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Eroding sovereignty

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A likely upshot of President Bush's meetings this week with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Montebello, Canada, will be a further impetus to the effort to engage in what is euphemistically called the "harmonization" of the three countries' economies, regulatory systems and policies. The effect will be to contribute to what is on track to become one of the most worrying legacies of George W. Bush's presidency: a significant, and possibly irreversible, erosion in the nation's sovereignty.

Sovereignty is an abstraction to which few Americans give much thought. We take it for granted, like the air we breathe or the water we drink. Yet, the essence of the most successful political experiment in history — the United States of America — is the sovereign power entrusted by the people via our Constitution to our elected, accountable representatives.

Unfortunately, such sovereignty is endangered by those who believe the world of nation-states is too disorderly for efficient global commerce and the peaceable resolution of disputes. Call them the Transnational Progressives (conservative wit John O'Sullivan coined an abbreviation he insists must be spelled Tranzies). They prefer supranational arrangements like the European Union, run by wholly unaccountable bureaucrats.

The trouble for the Tranzies is that a lot of folks who value their freedoms — notably, the American people and many who represent them in Congress — generally don't fancy such arrangements. They see them for what they are: big government on steroids, unwieldy, unchecked and unresponsive to the will of the ruled.

So it is necessary for the Tranzies to resort to extraordinary means to supplant national governments. The European Union's architects have acknowledged privately they could never have pulled it off if the publics of the Continent's various nations understood what was afoot.

Today, we know a similar effort is at work behind the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) on the agenda at the Montebello Summit. In fact, thanks to Freedom of Information Act requests doggedly pursued by Judicial Watch, we know there are some two-dozen trilateral "working groups" whittling away our sovereignty — er, "harmonizing" our rules and regulations on immigration, the environment and health care with those of Mexico and Canada. This effort, as one of the SPP's admirers has put it, involves the nation-state's "erosion by stealth."

The way this is being done in the U.S. is by having the working groups operate secretively, with essentially no transparency or accountability to Congress, the media or the public.

In fact, even some proponents of the SPP and the North American Union (NAU) it ultimately seeks to institute, Greg Anderson of the University of Alberta and Christopher Sands of the Hudson Institute are beginning to worry about an approach they describe as "eschewing the more traditional diplomatic and trade negotiation models in favor of talks among civil service professionals and subject matter experts within each government... [which] places the negotiation fully within the authority of the executive branch in the United States."

They went on in a paper prepared for a recent Hudson event to declare "the [SPP negotiating] process must be made more transparent to answer legitimate citizen concerns about potential outcomes. ... The design of the SPP is flawed by the exclusion of Congress from the process."

At the same time the Bush administration is complicit in stealthy negotiations eroding U.S. sovereignty in our hemisphere, it is responding to aggressive behavior by others in ways that seem sure to encourage still more such erosions — if not vast new threats to our security.

For example, Russia's KGB thug-turned-president, Vladimir Putin, has announced his country would resume its Cold War practice of sending nuclear-capable, long-range aircraft on forays into or near the airspace of various Free World nations, including ours. According to the New York Times, during such a mission in July near U.S. bases on Guam, the Pentagon says it did not even bother scrambling fighters to intercept the Russian bombers.

A White House spokesman pooh-poohed this ominous behavior, saying "Militaries around the world engage in a variety of different activities" and that "it is not entirely surprising" that the Russians would engage in this one.

Meanwhile, The Washington Times' Bill Gertz reports the Chinese military recently proposed that the Pacific be divided into spheres of influence. Presumably, what the PRC has in mind is getting the part that includes Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and the Philippines and acceding (for the moment at least) to the United States having Hawaii. While a senior American general scoffed at the idea, Mr. Gertz says: "Some pro-China officials in the U.S. government ... are said to favor the Chinese proposal."

Then, there is the Tranzies' defective Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). The Bush administration hopes to get it ratified this fall with help from senators willing to join in entrusting 70 percent of the world's surface — its oceans and international seabeds — to supranational agencies and tribunals. Think this can't impinge upon our sovereignty? In fact, LOST lends itself to myriad erosions of U.S. sovereign conduct via the treaty's provisions with sweeping environmental, tax, business-related and military implications.

The 2008 presidential election is an opportune moment for a national debate about safeguarding America's sovereignty. The question is: Will there be much of it left to safeguard 14 months from now?

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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