May 18, 2023


Sovereignty Considered: What is sovereignty, how does sovereignty impact a free nation's outlook on foreign affairs, and why does federalism provide a unique safeguard to America's ideal of sovereignty? (JUSTIN STAPLEY, MAY 17, 2023, Self-Evident)

One of the things that confronts a nation built upon the idea of popular sovereignty is that once such a notion is embraced, it must be conceded that all people everywhere are sovereign. This reality necessarily directs how and why a free nation interacts with the other nations of the world. Specifically, war becomes a question of much more than basic national interest. The ideas of conquest, domination, and unprovoked attack are illegitimate when considering the reality of the sovereignty of foreign peoples. But at the same time, the ideals of popular sovereignty can compel a free nation to wage war in the interest of its universal principles.

Because people are sovereign, a nation or its government cannot itself claim sovereignty if it has subverted the sovereignty of its own people. When it comes to the moral question of a free nation going to war with another nation, the question isn't whether or not to "violate" another nation's sovereignty but whether that nation's government has violated its own people's sovereignty and/or has encroached the sovereignty of another nation.

For example, I would consider America's war in the Philippines at the turn of the century an unjust war because while we defeated the Spanish imperialists, we took their place as imperialists rather than establishing self-determination. On the flip side, I believe we should stand militarily by Ukraine because Russia has attacked their sovereignty and self-determination and indeed rejects that the Ukrainian people even have sovereignty or deserve self-determination.

But the decision to engage in a military campaign and interfere with a country's internal affairs is a complex consideration. While I would assert that defending sovereign nations from external aggression is nearly always in the interest of stability and the ideals of free nations (though the how is a matter of considered prudence), military intercession in every circumstance where popular sovereignty is violated through internal oppression is imprudent and could destabilize existing free nations and bring whole regions, and even the world, into conflict.

I believe that America, as the world's first modern republic and pre-eminent classically liberal society, is a city on a hill and has a duty to defend and secure the sovereignty of others where we can. The longest stretches of peace in modern history have resulted from free nations asserting the importance of popular sovereignty in the international realm and demonstrating the resolve to defend their principles through the contest of arms. But there must be limiting principles.

I would assert four basic requirements for a free nation to engage in a war to defend the sovereignty of another people from internal oppression: first, we can observe a full thwarting of popular sovereignty by a nation's government or a complete collapse of government into anarchy, second, the people in question have organized against their government and made overtures for assistance in their struggle, third, the people in question are unable to fully thwart the forces arraigned against them or escape cycles of anarchy pursuant to the collapse of their government without outside assistance, and fourth, our involvement would not precipitate a widening sphere of conflict or trigger regional and/or global war.

The rest follows.

Posted by at May 18, 2023 7:00 AM