Nearly four years after George Bush, on the eve of the Persian Gulf War, first popularized the expression “New World Order,” is there anyone in the United States who does not greet that phrase with either a grin of sarcasm or a growl of hatred? The answer, in a nutshell, is yes. The expression may have become a cliche and the concept may have stumbled and tripped far more than its conceivers anticipated, but what it expresses remains the driving force in American foreign policy and in the minds that inhabit those cryptic circles where the course and contours of foreign policy are crafted.

The Gulf War, as a number of its critics pointed out at the time, was merely an experiment, a vanguard action intended to test the waters and see how far the trappings of patriotism and the jolliness that always accompanies successful military slaughter could be exploited to mobilize the American populace for the higher purpose of global salvation. The answer to the question “how far?” turned out to be “very far,” and the national chest-thump that celebrated the mass murder of some 250,000 Iraqis who never even contemplated attacking Americans suggested that the architects of the global cow pasture could easily recruit all the sit-com-saturated cattle they needed to serve in future round-ups.

Since the end of the Gulf War, however, the embryonic global regime these architects planned to construct has not slouched forward to be born. Stage Two of its birthpangs was supposed to take place in the Balkans, but not even the architects could delude themselves that the Balkan terrain and politico-military conflict lent themselves to the kind of high-tech juggernaut that Mesopotamia permitted. In lieu of a Balkan crusade, we had to make do with the dunderheaded mission in Somalia, and that, with all its prospects of tossing lollipops to starving children while shooting down their mothers and fathers in the streets (and not infrequently the children, too), almost worked. What wrecked it was not any surfeit of compassion or regret for the acts of aggression the United States has committed there but the dawning realization that the mission of feeding the loathsome place could not be accomplished in the absence of inventing a government for it, and this could not be done unless we also engaged in a protracted war with its natural rulers. By the end of last summer, the folly of Mr. Bush’s legacy to his successor and the nation in thrusting the country into a minor war in Somalia was evident even to Republicans, and neither President Clinton nor her husband showed any desire to scuttle their unsteady vessel of state with further involvement there.

Nevertheless, despite such contretemps, the passion for global meddling continues. At the end of 1992, an article in Foreign Policy entitled “Saving Failed States” (a phrase later used by U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright to argue for continued and escalated involvement in Somalia) postulated the compelling need for the United Nations and its largest province, the United States, to mount regular administrative and military escapades to salvage unsalvageable countries. Not only Somalia itself and the several noncountries of the Balkans but also Liberia and Cambodia were among the targets the authors identified for future missions of mercy, in addition to Ethiopia, Georgia (Stalin’s, not Scarlett O’Hara’s), and Zaire, with several other new nations of the old Soviet Union pitched in for good measure. In February 1993, the New York Times listed no fewer than 43 different countries into whose internal affairs the U.S.-U.N. colossus ought to inject itself, and when Secretary of State Warren Christopher explained his philosophy of global do-good during his confirmation hearings before a patient Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he worried that unless the United States “did something,” the world might soon witness the unprecedented horror of having “5,000 countries rather than the hundred-plus we now have.”

Why the prospect of 5,000 independent countries should be disturbing (I can think of at least 48 provinces of Washington that ought to be independent) Mr. Christopher did not explain. but the United Nations has been doing its best to make sure it doesn’t happen. The number of U.N. troops involved in “peacekeeping” missions quadrupled in a single year between 1991 and the middle of 1992, from 11,000 to more than 44,000—as did the cost of fielding them, from the pittance of $700 million in 1991 to a whopping $2.8 billion in 1992, a quarter of which is disgorged by Americans.

Global reconstruction of states and countries that cannot function independently and probably should be swallowed by their neighbors is only one morsel on the globalist plate, however. The project of reconstruction—through military repression followed by the arrival of less lethal but no less destructive armies of educators, doctors, engineers, economists, goat and poultry experts, dambuilders, well-diggers, womanologists, childologists, vaccine scratchers, and ethnic relations managers—offers a bottomless pit of employment and empowerment for the therapeutic branch of the transnational elite, as well as rationales for more booty from the subordinate governments and peoples that pay for them.

The creation of what Mr. Christopher called “a world where borders matter less and less, a wodd that demands we join with other nations to face challenges that range from overpopulation to AIDS to the very destruction of our planet’s life support system” would also offer a bonanza for multinational corporations and the eat-and-swill-and-screw economy they promote. Also last year. Time magazine published a special fall issue, largely financed by the Chrysler Corporation, burbling in glee over the arrival of a monocultural, monoracial planet, and Pico Iyer in an essay called “The Global Village Finally Arrives” bubbled over the erasure of traditional cultures and countries by the planetary swarm of immigrants bound together through the chewing gum and chicken wire of global consumptionism. “In ways that were hardly conceivable even a generation ago,” he wrote,

the new world order is a version of the New World writ large. . . . A common multiculturalism links us all—call it Planet Hollywood, Planet Reebok or the United Colors of Benetton. . . . The global village is defined, as we know, by an international youth culture that takes its cues from American pop culture. Kids in Perth and Prague and New Delhi are all tuning in to Santa Barbara on TV, and wriggling into 501 jeans, while singing to Madonna’s latest in English. . . . As fast as the world comes to America, America goes to the world—but it is an America that is itself multi-tongued and many hued.

