What is the concept of national sovereignty?
What is the concept of national sovereignty? (11 Oct 1996)
We'll start by examining the concept of national sovereignty from a 1990s point of view. Then we'll examine it from a Christian point of view. Which point of view is more accurate? You can judge for yourself.
1. The 1990s point of view:
The concept of national sovereignty is founded upon man-made ("national") borders. From the point of view of a US citizen, for example, those who are authorized to live within the set of borders which comprise The United States Of America are considered to be "neighbors"--all others are NOT considered to be "neighbors" and we might even fight a war against them some day. According to the concept of national sovereignty, the government which operates within those borders has the authority to levy taxes on its citizens, pass laws which govern the conduct of its citizens, and even occasionally kill its citizens-without any interference whatsoever from other governments, organizations, or people outside of those borders. When Saddam Hussein used poison gas to kill most of the inhabitants of some Kurdish villages not long ago, he claimed that he was merely "exercising his national sovereignty." So the premise of national sovereignty is that whoever has control of a government can have absolute power over the people who reside within that government's borders without interference from outside of those borders.
But does "national sovereignty" really exist? Faced with international economic sanctions and US-enforced "no fly zones", even Saddam Hussein is finding that he has considerably less "sovereignty" than he thought he had. And is the President of the United States of America, currently the most powerful nation on earth, really free to do anything he wants to his country's citizens? Even the US Senate's leading apostle of "national sovereignty", Jesse Helms, spearheaded a law through Congress recently which threatens to punish the executives of corporations in other countries who do business with Cuba-so national sovereignty is more of a myth than a reality.
Even as a myth, the idea of "national sovereignty" is so popular with some people that the moment that term in invoked, their minds cloud, their reasoning abilities shut down, and for a while at least, they believe just about anything they are told "for the sake of national sovereignty." For example, consider the often-expressed John Birch Society view that if the United Nations were to evolve into a true world government, it would "mean an end to personal freedom and the independence of this nation and all nations." To begin with, even the United States can hardly be considered to be "independent" of the rest of the world. It's dishonest to claim that it is. It's also dishonest to claim that if the United States were to agree to become part of a "world government" it would mean the end of our personal freedoms. American's didn't give up their personal freedoms when they ratified the US Constitution. If anything, their yielding of some of their state's sovereignty to a real federal government provided them with better protection for their personal freedoms than what they had before. European citizens didn't up their personal freedoms when their countries relinquished some of their "sovereign powers" to the European Community. In fact, history has clearly shown that most violations of human rights and losses of personal freedoms have been "morally justified" to "protect national sovereignty."
When governments are imposed by military force on unwilling subjects (as in Palestine), personal freedoms often suffer. But when governments are formed by mutual agreement, personal freedoms are normally protected and part of the deal. So rather than viewing such things in terms of "national sovereignty", which is more of a myth than a reality, it if far more realistic and workable to view such matters in terms of POWER. Our President has certain powers. Our Congress and the US Supreme Court have other powers. Ted Turner, Bill Gates, and Rupert Murdock have more power than most of us. International corporations have their own kinds of power (in some places even more power than the local governments). If these persons or organizations abuse their powers, then we should consider what needs to be done to get them to stop abusing such powers. For example:
Bob Dole and Jesse Helms would like to have us believe that the reason they have been attempting to shrink (and possibly even bankrupt) the United Nations is their concern for "protecting our national sovereignty". They claim to be disturbed by that fact that the United States has been contributing "more that $3.5 billion every year to the U. N. System as a whole", but they aren't the least bit disturbed about giving defense contractors $10 billion more this year than what our President and Department of Defense requested. And as pointed out above, Jesse Helm's bill to "punish Cuba" exhibits little regard for the concept of national sovereignty. A solid case can be built to show that the real reason they've been attempting to shrink or destroy the United Nations is because near the end of the Bush administration, they began to realize that United Nations peacekeeping operations offered a relatively low-cost alternative to massive defense spending for meeting most of our national security needs. So they began badmouthing US and UN involvement in Somalia, so much so, that President Clinton felt obliged to pull our troops out of there after they suffered some casualties. Then they did nearly everything they could to deprive the UN of the funding it needed in order to SUCCESSFULLY conduct peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Burundi. Week after week we watched the gruesome results of Bob Dole's efforts to create more anarchy in the world while he attempted to make political points by blaming it all on Bill Clinton's "failed foreign policies." Why have Bob Dole and Jesse Helms have been playing the role international anarchists? Evidently, they've been doing this to the world for the benefit of US arms manufacturers. Fortunately, we have an opportunity to bring an end to such abuses of power on November 5th.
2. The Christian point of view:
When Jesus was explaining to his disciples what was going to happen to him when he got to Jerusalem, Peter exclaimed, "Far be it from you, Lord, this shall not happen to you!" To which Jesus responded, "Get behind me Satan, You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." (Matt 16:22-23) Jesus was not calling Peter "Satan". Instead, he was referring to the ungodly concept (or "spirit") represented by the words that were coming out of Peter's mouth. Jesus, as did the Old Testament prophets before him, defined concepts (not people) has his enemies. In the Garden Of Eden parable, shortly after Cain had killed Abel, the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" and Cain said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:8-9) So Cain not only failed to consider his own brother to be his neighbor, he also lied to God about what he had done and he rationalized his position by implying that he had no moral obligation to be responsible for the well being of his brother or anyone else for that matter. Jesus viewed this as being the words of Satan coming out of Cain's mouth!
Now, consider the following words coming out of the mouth of Jesse Helms in his article "Saving the U.N." (in the September-October 1996 issue of Foreign Affairs):
"It is not the job of the United Nations to 'meet the needs' of 5.5 billion people-that is the job of the nation-states"
[Somalia? Bosnia? Rwanda? Burundi?]
"A United Nations that can recognize its limitations--helping sovereign states work together where appropriate and staying out of issues where it has no legitimate role--is worth keeping; a United Nations that insists on imposing its utopian vision on states begs for dismantlement."
[The United Nations has been saving the lives of millions of people per year and helping to raise the standard of living of hundreds of millions of people]
From a Christian point of view, the concept of national sovereignty is an idol or false god. In fact, it's the bloodiest idol ever created by man! People all over the world are worshipping it, and there is probably no crime ever committed which hasn't at one time or another been "morally justified" for "the sake of national sovereignty." Some religions organizations portray anything resembling a world government as being the "the Anti-Christ." In fact, however, "the Anti-Christ" is ALREADY "ruling the world"--we call it "national sovereignty". We've seen on TV how this idolized form of international anarchy has been killing millions of men, women, and children. This is why Jesus would NEVER instruct his disciples to worship flags!
3. So what is the concept of national sovereignty? Basically, it's a glorified euphamism for a slow-moving but very deadly form of ANARCHY on an international scale. From a Christian point of view, it's an ungodly mythological idol which people in power often use to "morally justify" actions which they know will result in the KILLING OF MILLIONS of men, women, and children. And those in positions of power who can aptly be described as "international anarchists" (e.g. Bob Dole and Jesse Helms) have gotten more people killed in recent years than head-of-state despots like Saddam Hussein!
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Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002