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Monday, February 5, 2018

Sovereignty and the New (Trumpian) World Order

Friends, my latest article, about the importance of national sovereignty, is currently soaring like an eagle (a Philadelphia Eagle perhaps?) over the virtual pages of American Greatness.  It's not to be missed, because a reassertion of American independence is what lies at the heart of "America First".  Read on...

Sovereignty is Critical, Even in a Cloud-Based World

First and foremost, President Trump stands for (you guessed it) “America First”. This means putting U.S. interests and values ahead of the interests and values of people overseas, and of the internationalist elite. It means insisting on trade deals that are fair and that protect U.S. jobs and technological preeminence. It means avoiding pointless foreign military adventures and spending our money on domestic priorities instead. It means requiring our allies to pay their way and shoulder their share of the burdens of maintaining global peace and security. It means responding vigorously and decisively to any and all challenges to our power and our way of life. Lastly, it means upholding our territorial integrity, including our borders and our immigration laws.

Nationalist conservatives like me have been waiting for years for a conservative Republican President who would give voice to America First principles, and who would pursue an agenda based on U.S. sovereignty and self-respect. Now, in Donald J. Trump, we have such a leader, and not surprisingly the world is aghast. Good, I say! Shake the world order to its foundations. It's about time. Luckily, there are nationalists all over the world who share some of President Trump's goals, both for the international community and for their own countries. This will make it easier to build a new Trumpian world order based on sovereignty. Thankfully, progress has already been made.

There is, however, a wrinkle to sovereignty which many conservatives have not yet considered. We want the world to respect the United States of America, including its territory, its trade interests, and its laws. There is another side to this equation, however, and that is the notion that, while we insist on other countries' respect for our sovereignty, we must also be willing to respect theirs. Sovereignty, after all, is the idea that a nation-state (any nation-state) has the right, within its own territory, to make its own decisions. We cherish this right for ourselves. Thus, to be consistent, we cannot deny it to other countries.

In the past, Americans have been too quick to violate the sovereign rights and territorial integrity of other countries. We have projected military power globally, especially with airstrikes and drone attacks, whenever our interests demanded it, without regard to other countries' rights. We have lectured other nations on the form of government they ought to choose. We have used economic pressure, including sanctions, to punish those who run their internal affairs in a way that conflicts with our interests or values. We have even invaded and occupied other countries for a long list of reasons, but rarely, if ever, because our own national security necessitated it. 

In a hypothetical world that truly upheld the principle of sovereignty, all of these actions would be deeply problematic and would rarely, if ever, be the stated policy of the government of the United States. Rather, we would acquire the habit of minding our own business and holding our tongue when we disagreed with other countries' sovereign decisions – and in so doing we would be setting them a good example, and perhaps deterring them from seeking to interfere in our own internal affairs. If only we had learned this lesson sooner... Would the Russians, for example, ever have tried to manipulate our election process, if we had not first stuck our noses into their flawed democracy, praising dissidents and criticizing the conduct of Russian elections, as indeed we do in so many parts of the world? It is an interesting question.

There are innumerable steps we can take to rebuild trust and confidence in the key principle of national sovereignty worldwide, but as we speak Congress is debating whether to take an important step forward. It is discussing the CLOUD Act, which would create a framework for resolution of disputes between nation-states related to access to electronically-stored information. It may sound like an obscure issue, but it is integral to the future of sovereignty.

The need for something like the CLOUD Act arises in part from a case currently before the Supreme Court. The Justice Department has been seeking emails from Microsoft stored in their servers in Ireland. The U.S government has taken the view that, if it desires data that can be accessed in the U.S. via the internet, it need not consider the privacy laws or the sovereignty of the country where the data is actually stored. This, however, is a typically imperious attitude on the part of the U.S. government, which tends to give short shrift to privacy concerns in general (see the Nunes memo for proof!), and which considers the sovereignty of other nation-states to be a secondary concern.

