Sovereignty a Good Thing or a Bad Essay

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¶ … sovereignty a good thing or a bad thing?

The international political scene is in a constant state of change, transformation and development. Since the Concert of Europe was established in 1815 states have officially been engaged in different types of organizations, alliances that have often placed the idea of sovereignty and that of state authority over its territory in doubt. However, no other period in the history of our civilization has been able to raise such difficult questions related to international politics and order as the present moment has. From this point-of-view, Forsythe's inquires on the need for state sovereignty and authorities are legitimate and demand a debate, if not an answer.

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Is state sovereignty a good thing or a bad thing? Should the international community disregard claims to state sovereignty when gross violations of human rights are at issue? Is any subject essentially or totally within the sovereign domestic affairs of states? Is it not true that state power, state authority and citizen loyalty to the nation are still very strong in modern international relations? Is it not true that the nation state and state sovereignty will be with us for some time? But in what form?" (Forsythe, 2006). These are some of the most important questions that the current state of affairs in the world is raising. At the same time however, it also plays in doubt the definitions of several terms that have been used to define the relations between the states and the conduct of international politics for a long period of time. Therefore, in order to answer these questions it is important to identify their definition and how it applies to the situation we live in. Following these theoretical lines, particular conclusions can be drawn and answers can be offered to the important issues raised by Forsythe.

Essay on Sovereignty a Good Thing or a Bad Assignment

First, the issue of state sovereignty is essential for the world we live in today. In the international law it has been considered that sovereignty was the cornerstone of international relations. Since the 1815 Vienna Congress, it was agreed that states are equal in their rights because of their sovereign nature. (Kissinger, 1995) However, the actual meaning of sovereignty as understood at the time relied particularly on the desire of emperors and kings to be the sole responsible and in charge of the events that take place on their territory. In this sense, the equilibrium of power was well established not only in the political practice of the time but also as a means of justifying the actions taken at the level of the great empires and states. The principle of non-interference became the actual rule according to which international politics was conducted.

In terms of legal matters, the idea of state sovereignty is rather difficult to define because of its ambiguity. In this sense, "one might try to determine just what constitutes a sovereign state empirically, by examining the characteristics of states whose sovereignty is indisputable. All sovereign states, it might be observed, have territory, people, and a government. Curiously, however, cogent standards do not seem to exist either in law or in practice for the dimensions, number of people, or form of government that might be required of a sovereign state" (Fowler and Bunck, 1995, 33). Therefore it can be noticed the fact that the issue of state sovereignty cannot be fully considered as an entity which can be perfectly defined. From this point-of-view, it is easy to understand the rather hard endeavor of using a term which is not perfectly defined.

Another important term used in Fortsythe's questions relates to the idea of international community. It has been a wide debate concerning the actual meaning of the term, particularly because it is debated whether an international community actually exists. In this sense, Hedley Bull states that "a society of states (or international society) exists when a group of states, conscious of certain common interests and common values, form a society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set of rules in their relation with one another, and share in the working of common institutions. If states today form an international society...this is because, recognizing certain common interests and perhaps some common values, they regard themselves as bound by certain rules in their dealing with one another, such as they should respect one another's claim to independence, that they should honor agreements into which they enter, and that they should be subject to certain limitations in exercising force against one another" (1992, p7). This definition given by theory can be considered to express best the way in which the current society aims at creating a common view on matters of extreme importance for humanity such as human rights.

Similar to the use of international community lays the idea of international regimes. It is considered that international regimes "are defined as principles, norms, rules, and decision making procedures around which actor expectations converge in a given issue-area" (Donnelly, 1986). Although it is similar to the international community the rules are set more thoroughly and in a stricter manner.

Nowadays it is fair to conclude that human rights have become an increasingly worrisome problem particularly from the point-of-view of the way in which global politics has approach the issue. Thus, legally speaking there has been enormous progress. More precisely, "in the aftermath of World War II human rights rapidly became a core principle of international society. Indeed, the Covenant of the League of Nations (1924) made no mention of "human rights" per se, but the United Nations (U.N.) Charter adopted only two decades later references the term seven times, including the Preamble" (Cole, 2005). The interest towards the issue of human rights has also been shown through the numerous conventions aimed at protecting individuals from abusive treatment. Also, there is a constant increase in the interest of nongovernmental organizations which militate for defending human rights across the globe (Tsutsui and Min Wotipka, 2004).

The issue of positive or negative aspects of sovereignty cannot be fully discussed due to the complexity of the debate. However, the status of sovereign state is sine qua non-for current international relations (Nye, 2005). It offers integrity to these relations as well as legitimacy. There has always been a struggle for sovereignty over a particular territory (Wight, 1997) which has given the conflict nature of human kind. However, in modern history, sovereignty can also be seen as a dissolute aspect of international politics.

This is largely due to several factors. On the one hand, the role of NGOs has risen immensely and new international actors which are not defined by sovereignty are now present on the international scene. On the other hand, the issue of sovereignty has become interpretable and in more and more cases, exceptions are made which either identify sovereignty as a positive or negative aspect of international relations.

For the first situation, the activity of the NGOs has often been impaired by the refusal of a state to consider help for issues related to human rights. More importantly, even in the United States the idea of supporting human rights was not one accepted immediately as "It is true that the United States was sympathetic to some mention of human rights in the UN Charter. But this first era of U.S. foreign policy on human rights should be labeled one of limited support only" (Forsythe, 1990). This comes to point out that if a situation depended completely on the sovereign status of a nation, many of the actions taken by organizations such as Amnesty International would not have been possible.

For the second situation, sovereignty has also been breached in such a manner that when a particular change in political regime took place, its consequences were more dangerous than the status ante. Relevant examples are offered by Forsythe from the Cold War when covert operations were used to defy the sovereignty of the state. In this sense, "in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, a combination of concern for economic advantage and for perceived national security led the U.S.A. To engage in covert inter- national action against the existence of regimes that were partially (Iran) and basically Guatemala) democratic, and certainly far more democratic than what followed" (1992). Therefore, it could be said that in such cases the issue of sovereignty served the purpose of legitimacy and coherence in the administrative apparatus.

There have been a lot of discussions on the reasons for which state sovereignty, as it is presented in the scholarly analysis, can be undermined. In this sense, an important work on the role of the United Nations during the early period of the last decade focused on the question of state sovereignty vs. human rights. Oliver Russbach contends that the doctrine of human rights represents the only means through which the well-being of the individual can be achieved and respected (1994). Moreover, taking into account events such as Somalia, Rwanda, or South Africa it is fair to say that genocide… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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