Sovereignty and the Foreign Fighter Problem

Abstract

Sovereignty is the bedrock of international law. If security requires that the United States transgress sovereign borders to attack foreign fighters and their support networks hiding in third countries, then the U.S. should adopt a strategy to amend international law accordingly. One should not be too quick, however, to disregard a robust notion of sovereignty, a concept that has helped avert conflict among the world’s major powers. The United States needs a strategy for sovereignty’s future that is based in the emerging security context and a prioritization of American interests. Instead, the United States and the rest of the world are meandering toward a less robust sovereignty with weaker and more ambiguous international law. The U.S. and its global interests would be better served by strong and clear international rules that increase predictability and that confer legitimacy to action against dangerous enemies.

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