My recently published article in the UCLA Journal of Int’l Law & Foreign Affairs offers a succinct riposte to the notion that the sovereignty of nation-states is waivalble by the Great Powers at their sole determination. “Pulling at the Threads of Westphalia: Involuntary Sovereignty Waiver – Revolutionary International Legal Theory of Return to Rule by the Great Powers?” can be accessed here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=960581
Dr. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, laid out a broad policy agenda with regard to sovereignty issues when he addressed the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 2003 while serving as President Bush’s Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. In that speech, he said:
The final challenge to sovereignty I want to highlight arises not when states cede it voluntarily but when it is taken away. This is the result of one of the most significant developments of the past decades: the emerging global consensus that sovereignty is not a blank check. Rather, sovereign status is contingent on the fulfillment by each state of certain fundamental obligations, both to its own citizens and to the international community. When a regime fails to live up to these responsibilities or abuses its prerogatives, it risks forfeiting its sovereign privileges – including, in extreme cases, its immunity from armed intervention. I believe that exceptions to the norm of non-intervention are warranted in at least three circumstances.
The first qualification of sovereignty comes when a state commits or fails to prevent genocide or crimes against humanity on its territory. The international community then has the right – and, indeed, in some cases, the obligation – to act to safeguard the lives of innocents…. [T]he second point of growing global consensus: Quite simply, countries have the right to take action to protect their citizens against those states that abet, support, or harbor international terrorists, or are incapable of controlling terrorists operating from their territory. As President Bush declared in releasing the National Security Strategy, “All nations have important responsibilities. Nations that enjoy freedom must actively fight terror.” The United States stands prepared to assist governments in meeting this solemn responsibility. And when states are reluctant or unwilling to meet this baseline obligation, we will act – ideally with partners, but alone if necessary – to hold them accountable…. Finally, states risk forfeiting their sovereignty when they take steps that represent a clear threat to global security. When certain regimes with a history of aggression and support for terrorism pursue weapons of mass destruction, thereby endangering the international community, they jeopardize their sovereign immunity from intervention – including anticipatory action to destroy this developing capability….
In all three of the situations I have just outlined – stopping genocide, fighting terrorism, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction – the principle remains the same: With rights come obligations. Sovereignty is not absolute. It is conditional. When states violate minimum standards by committing, permitting, or threatening intolerable acts against their own people or other nations, then some of the privileges of sovereignty are forfeited.
Here is the abstract of my response:
This paper explores the nature of sovereignty, its 17th century fusion with the state as a new political entity, its evolution over time, and challenges to its systemic primacy in the 21st century by thinkers such as Dr. Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, whose involuntary sovereignty waiver theory is deconstructed as a viable alternative to U.N. Security Council military intervention preventing human rights abuses, terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The article also explores Haass’s recommendation that the world return to a Concert of Powers system modeled on that which developed from the 1815 Congress of Vienna, and evaluates use of the anticipatory self-defense doctrine as a method of executing involuntary sovereignty waiver theory. This paper also discusses the interplay between internationalist, realist, and neoconservative schools within the Bush foreign policy apparatus and evaluates the efficacy of Haass’s theory being employed by each.