Event Details


Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017 - Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017




LBJ School of Public Affairs, SRH 3.122

The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World

The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World

Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017 - Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017  |  12:15:00   |  LBJ School of Public Affairs, SRH 3.122

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, the Robert Strauss Center, in partnership with the Clements Center for National Security, hosted Stewart Patrick for a talk on his new book "The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World." 

Photos of the event can be found here and a video can be accessed here

State sovereignty, according to Dr. Patrick, is a concept with an almost talismanic quality for Americans. He argues that sovereignty is a sensitive subject, likely to provoke strong opinions. As such, Dr. Patrick's book seeks to identify the qualities of state sovereignty that seem to have a wide appeal to people in the U.S. and other nations. In his lecture, Dr. Patrick explained three important elements of sovereignty along with their consequences:
  1. Authority: The United States and other states possess authority over territory, borders, and population. Authority means a state does not subordinate to other states.
  2. Autonomy, or freedom of action: Mandatory, and even voluntary, restraints imposed by alliances reduce room for maneuvering.
  3. Influence, or the ability to control our fate as a nation: The ability to achieve a state's goals requires international cooperation, but the ability for states to fulfill their interests is an expression of sovereignty.

Dr. Patrick further identifies that sovereignty has advocates on both the left and the right ends of the political spectrum in the U.S. For example, liberal politicians such as Senator Elizabeth Warren invoke sovereignty to oppose the investor-state dispute resolution processes proposed for modern trade agreements, while President Trump is perhaps a supreme sovereigntist who mentioned the word sovereignty twenty-one times in his September speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

Strauss Patrick talk4

Advocates for state sovereignty generally argue that sovereignty is under threat from growing international alliances and commitments, as well as the growing influence of non-state actors, multi-national corporations, and rising powers. Dr. Patrick gave the example of Justice Antonin Scalia, who responded to the use of foreign legal arguments by Justice Stephen Breyer by saying, I do not use foreign law in the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. President George W. Bush in his 2004 presidential debate with Secretary John Kerry famously said his only global test for policy was whether or not it served the interests of the United States.

Strauss Patrick talk5

Dr. Patrick argues that the threat to sovereignty is exaggerated, however, and the reality is that there are tradeoffs between sovereignty and collective action, even when collective action requires compromise. He said there is both more and less at stake in the debate, and Americans should consider both the costs and benefits to U.S. international security when invoking state sovereignty versus international cooperation.

Stewart Patrick is the senior fellow and director of the program on International Institutions and Global Governance (IIGG) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). His areas of expertise include multilateral cooperation in the management of global issues; U.S. policy toward international institutions, including the United Nations; and the challenges posed by fragile, failing, and post-conflict states. Mr. Patrick writes the blog, The Internationalist.

Add to My Calender