Jonathan Delaney is a Professor of International Relations
and 20th Century History at Montgomery College, Maryland, and worked
within the Veterans Coalition for the McCain-Palin campaign. He is also
a former adviser to Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden.
Forgive me for stating a truism, but we are living in an age of unprecedented internationalism. Having started early in the 19th century (with the 1814 Congress of Vienna) this process slow-burned until the 20th century, when, in the aftermath of two World Wars, support exploded as political leaders across the spectrum pledged their allegiance to this fledgling concept. From the IMF to the World Bank, from the GATT to the WTO, from the League of Nations to the UN, from the EU to the African Union, from ASEAN to MERCUSOR to NAFTA to CARICOM, there is not a single matter of import today that is not considered at the international level.
If your conspiracy theory sensor is starting to sound the alarm, then allow me to pull back from the edge and offer something more tangible. First, though, a clarification: international cooperation is vital. Unless we desire to become a hermit state akin to North Korea, there will always be a significant role for international organizations of the strictly intergovernmental kind. This is welcome. But the increasing trend towards supranationalism is not.
Let’s consider the case of the European Union. The precursor to the EU was the Economic Coal and Steel Community of 1952, established by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The initial integration of six European countries was focused around the steel and coal sectors for a very precise reason: it was a technocratic first step, deliberately confined to this sphere to prove to European populaces that integration could produce beneficial results. This is the functionalist theory of integration, whereby spillover from the coal and steel sectors would then provide the impetus for further integration in related fields, now with added public approval.
From this humble beginning has arisen the contemporary EU, a supranational body the likes of which has only existed before in the shape of the USSR. Don’t say that to any lingering Europhiless, unless you want a quick end to the conversation, but the parallels are both deeper and more numerous than any EU apparatchik will concede. The EU has steadily accumulated powers for itself over the past half-century through the "small steps" approach. Such patience has paid off handsomely, with the EU now on the verge of acquiring for itself virtually all the characteristics of statehood through the (soon-to-be twice) resurrected EU constitution. As the EU has strengthened itself, so has there been a concomitant decline in the authority of EU nation-states.
This we all know.
So let us now introduce climate change into the mix. Al Gore is the most recent environmentalist to lay bare their collective desire to use climate change as a pathway to global governance. Speaking in Oxford at the Smith School World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment on 8th July 2009, he stated (regarding the environment) that:
"…It is the awareness itself that will drive the change and one of the ways it will drive the change is through global governance and global agreements."
The Left desires for climate change to be the issue upon which the foundation of global governance is built. The environment has been chosen to fulfill the same role for the world as coal and steel did for Europe. "Successful" (however that comes to be defined) international collaboration over so-called climate change will be held aloft as irrefutable proof that global governance not only works, but is the only thing that works.
The precedent will then be set for pursuing other solutions above the nation-state and away from the scrutiny of average people – you and I. Think how often we are told that solutions to our most pressing problems – immigration, terrorism, poverty, drugs, pollution, etc – can be found only at the supranational level. This would eviscerate national legislatures, leaving only minor issues to be dealt with at the national (and accountable) level.
Achieving a body capable of global governance has long been an explicitly left-wing objective. This is nothing more than a modern update on an old theme. Marx maintained that nationalism was an artificial distraction, that it was class of which people should be aware. He propounded, as later put into spectacular and disastrous effect by Stalin, transnational alliances that disregarded national constraints in order to achieve a global classless society (i.e. one wherein we are all equally poor and miserable). This rationale remains essentially unchanged today. From the Left’s perspective, the nation-state is an antiquated concept whose offspring – nationalism – was the primary cause of World War I and II. Should we not, therefore, seek to limit the excesses of the nation-state through empowering supranational bodies?
Supranationalism has enjoyed remarkable success during the last half century. Never before have sovereign nations voluntarily relinquished sovereignty to a higher authority. The accomplishments of the EU (by which I mean the range of powers it has accrued) are incredible, given its short life span. But every victory for supranationalism is a defeat for personal liberty. Every decision taken at the supranational level is one less taken at the national, or, indeed, local level. We did not elect politicians to Westminster only to see them commit a mass dereliction of duty by surrendering power to absent and alien overlords.
We have to bring this to an end. Removing political issues from the national to the supranational level will only intensify public dissatisfaction. Accountability will nosedive while corruption skyrockets. If you think that our “leaders” are bad now, then just wait until they’re joined by a host of so-called leaders from countries that make our decrepit democracies look like shining cities of gold. The popular outrage of the last year may have been triggered by the prolific corruption of our politicians, but the underlying cause of the protest was impotence: we know that we are increasingly powerless to shift our policies and our country in a direction of our own choosing.
Whoever raises this issue, unfortunately, runs the risk of being mercilessly ridiculed by the Left. The same tactic is employed against those who dare speak out against the conventional wisdom in favour of unlimited immigration and enforced multiculturalism, however – so we can take that as a sign of being on the right track.
History is moving on the side of supranationalism. As manifested in the EU, this is far from the theoretical, abstract or academic threat that it may seem to be – it is a concrete concern, and one that impacts everyday life. The re-writing has to begin with a Cameron-led Conservative government that draws back from every organization that harbours supranational pretensions, starting with the European Union.