Daniel W. Drezner

Today’s sovereigntist absurdity watch

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has quite the provocative op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal.  He argues that even though "every living former secretary of State" endorses it, the United States should withdraw from the World Trade Organization.  Why? The [WTO] proposes to create a new global governance institution that would regulate American citizens and businesses ...

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has quite the provocative op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal.  He argues that even though "every living former secretary of State" endorses it, the United States should withdraw from the World Trade Organization. 

Why?

The [WTO] proposes to create a new global governance institution that would regulate American citizens and businesses without being accountable politically to the American people. Some [WTO] proponents pay little attention to constitutional concerns about democratic legislative processes and principles of self-government, but I believe the American people take seriously such threats to the foundations of our nation.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has quite the provocative op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal.  He argues that even though "every living former secretary of State" endorses it, the United States should withdraw from the World Trade Organization. 

Why?

The [WTO] proposes to create a new global governance institution that would regulate American citizens and businesses without being accountable politically to the American people. Some [WTO] proponents pay little attention to constitutional concerns about democratic legislative processes and principles of self-government, but I believe the American people take seriously such threats to the foundations of our nation.

The [WTO] creates a United Nations-style body called the "Dispute Settlement Mechanism." "The Mechanism," as U.N. bureaucrats call it in Orwellian shorthand, would be involved in all commercial activity…

Disagreements among [WTO] signatories are to be decided through mandatory dispute-resolution processes of uncertain integrity. Americans should be uncomfortable with unelected and unaccountable tribunals… serving as the final arbiter of such disagreements.

Oh, wait… you know what I did?  I misread Rumsfeld’s op-ed.  Replace "WTO" with "Law of the Sea Treaty" and "Dispute Settlement Mechanism" with "International Seabed Authority."  That’s what Rumsfeld is arguing against

But, hey, that totally innocent mistake on my part does a lovely job of demonstrating the hollowness of the best of a bad set of arguments.  [What are Rumsfeld’s other bad arguments?–ed.  I believe, in order, 1) I worked with Reagan; 2)  Authoritarian states would also benefit; and 3) I smell socialism, no matter what the U.S. Navy says.]  The United States surrenders small parts of its sovereignty on a fairly regular basis.  America does this because the massive gains that come from every other country surrendering their sovereignty outweigh those costs and constraints.  Rumsfeld’s argument, however, simply asserts that no sovereignty loss is tolerable — which is gonna be news to our WTO and NATO partners, for starters.

What’s especially impressive is that the former Secretary of Defense managed to write a whole op-ed weighing the costs and benefits of this treaty without ever once mentioning either "China" or "South China Sea."  By ratifying this treaty, the United States and its Pacific allies would put China into a corner on that and other disputes. 

Instead, Rumsfeld ignores that particular argument.  So, let’s just come out and say it:  Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumfeld is soft on China. 

Am I missing anything? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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