Welcome to the Jungle

In an opinion piece at the New York Times Steven Erlanger laments the return of the jungle in international affairs, (of course) blaming it on Trump:

BRUSSELS — President Trump seems determined to upend 70 years of established American foreign policy, especially toward Europe, which he regards as less ally than competitor.

The Trump turnabout has set off a fervent search on both sides of the Atlantic for answers to hard questions about the global role of the United States, and what a frazzled Europe can and should do for itself, given a less reliable American partner.

The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, speaking before a conference of all Germany’s ambassadors last month, argued for a stronger European foreign and defense policy in the face of a suddenly uncertain future.

“The rules-based international order” is eroding in a world where “nothing can be taken for granted any more in foreign policy,” he said.

I would ask Mr. Erlanger (and Mr. Maas) how the following comport with a “rules-based international order”:

the 1971 war between India and Pakistan
the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games
the Yom Kippur War
the killings fields of Cambodia
the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
the revolutionary government (AKA “students”) in Iran seizes the U. S. embassy in Tehran
the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands
the Israeli invasion of Lebanon
the Iran-Iraq War
the U. S. invasion of Grenada
Reagan’s selling arms to Iran
the U. S. invasion of Panama
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait
the Rwandan genocide
the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia
the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001
the invasion of Iraq
the Russo-Georgian War (whoever started it)
routine hacking of public and private computers and networks by China, Russia, North Korea, Israel, and probably us
routine violation of intellectual property by practically every country that isn’t in Europe or North America

and that’s just hitting the high spots.

The notion of a rules-based international order is a mostly European fantasy. Rules are made and broken in pursuit of countries’ perceived national interests. Trump pretty obviously doesn’t hold a lot of truck with the idea but he’s certainly not responsible for its loss of repute.

The jungle about which Mr. Erlanger complains has always been there and probably always will be. It spreads unless beaten back and if the countries of Europe and North America tire of beating it back, succumb to cultural ennui or otherwise become unwilling to do so, there is no alternative force that will prevent its advance.

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