor of world federalism. But Bolton reminds us that many far less ambitious measures would never pass the Senate today. Which book should you read? Both, but if you have to choose, pick the one you are more likely to disagree with, because you will learn more about the range of the current debate. *

Joseph S. Nye Jr., former assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, is a professor at Harvard and author of the forthcoming "The Powers to Lead."

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