The current language surrounding American foreign policy (and the New START Treaty in particular) is diplomatic and courteous. It is also dangerously ambiguous about American sovereignty. As Steven Groves explains in the latest installment of the Understanding America series, “Sovereignty is a simple idea: the United States is an independent nation, governed by the American people, that controls its own affairs.” In “Why Does Sovereignty Matter to America”, Groves outlines the fundamental role of sovereignty in American history, and analyzes the current misunderstanding (some would say rejection) of this important concept.
This issue of sovereignty was the driving force behind the American Revolution. In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers laid forth the abuses suffered by the colonies at the hands of King George III. They concluded that it had become necessary for the defense of their rights to seek independence and to “assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them”. Their argument made clear that the idea of sovereignty did not only apply to the relationship between the United States and Great Britain, but to any country that challenges Americans’ independence. For “if a foreign power can tell America ‘what we shall do, and what we shall not do,’ George Washington once wrote to Alexander Hamilton, ‘we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.’”
As Groves illustrates, our sovereignty is still under attack today, though through less overt means: “International organizations and courts seek to reshape the international system. Nations are to give up their sovereignty and be governed by a ‘global consensus.’ Independent, sovereign nations will be replaced by ‘Transnational’ organizations that reject national sovereignty.” This trend is evident everywhere, and will not be halted without a renewed attachment to the idea of American sovereignty.
Ultimately, American foreign policy must be controlled by the American people. This is why treaties (such as the New START Treaty) require ratification by the Senate, in addition to the President’s signature. As Groves makes clear, there is no reason to agree to treaties that seek to weaken us. We are self-governing, and have no need to enter treaties desperately. Our Founding Fathers did not fight to secure sovereignty for a country that would – without protest – risk losing it through dangerous treaties and overreaching international organizations a mere two hundred years later.