My New York Times Op-Ed on Gaza and the "Rules-Based International Order"

The Times asked me to write about the U.N. Security Council's DOA ceasefire resolution. There wasn't a way to do so without writing about the U.S.' global order

My New York Times Op-Ed on Gaza and the "Rules-Based International Order"
CAP: A copy of the New York Times that I’ve kept. PHOTO: Spencer Ackerman

Edited by Sam Thielman

I WRITE A LOT ABOUT the global order that the U.S. created, husbanded and justified during its post-Cold War unipolar moment. That order didn't emerge fully-formed in 1991, nor does its history begin in 1991. But a moment of truly global geopolitical and geoeconomic dominance, an innovation in the history of empires, is worth documenting, studying and understanding. Especially when its works are the War on Terror.

Now—and this is something that germinates in 1948, sprouts in 1973 and starts to take its current shape in 2002—that U.S.-led global order is sponsoring a genocide in Gaza. 

Like the War on Terror, Gaza will be an enduring distillation of what the "Rules-Based International Order" truly is for however-many tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people around the world. Not the benefits the United States promises that order will bring, but the devastation it has enacted and permitted. 

No one, except wonks, sickos, and apologists, considers George W. Bush's foreign-policy legacy to be a public-health program focusing on Africa called PEPFAR. PEPFAR, as far as I can tell, truly has benefited the region (and beyond, because that's how public health operates) by mitigating AIDS. But the great masses of people correctly understand Bush's legacy to be the illegal invasion and catastrophic occupation of Iraq, and the conservatively-estimated 900,000 people killed by the War on Terror

Bush's legacy, it's important to point out, could have been PEPFAR. But Bush, abetted by many others, chose otherwise. The same, I submit, will be true for Joe Biden. (Who after 9/11 was among those who abetted Bush.)

I write all that by way of introducing an op-ed the New York Times solicited from me. This one, unfortunately, I can't reprint for FOREVER WARS subscribers. I can sample the heart of it for you, though: 

Whatever the Biden administration may have thought it was doing by permitting the resolution to pass and then undermining it, the maneuver exposed the continuing damage Israel’s war in Gaza is doing to the United States’ longstanding justification for being a superpower: guaranteeing what U.S. administrations like to call the “international rules-based order.”...
That American-exceptionalist asterisk [to international law] has been on display after each U.S. veto of cease-fire resolutions at the U.N. With Gaza’s enormous death toll and imminent famine, people can be forgiven for wondering about the point of the United States’ rules-based international order.

The Times asked me to write an op-ed shortly after the U.S. acquiesced to the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2728, the one that demanded a ceasefire during Ramadan that—it's now Eid—we all know never happened. The siege of al-Shifa Hospital happened instead. Back then, the Times was interested in me about producing something that explored the weakness of international law. I figured there was no way to understand that weakness without understanding a crucial factor making it weak: the United States. 

To my surprise, the Times was willing to let me write from that angle, and I'm grateful to them for it. Regular FOREVER WARS readers will recognize the perspective on display here—like I said above, I write about this a lot—but New York Times readers may not. And if you ever wondered what a piece of mine would look like if it had to wear the linguistic clothes of a New York Times op-ed, here's the fit

LAST MONTH, FOREVER WARS HIGHLIGHTED Anand Gopal's epic piece on the city-sized Guantanamo maintained in northeastern Syria called al-Hol. Last week, the State Department released parameters for (as far as I can tell) nonprofits to bid on contracts for providing services to al-Hol, particularly for childhood education. The tens of thousands of people within al-Hol, which include many children whose entire lives have occurred within a prison city, surely need such services. But reading about "multi-year" contracts for al-Hol nevertheless represents the institutionalization of an emergency stopgap rather than a solution to it—and a path out of al-Hol for its population. Just like Guantanamo before it. And Guantanamo today. 

MY FRIEND PETER MAASS, a journalist I wanted to be when I grew up, has a powerful and very personal op-ed in the Washington Post about recognizing Gaza through his warzone reporting and reckoning with his family's generations-past involvement with financing the settlement of what's now the State of Israel. I was lucky enough to read this piece in earlier drafts, and now you owe it to yourself to read the finished product.

SPEAKING OF AL-HOL, the U.S.-backed commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces—the mostly-Kurdish militia entity that the U.S. has relied upon to fight the Islamic State in Syria, and along with the U.S. guarantees the Kurdish quasi-state in the eastern third of Syria—has given an extensive interview to al-Monitor. There's a lot here, and highlighting any one thing risks giving short shrift to everything else Mazlum Kobane tells al-Monitor's Amberin Zaman, but I was taken aback when Kobane appeared to telegraph a U.S. military offensive on an ISIS outpost in Syria! 

Kobane: …As you said, ISIS is also entrenched in the Badiya [desert] in regime-controlled areas east of the Euphrates river. They have camps there too. So, we are under threat from all sides.
Al-Monitor:  Why is the United States not targeting those camps?
Kobane:  I believe they have plans to do so.

Maybe I'm the last to hear about a U.S. sweep into the Badiya, but this is the kind of thing that causes CENTCOM planners to spit their coffee out onto their monitors. 

WALLER VS. WILDSTORM, the superhero spy thriller I co-wrote with my friend Evan Narcisse and which the masterful Jesús Merino illustrated, is available for purchase in a hardcover edition! If you don't have single issues of WVW and you want a four-issue set signed by me, they're going fast at Bulletproof Comics

No one is prouder of WVW than her older sibling, REIGN OF TERROR: HOW THE 9/11 ERA DESTABILIZED AMERICA AND PRODUCED TRUMP, which is available now in hardcover, softcover, audiobook and Kindle edition. And on the way is a new addition to the family: THE TORTURE AND DELIVERANCE OF MAJID KHAN