Weaknesses of the National Security Strategy 2022 – Part 6. US-led rules-based order autocratically imposed without consent of the governed

In this series I’ve been identifying and refuting the claims made in the National Security Strategy 2022, which I refer to as the Sullivan & Biden NSS, even though it’s not known whether or not Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, actually wrote the document. It could have been written by any members of the National Security Council or their staff.

This essay centers around a claim strongly implied in the NSS and another related claim made explicitly in the NSS.

 

Implied Claim 6a. Our rules-based order, though unclarified and undescribed, is moral and all decent nations observe it.

 

Claim 6b. As long as nations submit to the rules-based order—whether or not they’re democratic and whether or not they respect human rights—we’ll be their ally and (presumably) send them weapons and funding.

 

As described in the previous parts of this essay, Sullivan & Biden claim that the US is in the midst of a fierce competition against nations such as Russia and China. In these essays, we’ve been trying to figure out what the competition is all about. Sullivan & Biden claim it’s over competing visions, with the USG vision pertaining to openness, freedom, prosperity, and security, and the vision of, say, China, being a “darker vision.”

So far, I’ve shown that USG support for openness, freedom, prosperity, and security is nothing more than hogwash. I’ve also shown that, judging by the past century of US-China relations, China doesn’t have a darker vision, but it’s been the USG that has exhibited aggression and avarice towards the markets of China, since the late 1800s. Sullivan & Biden then claim that the competition pertains to a rivalry between democracy and autocracy, a claim I again call into question, citing the lack of evidence.

In the earlier NSS Essay Part 2, to make their vague claims more concrete and grounded in more precise thought, to ask for more substance behind their claim that winning this “race to the top” is so vitally important and worth war against its “adversaries,” I ask Sullivan & Biden to describe how a typical day for various Americans, Russians, and Chinese would differ depending upon whether the USG were to win the “race to the top,” or Russia or China were to win the “race to the top.”

We’ll begin this essay by noting that a few pages into the NSS 2022, the “rules-based order” pops up, providing yet another clue as to the nature of the USG vision that’s at stake in this competition.[1] But what’s terribly interesting is the remark by Sullivan & Biden that “at the heart of this coalition” of the USG’s “allies and partners” with whom they cooperate rather than compete, will be “democratic nations who share our interests and values,” yet, “to make our coalitions as inclusive as possible, we will also work with any country that supports a rules-based order while we continue to press all partners to respect and advance democracy and human rights.”[2]

In other words, democracy and human rights are not an inherent part of the rules-based order. In other words, as much as Sullivan & Biden are putting Russia and China down for allegedly being autocratic and not democratic, it’s not really the alleged lack of democracy that bothers Sullivan & Biden: it’s the refusal of Russia and China to pay homage to a “rules-based order,” which, in articles and books other than the NSS, is more precisely described as a “US-led rules-based order.” To be clear, it’s not that Russia and China are opposed to following rules and international law. But what the USG insists upon is obedience to something different, a new US-led rules-based order.

At this point, with Sullivan & Biden’s glorious vision of light vs. darkness not even being clearly about human rights violations, oppression, and autocracy but rather being about pledging allegiance to the US-led “rules-based order” which also evidently is not about human rights violations, oppression, and autocracy, it becomes even more muddled how a USG win in this competition could possibly improve a typical day in the life of Americans, Russians, or any other population. It’s especially difficult given that the “rules-based order” is never clearly defined anywhere, is apparently not a written document, is not signed or ratified by any nations, has unknown origins, and has a very unclear relationship to the UN and to international law.

This rules-based order is discussed in further detail in my earlier essay Part 4R—which has two sub-parts, including the relation of the “rules-based order” to the “core nations’ rules-set” described by Thomas Barnett in his work, The Pentagon’s New Map. Barnett explains his disturbing theory that the USG must send the US military to fight all nations that will not submit to this rules-set so that we can finally all live in world peace. He also explains that the US military will never return from these nations but will be permanently based there.[3]

Without repeating the details of that essay, we can ask here: What would our lives be like if a nation that adhered to the rules-based order were to win Sullivan & Biden’s “race to the top”? And what would our lives be like if a nation that didn’t adhere to the rules-based order were to win the race? What if the winners of the competition didn’t adhere to the rules-based order but did adhere to international law? Would our lives be better or worse or the same?

