Note: Missouri state Rep. Darin Chappell, vice president of Veterans in Defense of Liberty, co-wrote this column.
The term "sovereignty" is one that is often referenced and widely understood, but it is a bit more complex in its meaning than is oftentimes considered by most users. The term actually originates from the Old French, meaning: "authority, rule, supremacy of power or rank." While that is undoubtedly the basic idea of "sovereignty" and its meaning, it is the more profound connection to the premise of "self rule" that best expresses what is meant by sovereign power.
a monarchy, the king or queen is often referred to as "The Sovereign." There is no one else to whom the sovereign must appeal for power over a scenario because, as the one with the ability to rule simply because he or she is the supreme power in a system of government, it is on the basis of "self" only to which one need turn for proper authority within the realm. Sovereignty is, simply put, the right to rule over one's own sphere of authority without the need to appeal to an external authority for the right to do so. When we speak of "sovereignty" from a political basis, we refer to the ultimate authority within a nation or state, which does not depend upon the power of another external state for the ability to act.
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When referring to the concept of our unique brand of American federalism, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that the Founding Fathers "split the atom of sovereignty," when they devised a system of checks and balances, not only from the perspective of the co-equal branches of the national government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) but also external checks to national powers by way the various states. Remember, the states were sovereign before the existence of the national government and were the creators of the national form, rather than the other way around, as many today assume.
Yes, the U.S. government has supremacy over the states in specified areas of interaction via the "Supremacy Clause" (Article VI, clause 2), but this is because the states ceded that controlling power to the national government, giving Washington D.C., the position of sovereignty in matters of a national nature. Even so, the states still retained the sovereign position in other areas of societal existence for the vast majority of our nation's history. While it could be argued that the states have been giving away their sovereign positions or lost the capacity to use their authority from neglect to the point of state sovereignty becoming somewhat of a vestigial remnant of what it was meant to be, the fact is the very premise of American federalism is that the national AND the state governments are both to be sovereign within the societal sphere, in the different areas over which each was established.
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That being said, let us consider the major problem with the recent Chinese balloon debacle over our national airspace. This tragedy has now been disgracefully covered over as the news cycle moves on, and Americans remain fearful as China threatens to harm our national security with "conflict and confrontation."
Yes, it is outrageous for China to think that the United States would buy such a thinly veiled story about a weather balloon off its planned trajectory, with no capacity for course correction, which just happened to have floated aimlessly over some of the nation's most sensitive military installations! Yes, it is egregious for the president to be so utterly inane in his response (or, more accurately, his near complete lack of a response!) wherein he allowed this balloon to drift across the continent, shooting it down only after it had cleared the breadth of North America. However, it is also ridiculous to imagine that China, a supposed burgeoning super-threat to America as both an economic and military superpower, would have to rely on even a highly mobile balloon of this limited technology to spy on our nation when we know that they have immense capacities from a technological perspective, using satellites to see in greater detail than anything possibly obtained last month. Let us not be distracted by the balloon tricks performed by China here.
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Instead, let us focus on the fact that an enemy (or, at best, a competitor) took an outlandish opportunity to drift an obvious balloon-suspended spying device across the United States of America, violating our national sovereignty and the sovereignty of each individual state territory crossed, and our national leaders … did nothing.
As far back as the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), the principles of international law have recognized the invaluable need to respect a nation's sovereignty – the righteous ability to jealously defend its sovereign boundaries. Wars, even World Wars, have been instigated because one entity refused to respect the right of a nation and its people to live free from outside interference and molestation; yet, China violated the sovereignty of our national airspace and crossed the landmass for which so many have bled and died to protect, while the current administration was paralyzed with incompetency. When asked about the device's location during a press conference, one military official suggested we all just "look up" to see it for ourselves. Look up?!
The Constitution of the United States prohibits states from engaging in treaty formulation with foreign powers, overseeing the Army and Navy (and all the military, by extension), declaring war and calling forth the state militias in an effort to expel any foreign invaders (Article I, Section 8). However, because these are relegated to the national government and are out of the reach of the individual states' powers, it is the duty of the national government to act whenever our individual state sovereignty rights are threatened, or in this case, trampled by China! The president did not simply fail to protect and defend the boundaries of the United States; he failed to do so for 12 individual States as well! Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina were all threatened individually by an enemy invader, in plain view of all who cared to "look up." Yet, the current administration did absolutely nothing to protect the sovereignty of any of our states, or our nation as a whole. It is absolutely unconscionable, yet we are told that it was handled appropriately when the device was shot down shortly after drifting over the Atlantic. Far, far too little, and far, far too late.
Instead of worrying about what the Chinese might have seen with their spying device and whatever it may have detected, we must wake up to the fact that our national sovereignty was violated; a foreign invader overran our individual states! Whatever the Chinese might have seen through their efforts, here is what they know beyond all doubt: Though we speak loudly and threaten to bring forth the stick (someday), this current president has no intention of actually using the power with which he is endowed. Not even to protect his own sovereign nation, nor its constituent sovereign states, nor even the people both are designed to preserve.
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