When, if Ever, is the Declaration of a State of Emergency Justified?

Posted by Frederick Jones
November 6, 2007
Pakistani State of Emergency

A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend certain normal functions of government, may work to alert citizens to alter their normal behaviors, or may order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. During the U.S. Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared a state of emergency in order to quell insurrection. Currently, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency, citing a need to quell unrest due to the actions of terrorists.

When, if Ever, is the Declaration of a State of Emergency Justified?



November 6, 2007

Zharkov writes:

The rule is quite simple, really. A "state of emergency" should be declared whenever my job is at risk because of my incompetence. At that point, I may need military force to protect my position.

Governments today, particularly American government, routinely declare states of emergency for both real and imagined threats of harm and natural disasters which the individual states might easily handle without federal assistance.

President Lincoln, in declaring a state of emergency over a potential for insurrection, violated a fundamental principle of self-determination. The Declaration of Independence describes the circumstances giving rise to a human right to dissolve a government that has evolved into a tyranny, fails to serve the citizens, or simply has become too expensive, oppressive, or annoying. There is no particular reason why citizens of other countries should be denied the same right to throw off a government which they no longer want.

When a true, democratic election in muslim countries can result in Taliban-style, theocratic government by popular vote, it's democracy. In some muslim nations, the people prefer to vote to impose a religious tyranny upon themselves, thereby creating revolutionary governments which seek to expand their power and influence over other nations, much the same as the U.S. does but with more or less violent methods. Real democracy for these nations results in the exact opposite, by popular vote.

Do not people have such a right to decide for themselves what kind of government they shall have? Or does the established order become so important that the tyrannical structure must be protected even at the cost of hundreds or thousands of innocent lives?

Do government officials have a some sort of God-given right to declare martial law to preserve their status quo to govern? Should dissenters be jailed or killed to preserve the paychecks and power of government employees, or should government officials step aside and allow a majority of the people to decide the future of their own country? Democracy or the Divine Right of Kings? And is it any of our business which kind of government other people choose? Must America be fully protected against any and all theoretical or conceivable threat from other nations?

Is there only one acceptable outcome from democratic elections - a foreign government that resembles the American model?

District Of Columbia, USA
November 6, 2007

S in Washington, DC writes:

Given that Pakistan has been this country's friend, and far more importantly, its ally on the war on terror for decades, if Musharraf believes that terrorists are threatening the national stability of his country, who is the rest of the world to judge him, huh? Pakistan and Musharraf have been between a rock and a hard place, damned if they do and don't for a long time. I say, we continue to support Musharraf, Bhutto in every way possible-there is a thin thin line between what is going on in Pakistan and a blossoming of terrorist acts against western interests- Musharraf and his intelligence services have assisted western intelligence services many many times in disrupting terrorist acts against the west.

Musharraf and Pakistan deserves our assistance and support, for holding the line against terror, against insuperable odds, it does not deserve our opprobrium!

Texas, USA
November 7, 2007

Dick in Texas writes:

In the 60's when there was such an uproar with demonstrations about the Vietnam War, I could see that a temporary State of Emergency could have been declared by President Johnson. However I have never read that this was ever considered.

Today we do not have the same tumultuous society as we had at that time. Communications today are also much better.

The internet was an unknown quantity. What help that is for overseas troops and assignments overseas to stay in touch with family and love-ones.

I think Pakistan is justified for the time being to have the state of emergency. How else are you getting this mess under somewhat of a control? Very difficult situation. For us too!

New York, USA
November 7, 2007

Ronald in New York writes:

Inducing States of Emergency

The United States has induced a state of emergency in Pakistan by backing a military dictatorship in the name of fighting terrorism. As a result, terrorism has grown in Pakistan and so has the unrest in this democratic nation. With the ouster of the Supreme Court Chief, and the failed brokering of a coalition government with Ms. Bhutto, the United States must bear responsibility for inducing a state of chaos and a breakdown in the rule of law. The United States government is inducing states of emergency in many regions around the world. Ours is a failed policy of pre-emptive intervention. These threats to regional stability are now inducing states of emergency on a global scale, and setting the stage for a self-fulfilling prophesies of mega-proportions. The State Department must admit that it is creating states of emergency by supporting military dictatorships. In our failed effort to deal with terrorism, we are creating more terror. We must stop creating these situations, and pretending they are caused by other factors.

Tennessee, USA
November 7, 2007

LP in Tennessee writes:

In the United States the Federal Govt. grants, by it's Sovereign Right to the: States/Commonwealths and Napoleonic Code of LA, the right to use a State of Emergency to Protect it’s citizens. Limits of travel due to disease, natural disaster and the new terrorist threat, even by Executive Order can you as a single individual be constrained to your home.

