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Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman, in a column posted yesterday, admits what most rational observers have known for a long time: the “rules-based international order” is whatever the White House says it is, and it often breaks the rules for its own purposes. Rachman gives two examples of this problem. The recent 100-percent tariffs that the U.S. has imposed on Chinese electric vehicles “are virtually impossible to reconcile with international rules on trade.” And the U.S. response to the prospect that the ICC may issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “also telling,” Rachman writes. “Rather than supporting the court’s effort to enforce international law, Blinken told the U.S. Congress that the administration would consider imposing sanctions on the ICC.”

So, in answer to this problem of flagrant hypocrisy, Rachman proposes that the term “rules-based international order” be replaced by an even more nebulous term “defending the free world,” where violations of international law can supposedly be justified. “Unlike the defense of a rules-based order—which implies absolute consistency—the defense of the free world involves accepting some necessary inconsistency,” Rachman argues. In other words, instead of a paradigm shift away from the geopolitical ideology behind the “rules based international order,” just rebrand it.

Sputnik columnist John Mills responded: “Rachman’s Cold War framing dispenses with such need to keep up appearances. All that is necessary is to claim the United States is defending freedom and democracy, and we are good at claiming such things. No international court can rule against us if a vague notion of ‘freedom’ is our only constraint.”

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