Sullivan & Biden declare: “We will partner with any nation that shares our basic belief that the rules-based order must remain the foundation for global peace and prosperity.”[4] It’s not clear who they mean by “our” when they say “our basic belief” because the “rules-based order” is nothing that was ever voted on by the American people or their representatives in Congress or by the UN. It seems to be something that someone pulled out of a magic hat, and now all the policymakers parrot the phrase, as if it’s something really cool and respectable that we’ve all agreed upon.

They must be talking about the “basic belief” of a very small circle of people closely familiar with what a rules-based order entails: the dominant players in the US foreign policymaking establishment. It’s surprising that imposing the “rules-based order” of a small circle of people, an order whose rules are not even documented to my awareness and certainly not signed or ratified, can possibly be called democratic rather than autocratic or oligarchic (rule by a few).

According to Sullivan & Biden, “it is clear that the next ten years will be the decisive decade.” They vaguely explain, “Around the world, the contest to write the rules of the road and shape the relationships that govern global affairs is playing out in every region and across economics, technology, diplomacy, development, security, and global governance.”[5]

Aren’t the rules of the road already written in international law and treaties? Or, considering the USG’s difficulty in adhering to treaties, abiding by international law, and refraining from illegal things like invasions, torture, and drone killings, are Sullivan & Biden keen about throwing out those rules and writing new ones?

We have to question: is the rules-based order intended to support the UN and current international law or is it intended to replace them, to supplant them? Recall that it was Putin who criticized the USG in his 2007 speech at Munich for its “disdain for the basic principles of international law.”[6] Just a few of multiple examples of this disdain are decades of USG foreign election interference, USG foreign coups, USG extrajudicial drone killings, USG bombings, such as in North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the USG’s bombings, invasion, and occupation of Iraq, and the USG’s violent involvement in Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. And while the invasion of Afghanistan was supported by the UN, it violated the charter of the UN which required all peaceful means to be tried first.

Most recently, Seymour Hersh’s February 2023 report reveals that, according to an anonymous source within the USG, Sullivan & Biden and others were directly involved in commanding and planning the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines,[7] thus attacking property belonging to businesses of Russia and of three NATO allies, Germany, the Netherlands, and France, threatening the lives of Europeans dependent upon access to fuel, and letting loose an ecological disaster with a massive methane spill.

If the USG can’t observe national and international law, how can we expect it to obey a rules-based order? Or is the rules-based order a very watered-down version of law that’s easier for the USG to obey? Most likely, it’s an order intended for nations other than the USG to obey.

My own view is that the US-led rules-based order undoubtedly revolves around implementation of what I call the unofficial Four Commandments, described in the previous essays 3A, 3C, and 4R, the unwritten dictates that US foreign policymakers seem to expect all foreign nations to observe. I encourage you to look at any US-supported coup and see if the leader violated any one of these commandments:

First Commandment: Thou shalt not obstruct US businesses’ profit-making abroad.

Second Commandment: Thou shalt not significantly help the poor or give decent amounts of fertile land to the landless.

Third Commandment: Thou shalt not be enemies with our friends, or friends with our enemies.

Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt not reject US military bases and weapons.

You have to wonder, are Sullivan & Biden suggesting that the USG unilaterally throw out international law and replace it with this unwritten, unsigned, unratified “rules-based order” so that the USG, free from all constraints whatsoever, can engage with impunity in more coups and acts of horrific sabotage? If so, do they not comprehend that such unilateral action would be the essence of autocracy, with one nation and its subservient clone-allies above the rest? Such a rules-based order would be not a system of impartial rules for all to observe equally but rather a hierarchical order of obedience.

Lastly, even if some new rules have to be written about new areas of life and society, shouldn’t rules be written cooperatively, with the consent of those whom the rules are intended to govern? Or does the USG believe in a “race to the top” to be the first to write the rules for everyone else to follow, without their input or consent? Why do Sullivan & Biden fail to grasp the basic democratic principle of “consent of the governed”? It makes me think that presidential candidates should either pass some sort of written or verbal test on these principles, or, once elected, instead of dancing about at their inaugural balls, they should be sitting in class, receiving instruction in democracy, ethics, world history, human relations, cooperative negotiation, and world perspectives on US foreign policy.

