Connect with us

Latest

Analysis

News

Goodbye ‘Freedom and Democracy’ – Hello ‘Rules-based International Order’

The ‘rules-based international order’ is, in reality, the expression of America’s “global interests”.

Published

on

659 Views

Authored by Paul Carline via Off-Guardian.org:


The banner and the clarion call of western countries, and their own asserted legitimation – especially when they are engaging in illegal wars and coups – used to be “freedom and democracy”: the precious gift they were generously and selflessly offering to a backward world – or one allegedly in the ‘chains’ of Socialism/Communism. There was “Radio Free Europe”, for example, pushing out western liberal propaganda, primarily against the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The Washington-based “Freedom House” organisation, which claims to be independent, has around 150 staff members in Washington and in ‘field offices’ around the world. Its President is Michael J. Abramowitz, who before joining Freedom House in 2017, was director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education. Before that, he was National Editor and then White House correspondent for the Washington Post. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former fellow at the German Marshall Fund and the Hoover Institution. He is also a board member of the National Security Archive. The Board of Trustees is chaired by Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush and co-author of the USA Patriot Act.

Since 1972, Freedom House, whose website sports a warm endorsement by none other than Francis Fukuyama, has produced an annual “Freedom in the World” global map (above), which divides the world into countries which are either “free”, “partly free”, or “not free”. The allegedly “free” countries are coloured green, the “partly free” ones a kind of muddy yellow, and the “not free” ones blue.

Its analysis of “freedom” covers “the electoral process, political pluralism and participation, the functioning of government, freedom of expression and belief, rights of association and organization, the rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights”. The word ‘democracy’ is not used in the ratings system, nor is it defined anywhere, but the 2018 analysis is headlined “Democracy in Crisis”.

According to Freedom House, in 2018 45% of the world (by country) or 39% (by population) was “free”, 30% (country) or 24% (population) was “partly free”, and 25%/37% “not free”. Countries are rated on a percentage points system. Sweden, which last year joined in the NATO ‘war games’ – despite not being a NATO member – is given a full 100 points, Canada 99, Uruguay 98, both Chile and the UK 94, France a completely undeserved 90, the USA 86 and Israel an unreal 79. By contrast, China scores 14, Iran 17, and Russia a mere 20, while Tibet and Syria are granted only 1 point each (no bias there). Almost incredibly, Ukraine scores 62 – allowing it to be rated as “partly free”! Very oddly, the FAQ section is available in only two languages – English and Ukrainian!

I suspect that the statement by Freedom House’s President, Michael J. Abramowitz, to the effect that: “A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it appeared that totalitarianism had at last been vanquished and liberal democracy had won the great ideological battle of the 20th century”, must induce wry smiles – if not outright anger – in many Off-Guardian readers. Abramowitz predictably refers to “the rise of populist leaders who appeal to anti-immigrant sentiment and give short shrift to fundamental civil and political liberties” and describes “newcomer Emmanuel Macron” as a “centrist” who “handily” (interesting choice of words!) won the French presidency.

Depressingly predictable is his comment on China and Russia, which he labels “the world’s leading autocracies” and which he asserts “have seized the opportunity not only to step up internal repression but also to export their malign influence to other countries, which are increasingly copying their behaviour and adopting their disdain for democracy” (emphasis added; no mention of the massive ‘disdain for democracy’ in the USA, UK, and numerous members of the EU).

According to Abramowitz, “Democratic governments allow people to help set the rules to which all must adhere, and have a say in the direction of their lives and work!” If that were true, there would be lots of direct democracy in all those “free” countries. It’s true that there is some ‘direct democracy’, e.g. popular initiatives and referendums, in a few states of the USA and in a few European countries – with Switzerland far and away the best example, followed by Germany at the regional and local levels, thanks to the efforts over decades of its leading pro-democracy organisation “Mehr Demokratie”, which has been trying to have direct democratic rights established also at the national level, which would really allow the people to “help set the rules”. Germany’s “Basic Law” (it doesn’t have a proper constitution for reasons which I cannot go into here but which will be known to many) actually states: “All power derives from the people”(Article 20) and “State power is exercised by the people in elections and referendums”(emphasis added) – but successive governments have refused to enact the laws that would allow state-level referendums, presumably because they fear the “people power” that is the literal meaning of ‘democracy’.

