Hipocracy of sovereignty recognition

Here’s that assignment i did for international relations. man I hope I get a good mark for it. I find out next Wednesday. I had Shappy’s classes this week and i get the feeling he’s read it. He’s mentioned East Timor a lot as an example (to do with the birth of a nation compared to the birth of a state) and because he has such shit handwriting (he really does! I thought my hand writing was bad — and the teachers at primary school used to tell me off and think i was retarded or that I was destined to become a doctor — but Shappy, when he does even just a little writing on the blackboard it’s kind of like those, `I’m dead and I’m scrawling this in my own blood’ type jobs) we have to drop by his office to pick the essays back up, to get feedback. I’m thinking it could go either way – extremely good or extremely bad.
Anyway, here t’is:

Charles Tilly argues that `states make war and war makes the state’. But which factor is more important in defining the modern state, war making or the recognition of sovereignty by other states?
Tilly uses the analogy of states’ war-making as being like, `a local strongman forcing merchants to pay tribute in order to avoid damage’ (Tilly, 1985). My continuation is that today, the neighbourhood’s quota for strongmen is filled with no postions opening up in the near future. The only way for a new state to gain sovereignty is to emulate the strongmen (without being offensive) and co-operate with them.

War-making in feudal Europe was the catalyst for the process I like to think of as, `big fish eating little fish’. A small but crucial factor in speeding this process was the invention of the longbow, pike, cannon and trace italienne (low profile, thickened walls), as listed by Opello. More men were involved in wars and warring became expensive. Either a Prince had the resources to survive in this changed environment or his lands were over run by one who did. While the distinction between an `internal threat’ and an `external threat’ to a ruler’s authority was very much liquid to begin with, more definition to boundaries eventually took shape, and the ruler successfully maintained the monopoly of violence within their territory.
So, with larger groupings and territories came organising structures and a kind of depersonalistaion of the process of war, neatly described as, `… human beings, the state’s subjects, available to be used as objects by the state apparatus in the name of order and as expressions of the power of the state’ (Opello, 1999).

The big-fish/little-fish idea is the same concept that drove mercantile capitalism which existed symbiotically alongside of state-making during the late medieval times and period of the `absolutist state’ (roughly covering 1500-1775).
A major shift in the nature of war-making/state-making happened when Francis I of France (after losing the city of Milan and experiencing hardtimes financially) decided to keep warring, rather than lose territory. He borrowed money from the merchants of Paris on the condition that interest be payed on the loan. From then on the French national debt soared and more efficient and ruthless ways of extracting wealth from the populace were introduced. The same happened in other European states.

As Tilly states in his quote of Jan de Vries, `Behind every successful dynasty stood an array of opulent banking families’ (Tilly, 1985). Or more pointedly, one banking family; the Rothschilds’. Mayer Rothschilds had his five sons establish banks in the cities of Frankfurt, Vienna, London, Naples and Paris. By 1800 bankers came to be known as the `power behind the thrown’ (Carmack, 1998).

The treaty of Westphalia is, by most, seen as the beginning of what we loosely term as sovereignty.
The most important things to come out of the treaty were that it gave a ruler the right to practice which religion they chose, and that all kings were seen as equal, while still rulers of their respective realms.

Regarding the first point, Krasner adds that, `it then went on to violate this very principle through many specific provisions’, including, `Catholics and Protestants in German cities with mixed populations would share offices’ (Krasner, 2001). It’s ironic that a concept as subjective and multi-meaninged as sovereignty should start in this way.

Fowler & Bunck (1992), rightly point out that the basic ingredients that a state needs to become sovereign are a, `territory, people and a government’. From there, a state must be able to show its internal supremacy (ie. a monopoly on the means of violence) and external independence, which according to Fowler & Bunck means, `politically and juridically independent of any superior’. Together these are termed de facto autonomy. The other key term in this area is de jure independence;
to govern, legislate and pass legal sentence free of influence from external states.
To gain recognition of sovereignty sometimes proof of one of these is enough, sometimes both, and sometimes even both is not enough.
My favourite example of all these concepts in action is that of Sealand (FOOTNOTE AT BOTTOM).

`…[B]ecoming a member of the ranks of sovereign states is something like joining an exclusive club’, say Fowler & Bunck. The conditions of entry shift depending on the situation. The outcomes (post WW2) are guided primarily by US economic and strategic interests.
In 1991 the US quickly lead the UN into the defense of Kuwait against Iraq. Why would it do this (apart from protecting US-based oil company resources located in Kuwait) but not aid of East Timor which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975?
East Timor had been recently decolonised by Portugal and had formed a government.
But Indonesia was a `client’ of the US and giving, `attention to the Indonesian invasion would have embarrassed a loyal ally and quickly disclosed the crucial role of the United States in providing military aid and diplomatic support for aggression and slaughter’ (Herman & Chomsky, 1988).
Yet, doesn’t the UN exists to stop this kind of hypocrisy? During 1975, the US’s UN ambassador was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Here’s a little of what Chomsky compiled on the role of Moynihan in 1975. `He had more to say about these matters in his memoir of his years at the United Nations, where he describes frankly his role as Indonesia invaded East Timor in December 1975:

The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about.
The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective
in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it
forward with no inconsiderable success. (Chomsky, 1991)

So while the UN (as a meeting place for the international community) seems like a great idea, rarely does it bring about justice. In order for a state to gain sovereignty, recognition by other sovereign states is important but the pecking order of already-established sovereign states corresponds with the order of states war-making capabilities. Every sovereign state is given a vote in the UN, but only a handful can vito a decision that the UN makes.
When it is the economic or strategic interests of that handful to grant a new state sovereignty (through recognition) then it will happen, and when it doesn’t it won’t.

The UK has considerable war-making capabilities, so does France, China and Russia but today the Godfather and boss of the neighbourhood strongmen is the United States.

Sealand is quarter the size of an oil rig, and in a nutshell, is two very large cement pipes with a platform and living quarters on top. It’s located seven nautical miles off the east coast of England. It was used by England during WW2 then abandoned. Roy Bates occupied it and proclaimed himself supreme ruler and king of the principality of Sealand in 1967.
The British courts attempted to try Roy for tresspassing and other crimes, but found that, because the platform had been officially abandoned and lay outside of British waters, they had no jurisdiction. Roy claimed this to be de facto recognition of the state’s sovereignty.

He then wrote a constitution. While it may not have contained a full written set of procedures for a functioning legal system, it probably contained a clause that said something like, `If and when legal judgment needs to be passed, it will be done by me or other members of the royal family and that law will be final within the principality of Sealand.
Germany and The Netherlands have also acknowledged Sealands sovereignty.

There was even a situation where Roy showed in practice his ability to defend Sealand from external threat, internal threat,hand down judgment on offenders and negotiate with international diplomats. All of which were done successfully.


Carmack, Patrick, S. J. 1998, The Money Masters: How International Bankers Gained Control of America, Royal Production Company, OK. USA

Chomsky, Noam, 1991, Deterring Democracy, Vintage, London, p.-200

Fowler & Bunck, M. R. & J. M. 1992, `What Constitutes the Sovereign State?’, Review of International Studies, Vol. 22, pp. 381-404

Herman & Chomsky, Edward, S. & Noam, 1988, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy and the Mass Media, Vintage, London, p.- 302

Krasner, Stephen, D. 2001, `Sovereignty’, Foreign Policy, vol. January/February, no. 122

`The History of Sealand’ http://www.sealandgov.org/history.html

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