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Battle for White House: Missing issues from US 2016 presidential debates

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Americans will vote on 8 November to decide who will be the country’s next president to lead the nation to a peaceful path without wars and bloodbaths. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have presented a crude irony to the poll that American people have been provided with a choice between not only the two most unpopular candidates, but also the two most reactionary candidates in modern history.

The usual battle for the White House by two-party system is nearing the end point. World is damn sure that irrespective of who win the battle would continue the Bushdom agenda of permanent war on Islam by using many Muslim rulers like Syrian leader Assad.

With capitalism facing serious crakes globally, (notwithstanding the strenuous efforts by World bank and IMF to promote capitalism), imperialism could face obstructions and so US president would strive hard to promote both capitalism and imperialism to phase out the “enemies” and stabilize the “world order” to benefit these anti-humanity features on a permanent basis.

Ritualistic performance?

“They came, performed and disappeared”- this description fits well for the US presidential candidates -Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump – who joined the three “joint” debates on the worthiness of their candidature.

Neither the Republican nor the Democratic person has any real vision about USA but in public mudslinging they have outsmarted the third world leaders. When the elected presidents are not duty bound to fulfill all their promises, pledges and programs, now the empty debates make the life easy for the next President too as he or she can be assured of space in NATO permanent war project on Islam for securing energy resources and for reducing Islamic populations. Pentagon led Nato terror wars can be a perfect tool for the president to justify all their illegal actions at home.

Clearly, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the only two presidential candidates of the permitted parties, viz Republican and Democratic, debated only those useless issues without any substance, without any values for the society and governance, leaving out important issues.

They’re the only candidates that stand a real chance of winning the race, but there are other third-party and independent candidates in the running. The rules around getting on the ballot differ state to state, but most voters will have two main alternatives to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clearly, there is no clarity in their debates as to how and where exactly these two candidates would differ as the one to replace the incumbent president Obama who is heavily burned with several wars abroad.

The third and final of the Trump- Clinton presidential debates was just as false and intellectually degraded as the first two, characterized by lies by both candidates and mutual mudslinging. Trump and Clinton replied with mutual hatred, first about the allegations of sexual harassment by Trump which have been the focus of a week-long media barrage, then the charges of “pay to play” at the Clinton State Department, with donors to the Clinton Foundation receiving special access.

Both candidates gave themselves the widest possible latitude for escalating the US military aggression throughout the Middle East in the name of fighting “terrorism.” Clinton went on to advocate a wider war in the Middle East while concealing her plans after taking office, claiming she would “not support putting American troops back into Iraq as an occupying force.”

Trump: “Our inner cities are a disaster… I will do more for the African Americans than she will do in 10 lifetimes.” Perhaps most remarkable, however, was when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump to support the election results. He refused to do so. Trump accused the media of poisoning people’s minds. He said Clinton shouldn’t have been allowed to run for president. It was Trump in a bunker, settling scores and lashing out at enemies real and perceived.

During the debate, Trump called Clinton a liar and hit back that she was a Russian puppet, not him. By the time the topic turned to “fitness to be president”, the stage was set for a total meltdown. He said the woman who has accused him of sexual harassment were in it for the fame and were Clinton campaign stooges.

Consensual candidate?

The final 2016 presidential debate took place on October 19 night, and expectations were not high either. Apparently, both leaders debated only those issues that seemed agreed upon in advance. That has been the practice of US politics cutting across the two-party system. The presidential candidates, therefore, have not been asked questions on some of the critical issues facing the nation that is fighting illegal wars abroad in Middle East on fake pretexts.

US establishment which generally decides who should be the next president and also work for that, is still seen busy with a Hillary win and Trump defeat. Clinton has become the consensus candidate of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, and, increasingly, of the Republican as well as the Democratic wing of the political establishment. It is significant that Trump never identified himself as a Republican or made any reference to the Republican Party during the debate, while Clinton repeatedly invoked the names of Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and contrasted them to Trump. Hillary is ready to claim to be the next president in January 2017.

Far more rapidly than most people are aware, the quarter-century of war waged by the US since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the fifteen years of the “war on terror,” are metastasizing into a direct confrontation with the larger geopolitical rivals of the United States.

This immense war danger has been virtually excluded from the presidential election campaign and all but ignored by what presents itself as the political “left” in the United States. After a quarter-century of unending war, including eight years under Obama–the first president to serve two full terms with the country continuously at war–there is no functioning antiwar movement.

Donald Trump disgorged more of his predictable and already tiresome tirades. Words poured out in randomly shuffled stacks, like cards dealt by a drunken croupier. One imagines him under the hot lights, reeking of narcissism, Trump “Success” aftershave, and flop sweat. If Trump manages to bring up jobs and trade, he may reprise his only strong moment from the first two debates.

Once again, Hillary Clinton spends far too much time belaboring the rather obvious fact that Donald Trump is a “horrible” human being. Recent Clinton ads attacking Trump have featured everyone from military veterans to obnoxious movie characters.

The Clinton campaign calculates that its candidate is likelier to prevail by ‘disqualifying’ Trump — using ads to make the idea of voting for him socially unacceptable in professional suburbs — among additional well-educated voters … than by holding on to working-class voters tempted by Trump’s populism …” In one sense, it’s hard to blame them for devoting so much effort to dissing the Donald. An old political cliché says, “Don’t interrupt your enemy when he’s in the process of destroying himself.” It must be tempting to take that one step further and offer a helping hand.

Many voters can be persuaded to despise a privileged, bigoted, misogynistic, bullying, lying, pompous, self-regarding jackass. But Trump has undoubtedly convinced most of those voters already.

