National Sovereignity

Reading over at TMH’s Bacon Bits about Condoleezza Rice on a Democratic Peace, I was struck by some thoughts. canadadrugs.com

Since its creation more than 350 years ago, the modern state system has always rested on the concept of sovereignty. It was assumed that states were the primary international actors and that every state was able and willing to address the threats emerging from its territory.

Or, as I take this, national sovereignity as a right rests upon national sovereignity as a responsibility. When a nation secures it’s borders and takes responsibility at a national level for all actions that cross those borders, then national sovereignity within those borders is a right. To give specific examples, Cambodia sheltering the Viet Cong was a failure of responsibility. Iran conducting an undeclared war against the US in Iraq is a failure of responsibilty. Mexico aiding and abeting illegal border crossings is a failure of responsibility. All of these are examples of nations explicitly giving up their rights to national sovereignity, to one degree or another. This current decoupling of sovereign rights from sovereign responsibility seems to be the very definition of the current international order.

Today, however, we have seen that these assumptions no longer hold, and as a result the greatest threats to our security are defined more by the dynamics within weak and failing states than by the borders between strong and aggressive ones.

In Dr. Rice’s article she points out that:

Attempting to draw neat, clean lines between our security interests and our democratic ideals does not reflect the reality of today’s world. Supporting the growth of democratic institutions in all nations is not some moralistic flight of fancy; it is the only realistic response to our present challenges.

I think that another, parallel conclusion can be validly drawn. In the international community, there are some states that do acknowledge and accept their sovereign responsibilities. There are also states that insist on their sovereign rights but fail to acknowledge, let alone uphold, their responsibilities. These delinquent states deserve to be stripped of those rights and given the second class status that their actions have earned.

Today’s international community, and the UN specifically, treat all nations equally. But this community has responsible citizens, delinquents, and gang-bangers. A more ‘realist’ approach to diplomacy would recognize this fact and treat individual nations accordingly.


1 Comment »

  1. TuCents » Preemptive Use of Force said,

    April 13, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

    […] So terrorists with WMD are a perpetually imminent threat, satisfying forever the Caroline criteria, and at the same time these terrorists are a violation of international law and are thus removed from the law’s protection. This is also consistent with holding that states that harbor terrorists are engaged in a proxy war against the targets of terrorism. The Carnegie Council and other seem content to rely on the UN. I would submit that the UN has proven over the last 25 or more years to be useless in international affairs. While the UN and it’s supporters credit it with keeping the peace since 1945, I think that detente, MAD and the carefully maintained balance between the USA and the USSR had a lot more to do with what peace there was than this old dictator’s club. It would be foolish and irresponsible to allow the UN Security Council to have a veto over the defense of the US. Russia, France and China do not have our best interests at heart. Third, international law regarding use of force is not particularly problematic. The Caroline criteria were widely used prior to 1945. The UN charter provides additional definition. What is problematic is the status of terrorists. As I addressed in a post on national sovereignity, nations have a responsibility to control the threats emerging from their borders. Failure to control the threat gives the victim the right to control it themselves. Backing terrorists today is no different from hiring privateers or issuing Letters of Marque in the past, and should be considered an act of aggression against anyone harmed by these terrorist groups. The ‘problematic’ thing is the way the UN and others stand in the way and defend the sponsors of these aggressive acts from the natural consequences. A ‘legal regime truly authoritative and controlling of state behavior’ in this situation is one that acknowledges the right of the victim of state sponsored terrorism to defensively attack the sponsoring state. […]

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