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US presidency poll 2016: Will Trump emerge victorious?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap]mericans 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 2016 presidential poll to elect the most suited person to guide the nation and world at large, is taking place as Americans, fed up with terror wars and erratic climatic disorders, have begun to think about a possible political systemic change rather than regime change and a new world order to move away from militarism, 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 of 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The presidential candidates, if they sincere about future of Americans and humanity, should have concentrated on the following issues:

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, of course!

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 just has a detailed plan for combating climate change, with the promise of “taking on the threat of climate change and making America the world’s clean energy superpower.” But ways and means are not discussed by her. 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.”

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.”

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 face. The Census revealed that the number of Americans living in poverty had increased to over 46 million, the highest number ever. “Poverty in America today leads not only to anxiety, unhappiness, discomfort and a lack of material goods. It leads to death,” Sanders said.

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; 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

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

Therefore, USA clearly cannot overcome the phenomenon of rampant corruption in all domains.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. 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 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.

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 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.

Like Israeli establishment, US establishment also generally decides who should be the next president and what should be his agenda, and they work for that end, it is still seen busy with a Hillary win and Trump defeat. Clinton has become the coSunday, November 06, 2016nsensus 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.

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. 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 Link, 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

Unilateralism, represented by USA is challenged by multilateralism of Russia, backed by China and a few others has landed Americans in perpetual troubles. Americans are unhappy. 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. The American-led Western order of governance and economics is on the wane. 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.

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. 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.

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. 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 and multilateralism – 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 US 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The US poll looks like an establishment conspiracy against Trump and hence questions on Trump’s unwanted sexual advances scandal. 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. 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.” Why has Hillary and her party have resorted to cheap politics? 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.

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.

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.

Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week. 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. But today the trend has again changed favoring Trump by one percent. If the upward swings and shifts continue Trump would land in White House to control the world.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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?

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. 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. Hillary is surely unfit to lead Americans and world.

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Joe Biden and his first contradictory foreign policy moves

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Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Those who thought that the elderly American President, formerly Barack Obama’s vice-President, would step into the international limelight as the wise and moderate statesman he had been during the election campaign have had to revise their judgement.

Just a few weeks after taking office, Joe Biden abruptly brought the United States back onto the Middle East stage with a dual political-military move that has aroused considerable perplexity and protest in the United States and abroad.

As Pentagon spokesman John Kirby pointed out, the first surprise move decided directly by the President was to order an aerial bombardment against two bases of militiamen believed to be close to Hezbollah and Iran, located in Syria near the border with Iraq.

Between 22 and 27 people, whether militiamen or civilians, are reported to have died in the attack, which took place during the night of February 25.

The order to strike the pro-Iranian militias was motivated by Biden’s need to react to an attack in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, at the beginning of February against a U.S. army logistics base, which resulted in the death of a Filipino employee of the base.

Commenting on the incident, Pentagon spokesman Kirby said: “The airstrikes have destroyed warehouses and buildings used on the border by pro-Iranian militias Kathaib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al Shuhaba and have conveyed the unambiguous message that President Biden will always act to protect American personnel. At the same time, the action is intended to deliberately pursue the goal of de-escalating tension in both eastern Syria and Iraq’.

Apart from the fact that it sounds ambiguous to justify a surprise attack on the territory of a (still) sovereign State like Syria with the need to “reduce tension” in the region, President Biden’s initiative has aroused not a few perplexities also in the United States, in addition to the obvious protests of the government in Damascus.

While many Republican Senators and Congressmen have approved of Biden’s actions because, as Republican Senator Pat Toomey has argued, “Biden has the right to respond with weapons to the recent attacks supported by Iran against American interests”, members of his own party have not hidden their criticism and perplexity because allegedly the President did not respect the exclusive prerogatives of Congress in terms of “war actions”.

Democratic Senator Tim Kane was very harsh and explicit: “an offensive military action without Congressional approval is unconstitutional”.

His colleague from the same party, Chris Murphy, told CNN that “military attacks require Congressional authorization. We must require that this Administration adheres to the same behavioural standards we have required from previous Administrations…

We require that there be always legal justification for every American military initiative, especially in a theatre like Syria, where Congress has not authorised any military initiative”.

With a view to underlining the inconsistency of the White House’s justification that the attacks were to ‘reduce tension’ in the region, Democratic Congressman Ro Khana publicly stepped up criticism by saying, “We need to get out of the Middle East. I spoke out against Trump’s endless war and I will not shut up now that we have a Democratic President”.

As we can see, the criticism levelled at President Biden has been harsh and very explicit, thus marking the premature end of the ‘honeymoon’ between the Presidency and Congress that, in the U.S. tradition, marks the first hundred days of each new Administration.

President Biden’s military show of strength appears to be marked not only by the doubts over constitutionality raised by leading members of his own party, but also by the contradictory nature of the motivations and justifications.

According to the White House, in view of reducing tension in Syria, bombers need to be sent, without prejudice to the need to “convey a threatening signal” to Iran, at the very moment when the President himself is declaring he wants to reopen the “nuclear deal” with Iran, i.e.  the dialogue on the nuclear issue abruptly interrupted by his predecessor.

In short, the new President’s opening moves in the Middle East region do not seem to differ too much from those of his predecessors who, like him, thought that military action – even bloody and brutal – could always be considered a useful option as a substitute for diplomacy.

This military action, however, seems scarcely justifiable in its motivations if it is true that President Biden intends to reduce the tension in relations with Iran, which have become increasingly tense due to initiatives such as those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who at the beginning of last year ordered the assassination of the highest-ranking member of the Iranian military hierarchy, Qassem Suleimani, who was shot by a drone near Baghdad.

President Biden’s other move that, in a delicate and sensitive theatre such as the Near East, appears at least untimely, was to authorise CIA to declassify the report on the assassination of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, killed in 2018 on the premises of the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

The CIA report bluntly accuses Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of ordering the murder of the dissident journalist. Its publication, authorised by President Biden, has sparked a storm of controversy inside and outside the United States, thus seriously calling into question the strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which over the years has been painstakingly built with the dual aim of counterbalancing Iran’s presence and influence in the Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as well as controlling the extremist impulses of rich and dangerous regional partners such as Qatar.

Prince Bin Salman, now firmly established as sole heir to the Saudi throne, is a compulsory counterpart of the United States.

In vain (and recklessly), President Biden has publicly declared his preference for a direct dialogue with King Salman.

The 85-year-old King, however, is not only in poor health conditions, but has also clearly told the Americans that he has the utmost confidence in “his sole and legitimate heir” to whom he has already actually delegated the management of the Kingdom’s affairs.

President Biden’s Administration, and its new Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, have never made a secret of preferring another Crown Prince as a potential counterpart, namely Mohammed Bin Nayef, who is very close to CIA thanks to the good offices of the former Chief of the Saudi intelligence services, Saad Al Jabry. Nevertheless, in the complicated world of the Saudi Court, things do not always proceed in the simple and straightforward way preferred by the Americans.

Mohammed Bin Najef is currently in prison on corruption charges and is therefore definitely out of the race for the throne, while his CIA liaison, Al Jabry, has self-exiled to Canada to escape the ‘persecution’ he believes has been orchestrated by the Saudi courtiers.

