Believe and Obey

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A Golden Rule Based International Order

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The Golden Rule: A Refresher

That the world today is aflame is undeniable.  As the war grinds on in Ukraine, and the Israeli slaughter of innocent Palestinians continues unabated, not to mention multiple other hot spots around the globe, it is easy to despair.

Amid this maelstrom much is made by the US government of demanding that nations adhere to something the US calls “The International Rules Based Order”.  What I propose instead is the implementation of a “Golden Rule Based International Order”.

Let’s review the Golden Rule.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  On the one hand this is a stunningly radical notion offered by Jesus.  We are to do to others, not what they do to us, but rather, what we would want them to do to us.  It is in this sense a totally unilateral outlook.  We are to respond this way regardless of whether others treat us well or not.

On the other hand, if we widen the circle of acceptance of this rule, then we see it become a reciprocal standard.  Obviously, this does not seem to be the case, as most evidence points to this radical idea not catching on much at all.  I will argue that even in its radical, unilateral form, a foreign policy based upon it will make the US safer, not to mention more just.  Before we can get there, we need to evaluate the current ideology of the “International Rules Based Order”.

Self Interest Disguised as a Rule

The current term for US foreign policy is nothing more than a euphemism to cover for naked self-interest.  This is just a modern, more international term for an old idea, that of US “Manifest Destiny”.  This is the notion that the US was somehow chosen by God to dominate the world and spread its values (“democracy”, “freedom”) all over the globe.  It is an ideology that was spawned from the end of the Cold War, and the emergence of the “unipolar moment” with the US as the sole, global superpower.

This ideology is certainly not the notion of International Law, as embodied by the United Nations.  That is a reciprocal idea, in that it holds that all nations are bound by the same rules.  The US ideology is that the US makes the rules, enforces the rules, yet is clearly not bound by those rules.

If we see US policy in a clear light, we can see this at work.  The US demands that Russia not invade Ukraine (which was a violation of international law) because it suits the US to expand NATO to a nation deep in Russia’s flank.  This does not take into consideration the reciprocal idea that one nation’s security (Ukraine) should not be enhanced at the expense of another’s (Russia’s).  It is also a standard that the US has never, nor would ever adhere to.  We saw what the US reaction was to the Soviet provocation over the missiles in Cuba in 1962.  It takes little imagination to see what the US would have done if Mexico had been invited into the Warsaw Pact.

Further, the US demands that Russia not use force to hive off part of Ukraine (the eastern Donbas region), yet that is precisely the thing that the US/NATO did in Kosovo in the 1990s.  Rules for thee but not for me.

Violations of these rules brings US led sanctions, causing deep hardship to ordinary citizens of the sanctioned country, yet rarely the leadership of said nation.  It may also lead to violence, and overthrow, as was the case in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, and a further list too long for this essay.  All of this is possible because of the US position of owning the world’s “reserve currency”.  This is eyes glaze over stuff but critical to understanding the economics behind the US “rules Based Order”, which I detailed here.

We also see this hypocrisy at work in the tragic Israeli response to the Hamas atrocities of October 7, 2023.  The US has aided and abetted the Israeli response with weapons, money, and diplomatic support.  What Israel is doing is clearly an attempted ethnic cleanse, crossing over to a genocide.  Yet, it serves US imperial interests, both foreign and domestic, to allow this to occur.  Yet, this type of action serves as the justification for a US response, including sanctions all the way to regime change.

One main problem, besides its patent immorality, is that it strips the US of all moral credibility and diplomatic support over most of the globe, particularly in the Global South.  It exposes the sham that is this “Rules Based Order”.  Additionally, this global effort has helped push the US to fiscal insolvency and has severely eroded the ability of the US economy to grow in a sustainable fashion, all while lining the pockets of those politically connected.  None of this is morally, fiscally, or politically sustainable.  Maybe the US should try a different approach?

What A Golden Rule Based Foreign Policy Looks Like

So, what does a “Golden Rule Based Foreign Policy look like?  It looks just like what the rule implies.  The US treats others (in this case nations) the way the US wishes to be treated.  If the US does not want an adversarial military coalition on its border, don’t put one on another’s border.  If the US does not want a foreign nation to interfere in its electoral politics, don’t interfere in other nation’s internal politics.  If the US would not like economic pressure brought upon it (think the oil embargo in the 1970s) then the US should not sanction or economically punish other nations.

