Guest Blog: Did the Raid Against Bin Laden Violate Our Own Principles?

Jeremy Rabkin /

Ever since the raid last month that killed Osama Bin Laden, the question of whether the US violated Pakistani sovereignty keeps on coming up. Heritage asked renowned international law scholar Jeremy Rabkin to address the matter.

Did the United States violate Pakistan’s sovereignty when it raided Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad?  At first blush, that might seem hard to deny:  if a sovereign state can’t exclude outside military intervention, what’s left of sovereignty?

But, in fact, the claim to sovereignty involves responsibilities as well as rights. The political thinkers who first emphasized the concept of sovereignty, such as Jean Bodin in the 16th Century and Hugo Grotius in the early 17th Century, also embraced doctrines of natural law, constraining what sovereigns could rightfully do. (more…)