If the United States wants to keep on playing a role in the Middle East and possibly exercising a stabilising function in a region which was greatly destabilised by George W. Bush’s unfortunate Iraqi adventure, which effectively handed Iraq over to the Shi’ites close to their Iranian “brothers” and gave Iran the keys to control the Persian Gulf, the President and his Secretary of State will have to rely on a good dose of political realism, leaving out of the dialogue with Saudi Arabia the ethical considerations which, although justified, do not seem appropriate, also because America has never seemed to have had many scruples when it comes to physically eliminating its ‘adversaries’ with very hasty methods, be they an Iranian general, two dozen unidentified Syrian militiamen or their relatives.

In short, the early stages of Biden’s Presidency do not look very promising. Allies and adversaries alike are waiting for the United States to get back on the field in the most sensitive areas with pragmatism and realism, two factors that seem rather lacking in Joe Biden’s preliminary foreign policy moves.

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Biden’s Syria strikes don’t make him a centrist Democrat – they make him a neocon

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Biden’s Syria strikes last week left many of his supporters, including me, surprised.

The Syria strikes don’t make Biden the centrist Democrat that we knew we were getting – they make him a neocon. 22 Syrians died as a result, as the US forces aimed at Iran-backed militias in Syria in an attempt to take down adversaries – not to disturb an imminent attack on civilians or to stop genocide, for example.

My own initial analysis of Biden’s foreign policy outlook pinned him as a classical Democrat, but his first moves put him further and well beyond the center to the right than what generally defines a classical foreign policy Democrat. 

Humanitarian reasons as a justification for the use of force is what separates hawkish centrist Democrats from the neocons on the right. And that’s not a small difference. For neocons, spreading democracy and regime change suffices. But that’s not the case for Democrats. The Biden Administration knows this very well. That’s why what counts as “humanitarian” in Syria is key for the Biden Administration and that’s why “humanitarian” is getting a very ugly, tortured reading in the first State Department statements. This week the State Department’s Spokesperson Ned Price tweeted that the State Department commemorates the one year anniversary of the death of 33 Turkish soldiers who “lost their lives protecting innocent Syrian civilians in Idlib from the brutality of the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers”.

As a quick refresher, Turkey entered Kurdish northern Syria after Donald Trump gave Turkish leader Erdogan the green light to settle his score with the Kurds who were bravely fighting ISIS in Syria as American allies. That was back in late 2019. Then Erdogan overplayed his hand by entering a completely new Syrian province with no Kurds in order to expand Turkish presence in Syria. At the time, Erdogan turned to his party with the words: “we are now the hosts here”, indicating that Erdogan thought that he was running the show in the newly invaded Syrian province. Russian President Vladimir Putin then taught Erdogan a lesson by striking the Turkish base and killing 33 Turkish soldiers in a preview of what was in store for Turkey if Erdogan forgot who actually calls the shots in Syria. At no point in time, were the Turkish soldiers on a humanitarian mission, as represented by the US. Turkey clearly invaded Kurdish Syria to displace and settle score with the Kurds, flattening and erasing whole villages, and then continued south into uncharted, not Kurdish territories before it got a slap on the wrist by Putin. Erdogan then had to go to Moscow to give explanations and bow to Putin in an attempt to patch things up.

This is why the State Department’s reading of what happened is truly troubling. The State Department not only closed its eyes to Turkish human rights violations but now even tries to represent and commemorate them as humanitarian and good. That is ugly and dangerous. And it’s a blatant lie.

The Biden Administration’s first moves show that Biden is mostly likely forgetting who elected him and why. This is not what the progressive left that put him in office signed up for. One month in is too soon to be already disappointing fans and supporters.

The Biden Administration’s foreign policies will be similar to Trump’s policies but what’s more dangerous is that they will be couched in hypocritical, polished human rights and humanitarian rhetoric lauding big human rights abusers as well-intentioned humanitarians. I don’t know who I prefer then – the straight-forward Trump with whom what you get is what you see in foreign policy and who was easy to criticize because he stated his intentions clearly, or the professionally seasoned and refined Biden who is much better at dressing his true policies in hypocritical narratives that serve as a smokescreen for the slowly crystallizing idea that in foreign policy, Biden is just a more polished Trump.

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Charting an American Return to Reason: Nuclear Policy Goals on North Korea

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“All our dignity consists in thought….It is upon this that we must depend…Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.”Blaise Pascal, Pensées

The Primacy of Intellect

On matters of United States foreign and defense policy, it is high time to return to Reason.[1] Why a “return?” During his four years as president, Donald J. Trump created an almost seamless web of policy derelictions and corresponding failures. In this humiliating history of calculated Unreason, Trump’s strategic declensions were the result of both witting dissemblance and outright irrationality.[2]

               Naturally, some of these evident failures were substantially worse than others. Of special concern today must be the former president’s error-marked postures concerning North Korea. Over time, though perhaps still not widely evident, these accumulated liabilities could produce intolerable outcomes. Where they would involve any sort of nuclear exchange, such failures could be altogether irremediable.[3]

               Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosopher, “I believe because it is absurd.”[4] Donald J. Trump’s core misunderstandings of North Korea began with his misconceived primacy of personal leadership relationships. Most plainly, right after their 2018 Singapore Summit, Trump gushed about his new-found Pyongyang “partner,” Kim Jong Un:

                “We fell in love.”[5]

               There is more. Foreign policy can be metaphor. In global politics, as in life generally, grievous missteps can prove cumulative. And often, in world diplomacy, vital policy roots can prove to be refractory and difficult to excise. Insidiously, in such always-intricate matters, past policy failures do not simply become benign.

               From the start, Trump’s curious preference for “attitude” over “preparation” fostered serious derogations of American influence and power.[6] To wit, while this president was cheerfully celebrating Kim Jong Un’s alleged “love,” the North Korean leader was actively expanding and modernizing his country’s nuclear arsenals. In essence, these expansions/refinements created variously destabilizing ripples in our presently anarchic and prospectively chaotic world system.[7]

               Unlike certain other US adversaries such as Iran, which are not yet “atomic,” North Korea is plainly nuclear and intermittently threatening. In early January 2021, after describing the United States as “our biggest enemy,” Kim Jong Un called openly for more advanced nuclear weapons and infrastructures. Then, during fully nine hours of blistering remarks at a January party conference in Pyongyang, Kim summarized his country’s basic strategic posture: “Our foreign political activities should be focused and redirected on subduing the United States, our biggest enemy….No matter who is in power in the US, the true nature of the US and its fundamental policies towards North Korea never change.”

               “Subduing the United States….” That is a far-reaching and plausibly-apocalyptic ambition, one that ought not be subject to any cultivated refinements of US presidential “attitude.” For Pyongyang, the only “true nature” of American significance lies in Kim’s subjective assessment of White House intentions. Accordingly, it is time to inquire:

               What tangible nuclear threats will likely face US President Joe Biden from North Korea?

               How should the United States respond?

