“Anyone who slogs through the diplomatic verbiage generated last week by President Biden’s inaugural overseas trip will notice one phrase again and again: “rules-based.” It appears twice in Mr. Biden’s joint statement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, four times each in the communiqués the United States issued with the governments of the Group of 7 and the European Union, and six times in the manifesto produced by NATO.
That’s no surprise: “Rules-based order” (or sometimes, “rules-based system”) is among the Biden administration’s favorite terms. It has become what “free world” was during the Cold War. Especially among Democrats, it’s the slogan that explains what America is fighting to defend.
Too bad. Because the “rules-based order” is a decoy. It’s a way of sidestepping the question Democrats should be asking: Why isn’t America defending international law?”