To Be Great the U.N. Must Defend Democratic Sovereignty

“I’ve listened to countless speeches in this hall, but I can say this: None were bolder, none more courageous and forthright than the one delivered by President Trump today” –Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

 The wisdom of President Trump’s United Nations speech last week was nothing less than a demonstration to that dubious organization of how it might adopt the timeless political principles of the American founding—and a proclamation, in fact, that the international body must do so if it is to retain any interest at all for Americans. Against the sophism known as international law, Trump advocated the reality of the democratic politics of sovereign nations.

Trump’s stinging political language—e.g., Venezuela’s “socialist dictatorship,” “radical Islamic terrorism,” and of course “Rocket Man”—drew appropriate attention, but Trump went well beyond those jibes to expose the series of misconceptions upon which the U.N. is mistakenly  based.

For decades, the U.N. has presented the spectacle of its member dictatorships claiming to protect human rights or terrorist regimes speaking for supposed shared goals of a common humanity. It is a farce. Trump’s attacks, with his American alternative, exposed the twisted logic that led to these absurdities. They are the creation of Woodrow Wilson, who was both the prominent political scientist of his day and 28th U.S. president, a theorist who—unfortunately—was afforded the opportunity to put his ideas into practice.

In keeping with his distortion of American domestic politics, Wilson is also behind the fault in our foreign policy. The foundation of Wilsonian political science is  a repudiation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and a counter-declaration that the only hope for reforming America is in abandoning equal natural rights. According to Wilson, America had to be deconstructed—a task Wilson assigned to the rule of experts in an administrative state the objective of which was to replace constitutional government.

In foreign policy Wilsonianism attempts to replace low and unexceptional American national interest with the supposedly noble interests of “humanity.” His idea for a League of Nations was advanced to pursue this goal. Lurking behind the push for and support of this object  are the academic musings of the young scholar  Wilson, who argued that socialism was really the perfection of democracy.

Socialism denies that individual rights produce a private sphere safe from the control of government—so private property is always at risk, as is the individual conscience.

This corruption of democracy and lowering of the meaning of humanity sets the stage for the thuggish third world regimes who—without surprising those who understand the corrosive roots of the U.N.—seem to dominate it. This relativism is keeping, too, with Franklin Roosevelt’s conception that the U.N. would make Stalin’s Soviet Union a key member. Progressive political philosophy and economics saw increasing international order—irrespective of the means used to produce that order—as the inescapable goal of world history.

Eventually humanity would see a global administrative state that would produce human security by banishing famine, disease, and war. Of course, the elimination of war by a global entity would mean the snuffing out of “rebellions” (such as that of the Americans against the British Empire)  and the establishment of what amounts to a global tyranny. It would be the sole possessor of weapons and the master of the force required to use them.

In place of this parade of horrors, President Trump’s U.N. remarks recommended America’s unique version of sovereignty, a sovereignty of the people, all created equal, against arbitrary government.

Trump’s proposed reconstituting of the U.N. has the same purpose as his ambition to reconstitute American politics: to prevent tyranny and protect individual freedom. Trump repudiates the Wilson-FDR view of globalist order to reclaim the exceptional character of American sovereignty:

The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words.  They are:  “We the people.”

Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country, and of our great history.  In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign.  I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people, where it belongs.

Trump thus repudiated the language of the globalist foreign policy elites, both Left and Right, with their talk of “realism” and “idealism” and “the end of history.” Globalism affirms the Hegelian insistence that only the “rational is real,” making transnational rules—independent of citizen consent—the sovereign ones. Such rules, we are told, would serve to replace the “anarchy of freedom”—a power diminishing thing globalists appear to fear much more than straight up tyranny—as we see attempted in socialist dictatorships:

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.

Here, Trump was denouncing not only the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela but also the reigning Wilsonianism in the United States.

In place of European distortions of Western Civilization, Trump wants Americans to appreciate the heritage of their revolution, both its religious and philosophic bases, which should be the model of the democratic revolutions throughout the world. One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was “effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

In other words, Trump brought to the world stage what he gave to America: blunt speech about political reality that defies the elites who blindly support international order over the national interest.

The U.N. speech makes clear that Trump’s version of sovereignty requires fundamental principles of natural rights in the formation of a social contract among citizens—equality, liberty, consent of the governed, and constitutional government. In deconstructing the administrative state at home, Trump is restoring borders, emphasizing political economy over international economics, and reestablishing American military power. As this promotes the common good, so all nations, each in its diverse ways, can promote the good of all nations by striving to be their own best version of themselves:

The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.

The “first bond” of a nation, Trump noted, is to its own people: “This bond is the source of America’s strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today.” We do not advance the cause of “humanity” by surrendering our sovereignty to the amorphous goals of theoretic politicians governing Utopias that have never and will never exist. A sovereign nation has a duty to its actual citizens in the here and now if it seeks to preserve a future of peace and prosperity going forward. That is what Trump explained, in plain language, to the denizens of the U.N. and to their partisans at home.

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About Ken Masugi

Ken Masugi, Ph.D., is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. He has been a speechwriter for two cabinet members, and a special assistant for Clarence Thomas when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Masugi is co-author, editor, or co-editor of 10 books on American politics. He has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he was Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor; James Madison College of Michigan State University; the Ashbrook Center of Ashland University; and Princeton University.