Beyond Sovereignty: Collectively Defending Democracy in the Americas

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Beyond Sovereignty: Collectively Defending Democracy in the Americas

Edited by Tom J. Farer
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996
416 pp. $38.50
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A valuable collection of essays edited by a well-respected law professor and human rights activist who directs the Law and International Relations program at American University, this volume focuses on the tension between collective action for the defense of democracy and traditional notions of sovereignty in the Western Hemisphere. Taking as their starting point Resolution 1080, approved by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Santiago, Chile, in 1991, which urges the OAS to respond to hemispheric violations of democracy, a group of well-known scholars explore this issue through case studies (Chile, El Salvador, Haiti, Peru) and comparative analyses. The authors review the legal justifications for international action to defend democracy and examine alternative approaches. They agree that outsiders can contribute significantly to the defense of democracy but believe that domestic events and social actors, including strong national institutions, are more important. Electoral observation and economic embargoes can be effective, but multilateral action is more successful than unilateral coercive measures. Among the more provocative contributions are an analysis of Cuba by Jorge Dominguez -- where the question of sovereignty is, as Dominguez argues, "an end in itself" -- and an essay on Mexico by Denise Dresser.

It is a pity that Farer did not provide a comprehensive conclusion to this book, or engage more fully the contradictions implicit in some chapters or the ideological shift that underlies the enthusiasm for intervention among some of the authors who in the past have vociferously opposed intervention, especially when it was the United States that was intervening. Dominguez, for example, might have noted that Castro's Cuba was not too concerned with the "sovereignty" of other nations when its agents, arms, and propaganda sought to "make the world safe for Revolution"; nor did Cuba seem worried when it mortgaged the Cuban economy for Soviet subsidies, with disastrous consequences.