TED Conversations

Lindsay Newland Bowker


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What are the limits of sovereignty? Are we clear on international norms?

Present debate on what to do about Syrias use of chemical weapons on rebels/government opponents takes us back to the broader issue of the limits of sovereignty. It seems apparent that we don't have shared global values on a country's interior use of chemical weapons or what to do about it even though this ostensibly has been a matter of global consensus since the end of World War II. .What action is justified and is it ok for anyone nation to act alone without a global consensus on the basis of "protecting its national interests"?

(I will add links to several TED convesrations we have had in the past on global values and global governance)


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    Sep 4 2013: All my life I challenged my parents on why no one intervened in the holocaust and what others knew .

    Now as Syria's use of chemical weapons on its own citizens is in the foreground, I find I am not so clear on what happens after we all agree they shouldn't be doing that.

    We seem to have a situation where we do in fact have a consensus on the shared value that chemical weapons should not be used on anyone but we all seem adrift on what the appropriate action is.and what kind of intervention that warrants.

    An example in recent history is apartheid. There other nations expressed their intolerance of that internal policy through the Sullivan principles, economic sanctions , and global consumer boycotts of South African gold and other goods.

    Does that apply to all internal "affronts to humanity"
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      Sep 4 2013: I believe this is because as children we believe in right and wrong in a true sense, while the world is ruled by adults with business interests in which right and wrong are dictated by profit and loss.
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        Sep 4 2013: Right..and we visited this a while back here at TED Conversations at my conversation " Is Democracy Synonymous with Capitalism". And of course it is.

        When our president talks about "U.S. Interests" he means both the business interests of major corporations and the protection of treaties and balances of power that serve those interests. The sell to "we the people" is on most likely false humanitarian relief appeals.

        That's a whole other conversation.

        But let's just say there is an urgent humanitarian issue within a country..a policy being pursued that will wipe out an entire group of people, a policy of mass destruction by lethal chemical weapons..

        Does that rise to a level of actionable concern outside that country?

        Does acting in one country require the same action in all countries where the result is the same? ,
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          Sep 4 2013: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
          Because I was not a Socialist.

          Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
          Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

          Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
          Because I was not a Jew.

          Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

          Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

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