The U.S. Secretary of State with with Chinese counterparts, and exchange below between the two made me think of this thread:
Why Promoting a Rules-based International System Valuing Human Rights is Important to Average Americans
Hearing Secretary Blinken speak about the importance of a rule-based order was great to hear. He mentions that without such a system, countries would interact on the principle that “might makes right” and that would lead to more violence and instability. Average Americans should care about this because a more violent world increases the chances of major military conflicts, even world wars. And if there are major military conflicts, America will likely be involved. That is, American sons, daughters, wives, husbands and other relatives will be put in harm’s way. Additionally, a more unstable world increases the chances of harmful economic effects on average Americans. For example, goods and services may be more expensive. Finally, a rules-based international system is just and fair. Might makes right is wrong. Similarly, a system respects basic human rights have greater moral standing than systems that do not.
Promoting Liberal Democratic Values is a Threat to Authoritarian Regimes–This is Not the Equivalent to Authoritarian Regimes Undermining Liberal Democracies
Because of this, the U.S. and other liberal democracies should do what they can to maintain and strengthen a rules-based international system that respects human rights. However, the U.S. doing this will almost automatically be a threat to authoritarian regimes. Would this justify actions by authoritarian regimes to undermine liberal democracies–e.g., exporting corruption, blackmailing prominent political and business leaders, or engaging in information warfare to increase existing tensions in a liberal democratic country? These actions are not morally equivalent to promoting and strengthening a rules-based international system or supporting citizens protesting against authoritarian regimes do pose a threat and can weaken an authoritarian regime. To put it crudely, liberal democracies are good–or the closest thing to it–and authoritarian regimes are bad.
Having said that, in the efforts to strengthen and promote an international system based on rules and human rights, not all actions to do this are equally acceptable. For example, I don’t believe liberal democracies should fabricate stories or utilize conspiracy theories to undermine an authoritarian regimes. Essentially, as much as possible, the methods used should be consistent with liberal democratic values.
We Must Constantly Work for an International System that Adheres to Rules and Respects Human Rights
In the last sentence, I include a qualifier–“as much as possible.” This acknowledges the reality that countries, particularly the most powerful, will not adhere to agreed upon rules or respect human rights–all the time. That is the reality. There is no perfect system, just as there is no perfect government–one that never violates liberal democratic procedures and values or human rights. As Secretary Blinken says, Americans work to form a more perfect union, which implies imperfection; America is flawed, like all countries. The international system will be flawed as well. But countries should constantly strive to adhere to rules and respect human rights to a greater degree. The alternatives are to not try hard or give up on a rules-based system entirely. This touches on a difference between liberal democracies and autocracies. The former not only implements liberal democratic values and respects human rights more consistently, but they have a genuine desire to be better at doing so.