Monday, June 07, 2004

Even more from neocon fellow traveller Niall Ferguson, today praising hypocricy in his quest to say nothing new in every major English-language periodical in the world. Today it's The Guardian, after a two-and-a-half year absence from its pages (perish the thought!).
Sovereignty is not an absolute but a relative concept. As the Stanford political scientist Steve Krasner has said, much of what passes for sovereignty in today's world of interdependent polities and supra-national institutions is in fact just "organised hypocrisy". It is precisely the kind of government Iraq needs. For history shows that limited sovereignty can, in conditions of economic and political instability, be preferable to full sovereignty. . . .

The "organised hypocrisy" of limited sovereignty may sound unsatisfactory to the bien pensant critics of American imperialism. But it is preferable to an over-hasty American exit from Iraq - and a possible descent into chaos. Better that Iraq's sovereignty should be limited than torn apart.
Well, Ferguson is at least half-right this time. Sovereignty indeed is not an all or nothing game; with all due respect, Jean Bodin is flat out wrong. But Ferguson is only half right, for sovereignty is mostly a legal game played out in the international system; one might even venture to say that sovereignty is increasingly a legal fiction for even the most powerful states.

Specifically in the case of Iraq, it is important to admit that the country has not enjoyed "full sovereignty" since 1991. The Oil for Food Program and the no-fly zones are proof of that, and the continuance of the Development Fund for Iraq is proof that the country will remain less than sovereign. In that sovereignty is a legal creation, Ferguson is correct that the legal status of Iraq after June 30 is important. It is especially important for former colonies, something which Ferguson is completely oblivious to (or uninterested in; it is difficult to say which). Limited sovereignty is normatively acceptable in our current international system only under international auspices; single-state colonialism is a thing of the past (another lesson Ferguson refuses to learn).

France's stand is that it wants to US to recognize that we are in an era of ultraimperialism; Bush refuses to admit as much. The sideshow battle between "full sovereignty" and "limited sovereignty" is just that. Kwame Nkrumah and others didn't use the term "neo-colonialism" for nothing.


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