Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority

The concept of sovereignty is the core attribute of the modern state. It has an “inside” face—the relation of the state to its citizens—and an “outside” face—the relation of states to other states. With regard to the inside face, when the concept first emerged in Seventeenth Century Europe, it imported a reconceptualization of state authority, and was accompanied by a transformation in the understanding of the relationship between individuals and political authority

In today’s politics, where concerns about national security dominate public policy debate, the concept of sovereignty is once more under reassessment. The expansion of executive authority in times of emergency has been a central theme of republican defense of the interrogation tactics of the Bush Administration. It has also, however, been an important component in justifying the legitimacy of drone strikes under Obama. The following questions suggest themselves as ripe for reexamination in light of changing conceptions of sovereignty:

How does the rise of powerful, organized terrorist groups affect the claims to sovereignty of a state? For instance, if a state harbors aggressive groups within their territory, can those under threat violate sovereignty to take action against the threat? And what standards are appropriate for judging when, if ever, such an attack would be proper?

What are appropriate limitations on national security initiatives on foreign territory? For example, is unauthorized drone activity in a territory a violation of sovereignty? Is it proper for a government to authorize foreign operations within their territory without the knowledge of the people of that country?

When war expands past any territorial boundaries, does the concept of sovereignty still play a role? Do governments have claims to sovereignty in cyberspace?

How ought we to reconcile national security with the concept of international law enforcement? Does the idea that all states are sovereign relative to one another force all efforts to protect against attacks into the domain of the Law of Armed Conflict? Can international law enforcement supply an alternative to the militarization of the effort to combat terrorism?

Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority will address these and other questions in an interdisciplinary discussion among scholars from different backgrounds, as well unite theoretical and practical perspectives.