the myth of sovereignty

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One consequence of the myth of sovereignty propagated through our current international political system is the war in Iraq.  Another is our broken immigration system.  Yet another is the skyrocketing death toll in Burma, caused in part by the massive storm and entrenched poverty, but in large part by an incompetent and corrupt government that makes George Bush look like Cory Booker.

It may comfort some in the U.S. to imagine that the first two problems listed above are rooted in the misdeeds of a particular leader, or a particular political party, or even in the dysfunction of the contemporary American political system 

However, these diagnoses are mistaken.  The dysfunctional international political system permits an unconstrained superpower like the U.S. or warped polities like Burma or Zimbabwe to push far past the bounds of civilized conduct, but while culpability may lie with leaders and the voters who support them, the framework that allows such bad actions to persist is structural. 

What good is sovereignty as currently construed when it permits results like:

1.     The increasing embededness of the U.S. military in Iraq paired with the increasing disgust with the war evinced by the voting public;

2.     Disempowered and insecure workers lured to the U.S. by bargain-hungry consumers, then maintained in a fearful, sub-legal status through symbolic raids that barely make a dent in the overall undocumented population, all serving to keep those bargains flowing and prop up the national security state;

3.     Entire nations of the utterly disenfranchised, at the mercy of greedy, incompetent rulers in the face of economic breakdown (Zimbabwe) and natural disaster (Burma). 

The structural failures of the international political system which thwart meaningful democratic sovereignty are the real "root causes" of migration flows--4 million displaced in Iraq, 12 million undocumented in the U.S., many others leaving Zimbabwe and Burma if and when they can. 

Some starting points for change might be:

1.     A representative Security Council, not one dominated by five countries;

2.     A General Assembly that makes meaningful, rather than symbolic decisions;

3.     A General Assembly where votes are weighted proportional to population;

4.     A realization of the feebleness of American democracy and recognition of the persistence of elite rule here and in other nominal democracies.

A case study:   

With conditions growing worse in the vast, flooded Irrawaddy Delta region, the top United States diplomat in Myanmar estimated that the death toll could rise as high as 100,000, from the official tally of 22,500. An accurate assessment might take days or weeks to emerge.

Relief workers and survivors described scenes of horror as people huddled on spits of dry ground surrounded by bodies and animal carcasses floating in the murky water or lodged in mangrove trees.

With Myanmar mostly closed to foreign journalists, information was coming from aid agencies, residents and diplomats based there. Witnesses spoke of fights over dwindling supplies of food and clean water, of hordes of people overwhelming the few shops still open.

. . .

The political party of the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, has called for international aid. But the generals who run Myanmar are obviously reluctant to allow large numbers of foreigners in, especially with a referendum looming on a proposed Constitution backed by the military.

In Washington, the White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Wednesday that Myanmar still had not responded to its offers of aid. "Everybody can understand that there is no substitute for being there on the ground to help people directly, and trying to do so remotely is going to be impossible," she said.

There is an American disaster relief team waiting in Thailand.

In Paris, Mr. Kouchner said that the French, British and Indian navies had ships directly opposite the worst-hit areas.

"It would only take half an hour for the French boats and French helicopters to reach the disaster area, and I imagine it's the same story for our British friends," he said. "We are putting constant pressure on the Burmese authorities, but we haven't yet got the go-ahead."

There is something seriously wrong with this picture, and resolving these problems will require a more comprehensive, holistic approach than has been considered to date.


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1 Comments

kyledeb said:

It's been such a wonderful thing to have you here on Citizen Orange with me Yave, because I feel like we come from such similar places.

We both see the solution, but I think we disagree about how to get there. The UN will not, and never will be the solution to a world where the most significant inequity bestowed at birth is the arbitrary boundaries within which humans are born. Structurally, it was never meant to be that way.

The solution to global equity does not come from the top down, it comes from the bottom up, starting with the education of the citizens of the privileged North. We have to start churning out global citizens that will vote not only for their own interests, but the interests of the world.

Obviously it's more complicated than that, but it is by working within each nation that we will get where we need to go, because the UN is not going to take us there.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on May 8, 2008 7:52 AM.

Arresting Migrants Leaving the Country?: Pro-Migrant Sanctuarysphere was the previous entry in this blog.

ICE Raids Sweep Elementary Schools: Pro-Migrant Sanctuarysphere is the next entry in this blog.

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