The failure to grasp the notion of “consent of the governed,” the high value placed on the authoritarian ability to make others follow one’s own rules, would also explain why Sullivan & Biden are so angry with Russia and China for not agreeing to follow a US-led rules-based order. In fact, this failure in thinking is endemic to US policymakers. What bothers Sullivan & Biden is the same thing that bothered US policy makers and military leaders stationed in the southern half of Korea during the post-WWII US occupation: the lack of allegiance and subservience to the USG.

Koreans actually had the nerve to go about creating their own government and establishing helpful programs to improve life and help people in post-war Korea. Such independence, skillfulness, and initiative on the part of Koreans was considered intolerable and disobedient by the USG and eventually became cause for massive arrests because the Koreans were acting independently rather than under the direction of the USG. The USG preferred working primarily with English-speaking, right-wing Koreans, including those who’d collaborated with the Japanese during WWII, and it wanted its recent enemy, the Japanese, to retain power over the Koreans, despite the decades of brutal oppression the Koreans had already suffered under the Japanese.[8]

It’s exceedingly difficult to believe Sullivan & Biden’s promise to “continue to press all partners to respect and advance democracy and human rights.”[9] It is not democracy and human rights that the USG advocates: it’s subservience to the USG and to its Four Commandments. I’d hardly call it pressure to respect human rights when Biden gave $2.5 billion in military aid to Egypt’s notoriously brutal President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.[10] It seems much more like a reward. How precisely is Biden pressing al-Sisi to stop the massive imprisonments and brutality? For Sullivan & Biden and their unethical sense of ethics, al-Sisi’s the good guy and Putin and China are bad guys. Why? Al-Sisi can be as brutal, oppressive, and undemocratic as he likes. What’s important to the authors and supporters of the NSS 2022 is that he doesn’t violate the Four Commandments.

Sullivan & Biden maintain: “to advance shared prosperity domestically and to uphold the rights of all Americans, we must proactively shape the international order in line with our interests and values. In a competitive world, where other powers engage in coercive or unfair practices to gain an edge over the United State and our allies, this takes on a special importance.”[11]

“Shared prosperity???” What on Earth are they talking about? Americans don’t share their prosperity—at least not those who gain their wealth by making foreign policy and US tax dollars serve their needs. So when’s the last time you heard from Raytheon’s and Boeing’s CEOs, inviting you over for free food, a rowboat of your very own, and a swim on a private lake? When’s the last time you heard from ExxonMobil’s CEO, offering you a check to help pay six months of National Grid bills? Sullivan & Biden actually think that we’re so stupid we’re going to believe that if the USG wins the “race to the top” that we’ll all enjoy and share in the resulting prosperity? Ha! Think again! And even if we could, I would much rather not have a race to the top than win some “shared prosperity” gained over the dead bodies of foreigners trampled in the race.

And we’re supposed to think that our rights and our freedoms will not be upheld within the United States if the USG doesn’t “shape the international order”? How could the further empowerment of the USG, already autocratic in its relations towards other nations, augment its abilities to be less autocratic towards Americans?

Don’t the USG’s autocratic relations towards other nations and towards Americans go hand-in-hand? Doesn’t the mindset of the need to shape and control others carry over from one realm to the other? One look at the US propaganda we receive as “news” is enough proof that the USG believes in the authoritarian, centralized control over mainstream news in order to manipulate our minds with lies and highly twisted facts so that we’ll sweetly admire our glorious leaders for protecting us against evil.

Notice how similar the Sullivan & Biden’s NSS is to the ideas of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC) as expressed in their notorious document, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” a document infused with a sickening degree of preoccupation with preeminence, victory in rivalry, US hegemony, and the transformation of the US military and weapon arsenal into the realms of nuclear, biological, robotic, cyber, and space wars. In the most self-centered way possible, PNAC believes the security of the entire world should be in line with US interests, which, we know, means the interests of those particular elite social and business circles who run the USG.

