In April, Condoleezza Rice made a stunning display of her keen analytical mind and verbal agility.  During a joint press conference with the Hungarian foreign minister, the secretary of state found herself defending the Bush administration’s decision to abstain rather than veto a U.N. resolution turning over crimes committed in the Darfur region of the Sudan to the International Criminal Court, even though the administration supposedly opposes the ICC.  When some malicious wag pointed out that neither the United States nor Sudan are parties to the treaty that created the ICC, Rice replied: “It is important to uphold the principle that non-parties to a treaty are indeed non-parties to a treaty.  But the international community has to act on Darfur.”  I’m surprised she did not pull out the familiar “We cannot stand idly by.”

Muslims have been killing Christians in southern Sudan for decades, but the United States has taken little interest.  There are some Christians in Darfur, though they are mostly refugees.  All this time that Christians have been the object of a genocidal slaughter in Africa—subsidized, in part, by Saudis—the United States has done nothing; when the occasion arises for beefing up the “international community,” however, we let nothing stand in our way.

Secretary Rice recently exposed her mastery of Russian to the world in an interview in which she could neither understand questions nor speak correct Russian, but she appears to be a master of the doublespeak clichés in which all American policies are framed.  Nonparties are nonparties, she concedes, except when the United States wants something done.  Then it is up to “the international community.”

International community is an interesting phrase.  There was a time when it meant something, though not very much, namely, the group of foreigners in a city who, as strangers in a strange land, tended to spend time with one another and exchange favors.  At some point, the world-controllers picked up the phrase and used it as the New World Order equivalent of people, as in “What would people say if they found out you didn’t change your socks every day?”

As conventional shorthand for the tyranny of public opinion, people is a useful term to lay down the law to all persons who are definitely non-people.  The international community has a similar function in dictating terms to all the “lesser breeds without the Law,” who have the bad taste and worse judgment to think they can manage their own affairs without the intervention of the United States and her surrogates—NATO, the World Bank, transnational corporations, and the United Nations—that make this the greatest empire (at least de facto) in the history of the world.

I watched this verbal bullying from almost the beginning of the break-up of Yugoslavia, as this so-called international community pursued a one-sided policy, supporting every group against the Serbs.  But the IC has also mustered its forces in favor of birth control and women’s liberation and against religion (especially Christianity) and patriotism.

The phrase is useful because it literally means nothing.  A community, after all, consists of people who live together and share experiences, as in a family or village.  Although we sometimes use community as a vague synonym for society, the two words have rather different origins and meanings.  A society (from the Latin socius, ally or comrade) is a group of men and women who have banded together for a specific purpose, whether to promote German band music or to discuss conservative ideology.

A community, by contrast, is defined by sharing, by having things in common (communis).  When anthropologists speak of face-to-face communities or, to use the language of James Redfield’s still memorable book, The Little Community, they are describing people living in one place, tied together by common history and usually by common blood.  While members of a society (a hunting band, football team, or real-estate company) judge one another by their contribution to the group—honoring the best shot, the longest throw, the highest sales—members of a community are largely stuck with one another.  You may not expel your double second cousin from the village simply because he is dead weight on the community any more than you may disown your son simply because he does not live up to the family’s standard of high marks in school and high earnings on the job.

When, some years ago, Mario Cuomo began ventilating his feelings about the “national family,” few Republicans were astute enough to see the implications.  Families are inherently socialist, accepting and nonjudgmental, and a great nation-state that treated its citizens as one big happy family would be more like Pol Pot’s Cambodian nightmare than like anything the Framers of the Constitution imagined.

And, just as there can be no national family, except in the fictions promoted by totalitarian states, so there can be no international community unless we subscribe to a conspiracy theory and believe that 20 to 30 people are meeting on a regular basis to plot the takeover of the world.  Of course, they would like to, but there is nothing to prevent conspirators from conspiring against one another, hence the two-party system or the little tiffs between Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush.  Nonetheless, the fiction of the international community is a key to what is happening, because it implies that all the nations of the world are really one nation, and, thus, the differences that divide Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Albanians are as trivial as the histories of these people.

When Secretary Rice, echoing Secretary Albright and her cronies, invokes the language of the “international community,” she is implicitly defending the leftist policy of globalism and international human rights.  But then, that is why she is secretary of state for an administration that refuses to protect our borders, allies itself with Muslim terrorists around the globe—most recently, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria—yet threatens to attack any nation that sins against the consensus of the international community.