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America’s Redefinition as the Foreign Relations Equivalent of a Sociopath

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Posted: 1:55 am ET

 

The following is an excerpt from Ambassador Chas W. Freeman‘s lecture on Reimagining Great Power Relations – Part 1.

America has now chosen publicly to redefine itself internationally as the foreign relations equivalent of a sociopath[1] – a country indifferent to the rules, the consequences for others of its ignoring them, and the reliability of its word.  No nation can now comfortably entrust its prosperity or security to Washington, no matter how militarily powerful it perceives America to be.

In the United States, there has been a clear drift toward the view that outcomes, not due process, are the sole criteria of justice.  Procedures – that is, judicial decisions, elections, or actions by legislatures – no longer confer legitimacy.  The growing American impatience with institutions and processes is reflected in the economic nationalism and transactionalism that now guide U.S. policy.  Washington now reserves the right to pick and choose which decisions by international tribunals like the World Trade Organization (WTO) it will follow or ignore.

The idea that previously agreed arrangements can be abandoned or renegotiated at will has succeeded the principle of “pacta sunt servanda” (“agreements must be kept”).   The result is greatly reduced confidence not only in the reliability of American commitments but also in the durability of the international understandings that have constituted the status quo.  In the security arena, this trend is especially pronounced with respect to arms control arrangements.  As an example,, Russia has cited American scofflaw behavior to justify its own delinquencies in Ukraine and with respect to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

When a hegemon fails to pay attention to the opinions of its allies, dependencies, and client states or to show its adversaries that it can be counted upon to play by the rules it insists they follow, it conjures up its own antibodies.  In the absence of empathy, there can be no mutual reliance or collective security.  Without confidence in the reliability of protectors or allies, nations must be ready to defend themselves by themselves at any moment.  If covenants are readily dishonored, the law offers no assurance of safety.  Only credible military deterrence can protect against attack.
[…]
[1]Mental health specialists define a “sociopath” as someone who exhibits a lack of empathy and a disregard for community norms, the rules both written and unwritten that help keep the world safe and fair for all. A sociopath is someone with no conscience who ignores reality to lead an uncaring and selfish life. The sociopath cares only for himself and lacks the ability to treat other people as worthy of consideration.

Read in full here. See Part II Reimagining China and Asia, and Part III Reimagining the Middle East.

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