Evident Particulars

               Despite their simple declarative style, these two intersecting questions exhibit near-staggering complexity. Among other things, pertinent threats are both direct and indirect.[8] During the doctrinally-challenged Trump presidency,[9] several corresponding and derivative risks were allowed to expand without any effective controls.[10] Today, at a critical post-Trump point in American strategic planning, these risks have become conspicuously grave, many-sided and potentially existential.[11]

               For US President Joe Biden, growing nuclear uncertainties with North Korea represent hazards of exceptionally great urgency. What exactly shall be required of his administration in dealing with such core strategic matters? As a start, the new American president will need to acknowledge something that was never properly understood by his anti-intellectual predecessor. In essence,  Trump ought to have understood, national security and war preparedness must always be theory-based,[12] and thereby receive a dialectical imprimatur[13] of “mind over mind.”[14]  

               There is more. Any now eleventh-hour elevation of  US strategic thought would need to be based upon greater presidential appreciation of persistently-intersecting complexities, both politicalandmilitary. These complexities include multiple “synergies” wittingly overlooked by Donald J. Trump.[15] Though the former American president believed that he had “miraculously” solved the North Korea nuclear problem  in one afternoon by “falling in love” with Kim Jong Un (and, reciprocally, by Kim falling in love with him), this purported attachment was never more than a caricatural metaphor.[16]

                In synergistic intersections,[17] the “whole” of any particular outcome mustbe greater than the sum of its constituent “parts.” In such challenging analytic matters, US policy-making must be kept suitably distant from any distracting considerations founded upon wishful thinking or extravagant hope. To recall, in  this connection, the Greek historian Thucydides’ summary assessment of the Peloponnesian War: “Hope is by nature an expensive commodity, and those who are risking their all on one cast find out what it means only when they are already ruined….[18]

               Though several millennia old, this ancient warning remains timely and valid.

Beyond Strategic Simplifications

               What helpful counsel shall now be offered to the White House? Donald J. Trump did not act upon any well-reasoned foundations of theoretical examination. Now, going forward, how should the Biden administration best proceed on all relevant and frequently overlapping fronts?

               Study is indispensable. History deserves pride of place. The early Greeks regarded war and war-planning not as a purely personal or ad hoc activity, but rather as a daunting contest of “mind over mind.” Anticipating the later writings of Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz (On War, 1832), these ancients very typically based their tactical and operational policies upon a coherent body of dialectical “conversations.” At that stage, the primary and preeminent battlefield would always have to be conceptualizedand configured before the onset of  any actual troop movements or engagements.

               Correspondingly, any foreseeable victory in such engagements would have to follow a mind-based articulation of strategic doctrine.[19]

               In many-layered matters, comprehensive theory remains necessary. Always, the interrelated world, like the myriad human bodies who comprise it, must be regarded as a system.[20] Among the most serious implications of this metaphor, any more-or-less major conventional conflict in northeast Asia could heighten the prospect of  destabilizing international conflicts elsewhere. This is the case, moreover, whether pertinent consequences would occur immediately or in assorted increments.

               Among other possibilities, these fearful prospects could include a regional nuclear war.  Such prospects could be enlarged by variously misguided American searches for a no-longer credible outcome. A clear example of such mistaken search would be one that is directed toward some allegedly decipherable form of  “victory.”

               There are markedly good reasons for offering such a warning. A non-traditional observation about “victory” is persuasive, at least in part, because the core meanings of victory and defeat have been changing steadily over time. Inter alia, these are no longer the same meanings as those offered earlier by Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz’ classic, On War (1832).

               There is more. In most identifiable wars between nation-states, there no longer obtain any confirmable criteria of demarcation between victory and defeat. Even a so-called “victory” on some recognizable field of battle might not in any calculable way reduce significant security threats to the United States. Such grave threats, whether foreseen or unforeseen, could include sub-state aggressions (terrorism) and/or widening attacks upon regional and/or non-regional US allies.

               Always, for policy planners and strategists, the arena of world politics must be understood not only as system , but also as an anarchic system,[21] or a “state of nature” in classical philosophic terms.[22]

               Once acknowledged as a distinct foreign-policy objective, any declared US search for “victory” over North Korea would likely exacerbate America’s strategic risks without enhancing any derivative gains. To be sure, such a meaningless declaration could create corrosively lethal escalatory dynamics with Pyongyang, ones from which Washington could no longer expect any palpable military advantages. This expectedly injurious creation could take place in unanticipated increments, or instead, suddenly, as an unexpected or “bolt-from-the-blue” enemy attack.[23]

               In the foreseeable worst case, any unwitting US forfeiture of “escalation dominance” could signify irreversible American losses. These include chaotic conditions that could create (a) tens or even hundreds of thousands of prompt fatalities; and (b) tangibly larger numbers of latent cancer deaths.[24] Factoring in  the additional factor of worldwide disease “plague,” or pandemic, this presumptive “worst case” could sometime get much worse.

               Technically, we are discussing an evident oxymoron; nonetheless, the derivative meanings are both palpable and plausible.

               A great deal of specificity must be examined and taken into account  by US President Joe Biden’s designated senior counselors. In a world where history and science could conceivably regain their proper stature, an American president could then usefully acknowledge that because nation-states no longer generally declare wars[25] or enter into war-termination treaties,[26] the application of traditional criteria of “war winning” to interstate conflicts would no longer make any legal sense. Expectedly, too, in the vastly complicated matters already at hand for America’s current  president, ascertainable benefits might not lie latent in traditional forms of military expertise.             

Who are the Recognizable Experts?

                Exactly how much applicable military experience could American generals have garnered in starting, managing or ending a nuclear war? How much might the president and his senior commanders see only what they would want to see, including perhaps some seemingly gainful prospect of military preemption.[27]  Here they should have to recall the ancient but also still relevant observation of Julius Caesar at Chapter 18 of  his Gallic War: “…men as a rule willingly believe what they want to believe….”

               In these transitional nuclear times,[28] such selective perceptions could prove grievously injurious and irremediably mistaken. Though, at least in principle, an American president might still benefit from a particular preemption against an already nuclear North Korea in certain residual and extraordinary circumstances,[29]  it is still incontestable that any US defensive first strike[30] would have catastrophic outcomes. Regarding the myriad complexities of any still-impending two-power nuclear competition where (a) there would exist substantial asymmetries in relative military power position; but where (b) the “weaker” (North Korean) side would still maintain a verifiable potential to inflict unacceptably damaging first-strikes or reprisals upon the “stronger” (American) side, calibrated policy-making cautions would become more important than ever before.

               Ironically, at this time of rampant pandemic, a nuclear war – any nuclear war – could quickly become “terminal.” The only reasonable “cure” for any such devastating pathology must lie in prevention.

               There is more. Under Joseph Biden, the United States will need a refined policy posture that can capably account for the rationality and intentionality of enemy decision-makers in Pyongyang. Always, the new American president should approach the still-growing North Korean nuclear threat from a disciplined and conceptual perspective. This means, among other things, factoring into any coherent US nuclear threat assessment (a) the expected rationality or irrationality of all principal decision-makers in Pyongyang; and (b) the foreseeable intentional or unintentional intra-crisis behaviors of these adversarial decision-makers.