In large part it would mean adhering to actual international law, as practiced in the UN.  While hardly perfect, it does hold out hope for a US that is bound by the same rules it is asking others to abide.  This policy would also remove some of the financial stress placed upon the US taxpayer and the economy imposed by a global imperial foreign policy.  It would also reduce tensions around the world that inevitably result in “blowback” (a CIA term) against the United States.  All these things would tend to make the US safer.

I am sure the more militant among us will object that this amounts to unilateral disarmament and exposing the US to international blackmail.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It simply means the US doing what all nations may claim to do; defend their territorial integrity, their sovereignty, and their transit over international waters.  None of the things the US does in the name of its vaunted “Rules Based International Order” has anything to do with these three defensive priorities.  Almost the entirety of US foreign policy is about expansion of US power and control.

Would such a Golden Rule based foreign policy allow other nations to take the place of the US as a global hegemon?  Highly unlikely.  No nation has the economic wherewithal to attempt it and would bankrupt itself even sooner than the US went bankrupt (yes, the United States is flat ass broke).  Also, in a world of multiple, countervailing power centers, it is unlikely that there will ever be one global hegemon.  The so-called “unipolar” moment was unprecedented in human history.  The US will always have the Atlantic and the Pacific as large, safety providing moats, which are impossible to project force across without there being ample time to respond.  Think of how difficult it was for the Allies to launch the D-Day invasions across the narrow English Channel in 1944.  Now contemplate doing that across the Pacific in a world full of satellites.  The only thing making the US unsafe is its failure to live by an international Golden Rule.

How To Build A Golden Rule Based International Order

First, the US, as the world’s global superpower, must retrench and commit to putting its foreign policy on a Golden Rule basis.  This means dismantling its imperial system of alliances, client states, and global network of military installations.  It also means the US must commit to working within the bounds of real international law and multilateral organizations like the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.

This will take a sea change in political attitudes among Americans to achieve this.  There is a possibility that the impending US fiscal crackup can be turned to a more rational, and sustainable foreign policy.  The case needs to be continually made to show people the connection between the domestic rip off that is much of the current US economy and its international ramifications.  As the preeminent global power the initiative must start with the US.  No other nation will follow if the US does not lead.  There has been too much bad faith built up by current US power for anyone to rationally trust anything other than clear evidence, words are not enough.

If the US does this then it can start to make the moral case that other nations should follow suit.  The US can legitimately demand that other countries work within the international legal framework and settle disputes via diplomacy not violence.  Of course, there will always be international scofflaws (think North Korea), but with the major powers increasingly tied to an international legal system that will produce true economic and security benefits, it will be much easier to deal with the outliers.  Even if it is a major power that seeks to dominate, they will find an increasingly unified international bloc adamantly opposed to this course of action.  To take the case of Ukraine; if the US had not pushed a NATO expansion that threatened to engulf Ukraine, it is highly unlikely that Russia would have ever invaded, and then Ukraine would have cut a deal with Russia that could have led to a prosperous future, the way Finland did vis a vie the USSR after WWII.

A virtuous cycle can emerge that can lead to truly remarkable outcomes.  This will, of course, take time, and it will not be an even ascent to a better world.  That should not deter the US from truly leading the world to a better place.  We as followers of Christ should lead the way inside the US by demanding that the US turn to a Golden Rule based foreign policy.  We need to pressure Congress and the President.  We need to show that what Jesus gave us is idealistic, yes, but also practical.  We can also take this attitude into the public sphere amongst those who do not believe, as a policy of peace, as the Golden Rule threatens no one’s rights and dignities.  So, let it start with us.  On my web site there is a “Peace” section with resources to help you get involved. 

Despite all its failings, this world, this vale of tears, is worth waging peace for.  Let us join and wage ceaseless peace in the name of the Prince of Peace.  In seeking a Golden Rule based international order we will be showing our belief by our obedience.

Praise Be to God

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