Clinton could choose to “go high” instead, using the debate platform to offer uplifting proposals around the issues that matter most to voters – issues like jobs, wages, growth, student debt, and criminal justice. When it comes to uplift, moderator Chris Wallace won’t be much help. Wallace made it clear that he plans to abdicate his journalistic responsibility on Wednesday night. He likened the moderator’s job to “being a referee in a heavyweight championship fight,” a statement that trivializes the democratic process.

The phrase “debt and entitlements” reflects a misguided, inside-the-Beltway financial mindset. This is not the first time Social Security has been badly served in this year’s debates. The third most popular question submitted for October 9’s so-called “town hall” debate was, “Do you support expanding, and not cutting, Social Security’s modest benefits?” It became even timelier after this week’s announcement that Social Security’s next cost of living adjustment will be a “measly” 0.3 percent, an average monthly increase of only $5 per month, despite the fact that drug prices and other medical costs have soared.

Issues

Both have very cleverly avoided foreign policy even in the final debate. They have no explanation for the continuation of terror wars even after their “objectives’ have been sufficiently achieved. Nor did they touch upon serious problems affecting domestic policy, they ignored the basic human rights in the most advanced nation on earth.

On every issue of domestic policy raised in the course of the 90-minute debate—democratic rights, immigration, economic policy, social spending—Clinton employed liberal rhetoric, claiming to defend abortion rights, the legalization of most undocumented workers, government-funded job-creation, a rise in the minimum wage, equal pay for women workers, and an increase in Social Security benefits. Clinton aides openly discuss the need to make such bogus promises in order to fool the American people, and Clinton herself reassures her Wall Street paymasters that they should take her campaign promises with a very large grain of salt.

On national security issues she gave a glimpse of the “genuine” hawkish Clinton, the arch militarist who sought to close the deal with the US ruling elite by demonstrating her hard-line defense of imperialist interests around the world.

Speaking for the first time in his entire campaign with some seriousness, Trump touched a number of ultra-right talking points calling for the appointment of Supreme Court justices, for a wall along the US-Mexico border and to deport millions of undocumented workers, and pointing out, correctly, that President Obama has deported many millions already. Trump appealed to the economic grievances of working people, declaring that expelling immigrant workers, renegotiating trade agreements to bar foreign imports and slashing taxes on the wealthy and the corporations would generate an unprecedented economic boom, with annual GDP growth of six or seven percent. He declared that “millions of people are registered to vote that should not be allowed to vote,” then added that Clinton herself “should never have been allowed to run for president because of what she did with emails and so many other things.”

For the first time in any of the debates, the question of a US-Russian conflict in Syria was broached when Wallace asked Clinton directly about her support for a no-fly zone over Aleppo and other contested Syrian cities. A no-fly zone meant war with Syria and Russia, and if a Russian plane violates the no-fly zone, does President Clinton shoot it down? Clinton simply ducked the question, claiming that the no-fly zone, an act of war against Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, would be the subject of “negotiation.”

Capitalist funds and spending

Immoral act of fund raising from the rich and corporate lords by the party candidates makes the presidential poll a total farce. Those who “offer huge sums” to the candidates obviously expect “return favors” from the next president. The candidates thus spend huge resources on the campaign.

New poll finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission outlined their dramatically different approaches to the quest for the White House. Trump, while putting more money than ever into advertising, spent a fraction of the roughly USD 66 million Clinton poured into media buys.

Defying his notorious stinginess, Donald Trump more than doubled his campaign spending last month compared to August. He burned through roughly USD 70 million as his standing in polls and among fellow Republicans dropped. His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, spent even more, almost USD 83 million. Clinton’s payroll topped 800 people, coming in as her second-highest expense of the month, about USD 5.5 million.

Trump paid roughly 350 employees and consultants. He has outsourced most of his on-the-ground voter contact to the Republican Party. The New York real estate mogul has bragged until recently about his low-cost campaign and dismissed the need for television ads and polling services. But in September, he paid USD 23 million for commercials. In August he paid Conway’s The Polling Company 130,000. Last month, he almost tripled his payment to her company, part of USD 1.7 million in September expenditures to five different polling firms.

Another big expense: Long-ago ousted Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski received a total of USD 100,000. Lewandowski was fired in June and quickly became a paid contributor to CNN. That hasn’t stopped him from collecting Trump campaign checks thanks to a contract. In September, his Green Monster Consulting firm collected what the campaign said was its final payout to him. His firm took in about USD 540,000 over the course of the campaign. As a comparison, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, has been paid about USD 153,000 so far. One of Clinton’s expenditures causes a double-take. Her campaign reimbursed employees who purchased USD 260 worth of products from Trump International Hotel in New York.

Poll rigged and hijacked?

Commentators point out the US election administration is highly de-centralized, with each state setting its own rules and local officials administering them. In most states, observers keep tabs on poll workers too. Voter ID requirements and voting machines also have huge variations, so widespread rigging would be hard to co-ordinate. “It’s bipartisan, it’s transparent, and there’s just no justification for concern about widespread voter fraud.” Former House Speaker and Republican Newt Gingrich harked all the way back to the Richard Nixon versus JFK 1960 election this weekend, saying no “serious historian doubts that Illinois and Texas were stolen”. His comments refer to allegations that JFK’s operatives – allegedly with the collusion of public officials – fixed tallies in Texas and Illinois, giving him 51 electoral votes, and ultimately winning him the closely contested election.

