December 27, 2004


Sovereignty for a New Century
: When a country fails to protect its people, other nations must act. (John D. Podesta, December 27, 2004, LA Times)

Since the end of World War II, governments around the world have been given virtual carte blanche to mistreat their citizens without fear of outside interference. Despite numerous well-meaning resolutions on the importance of global human rights and the well-being of individuals, the principle of state sovereignty has been deemed paramount; the United Nations Charter includes a clear prohibition on interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states.

But in today's world, indifference is not an option. The principle of sovereignty must not only guarantee nations the right to be secure within their borders, it also must hold them responsible for safeguarding the security of their citizens.

As we are seeing in Darfur, Sudan — where government-backed militias have driven more than 1 million civilians from their homes over the last 18 months — conflicts within less powerful, often dysfunctional states can turn whole nations into killing fields.

In Cambodia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, millions died and countless others were maimed or raped as the world looked on and did little or nothing. It is true that these outrages did not pose an immediate threat to our national security, but they did diminish our humanity.

This month, a high-level 16-member panel on "threats, challenges and change" organized by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the world to accept its "responsibility to protect." To back up this mission, it called for an expanded Security Council with greater authority to protect people at risk, even the right of armed intervention if necessary. The panel's recommendations are based on a groundbreaking 2001 report by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, a Canadian initiative that took up Annan's call for new thinking on these issues.

Both reports concluded that in extreme cases, the principle of sovereignty and nonintervention must give way to protection.

This line should be crossed only in cases in which we face massive loss of life, ethnic cleansing or, indeed, genocide. Armed intervention should be considered only when other means have proved ineffective, and the force used should be proportionate to the task.

Tony Blair and George Bush have ended the age of sovereignty, the rest of the West will come along slowly. Mr. Podesta provides a good example of someone trying to grope towards making the Left decent again, but it's easy to see how far he has to go. The idea that we have no right to stop a regime that's killing tens or hundreds of thousands for political reasons, rather than ethnic, and that we have to wait until some magic tipping point where the body count becomes "massive" leaves tyranny too much leeway for evil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2004 8:04 AM

Ronald Reagan made this possible.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 27, 2004 9:02 AM

I wouldn't necessarily call it the end of the age of sovereignty. Rather, it's the end of the age of inviolable borders.

It's the extension of the age of popular sovereignty, really -- and a version of popular sovereignty premised on natural right (or natural law, whichever you prefer).

Gosh, maybe those paranoid libs do have a point about those wacky Straussian neocons and that dumb theocon in the White House... shh, let's keep that to ourselves.

Posted by: kevin whited at December 27, 2004 10:06 AM

Oh, goodie. More vague generalities wrapped in piety coming from the Left.

I'd like a hard definition of the "tipping point", in advance. It seems like another one of those vague issues that the Left will always end up defining in such a such a way that they benefit and it used against anyone who disagrees with them (and their definition). Or becomes part of another of their accusations of hypocrisy.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 27, 2004 2:12 PM

So when is Bush (or Blair) actually going to prevent a death in Darfur?

For a while I marked each week of inaction by a snippy comment on brothersjuddblog.

That got old pretty fast, though.

However, since I started somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 or 50,000 people have been murdered, not to mention lesser crimes.

Tipping point, indeed.

Turns out there's more than enough fecklessness and lying to go around both Left and Right.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 27, 2004 8:21 PM

"... And it is in such over-reaching, ironically, that Loyola sees in the report an opportunity to fix the underlying problem. He urges the Bush Administration to "court our democratic partners" and build a movement to more properly constrain the role of the Security Council. After all, the trouble it creates has been apparent since one nation objected to the wording of the UN's charter six decades ago, urging that "individual states must be free to act when the Security Council fails to act." That nation was France."

Senator Kyl is chairman of the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee and the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism.

From today's Real Clear Politics Editorial.

Posted by: Genecis at December 27, 2004 8:57 PM


They've prevented tens of thousands.

Posted by: oj at December 27, 2004 10:36 PM


What did Iraq, Libya, Liberia, Haiti, etc. have to do with border issues?

Posted by: oj at December 27, 2004 11:40 PM


The only limitations on the Sudanese military relate to lack of funds and disorganization. The military intervention by the Africans would be a farce if the results were not so tragic.

The Sudanese government is supported by 'our good friends' the Saudis so I don't expect America or Britain to lift a finger to help one Sudanese, especially the Christians.

Posted by: Bart at December 28, 2004 6:40 AM


Too late--we already have.

Posted by: oj at December 28, 2004 8:05 AM

Making a judgement regarding the nature of the regime before the killing starts requires a kind of common sense which has rarely been present in the recent past.I mean we still have defenders of Stalin, Castro and Mugabe around these parts. During the 20th century, state sponsored murder is judged only bythe intentions of the murdrers.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at December 28, 2004 8:55 AM

I missed that airborne deployment to Sudan to help the Christians defend themselves from the Muslim butchers. It never hit the Times.

Posted by: Bart at December 28, 2004 6:39 PM


Duh? Of course the Times doesn't make much of it.

Posted by: oj at December 28, 2004 6:46 PM

It wasn't in the WSJ either, but appears to be a product only of your fevered imagination.

The Anti-Slavery Society isn't impressed either.

Posted by: Bart at December 28, 2004 8:11 PM

And you believe that the agreement reached matters for precisely what reason? The Sudanese have been breaking it with impunity since before the ink dried. If you want to engage in the conceit that an agreement with a Muslim can have any value, that's fine. Just don't expect people with greater intellectual sophistication than your average short Welsh herding dog to share it.

Posted by: Bart at December 28, 2004 8:42 PM


You're confusing two different wars.

Posted by: oj at December 28, 2004 8:54 PM

Stick to one at a time.

The killings in Darfur continue at the same rate, around 10K/mo, as before Bush cried his crocodile tears.

Not to mention the deaths we don't count because they were indirect. When you evict a million (or so) subsistence farmers, you get demographic effects. You're the demographic expert.

I think Bush is correct to do nothing in Darfur. But he's a slimeball to claim to do something and then not.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 29, 2004 11:06 PM

There's a qualitative difference between the deaths of refugees and the slaughter of folks on their own lands. The Darfurians may not get to stay there, but that'll be settled in war.

Posted by: oj at December 29, 2004 11:45 PM