Sovereignty No Longer Exists
Friday afternoon I attended a lecture by George Lopez, a Professor at the Kroc Institute of Peace Studies at University of Notre Dame, where I was enlightened by many interesting interpretations of the chaotic situation in the Middle East. My thoughts heading into the discussion were that the Professor Lopez would be simply discussing way that humanity needs to learn to appreciate and respect one another better. Much to my delight, the lecture was much more substantial and informative. Leaving the lecture I felt that I had a better grasp on some of the key issues in places like Syria and Libya, and how the quest for peace will be a drawn out struggle. Most importantly I learned that despite the universal rules of sovereignty there is no justified reason for a nation to sit idly by while innocent lives are lost.
Sovereignty was the topic of much clarification and debate during Lopez’s lecture. Sovereignty is a prevalent issue in the Middle East at the moment. There is much debate about if and when it is justified for an outside entity to interrupt the operation of a country. It is accepted that the leaders of the country can do as the please. What I learned from Professor Lopez was that there is also a line that, when crossed, warrants international response.
The leaders of a nation have the right to dictate, and essentially run their own country. This rule is what is defined by a nation’s sovereignty, but in certain instances the boundaries of a nation’s sovereignty must be crossed in order to protect lives of those who are innocent. Rwanda is an infamous example of such intervention. In 1994 mass genocide occurred in Rwanda over a 28-day period. The atrocities that occurred were eventually what elicited international response spearheaded by the UN. Currently, the UN follows a guideline of “Responsibility to Protect.” This simple idea that the international community has the responsibility to protect innocent lives from an excessively more dominant force is at the heart of how the UN makes its decision to intervene across a countries sovereignty line. This idea is one that can, at times, be very controversial. Countries can be very reluctant to accept help from an outside entity. I personally do not understand the rationale of such mentality. There is no greater strength than having the confidence to accept help when needed. Countries may feel that help, from other nations, is a sign of weakness, but there is no shame in accepting help. It reminds me of the message from the Catholic religion of “love thy neighbor.” To me the idea of helping those in need is noble, but also expected. The only issue with such a mentality is that it does nothing from preventing mass genocide or ethnic cleansing.
After lunch on a Friday, my ability to learn falls drastically. That being said, Professor Lopez taught me the importance of understanding your responsibility to protect others. I now understand the importance of protecting those who are innocent and the harmless. Like the citizens in Syria, caught in the middle of a civil war, other nations must step in to protect them. I now see that since we are a nation with the means to protect others we must do so.