In 2014, when Obama was reelected to White House, 31 known cases of impersonation fraud were found in one billion votes cast in all US elections between 2000 and 2014. And in 2012, News21 analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 turned up some 10 cases of voter impersonation. The idea that the US election will be rigged is “ludicrous”, and “certainly not stolen in the way that Trump has alleged,” according to Professor Richard Hasen, an expert in election law.

The Trump campaign has made claims of “election rigging” for months, blaming the “dishonest and distorted media” and the “Clinton machine” for the Republican’s slide in battleground states in the polls. But now the rhetoric has reached new heights, with Trump launching a twitterstorm to hammer home his allegations. A third of Republicans say they have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence that votes will be counted fairly, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Donald Trump has alleged that “large scale voter fraud” is occurring in the US, but is it possible to rig the US election? However, studies suggest voter fraud isn’t really a widespread problem in the USA.

In the third debate, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tried to be restrained, cool and matured- rather ready to assume presidency. He really did calling his previous version as mere gimmicks. During the first section of the third presidential debate, when the topic was the Supreme Court, if you squinted you could almost imagine that this was just another presidential race, with two candidates squaring off and vigorously discussing their public policy positions on abortion and gun control. Even the immigration discussion started reasonably civilly, until Clinton pivoted to turn a question about Wikileaks into an attack on Trump’s relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sparred at debate over gun rights, with the Republican nominee charging that the Second Amendment is “under absolute siege” and would be eroded if his opponent wins. Trump, in the final three weeks, is thought to be zeroing in on several key battlegrounds including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina – but the polls suggest his path to the presidency remains narrow, as even once-reliably red states like Texas are being contested by the Clinton campaign.

Trump, slipping in the polls amid various campaign controversies, said at the last debate that Clinton should be in jail – while moderating a press conference for women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. Clinton has blasted Trump all along as temperamentally unfit for office.

Trump accused the media of poisoning people’s minds. He said Mrs Clinton shouldn’t have been allowed to run for president. It was Trump in a bunker, settling scores and lashing out at enemies real and perceived.

For a commentator, the irony with the Trump campaign’s remarks about election rigging is most of them suggest there will be in-person voter impersonation on election day, which studies show is the rarest form of voter fraud. He says the most common forms of voter fraud are election official fraud – either in the form of stuffing ballot boxes, or “losing” ballots – and absentee ballot fraud.

Observations

The American political system, in which two right-wing corporate-controlled parties have long enjoyed a monopoly, is staggering toward the finish line under conditions of a global crisis so deep that no one can be certain what the world will look like when the votes are counted on November 8.

With just 20 days to the election, millennials suggest they’d rather die than vote for the two main parties while Canadians try to keep their neighbors’ spirits up.

The candidates’ third and final debate sets the tone for the homestretch of the 2016 presidential campaign – a race that already stands out as arguably the most personal, caustic and unpredictable White House battle in modern politics.

WikiLeaks has embarrassed the Clinton campaign by releasing thousands of hacked emails purportedly from her campaign chairman’s account. FBI files alleging a State Department official sought a “quid pro quo” to alter the classification on a Clinton server email added to the campaign’s – and Obama government’s – woes.

Media promote imperialism being represented by Hillary. Since the establishment hawks in USA have already decided to make Hillary the successor of Obama, it would be extremely difficult for Trump to win presidency, but nothing is impossible.

The routine US presidential poll campaign formality is over. The third and final debate is finished! The candidates go their separate ways without a handshake. Clinton walks off stage first. Of course, no love lost there, that’s for sure. What would be the fate of Americans?

To date, the controversies have appeared to hurt Trump more than Clinton, who has gradually expanded her lead over the GOP nominee in recent polls.

Media lords want the terror wars to continue and so the Bushdom agenda being pursued vigorously by Obama. Trump’s vulgarity and demagoguery, together with the media’s insatiable appetite for ratings, have made this campaign a race to the bottom. The night’s biggest question won’t be asked by the moderator. The question is: How low can this race go before it’s over?

With media projecting Hillary as the best choice to promote terror wars and Islamophobia, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have clashed in Las Vegas in final debate. Mrs Hillary Clinton vows to uphold women’s and LGBT rights, while Trump pledges to protect gun rights; Trump said he expects a key ruling that made abortion legal in the US to be overturned if president; She says Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Trump elected because he is his puppet;

Polls suggest Clinton is ahead nationally and in key battleground states.

However, Donald Trump gained on Hillary Clinton among American voters off late, cutting her lead nearly in half despite a string of women accusing him of unwanted sexual advances and the furor over his disputed claims that the election process is rigged, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday. Clinton, the Democratic former secretary of state, led Trump 44 percent to 40 percent, according to the Oct. 14-20 poll, a 4-point lead, with the Nov. 8 election fast approaching. That compared with 44 percent for Clinton and 37 percent for Trump in the Oct. 7-13 poll released last week.

If the upward swings and shifts continue Trump would land in White House to control the world. USA would wait for some more years to have their first ever woman president who is honest and sincere, unlike hawkish warmongering Hillary who over exposed as a terror inspired US leader.

The poll was a conspiracy and hence questions on Trump’s unwanted sexual advances scandal were asked of 1,915 American adults, including 546 likely Republican voters. It had a credibility interval of 3 percentage points for all adults and 5 points for Republican voters. Trump’s deficit narrowed to what it was before a video surfaced on Oct. 7 featuring him bragging about groping and kissing women. Several women, supporting Hillary, have since accused him of making unwanted sexual advances in separate incidents from the early 1980s to 2007. Trump has denied the allegations, calling them “totally and absolutely false.”

