Sovereignty in international affairs

Sovereignty in international affairs: In such an aspect the notion of an independent sovereign State is, on the international side, fatal to the well-being of humanity. The way in which a State should live its life in relation to other States is clearly not a matter in which that State is entitled to be the sole judge. That way lies the long avenue of disastrous warfare of which the rape of Belgium is the supreme moral result in modern times. The common life of States is a matter for common agreement between States.

International government is, therefore, axiomatic in any plan for international well-being. But international government implies the organized subordination of States to an authority in which each may have a voice, but in which also, that voice is never the self determined source of decision. How best to translate this conception into institutional terms is a matter to be discussed later. It is enough, for the moment, to postulate the disappearance of State sovereignty as the conditions without which the life of reason is impossible to States. England ought not to settle what armaments she needs, the tariffs she will erect the immigrants she will permit to enter. These matters affect the common life of peoples and they imply a unified world organized to administer them.

The argument against such a view as this is ultimately the argument of despair. It assumes that men will always love blindly the little platoon into which they are born and it forgets that irrational passion now plays with instruments too dangerous to be called into use. No one doubts that it is a difficult task to fit the interests of the world into institutions which can express its needs.

But no one can read the history of States which have regarded their private welfare as the supreme end without the sense that the outlawry of the power of exclusive decision is the most urgent need before us. If men are to live in the great society, they must learn the habits of co-operative intercourse.

They must learn to think of their platoon as a part of the great regiment of man, kind. They must grow accustomed to sinking immediate and temporary good for the lasting benefit which comes from peace. For, at least over a long period, the victories won in international intercourse by violence are rarely of permanent value. Germany did not gain by the annexation of Alsace Lorraine in 1871 Austria did not profit by her sovereignty over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The traditions established by conduct of this kind are, ultimately, as materially fatal as they are morally disastrous. They are built upon the notion that the State is sovereign as against other States. They assume, as Hobbes said, that the hinterland between organized peoples is a bellum ommium contra omnes. That assumption is a betrayal of the reason which distinguishes man from his animal kindred or, rather, it is to devote that reason to ends which would destroy the distinction between man and the brute.

The fact that in the great society actions ramify until Tokyo and Paris become cities of a single community implies the organization of Statehood for that community. In a world State, however it be built, and whatever the measure of decentralization that obtains, there is no room for separate sovereign-ties. Those functions Which influence the life of the great society must be subject to the common and concerted decision of men.

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