PNAC declares: “today the task is to preserve an international security environment conducive to American interests and ideals . . . and to preserve American preeminence.”[12] PNAC is also convinced that the “happy conditions” of the world stem from US military power.[13] What’s significantly ironic is that nothing in Putin’s speeches or writings that I’ve come across comes close to the degree of aggression, ambition, zeal for antagonistic rivalry, excitement over weapons, and base selfishness that are overflowing in the writing of PNAC. In fact, Putin’s words display not one whit of such attitudes and ambitions. Yet, since the time that PNAC wrote its notorious document in 2000, PNAC’s ideas, including the invasion of Iraq, have become enshrined into the ideas and actions of successive US administrations and perceived as the incarnation of wisdom. It’s only too clear that the US-led “rules-based order” is a means for the USG to try to achieve its eternal preeminence.

Note that selfishness, greed, and the relegation of morality and human rights to non-priorities didn’t originate with the neoconservatives. In 1948, George Kennan, head of the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department, and originator of the paranoid Truman’s policy of containment of the USSR, a policy that inaccurately perceived the Cold War in terms of good vs. evil, wrote in a now famous memorandum:

“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real test in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world beneficiaries—unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization.”[14]

Notably, as described in the previous essay in this series, NSS Part 3, Kennan himself later found fault with the highly anti-Soviet mentality of the US foreign policymaking establishment. But the point in referring to the quote above is to illustrate with just one of numerous examples of words and actions that reveal that selfish greed has been driving US foreign policy since Day 1, when greed was a major factor driving the shameful policies towards the Native Americans in the quest for land and minerals for mining.

Lying through their teeth, Sullivan & Biden state that Russia “benefited greatly from the post-Cold War international order” when it “recovered economically in the 2000s.”[15] In exactly what way did Russia benefit? Notice that they cleverly omit the post-Cold War 1990s, the period in which Russia was cannibalized economically under US-supported and US-reelected Boris Yeltsin. Poverty, death, and sickness in Russia all escalated tremendously thanks to the “post-Cold War international order.” One-third of Russians sank into poverty![16] It took Russia years to recover from the predatory capitalist system that the West brought to it. In other words, the recovery Sullivan & Biden speak of is a recovery from predatory capitalism, not a recovery from Communism!

Instead of acknowledging these extremely harmful effects of the predatory, privatized market system on the Russian population, instead of acknowledging that the vast majority of Russians despised Yeltsin for what he’d done to the economy and their nation, Sullivan & Biden pretend that post-Yeltsin Russia and China didn’t like the “post-Cold War international order” for personal, autocratic reasons and therefore “concluded that the success of a free and open rules-based international order posed a threat to their regimes and stifled their ambitions. In their own ways, they now seek to remake the international order to create a world conducive to their highly personalized and repressive type of autocracy.”[17]

Once again, Sullivan & Biden use the terms “free” and “open” not to refer to democratic freedom and the openness of honesty and transparency, but to refer to the freedom US investors wanted to enjoy in having open access to Russia’s resources and markets. Once again, they imply that any nation or national leadership that doesn’t want to observe the rules-based order has personal, ambitious, undemocratic, malicious, illegitimate motivations.

In the continued attempt to pursue a false, unscrupulous program of character assassination against Putin, Sullivan & Biden ignore Putin’s principles, including those expressed in his 2007 speech in Munich in which he condemns the USG’s “disdain for the basic principles of international law,” “hyper-use of force,” and attempted creation of an undemocratic unipolar world. Instead of recognizing that Putin doesn’t like the US-led rules-based order because it’s not democratic, because it’s an international autocratic order, Sullivan & Biden imply that Putin doesn’t like it because he allegedly loves autocracy and the rules-based order is just too democratic for him. They don’t even try to see his point of view—which only confirms their base intentions. With no evidence, Sullivan & Biden instead claim that Putin is seeking to remake the international order conducive to his “repressive type of autocracy.” It is simply unbelievable that the USG is calling Putin autocratic for failing to agree to bow down and obey a US-led rules-based order which has had no democratic input from anybody.

