How the American-led West has Recolonized the Rest

Pentagon press brief on Gaza and the Middle East with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Photo: US Dept. of Defense.

When I worked in Washington as a journalist, I used to get invited to endless seminars and talkfests, where two oft-repeated terms popped up in almost all those events: Rules-based International Order & Washington Consensus.

You’re perhaps familiar with these terms but for those who are not, here are some clues: They’re more or less the same thing, mostly based on much-touted Western values: democracy; rule of law, freedom, individual liberty, free market economy and blah blah blah. These are the things perhaps every human being on earth wants and longs to embrace.

In no time, though, I realized those lofty ideals are in fact nothing but new tools designed to perpetuate Western hegemony and keep sucking the vast multitude in their former colonies dry.

Indeed, the imperial powers never left their former colonies. After the Second World War, the colonial masters simply exited from the front door but reentered through the backdoor. In their new strategy, they realized it was too costly and burdensome to rule the colonies by putting soldiers on the ground and decided instead to do that in a roundabout way: Install puppets in those countries and create an elite class educated and trained in the West who would do the bidding on their behalf, as well as creating institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, among others, aimed at protecting Western interests in the name of helping the poor countries, now rechristened as the Global South, alleviate poverty and stabilize their economies when they face financial turmoil.

In reality, though, the Bretton Woods Washington twins (as the IMF and World Bank are known) have done nothing spectacular toward lifting the vast majority out of poverty. Indeed, they have helped the elite class in those countries in general and the West in particular. (Disclosure: I’m one of those elites who worked for the World Bank as a highly paid consultant). How on earth can you explain the rationale behind always putting an American and a European at the helm of these institutions, and not from the Global South?

You don’t have to be an expert on international affairs to understand what the American-led West actually meant by the Rules-based international order. To be blunt, it’s a naked manifestation of the West’s double standard.

To be sure, the West’s hypocrisy and double standards have been on display for decades. The latest is its overt backing of Israel, now conducting a vicious campaign of genocide aimed at wiping out Palestine and the “animals who inhabit that land from the face of the earth”, as the Israeli leaders have publicly vowed.

What is the crime of the Palestinians? The latest spark was the Hamas attack on Oct 7, killing over 1200 Israelis and taking hostage some 200 plus. But never has the so-called impartial Western media, including the BBC and the New York Times, bothered to highlight the Palestinians’ endless killing, maiming, torture, displacement and denial of basic human rights. You must have noticed that when the trigger-happy Israeli soldiers or settlers kill Palestinians on a regular basis, they Western media hardly covers it; but it makes international headlines if a single Israeli is killed by angry Palestinians.

This begs a legitimate question: Should the Palestinians be angry? The overwhelming answer is: YES. It’s simply because they want freedom, liberty, and to live like people in the so-called free world.

The American-led West, however, does not believe they have a fundamental right to those yearnings. I do not want to bore you with the history of how the Palestinians have been forced out of their homes 75 years ago and have lived a subhuman life in the world’s biggest open-air prison ever since.

It’s perhaps no secret as to why Israel can defy international public outrage and continue its campaign of annihilation against the Palestinians. So far, the death toll crossed 26000 and counting. The mindless slaughter of the hapless victims will continue simply because the United States refuses to rein in the monsters.

Appalled by the horrific catastrophe, South Africa recently took the matter to the International Court of Justice and the overwhelming majority of the judges (15 to 2) more or less agreed with the South African argument.

Not surprisingly, Israel gave a damn to that ICJ observation and we’re seeing no letup in its genocidal campaign. Not so surprising was the response of the American-led West, which further demonstrated its naked double standard. It was swift and blunt.

“Completely unjustified and wrong,” Rishi Sunak, Britain’s prime minister, said in a statement.

“Meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the United States National Security Council.

“The accusation has no basis in fact,” a German government spokesman said, adding that Germany opposed the “political instrumentalization” of the genocide statute.

Whatever the eventual outcome of the case, it sets up an epic battle over the meaning and values of the so-called rules-based order, Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times, wrote. If these rules don’t apply when powerful countries don’t want them to, are they rules at all? Polgreen asked.

“As long as those who make rules enforce them against others while believing that they and their allies are above those rules, the international governance system is in trouble,” Thuli Madonsela, one of South Africa’s leading legal minds and an architect of its post-apartheid Constitution, told the NY T columnist. “We say these rules are the rules when Russia invades Ukraine or when the Rohingya are being massacred by Myanmar, but if it’s now Israel butchering Palestinians, depriving them of food, displacing them en masse, then the rules don’t apply and whoever tries to apply the rules is antisemitic? It is really putting those rules in jeopardy.”

Does Joe Biden, the leader of the free world and champion of American values, have the decency to answer?

No, he won’t answer the vital question and he’ll get away with it. But his complicity and hypocrisy are being seen by a significant number of conscientious Americans and they will vote him out of power. I’ll be one of them.