Hillary Clinton has long been the frontrunner in this contest but there have been times where she has looked far from comfortable. The most recent examples came back-to-back in early September. First, she made headlines by labeling half of Donald Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorable”, allowing her rival to conclude it was evidence of her disdain for “hardworking people”.

Mrs. Clinton had been suffering from pneumonia fuelling further rumours about her health – rumours that some of her critics have been pushing for months. The news about her “sudden illness” helps Hillary in poll rating. Her poll numbers took a noticeable hit in the days that followed, but they appeared to recover towards the end of September.

While both candidates are unfit to be the US president, now Americans have no choice but to vote for one of them. If by mistake they prefer Hillary that would be their hilarious fate. One still hopes something good emerging out of Trump’s mind that would benefit USA and world at large. Polls suggest Clinton is ahead nationally and in key battleground states.

In order to overcome the high level expectations and manipulations, Trump and his advisers should be prudent enough to understand the under current in the campaigns trying to wean away the votes from Trump camp.

The high light of the final debate is that it has witnessed a reformed Trump performing.

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How Uncle Sam views the world by 2040

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How the US is seeing the future world is revealed in a recent report, Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World, published by the National Intelligence Council of the US. This report of political, social and economic estimates is prepared through an integrated process for every incoming President of the USA. For Biden, the report was published in March this year. The world, its politics, economics and societies, is going to change under the forces stemmed in changes in demographic modalities, environmental fluctuations, economic preferences and technological transformations. These together are going to impact on societies, states and international systems which would end in sketching five different futures of the world. Uncle Sam seems to be shaking the world, and this time even more intensely.

Starting off how the forces will interact and intersect, it all begins with the changes in demographics. The developed economies are aging bringing a global slow economic growth whereas the contracting working age will weigh on the economies of these developed countries as Japan and South Korea will reach the median age of 53 and Europe the median age of 47 by 2040. On the other side, in developing countries the converse will be happening as Sub Saharan Africa will reach median age of less than 15 years whereas Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan will reach the median age of 30 years. This seems opportunity but these economies will be challenged to meet the demands of the growing working age populace in their economies with the slow global economic growth remaining constant dragging the societies into  social volatilities while testing the performances of states too.

The forces of environment will leave no country unaffected especially the developing countries that lack in adaptations skills and technologies. The occurrence of heat waves, melting of Arctic, land degradation, water misuses, food insecurity, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels and pollution will erode the ‘human security’ while affecting states and societies, politics and economics coequally. For curtailing environmental threats, countries may apply geoengineering by interacting with the natural system of earth to counteract threats of climate change like releasing the sun’s energy back into space through Solar Radiations Management or Stratospheric Aerosol Injection spraying to cause global dimming. The developed countries especially US and China will see suspicions on sincerely working on environmental threats as this would require economic sacrifices.

In the sphere of Economics, the national debt management will push countries to avoid funding on the issues of environment as they will already be pressed hard for matching the needs of the growing demands of their elderly and younger populations alike. Covid 19 has already left indelible imprints on the economies of the world especially the developing countries two fifths of which, according to 2019 IMF assessment, were at debt distress. Automation and rapidly growing AI will reduce 9 percent global jobs and transform one third by 2040 while at the same time creating massive new technology and automation stemmed jobs which will test the states adaptability to manoeuvring technology. This will have disproportionate effect across the countries and regions. The element of Superstar firms, the new multinationals, will critically affect world economies and make definitive inroads in the affairs of politics.

The technological forces will surpass all other forces in intensity especially with the significant rise of AI and Biotechnology. The US-China rivalry in this sphere will be rampant. AI will disrupt global current workforce while also creating new dimensions of labor compelling the countries to remodel their working force structures. The application of AI in warfare will be on the rise and will be adding a new element to the geopolitical dynamics. AI is well positioned to fly and reach space which will turn the space diplomacy in new form and bring the two global rivals face to face. AI will siphon out the human element of emotions in making decisions having social effects.

As these forces interact, world will see five possible scenarios in which the first three are the prominent.

In the first scenario, it will the US and allies led democracy which will manipulate the world. Being democratic, there will be more space for innovation and the rise of technology with robust public private partnerships will prosperously affect economic growth of the countries. This will enable the states to be responsive to their people’s needs while the same time making adaptations unlike in the repressive regimes of Russian and China whose policies will let them on steady decline.

In the second scenario, it will be China which will be mastering the world arena but not exactly acting like leading it due to its inherent repressive dynamics. This will happen on account of failure of international organizations with least interest paid to them by the major powers. The factors of high national debt, the costs of caring for aging populations, and hazardous environmental occurrences will havoc states’ budgets and keep them away from spending on education, infrastructure, and scientific research. In these circumstances due to the integrally centralist and controlled Chinese centralism will help China gain global attention through its global infrastructure packages and other initiatives. Many countries will thus tilt to the Chinese sidelines.

In the third effectual scenario, it will be a contested coexistence of US and China which will emerge. This will be based on shared economic and growth preferences and agreements.

Much of what is stated in the report must be happening in the world ahead but much of what is left unstated is more critical. Summed up, there will be more instability, pandemics, economic recessions, state conflicts and disorders in the five different worlds that lay ahead.