Perhaps Sullivan & Biden could attend a public cooperative dialogue with Putin and his follow Russian lawmakers and explain—with an impartial cameraman and an unedited release of the dialogue—exactly which policies Putin is promoting internationally that are autocratic and conducive to his “repressive type of autocracy.” Putin and the Russian lawmakers, in turn, could explain exactly which policies Biden is promoting internationally that are autocratic and conducive to his repressive type of autocracy.

Sullivan & Biden state that they’re “standing with our European allies and partners in defense of the rules-based system that underpins our security, prosperity, and values,”[18] but this undefined rules-based system with its missing rulebook is running right over the rules and agreements ratified by numerous nations, agreements referred to by Putin in his speeches.[19]

Sullivan & Biden rush to speak solemnly of NATO’s Article 5, which enshrines the principle that an attack upon one member will be considered an attack upon all members. But they forget about the non-violent conflict resolution promoted by the UN charter, they forget about the promises made to Russia that there would be no expansion of NATO, and they forget about the collective security agreements signed by approximately 50 nations: the 1999 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Charter for European Security, a part of the 1999 Istanbul Document, and the 2010 OSCE Astana Commemorative Declaration. Putin has repeatedly stressed the importance of these collective security agreements that stipulate that one nation or group of nations cannot heighten its own security at the expense of making other nations less secure. NATO expansion violates this principle because it makes NATO nations more militarily powerful than non-NATO nations.

In my view, the rules-based order is nothing more than the attempt to permanently enshrine the autocratic ambitions of the USG, of the social and business circles that run our nation and that kleptocratically use our taxes to pursue their aggressive ambitions and kill or destroy all who stand in their way. If the rules-based order were anything more noble than this, we’d have seen some evidence of it by now. As yet, this evidence has not come to light.

Kristin Christman has been independently researching US foreign policy and peace since 9/11. Her channel focuses on US-Russian relations at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuNEw9-10lk-CwU-5vAElcg. Kristin graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College with a BA in Russian, and she holds Master’s degrees in Slavic languages from Brown University and public administration from SUNY Albany. She has been a guest with former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter and UNAC coordinator Joe Lombardo on Cynthia Pooler’s program, Issues that Matter, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDlaLNJih7UPeace Review: A Journal of Social Justice recently published her article on suicide, culture, and peace in their special edition on suicide, Vol. 33 No. 4.  kristinchristman956@gmail.com

[1] National Security Strategy 2022, Oct. 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov, 3.

[2] NSS 2022, 16.

[3] Thomas Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2004), 40, 46, 122-27, 178-79.

[4] NSS 2022, 3.

[5] NSS 2022, 24.

[6] Vladimir Putin, 43rd Munich Conference on Security and Policy, Feb. 11, 2007, https://russialist.org.

[7] Seymour Hersh, “How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline,” Feb. 8, 2023, https://seymourhersh.substack.

[8] Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013), 28-33.

[9] NSS 2022, 16.

[10] Mena Rights, “Biden Administration’s Decision to Reprogram Military Aid to Egypt Is Necessary but Insufficient,” Middle East and North Africa Rights Group, Feb. 2, 2022, https://menarights.org;

Steven A. Cook, “Sisi Isn’t Mubarak. He’s Much Worse,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 19, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com.

[11] NSS 2022, 11.

[12] Project for the New American Century (PNAC), “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” Donald Kagan and Gary Schmitt, Project Co-Chairmen; Thomas Donnelly, Principal Author, (Washington, DC, 2000), 7-8.

[13] PNAC, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” i.

[14] James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me, (New York:  Simon & Schuster Inc., 1995), 216.

[15] NSS 2022, 8.

[16] Benjamin Norton, “German EU Official Uses Racist Rhetoric Claiming Russians Don’t Value Life,” Apr. 15, 2022, https://multipolarista.com;

Sarah Chayes, Corruption in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2020), 269-74;

Greg Rosalsky, “How ‘Shock Therapy’ Created Russian Oligarchs and Paved the Path for Putin,” Mar. 22, 2022, https://www.npr.org.

[17] NSS 2022, 8-9.

[18] NSS 2022, 38.

[19] Vladimir Putin, “Address to the People of Russia on the Donbas Problem and the Situation in Ukraine,” American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank, Feb. 21, 2022, https://www.americanrhetoric.com.

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