U.S. Imperialism vs the Rule of Law

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The world faces many overlapping crises: regional political crises from Kashmir to Venezuela; brutal wars that rage on in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia; and the existential dangers of nuclear weapons, climate change, and mass extinction.

But beneath the surface of all these crises, human society faces an underlying, unresolved conflict about who or what governs our world and who must make the critical decisions about how to tackle all these problems — or whether we will tackle them at all.  The underlying crisis of legitimacy and authority that makes so many of our problems almost impossible to solve is the conflict between U.S. imperialism and the rule of law.

Imperialism means that one dominant government exercises sovereignty over other countries and people across the world, and makes critical decisions about how they are to be governed and under what kind of economic system they are to live.

On the other hand, our current system of international law, based on the UN Charter and other international treaties, recognizes nations as independent and sovereign, with fundamental rights to govern themselves and to freely negotiate agreements about their political and economic relations with each other.  Under international law, multilateral treaties that have been signed and ratified by large majorities of nations become part of the structure of international law that is binding on all countries, from the least to the most…

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