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Understanding Ronald Regan’s approach to the Cold War

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President and Mrs. Reagan at the 1981 inauguration parade. Image source: Wikipedia

President Ronald Reagan’s ascendency in the political hierarchy of the United States, ending in him becoming the President is often regarded as a triumphant victory by American conservatives. His conception of the world order, domestic and international relations show a reflection of a conservative understanding of issues. His legacy as president remains as having effectively brought down the Soviet Union and the threat of Communism. His policies towards the Soviet Union have a transformative nature, as his understanding and approach to US-Soviet relations changed radically after his first term. Though being a staunch Anti-communist and regarding the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”, he sought to ensure that America and its idea of a “Free World” prevailed and later on, that the two most significant military powers would reach common ground in order to make peace more sustainable.

In studying his approach to tackling the Soviet threat, it’s important to first understand the correlation between the policies adopted by previous administrations and Reagan’s own pursuit of defeating the Communist threat which at the height of the Cold War, threatened to spill into a full-scale conflict between the two regional hegemons. Previous administrations had traditionally approached the threat posed by the Soviet Union with a policy of preventing the collapse of European allies at the hands of the Soviet Union. This included stymieing the spread of Communism across the world and the consistent development of Ballistic missiles in order to deter a Soviet military advance into Europe by providing a “nuclear umbrella” to European Allies.  Before the Reagan administration this policy was in large part accepted as the means through which the Soviet threat could be effectively challenged. President Reagan followed a similar policy by pursuing aggressive military buildup and focusing on development of a vast range of ballistic missile platforms which would act as a comprehensive deterrent in preventing the Soviet decision-making elite to pursue a path unacceptable to US strategists (ARBATOV 2019). Being disillusioned with the far left, his opinions and campaign slogans had strong ideological underpinnings which would later on influence his dealings with the Soviet Union.

 The changes in Reagan’s policy weren’t without the influence of another very important personality, Mikhail Gorbachev. The Soviet leader’s role in Reagan’s change in policy from antagonism to rapprochement is widely claimed by academic scholars as a major contributing factor for the rethink in Reagans approach to Communist Soviet Union. Gorbachev’s revolutionary approach to International Relations was followed by America’s “reactionary response” in the shape of pursuance of arms control and softening of political rhetoric (Fischer 1997). Ronald Reagan second term in office was marked by a change in his policy of pursuing aggressive development of arms and making space-based missile defense systems having the capability of destroying incoming Soviet missiles. The Strategic Defense Initiative was seen by many in the Soviet ranks as a dangerous escalation of arms race which had the potential of transforming into military conflict. (Britannica, T.Editors of Encyclopaedia 2021). Seeing and acknowledging Gorbachev’s new approach as “revolutionary” President Reagan sought to rely on an intense sustained engagement with the Soviet leader in order to achieve what his previous approach had failed to do (Talbott 2004).

Mikhail Gorbachev’s approach to the subject of foreign policy was based on establishing relations with the west and a recalibration of ties with the United States. At the time of the Cold War a large part of the effort by the two nations was to prevent the other state from gaining a definitive edge in the area of technology, military and nuclear weapons. Apart from the ideological conflict the Cold War witnessed many states in the world becoming the conflict grounds in which the US and USSR sought to establish their control and influence. Mikhail Gorbachev’s arrival into the political spectrum and pursuing a policy of peace and prevention of creation of arms was in large part influenced by the domestic environment of his country. The Soviet Union after Brezhnev had a weakened economy due to extensive spending building and maintaining large military industries and sophisticated missile delivery and defense systems. The Russian political elite largely dominated by Russians. Gorbachev’s “restructuring” in order to improve the economic conditions of the state was also followed by a rethink at the foreign policy front. In his famous interview at Harvard University he described how the conditions of repression, arrests and suppression of critical voices against the state were silenced. This led to perestroika which gained support from the Russian masses. (The Harvard Gazette 2004).

The question as to the extent to which the effect of President Reagan and Gorbachev’s relationship caused “reversal” of US foreign policy with regards to the Soviet Union should be considered through different metrics. Firstly it’s important to study how the “Reagan doctrine” which formulated the plan of tackling soviet expansionism into countries across the globe evolved during the time of Reagan’s Presidential terms. Ronald Reagan’s doctrine was a shift from previous administrations approach to the Soviet threat. In what was previously termed as “containment” of Soviet expansionism, Reagan’s approach constituted of a “roll back” of Soviet expansionist forces across the world. From “Afghanistan to Nicaragua” Reagan’s approach was an active effort to subdue Soviet expansionist forces seeking to gain a foothold in important areas such as South Asia and Central Americas. (US Department of State archive 2001). While toning down the harsh rhetoric and signing important arms control treaties, US efforts to prevent Soviet expansionism continued despite a thaw in relations and a warm cordial relationship between the two world leaders. 

Reagan’s original agenda of an aggressive military buildup and development of ballistic missiles saw a reversal during his second term. Both leaders sought to control the arms race and roll back on the creation of such weapons. The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT-1) and other similar treaties was a ‘break away’ from Reagan’s original doctrinal approach. Gorbachev’s willingness to engage in talks was what initiated this change. What is also interesting to note is that despite belonging to radically different ideologies, both leaders shared a similar view on important matters. This is significant as both leaders expressed the desire to regulate arms control and to promote peace.

Another important element is the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which saw an all-out Soviet effort to establish control over the region and reach the warm waters of the Arabian sea. The United States, eying an opportunity and realizing the threat of a possible soviet hold of South Asia, actively supported the Afghan Mujahedeen. Through Pakistan, the US pivotal role resulted in the Soviet forces failing to defeat the guerrilla forces despite huge numbers of troops and highly sophisticated weapon systems. This costly conflict was to prove detrimental to Soviet morale and the economy. After having effectively taken over, Gorbachev became heavily involved in restoring the economy and control over the production of arms between the United States and the Soviet Union. Gorbachev sought to move away from previous Soviet leaders doctrines and open diplomatic channels which would result in the final culmination of the Cold War.

