As an anarchist, I have little use for “national sovereignty” as a political concept. Boiled down, “national sovereignty” is simply the assertion that mutual recognition of turf lines on the part of various overgrown street gangs (“states”) is sacrosanct: The writ of the UK’s parliament doesn’t extend to Missouri, nor are the peasants of Azerbaijan subject to the orders of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
The funny thing about “national sovereignty” is that its most vociferous defenders don’t believe in it either.
Take, for example, US Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ).
On the one hand, there’s Kyl speaking last month at Arizona State University:
“It is time to get reacquainted with our political principles and the reasons why American self-government is preferable to ‘sharing’ or ‘pooling’ sovereignty with political forces outside of our Constitution. … sovereignty is not just an abstract concept. It is a condition for self-government.”
While on the other hand, there’s Kyl supporting a Senate resolution this month, calling on Iran’s government to cease:
“[A]rbitrary detention, torture, and other forms of harassment against media professionals, human rights defenders and activists, and opposition figures, and releasing all individuals detained for exercising universally recognized human rights; lifting legislative restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association, and expression; and allowing the Internet to remain free and open and allowing domestic and international media to operate freely [as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kyl voted in favor of PIPA, the Senate sister of the SOPA Internet censorship bill].”
What happened to those turf lines you cared about so much, Senator? Last time I checked, Iran was not US territory. What business is it of yours how its government conducts itself internally? But for a real eye-opener, let’s break that resolution down:
“[A]rbitrary detention, torture” — like that practiced by the US at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere?
“and other forms of harassment against media professionals” — like the US government’s harassment of Julian Assange, or the US Department of Defense’s public threat to murder journalists covering the 2003 invasion of Iraq without permission?
“human rights defenders and activists, and opposition figures, and releasing all individuals detained for exercising universally recognized human rights” — last time I checked, the US government was still keeping Bradley Manning in a cage.
“lifting legislative restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association, and expression” — restrictions like the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, which passed in the Senate with “unanimous consent,” meaning that Kyl didn’t object to it?
“and allowing the Internet to remain free and open and allowing domestic and international media to operate freely” — as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kyl voted in favor of PIPA, the Senate sister of the SOPA Internet censorship bill.
That’s right: Not only does Jon “national sovereignty” Kyl want to draft legislation for Tehran from his office in Washington, he demands that Tehran’s governance be far less onerous than the stuff he supports here at home!
He also apparently supports military action by the US and/or Israel to stop the Iranians from getting nuclear weapons like the US and Israel have (but that Iran doesn’t seem to be about to get, or even especially interested in getting).
The sorriest thing of all about this is that I picked Kyl at random. His hypocrisy — “national sovereignty for DC but not for thee” — isn’t especially remarkable when compared to that of his fellow politicians, nor is Iran the only target.
“National sovereignty” and the turf lines (“borders”) it holds sacred are bad ideas in general. They’re even worse when politicians demand the benefits of their protection while repudiating the restrictions they impose. Let’s just hope that as “national sovereignty” and “borders” disintegrate, the state itself disintegrates with them.
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