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:
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.