GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul has very publically made the accusation that the United States violated Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s state sovereignty by invading both countries, and therefore, such an action has stripped any legitimacy in our efforts in those countries. This stance is again a troubling aspect of Rep. Paul’s foreign policy, because it holds a never before held belief that a state’s sovereignty is sacrosanct, and must never be violated under any circumstance. The international community, as well as, the United States government has never held this position, and should Rep. Paul’s candidacy be successful, this position would place the United States in a very untenable situation within the international community.
The complexity of state sovereignty has perplexed international relations theorists for decades. Many have asked the question, “When does another state have the right to violate another state’s sovereignty?” Ultimately, this question originates under the “just war” argument, and brings with it a moral aspect of declaring war.
The “Just War” (jus ad bellum) theory, first broached by St. Thomas Aquinas places criterion on when and how to go to war, these criterions are as follows:
- 1. Just Cause: The reason for going to war needs to be just, and cannot be fore solely for recapturing things taken, or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life.
- 2. Comparative Justice: To overcome the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other.
- 3. Competent Authority: Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war.
- 4. Right Intention: Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose—correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.
- 5. Probability of Success: Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success.
- 6. Last Resort: Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical. It may be clear that the other side is using negotiations as a delaying tactic and will not make meaningful concessions.
- 7. Proportionality: The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_War)
By examining these principals we can find justification for violating another state’s sovereignty. Should that state be guilty of violating another state’s sovereignty, were to cause egregious damage to a state’s populace and infrastructure, were to pose an imminent threat to another state or its own people, then another state would be just in violating that state’s sovereignty in order to bring justice and security to the international community.
Viewing state sovereignty through this prism we can see that the United States was just in its actions taken against Afghanistan. Though proportionality would have compelled the United States to have simply targeted military and terrorist targets. The imminent threat the Taliban posed towards its own people and the world around it by being a base and training ground for Al Qaeda also justified regime change. Yet, not so clear cut an argument can be made in regards to Iraq.
The conflict in Iraq, and the arguments leading up to the conflict may be the strongest argument Rep. Paul has about the United States being guilty of unjustly violating another state’s sovereignty; however, it can be argued that the United States followed the just war policy, and therefore is not guilty of such a violation. The United States gave Saddam Hussein’s regime ample amount of time to allow international inspectors to inspect known and suspected weapons factories, but Hussein sought to prevent the inspectors having access. Such actions, and the numerous violations of UN sanctions gave enough cause to believe that Hussein was a danger to the region, and a clear and present threat to the United States. Though the evidence used to convince the international community of action against Iraq has since been proven faulty, the process used to go to war with Iraq held to the just war principal.
Hindsight often benefits those on the outside of an issue, because they can claim that an action is unjust. However, hindsight is not a luxury that many leaders have, and they must make their decisions based on their convictions and the information available to them. Rep. Paul has demonstrated that his convictions lie in the belief that it is never just to violate another state’s sovereignty. Mr. Paul advocates talks, talks and more talks before action is ever taken. Even Just War theory allows for war if the talks are seen to be fruitless, or are discovered to be a stalling tactic (which many believe was Saddam Hussein’s tactic in the lead up to the Iraq War, so that he could hide, displace or destroy his existing stockpiles of WMDs). Though Congressman Paul should be respected for his staunch holding to his beliefs, one fails to see the wisdom behind talking with mass murders and terrorists who are hell bent on destroying the west. In order for talks to be successful both parties that are sitting across the table from each other have to be rational actors. This is unfortunately not always the case.
(Next: Part 3, Not All States are Rational)