Three isms lie behind current American domestic and foreign policy: globalism, secularism, and cosmopolitanism. While pundits have explored the first two ad infinitum, they have neglected the third—despite the indisputable fact that the cosmopolitan mindset plays a huge role in the thinking of current American business, national, religious, entertainment, media, and educational leaders.
So unmentioned is the word cosmopolitan that it requires definition. It derives the Greek words kosmos and polis—world and city. A cosmopolitan person has made the world his city. He feels at home in all the world, and is, by Webster's own definition, "not restricted to any locality, field of activity or sphere of thought."
The profile of a "cosmocrat" includes his open-armed embrace of tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness, and universalism. He seeks to be all things to all people. Morally, he is bound to be a relativist; politically, he is almost always a liberal; religiously, he exults in his atheism. He is proud to consider himself a "change agent." He is archly anti-nationalistic as well: A cosmopolitan, virtually by definition, does not identify with his nation of birth so much as with his role as "citizen of the world." To him, national sovereignty has no proper place in policy-making. Patriotism is passé. To be cosmopolitan is to be transnational—to cross national identities or to mix them. The cosmopolitan is a cultural syncretist par excellence.
One commentator identifies three sorts of cosmopolitans: universalist, economic, and moralist:
1. The universalist cosmopolitan takes his cues from the old idea of the American "melting-pot." Folk from around the world have come to America, have gladly accepted her culture, and have successfully assimilated into it. As the world's peoples increasingly encounter American goods and culture, they too recognize the appeal of the "American way of life," and ultimately buy into it. That way of life is universally appealing, avers the universalist. "The distinction between America and the world is disappearing because of the triumph of American power and the appeal of American society and culture." This is the approach of George Bush.
2. The economic cosmopolitan "focuses on economic globalization as a transcendent force breaking down national boundaries, merging national economies into a single global whole, and rapidly eroding the authority and functions of national governments." This is the approach taken by WTO officials and by executives of multinational corporations. This appears to be the approach of Bill Clinton.
The result of economic transnationalism is that many
multinational corporations see their interests as separate from America's interests. As their global operations expand, corporations founded and headquartered in the United States gradually become less American. . . . America-based corporations operating globally recruit their workforce and their executives . . . without regard to nationality. The CIA . . . can no longer count on the cooperation of American corporations as it once was able to do, because the corporations view themselves as multinational and may not think it in their interests to help the U.S. government.
3. The moralistic cosmopolitan believes that a person's highest commitment must be to the so-called world community. Commitment to "humanity" must supersede commitment to nation (and even family). This sort of cosmopolitan "decries patriotism and nationalism as evil forces and agues that international law, institutions, regimes and norms are morally superior to those of individual nations." Cosmopolitans of this ilk self-righteously "abandon their commitment to their nation and their fellow citizens and argue the moral superiority of identifying with humanity at large." Not surprisingly, the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Accords are among their favorite causes. Clearly, this is the approach of liberal academics and clerics. Just as clearly, Jimmy Carter falls into this category.
The following medley of comments from today's academics tells the story. One professor, arguing that "patriotic pride" is "morally dangerous," advocates that people should show "allegiance [to the] worldwide community of human beings." Another believes that it is "repugnant" that students should be taught that they are "above all, citizen of the United States. . . . [Our] primary allegiance . . . should not be to the United States or to some other politically sovereign community [but to] democratic humanism." Yet another perceives "the evil of a shared national identity," submitting that the decline of national sovereignty is "basically a positive phenomenon."
Across the board, cosmopolitans "view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite's global operations." They believe
that national sovereignty ought to give way to "individual sovereignty" so that the international community can act to prevent or stop gross violations by governments of the rights of their citizens. This principle provides a basis for the United Nations to intervene militarily or otherwise in the domestic affairs of states, a practice explicitly prohibited by the UN Charter.
Probably about four percent of the American population could presently be classified as cosmopolitans. They make up a decided minority, but a disproportionately powerful one for its size.
The majority of Americans, the public at large, do not see the world as their oyster. Shunning what appears to them to be anti-patriotic internationalism, they are more isolationist, conservative, traditional, and religious. They prefer the American Constitution to the United Nations Charter. Compared to the publics of most other nations, they are fiercely committed to God and nation.
The breach between America's cosmopolitan leaders and her public is real, and it is growing.
(To learn more about its roots and its ramifications, you may want to pick up Samuel P. Huntington's latest book, Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity. Quotations in this essay are from Huntington's "Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite," published in The National Interest, Spring 2004, p 5.)
- Charles Whitaker
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