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7 Aug, 2019 16:53

Sky News laments erosion of ‘rules-based international order’ but does such a thing really exist?

Sky News laments erosion of ‘rules-based international order’ but does such a thing really exist?

The “rules-based international system” is under increasing threat, with laws flouted and “norms” violated at every turn by disobedient members of the world community, warns a preachy Sky News op-ed.

The dire warning, authored by Sky’s foreign affairs editor Deborah Haynes, defines this rules-based order as the “network of accords and institutions” which make up the“framework that helps to ensure security, rights, freedoms and justice” around the world.

Haynes hails the United Nations, the NATO alliance and various international treaties as examples within that framework, but, curiously, the central bogeymen of the piece allegedly eroding this so-called system are all Western adversaries. 

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Any truly honest assessment of the world today would acknowledge that this “rules-based international system" of which Haynes speaks is a myth; if it ever did exist, it has been battered ceaselessly by Western powers. The rules-based order is less a functioning system offering “rights, freedoms and justice” and more a tired catchphrase used by Western officials and their media partners to scold countries that refuse to obey their commands. In other words, it exists only in theory, rarely in practice.

Russia is accused by Haynes of having repeatedly attacked “the global rulebook of normal behaviour," but what is normal behaviour? If we are to believe that Western actions are “normal,” then normal has taken an increasingly macabre turn.

Was the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan — a country still occupied 18 years later —  a win for the rules-based system? If there were any lingering notions about a functioning international order after that, the 2003 invasion of Iraq should surely have put an end to them; oddly, it gets no mention in the article.

Britain’s misdeeds — including its enthusiastic support for that war — are also conspicuously absent from the opus. Speaking of Britain, one wonders do Yemenis, slaughtered and starved by Saudi Arabia, with generous help from London in the form of billions of pounds worth of arms, feel they are the lucky beneficiaries of this rules-based order? 

Maybe Libyans, having had their once stable and prosperous country ravaged by NATO’s 2011 “humanitarian intervention” feel the same? The military bloc’s infamous “humanitarianism” was also on display during its earlier bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999.

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Are the “rights, freedom and justice” touted by Haynes as by-products of this so-called system being offered to Palestinians? When Israel demolishes their homes and schools, tramples over their rights, and uses overwhelming military force to stamp out resistance — while the West turns a blind eye — is it adhering to this normal rules-based behaviour?

This phrase “normal behavior” is nothing more than a Washington talking point. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran last year to “act like a normal country, or see its economy crumble.” 

Unfortunately, it has indeed become ‘normal’ for the US to crush under its boot any country which dares to object to its rule, through the use of deadly sanctions and often brute military force. 

The same warnings were recently issued to Venezuela, which is now under a total economic blockade and where experts have assessed that deadly sanctions have led directly to the premature deaths of 40,000 people. 

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The other thing about the “global rulebook” is that the rules are constantly changing to suit the whims of Western powers. When asked why Washington’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Syria’s Golan Heights was good, but Crimea’s decision to rejoin Russia was bad, Pompeo referred senators to a particular “international law doctrine” which does not exist

Haynes also deplores China’s erosion of freedoms for the people of Hong Kong and mentions ongoing pro-democracy protests in the region as another “symptom” of the unraveling of the rules-based system. Meanwhile, in her own country, one of, if not the most consequential journalist of modern times sits behind bars for the crime of doing real journalism and upsetting the global elites’ applecart.

Ultimately, the screed adds little of value to any discussion about international affairs. Yet, it is still valuable in the sense that it is a great demonstration of the delusion, hypocrisy, and total lack of self-awareness displayed by many Western journalists when attempting to make sense of the world around them.

By Danielle Ryan

Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others.

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