Given subsequent developments, Kofi Annan’s 2001 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech now strikes a sour note:

“The obstacles to democracy have little to do with culture or religion, and much more to do with the desire of those in power to maintain their position at any cost. This is neither w new phenomenon nor one confined to any particular part of the world. People of all cultures value their freedom of choice and feel the need to have a say in the decisions affecting their lives”

In the 2002 UNDP World Development Report, Annan re-affirmed the true nature of democracy in these words:

“True democratization means more than elections. People’s dignity requires that they be free – and able – to participate in the formation and stewardship of the rules and institutions that govern them”.

According to Abramovitch’s definition, and that of Kofi Annan, there is zero genuine democracy in the U.K. (a purely representative system – especially one still using an outdated and wholly disreputable FPTP system, with rare referendums arranged by the government, which sets the question – is not a legitimate form of democracy).

We may also ask, in parenthesis as it were, who – if not the electorates – is “helping to set the rules”, for example in Europe specifically. As of July 2017, there were 11,327 registered lobby organisations in the EU, employing some 82,096 people – the equivalent of 50,326 full-time personnel – of which nearly 7,000 have access to the Parliament. In Germany there are around eight lobbyists – representing ‘outside’ interests – for every member of the national parliament – and the lobby registers are voluntary. Only seven countries (France, Ireland, Lithuania, Austria, Poland, Slovenia and the UK) have passed any laws on lobbying.

What is extremely interesting and telling is the general absence of references to ‘freedom and democracy’ by our so-called ‘leaders’. Those words have been replaced in the political lexicon by the now clearly favoured expression “the rules-based international order” – which doesn’t have quite the same ring, or the same connotations, as “freedom and democracy”.

One is forced to ask: whose order? whose rules? If Abramowitz is correct, and since we are privileged enough to live in a country which, if we are to believe its FH rating, is little short of perfect, we the people must have been involved in setting those rules. We should at least have been told what they mean! For example, what does ‘international’ mean in this context? It suggests a global compact – but when it is used it specifically excludes certain countries and regimes which we are led to believe are not part of, or indeed are allegedly trying to undermine, this new ‘order’.

Although the word ‘international’ is often taken to be a synonym for ‘global’ or ‘universal’, its literal meaning is ‘between nations’. The UN has of course long promulgated and endorsed all kinds of ‘universal’ rules (the ICC rules on aggression for instance) – many of which are routinely flouted by the countries which most loudly lay claim to being ‘democracies’ and loyal observers of the “rules-based international order”.

But we are now seeing a new type of literally ‘inter-national’ agreements being made in Europe, often merely between two governments at a time (with no democratic endorsement by either parliaments or people) and where the suspicion is that this is a new way of hiding from the general public what is really going on in Europe – specifically the step-by-step implementation of the “United States of Europe” project which dates from at least 1946.

There seems to be an undue haste to complete the creation of a unified military establishment that would not be answerable to the individual nation states which are contributing their forces (and infrastructure!) and which would also appear to include a much closer working relationship between military and police forces. Does the urgency have to do with the level of chaos in Europe and the threat – now materialised in the form of the “Yellow Vest” protests – of widespread civil unrest and potentially public revolt?

So Prime Minister Theresa May can pretend to the public that the ‘Brexit’ approved by a majority of voters will take place i.e. that Britain will “come out of” the EU, while at the same time, and largely in secret or behind closed doors in completely undemocratic meetings, the government is committing the entire UK military establishment, step by step, to the new ‘unified European defence establishment’. The UK enters into a special relationship with France (and thereby with the EU). France and Germany have just signed a new treaty – the Aachen Treaty – so does the UK automatically acquire the special relationship with Germany? And will this “two-step” approach eventually link all willing states (one could imagine Hungary, perhaps Italy and Greece also, not being so willing) in the ‘new European order’?

In struggling to understand the “rules-based international order” I found this definition by the RAND Corporation very helpful:

Since 1945, the United States has pursued its global interests through creating and maintaining international economic institutions, bilateral and regional security organizations, and liberal political norms; these ordering mechanisms are often collectively referred to as the international order.

