Chicago Journal of International Law


In the spring of 2004, the question was whether forces of the American-led coalition in Iraq would fall under the direct control of the ostensibly "sovereign" government of Iraq. The United States has not been willing to put its forces under foreign control in the past and was not willing to do so in Iraq. If the interim government in Iraq, however, was heavily dependent on security assistance from coalition forces-in facing threats from an insurgency on its own territory-then it might seem a bit odd to insist that this vulnerable and dependent Iraqi government was entirely "sovereign." The same European critics who argued that the UN must have ultimate authority on questions of war and peace thus seemed-with a certain consistency-to argue that the UN would have the last word on questions of sovereignty. The new government in Iraq could be "fully sovereign" if the Security Council decreed that it would be. Beneath the rhetorical posturing on all sides, debate over Iraq simply confirmed, once again, that there are fundamental differences between the way "sovereignty" is viewed in the United States, on the one hand, and by many Europeans, on the other. Whatever one's view about the policy merits of the Bush administration's actions in Iraq, there is every reason to think that international differences over sovereignty will continue to complicate American diplomacy in the future. But there are also very solid reasons to think the traditional American view remains deeply grounded in American thinking-and in intractable realities of international affairs. [CONT]