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 8 2013: There needs to a United Nations setup and mandated “Failed State Ranking”. Every country would have a ranking which can be set by the UN at any time. If the ranking pasted a preset point there would be automatically activated a set of sanctions and remedies – including military intervention.

    Many states around the world are in varies forms of crisis and they mostly have got into their predicament because there was no early intervention.

    This system would leave governments in no doubt what would happen to them if they rig elections, form dictatorships or have internal conflicts. This solution is twofold: create a set of international rules and intervene early without exception based on known trigger points (rankings).

    After all we allowed a dictator to hold power in Syria and now we all upset that he is behaving like a dictator. The world needs to act earlier with legitimacy always in place.
    • Sep 8 2013: The UN would actually need a set of teeth to enforce that type of thing.

      The kind of teeth it doesn't, and will probably never have. The individual states don't want any international organization ruling over them as a matter of principle.
      • Sep 9 2013: The key point I am making is that automatic early intervention is best for all - this is simply a more orderly world where one does not gain from corruption.
        • Sep 9 2013: Fair enough.
          Looking at the UN to do it though... That I wouldn't count on.

          There's also a problem with the "automatic" part. Every case needs to be judged on its own merits.
    • Sep 8 2013: unfortunately america has been defying international convention for some time. america was condemned by the world court for mining nicaragua's harbors in the 80's, we just ignored it.
      • Sep 12 2013: Robert, I agree.
        The United States Government is the Fault.
        As Obama mentioned in his photo op.
        "we've been the world's policeman for 70 years, blah, blah.."

        Someone back in the day, put the idea out that
        the United States was the good guy and everyone
        should obey it's dictates.

        Since the United States was printing and giving away money,
        no other nation's leader wanted to complain, and lose out.

        The UK at that time, lost the British Sterling's position to the
        US Dollar. Their economy tanked. The Brits never fully
        recovered since. People suffered for many years. They
        still do.

        Today, the UK is mainly a Naval Power, they've become
        weakened as far as armed aggression is concerned, and
        their peoples are tired of WAR.

        Their peoples understand WAR kills their sons and never
        replaces the lost economies. They know that WAR is not
        going to make jobs more plentiful afterwards.

        Today, September 12, 2013, the US Dollar's position is at about
        the same point that the UK found themselves when their Sterling
        tanked. The US economy will more likely tank, than not. And,
        very - very soon.

        We do not have the monetary resources to allow OBAMA his WAR.
        Other nations are today, quietly, but quickly, making new
        alliances with new trading partners, without the US's participation.

        Nation's fail. Get used to it.
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      Sep 9 2013: Fraser,

      I like the "failed state" concept as a foundation for framing international agreements on in intervention. It usually refers to governnents incapable of delivering normalized state functions..schools, education, transportation, freedom from maurauders and crime .

      "failed States" refers to a situation where entire populations are caught in the grip of prolonged disorganization and chaos in which there is lawlessness, great suffering, poverty

      Syria is # 13 on the current list of failed states,. The rebels are causing as much violence and disruption as the Assad regime except for a tiny minority faction tha has no hope of changing the "failed state" staus of Syria..

      It is also the best "classification" for Egypt. People with advanced degrees were working for meager wagers and purchasing food took more than 50% of their wages. They weren't seeking democracy, they were seeking freedom from the deplorable and dehumanizing conditions of a "failed state"

      But the road to humanitrain relief can't ever be war can it?

      The Un is a miitray insiution. "Peace" to the UN means peace through military intrevention.

      Perhaps if we could define a stragey for "intervention" which would help a nations people pull themselves out of the kind of chaos and build their own government. What would that look like? An internional team of non-nation associated "facilitators" supporting whatvere leaders can be found within the country to create an interim governmnet of some kind?

      Although I never believe in the "new democrtacially elected government of Egypt, I dolike that the deposed leader was simply put under house arrest..

      What I am asking is what would the "next steps" be after we declare that a failed state needs intervention..

      And what criterion would put Syria ahead of the 12 other "failed states" now on this globe placing millions in intolerable conditions?
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      Sep 9 2013: Fraser,

      Right After my reply post above, a U.S. news panel of dinstiguished journaliss started to disclose that the crisis we now have in Syria was result of a an ex-officio, on the quiet failed , "failed nation sate" intervention by the U.S. crafted and carried our under Hillary Cilntons direction and in cpprdination with Saudi Arabia ( apparentlty they decided to try and fund and bring to the fore one of the rebel faction groups that seemed closer to reason and inclusion than other groups. It's really the same thing we did in Libya. )

      So official or unoffical there is an "intervention strategy" at work for "failed nations", albeit it without international consensus on what constitutes a "failed nation" , when intervention is appropriate and what kind of intervention is appropriate.

      those issues aside ( I assume it is a given that no nation should unilaterally act as a nation, sceretly or not to redirect another nation) would something along these lines work as a "failed state intervention" if the effort included more factions. Surely every faction in a country like Syria has some kind of conection to the outside world that is trusted and respected.

      What is the role of "unoffcial" diplomacy in a country like Syria where all order has broken down to a point where there is no peace or security for any of its ciizens? What should that unofficial diplomacy look like?What officials links, if any should it have back to nations or back to the U.N. security council..

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