In recent years, rising powers have begun to challenge aspects of this order. This report is part of a project, titled “Building a Sustainable International Order,” that aims to understand the existing international order, assess current challenges to the order, and recommend future US policies with respect to the order.

This report is the first of those and reflects the project team’s attempt to understand the existing international order, including how US decision makers have described and used the order in conducting foreign policy, as well as how academics have assessed the mechanisms by which the order affects state behaviour.

When discussing policy responses to a fraying international order, the first challenge is to understand what we mean by the term. Order has various meanings in the context of international politics, and specific orders can take many forms.1 For the purposes of this project, we conceive of order as the body of rules, norms, and institutions that govern relations among the key players in the international environment. An order is a stable, structured pattern of relationships among states that involves some combination of parts, including emergent norms, rulemaking institutions, and international political organizations or regimes, among others.

– RAND Corporation 2016, Understanding the Current International Order

This more recent observation was both insightful and amusing:

“The rules-based international order is being challenged, quite surprisingly, not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor, the US,” Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said as the summit meeting got underway in Quebec’s picturesque resort town of La Malbaie on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

The trans-Atlantic rift manifested itself in a behind-the-scenes debate about the wording of the traditional summit communiqué. The American side objected to including the phrase “rules-based international order,” even though it is boilerplate for such statements, according to two people briefed on the deliberations. The Europeans and Canadians were pushing back, but it remained unclear whether the Trump administration would ultimately sign the statement or be left on its own.

– NYT June 8, 2018 Michael D. Shear

So the ‘rules-based international order’ is, in reality, the expression of America’s “global interests”. Other parties – such as British and other governments – may be allowed to put on the mask of the Eagle, whilst claiming to be on the side of justice, truth, human rights … and yes, democracy. And since it’s a US construct, the US and its allies can feel free to ‘make it up as they go along’.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
2 Comments

2
Leave a Reply

avatar
1 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
Tom WelshJNDillard Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
JNDillard
Guest
JNDillard

Perhaps we are inching closer to a LAW based international order? What a concept!

Tom Welsh
Guest
Tom Welsh

I tell you: it could not happen.

“[Y]ou know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Melos#The_Melian_Dialogue

Latest

The conclusion of Russiagate, Part II – news fatigue across America

The daily barrage of Russiagate news may have been a tool to wear down the American public as the Deep State plays the long game for control.

Seraphim Hanisch

Published

on

Presently there is a media blitz on across the American news media networks. As was the case with the Russiagate investigation while it was ongoing, the conclusions have merely given rise to a rather unpleasant afterbirth in some ways as all the parties involve pivot their narratives. The conclusion of Russiagate appears to be heavily covered, yet if statistics here at The Duran are any indication, there is a good possibility that the public is absolutely fatigued over this situation.

And, perhaps, folks, that is by design.

Joseph Goebbels had many insights about the use of the media to deliver and enforce propaganda. One of his quotes runs thus:

The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.

and another:

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

If there has ever been a narrative that employed these two principles, it is Russiagate.

A staggering amount of attention has been lavished on this nothing-burger issue. Axios reports that an analytics company named Newswhip tallied an astounding 533,074 web articles published about Russia and President Trump and the Mueller investigation (a number which is being driven higher even now, moment by moment, ad nauseam). Newsbusters presently reports that the networks gave 2,284 minutes to the coverage of this issue, a number which seems completely inaccurate because it is much too low (38 hours at present), and we are waiting for a correction on this estimate.

Put it another way: Are you sick of Russiagate? That is because it has dominated the news for over 675 days of nearly wall-to-wall news cycles. The political junkies on both sides are still pretty jazzed up about this story – the Pro-Trump folks rejoicing over the presently ‘cleared’ status, while of course preparing for the upcoming Democrat / Deep State pivot, and the Dems in various levels of stress as they try to figure out exactly how to pivot in such a manner that they do not lose face – or pace – in continuing their efforts to rid their lives of the “Irritant-in-Chief” who now looks like he is in the best position of his entire presidency.

But a lot of people do not care. They are tired.

