- Research Programs
- Regions & Topics
- All Publications
A nation must think before it acts.
Disengagement of U.S. leadership in recent years has not only emboldened the world’s worst actors, it has enabled the emergence of non-state groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to threaten a new and ominous trend in international affairs—the pursuit of sovereign authority by transnational violent-extremists. Amending both the Clausewitzian “remarkable trinity” to explicitly encompass non-state actors in war and the balance-of-power praxis of Talleyrand to one favoring dynamic repair of failed and failing states in diplomacy, the Doctrine of Contingent Sovereignty proposed in this article provides the requisite tools for bolstering legitimacy of weakened states while simultaneously affording the necessary freedom-of-action for the United States to secure its vital national interests. Analogous to the Monroe Doctrine of the nineteenth-century, which put putative expansionist powers on notice, this new doctrine asserts that the privilege of sovereignty remains contingent upon adherence to accepted international norms of behavior.