The Curse Of National Sovereignty
Glen T. Martin
The dogma of national sovereignty is an illusion and a curse. For those who understand the world system, the dogma of national sovereignty stands out as the single illusion that is most destructive of humanity’s quest for a world of peace, justice, and sustainability. “Sovereignty” means what is independent. In political affairs it means the highest authority for legislating, judging, and enforcing the laws—beyond which there is no further appeal.
If this highest authority is accorded to the governments of various territories on the Earth, and the planet is composed of nearly 200 such sovereign territories, then the fragmented result can only be a war system, a domination system of the strong over the weak, an exploitation system of the wealthy over the poor, and a system that inevitably results in the threat of nuclear holocaust and the destruction of our planetary environment. National sovereignty is the core illusion that is leading our entire planet to destruction.
Under the system of militarized sovereign nation-states, the powerful nations love sovereignty because it allows them to do whatever they want in the world. They invade, overthrow, assassinate, blockade, subvert, or manipulate elections of weaker nations at will. What about international law? Why does international law not stop them?
If, by definition, sovereignty means the highest legal authority, then so-called international law is a fraud, since you cannot enforce any laws over sovereign nations. You can only go to war against them or punish their entire people by some economic blockade. That is why the world disorder is founded on this treaty system, and even the UN itself is only a treaty of sovereign nations. Treaties between sovereign nations are unenforceable, or, as the UN system explicitly recognizes in article 42 of its Charter, treaties can only be enforced by economic blockades or war. In the international world system of today’s sovereign states, there is almost no such thing as enforceable law over individuals. Even in the year 2020, so-called international law consists of treaties that apply to whole nations (with no requirement that these nations be just, democratic, equable, or free).
The International Criminal Court (ICC), like the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, also appears as a sad joke within this distorted and unjust scheme of things (even though staffed by serious, well-meaning people). It is unwilling the prosecute the real criminals of the world who are at the head of powerful sovereign nation-states, criminals such as Ronald Reagan (who led the destruction of Nicaragua), Bill Clinton (who led the destruction of Yugoslavia), George W. Bush (who led the destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq), or Donald Trump (who is attempting to destroy Venezuela and Iran).
These courts are not real courts because they are hamstrung by this dogma of national sovereignty. The entire flawed UN system is hamstrung by this same illusion. The self-determination of peoples, as with individual persons, can only come about under the rule of democratic enforceable laws that protect and empower the people of Earth through the principle of unity in diversity. Self-rule means internal governance and freedom for a people to democratically determine their own affairs. It does not, and should not mean, external lawlessness.
Under the system of militarized sovereign nation-states, believe it or not, the poor and weaker nations also love the dogma of sovereignty. This is because they have the illusion that this fantasy idea can protect them from the power-politics and exploitation economics that dominate the world. The utterly flawed Charter of the United Nations, based on this illusion of national sovereignty, speaks of “the self-determination of peoples.” It then institutionalizes a system in which the five big winners in World War Two (all of whom have a history as major imperial colonizers, exploiters, and dominators) control everything from their veto power on the Security Council.
The five big dominators of the world (China, Russia, Britain, France, and the USA) all love sovereignty because it allows them to divide and conquer the weak. The French have a history of brutal
colonial empires in which the French “sovereign” state enslaved others. As recently as 2011 the French helped destroy the sovereign nation of Libya. From their lawless independence as the French “sovereign nation,” there was never anything to stop France from brutally enslaving Haiti, Algiers, or bombing Libya into chaos in 2011. No President of France as ever been arrested for such criminal activities.
China invaded Tibet in 1950 and the other nations of the world left Tibet to its own fate. Since they are “sovereign” nations, Tibet is not their first concern, only their own security and sovereignty is their first concern. The USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and the other nations left Afghanistan to its brutal fate, happy that it is not themselves that had been invaded. The United States and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, and the other “sovereign” nations of the world weakly protested but did nothing and could do nothing under this fragmented world system. The system of sovereign nation-states is the perfect system of “divide and conquer.” Since the world is already divided, it is easy for big imperial powers to conquer.
Yet the people of weaker nations mindlessly continue to cling to the illusion of sovereignty. Every one of the six times that I visited Cuba during the lethal US economic blockade, the people of Cuba did not want to hear about uniting humanity under democratic law that ended the neo-colonial domination and exploitation system. They simply kept repeating to me, as if hypnotized, “we are a sovereign nation. The US has no right to do this to us. We are a sovereign nation. They must respect our sovereignty.”
The people of Cuba claimed to be revolutionaries. They claimed to be in solidarity with the oppressed worldwide. But in reality that was just empty rhetoric. Because real solidarity means uniting with others to create a decent lawful and just world for everyone. The people of Cuba did not want to really unite with others to make the world a just and peaceful place for everyone.
