- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Back in May, when the latest round of controversy over the Law of the Sea treaty was raging in Congress, I took a look at seven other seemingly harmless international agreements on which the U.S. was conspicuous by its absence, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The "Sovereign American Leadership in International Organizations" section of the draft GOP platform released by Politico today, not only explicitly rejects these treaties, but veers pretty close to black helicopter territory:
Under our Constitution, treaties become the law of the land. So it is all the more important that the Congress — the senate through its ratifying power and the House through its appropriating power — shall reject agreements whose long-range impact on the American family is ominous or unclear. These include the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty as well as the various declarations from the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. Because of our concern for American sovereignty, domestic management of our fisheries, and our country’s long-term energy needs, we have deep reservations about the regulatory, legal, and tax regimes inherent in the Law of the Sea Treaty and congratulate Senate Republicans for blocking its ratification. We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty, and we oppose any form of U.N. Global Tax.
Assuming Romney follows through on opposition to Law of the Sea if elected, that would be a shift from the Bush administration, which supported it, and also put him at odds with U.S. military commanders. The reference to the ominous "long-range impact on the American family" could be a dog-whistle to homseschooling groups, some of whom fear that these treaties would empower international bureaucrats to interfere with the raising of their children. And despite some debate at the U.N. over the possibility of a global carbon tax, the body does not have the authority to impose such a tax on its members.
Then there’s Agenda 21. For those not familiar with this sinister plot, it’s a non-binding U.N. agreement passed in 1992, and signed by President George H.W. Bush, that commits signatories to the goal of sustainable development through responsible land use and energy conservation. It doesn’t actually legally compel its signatories to do anything, though the fact that various local green initiatives have been promoted as being in accordance with the agenda is evidence enough of a conspiracy for some.
The Times reported in February that Tea Party activists were increasingly referring to Agenda 21 in local debates on issues ranging from bike lanes to smart meters on home appliances:
Tom DeWeese, the founder of the American Policy Center, a Warrenton, Va.-based foundation that advocates limited government, says he has been a leader in the opposition to Agenda 21 since 1992. Until a few years ago, he had few followers beyond a handful of farmers and ranchers in rural areas. Now, he is a regular speaker at Tea Party events.
Membership is rising, Mr. DeWeese said, because what he sees as tangible Agenda 21-inspired controls on water and energy use are intruding into everyday life. “People may be acting out at some of these meetings, and I do not condone that. But their elected representatives are not listening and they are frustrated.”
Fox News has also helped spread the message. In June, after President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Rural Council to “enhance federal engagement with rural communities,” Fox programs linked the order to Agenda 21. A Fox commentator, Eric Bolling, said the council sounded “eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one world order.”
The movement has been particularly effective in Tea Party strongholds like Virginia, Florida and Texas, but the police have been called in to contain protests in states including Maryland and California, where opponents are fighting laws passed in recent years to encourage development around public transportation hubs and dense areas in an effort to save money and preserve rural communities.
Agenda 21 has been a favorite hobbyhorse of Glenn Beck, who argues that it is a covert means of achieving "centralized control over all of human life on planet Earth" as well as Alex Jones’ all-purpose conspiracy theory clearinghouse Infowars, which calls it a "globalist death plan for humanity."
The once fringe movement has been going mainstream this year. The RNC adopted a resolution condemning Agenda 21 in January and Newt Gingrich made frequent reference to it in his presidential campaign, calling it "part of a general problem of the United Nations and other international bureaucracies that are seeking to create an extra-constitutional control over us." He promised to block the initiative as one of his first executive orders if elected. Given how vague that actual text of Agenda 21 is when you read it, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would notice if he did.
Of course, those of us downplaying the nefarious globalist agenda behind bike lanes and high-speed rail projects could just be naive. Good thing brave public servants like Judge Tom Head are getting ready.