               “Theory is a net,” quotes philosopher of science Karl Popper from the German poet Novalis in The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959): [31] “….only those who cast, can catch.” In such bewilderingly complex strategic matters, nothing can ever prove more practical than good theory. In science, continuously, a broadly elucidating generality offers the key to uncovering variously specific meanings.

               Generality is a trait of all true meaning. Soon, it follows that having at hand such comprehensive policy clarifications could help guide US President Joe Biden beyond any otherwise vague or uselessly impromptu strategic appraisals. Under no circumstances, this president must likely be reminded, should such multi-sided crisis possibilities be assessed implicitly or explicitly as singular or narrowly ad hoc phenomena.

The Matter of Strategic Intention

               Capable strategic analysts guiding the new American president should enhance their nuclear investigations by carefully identifying the basic distinctions between (a) intentional or deliberate nuclear war  and (b) unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war. The risks resulting from these at least four different types of possible nuclear conflict are apt to vary considerably. Those American analysts who might remain too completely focused upon a deliberate nuclear war scenario could too-casually underestimate a more serious nuclear threat to the United States.

               This would mean the increasingly credible threat of an unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war.

                An additional conceptual distinction must be inserted into any US analytic scenario “mix.” This is the subtle but still important difference between an inadvertent nuclear war and an accidental nuclear war.

               To this point, any accidental nuclear war would have to be inadvertent; conversely, however, there could be identifiable forms of inadvertent nuclear war that would not be accidental. Most critical, in this connection, are certain significant errors in calculation committed by one or both sides – that is, more-or-less reciprocal mistakes that lead directly and/of inexorably to nuclear conflict. The most blatant example of such a mistake would concern assorted misjudgments of enemy intent or capacity that emerge during the course of some ongoing crisis escalation.

               In all likelihood, such dire misjudgments would stem from an expectedly mutual search for strategic advantage occurring during a particular competition in nuclear risk-taking.[32]In appropriate strategic parlance, this would suggest a traditional military search for “escalation dominance” during nuclear crisis, in extremis atomicum.[33]

Logic and Strategy

                There is more. Also needed would be various related judgments concerning expectations of rationality and irrationality within each affected country’s decision-making structure. One potential source of an unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war could be a failed strategy of “pretended irrationality.” In this connection,                a foolishly-posturing American president who too “successfully” convinced enemy counterparts of his own irrationality could thereby spark an otherwise-avoidable enemy preemption.

               During his tenure as president, strategists may recall, Donald Trump frequently mused without any intellectual substance about purported advantages of feigned irrationality.

               Relevant scenarios could also be “played” in the other direction. An American president who had begun to take seriously Kim Jong Un’s own presumed unpredictability could sometime be frightened into striking first. In this alternate case, the United States would become the preempting party that might then claim legality for its allegedly defensive first-strike. Nonetheless, in  such inherently “dicey” circumstances, US strategists charged with fashioning an optimal strategic posture would do well to recall Carl von Clausewitz’s timeless warning in On War concerning “friction.”

               This “Clausewitzian” property represents the difference between “war on paper” and “war as it actually is.”

               Always, it represents an unerringly vital difference, one never determinable by what former US President Trump had called “attitude.”

                America’s new president, unlike his persistently unreasoning predecessor,[34] ought to be well-grounded in science and logic. Though rarely acknowledged, however, no truly scientific or reliable probability estimations can be undertaken regarding unprecedented or sui generis situations. More specifically, in science and mathematics, potent probability judgments must always be based upon a carefully calculated frequency of relevant past events. On matters concerning nuclear war, there have been no such past events. By definition, such events would be unique. The American bombings of Japan in August 1945 did not constitute a nuclear war. Rather, they were “only” examples of atomic weapons being used during a conventional war. The difference is meaningful.

               President Biden’s strategic advisors must take appropriate heed. This sort of “behind-the-news” analytic assessment is not reasonably controversial. Not only has there never been a nuclear war, there have also never been the sorts of asymmetrical nuclear standoffs most apt to arise between Washington and Pyongyang.  

               Because there can never be any informed scientific assessments of probable war outcomes in this especially volatile Asian “theatre,” US President Joe Biden should approach pertinent war scenarios soberly, with recognizable humility. Here, the ancient Greek philosophers would be warning against “hubris,” and doing so with very considerable war-reluctance.[35] Here, what an American president does not know could hurt him and a great many others.

                Recalling the “good old days” which extend well into the twentieth-century, nation-states have generally had to defeat enemy armies before being able to wreak any wished-for destruction upon a specific adversary. In those earlier days of more traditional doctrinal arrangements concerning war and peace, an individual country’s demonstrated capacity to “win” was necessarily and understandably prior to achieving any needed capacity to destroy. An example well-known to US military thinkers at such venerable institutions as the US Army War College and West Point would be the ancient belligerency between Persia and Greece at the 480 BCE Battle of Thermopylae.

               Today, unlike what seemingly took place at Thermopylae, a state enemy needn’t be able to defeat American armies in order to inflict grievous harms upon the United States. Inter alia, this enemy could enlist selectively destructive proxy forces on its behalf, such as bio-terrorist surrogates. What happens then, especially to the so-called “balance of power?” Significantly, throughout history, this has always been a “balance” without any corresponding equilibrium.

               For President Biden and his counselors, there is some prospectively “good news.” The United States needn’t be able to “win” a particular conflict in order to credibly threaten  a dangerous foe (deterrence) or to inflict “assured destruction” upon such an enemy.[36] What this “good news” means today is this: The capacity to deter is not identical to the capacity to win.[37] Reciprocally, for the American president’s defense counselors, the principal war-planning or war-deterring lesson of such ongoing transformations warrants further advanced study.

               What will really matter here is not “personal attitude” (previous President Donald Trump’s self-described “ace in the hole”),  but rather intellectual preparation. What matters most, going forward, will be a capacity to win bewilderingly complex struggles of “mind over mind,” and not variously ad hoc or visceral contests of “mind over matter.”[38] In time, moreover, such critical strategy lessons could apply well beyond the North Korean nuclear issue.The world is always a system; what happens at one place always impacts assorted other places and outcomes.

               Accordingly, US national security scholars must remain focused on systems.

The Jurisprudential Imperative

               Various relevant points of law remainto be considered.[39] Indeed, jurisprudencehas its own proper and cumulative place in strategic calculations.[40] More specifically, in terms of applicable law,[41] winning and losing may  no longer mean very much for successful strategic planning. The consequential devaluation of victory as an operational goal should already be obvious with regard to America’s now seemingly-latent wars on terror. Pertinent conflict issues will need to be examined within continuously transforming US military plans and objectives regarding Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, China, Russia, Yemen and assorted other places.

                Prima facie, the U.S. can never meaningfully “win” any upcoming wars with Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, etc. This is because its leaders could never know for certain when a tangible victory had actually been achieved or a calculable loss incurred.

               There is still more for the new American president to consider.  Operationally, winning and losing are nowextraneous to America’s indispensable collective interests, or, in those foreseeable cases where “victory” might still be expressed as a high-priority national objective,overwhelmingly harmful.In principle, and not without substantial irony, a narrowly static orientation to “winning” could sometime lead the United States toward huge and irreversible losses via an imperative “escalation dominance.”

