Pompeo Is Right on Sovereignty. His Council on Foreign Relations Critic Is Wrong.

COMMENTARY Global Politics

Pompeo Is Right on Sovereignty. His Council on Foreign Relations Critic Is Wrong.

Dec 10th, 2018 3 min read
Mike Gonzalez

Senior Fellow, Center for Foreign Policy

Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a major address at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 4, 2018. Ron Przysucha/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations didn’t much like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s sovereignist speech on Dec. 4, and he lets you know it.

In a rant titled “Tilting at Straw Men,” he faults Pompeo for being “disingenuous,” “selective and tendentious,” and “gratuitously” aggressive.

It all came in a blog at the Council on Foreign Relations’ site, and leaves one wondering if anyone edits these things. Some wizened old hand could have looked up from his green eyeshades and suggested, “Stewart, do calm down. Are you not just disagreeing with the man, and guilty of these charges yourself?”

There’s a legitimate disagreement over transnationalism. Pompeo’s view, shared by many of us, is that the push for global governance by such multilateral institutions as the European Union, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, et al., has gotten out of control and impinges on national sovereignty.

Patrick’s view—which he says is the one “sensible people do believe” [italics ours]—is that “multilateral cooperation is often (though not always) the best way for nations to advance their interests in an interconnected world of complicated problems.”

What about Pompeo’s view? “Nobody actually believes what Pompeo alleges,” asserts Patrick, who does not lack in conviction.

Well, in fact, many of us do agree with Pompeo, and have been writing for decades—well before Pompeo entered public service in Kansas—that institutions such as the EU constantly trample on the rights of sovereign nations, are therefore unaccountable, and thus impinge on individual liberties.

In the case of the EU, this is done through the push to harmonize taxes, labor, and welfare policies, and create a slew of regulatory agencies.

Such an approach accelerated with Jacques Delors’ introduction of a “social dimension” into the community when he was European Commission president in the 1980s, something British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher correctly derided as an attempt to introduce socialism “through the back Delors.”

The backlash against attempts by France and Germany to build a “federal European super-state” is a lot older than Patrick makes out.

Patrick himself “bizarrely” “mischaracterizes” (two other invectives he levels against Pompeo) the current standoff over Brexit.

To him, Pompeo blithely ignores “how disastrously Brexit is playing out.” Wouldn’t a more impartial observer not equally conclude that the difficulty over Britain’s withdrawal grimly reminds us how the EU is more like Alcatraz, impossible to break out of?

The (tired, old, and banal) cliche that an “interconnected world of complicated problems” requires the sharing of sovereignty, and therefore limitations on individual freedoms, suffers from the logical fallacy of begging the question, in which the premise assumes the truth of the conclusion.

How exactly is the world interconnected, and is it any more so than it was in, say, Roman times, or when Britain ruled the waves? Are our problems more complicated now than when Genghis Khan invaded half the known world?

In his valiant defense of the United Nations, Patrick was himself rather selective. He wisely ignored Pompeo’s dismissal of the smug “world body” as a place where “anti-Israel bias has been institutionalized” and where “regional powers collude to vote the likes of Cuba and Venezuela onto the Human Rights Council.”

What could Patrick say about that?

Instead, he rises to defend the so-called U.N. “peacekeeping missions,” chiding Pompeo for “ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities.”

Peacekeeping operations can be useful, but they also can have significant problems and flaws.

Pompeo is right. Some peacekeeping operations, like the one in Kashmir or the one in the Western Sahara, have existed for decades yet with little sign of resolving the conflicts.

Patrick also conveniently ignores that U.N. peacekeepers were themselves accused, less than a year ago, of committing hundreds of rapes, including of children? Even the U.N. itself said it lacked accountability.

Patrick so loves transnational governance that he even defends the Organization of American States, also the enablers of autocrats in the region until the recent arrival of Secretary General Luis Almagro. Even then, the Organization of American States continues to interfere in the sovereignty of Latin Americans through the Inter-American Courts of Human Rights.

No, Patrick  didn’t say it was efficient, just that it might have “helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15.”

Seriously? Might foot-dragging in the confirmation process in the Senate have anything to do with that?

Long before Pompeo and Trump arrived on the political scene, many, many have viewed the global governance of these institutions for what it is—an attempt to tie down the American Gulliver.

No interconnectedness accounts for that, and it is—what’s the word?—disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal