Saturday, April 19, 2003

Why National Sovereignty trumps Human Rights

Harry Hatchet has translated a very important article by John Lloyd (originally in an Italian newspaper). It exagerates but in exagerating explains Blair's motivation:

Do we support this gross breach of national sovereignty (which the invasion of Iraq certainly was)? Or do we oppose it, ultimately in the same of just such a national sovereignty? Do we, in other words, allow the sovereignty to trump human rights, yet again?

Everyone prefers human rights to sovereignty, right? Well there are two good reasons to look through this and see why sovereignty is so important.

Firstly there is the fact that sovereignty cuts down the reasons for war. You may despise the religion, or lack of it, of your neighbour - but if you accept their sovereignty on that matter crusades for the true religion (or secularism or ecumenical niceness) become harder. Every peace settlement (and put to a side my scepticism about peace settlements) is based on accepting some degree of sovereignty, whether it's an acceptance of Israel's 1967 borders or an acceptance (even if feigned) of the will of the people of Northern Ireland. The willingness to over-ride sovereignty, as happened in the Kosovo conflict and later in Iraq, simply lowers the bar for future war. And anything that makes wars easier will be a net negative for human rights.

There is a positive reason for respecting state sovereignty, and that is the matter of political evolution. Whether you believe that man is a product of his history, culture and environment or that man is a universal being, political evolution is crucial. For the integralists the political institutions should be rooted in the local soil of the cultures they govern, and so should evolve with as little outside evolution as possible - no matter how bizarre they appear to outsiders. I have often argues with Americans that we do not need to get rid of the royal family simply because America has an elected President, the same applies to (admittedly more important) sharia law or tribal councils.

Even to the universalist, apart from the Panglossian element out there, the present model of social democracy still needs refinement. It is better that lessons are learnt from two hundred laboratories (under vastly different conditions) than under twenty with one hundred and eighty virtual colonies.

Personally I have a foot in both camps, believing that there is no universal political model but economically seeing that a free market is the natural state of man. So I use both arguments depending on whether we're exporting democracy or capitalism.

In the end it doesn't matter. Blair's crusade, no matter what its temporary successes, will wither away. The natural law of military balance will reassert itself and the dreams of the hegemon (or in this case the bespectacled kid who runs behind the school bully) will be set aside in the very serious business of power politics.

Until then however we've got to try and make fewer strategic mistakes prompted by the siren calls of human rights.


Post a Comment

Blog Archive