‘Rules-Based International Order’ Means Washington-Based International Order

U.S. officials babble endlessly about “rules” and the “rules” are literally always tools for the benefit of the U.S., which literally always flouts those “rules” worse than any other government on earth, writes Caity Johnstone.


Listen to a reading of this article:

By Caitlin Johnstone

The U.S. government has shut down multiple news media websites based in the Middle East, including Iran’s state-owned Press TV, and al-Masirah TV which is owned by the Houthi group Ansarullah in Yemen. The Department of Justice said on Tuesday it had seized 36 Iranian-linked websites, claiming without evidence that they were associated with “either disinformation activities or violent organizations” and were shut down for a violation of U.S. sanctions.

This would be the same U.S. government that is imprisoning Julian Assange for journalism which exposed U.S. war crimes, the same U.S. government which paid for the weapons used to destroy more than 20 Palestinian media outlets in Gaza last month, the same U.S. government whose unipolar domination of the planet is made possible by the journalism-destroying propaganda of the media-owning plutocratic class in alliance with sociopathic government agencies.

This would also be the same U.S. government which constantly pays lip service to the need to protect the freedom of the press, as part of the “rules-based international order” it purports to uphold in the world. 

The Biden administration has been bleating “rules-based order” so frequently and with such obvious meaninglessness that even The New York Times voiced some criticism of the way that vapid, idiotic phrase is being used instead of the well-defined term “international law”. As Medea Benjamin and Nicolas JS Davies wrote for Salon last month:

For Blinken, the concept of a “rules-based order” seems to serve mainly as a cudgel with which to attack China and Russia. At a May 7 UN Security Council meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that instead of accepting the already existing rules of international law, the United States and its allies are trying to come up with “other rules developed in closed, non-inclusive formats, and then imposed on everyone else.”

Today, far from being a leader of the international rules-based system, the United States is an outlier. It has failed to sign or ratify about 50 important and widely accepted multilateral treaties on everything from children’s rights to arms control. Its unilateral sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and other countries are themselves violations of international law, and the new Biden administration has shamefully failed to lift these illegal sanctions, ignoring UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ request to suspend such unilateral coercive measures during the pandemic.

Indeed, U.S. government officials babble endlessly about “rules”, and the “rules” are literally always tools used for the benefit of the U.S. government, and the U.S. government literally always flouts those “rules” exponentially worse than any other government on earth.


What the phrase “rules-based order” actually means is Washington-based order. It means a world order imposed by the U.S. government and its lackey states on pain of devastation and death, which exists solely to keep the U.S. at the head of a unipolar empire. It means do as I say, not as I do. It means rules for thee but not for me. It means we decide what happens based on what suits our interests.

If you peel away all the narrative spin and outward politeness, the U.S. empire just looks like any other tyrannical force that has ever existed throughout human history, except it kills a lot more people than most of the others. In the old days the thugs with the most effective killing force would dominate everyone else using terror, wearing frightening battle costumes adorned with the body parts of their enemies. Nowadays they still dominate everyone else using terror, except they do it while wearing suits, and while waxing self-righteously about the “rules-based international order”. And they are much better at killing.

There is no other government on earth that is less qualified to impose any “order” upon the world. This is the only government on earth which has killed millions of people and displaced tens of millions just since the turn of this century, the only government on earth that is circling the planet with hundreds of military bases and working to destroy any nation which disobeys its dictates.

Yemen alone completely delegitimizes any claim the U.S. may have had to be the arbiter of “order” in the world, to say nothing of Iraq, Vietnam, Libya and all the other innumerable atrocities that this monstrous regime has inflicted upon our species.

The sooner humanity can extract the parasite that is the U.S. empire from its skin, the better off the whole world will be.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.  Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix, Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

This article is from CaitlinJohnstone.com and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

11 comments for “‘Rules-Based International Order’ Means Washington-Based International Order

  1. ilse
    June 24, 2021 at 15:41

    Once again Caitlin tells it like it is! Thank you Caitlin, you made my day.

  2. June 24, 2021 at 11:13

    “Imagine if the US interfered in other nations and everyone knew. . . The US would lose all credibility.”

  3. Dfnslblty
    June 24, 2021 at 09:32

    Thankyou for your condemning words.
    Keep studying and writing
    You are not alone in your views and your labour.