President Ronald Reagan’s presidency was marked with a significant contrast in approaches to the Soviet threat. Having become president, his strong ideological standpoints were the driving forces behind his policies. With the Soviet Union, Reagan’s original approach was that of confronting, condemning and a protectionist mindset. Being a vocal proponent of American values of free speech, liberty and democracy his political campaigns to his televised addresses portrayed the Soviet Union as the principals threat to the very principals that America stood for. Like previous administrations, combating soviet expansionism and attaining global hegemony were prized objectives which defined much of US policies during the first term of President Reagan. His second term however saw a ‘shift’ in part of Reagan’s understanding of greater and more pressing issues at hand which demanded attention. Having originally promoted military spending and development of sophisticated missile weapon systems, Reagan’s view changed by the coming of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Both leaders, seeking initially to control production of arms, sought other means to create an environment more conducive for peace. While motivations differed, there was consensus between the two leaders on important matters which made diplomatic summits productive and resulted in many arms treaties. Both leaders established a relationship of trust and warmth which had largely been unseen since the start of the Cold War. These meetings were then followed by confidence building measures and trips to respective capitals which allowed a further thaw in the relations. Despite continued conflict in other states, both leaders relationship saw a significant reversal in the policies of US under the Reagan administration.

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A Time For Candor: What Have We Learned From The Pandemic?

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“The enemy is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.”

Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1971)

By definition, Covid-19 has been a crisis of biology. Nonetheless, certain core explanations for American death and suffering are discoverable outside the boundaries of medicine and pathology. In essence, at least to the extent that these tangible costs express America’s deeply-rooted antipathy to various considerations of intellect – to what twentieth century philosopher Karl Jaspers would call a “spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth” – we have also been enduring a crisis of philosophy.

               This is not an easy argument to make in the United States. “Philosophy” is a tough term to embrace for an American audience. Prima facie, it is “elitist.” At a minimum, it is (allegedly) impractical, contrived and “highfalutin.” In this country, after all, even the most casual mention of “intellect” or “intellectual” will normally elicit cries of disapproval or howls of execration.

                No “real” American, we have been instructed from the start, should ever be focused on such a needlessly arcane subject matter or pretentiously elevated discourse.

               Big words be damned. Plainly, this a nation of impressively tangible accomplishments, of conspicuous “greatness” and “common sense.” Who needs abstract and disciplined learning, especially when so many philosophers were themselves never “real Americans”?

               Still, truth is exculpatory and any proper answer ought to be prompt, unhesitant and unambiguous. Accordingly, there are times for every nation when history, science and intellect deserve an absolute pride of place. Recalling Plato’s parable of the cave in The Republic, our politics are always just reflection, merely a misleading “shadow” of reality, merely epiphenomenal.

                In the United States, as anywhere else that has built carefully upon millennia of dialectical education, politics can offer only a deformed reflection of what lies more meaningfully below. It is largely because of our collective unwillingness to recognize this telling relationship, and not just a virulent virus per se, that we Americans have now suffered substantially more than a half million pandemic fatalities.

               This lethal unwillingness represents a self-evident result of American anti-intellectualism. Though unverifiable by science-based standards,  it also reveals a palpable vacancy of “soul.”[1]  Sometimes, such less tangible or “soft” problems still warrant very close attention.

               This is one of those times.

               There also remains more to consider. Donald J. Trump is gone, but the crudely retrograde and “common sense” sentiments that first brought him to power endure unabated. Generally lacking the refined intellectual commitments of mind, We the people should not express undue surprise or incredulity at the sheer breadth of our collective failures. Over too many years, the always- seductive requirements of wealth and “success” were casually allowed to become the highest ideal of American life. Among other things, these vaunted requirements turned out to be very high-cost delusions.

               Too-many American debilities remain rooted in “common sense.” Over the years, American well-being and “democracy” have allegedly sprung from an orchestrated posture of engineered consumption. In this steeply confused derivation, our national marching instructions have remained clear and shameless:  “You are what you buy.” It follows from such shameless misdirection that the country’s ever-growing political scandals and failures were the altogether predictable product of a society where anti-intellectual and unheroic lives are actively encouraged. Even more insidiously, American success is measured not by any rational criteria of mind,  compassion and “soul,” but dolefully, mechanically, absent commendable purpose and without any “collective will.”[2]

               There is more. What most meaningfully animates American politics today is not a normally valid interest in progress or survival, but a steadily-escalating fear of personal defeat or private insignificance. Though sometimes most readily apparent at the presidential level, singly, such insignificance can also be experienced collectively, by an entire nation. Either way, its precise locus of origin concerns certain deeply-felt human anxieties about not being valued, about not “belonging,”[3] about not being “wanted at all.”[4]

                For any long-term national renaissance to become serious, an unblemished candor must first be allowed to prevail. Perpetually ground down by the demeaning babble of half-educated pundits and jabbering politicos, We the people are only rarely motivated by elements of real insight or courage. To wit, we are just now learning to understand that our badly injured Constitution was subjected to variously dissembling increments of abrogation, assaults by an impaired head of state who “loved the poorly educated,”[5]  who proudly read nothing, and who yearned not to serve his country,[6] but only to be gratifyingly served by its endlessly manipulated citizens.

