"I am totally against unilateralism in the modern world," says French president Jacques Chirac, expressing the particular European distaste for any strong U.S. action vis à vis Iraq, but also making a much larger claim regarding the morality of sovereign power itself.
As I read Chirac's comment, the categorical nature of it made me suddenly realize how the opposition to unilateralism, about which we hear so much today, is of a piece with all the other familiar liberal positions, ranging from global gun control to campaign finance reform to anti-discrimination laws, that tend in the direction of the elimination of political and personal freedom.
What is unilateralism? It is a nation-state taking action, political or military, on the international stage, whether to defend its interests or to restore order in an area of the world that comes within its purview or responsibility. For example, when the United States intervened from time to time in Haiti over the course of the 20th century to restore a minimum of order in that desperate place, that was unilateralism. When the United States confronted the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, that was unilateralism. When the U.S. sent massive amount of materiél to Israel at a crucial moment in the 1973 War, that was unilateralism. When the U.S. bombed Libya following a terrorist attack on U.S. service personnel in West Germany in the 1980s, that was unilateralism. When Israel rescued its hostages in Entebbe, that was unilateralism. When Britain sent a flotilla to win back the Falklands from the Argentinean junta, that was unilateralism.
Unilateral action by a state can be good or bad, moral or immoral, successful or unsuccessful, just like any other type of action. Therefore to be against unilateralism per se is to be against the very possibility of nation-states behaving in a responsible and helpful way in the world. The results of this attitude can be catastrophic. During the Bosnian war in the early 1990s, the thing that was most urgently needed was unilateral action by a strong power in the neighborhood to intervene and restore order. In the old days, such "Great Powers" as Germany or Austria would have been in a position to take on that vital task. But by the early 1990s there was no European nation ready and willing to act unilaterally, only the damnable U.N., whose "peacekeeping" missions made the situation far worse, while the European Union, founded for the very purpose of avoiding decisive action by its members, showed itself totally incapable of taking any steps to stop the slaughter. It was not until the United States stepped in, acting "unilaterally," that the immediate violence was brought to a halt (though the U.S. pursued a multiculturalist concept of order that made a permanent settlement in Bosnia impossible and required American and other troops to stay in the area indefinitely.)
Liberals are against unilateralism for the same reason they are against fundamental individual freedoms such as the private ownership of guns. Since liberals believe in equality, they are against power, because different people inevitably possess different amounts of it and so oppress each other. So liberals oppose private gun ownership, because it suggests differentials of power among individuals, which suggests inequality and oppression. For the same reason, liberals want to restrict the freedom of political organizations to buy political advertising because some candidates and groups will be able to buy more advertising than others, which suggests differentials of power, which suggests inequality and oppression (the recent campaign finance law is to free elections what gun control is to self-defense). And for the same reason, liberals oppose independent action by nation-states because such action suggests differentials of power and thus inequality and oppression. Since freedom of action by persons or polities and the resulting inequalities of power and influence are built into the very structure of existence, what liberals are ultimately aiming for is nothing less than the total repression of the natural order of things. The attempt to eliminate all power must lead to the concentration of all power in a global totalitarian state.
At the same time, even as the liberals and globalists keep pushing for a uniform world system in which no one will be allowed to act as a free entity in his own interests, they are also demanding a radical expansion of human rights. We must understand that this is not a contradiction. The freedom that the liberals seek to destroy is the freedom of men and nations to act responsibly in the pursuit of legitimate ends. The rights that the liberals seek to expand are the "rights" of human beings to have all their needs provided by society.
As an example of this agenda, consider Principle 1 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which was the basis of the final declaration of the recent U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development:“Human beings … are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.”
Now it is one thing to say that a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature is — like happiness itself — a desirable good to which human beings ought to aspire; it is quite another thing to say that human beings are entitled to a healthy and productive life. Leaving aside the fact that the demand is logically absurd (how can a person have a "right" to be productive?), it is clear that the liberals have transformed the procedural right to pursue a good life (or, rather, the right not to be arbitrarily prevented from pursuing it) into the substantive right to have a good life. Furthermore, since entitlements imply obligations (a point on which the U.N. is becoming increasingly explicit), it becomes the obligation of all nations to ensure the happiness of every human being on earth. In practice, of course, this means that it will be the duty of the functioning, free, law-abiding, and successful countries — meaning ourselves — collectively to ensure the happiness of everyone living in the disfunctional, unfree, lawless, and unsuccessful countries. In short, the total suppression of national sovereignty and of individual freedom within a global egalitarian regime. Such suppression, and such a regime, is the ultimate goal of the ascendant liberal ideology which John Fonte has dubbed transnational progressivism, but which could more appropriately be called transnational radicalism.