I hate to say it (and yes, I am speaking personally and directly), but this may be a dangerous fatigue. Here is why:

The barrage of propaganda on this issue was never predicated on any facts. It still isn’t. However, as we noted a few days ago, courtesy of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, at present, 53% of US registered voters believe that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

That means 53% of the voting public now believes something that is totally false.

Many of these people are probably simply exhausted from the constant coverage of this allegation as well. So when the news came out Sunday night that there was no evidence of collusion and no conclusive evidence, hence, of obstruction of justice by the Trump Administration – in other words, this whole thing was a nothing burger – will this snap those 53% back into reality?

Probably not. Many of them may well be so worn down that they no longer care. Or worse, they are so worn out that they will continue to believe the things they are told that sustain the lie, despite its being called out as such.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this peculiarity of human nature, in particular in the seventh book of his Chronicles of Narnia. After a prolonged and fierce assault on the sensibilities of the Narnians with the story that Aslan, the Christ figure of this world, was in fact an angry overlord, selling the Narnians themselves into slavery, and selling the whole country out to its enemy, with the final touch being that Aslan and the devilish deity of the enemy nation were in fact one and the same, the Narnians were unable to snap back to reality when it was shown conclusively and clearly that this was in fact not the case.

The fear that was instilled from the use of false narratives persisted and blocked the animals from reality.

Lewis summarized it this way through the thoughts of Tirian, the lead character in this tale:

Tirian had never dreamed that one of the results of an Ape’s setting up as a false Aslan would be to stop people from believing in the real one. He had felt quite sure that the Dwarfs would rally to his side the moment he showed them how they had been deceived. And then next night he would have led them to Stable Hill and shown Puzzle to all the creatures and everyone would have turned against the Ape and, perhaps after a scuffle with the Calormenes, the whole thing would have been over. But now, it seemed, he could count on nothing. How many other Narnians might turn the same way as the Dwarfs?

This is part of the toll this very long propaganda campaign is very likely to take on many Americans. It takes being strongly informed and educated on facts to withstand the withering force of a narrative that never goes away. Indeed, if anything, it takes even more effort now, because the temptation of the pro-Trump side will be to retreat to a set of political talking points that, interestingly enough, validate Robert Mueller’s “integrity” when only a week ago they were attacking this as a false notion.

This is very dangerous, and even though Mr. Trump and his supporters won this battle, if they do not come at this matter in a way that shows education, and not merely the restating of platitudes and talking points that “should be more comfortable, now that we’ve won!”

The cost of Russiagate may be far higher than anyone wants it to be. And yes, speaking personally, I understand the fatigue. I am tired of this issue too. But the temptation to go silent may have already taken a lot of people so far that they will not accept the reality that has just been revealed.

Politics is a very fickle subject. Truth is extremely malleable for many politicians, and that is saying it very nicely. But this issue was not just politics. It was slander with a purpose, and that purpose is unchanged now. In fact things may even be more dangerous for the President – even risking his very life – because if the powers that are working behind the people trying to get rid of President Trump come to realize that they have no political support, they will move to more extreme measures. In fact this may have already been attempted.

We at The Duran reported a few months ago on a very strange but very compelling story that suggested that there was an attempted assassination and coup that was supposed to have taken place on January 17th of this year. It did not happen, but there was a parallel story that noted that the President may have been targeted for assassination already no fewer than twelve times.  Hopefully this is just tinfoil-hat stuff. But we have seen that this effort to be rid of President Trump is fierce and it is extremely well-supported within its group. There is no reason to think that the pressure will lighten now that this battle has been lost.

The stakes are much too high, and even this long investigation may well have been part of the weaponry of the group we sometimes refer to as the “Deep State” in their effort to reacquire power, and in their effort to continue to pursue both a domestic and geopolitical agenda that has so far shown itself to be destructive to both individuals and nations all over the world.

Speculation? Yes. Needless? We hope so. This is a terrible possibility that hopefully no reasonable person wants to consider.

Honestly, folks, we do not know. But we had to put this out there for your consideration.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Parliament Seizes Control Of Brexit From Theresa May

Zerohedge

Published

on

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending