Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Why Sovereignty?

The Chronicle carries an article by Carlin Romano with this provocative title: "Violating 'Sovereignty': Questioning a Concept's Long Reign." It begins badly:
Everywhere the S-word wreaks havoc. Iraqi terrorists kill hundreds of Americans and Iraqis to protest infringement of sovereignty by the Great Satan.
Those terrorists (at least he got that part right) aren't protesting the infringement of Iraqi sovereignty by the U.S., they're trying to make life miserable for non-Saddamites and also to fuel antiwar feelings in the U.S. It gets worse:
As an explosive real-world political idea, sovereignty propels international armies and costs untold lives.
Sovereignty doesn't propel armies; avarice and power-madness and self-defense do those things. Romano sort of gets on the right track with this reference to some writings by the late Alan Cranston:
[S]overeignty as a defense against outside intervention to stop extraordinarily unacceptable behavior by a government against its people is always, in Cranston's view, heinous and unjustified. International covenants on genocide and human rights similarly demonstrate the world community's declining appetite for claims of such absolute state sovereignty.
But notice how he subtly changes the subject from sovereignty to "claims of absolute state sovereignty." Hell, we've known the value of such claims at least since American troops invaded Sicily and France, then rolled into Germany to end the war in Europe.

Romano alludes to the value of sovereignty when he says:
Not every political scientist, it should be noted, opposes sovereignty's influence in public policy. In The Case for Sovereignty (AEI Press), a recent study, Cornell government professor Jeremy Rabkin contends that a "post-sovereign" world would encourage terrorism, erode national loyalties, and spur even greater international conflict.
But Romano doesn't pursue the thought. So I will.

The sovereignty of the United States is inseparable from the benefits afforded Americans by the U.S. Constitution, most notably the enjoyment of civil liberties, the blessings of more-or-less free markets and free trade, and the protections of a common defense. To cede sovereignty is to risk the loss of those benefits. That is why we must always be cautious in our commitments to international organizations and laws.

American sovereignty is a golden shield. Mindless internationalism is a corrosive acid that eats away at the shield.