               Openly, incontestably, Donald J. Trump abhorred any challenging considerations of law, intellect or independent thought. For the United States, it became a literally lethal and unforgivable combination. At the chaotic end of his self-serving tenure, Trump’s personal defeat was closely paralleled by near-defeat of the entire nation. Lest anyone forget, the catastrophic events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 were designed to undermine or overthrow the rule of Constitutional order in the United States.

               Nothing less.

               There is more. To understand the coinciding horrors of the Corona virus and Trump presidency declensions, we must first look more soberly beyond mere “reflections,” beyond transient personalities and the daily news. Even now, in these United States, a willing-to-think individual is little more than a quaint artifact of some previously-lived or imagined history. At present, more refractory than ever to courage, intellect and learning, our American “mass” displays no decipherable intentions of  taking itself more seriously.[7]

               None at all.

               “Headpieces filled with straw…” is the way poet T S Eliot would have characterized present-day American society. He would have observed, further, an embittered American “mass” or “herd” marching insistently backward, cheerlessly, wittingly incoherent and in potentially pitiful lockstep toward future bouts of lethal epidemic illness. About any corollary unhappiness, let us again be candid.

               It is never a happy society that chooses to drown itself in limitless mountains of drugs and vast oceans of alcohol.

                What’s next for the still-imperiled Republic? Whatever our specific political leanings or party loyalties, We the people have at least restored a non-criminal resident to the American White House.[8] At the same time, our self-battering country still imposes upon its exhausted people the hideously breathless rhythm of a vast and uncaring machine.Before Cocvid-19, we witnessed, each and every day, an endless line of trains, planes and automobiles transporting weary Americans to yet another robotic workday, a day too-often bereft of any pleasure or reward or of hope itself.  Now there is good reason for greater day-to-day political hope, and for this we should be grateful.

               But there is still no American “master plan” for a suitably transformed national consciousness.

               “I think therefore I am,” announces Descartes, but what exactly do I think?”

               Answers come quickly top mind. Even now, We the people lack any unifying sources of national cohesion except for celebrity sex scandals, local sports team loyalties, inane conspiracy theories and the comforting but murderous brotherhoods of war.[9] As for the more than seven million people stacked cheek to jowl in our medieval prisons,  two-thirds of those released will return to crime and mayhem. Simultaneously, the most senior and recognizable white collar criminals – in part, those Trump-era sycophants who managed to effortlessly transform personal cowardice into a religion – can look forward to lucrative book contracts. These agreements are for manuscripts that they themselves are intellectually unfit to write.

                We Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once we displayed a unique potential to nurture individuals to become more than just a “mass,”  “herd” or “crowd.”[10] Then, Ralph Waldo Emerson had described us as a people animated by industry and self-reliance, not by moral paralysis, fear and trembling.  Friedrich Nietzsche would have urged Americans to “learn to live upon mountains” (that is, to becomewillfully thinking individuals), but today an entire nation remains grudgingly content with the very tiniest of elevations.

               In Zarathustra, Nietzsche warned decent civilizations never to seek the “higher man”[11] at the “marketplace,” but that is where America first discovered Donald J. Trump.

               What could have gone wrong? Trump was, after all, very rich. How then could he possibly not be smart and virtuous? Perhaps, as Reb Tevye remarks famously in Fiddler on the Roof, “If you’re rich they think you really know.”

                There is more. Many could never really understand Vladimir Lenin’s concept of a “useful idiot,” or the recently-pertinent corollary that an American president could become the witting marionette of his Russian counterpart. But, again, truth is exculpatory. The grievously sordid derelictions we Americans were forced to witness at the end of the Trump presidency resembled The Manchurian Candidate on steroids.

               And in what was perhaps the most exquisite irony of this destructive presidency, the very same people who stood so enthusiastically behind their man in the White House had themselves been raised with the fearful idea of a protracted Cold War and ubiquitous “Russian enemy.”

               “Credo quia absurdum,” said the ancient philosopher Tertullian. “I believe because it is absurd.”

               The true enemy currently faced by the United States is not any one individual person or ideology, not one political party or another. It is rather We the People. As we may learn further from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: “The worst enemy you can encounter will always be you, yourself; you will lie in wait for yourself in caves and woods.” And so we remain, even today, poised fixedly against ourselves and against our survival, battered by an unprecedented biological crisis nurtured by the former US president’s unforgivable policy forfeitures.

                Bottom line? In spite of our proudly clichéd claim to “rugged individualism,” we Americans are shaped not by any exceptional capacity but by harshly commanding patterns of cowardly conformance. Busily amusing ourselves to death with patently illiterate and cheap entertainments, our endangered American society fairly bristles with annoying jingles, insistent hucksterism, crass allusions and telltale equivocations. Surely, we ought finally to inquire:  Isn’t there more to this long-suffering country than abjured learning, endless imitation and an expansively manipulating commerce? Whatever we might choose to answer, the available options are increasingly limited.

                “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,” observed the Transcendentalist poet Walt Whitman, but now, generally, the self-deluding American Selfis created by stupefying kinds of “education,”[12]  by far-reaching patterns of tastelessness and by a pervasive national culture of unceasing rancor and gratuitous obscenity.

