Courtesy Reuters

Sovereignty and Peace

Angels only, not men, could live in freedom, tranquillity and happiness, if they all exercised the sovereign power. -- Simón Bolívar.

AT THE present stage of the world's development the principle of the sovereignty of states constitutes the firmest groundwork of international organization. Sovereignty is to the community as liberty is to man: a fundamental right which may not, because of its very nature, emanate from an alien will. Exercising its sovereignty, a nation adopts the institutions its people want. By virtue of that sovereignty it enacts its own laws, defends its territory, declares and wages war, concludes alliances, signs treaties, accredits and receives diplomatic and consular representatives. In a word, it orders its own existence and coördinates it with that of others on a footing of juridical equality, mutual respect and harmonious creative collaboration. In this broadest sense sovereignty is indispensable.

The present stage of dwelling together of the nations may thus be defined as "the degree of balance between sovereignties." An upset of this balance implies the appearance of disorder, sooner or later ending in violence. It follows that whoever aims to eliminate war as a means of settling controversies between peoples must begin by strengthening the safeguards surrounding the sovereign, free and independent action of their governments.

This is the classic thesis. On it the political life of the American democracies has rested. To uphold it we have not only made incalculable moral sacrifices, but also have endured a whole succession of struggles and privations and have put forth efforts which are an index to the majestic nature of our destinies. In some cases they have led us to participate in conflicts which apparently had no connection with our own future.

It must, however, be pointed out that this crystal clear concept, which today seems incontrovertible, has not existed at all times in the past. The very word "sovereignty" as understood today was not included in the vocabulary of political theories until quite recently. So

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