Anglosphere: Cracks in the wall

By JAMES C. BENNETT   |   Aug. 24, 2002 at 3:42 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The Euro-American culture and values gap, real or imaginary, has become a staple of geopolitical commentary, particularly since Sept. 11 and its subsequent developments. Some of it, of course, is real. There is a genuine political consensus in Continental Western Europe to accept a comfortable and relatively static prosperity for the majority of the population at the expense of dynamism, opportunity and risk -- traits more often associated with American "gumption."

But beyond this basic difference, many of the further supposed differences do not reflect a deep values gap between ordinary Europeans and Americans. Rather, it reflects the fact that a relatively narrow political-intellectual class has come to hold power in many of the industrialized democracies outside of the United States, devoted to an ideology dubbed "transnational progressivism" by Hudson Institute researcher John Fonte.

This ideology recognizes that much of the class-based agenda of the classic left has been rendered unworkable by economic developments, and that popular electorates have been rejecting it at the ballot box whenever they have had the choice. They substitute a new agenda of medicalized misbehaviors: the state must prevail over the individual not because one individual has committed a specific act against another, but because the individual must be exorcised of the demons of sexism, racism, homophobia and so on. Since nobody can ever be demonstrated to be completely cured from such ills, this is a recipe for eternal control.

Because this agenda actually has relatively little appeal to the general electorate, they therefore concentrate on the judiciary, appointed bureaucracies and other controlling institutions insulated from popular jurisdiction. But even these are still occasionally called to account by voters, so transnational institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union are far more suitable for their purposes.

The truly desirable mechanisms are, by these criteria, transnational pseudo-judicial institutions with direct jurisdiction over individuals. Once codified into a transnational law of jurisdiction over persons (unlike traditional international law, which existed to mediate disputes between nations), the values of transnational progressivism can be applied to these supposedly demon-possessed individuals without effective appeal. Thus the program of the transnational progressive elite can gradually be imposed on nations that will not vote for it willingly.

In pursuit of this agenda, the transnational progressives have had the advantages of controlling the governments, major political parties, and academic-media institutions of most of Western Continental Europe. This has permitted them to use the institutions of European unification, almost entirely unaccountable to electorates, to create a model of transnational progressivism to hold up as an example elsewhere.

During the 1990s, the transnational progressives were in power or strongly influential throughout most of the industrialized world. Using their power bases in the United Nations and the European Union, they promoted a series of transnational institutions and agreements, mostly for unarguably beneficial ends, that were endorsed almost universally. The United States, whose foreign-policy apparatus included many transnational progressives, assented to most such measures, at least to the point of signing them.

It was the advent of George W. Bush in 2001 that signaled an end to the seeming global unanimity on the progress of the transnational progressive agenda. By withdrawing from or refusing to ratify a number of highly visible international structures, including the Kyoto Agreement, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the International Criminal Court, the Bush administration presented the first substantial threat to the transnational progressive agenda.

As a result, the transnational progressive sectors in academia and the media have piled on Bush and America in general (for they are quite aware that Bush's stance on transnational governance is popular) by attacking American "unilateralism." They enjoy painting America as the lone holdout against an otherwise-unanimous consensus of democracies.

This ignores the fact that this supposed consensus is actually quite thin. In fact, public opinion in most of the rest of the Anglosphere tends to track American opinion closely on most of the issues that supposedly reflect a values gap between America and the world.

And now cracks are beginning to appear in the wall. Australia is the only other principal Anglosphere nation beside the United States in which a party is in power which is not controlled by transnational progressives. Thus Australia joined the United States in a principled rejection of the Kyoto agreement and has recently rejected international interference in its handling of asylum applicants.

Once the crack in the wall begins, it will spread because it depends on the illusion of world consensus. Canada, for example, has appeared to support the transnational progressive agenda. However, this support is primarily a bone thrown to the left wing of the ruling Liberal party. Canada's foreign policy, with the sole exception of its relations with the United States, is essentially irrelevant to Canadian life, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is, as Canadian columnist Mark Steyn observed, viewed as a training ground for really important jobs such as minister for multiculturalism.

Similarly, transnational progressivism is a popular ideology in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Offices, but it no longer reflects an all-party consensus of opinion, and is a debated, rather than settled issue, in the press. Although the British conservatives still seem a long way from power at this moment, sooner or later they will return, and when they do almost any potential leader will be much less likely to support the full transnational progressive agenda than his predecessor.

Other potential cracks in the facade are likely. Several Eastern European states remain uneasy about the full transnational progressive agenda; having only recently reestablished their independence from one transnational Union, they are not entirely happy at the prospect of surrendering it again to another one, no matter how democratic it proclaims itself.

Other defectors may be surprises. France is at heart divided in its support for the transnational progressive agenda. On the one hand, it has always hoped to use transnational institutions to balance and contain the threat to its internal arrangements from globalization and the "hyperpower." On the other hand, it alone of Continental Western Europe still has ambitions to be in the nation-state business, ambitions which will eventually be constrained by the transnational progressive agenda. If enough other nations drop out, France too could begin to demur.

Only a few years ago, the transnational progressive agenda appeared to be implementing itself by stealth and inertia. The construction of a transnational legal and institutional regime is now no longer a foregone conclusion, particularly now that more than one crack has appeared in the wall of seeming consensus.

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