Sovereignty: Does it Exist?

Essay by galianoj April 2004

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Prior to World War I, it has been said that sovereignty was central, irreducible concept, signifying the states virtually absolute right to control its territory and population and repel those who interfere in its internal affairs. In recent years, however, sovereignty has become more problematic with the rise of social economical and cultural rights. Some question whether sovereignty remains a viable concept. In current international law, as in classical international law, a state's sovereignty is not absolute. A state has never been able to do as it wishes; not even within its own border. Before any domestic or foreign action was taken, considerations of what others may do were always taken into account. The only difference is that now, because of globalization and the expansion of International Governmental Organizations, a state's actions may have adverse results on many other states causing them or an international organization to take retaliatory or responsive action.

The viability of sovereignty is almost nonexistent; especially with the expansion of International Law. International relations are dynamic and not static. The will and ideals of the strongest nation, at the time, will dictate largely what economically and military inferior countries are able or allowed to do. This has been the practice since recognized states or principalities began to interact with one another. If sovereignty was in fact absolute as proposed by many, how is it that Iraq is presently under the political, military and economical control of the United States? After all, before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, no one can question that Iraq met the international criteria to be recognized as a state. Secondly, the trend towards the creation of large International Governmental Organizations is further diminishing the sovereignty of states. With the creation of such International Governmental Organizations, how much latitude should...