Time‘s special issue appeared just on the eve of the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a somewhat weaker U.S. analogue to the Maastricht Treaty’s continental unification of Europe, and the year closed with former Secretary of State James Baker, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and several other globocrats calling for the extension of NATO to encompass all of Europe, regardless of the minor detail that the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the raisons d’etre of the Atlantic alliance, rendered NATO superfluous. Their arguments for expanding the Atlantic treaty, like the economic argument for NAFTA, were only pedantic sidebars to their real purpose, to nail down the planks of the New World Order in such a way that the principals could not escape from the transnational house they were constructing around themselves.

The temptation, to which writers on both the undomesticated right and left have readily succumbed, is to call the trend toward a global regime a form of imperialism, and apologists for the new planetary order like Charles Krauthammer afford some reason for doing so. Mr. Krauthammer has expressed no small skepticism about a Balkan engagement and no small disenchantment with the Somalian adventure, but only a few years ago in the National Interest he was slobbering over the prospect of nothing less than “Universal Dominion” for the “West,” an expression that to him seems to mean not much more than a global fast-food chain occasionally backed up by the Marines, and when he plumped for the United States “to wish and work for a super-sovereign West economically, culturally, and politically hegemonic in the world,” it might not have been unreasonable to infer that he was advocating imperialism.

But in fact globalism is not at all the same thing as imperialism. In imperialism, at least the historic versions of it we know, a particular political and cultural unit expands and imposes itself and its power on other particular political and cultural units, as when Rome, Great Britain, or the United States conquered and controlled other countries and other territories. Up to a point, imperialism is a perfectly normal and natural (though not necessarily harmless) result of any successful state. If a state keeps winning its wars, if its subjects or citizens are economically successful, then sooner or later the state and its people will wind up with an empire, and typically the state then sends out some of those people to govern the empire, exploit it, and bring back lots of swag and ego-gratification for those remaining at home.

Globalism is rather different. Under globalism, the political and cultural unit that is expanding is not the city-state, nation, or people that expands under imperialism; indeed, the dynamic of globalism works to submerge and even destroy such particularities. What expands under globalism is the elite itself, which progressively disengages itself from the political and cultural unit in which it originated and becomes an autonomous force, a unit not subordinated or loyal to any particular state, people, or culture. In the globalist regime that is writhing toward birth today, the transnational elite that runs it does not even claim to be advancing the material or spiritual interests of the nations it uses; the elite has only contempt for national identity, regards national sovereignty as at best obsolete and at worst a barrier to its aspirations, and believes (or affects to believe) that nationality and all its characteristics are on the way out.

Economies, in the globalist mind, are already “global,” so nations no longer possess distinct and conflicting economic interests. Populations also will and ought to be global, so nations no longer serve as the depositories of distinctive cultural identities carried by specific peoples and coupled to political expression, and there is only Mr. Iyer’s planetary consumption culture of Reeboks and Madonna. Political interests, too, are supposedly joined together, so that we can now forget about territorial disputes between countries, centuries-old national hatreds, and geopolitical conflicts determined by the evolution of earth and sea. Today, in the globalist goo-goo land, the only interests that exist are common ones, such as curing AIDS and saving whales, which separate and sovereign nations can’t pursue successfully by themselves.

But, while the transnational elite is busy persuading us that we have no collective interests as separate and distinct peoples, it neglects to point out the common interest that binds its own members and the organizational structures that house them—in multinational bureaucracies like the United Nations, the IMF, GATT, UNESCO, etc.; in multinational corporations; and in communications and educational institutions that are now transnational in reach and operation. Most of the “problems” the elite frets over, from curing AIDS and saving whales to pacifying Somalis and explaining to Serbs and Sinhalese the ethics of Bertrand Russell and Phil Donahue, are contrived to suit its own interests in gouging nations and their peoples for more money, conscripting their citizens into global legions to protect itself and its projects, and locking itself into permanent power by diminishing the sovereignty and independence of nations and taking over the functions of their governments.

Lacking a morally convincing argument with which to clothe this naked grasp for power, the elite and its apologists make their case by appealing to drippy moral opacities and patching up such appeals with dubious claims of historical inevitability and irreversibility. But even a casual consideration of their claims exposes their weakness. Not long after the end of the Gulf War, Brian Urquhart, former U.N. undersecretary-general and one of the Global Village’s foremost town criers, announced in the New York Times that “the unravelling of national sovereignty seems to be a fixture of the post-Cold War era.” The march to global rule is irreversible, you see, and we might as well get on with building upon it instead of trying to thwart it by shoring up the crumbling and illusory dikes of national sovereignty. But of course what had unravelled was not sovereignty. What had unravelled was the denial of national sovereignty by the Soviet Empire, and what had proliferated and is proliferating today and will keep on proliferating is precisely the national sovereignty the transnational elite so despises and fears.

The main conflict in the world today is the struggle between the forces of nationalism —which includes cultural, racial, tribal, religious, and other group loyalties and collectivities—and those of globalism, which includes the interests and ideologies of the elites who push globalism for their own benefit. It is a conflict that supersedes (but also to some degree encompasses) the truly obsolescent division between right and left. It is one that will not go away, no matter how many of Madonna’s songs you listen to, and with the conjunction of nationalism and populism in the opposition to NAFTA, it is a conflict that is now beginning to erupt in the United States. If the United States has a future as anything more than the tax base and recruiting ground for the transnational elite and its regime, the conflict between a popular nationalism and elite globalism will need to develop even more, as it will in other nations. What America needs today is its own General Mohammed Aidid, a leader willing and able to rally Americans in resistance to our own local branch of the elite, and what the rest of the planet needs is not more Bushes, Clintons, Christophers, Urquharts, lyers, and Boutros-Ghalis but to let 5,000 national sovereignties bloom.