Absence of true ‘rules-based’ world order no prettier with liberal lipstick on it
Last weekend, I was a guest speaker as usual at the How the Light Gets In festival, which normally takes place in the village of Hay-on-Wye on the English-Welsh border but the venue this time was in the liberal lands of North London. I'm the token “noble savage” at this event, the short-sword fighter amid the better or more expensively educated cognoscenti, virtually exclusively wedded to the neo-liberal orthodoxy. I'm usually more noble than savage in the teeth of them – apart from anything, where else would I eat vegan schnitzel for lunch – but this time the savage beast broke free.
The motion was that the Trump presidency represents an “aberration” – a disruption of the “rules-based” world order. Speaking in favor was the chairwoman, Mary Ann Sieghart, an achingly liberal feminist, a first-rate intellectual herself, a fine writer and thinker, who has been a member of the Broadcasting Content Board of Ofcom. She’s therefore currently contemplating taking me off both television and radio.
Also in favor of the motion was another head-aching liberal, my debating partner, Mark Leonard, though he was not quite up the standard of the chair (it is always two against one when I'm involved, except in some years when it is three against one).
At one point (while telling me to speak more softly when talking about wars that have killed, maimed and destroyed the lives of tens of millions of people – well, we were in Hampstead after all, and it doesn't do to frighten the horses), the chair accused me of being “passionately against the rules-based order.” In fact, I was passionately against the absence of a rules-based order and, worse, the hypocritical pretence that there was one, or had been until the vulgarian Trump showed up.
In fact, there is nothing exceptional about Donald Trump except perhaps that, so far, he’s killed far fewer people than his predecessors and way fewer than his rival Hillary Clinton would have done. Without doubt, the Hampstead classes would have rolled out the vegan schnitzel then nevertheless.
When challenged to “show us the beef” of this liberal order, its protagonists have no choice but to concede there have been “breaches” or, worse, “mistakes” made by the prevailing orthodoxy. But how many breaches or mistakes does it take to invalidate the existence of a claimed “rules-based order?” How many before it becomes clear that it is a cruel chimera?
Let’s start with the one which caused me to raise my voice: Iraq. What rules were followed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq? The UN Security Council refused to agree to the invasion, so George W. Bush and Tony Blair did it anyway. And look at the consequences, which scarcely need spelling out here or in Hampstead. Not only were no rules followed, every rule in the domestic book was broken too.
Intelligence was twisted beyond recognition, warnings by the security services were disregarded, parliament and people were lied to, the United Nations was bugged, banned weapons were used, non-belligerent allies like France were treated just as rudely by the belligerent powers as any Trumpian tweet.
Yet while they’d probably turn their noses up at Bush (though give it time), Tony Blair would slot into last weekend’s festival of ideas with ease if they could afford him.
What rules were followed in Obama’s misadventure in Libya, which has turned a dysfunctional state into a non-state with black-slave markets and multiple “governments” ceaselessly struggling for power (and money)?
What rules are being followed – long before Trump – in the Calvary of Syria, the crucifixion of a whole nation by wholesale illegal intervention by the very European and American besuited brigands who talk loudest about a “rules-based order” whilst shoveling money, weapons and propaganda blitzes into the knapsacks of the throat-cutting mass murderers of IS, Al-Qaeda and associated head-choppers, all without a scintilla of legal approval.
By what rules did the same savages – nothing noble about them, we’re talking Bill Clinton here (though he’d be a big hit at the festival) – destroy Yugoslavia?
None of these were “aberrations,” all of them were a continuum of “might is right” imperial power. From Vietnam through Cambodia and Laos, Indonesia, Chile, Central America, Iran and Suez in the 1950s. From Patrice Lumumba through Salvador Allende all the way to today's whipping boys, Britain and the US have been rogue states, international criminals for whom rules are for the birds.
It is an ugly reality, made no prettier by the application of liberal lipstick and the industry of think-tankers cat-walking across the stage during festival season. And I will go on saying so, sometimes loudly, whether on TV, on radio, at festivals or not. As long as God gives me breath.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.