  4. Jörgen Hassler
    June 24, 2021 at 06:56

    Another case of people in the colonies ‘not beeing very good in English’. It was supposed to be ‘rule-based’, as in ‘a world order based on the pemiss that we rule”.

  5. Rex Williams
    June 24, 2021 at 03:58

    How pleasing it is that someone like Caitlin has the courage to state the real facts of the USA and its false and hypocritical policies.
    Sadly as a resident in a country called Australia that bows and scrapes to the US on everything from foreign policy to supplying military personal to do their bidding in all the military activities we see in the world, most of which being attributed to US hegemonic objectives and its fear of being replaced as the world’s #1 power, we all know that life as it is now will continue for a little time yet.

    However, as the US empire self-destructs, hopefully dragging down at the same time the parasitical regimes in places like Israel, ignored for its crimes of 70 years by the UN, many things need to change. The media needs to become truthful and independent of government influence; the social media needs to become subject to regulations prohibiting selective removal of news stories based on government influences as well; the military / industrial complex needs to seriously have its wingers clipped; the United Nations needs to be able to operate free of the selective influences of individual Security Council members voting for their own purposes. A disgraceful organisation, doing nothing, going nowhere.

    It is so sad to see the likes of Yemen brought to the stage when millions of their population are starving, schools, hospitals and infrastructure totally ruined, all with the connivance of the major military powers for reasons various, such as weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, continuous oil supplies, strategic alliances for profit or military advantage and on.

    How many decades have seen the toothless UN stand by and tolerate wars that once would not have been possible due to UN corrective actions, forcing one to ask what function does the UN fulfil in 2021? Why isn’t the UN on the ground in Myanmar today? Why is the US allowed to stay in Syria stealing oil by the millions of barrels after being asked to leave? How can Yemen be bombed mercilessly creating a level of national pain like no other in the world?
    How can the CIA, a part of the US government control the heroin supplies of the world and no one says a thing.

    The writers like Caitlin and others on this respected news source, Consortium News are the frontline for the truth today, hopefully making the readers aware of the perils of US hypocrisy, seen every single day of every year.

  6. Zhu
    June 23, 2021 at 20:35

    “Money talks, bullshit walks” — American proverb
    “In America, we have the Golden Rule. He who has the gold, makes the rules.” — American proverbs,

  7. Realist
    June 23, 2021 at 20:17

    Seizing Iranian internet domains. Brown-nosing British war ships trespassing into Russian territorial waters on the Black Sea. American fighter jets playing games of chicken with their Chinese counterparts along the Chinese coast. What else are Wacko Joe’s string pullers ordering up to immediately let the world know that, notwithstanding formal titles, the man in the White House does NOT run American foreign policy and that his measured words with Putin, as announced to the world, were not to be taken seriously. The hard liners know that one regrettable response to their provocations can throw the world into the chaos they seem so eager to bring about.

  8. michael888
    June 23, 2021 at 19:42

    Neoliberals have gotten rid of idiot Trump who was incapable of starting more Forever Wars (or bringing troops home); idiot Trump did pass a National Emergency with sanctions (siege warfare) against Nicaragua, and had a coup in Bolivia. Now the ‘adults in the room’ are back!
    Obama started spectacular devastating wars in Libya, Yemen and Syria, and his ongoing National Emergencies with sanctions for Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine/Russia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi and Venezuela should be construed as Forever Wars. His coups over democratically elected leaders in Egypt, Honduras and Ukraine show how ‘exceptional’ America is! Biden, as VP, deserves much credit as well, and will surely pump up the Forever Wars and their budgets in the coming years!

  9. rosemerry
    June 23, 2021 at 16:21

    The US-based “order” is individualistic rights, attack anyone you have decided is an enemy, the rich against everyone else, punish those you do not like, ignore international law, UN resolutions and treaties the tell all the world you are number one.
    Money, threats and violence are the new normal for us only!!!!!

  10. firstpersoninfinite
    June 23, 2021 at 15:26

    Well-said, Caitlin! Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even the desperate, “soft” hegemony of the American Empire corrupts its citizens, gaining nothing but shame for most of us and riches for the few. Exceptionalism means never having to say you remember anything you do.

  11. John R
    June 23, 2021 at 14:54

    Yet another very fine piece by Caitlan Johnstone that only a small number of Americans will read – glad I’m one of them.

Comments are closed.