               Above all, under President Joe Biden, U.S. military posture should cease being shaped according to starkly barren expectations of clamorous clichés,  irrelevant analogies or thoroughly inexpert advice. Properly calculated US policy ought always be based upon the most expressly disciplined theses and antitheses of dialectical strategic thought.  This proven pattern of analysis goes back to Plato and to his perpetually illustrative dialogues.

               Finally, America’s new president and his military planners should look more usefully to the East, not just regarding prospective adversaries, but also prospective counsel. Long ago, famed Chinese strategist Sun-Tzu reasoned simply and succinctly: “Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence.” To meet current U.S. national security objectives vis-à-vis North Korea and other potential nuclear adversaries, this ancient Chinese military wisdom suggests that Washington now openly emphasize deterrence over victory. This is not a time to continue any caricatural presidential threats about the comparative size of national “buttons.” President Trump, we may recall, said of Kim Jong Un, “He also has a button, but my button is bigger than his button.” This assertion was not an example of sophisticated strategic thought.[42]

               At the same time, any necessary US discontinuance of strategic competition should remain connected to the problematic requirements of  maintaining control over military escalations. If, going forward, these requirements were somehow minimized or disregarded, a resultant regional conflict could have decisive “spillover” implications for other nation-states and, ipso facto, for other parts of the world. Assorted elements of chaos notwithstanding,[43] world politics and world military processes always remain expressive of some underlying system.

               There is more. This characterization is clarifying and elucidating. It must lie continuously at the core of any coherent US strategic doctrine. Before these systemic connections can be adequately understood and assessed, President Biden must realize that the complicated logic of strategic nuclear calculations demands a discrete and capably nuanced genre of decision-making, one that calls for self-consciously rigorous intellectual refinement. Casually expecting an American president to leverage Chinese and Russian sanctions on behalf of the United States could miss at least two vital and intersecting points: (1) the regime in Pyongyang will never back down on its overall plan for nuclearization, however severe such sanctions might seemingly become; and (2) counting upon meaningful sanctions from Beijing or Moscow will be inherently problematic for President Biden. This is because both China and Russia remain far more worried about their traditional and mutual enemy in Washington than about any future dangers arising from Pyongyang.[44]

Truth and Strategy

               In world politics, as in law and life generally, truth is exculpatory.[45]  Like it or not, a nuclear North Korea is a fait accompli. Soon, President Biden should focus upon creating stable nuclear deterrence with North Korea (a) for the obvious benefit of the United States; (b) for the benefit of its directly vulnerable allies in South Korea and Japan; and (c) for the benefit of its indirectly vulnerable allies elsewhere (e.g., Israel).

               However inconspicuous, these important allies remain an integral component of the same organic world system. They can never be helpfully separated from the expectedly palpable consequences of American geopolitical posture. “The existence of `system’ in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature,” says the 20th century French Jesuit scholar, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “no matter whom….” Nowhere is this core interrelatedness more obvious or potentially consequential than in the continuing matter of a nuclear North Korea and US foreign policy decision-making.

               This consistently urgent threat will never subside or disappear on its own. It will be the new US president’s continuing imperative to understand all relevant American security obligations as well as their ensuing complications. It will be a matter of “mind over  mind,” not just “mind over matter.”

               In accepting this complex imperative, it would prove especially wise for President Biden to bear in mind the ancient Funeral Speech warning of Pericles. As recalled most famously by Thucydides: “What I fear more than the strategies of our enemies,” said the wise Athenian leader, “are our own mistakes.” In the best of all possible worlds, an American president could soon prepare to go beyond Realpoliitk and its endlessly belligerent nationalism[46] – a perpetually futile dynamic that has never succeeded and remains destined only for continued failure – but this is not yet the best of all possible worlds.

               Our steadfastly battling world is simply not yet ready for any such primal transformation.[47]

               Not at all.

               If, however, that auspicious time should arrive sometime in the future, the key task will be to focus attention upon the essential interrelatedness or “oneness”[48] of all world politics. Just as each individual human being, the microcosm, is comprised of interlocking biological systems, world politics, the macrocosm, is made up of variously constituent national and sub-national systems. In both examples, microcosm and macrocosm, survival will require far more reliable and generalized patterns of cooperation between systems.

               Donald Trump’s “America First” was not a step in the right direction.

               Not at all.

               “Just wars,” wrote Hugo Grotius, the acknowledged founder of modern international law, “arise from our love of the innocent.”[49] Now, however, it is plain that a nuclear war could never be “just,” and that certain earlier legal distinctions (e.g., just war vs. unjust war) must be continuously conformed to ever-changing technologies of military destruction. The only sensible adaptation in this regard must be to acknowledge persisting connections between international law and natural law, and then to oppose any retrograde movements that could still undermine such vital acknowledgments.

               To successfully prevent a nuclear war in Asia or anywhere else, it will be necessary to resist mightily any national strategy declensions toward further Trump-era misconceptions. During this former president’s negotiations with Kim Jong Un, Trump was fond of saying that both countries have “the button,” but “my button is bigger than his.” Aside from its gratuitous belligerence, this facile metaphor misrepresented the many-sided nature of nuclear deterrence and nuclear war. Though North Korea is plausibly “less powerful” than the United states, that “weaker” country could still deliver an unacceptable nuclear blow to this country or its regional allies, whether as an aggressive first strike,[50] a retaliation or as a calculated counter-retaliation.

                For conceptualizing this last prospect, one need only consider a scenario wherein the United States had resorted to a nuclear retaliation after absorbing a major North Korean first strike (nuclear or non-nuclear), an escalation leading Pyongyang to some nuclear form of counter-retaliatory response.

               In all such perplexing scenarios, it will be most important to bear in mind that much less is predictable than unpredictable. By definition – because these all represent unprecedented circumstances – no scientifically valid statement of probabilities could be ventured. Among other things, this suggests that the American president proceed in all such interactions with utterly maximum levels of decisional modesty and intellectual prudence.

               More than anything else, going forward, Trump-style hubris must be scrupulously avoided and expressly renounced.[51]

               Meaningful truth in these matters is unambiguous. The only rational use for American nuclear weapons in any forthcoming US-North Korea negotiation must be as diplomatic bargaining elements of interstate dissuasion and/or persuasion. Barring a sudden crisis initiated by North Korean nuclear strike – a crisis immediately placing the American president in extremis atomicum –  there could be no credible use for such weapons as implements of war. If there could sometime arise a strategically rational justification for nuclear war-waging – one in which the expected benefits of nuclear weapons use would reasonably exceed expected costs – the planet itself could be imperiled, perhaps irremediably.

Looking to the Longer Term

               In his modern classic, Janus: A Summing Up, Arthur Koestler identifies the stubborn polarity between self-assertive and integrative tendencies as a universal characteristic of human life. Here, the reader is informed, order and stability can prevail only when these two basic tendencies are “in equilibrium.” It follows from this reasoning that if one tendency should be allowed to dominate the other, the result must be the end to an indispensable delicate balance.

