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Did the Global Order Die with Khashoggi?

A world in which all that matters is the deal is one where citizens do not know what to expect from their leaders and countries do not know what to expect from their allies. Such an unpredictable and unstable world is not one that we should blindly accept.

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this month, Jamal Khashoggi – a Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of the Saudi government – walked into Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would enable him to marry his Turkish fiancée. Instead of receiving help from his country’s government, he was tortured, murdered, and dismembered by a team of its agents.

It is a shocking crime that raises some serious questions, not least regarding the appropriate balance between defending human rights and maintaining long-standing (and lucrative) alliances. More fundamentally, the sheer brazenness with which the Saudi government had Khashoggi killed – not to mention Western leaders’ weak response – has underscored for people around the world just how coldly calculated geopolitical machinations really are.

Transparency is usually a virtue to be encouraged. Here, however, the revelation comes at a cost. The belief that principles, values, and rules hold at least some weight in international relations has a stabilizing effect. As that belief is shaken – say, by the poisoning earlier this year of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil – the global order is damaged, perhaps beyond repair.

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