When its OK to violate sovereignty

Here’s an argument – it is necessary for the international community to attack undemocratic countries which proliferate weapons of mass destruction disregarding the traditional respect for national sovereignty. Lee Feinstein and Anne-Marie Slaughter argue just this in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

We propose a corollary principle in the field of global security: a collective “duty to prevent” nations run by rulers without internal checks on their power from acquiring or using WMD. For many years, a small but determined group of regimes has pursued proliferation in spite of — and, to a certain extent, without breaking — the international rules barring such activity. Some of these nations cooperate with one another, trading missile technology for uranium-enrichment know-how, for example. Their cooperation, dangerous in itself, also creates incentives for others to develop a nuclear capacity in response. These regimes can also provide a ready source of weapons and technology to individuals and terrorists. The threat is gravest when the states pursuing WMD are closed societies headed by rulers who menace their own citizens as much as they do their neighbors and potential adversaries…
The duty to prevent has three critical features. First, it seeks to control not only the proliferation of WMD but also people who possess them. Second, it emphasizes prevention, calling on the international community to act early in order to be effective and develop a menu of potential measures aimed at particular governments — especially measures that can be taken well short of any use of force. Third, the duty to prevent should be exercised collectively, through a global or regional organization.[Foreign Affairs]

So far as they are talking about Pakistan, North Korea, Iran & Libya it does not sound like a big deal. But if it is argued that China fits the bill just as well, then I cant think of any “collective” organisation that can take it to task. Unless the international system is retooled in a manner that puts the worlds democracies and representative governments in a position to determine who the ‘rogues’ are and what action be taken against them, this idea will not succeed in its objectives. Until that time, it is wiser to take it on a ‘case-by-case’ basis – defanging Pakistan and North Korea should be sufficient for now.