               Looking beyond the United States and North Korea, such a fundamental balance must finally be created among all the states in world politics. To create the needed equilibrium, to get beyond the deeply flawed Westphalian dynamics of 17th century Realpolitik, major states like the United States must begin to fashion their foreign policies upon a generally new set of premises. In essence, such a set would define each state’s own presumed national interest in terms of what is believed best for the world system as a whole.

               This won’t be easy. To be sure, any such suggestion must first appear wildly idealistic or utopian. Nonetheless, by consciously supplanting competitive self-seeking (belligerent nationalism) with cooperative self-seeking, states could begin to move earnestly beyond a longstanding social Darwinist ethic that would otherwise ensure only endless war and eventual oblivion. Only by building upon the understanding that it is in each individual country’s own interest to develop foreign policy from a broadly systemic vantage point could all states plan seriously to survive.

               In a post-Trump world of expanding and proliferating nuclear weapons, the importance of such an imperative cannot be exaggerated or overstated.[52]

               Since its inception in 1648, the state of nations has offered humankind only in security and false communion. A communion based upon fear, dread and ad hoc nuclear deterrence, its cumulative effects must inevitably include a deep desolation of the human spirit. To finally repair this lamentable and intolerable situation, all states must learn  to care for themselves and for others at the same time.

               It’s a tall order. Can it work? Can world  leaders like the new American president meaningfully grasp this calculus of potentiality, reaffirming the sovereignty of  Reason over the deceptions of Violence?[53] Can any of these states be expected to tear down the barrier walls of belligerent nationalism, and replace them with the permeable membranes of a spirited and more universally gainful cooperation?[54]

               Most plausibly, of course, the pragmatic answer is “no.” Yet, we are locked into a fiendish dilemma. There remains literally no alternative to such “membranes.” Somehow, it follows, they must be rendered believable.

               In the short run, to be sure, more refined strategic counsel could conceivably reduce the risk of a nuclear war between the United States and North Korea. But even this enviable triumph of “mind over mind” could offer us only a temporary reprieve. Over time, during the meaningfully “longer run,” the global power-management system of threat and counter-threat, of seeking “escalation dominance” in a nuclear setting, can’t possibly endure.[55] In the end, as Italian film director Federico Fellini observes in another context, “The visionary is the only realist.”

               Without visionaries in world politics, there can be no indispensable “return  to reason.” This is the truest meaning of national security, both for the United States in particular and for the rapidly-dissembling planet as a whole. Let US President Joe Biden labor to “think well” about such important nuclear policy matters. Armed with a suitably vital awareness of the “primacy of intellect,” he could then place this Trump-attenuated  nation on sounder strategic foundations.

————–


[1] From the standpoint of western thought, this Pascal observation also brings to mind the seminal observations of René Descartes, especially the philosopher’s Discourse on Method and his Meditations. By rejecting the desolate “metaphysics” of a strategically illiterate predecessor, Joseph Biden should immediately embrace the Cartesian primacy of analytic doubt and return the United States to polices founded upon discernible facts and logical argument. During the time of his incoherent presidency, Donald Trump’s core orientation to national security was narrowly visceral and “seat-of-the-pants” determined. Focusing on personalities rather than real issues, Trump’s orientation was never scientific or remotely intellectual.

[2] This was a president, let us recall, who recommended using nuclear weapons against hurricanes; suggested ingestion of household disinfectants for Covid19 therapy; and commended the 18th century American revolutionary army for “taking control of all national airports.”

[3] Should nuclear weapons ever be introduced into any future conflict between the United States and North Korea, actual nuclear war-fighting at various conceivable levels could ensue. This would be the case as long as: (a) US conventional first-strikes against North Korea would not destroy Pyongyang’s second-strike nuclear capability; (b) US conventional retaliations for a North Korean conventional first-strike would not destroy Pyongyang’s nuclear counter-retaliatory capability; (c) US preemptive nuclear strikes would  not destroy Pyongyang’s second-strike nuclear capabilities; and (d) US conventional retaliations for North Korean conventional first strikes would not destroy Pyongyang’s nuclear counter-retaliatory capability. To be sure, prima facie, any US nuclear preemption would be implausible and potentially catastrophic. Reciprocally, assuming rationality, any North Korean nuclear preemption against the United States or its allies would by inconceivable

[4] See at Oxford: https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095647630

[5] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School,  https://harvardnsj.org/2020/03/complex-determinations-deciphering-enemy-nuclear-intentions/

[6] When  meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong Un on June 11, 2018, Trump dismissed all usual presidential obligations to prepare. Instead, he emphasized offhandedly: “I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s all about attitude.”

[7] This system dates back to the 17th century and the Peace of Westphalia (1648), a treaty which ended the Thirty Years War. Looking ahead, there are good reasons to expect that “mere” anarchy (absence of centralized world legal authority) will be replaced by a genuine chaos. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648., 1, Consol. T.S. 119.

[8]Indirect vulnerabilities would be those derivative threats made manifest in other countries or in other country relations. Under certain readily imaginable circumstances, America’s indirect and/or direct vulnerabilities could sometime become existential.

[9] “The masses have followed the “magicians again and again. Socrates and Plato were among the first to take up the struggle against them, in clear awareness of what was at stake.” See: Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952).

[10] This acceleration was due in part to US President Donald J. Trump’s singular focus on personal public relations. In this regard, analysts and scholars may usefully consult not just their daily newspapers, but also Sophocles Antigone, Speech of Creon, King of Thebes: “I hold despicable and always have….anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.”

[11] For early accounts by this author of nuclear war effects, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[12] Says philosopher of science Karl Popper, citing to German poet Novalis: “Theory is a net. Only those who cast, can catch.” See Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959).

[13]Dialectical thinking originated in Fifth Century BCE Athens, as Zeno, author of the Paradoxes, had been acknowledged by Aristotle as its inventor. In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerges as the supreme form of philosophic/analytic method. The dialectician, says Plato, is the special one who knows how to ask and then answer vital questions. From the standpoint of currently necessary refinements in US strategic planning vis-à-vis North Korea, this knowledge should never be taken for granted.

[14] This principle was axiomatic among the ancient Greeks and Macedonians. See. F.E. Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War (1957).

[15]Pertinent synergies could clarify or elucidate the world political system’s current state of hyper-disorder (a view that would reflect what the physicists prefer to call “entropic” conditions), and could be conceptually dependent upon each national decision-maker’s subjective metaphysics of time. For an early article by this author dealing with interesting linkages between such a subjective chronology and national decision-making (linkages that could shed additional light on still-growing risks of a US-North Korea nuclear war), see: Louis René Beres, “Time, Consciousness and Decision-Making in Theories of International Relations,” The Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. VIII, No.3., Fall 1974, pp. 175-186.

[16]The Trump White House consistently sought to persuade Americans by way of deliberate simplifications and falsifications. See, on the plausible consequences of any such deceptive measures, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s observation in On Certainty:  “Remember that one is sometimes convinced of the correctness of a view by its simplicity or symmetry….”

[17]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School:  https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/  See also, by Professor Beres, at Modern War Institute, West Point:  https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[18]Drawn from the aptly famous statement of Athenians to the Melians (a colony of Sparta) from “The Debate on the Fate of Melos” (Thucydides, 416 BCE).

