Monday, April 07, 2008

Sovereignty, Democracy and the Role of Outsiders

I haven't been able to devote as much attention as I might like to events that are unfolding in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Armenia--but there is a common thread that links some of the developments in these countries with ongoing issues in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

The first is the issue of sovereignty as it relates to the territorial integrity of a country. The textbook Westphalian position was that a government had to control its territory or have good reasons for its inability to do so that might require assistance from outside powers.

The second has to do with questions of democracy, elections and the regulation of political conflicts. Who referees disputed contests--and, for countries that make the promotion of democracy a priority for their foreign policy, when an election is disputed or in doubt, is it better to find a compromise formula or no? I am interested in this because it seems the West has accepted for Kenya the formula it would not do for Ukraine in the past.

But then the question for outside forces and actors is whether or not they have the leading obligation to impose these decisions. I know many of the headlines about recent operations read that "US and Iraqi forces" are in action but it still seems that it is primarily the US which is doing the work.

And we come back to the distinctions between peace keepers and peace enforcers, doing stability operations versus extending the writ of governments. A comment I made at the Atlantic Community on this:

One other problem facing the alliance—both in Afghanistan as well as in Kosovo—is that there is also a big difference between being engaged in “stability operations”—essentially keeping the peace—and dealing with the fact that the government in the capital city doesn’t control all the territory of the country. So in both places, you are going to have NATO allies who say the mission is to make sure fighting is over and just keep things quiet, versus those who identify the success of the mission in ensuring that orders from the capital are enforced in the outlying areas-which may force NATO troops into fighting with locals and make the mission more dangerous in terms of casualties—which then undermines public support back home.

Let solutions evolve, or have solutions be imposed? One of the unsung but needed foreign policy debates.

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