Beyond Sovereignty: Collectively Defending Democracy in the Americas

By Eppright, Charles T. | Naval War College Review, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Beyond Sovereignty: Collectively Defending Democracy in the Americas


Eppright, Charles T., Naval War College Review


Farer, Tom, ed. Beyond Sovereignty: Collectively Defending Democracy in the Americas. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1996. 416pp. $19.95

The United States is fortunate to be in a hemisphere relatively free of the recent troubling regional trends. One such trend is the deterioration of states, resulting in the unraveling of economies and the breakdown of civil society and its complementary form of democratic government. Perhaps, however, the withering away of the state is creating a positive effect in Latin America and the Caribbean. As Beyond Sovereignty reveals, state sovereignty is diminishing as a result of this hemisphere's growing dedication through "collective defense" to the full political institutionalization of democracy. Beyond Sovereignty explains this regional trend, which the United States must apprehend as one of the most positive geopolitical dynamics within the current "Revolution in Security Affairs."

Beyond Sovereignty is a collection of studies by distinguished scholars on Latin America and the Caribbean. They focus on the institution of democracy and its "collective defense" in the region by a variety of state and nonstate actors. They are the result of an exploration by the Inter-American Dialogue of a call by the Organization of American States (OAS), in Resolution 1080, for "collective" responses to violations of the democratic process within the Americas. The studies examine the roles of governments and political movements within the various countries, the effects of U.S. policies, and the political forces within international and nongovernmental organizations that are subsuming state sovereignty in terms of the region's adherence to the strengthening of democracy. The book features case studies of a retrospective nature on Chile, El Salvador, Haiti, and Peru, and the struggles within those countries relative to the establishment of democratic political practices. The book also provides studies that look toward the futures of Mexico and Cuba and what they may hold with regard to the respective enlargement and the eventual establishment of democracy in those countries.

Beyond Sovereignty correlates the rise of democracy's strength, as a political institution in Latin America and the Caribbean, to the decrease of state sovereignty based on collective defense. In the region, the state and its sovereignty is giving way to political and suasive power from international organizations, principally the OAS, but also the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the World Bank. These external actors share a focus on building democracy as a political institution within the region-the OAS from its political "peer pressure," and the NGOs by aiding the positive social forces that support the growth of sound, expanding economies and the formation of civil society. The OAS and proliferating regional political forums are growing intolerant of any tendency by states to dismiss democracy as the preferred political system. These forums' ability to effect their political will in support of democracy is what defines collective defense.

The book also examines related political and governmental institutions necessary for the success of a democratic country: fully representative political parties that permit and encourage pluralistic expression, an effective independent judicial system, and a competent civil service. The strength of these related components is vital in a democracy. The new crumbling of state sovereignty in favor of regional interest in democratic politics is resulting in less internal dependence upon agrarian reform and labor movements, the clash of class interests, and guerrilla activity as the principal source of pressure on states in the region to democratize fully.

Despite the possibly distracting reference to "collective defense," this book does not focus on the military problem of defense but rather on the political problem of defending democratic political institutions. …

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