[19] Elements of such essential doctrine could sometime prove counter-intuitive. For example, from the standpoint of stable nuclear deterrence, the likelihood of any actual nuclear conflict between states (inter alia) could be inversely related to the plausibly expected magnitude of catastrophic harms. Nonetheless, this is only an “informal presumption” because we are here considering a unique or unprecedented event, one that is sui generis for purposes of determining any true mathematical probabilities.

[20] In the words of French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man (1955): “The existence of `system’ in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature, no matter whom…” This existence of interconnectedness has certain legal or jurisprudential manifestations as well. To wit, the core legal rights assured by the Declaration and Constitution can never be correctly confined to citizens of the United States. This is because both documents were conceived by their authors as codifications of a pre-existing Natural Law. Although fully unrecognized by the Trump administration, the United States was expressly founded upon the Natural Rights philosophies of the 18th century Enlightenment, especially Locke, Hobbes, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Thomas Jefferson, an American president before Donald J. Trump, was well acquainted with the classic writings of political philosophy, from Plato to Diderot. In those very early days of the Republic, it is presently worth recalling, an American president could not only read serious books, he could also write them.

[21] To best remedy such dissembling anarchy, Sigmund Freud observed: “Wars will only be prevented with certainty if mankind unites in setting up a central authority to which the right of giving judgment upon all shall be handed over. There are clearly two separate requirements involved in this: the creation of a supreme agency and its endowment with the necessary power. One without the other would be useless.” (See: Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers, cited in Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis, University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10 (1973-73), p, 27.) Interestingly, Albert Einstein held very similar views. See, for example: Otto Nathan et al. eds., Einstein on Peace (New York: Schoken Books, 1960).

[22]The seventeenth-century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, instructs that although international relations are in a “state of nature,” it is nonetheless a more benign condition than the condition of individual man in nature. With individual human beings, Hobbes reflects, “the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.” Now, however, with the advent and spread of nuclear weapons, there is no longer any reason to believe that the state of nature remains more tolerable. Because of this significant transformation of the state of nations into a true Hobbesian state of nature, states such as North Korea are increasingly apt to search for a presumptively suitable “equalizer.”

[23] In his seminal writings, strategic theorist Herman Kahn once introduced a further distinction between a surprise attack that is more-or-less unexpected and a surprise attack that arrives “out of the blue.” The former, he counseled, “…is likely to take place during a period of tension that is not so intense that the offender is essentially prepared for nuclear war….” A total surprise attack, however, would be one without any immediately recognizable tension or warning signal. This particular subset of a surprise attack scenario could be difficult to operationalize for tangible national security policy benefit. See: Herman Kahn, Thinking About the Unthinkable in the 1980s (Simon & Schuster, 1984).

[24] See by this author, at one of his earliest books: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (The University of Chicago Press, 1980).

[25] Under authoritative international law, which is generally part of US law, the question of whether or not a “state of war” exists between states is ordinarily ambiguous. Traditionally, it was held that a formal declaration of war was necessary before any true state of war could be said to exist. Hugo Grotius divided wars into declared wars, which were legal, and undeclared wars, which were not. (See Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace, Bk. III, Chs. III, IV, and XI.) By the start of the twentieth century, the position that war can obtain only after a conclusive declaration of war by one of the parties was codified by Hague Convention III. This treaty stipulated, inter alia, that hostilities must never commence without a “previous and explicit warning” in the form of a declaration of war or an ultimatum. (See Hague Convention III Relative to the Opening of Hostilities, 1907, 3 NRGT, 3 series, 437, article 1.) Currently, formal declarations of war could be tantamount to admissions of international criminality because of the express criminalization of aggression by authoritative international law. It could, therefore, represent a clear jurisprudential absurdity to tie any true state of war to prior declarations of belligerency. It follows, further, that a state of war may exist without any formal declarations, but only if there should exist an actual armed conflict between two or more states, and/or at least one of these affected states considers itself  “at war.”

[26] According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a treaty is always an international agreement “concluded between States….” See Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M., 679 (1969).

[27] In law, such a defensive first-strike, if permissible, could be termed “anticipatory self-defense.” The origins of such a defense liein customary international law, more precisely, in The Caroline, a case that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. Following this case, the serious threat of armed attack has generally justified certain militarily defensive actions. In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that did not require an antecedent attack. Here, the jurisprudential framework permitted a military response to a threat so long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” See: Beth M. Polebaum, “National Self-defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,” 59 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 187, 190-91 (1984)(noting that the Caroline case had transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a legal doctrine). Still earlier, see: Hugo Grotius, Of the Causes of War, and First of Self-Defense, and Defense of Our Property, reprinted in 2 Classics of International Law, 168-75 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1925)(1625); and Emmerich de Vattel, The Right of Self-Protection and the Effects of the Sovereignty and Independence of Nations, reprinted in 3 Classics of International Law, 130 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1916)(1758). Also, Samuel Pufendorf, The Two Books on the Duty of Man and Citizen According to Natural Law,  32 (Frank Gardner Moore., tr., 1927 (1682).

[28] “In a dark time,” says the American poet Theodore Roethke, “the eye begins to see.”

[29] From the standpoint of international law, it is necessary to distinguish preemptive attacks from “preventive ones.” Preemption is a military strategy of striking first in the expectation that the only foreseeable alternative is to be struck first oneself.  A preemptive attack is launched by a state that believes enemy forces are about to attack.  A preventive attack is launched not out of any genuine concern about “imminent” hostilities, but rather for fear of a longer-term deterioration in some pertinent military balance.  In a preemptive attack, the length of time by which the enemy’s action is anticipated is presumptively very short; in a preventive strike, the anticipated interval is considerably longer. A related problem here for the United States is not only the practical difficulty of accurately determining “imminence,” but also that delaying a defensive strike until appropriately ascertained urgencies can be acknowledged could prove “fatal” (existential).

[30] Customary international law, which must be the jurisprudential justification for any permissible defensive first strike or preemption, is identified as an authoritative source of world legal norms at Art. 38 of the UN’s Statute of the International Court of Justice. International law, an integral part of the legal system of all states in world politics, assumes a general obligation of states to supply benefits to one another, and to avoid war wherever possible. This core assumption of jurisprudential solidarity is known formally as a “peremptory” or jus cogens expectation, that is, one that is not subject to any reasonable question. It can be found, inter alia, in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis, Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace (1625) and Emmerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations or Principles of Natural Law (1758).

[31] See Karl Popper’s classic work, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959).

[32] The Devil in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman (1903) observes: “Man’s heart is in his weapons….in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself….”

[33] In assessing the risks and benefits of such a search, analysts would have to pay close attention to specific scenarios of a “limited nuclear war.”

[34] During his dissembling presidency, too little attention had been directed toward Donald J. Trump’s open loathing of science and intellect, and to his corresponding unwillingness to read anything. Ironically, the Founding Fathers of the United States were intellectuals. As explained by distinguished American historian Richard Hofstadter: “The Founding Fathers were sages, scientists, men of broad cultivation, many of them apt in classical learning, who used their wide reading in history, politics and law to solve the exigent problems of their time.” See Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 145. A worrisome conclusion ought now to surface: How far we Americans have fallen.