                There are special difficulties. Only a rare “few” can ever redeem courage and intellect in America,[13] but these quiet souls usually remain well hidden, even from themselves. One will never discover them engaged in frenetic and agitated self-advertisement on television or online. Our necessary redemption as a people and aa a nation can never be generated from among the mass, herd or crowd. There is a correct way to fix our fractionating country, but not while We the people insistently inhabit various pre-packaged ideologies of anti-thought and anti-Reason, that is, by rote, without “mind” and without integrity.[14]

               Going forward, inter alia, we must  finally insist upon expanding the sovereignty of a newly courageous and newly virtuous[15] citizenry. In this immense task, very basic changes will first be needed at the level of microcosm, the level of the individual human person.  Following the German Romantic poet Novalis’ idea that to become a human being is essentially an art (“Mensch werden ist eine Kinst“), the Swiss-German author/philosopher Hermann Hesse reminds us that every society is a cumulative expression of utterly unique individuals. In this same regard, Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung goes even further, claiming, in The Undiscovered Self (1957), that every society represents “the sum total of individual souls seeking redemption.”[16]

               One again, as in our earlier references to Sigmund Freud, the inherently “soft” variable of “soul” is suitably acknowledged.

               Looking to history and logic, it would be very easy to conclude that the monumental task of intellectual and moral reconstruction lies well beyond our normal American capacities. Nonetheless, to accede to such a relentlessly fatalistic conclusion would be tantamount to irremediable collective surrender. This could be unconscionable. Far better that the citizens of a sorely imperiled United States grasp for any still-residual sources of national and international unity, and exploit this universal font for both national and international survival.

               We have been considering the effects of an “unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.”[17] During the past several years, huge and conspicuous efforts have been mounted to question the “cost-effectiveness” of an American college education. These often-shallow efforts ignore that the core value of a university degree lies not in its projected purchasing power, but in disciplined learning for its own sake. When young people are asked to calculate the value of such a degree in solely commercial terms, which is the case today, they are being asked to ignore both the special pleasures of a serious education (e.g., literature, history, art, music, philosophy, etc.) and the cumulative benefits of genuine learning to a mature and viable democracy.

               These commerce-based requests are shortsighted. Had these benefits been widely understood long before the 2016 presidential election, the United States might never have had to endure the multiplying horrors of Covid-19 and of variously still-heightened risks of a nuclear war. Only by understanding this underlying point about learning and education could Americans ever correctly claim that they have learned what is most important from the pandemic.

               On its face, such a claim would have potentially existential import. Wanting to partake of authentic truth rather than reflections or shadows, it ought never be minimized or disregarded. At some stage, the costs of any such forfeited understanding could be immeasurable.


[1] Freud was always darkly pessimistic about the United States, which he felt was “lacking in soul” and a place of great psychological misery or “wretchedness.” In a letter to Ernest Jones, Freud declared unambiguously: “America is gigantic, but it is a gigantic mistake.” (See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (1983), p. 79.

[2] The origin of this term in modern philosophy lies in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration (and by his own expressed acknowledgment), Schopenhauer drew freely upon Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely (and perhaps still more importantly) upon Schopenhauer. Goethe also served as a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the prophetic work, The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very grand essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the occasion of the centenerary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948) and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[3]The extent to which some young Americans are willing to go to “belong” can be illustrated by certain recent incidents of college students drinking themselves to death as part of a fraternity hazing ritual. Can there be anything more genuinely pathetic than a young person who would accept virtually any such measure of personal debasement and risk in order to “fit in”?

[4] “It is getting late; shall we ever be asked for?” inquires the poet W H Auden in The Age of Reason. “Are we simply not wanted at all?”

[5] Said candidate Donald Trump in 2016, “I love the poorly educated.” This strange statement appears to echo Third Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels at Nuremberg rally in 1935:  “Intellect rots the brain.”

[6] This brings to mind the timeless observation by Creon, King of Thebes, in Sophocles’ Antigone: “I hold despicable, and always have anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.”

[7] “The mass-man,” we may learn from Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset (The Revolt of the Masses, 1930), “has no attention to spare for reasoning; he learns only in his own flesh.”

[8] In this connection, cautions Sigmund Freud: “Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great roles at all times in the history of mankind, and not merely when the accident of birth had bequeathed them sovereignty. Usually, they have wreaked havoc.”

[9] War, of course, is arguably the most worrisome consequence of an anti-intellectual and anti-courage American presidency. For the moment, largely as a result of the intellectually dissembling Trump presidency, the most plausible geographic area of concern would be a nuclear war with North Korea. https://mwi.usma.edu/theres-no-historical-guide-assessing-risks-us-north-korea-nuclear-war/

[10] “The crowd,” said Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “is untruth.” Here, the term “crowd” is roughly comparable to C.G. Jung’s “mass,” Friedrich Nietzsche’s “herd” and Sigmund Freud’s “horde.”

[11]We can reasonably forgive the apparent sexism of this term, both because of the era in which it was offered and because the seminal European philosopher meant this term to extend to both genders.

[12] In an additional irony, these already unsatisfactory kinds of education will be supplanted by even more intrinsically worthless forms of learning. Most notable, in this regard, is the almost wholesale shift to online education, a shift made more necessary and widespread by the Covid-19 disease pandemic, but unsatisfactory nonetheless.

[13] The term is drawn here from the Spanish existential Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, especially his classic The Revolt of the Masses (1930).

[14] “There is no longer a virtuous nation,” warns the poet William Butler Yeats, “and the best of us live by candlelight.”

[15] As used by ancient Greek philosopher Plato, the term “virtuous” includes elements of wisdom and knowledge as well as morality.

[16] Carl G. Jung eagerly embraced the term “soul” following preferences of Sigmund Freud, his one-time mentor and colleague. Also, says Jung in The Undiscovered Self (1957): “The mass crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible with the individual, and this necessarily leads to doctrinaire and authoritarian tyranny if ever the constitutional State should succumb to a fit of weakness.”

[17]Although this present consideration has been offered as a pièce d’occasion, it also has much wider conceptual applications and implications.

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