The death of President, as when Kennedy was assassinated was considered by LBJ. (Wasn’t it automatically implemented until the swearing in?)

Civil unrest on the State and City levels were implemented in the 60’s.

Today we have greater considerations: Everything from new biological flu’s and possible pandemics to actual terrorist activity to do so damage the public and State in a variety of methods... and how you write a "limitation" or "constraint", yet still legally protect your country men without someone playing their “oh my freedoms are being taken away” is beyond me.

In the situation in Pakistan, there is an enormous amount of pressure to keep a “level” of stability for the sake of more than just Pakistan. This has “regional” de stabilizing effects that go far beyond Pakistan and not just politically. It creates an “insecure” environment for all “restructuring” programs in the Islamic world that reach into Africa; especially, for any Democratic political platforms.

As I stated about Darfur, this entire Middle East Campaign is more than just a “localized” situation. It is a war being implemented from the outside to destabilize any Democratic ideology throughout the Islamic world.

Sub note: While I appreciate varied points of view, there is a “bottom line”, it’s not that complicated: The United States of America gives Hope; the Outside influences here develop hopelessness with intent.

Massachusetts, USA
November 7, 2007

Khan in Massachusetts writes:

You've either misrepresented the facts or are ignorant of them. While the Western media has picked up on the fact that Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan citing a need to quell unrest due to the actions of terrorists, one should know the reason is in fact the Pakistan Supreme Court's impending decision to disallow Musharraf from running for President as a military man.

Also, call a spade a spade. This is martial law.

Tennessee, USA
November 8, 2007

Joe in Tennessee writes:

The United States of America gives Hope; the Outside influences here develop hopelessness with intent.

Nothing can be accomplished in chaos and chaos is evil. Any action which brings stability is an improvement, not necessarily an answer. It is a building block.

The U.S. is not creating more terrorism. There are builders and destroyers and each brick we lay is purposely being destroyed. If you build a school, it is an element of hope; if you run a communication line, it's an element of hope; if you provide food, it is an element of hope; if you provide protection to stabilize any area of a countries political system, your providing hope and it's being deystroyed with intent.

Arafat was less then nominal as a leader, yet he was the only educated person who was recognized by the Palestinians; so he was kept alive and made a Leader. He didn't earn it; but he was the best dog in the show for the time and suited the greater need of having one source to deal with on criteria of responsibility to the people. A worse man could not exist as far as Iãm concerned, but in the world today you have to recognize that even Attila the Hun with a conscious (who would not use WMD) may a be a better alternative in some caseãs as a leader who can solidify and control an unstable environment and in time a democracy can be nurtured.

South America is a prime example. Everyone said it would not work, but from the 70's to today over 75% is democratic (for better or worse), over a 95% improvement in education, education throughout each third world country in SA is extremely high and longer life spansãall resulting from "U.S. interference" as some would say. Someone knew what they were doing now didn't they?

Now in Pakistan, they are between cultures of Muslim and Islam and always have been. The Mangla pass is almost a dividing line. The people within Pakistan either hold to Nationalism as being by Allahs hand or not at all. It is a political quandary of culture. Just about all the separation is over culture not who is in power; that is only a false premises used to generate and promote separation by external Nations of interest, not internal.

Can you not recognize that as soon as things calm down in Iraq, the situation worsens in Afghanistan; when the situation is calmer in both suddenly Pakistan is problematic, or Chavez raises some problem and any other host of countries who use the U.S. as a whipping board? They are sucking us dry monetarily, diplomatically and causing discontent and separation among us as a People. It is a concerted effort against Democracy in general, itãs not imaginary.

Can things be handled better? Who knows when one problem follows the other so closely? The war is outside the U.S. now, but it's not about our policies or any nationãs leadership, itãs about Democracy and I, of all people, would be the last to say so, but itãs so obvious it's pitiful.

I owe an apology to someone regarding their belief in handling of South America. I was young, golden and too idealisitc in a way that comes from youth.

Mississippi, USA
November 9, 2007

Harvey in Mississippi writes:

As an employee of the U.S. Government, the Veteran's Affair's Medical System, I would volunteer for service as an FSO at the salary and prestige the post carries. I must agree with Mr. John Matel in his writings to other FSO's. You knew what was being asked of you, and you agreed. Now that you're, "getting the call", this is not what you agreed to. I hear from all our Reservist and Guard personnel, "I joined for the money to go to college. I never thought I'd have to go off to war". Right, as if they did'ny understand what the term ARMY or MARINE meant. Sorry gents, just don't float with me. As stated before. Make me an FSO, and I'll go, even though I hate suits.

