Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 9, 2004
WAR: What Is Sovereignty?

The big meme on the left side of the blogosphere regarding the transfer of power on June 30 in Iraq is . . . well, it's just a sneer:

It amazes me that some people actually buy this Iraqi handover and "transition". After the handover, we still run Iraq from our embassy there. The new government has no real power. The UN resolution doesn't provide for any extra troops in the field.

(Link via QandO). Now, I don't have all the answers here; as usual, I'm content just to re-frame the questions. What is sovereignty, after all? Yes, it's true that a country doesn't have complete and total sovereignty over its territory if there are foreign troops running around and they can't easily be told to leave. But is that the only aspect of sovereignty? (It's ironic, if you think about it, that so many folks on the Left are equating the Hobbesian monopoly on force with the sole measure of government).

There are many entities in the world that have some but not plenary sovereignty over their territory:

*The State and City of New York lack many attributes of sovereignty, such as the ability to coin money or run a foreign policy, but my state and local governments still have the ability to lay and collect taxes, send people to jail, run fire departments and schools and collect trash, tell me where to put bottles and cans for recycling, and impose all sorts of onerous requirements on businesses doing business in New York. Quebec has even more sovereignty than New York does.

*France similarly lacks its own currency, control over its own trade policies, and must even submit to the dictates of Belgian bureaucrats as to the regulation of its beloved cheeses. Yet, it is unquestionable that France exercises considerable sovereignty.

*Even the United States' sovereignty has limits: not only are some powers reserved to the states, but we are bound by treaties with Native American tribes that reside within our own borders.

So, how do we determine whether the new Iraqi government has been given sovereignty and is beginning to exercise it (two different things - letting the Iraqis have a police force is not the same as it actually functioning)? Let's start with this handy checklist:

Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of [Iraq]; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout [Iraq];

To borrow Money on the credit of [Iraq];

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among [internal units of local government];

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout [Iraq];

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of [Iraq];

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies . . . ;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of [Iraq] . . . ;

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers . . .

Those are, of course, the powers of the Congress of the United States in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. One might add the powers of local governments and administrative agences in the United States, including the establishment of police and fire departments, sanitation and ambulance corps, regulation and licensing of businesses (including banks, stock exchanges, and mineral rights, among others), running schools, etc.

Will the new Iraqi government have all these powers? Certainly not, at first. But as to a good many of them, I suspect it will have as much authority as it can take, with no interference from the United States or the UN. To say that's nothing is to ignore the multifaceted nature of sovereign governments.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:48 PM | War 2004 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

The French do have control over their natural resources, security and so forth. They could, conceivably, ask all foreign troops based in the country to leave.

I love it how the right blogosphere was bitching non stop about how the UN was undermining our sovereignty in the run up to the Iraq war, but now claim the Iraqis have full sovereignty when the coalition is obviously more intrusive than the UN is in this country.

Posted by: andrew r at June 10, 2004 12:00 AM

Did I say "full" sovereignty? Yes, I know that's the Administration's talking point, but they have to say it that way. My point is, sovereignty that's less than complete can still be significant in its scope and impact on the daily lives of the people.

Posted by: The Crank at June 10, 2004 12:03 AM

Please explain what happens on june the 30th. From what I can tell it is just moving from the Coalition to the Interim Goverment. Nothing significant changes on the ground, and I'm not convinced this adminstration has an acutal plan.

Posted by: andrew r at June 10, 2004 12:51 AM

When you have to get into the "that depends on what your definition of sovereignty is" business, I think you've lost the argument already pal.

Posted by: Oliver at June 10, 2004 8:05 AM

This is the second silliest post I have read on this site, and that's saying a lot. You almost had me with the "even the United States' sovereignty has limits: not only are some powers reserved to the states, but we are bound by treaties with Native American tribes that reside within our own borders."

The point that most opponents of the current adminstration policy, including the Left and, oh yeah, 60% of the American public, make is that June 30th is a PR joke that does nothing to significantly change the nature of a faiiled occupation, nor provide Iraq with a representative government, and further entrenches a military force that is already villified by the population.

Posted by: adw at June 10, 2004 1:12 PM

andrew r - What, exactly, is your basis for saying that the Iraqis lack "control over their natural resources"? adw - When you say that the transfer of power "is a PR joke," do you mean that the new Iraqi Governing Council has no significant new powers vis a vis the Iraqi people?

You guys are just tossing off gassy generalities here, or in Oilver's case defending a sneer with another sneer. In the real world, transitioning power to local institutions and then to a democratically elected government is a complicated process. If you want to pick at the specifics, that's one thing. But my whole point here is that the critics assume that they can just say "Bush bad, me smarter than Bush" and be done with it.

Posted by: The Crank at June 10, 2004 1:43 PM

here's an idea: let us not pretend when sovreignty isn't.

Posted by: Oliver at June 11, 2004 12:26 AM

You really need to re-read the comments posted in response to your straw man argument that sovereignty is multi-faceted.

Yeah, so? Everyone gets that, Crank. It takes time. However, the critiques above (which are not full articles b/c many of us can only visit this site when stealing time from the boss) make the point that the current move from Coalition to Interim Govt. is so far a failure. Why? Lack of security, full control of oil resources by foreign companies, lack of democratic representation in the government, no timetable for elections or troop removal.

Further, its just morally ignorant on your part to not recognize the unhappiness the vast majority of Iraqis feel about the current direction of the occupation, and insulting to anyone who has ideals of what sovereignty really means.

Posted by: adw at June 11, 2004 11:34 AM
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