For decades, Americans have slept while their national sovereignty has been threatened, chipped away and eroded by a series of innocuous-sounding and nearly imperceptible decisions. We have been locked in a struggle between our sovereignty and the advocates of "global governance" that most of our fellow citizens didn't even know was under way, let alone how disparate were these two worldviews. This conflict is not about the buzzword "globalization" and its implications for commerce and culture, but a sharp confrontation about power and government: our power and our government.

Although "sovereignty" has many often contradictory meanings, for Americans, the idea is actually quite straightforward: Sovereignty rests in the Constitution's opening phrase "We the People," meaning our control over our own government.

Advocates of "pooling" U.S. sovereignty with others to address "global" problems are really saying we should surrender some of our sovereignty to international organizations that other nations will influence or even control.

That is unquestionably a formula for reducing U.S. autonomy and our authority over government. Most Americans feel we don't adequately control government now, so it is no wonder that, once aware of the scope of the threat, they will refuse to cede even more authority to distant bodies where U.S. influence is reduced or uncertain.

For President Obama, our first post-American president, surrendering sovereignty seems perfectly reasonable, consistent with his essentially European social-democratic worldview. Obama sees his foreign-policy role less as an advocate for America's "parochial" interests and more as a "citizen of the world," in his own phrase.

The description President George H.W. Bush applied to his 1988 election opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, also applies to Obama: "He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe."

Threats to U.S. sovereignty are both imminent and long-term. They have varying characteristics, and they are often not necessarily immediately obvious as threats. One element that runs through many of them, however, is the concept of international "norming," the idea that America should base its policies on the global consensus rather than making our own decisions as a constitutional democracy. "Norming" is a way to constrain U.S. sovereignty by moving our domestic political debate to align with broader international opinion.

Because of the centrality of individual freedom in the United States, norming advocates are invariably on the international Left politically; there are simply no other nations as liberty-oriented as we are.

Thus, much of the threat to our sovereignty comes not in traditional national security areas, but on policies heretofore considered entirely domestic in nature.

Take four issues where our free and open political system allows continuing, robust domestic debates: global warming, abortion, gun control and the death penalty.

Yet the "norming" advocates say that the rest of the world, through treaties, United Nations decisions and "customary international law," has already decided these questions: for massively increased government taxation and regulation to combat global warming, for widely available abortions, for gun control and against the death penalty.

The issue here is not where you stand on any one of these particular issues, but who gets to decide them: us, or the rest of the world "voting" in our decision making. This is the core issue of American sovereignty and the threat to it represented by the Obama worldview.

Clearly, Obama will now have a far less compliant Congress, so there is every prospect he will use the international route to achieve his objectives.

By clearly understanding how threats to our sovereignty arise, by making them politically important, and by holding our elected officials accountable, we can defend our sovereignty vigorously. But there is no time to waste.

John Bolton is the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This article is excerpted from the Encounter Broadsides series.