For more than three centuries, the concept of state sovereignty has been continuously refined, debated, and redefined from its origins in the Westphalian era. The Congress of Vienna, the League of Nations and the creation of the United Nations in 1945 each marked critical, yet partial and imperfect, turning points in the re-conceptualization of the sovereign authority and obligations of states. 1 This uneven, even fitful, evolution continues into the present. From the perspective of this volume, constrained sovereignty is an outcome of the human rights "revolution"—symbolically begun with the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. 2 Although Stephen Krasner argues that it has always been "organized hypocrisy, " 3 most U.N. member states and their governmental representatives accept, with varying degrees of institutionalized commitment, contemporary definitions of and limits to their own state's sovereignty on behalf of a rights regime negotiated on numerous occasions under United Nations auspices. Hence a significant change over the life of the world organization has been that an increasing number of its 191 member states agree that state sovereignty can be legitimately circumscribed in order both to ensure international peace and security and to help eliminate gross violations of human rights. In short, as the authors in this collection attest, there has been a gradual ascendancy in the importance of human rights as a factor in world politics.
This evolution was prompted in large measure by the shattering historical traumas of the Thirty Years' War and the Napoleonic wars together with the twentieth century's equivalents in World Wars I and II. With the increasing incidence of civil, as opposed to inter-state, war in the contemporary era, there have been major developments in terms of humanitarian intervention that have increasingly reinforced the principle that state sovereignty encompasses and requires the protection of the basic rights of individuals as defined by the U.N. Charter and other declarations, conventions, and treaties. 4 With each redefinition of the most effective means to concomitantly ensure state sovereignty and the rights of peoples within a country's borders, issues of balance have prominently and even contentiously emerged. The issue of necessary balance includes questions regarding the legal and moral criteria for effective responses by the U.N. or others to gross human rights violations. The role of the United Nations,