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Will new US President be capable of reforming a petrified America?

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The 2016 presidential poll is taking place as Americans have begun to think about a possible political systemic a change and new world order to move away from unilateralism, unipolarity and exploitation towards real democracy and collective work for freedom and happiness – unheard of in any capitalist nation.

At the outset, neither Trump nor Hillary is capable fo making anew reformed and enlightened America and they would only continue with Bush-Obama policies of invasions and militarism. In that sense Americans are unlucky lot.

Most US leaders think Hillary can bring more resources to the nation than Trump by terror wars. That is not the strength but weakness.

Presidential debates are mere gimmicks?

Debates in US presidential poll campaign are just a formality and what the candidates say would not have any relevance for the presidency as the presidents are controlled by capitalist-imperialist lobbyists, war monger intelligence-Pentagon, and mainly regulated for pro-Israel policies by the Jewish members of Neocons.

Particularly the final presidential debate, meant to make the presidential candidates to come to terms with the rising demands on USA, did not discuss anything about some of the most pressing concerns Americans as well as the world face, like climate change, terror wars as permanent war feature, poverty and corruption and campaign finance.

World wars and the so-called cold war with Soviet Russia made USA what it is today, the super power that can bully any nation that does not obey its instructions, follows its footsteps. Perhaps for this reason USA does not want to stop criticizing and attacking Russia. As the effective boss of UN and UNSC, NATO, G-7, World Bank and IMF, etc, strangest and loudest campaigner of so-called democracy, USA has been able to retain its control over the world and press its global prowess into action to weaken any nation.

The final debate moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, faced questions on debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots and the candidates’ genuinity and fitness to be president. These topics have already been widely covered in previous debates. According to an analysis of the first two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, there has been a “significant emphasis on Russia, terrorism and taxes.” So far, those topics have received a whopping 409 mentions combined, with 77 of those dedicated to Trump’s own taxes.

1. How to end terror wars, essentially on Islam?

2. How to recast a normal foreign policy for promoting world peace and genuine democracy?

3. How to put an end to media Islamophobia trends?

4. How to solve the dangerous climate change?

5. How to attack poverty and save the poor and under privileged? Much more.

Climate change, poverty and campaign finance reform are just three issues the mainstream media has refused to raise questions about in the debates. Also, both the candidates and media are silent on issues like China, gun control, education, student debt, voting rights, drugs, abortion, and reproductive health, NSA/privacy/surveillance, Native Americans.

Global warming directly threatens economy and capitalism. According to a World Economic Forum survey of global experts in 2016 global warming tops the list of potential threats to the global economy. But this issue has been mentioned three times in the debates (by Hillary Clinton, in passing. According to Pew Research the people are concerned about climate change, with 73 percent of all registered US voters saying they care either “a great deal” or “some” about the issue,. Fifty-two percent of registered voters say the environment is “very important” to their voting decision in 2016.

Donald Trump is a climate denier and has said on his medium of choice that global warming was “created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive. Trump has pledged to undo the Obama’s climate initiatives, including the Paris climate agreement and the Clean Power Plan, which would require power plants to clean up their emissions. Trump has also vowed to expand fossil-fuel exploration.” Clinton has a detailed plan for combating climate change on her website, with the promise of “taking on the threat of climate change and making America the world’s clean energy superpower.” While she has gained a number of endorsements from leading climate groups, her acceptance of natural gas as a so-called bridge fuel disturbs some, including 350.org, which says it’s “just a fast lane to more climate destruction.”

Treacherous politics of poverty

It is not just the third world but even the developed nations have poverty, both known and covert. Despite over 45 million Americans currently living in poverty, not a single question has been asked about that either, and the issue has barely been mentioned. In fact, Democrats had no questions on poverty in any of their primary debates. That is because Democrats have taken, along with terror wars, the burden of poverty as well prompted by Republicans as well as their own. Child poverty rates in the United States, at 21.6 percent, are nearly double the OECD average of 12.4 percent. Before running for president, Jewish leader Bernie Sanders, who still claims to be a socialist, called poverty one of the “great moral and economic issues” that Americans we face. He wrote that after the Census revealed that the number of Americans living in poverty had increased to over 46 million, the highest number ever (it has since dropped to 43 million). “Poverty in America today leads not only to anxiety, unhappiness, discomfort and a lack of material goods. It leads to death,” Sanders said. But the candidates have faced not one question on a deep problem that affects so many. Sanders writes, poverty is rarely covered by the mainstream media and “gets even less attention in Congress.” While running for president, Sanders criticized Clinton for her support of welfare reform that Bill Clinton enacted in 1996.

The latest hacked Clinton emails show that in the 2016 primary Clinton’s aides were wary of ideas that could alienate centrist and conservative voters who are skeptical of welfare. Despite the fact that nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will someday themselves experience the official poverty line.