They were just selfishly concerned with their little corner of the world that they called their “sovereign” territory. The tragic irony of today’s world is that the weak, small nations cling to the same illusion of sovereignty loved by the big imperial nations, a world fragmented and disunited that is easy pickings for the imperialists. It is also easy pickings for the multi-national corporations and the private banking cartels of the world, like the World Bank and the IMF, enslaving the peoples of Earth through international debt. The exploiters love this fragmented system that allows them to get away with their economic pillage and systems of debt enslavement.
Some national constitutions in this lawless system of sovereign nations claim that “sovereignty belongs to the people.” But they do not really mean this. What they mean is that their government represents a tiny fragment of humanity within their territorial boundaries. Cross the border to another country and suddenly there is a different sovereignty supposedly belonging to a different people and territory. Territorial boundaries override the sovereignty of the people making this slogan meaningless. If government really represents the sovereign people, then it is all the people on the Earth. You cannot fragment the notion of sovereignty of the people into some 200 territorial units and somehow claim that the people are sovereign. The result is again power politics, militarism, neo-colonialism, economic exploitation, and chaos.
The world today is a world of power, domination, and exploitation relationships precisely because it is divided into nearly 200 units recognizing no effective laws above themselves. Any real rule of democratic law is enforceable over individual persons who have their rights and dignity protected by these same laws. Under the rule of real democratic law no one can say “I am a sovereign person and am therefore above the law.” Yet this is exactly the attitude of sovereign nations in their external relationships. Real law is enforceable over individual persons while at the same time empowering and protecting them. Real law derives from a democratic constitution through a legislature, and executive, and a judicial system protects all citizens equally before the law.
However, at the world level, the illusory notion of national sovereignty leads to precisely the opposite— lawlessness. Treaties of sovereign nations are voluntary agreements between supposedly independent entities. They can withdraw from the treaty. They can fail to meet their obligations under the treaty. A new government may come in that abjures the treaty. And they can each abuse the human rights of their own citizens with near impunity. The result is not only lawlessness and injustice. The result is a militarized world threatened with nuclear holocaust and an entire world system of lawless nation-states that care more about their own self-interest and self-preservation than they do about saving the collapsing planetary environment.
The Constitution for the Federation of Earth recognizes the sovereignty of the people of Earth. It is non-military because democratic law enforceable over individual persons requires only civilian police and due process of law. It protects every nation big and small because for the first time in human history it brings the rule of genuine democratic law into world affairs.
Under the Earth Constitution, individuals, including the heads of nation-states, are subject to the same enforceable laws as everyone else. The sovereignty of the people of Earth is then apportioned into legitimate governmental authority on various levels: at the local levels around the Earth in cities and towns, at the national levels of some 200 nations who have representation in the House of Nations, and then at the world level through the World Parliament. The world achieves, for the first time in its history, a peace system, a justice system, and a sustainability system.
The nations become states within the Earth Federation and the small states are protected because they are components of the larger system designed to protect and empower all its parts. In the federation of states called the USA, for example, the smallest state of Rhode Island has no fear that the bigger states will blockade or invade. It is protected by the rule of law for the whole. That is what we must do for the world if the world is going to have a future at all. To be truly united means that every person and every nation is protected by the whole.
The smaller or weaker nations of the world need to give up their illusion that the dogma of “sovereignty” will somehow protect them. The big nations love this dogma just as much as they do because a fragmented, lawless world system allows them to do whatever they want. The illusion of sovereignty gives us power politics rather than the politics of democratic justice.
The Earth Constitution joins all of humanity together under the rule of democratically legislated world laws that take away militarism, power politics, domination, and exploitation. The Constitution makes these corruptions nearly impossible because it removes the system of sovereign nations that permits and fosters such lawless corruption. It protects all persons and nations equally. It unites humanity under the principle of unity in diversity. It recognizes and is based upon the only true sovereignty—the sovereignty of the united people of Earth.
- The Constitution for the Federation of the Earth is at earth-constitution.org You can sign the Earth Constitution there and also become a member of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA)
- For an examination of why the Constitution for the Federation of Earth is protected against becoming totalitarian and undemocratic, read my comprehensive analysis called “Safeguards Against Totalitarianism” (Chapter Seven of One World Renaissance) found at http://earth-constitution.org/archives-documents/
- Excellent discussions of the concept of sovereignty can be found in two books by Errol E. Harris: Twenty-First Century Democratic Renaissance (2008) and Earth Federation Now: Tomorrow is Too Late. Second Edition (2014)
Glen T. Martin, Ph.D., is President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), the main organization sponsoring sessions of the Provisional World Parliament and ratification of the Constitution or the Federation of Earth. His website is located at www.oneworldrenaissance.com