by Richard Falk
We are pleased to crosspost an excerpt of this piece from JWE Board Member and International Jurist Richard Falk’s blog, Global Justice in the 21st Century.
If we look back on the major wars of the prior century and forward to the growing menace of a war fought with nuclear weaponry, there is one prominent gap in analysis and understanding. This gap is to my knowledge rarely acknowledged, or even discussed, by political leaders or addressed in the supposedly independent main media platforms in the West. Indeed, the gap seems to be explicitly denied, and given a hegemonic twist, by the Biden presidency, especially by Antony Blinken’s repeated insistence that American foreign policy, unlike that of its principal adversaries, is ‘rule-governed.’
At first glance ‘rule-governed’ seems to be nothing more than a concise synonym for adherence to international law. Blinken makes no such claim, and even a foreign policy hawk would have a hard time straining to rationalize American international behavior as ‘law-governed,’ but rather might say, or at least believe, following Thucydides, ‘that strong do as they will, while the weak do as they must.’ Some have speculated that ‘rule-governed’ as a phrase of choice these days in Washington is best associated with a rebirthing of ‘Pax Americana,’ or as I have previously suggested a dusting off of the Monroe Doctrine that guided U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America since 1823 to proclaim after the Soviet implosion in 1991 what is in effect a Monroe Doctrine for the world, or seen from a more Atlanticist perspective, the NATO-IZATION of the post-Cold War world.’
Such provocative labels seems descriptive of the NATO response to the Russian 2022 attack on Ukraine, which from day one was treated by the West as an flagrant instance of a Crime Against the Peace, more generally viewed as a war of aggression, and so declared by a large majority of countries by way of a UN General Assembly Resolution ES-11/1, 2 March, 2022, in a vote of 122-5, with 35 abstentions including China and India) although without comparable support at the UN for the follow up to denouncing the attack by way of imposing sanctions, supplying weapons, and diplomatic strong-arming looking toward a military victory rather than a political compromise achieved through a ceasefire followed by negotiations. The coercive diplomacy was left essentially to NATO members, varying according to their perceived security interests, but generally following Washington’s lead in failing to seek a ceasefire and a negotiated political compromise.
What seems to many, mostly in the West, obvious at first glance at the Ukraine War is far less clear if a closer look is taken. There is the matter of the pre-war context of Ukrainian and NATO provocations as well as the Russian right of veto entrenched in the UN Charter, amounting to a green light given to the winners in World War II to the use of international force at their discretion when it comes to peace and security issues, and in the process ignore Charter obligations to seek peaceful settlements of all international disputes.
The U.S./UK unprovoked attack on Iraq in 2003 is indicative of this double standard manifested by the contrasting international response to the Russian attack, as were the NATO regime-changing intervention in Libya and Euro-American support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen and a host of other examples going back to the Vietnam War. In other words, ‘rule-governed’ as a practical matter seems to mean impunity whenever the U.S., its allies and friends, launch their ‘wars of choice,’ while reserving accountability in relation to international law for its adversaries, particularly its geopolitical rivals, who are denied the intended impunity benefits of their right of veto and held responsible for adherence to international law in the war/peace domain as it is presented in the UN Charter. In effect, international law is not a restraint on the U.S./NATO with respect to war-making, but it functions as a strategic policy and propaganda tool for use against adversaries. Such duplicity in deploying the authority of law is widely seen outside the West as a glaring example of moral hypocrisy and double standards that undermines more generally the aspiration of substituting the rule of law for force in relations between the Great Powers in the nuclear age.
Continue reading here.