“Globalism” is one of those Humpty Dumpty words that seems to mean whatever those using it “choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist at The Washington Post, last month defined it as “the combination of America’s founding purpose with unavoidable international responsibilities.”
Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist at The New York Times, last month wrote that globalism “means almost nothing.” He added, that to “be an anti-globalist, on the other hand, does specify something. Anti-globalism is economic illiteracy married to a conspiracy mind-set.”
On the liberal side of the aisle David Rothkopf wrote last week in the Los Angeles Times that “globalist” is a “code word” that “Nazis and white supremacists use to mean ‘Jews.’ “
With John Bolton becoming President Trump’s new national security adviser, it’s worth spending a few moments on this topic. Mr. Bolton is not a globalist — though Mr. Gerson’s definition of the term fits him just fine. Mr. Bolton is a self-declared anti-globalist — though Mr. Stephens’ definition of that term fits him not at all. And when Mr. Bolton talks about globalists, he emphatically is not implying anything along the lines Mr. Rothkopf alleges.
Mr. Bolton has been thinking about globalism for a rather long time. Back in 2000, in an essay for the Chicago Journal of International Law, he called himself an “Americanist” (a preferable alternative, in my view, to “America Firster”), contrasting his views with those of “Globalists” whose “agenda is unambiguously statist, but typically on a worldwide rather a national level.”
Globalists, he wrote, dominate within the overwhelmingly liberal foreign policy establishment. Americanists, Mr. Bolton wrote, consist “silently of virtually everyone else in the United States.” But they’re either ignored or denigrated as “the knee-jerk voice of reaction, the great unlettered and unwashed, whom the cultured and educated Globalists simply have not yet gotten under proper control.”
Mr. Bolton was disturbed to see globalism advancing in “substantive field after field — human rights, labor, health, the environment, political and military affairs, and international organizations.” Over the years since, globalists have continued to make strides. The jewel in their crown may have been President Obama’s conclusion of a nuclear arms limitation agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, without congressional approval. He sought and received the endorsement of the United Nations instead.
Globalists are eager for America and other nations to “surrender” or “share” sovereignty. Another euphemism, “responsible sovereignty,” was utilized in a “Plan for Action,” presented to President Obama in 2009 by scholars from the Brookings Institution, Stanford and NYU. The Plan claimed to reject “unilateralism” and look “beyond military might.”
As Mr. Bolton explained in Commentary, the idea is to construct a “rules-based international system” that can serve as the foundation for “global governance.” Advocates hope everyone will go along but, if not, other options may be considered.
The Hudson Institute’s John Fonte and AEI’s John Yoo, in an essay published two years ago, quoted Princeton professor and former senior State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter on the need for the “coercive power” of “vertical government networks” that can “pierce the shell of state sovereignty.”
Such piercing, she said, would enable “supranational” institutions — international courts, international regulatory entities and international parliaments — to enforce rules over Americans and others.
This is meant to lead to “a post-American global administrative state and transnational legal system that are light years away from such quaint notions as the supremacy of the Constitution, representative democracy, and government by consent of the governed.”
With this as background, what can we infer about the counsel Mr. Bolton will provide his new boss? Broadly, that he will reinforce Mr. Trump’s belief that American interests — not those of an imagined “international community” — should be paramount.
He will argue for “peace through strength,” not as a substitute for diplomacy but as the most effective way to empower diplomacy.
Some of our enemies, Mr. Bolton will make clear, are implacable. There can be no appeasing them. They will not unclench their fists no matter how fervently we outstretch our arm. Attempting to address their “legitimate grievances” is a mug’s game.
On the most urgent matters of the moment, Mr. Bolton will counsel for the termination of the flawed Iran nuclear deal that the Europeans are now attempting (with apparently limited energy and determination) to fix.
As for Syria, he is likely to reiterate the three points he stressed in an op-ed less than a year ago: (1) The administration should avoid “reflexively repeating President Obama’s errors.” (2) The defeat of the Islamic State leaves “a regional political vacuum that must be filled somehow.” (3) An “enhanced” coalition will be required “to thwart Iran’s ambitions” — and that should be Washington’s “clear objective.” (Given Mr. Trump’s recent statements about withdrawing from Syria, this could be a hard sell.)
Ten years ago, Mr. Bolton published a book, “Surrender Is Not an Option.” In what was intended as a scathing review in the New York Review of Books, Brian Urquhart, a former U.N. undersecretary-general, attempted to demonstrate how misinformed Mr. Bolton was.
“It has recently been announced that North Korea has begun to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program four years ago,” he wrote. “The patient negotiators whom Bolton so despises seem to have been doing a reasonable job after all.”
I wish Mr. Urquhart had been right and Mr. Bolton wrong. But the world is more akin to a jungle than a global village. In light of that harsh reality, all John Bolton is saying is give anti-globalism a chance.
• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.