People would love to see the presidential candidates discuss their plans for combating poverty. Trump talks about poverty, about creating more jobs, which he aims to achieve by cutting taxes and government regulations and renegotiating trade deals to bring more jobs back to America. He’s also called for a new tax plan to help defray child care costs for working parents. Clinton has detailed plans to fight poverty on her website, including: expanding the tax credit for children; doubling Early Head Start spending; providing universal preschool for 4-year-olds; subsidizing child care; increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour; and investing tens of billions of dollars in poor communities, including for housing and job training. To pay for her proposals, she would increase taxes on the wealthy, but she won’t do it. .

Campaign Finance and fundraising

Since the common folk and the poor certainly don’t make large campaign contributions, they don’t have powerful lobbyists in Congress and Senate representing their interests. Everything is planned and executed in USA for the rich and those who “generously” give money to the candidates during the immoral fund raising. Eighty-four percent of Americans think money has too much influence in their political campaigns. But moderators have asked not one question about it, and there’s only been one mention so far in the debates.

USA promotes lobbyists to make money from foreign nations and companies.’ This is the root cause of rampant corruption and nepotism in America.

Clinton and Trump have raised a jaw-dropping $911 million and $423 million respectively, including money from super PACs. In state and local races across the country, donors have poured more than $1 billion so far this year.

Trump said he supports campaign finance reform that would keep registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in US elections. He also announced a number of proposals for reforming the revolving doors between government and the interests that they lobby. The one campaign finance mention in the debates Hillary Clinton said, perhaps without any serious intent that she wants to “see the Supreme Court reverse Citizens United and get dark, unaccountable money out of our politics.” The story by Lee Fang and Andrew Perez “Hacked emails prove coordination between Clinton Campaign and Super PACs” shows consistent, repeated efforts by the Clinton campaign to collaborate with Super PACs on strategy, research, attacks on political adversaries and fundraising.” That’s against the rules of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center announced earlier this month that it had filed two sets of complaints with the Federal Election Commission, charging that both the Trump and Clinton campaigns have improperly coordinated with super PACs. USA clearly cannot overcome the phenomenon of rampant corruption in all domains.

Terror wars launched by the foolishly arrogant USA in energy rich Muslim nations have further narrowed down the space for genuine cooperation, peace efforts and promotion of freedoms in US policies.

The continued support for Israeli fanaticism and colonialist crimes in Palestine has dented the prestige of USA more than anything else. In fact it is the US policy for Israel and the latter’s ideas about a new world order where Israel’s threats to Arab world, its crimes and genocides in Palestine are respected that has complicated and weakened US efforts for secured world.

Israel controls and attacks not just the Gaza Strip but even areas in West bank. The UN human rights rapporteur has accused Israel of denying Palestine’s right to development thus causing rampant poverty, “epic” unemployment and economic stagnation, while illegal settlement activity is leaving hundreds of Palestinians homeless this year alone. Over 1,100 people have been left homeless so far this year in Area C of the West Bank, as Israel demolished some 780 Palestinian homes. Area C is fully controlled by Israel and comprises of some 60 percent of the total territory in the West Bank. It is the area where the Jewish settlements – illegal under international law – are located.

So far this year, Israel has destroyed 780 homes there, compared to 453 demolitions that were conducted in 2015. Last year’s demolitions left some 580 Palestinians homeless, while this year 1,129 people were left without a roof over their heads.

In addition, the publication noted that further 125 Palestinian homes were also demolished in East Jerusalem since the start of the year. Last year’s figures stood at 78 home demolitions. As a result, 164 Palestinians were left homeless this year in East Jerusalem. In 2015, that figure stood at 108 people.

Overall, more half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority considers West Bank to be a part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Illegal occupation remains one of the main stumbling blocks on the way to achieve a two-state solution with Israel.

A day earlier, as part of the Israeli government’s ‘carrot and stick’ policy, the country’s security cabinet reportedly approved a series of Palestinian building plans in Area C. The Deepening of the occupation, the constriction of basic human rights and the utter absence of a political horizon leading to self-determination for the Palestinians have reinforced an atmosphere of despair and hopelessness “Poverty is rising. Unemployment is rising to epic levels. Food insecurity is becoming more acute. The Palestinian economy is becoming more stifled and less viable under the occupation,” Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said delivering his report to the UN General Assembly in New York.

US/NATO unilateralism vs. Multilateralism

The 2016 presidential election has left a strong impression of the USA as a fractured, gloomy nation. According to the latest American Values Survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans say neither major party represents them, while 74 percent are pessimistic about the country’s direction – up from 57 percent just four years ago. Nearly three-fourths say the country is either stagnating or falling behind, according to a Time magazine poll. Even among young adults under 30, more than half are fearful for the future. This mood of pessimism requires that the winners of the election listen to the views of people who think differently from them.

