A question about intervention and state sovereignty

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by Pacifist_Jihadist, Jun 15, 2009.

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  1. Its been a boring morning in work and i got thinking about this. Does sovereignty lie within the lines and label given to an area on a map or to the people? A government, as i understand it, is to act the will and in the best interests of the people. So if a dictatorship is formed this link of responsibility to the people is severed, the government has been stolen from the people. No matter how it is dressed up it may be with ministers of education or transport can it be classed as a proper sovereign government? Therefore can humanitarian intervention, political or military, be seen as an act against state sovereignty or in the interest of the sovereignty of the people?
     
  2. An interesting question. I'd argue that there are two definitions of 'sovereign'. The legal definition of a sovereign i.e. a self-governing state. And the philosophical definition of a sovereign state i.e. one in which the power of the state arises from its representation of the popular will.

    This leaves us with a problem as the two definitions are distinct. If we accept that sovereignty lies with the people then in a democratic system they delegate their sovereignty to the government, who they elect to represent and rule according to their interests.

    States and governments, however, pre-date notions of popular sovereignty. Hence the state is the main unit of international law (and has been since the Treaty of Westphalia). Some states have reconciled this by developing into democracies (eventually). Other states remain resolutely undemocratic, in which case whilst the state is sovereign, its sovereignty is flawed.

    This is where we get into a potentially complicated and dangerous situation. Blair's foreign wars were effectively examples of liberal interventionism, in a similar vein to some of Canning and Palmerston's adventurism in the 1800s. They were fought in support of people against governments which were oppressing them. In the interest of the sovereignty of the people.

    In so doing, however, the state-based system of diplomacy is effectively weakened as undemocratic states face questions over their legality. This entrenches them in their opposition to the West because they face an existential threat (though not the sort of existential threat Iran poses Israel, for instance).

    So, following on from your question I'll pose some more for the Board:

    1) Sovereignty: state or people?
    2) Is it right to intervene to protect people from their Government?
    3) Is liberal interventionism worth the risk of further entrenching opponents of Western society?
     
  3. This topic is in line with something written today by Ian Dunt ('Why we hate the Government') on his blog and the nature of constititional set-up that allows us to separate monarchy from State and the safety net this provides. In a way, he was approaching ideas on this thread 'from the other end of the lense',

    'Take, for instance, the monarchy. It's a paradox, but over the years, the monarchy has protected us against executive power by its very existence. I was in the States at the start of the year and socialising with some right-wing friends when I asked them about their new president, expecting a flood of anger and resentment. There was none of that. He wasn't just their president; he was their commander in chief and, importantly, their head of state. Instead, they said they were disappointed by the result but that it was their job now to get behind him.

    Sounds nice, doesn't it? It isn't. It's dangerous. By making a political figure the head of state, the American system mixes up patriotism and politics. This allowed George Bush and his entourage to paint anti-war activists as anti-Americans. We don't have this problem. We direct our patriotic sentiment towards the Queen, allowing us to take a pretty hostile attitude towards the prime minister while keeping love of country far, far away from politics
    '.

    By it's very nature, I'd argue that the Monarchy ( in a democratic state at least), should serve as a bastion of security against political systems whose very nature puts them at the whim of events. I guess it depends on the powers invested in a monarch and how well these are exercised ?
     
  4. Unfortunately, the inter-state sphere is still essentially anarchic with rules being adhered to on a voluntary basis or not at all. Think of how many states refuse to sign up to supranational accords or organisations; or who selectively apply these accords and organisational decisions depending on how well they reflect their national interests.

    In that respect, sovereignty is all about power - the power of a government to enforce its will over a population or land area and to resist incursions from others. It's all very cave-man like and made far more interesting by globalisation and the rise of the multinational corporation.
     
  5. The opposite is the 'failed state' - unable to project their sovereignty within their jurisdiction; unable to enforce laws (taxes, law and order etc) due to a challenger or simply the people (citizenry & police) don't care for it.
     
  6. How very true. I just wish they would bring back the 18th Century tradition of throwing gold sovs into the crowd during the hustings.
     
  7. Sorry to pull up an old thread but it seemed valid with recent events of the peoples rising against unpopular governments. In light of which i would re-ask P2000s question:

    Sovereignty: state or people?

    I would say, obviously, the people. The legal definition of sovereignty is out dated especially in an era where public opinion can become suddenly volatile and broadcast internationally.


    Though to add. The legal definition of sovereignty confuses me. A "self governing state" seems a contradiction when applied to a dictatorship. How can a state be self governing when it arises through oppression by a minority? Or does it merely stop at ones ability to exert influence over the geographical area rather than the means of achieving it?
     
  8. I think there's a certain amount of circular logic in that if it governs a population and territory then it's self-governing and you can tell it's self-governing because it governs a population and territory. I guess it depends on how closely-linked governed and government are seen to be.

    The difficult part is that this is something which is often quite difficult to tell from outside. I don't think Georgian Britain was by any stretch of the imagination a democracy in the modern sense but the general public were content enough with it not to stage any large-scale unrest; fast forward to early-Victorian times and despite an expanded electorate there were a few times when it was touch and go if we had a revolution or not.
     
  9. But today with an individual citizen on his soap box now being able to broadcast beyond his countries borders with ease, is contentment a more volatile thing? The grass being greener on the other side is now easier to see along with publicised dissent providing mutual encouragement.