Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Coordinating long term US sovereignty issues

As I look at the increasingly wide range of issues raising long term questions about the protection of US democratic sovereignty interests - today, Kofi Annan's latest UN reform proposal; yesterday, the US Supreme Court in Roper; tomorrow, decisions in the Security Council over Darfur referrals to the ICC; and so on - I wonder whether there isn't some need within the Bush administration for an indentified person responsible for ensuring that across all the areas of government, genuinely long term sovereignty interests are represented in decision-making.

Yes, there is always John Bolton, willing to look long term on these matters. But I suspect in many agency and departmental decisions, it is much easier to look solely to short term considerations that have the tendency to undermine sovereignty in the long term. Suppose the Bush administration had someone whose job consisted in monitoring across departments - with the capacity at least to advise and raise long term sovereignty concerns and advocate for them within governmental decisionmaking, and to advise senior policymakers about the long term sovereignty interests at play in seemingly modest issues. And at the same time, coordinating a policy for strengthening the defense of US sovereignty cutting across departmental and agency lines?

Would such a position make any difference? Well, one place it might make a difference would be in encouraging the US to intervene aggressively in Alien Tort Statute cases. Another place would be in determining whether the US should get involved in treaty negotiations - for example, by asking the question of whether the negotiating process, leaving aside the specific issues involved, would likely result in wrongly empowering NGOs or other nonstate actors over democratic sovereigns. Or working with Congress to undo the damage done by Roper and its invitation to bring foreign law into US Constitutional adjudication.

I've never worked in government, so I am decidedly inexpert here. But I am convinced that there are long term sovereignty issues that are not being vigorously defended, in part because there is not enough incentive to look to the long term.

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