The End of Sovereignty

Sovereignty: The idea that nations can determine the direction of their own development without military intervention from other nations; a concept enshrined in the charter of the United Nations -- an imperfect international organization created by the United States after two bloody world wars, leaving even "realist" hawks looking for ways to settle conflicts peacefully.

In the 1940s prelude to the U.S. ratification of the U.N. Charter, the isolationist-turned-internationalist Republican (that's right Republican) Sen. Arthur Vandenberg went to the Senate floor to testify on behalf of joining the U.N.

"I am prepared to proceed with this great adventure. I see no other way ... I believe it serves the intelligent self-interest of the United States which knows, by bitter experience, the valley of the shadow of two wars alone."

He was throwing his support behind the U.N. "because this plan, regardless of infirmities, holds great promise that the United Nations may collaborate for peace as effectively as they have made common cause for war."

It's ironic, to say the least, that so many modern-day Republicans "see no other way" but war; who allow the fear of "one world government" to cloud their judgment of "the intelligent self-interest of the United States;" who stand "in the valley of the shadow of wars," ignoring the "bitter experience" of past and present conflicts in the vain attempt to pursue unilateral military solutions to political problems.

Ask any Republican what they think of the U.N. and you'll likely get a sarcastic screed about how the U.N. is hopelessly corrupt and incapable of stopping genocides in places like Rwanda, even though the reason the U.N. didn't intervene in Rwanda is because U.S. and French "diplomats" used the "hidden veto" as Security Council members to not only block international intervention but to downplay the genocide as being exaggerated.

Senator Vandenberg addressed the arguments that would come from within his own party, both now and then.

Some will argue, he said, that some U.N. signatories "practice the precise opposite of what they preach even as they sign." However, "I reply that the nearer right you may be in any such gloomy indictment, the greater is the need for the new pattern which promises at least to try to stem these evil tides."

After Vandenberg's Senate speech, the influential statesman John Foster Dulles publicly supported joining the U.N. Even the 25 million strong Federal Council of Churches of Christ endorsed the U.N., issuing brochures "on the virtues of the United Nations," as Stephen Schlesinger's detailed book on the creation of the U.N. reminds us.

Imagine that. A mainstream Protestant organization actually endorsing the U.N. and not ridiculing it as the forerunner to an end-of-the-world, satanic, one-world government!

Of course, U.N. skepticism was there from the get-go. Even future Democratic President Kennedy, when he was still a PT-boat captain, wrote to a friend about people not being sufficiently horrified by war for the U.N. to be a panacea.

But in the end, Kennedy wrote, in assessing the U.N., "you must measure its accomplishments against its possibilities. What (the U.N.) conference accomplished is that it made war more difficult."

Literary master E.B. White had a slightly more jaundiced view. "Justice and (international) law do not now operate and will never operate until there is international government." The problem, as E.B. saw it, "under all the steady throbbing of the engines: sovereignty, sovereignty, sovereignty."

After truth, the second casualty of the U.S.-led war in Iraq was the meaning of the word sovereignty.

Take Bush's troop "surge," which calls for U.S. brigades to be "embedded" with Iraqi units. An astute reader articulates the present sovereignty confusion.

Either embedded U.S. troops are " 'taking orders' from a foreign commander of some sort," or "maybe our guys are not under foreign command, but are still embedded."

"That necessarily means that either they aren't really embedded, just sort of going through the motions, or that the shoe is really on the other foot and the Iraqis are being commanded by the U.S. command. If the former, it is a sham. If the latter, it isn't really the Iraqis running their 'own' army, and we're clearly making no progress in getting the Iraqis to 'stand up.' We're still running their army."

"Either way seems like a big-time contradiction of the conservative position of recent years. Maybe someone should point that out."


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