An argument advancing globally that the American-led Western order of governance and economics is on the wane. When the Philippines’ tough-guy President Rodrigo Duterte announced in Beijing last week that “America has lost” and that he was “separating” from the USA to align with a rising China, it could only send a clear message to the world about the current weak status of superpower. Yet, US leaders cannot leave out Israel – the major cause of its decline.

Within Western so-called democracies – from Britain to the US itself – people are disillusioned with the their systems that promotes only capitalism and colonialism, care only for the rich and corporate interests, resulting in reactionary populist movements are pushing back against the rotten rules and systems that have stayed for decades. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is feeling betrayal by USA. In “autocratic” countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, leaders feeling badgered by the USA over human rights are turning to China and Russia, too.

As America has become a less-dominant presence in the world, the countries that have risen to play a larger role are broadly “democratic” and adhering to free-market norms – from Turkey to Japan to India, South Africa, and Australia. Moreover, China and Russia have been seeking to expand their influence for years as America has been forced to withdraw somewhat from its leading role. But the “authoritarian market state” has not drawn many converts.

The world order launched following the end of a disastrous World War Two, making USA the richest nation on earth and the current picture, can be seen as the birth pangs of a new world order ¬– less Western-centric and still retaining the old order’s foundation of democracy and liberal economics. Organized movements like the tea party or Black Lives Matter don’t fade away if they lose an election. They often morph into affirmative and local action.

Americans are in a period of struggle between democratic governance and a more authoritarian vision of rule both nationally and internationally. People feel that their culture and identity are under threat; they sense that governing systems are no longer working, and they want some strong response to that.

Post WW-II world has been fully controlled and regulated by the USA. Now the Western-built system of international order is no longer serving the world’s needs. The USA and Europe are less willing to intervene when other parts of the world are unable to respond effectively to conflicts and other global challenges. That has meant a decline in Western influence. Indeed, 500 years of the West ordering the world is at an end, and that sounds terrible. And, broadly speaking, the emerging multipolar global order is largely based on the principles that the West espoused. And, a decline of dependence on the part of independent nations!

Americans have seen these alternative means of civic engagement show up on the margins of politics. New communities have formed, often on the internet, around local food, alternative energy, home-schooling, or work sharing. Americans don’t simply stew in political resentment. They create new paths, outside official democracy, to find people of similar interests and values. The Digital Age has accelerated this trend to redefine what is public. It can also mean understanding how Americans are turning their disappointment with politics into new forms of civic activity. If they are not finding the social goods they seek through elections, they must be looking for them elsewhere.

These alternative civic bonds do not merely fill the gaps of government services. They can create whole new communities, cutting across the traditional political divisions. Yes, Americans “must always believe that they can write their own destiny.” These are based on hope, not gloom. The 2016 election winners does indeed have work to do in listening to the currents of American society that are moving ahead on their own. A good leader tries to run ahead of the people in the direction they are going. This shift is happening as the global systems established by the West face unusual headwinds.

Observation

In the name of democracy and regime change, USA has promoted only authoritarians. And it’s not just countries that are more or less new to the club of Western principles. For instance, more than a quarter of French citizens are prepared to accept a more authoritarian state, according to a recent survey. In the USA, critics see a war mongering and arrogant Clinton, the rise of Donald Trump – who has spoken openly of reining in press freedoms, intimidated judges, and taken a generally bellicose tone – as a turn toward a strongman-like figure.

After 70 years of a world order that has been built by the West on the architecture of Western values, it is certainly striking… how much liberalism is on the retreat – everywhere.

America and the West must withdraw from being world policemen and a new breed of global strongmen are trying to take over leadership, Russia and China topping the list. Many countries now rising to prominence claim they do share America’s core values. American ally seemingly eschew the long-dominant Western order of democratic principles and free-market economics to embrace a more authoritarian and state-driven vision of economic and political rule.

Now the new president could, if he wants and has the will, can play a lead role in reforming a new world order of multilateralism and genuine justice.

Americans can no longer leave the electoral process to the two parties or the media conglomerates with who they’re in cahoots. The stakes are too high. But Americans do not have more than just two candidate choices and have to abide by the conventions. The American political mood is dark and pessimistic just now. This will force those elected in November to listen even more to those they oppose. What they find may surprise them.

Frustrated populations are increasingly tempted by strong alternatives to the status quo, the diplomat says. Internationally, a breakdown of the long-reigning Western order is prompting the Russians and Chinese to promote multilateralism- a new version of international relations on their side. But China and Russia have made little headway. Already at the time of the international financial crisis, the Chinese were putting out that their system was better than the American democratic system. The financial crisis saw the emergence of the multipolar G20 where once the all-Western G7 had reigned. But it did not lead to a world signing on to China’s model of govern

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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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