The CLOUD Act would seek to restore the balance in this equation by requiring the U.S. government to seek access to data stored overseas via bilateral agreements and negotiations with the affected sovereign state(s). In this way, both companies' and individuals' rights to privacy would be properly protected (we hope), and the sovereign rights of every country involved would be upheld. Clearly, this is infinitely preferably to a model whereby the U.S. government could blithely reach up into the global computing cloud and snatch whatever information it desired...

Data storage is but one domain in which the question of sovereignty is germane, and in which the U.S. has not taken the sovereignty of other countries especially seriously. Who, then, are the enemies of sovereignty?

Sometimes, they are deep state bureaucrats, who want no niceties of constitutionalism, rule of law, or international comity to interfere with their freedom of action. Sometimes, they are elite internationalists, who see national independence as an obstacle to their utopian striving for a New World Order. Sometimes, they are international capitalists, who prize uniformity and pliability in governments, rather than real self-government.

Whoever the enemies of sovereignty may be, they are, in the end, the enemies of the people of the United States of America, because, as President Trump said in his State of the Union address, we desperately need “reciprocity” in our relations with our countries. We need them to respect our rights and independence, yes, but we need to respect theirs in return. Any other formulation risks our freedoms and our way of life, putting them in the hands of globalists and foreigners. 

America First means, therefore, “we'll do it our way, and you do it yours.” That was what we fought for in 1776, and we should not surrender an inch of those gains today or in the future.

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at

You can read a slightly modified version here, on the American Greatness website.


  1. Dr.Waddy: This is a courageous and thought provoking essay. I think that, on balance, the U.S. has used its unprecedented power to the benefit of the rest of the world. Most of our modern military efforts have been for commendable reasons: (eg. saving the world from 20th century totalitarianism, anti world communism in Korea, Vietnam and in the Cold War, taking the field against 7th Century Islamic aggression reborn.)In the 19th century, had the relatively enlightened British not occupied India, Russia surely would have and the results would have been appalling. Similarly, it may be better in our time that it has been the U.S. doing the interfering rather than, say, Russia, Germany,Japan and their avatars - nations without mercy. Certainly we have inadvisedly interfered in the sovereignty of some countries (eg. Russia in its relationship with Ukraine, Pakistan in its agonizing balancing act between common sense and Islamist terror). As a guiding principle we should always support mutual respect for sovereignty between nations. The Cloud Act would appear to be in keeping with that responsibility and would provide additional moral authority for the President's "America first" stance, which I laud.

  2. Well said, Jack. I totally agree about the necessity of our engagement with the world during the Cold War, but it seems to me that a lot of our adventures since then have been counterproductive. I believe I'm right in saying that U.S. troops can now be found in over 100 countries. That seems like overkill!

  3. I enjoyed this post, Dr. Waddy. I had a similar conversation with a professor this afternoon who didn't appreciate my thoughts.

    Your previous commenter, Jack, is correct. So, I'll just end my comment now.

  4. Dr. Waddy: Your reply is very plausible and strongly suggests the necessity for a reappraisal of a deployment that extensive.

  5. My cup runneth over with appreciative comments! I am truly grateful. Much as I would like to see us reevaluate our global-trotting militarism, developments like today's Senate deal to expand funding for the military and domestic programs make it clear that I'm unlikely to get my way. Both parties are ultimately on board with big government and internationalism, so it will be VERY hard to change direction. So far Trump has changed our tone as a nation...but little else.

  6. Dr, Waddy: Your observation gives me pause. Trump may well be making deals now - giving some to get more of what he really wants now (eg. the wall). Perhaps he will eventually apply "America First" to a needed disengagement from areas we need not be in (Ukraine, I hope). The military does need more support, I think, to bolster morale and properly reward our all volunteer force though.

  7. Of course you're right, Jack, that Trump needs to be realistic and cut deals where he can. (I haven't seen any indication that the Senate deal includes the wall, though.) I respectfully disagree about the need to spend more on defense. Yes, some areas are underfunded, but massive sums are also wasted, and personally I would like to see a redistribution of defense dollars rather than an overall increase.