John Bolton writes in Commentary on the "Coming War on Sovereignty".
Bolton proves his sagacity once again - Obama's announcement of notorious transnationalist Harold Koh as his nominee for State Department legal adviser had not yet happened, but Obama's contempt for American hegemony is no secret. Koh is just the tip of the iceberg; he believes U.S. law should be based on foreign precedent, and even Shariah law could find a home here. (More on Koh here.)
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.
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.
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 naïve 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.
Read it all. Very bad.