Chaudhry A.
November 10, 2007

Chaudhry in Pakistan writes:

No it is not justified at all. Pakistan is a Loving & Peace full Nation who is Desperate for Real & Permanent Democracy & Free Judiciary.

The Day U.S.A. stops using Pakistan Army to make Engineered Governments in Pakistan for implementation of U.S.A.'s Foreign Agendas, Pakistan will become a Democratic Paradise because Democracy runs in Muslim & Pakistani Blood.

Please U.S.A. Live & Let us live give us democracy & stop using & supporting Army officials.

If USA supports Pakistani people & Muslims around the World you will see people of Pakistan will give their lives to protect any US citizen life from any kind of terrorism. They will root out anger against all west through real preaching of Islam which preaches peace.

We need Justice U.S.A. , Please Do justice we are all Human beings. Stop your Wars.

November 10, 2007

Kenneth in Canada writes:

A state of emergency is justified in situations where insurrection is imminent. Viz: The situation of anarchy which led the American Revolution. The only armed forces that are legal in a situation like the insurgents (Minutemen) at the Massachusetts Gunpowder Warehouse at Lexington, MA on April 19, 1775, were in fact breaking the law. There cannot be any force that bears arms against the legal authority of the land, and which should be permitted to overthrow it.

So, if we are to discuss the legality of the why's and the wherefore's of where a state of emergency should be allowed, then, you Americans are well aware of such a situation in your history and not look at the present situation in Pakistan, as something extraordinary. Point made and case closed.

Kenneth T.
November 10, 2007

Kenneth in Canada writes:

If conditions deteriorated in Pakistan, to where they are today, just look at how it was arrived at, and by whom. Personally, U.S. diplomacy has never been one to tolerate anything other than its own policies.

If one talks of diplomacy, just look at the British career diplomats. They are a far cry from the U.S. diplomats, who in policy are not really very different to the Soviets. The difference is night and day, and career diplomats in the U.S. Dept. of State are nothing but gofers. There is no panache and one could well replace them with a trained Gorilla, it would suffice. I said this before and I'll say it again, that the U.S. Dept. of State is not run by thinking people, because their set-up is much like dictatorship. In point of fact is it a dictatorship.

Over the last few months, I take part in an international radio show on politics. I was invited to be part of the show, because of my expertise and experience in international politics. I say what I have to, because, if I am to make a point on any issue, I cannot hold back what I believe in or have experienced. Now, if only I could get on an American Radio Show, I would wake you people up from your extended reverie, and learn a few things. Right now you people are amateurs, attempting to look like pros, but you lack the experience. It shows every time an important issue is raised. It's about time that you in the U.S. got people with know-how to handle your diplomatic service. The old school tie and connections make you a laughing stock to the world.

I hope that the head of the Department of State is taking note.

United States
November 11, 2007

Kashif in America writes:

Declaring Martial Law has made Musharraf look kind of pitiful because his reason for doing so wasn't as convincing as his other speeches which he has given for justifying certain actions of his. Musharraf shouldn't have be so naive to perform such an act when it is obvious that some of the vile politicians of Pakistan eager for power will seize this "state of emergency" to make themselves look like protectors of the people when almost everyone knows they are just hungry for power and fame. Musharraf like most other politicians seem like the lust for fame or power has gone to their head. Personally I feel that Pakistan should be run by a committee containing professionals in various fields that help determine the right course of action for Pakistan. An example would be Shaukat Aziz and other professionals or technocrats that can formulate policies that the public know will serve their interests. Too many politicians have made promises but what are their promises based on; rather than relying on politicians I would feel more comfortable relying on technocrats and other professionals who have experience in their own fields and can be held accountable. Pakistan's elected leaders have let down Pakistan so I remain surprised when I see video coverage of Pakistanis outraged that democracy is under attack while this same great democracy they follow religiously has let them down numerous times. When I hear politicians, no matter where they are from, taking credit for economic booms or advances in technology or other such things I wonder how much did they contribute to these gains or successes, when they open their mouths they seem quite clueless about the reasons for being successful but quite proud when they do occur under their political watches a typical characteristic of an opportunist politician. Committees aimed at resolving issues like these seem more capable then elected leaders seeking high approval ratings.

Illinois, USA
November 14, 2007

Peter in Illinois writes:

The real question is whether such a declaration is lawful and who decides whether such a declaration is lawful. President Lincoln got away with it. President Musharref in Pakistan has jailed the chief justice of their Supreme Court making judicial review out of the question for now. President Musharref has the military,the guns, behind him. Some believe that might MAKES right. What happens to Pakistan's nukes should Islamic fundamentalists replace Mushareff? Are we still deluding ourselves that we can impose our will or form of government on peoples of other countries? Has anyone at State ever read Emerson's essay on Politics?


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