The Guardian • Issue #2027

The ideology of a rogue state: a “rules-based international order”

Cuba has been been a permanently sanctioned country by the USA and its vassals since 1959. Photo of the “Bridges of love” action in Perth on Sunday 31st October 2021, at the Matagarup Bridge over the Swan River. Organised by Australia Cuba Friendship Society, and supported by Communist Party of Australia, and trade unionists. Photo: CPA

In the last few years, those of us in Western capitalist countries have heard more and more of a so-called “rules-based international order.” To the casual observer, this phrase may seem quite innocuous. Perhaps we assume that it refers to the framework of international law that has developed gradually over the last century or so.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The phrase “rules-based international order” is deliberately misleading. Here we need to ask the simple question: whose rules and what rules? When we investigate further, we find that the answer to “whose rules and what rules” is the rapidly fading imperialist United States of America. These are the “rules” that the USA has determined and seeks to impose on anyone and everyone: “do as I say, or else …”

There is a very different reality at an international level. It was initially identified by China, especially in a speech that rang around the world in early 2021. On 18th March of that year, Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China, was speaking in Alaska. Across the table from Yang Jiechi was a very fidgety US Secretary of State and his henchmen. Yang Jiechi pointed out that the USA has invaded country after country, destroyed the lives of countless millions of people, and is the greatest abuser of human rights in the world today. The reader may understand why the US Secretary of State was somewhat unnerved. The look on his face was of one who was staring into the abyss, witnessing the end of the brief period of US hegemony.

Yan Jiechi also observed:

“China upholds humanity’s common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom. China stands for safeguarding the international system with the United Nations (UN) at the core and the international order based on international law, rather than the order based on the rules formulated by a small number of countries. Most countries in the world do not recognise that US values represent international values, do not recognise that what the United States says represents international public opinion, and do not recognise that the rules formulated by a few countries represent international rules.”

Note carefully: Yang Jiechi used a very different phrase, “the international order based on international law.” This is very different from the “order based on the rules formulated by a small number of countries.” These “rules” in no way represent international law.

All this may seem like hair-splitting, but it actually has profound implications. There is vast difference between a system of international law and the rules formulated by one or a few countries and imposed on all the rest. This distinction has by now been picked up by more and more countries. For example, Russia has been emphasising the point again and again. It is a regular feature of Sergei Lavrov’s many international engagements with Russia’s many friends in the world, and Putin has observed: “The West is insisting on a rules-based order. Who has ever seen these rules? Who agreed or approved them? Listen, this is just a lot of nonsense, utter deceit.”

As with most countries of the world, China and Russia adhere to an international order based on international law. By contrast, the USA and its few vassals do not.

To give some examples:

1. Sanctions. We are witnessing now a self-destructive addiction to unilateral sanctions, which are increasingly being called “self-sanctions.” Notably, the EU has engaged in an entirely irrational and racially motivated set of unprecedented sanctions against Russia that are having the notable effect of putting the nail in the coffin of the already feeble EU economies. Do these 10,000+ sanctions have any basis in international law? No. They are entirely illegal, since they have not been approved by any international body.

Readers of the Guardian will know that socialist countries have been subjected to sanctions for many a long year. Cuba has been been a permanently sanctioned country by the USA and its vassals since 1959, as has the DPRK since 1949. Before that, the old European imperialist powers attempted to block the development of the Soviet Union by what we would now call sanctions. Are any of these in accord with what has become known as international law? No. They are unilateral, illegal, and tools of imperialist hegemony.

2. Convention on the Law of the Sea (1994). After many decades of development, the UN was finally able to produce a Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into effect in 1994 when the minimum number of sixty countries ratified the convention. To date, 168 countries of the world have ratified the convention and adhere to its principles.

A notable exception is the USA. In fact, this state has refused to ratify, or added so many exceptions as to render null, nearly all of the provisions of international law. So when we hear the US is engaging in “freedom of navigation” in accordance with “international rules,” it actually means that the ageing US navy will sail where it wants, irrespective of any international law. The regular passages of US aircraft carriers through the Taiwan Strait is in recent years the most provocative example.

3. The Hague Invasion Act. In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in the small city of The Hague, in the Netherlands. This is not a UN body, but was established by what is called the “Rome Statute.” The ICC seeks to prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. To be clear: the ICC has its critics, such as African countries who have accused the ICC of being a relic of imperialism since it has thus far prosecuted people primarily from formerly colonised countries which remain relatively weak on the international stage.

Criticism is one thing; the response of the USA is another. In 2002, the USA propagated what it called “The American Service-Members’ Protection Act.” It is widely known as “The Hague Invasion Act.” This act was proposed in the context of the US’s invasion of Afghanistan and as it was preparing to invade Iraq – both war crimes. Of note is The Hague Invasion Acts’s statement that the US will use “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court.” The act also prohibits cooperation with, and extradition of US citizens to, the court for trial.

In other words, the United States reserves the “right” to send its military into the territory of a “friend and ally” to “rescue” any US citizen or indeed ally who might be held for trial for genocide or a crime against humanity.

We need to ask: who does not abide by international law and is thus the real “rogue state” in the world? The answer should be obvious.

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