Kagan: ‘Sovereignty Must Be Earned’

kagan4.jpgColumns like this one make me question why Robert Kagan is considered one of the “smart” neocons. Suggesting that we should “internationalize the response” to the Mumbai attacks, Kagan wants the international community to “declare that parts of Pakistan have become ungovernable and a menace to international security.”

Establish an international force to work with the Pakistanis to root out terrorist camps in Kashmir as well as in the tribal areas. This would have the advantage of preventing a direct military confrontation between India and Pakistan. It might also save face for the Pakistani government, since the international community would be helping the central government reestablish its authority in areas where it has lost it. […]

Interestingly, we’ve been doing something very much like this right next door in Afghanistan, and it’s not been going well. We’ve been having quite a bit of trouble getting our partners to commit troops to the effort, so I don’t know from where this international force that Kagan envisions would materialize. And the idea that a foreign occupation — however “internationalized” — would help the Pakistani government save face is so daft that I suspect Kagan got it from Bill Kristol.

Would such an action violate Pakistan’s sovereignty? Yes, but nations should not be able to claim sovereign rights when they cannot control territory from which terrorist attacks are launched. If there is such a thing as a “responsibility to protect,” which justifies international intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophe either caused or allowed by a nation’s government, there must also be a responsibility to protect one’s neighbors from attacks from one’s own territory, even when the attacks are carried out by “non-state actors.”

This seems like a subtle but significant expansion of the Bush Doctrine: Not only should we “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these attacks and those who harbor them,” we should make no distinction between the terrorists and the states that don’t intentionally harbor them, but whose rule is insufficiently consolidated to prevent their presence. I predict this will be just as effective at rallying global support as previous Bush Doctrines.

But if such an action were under consideration at the United Nations, that might be enough to gain Pakistan’s voluntary cooperation. Either way, it would be useful for the United States, Europe and other nations to begin establishing the principle that Pakistan and other states that harbor terrorists should not take their sovereignty for granted. In the 21st century, sovereign rights need to be earned.

It’s nice that Kagan has discovered a use for the UN, too bad it’s only to give cover to a U.S.-led plan to undermine state sovereignty and effectively overthrow the international system. But this is neoconservatism in a nutshell: Bold-sounding ideas that would be — as they have been — utterly disastrous if implemented in U.S. foreign policy.

Clearly, the United States must lead in developing a better international strategy for dealing with terrorism, and the conditions that give rise to terrorism. This will mean repudiating much of the Bush administration’s militaristic approach to the problem, and discarding the ideas — and, just as importantly, the attitudes — advocated by Kagan and his ilk that underpinned that approach. We can’t stop them from publishing, but hopefully we’re done listening.