[35] Because war and genocide are not mutually exclusive, either strategically or jurisprudentially, taking proper systemic steps toward war avoidance could reasonably reduce the likelihood of certain egregious “crimes against humanity.”

[36]Assured destruction capacity refers to the ability to inflict an “unacceptable” degree of damage upon an attacker after absorbing a first strike.  Mutual assured destruction (MAD) describes a condition in which an assured destruction capacity is possessed by opposing sides.  Counterforce strategies are those which target an adversary’s strategic military facilities and supporting infrastructure.  Such strategies may be dangerous not only because of the “collateral damage” they might produce, but also because they may heighten the likelihood of first-strike attacks. In this connection, collateral damage refers to the damage done to human and non-human resources as a consequence of strategic strikes directed at enemy forces or at military facilities.  This “unintended” damage could nonetheless involve large numbers of casualties and fatalities.

[37] This capacity is contingent upon the expected rationality of the adversarial state. Irrational adversaries would likely not be suitably deterred by the same threats directed at presumptively rational foes. On pertinent errors of correct deterrence reasoning (here regarding Iran in particular)  see: Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran?”  The Atlantic, August 2012; and Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Israel and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog). February 23, 2012. General Chain (USAF/ret.) served as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).

[38]Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Blaise Pascal’s 17th-century contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing further upon René Descartes – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge.

[39] For the United States, international law remains a part of this nation’s core domestic law. In the words used by the U.S. Supreme Court in The Paquete Habana, “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction, as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.  For this purpose, where there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.”  See The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 678-79 (1900).  See also:  The Lola,  175 U.S. 677 (1900);  Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F. 2d 774,  781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984)(per curiam)(Edwards, J. concurring)(dismissing the action, but making several references to domestic jurisdiction over extraterritorial offenses), cert. denied,  470 U.S. 1003 (1985)(“concept of extraordinary judicial jurisdiction over acts in violation of significant international standards…embodied in the principle of `universal violations of international law.'”) Also, for pertinent decisions by John Marshall, see: The Antelope, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 66, 120 (1825); The Nereide, 13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 388, 423 (1815); Rose v. Himely, 8 U.S. (4 Cranch) 241, 277 (1808) and Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, 6 U.S. (2 Cranch) 64, 118 (1804).

[40] One such place concerns the codified right to “self-defense.” The right of self-defense is a peremptory or jus cogens norm under international law. According to Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: “…a peremptory norm of general international law is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of states as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.” See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969), 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M.  679 (1969).

[41] According to the rules of international law, every use of force must be judged twice:  once with regard to the right to wage war (jus ad bellum), and once with regard to the means used in conducting war (jus in bello).  Today, in the aftermath of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, and the United Nations Charter, all right to aggressive war has been abolished.  However, the long-standing customary right of self-defense remains, codified at Article 51 of the Charter.  Similarly, subject to conformance, inter alia, with jus in bello criteria, certain instances of humanitarian intervention and collective security operations may also be consistent with jus ad bellum.  The laws of war, the rules of jus in bello, comprise (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules.  Codified primarily at the Hague and Geneva Conventions (and known thereby as the law of the Hague and the law of Geneva), these rules attempt to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into belligerent calculations.

[42] It was an example of “mass” thinking. The “mass-man,” we may learn from 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset’s  The Revolt of the Masses,  “learns only in his own flesh.” This is not a propitious way to learn.

[43] Whether it is described in the Old Testament or any other major sources of ancient Western thought, chaos can be viewed as something positive, even a source of human betterment. Here, chaos is taken as that which prepares the world for all things, both sacred and profane. As its conspicuous etymology reveals, chaos further represents the yawning gulf or gap wherein nothing is as yet, but where all civilizational opportunity must inevitably originate. Appropriately, the classical German poet Friedrich Hölderlin observed: “There is a desert sacred and chaotic which stands at the roots of the things and which prepares all things.” Even in the pagan ancient world, the Greeks thought of such a desert as logos, which should indicate to us today that it was never presumed to be starkly random or without evident merit.

[44] Postulating the emergence of “Cold War II” means expecting the world system to become once again bipolar. For early writings, by this author, on the global security implications of such an expanding bipolarity, see: Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Reliability of Alliance Commitments,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 25, No.4., December 1972, pp. 702-710; Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Tragedy of the Commons,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 26, No.4., December 1973, pp, 649-658; and Louis René Beres, “Guerillas, Terrorists, and Polarity: New Structural Models of World Politics,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 27, No.4., December 1974, pp. 624-636.

[45] To look behind the news, beyond the specific adversarial issues of US-North Korea nuclear relations, we might best consider the wise and overarching insight of 20th century German philosopher Karl Jaspers: “The enemy is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing  of truth.” It was this spirit, quintessentially, that from the start overwhelmed and misdirected former US President Donald J. Trump.

[46] Further to an earlier comment about world system “anarchy,” international law remains a “vigilante” or “Westphalian” system. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia. Nonetheless, in international law, there are always certain core obligations that each state owes to other nations. See, accordingly, by Louis René Beres:  https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/jurist-us-abandons-legal-obligations-syria; and

https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/11/louis-beres-khashoggi-murder/

[47] More plausibly, after four years of corrosive Trump-sowed neglect and disharmony, the world resonates with a warning offered by Hermann Hesse in Steppenwolf (1927): “This world, as it is now, wants to perish….” See also the fearful metaphors of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man: “A rocket rising in the wake of time’s arrow, that only bursts to be extinguished; an eddy rising on the bosom of a descending current  – such then must be our picture of the world.”

[48] As we may learn from ancient Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “”You are a citizen of the universe.” A broader idea of such “oneness” followed the death of Alexander in 322 BCE; with it came a coinciding doctrine of “universality.” By the Middle Ages, this political and social doctrine had fused with the notion of a Respublica Christiana, a worldwide Christian commonwealth, and Thomas, John of Salisbury and Dante were looking at Europe as a single and unified Christian community. Below the level of God and his heavenly host, all the realm of humanity was to be considered as one. This is because all the world had been created for the same single and incontestable purpose; that is, to provide  background for the necessary drama of human salvation. Only in its relationship to the universe itself was the world correctly considered as a part rather than a whole. Said Dante in De Monarchia: “The whole human race is a whole with reference to certain parts, and, with reference to another whole, it is a part. For it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, as we have shown; and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, which is evident without argument.” Today, of course, the idea of human oneness discussed here can be justified and explained in more secular terms of purely analytic understanding.

[49] See Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace 70 (William Whewell, tr.), London: John W. Parker, 1853(1625).

[50] Under international law, the contemporary crime of aggression, derivative from earlier criminalizing codifications at Nuremberg’s 1945 London Charter and the 1928 Pact of Paris,  has nothing to do with the particular nature of weaponry employed (conventional or unconventional). See: Resolution on the Definition of Aggression, Dec. 14, 1974, U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX),  29 U.N. GAOR, Supp. (No.31) 142, U.N. Doc. A/9631, 1975, reprinted in 13 I.L.M. 710, 1974.

[51] In this regard, one must also take into account policy miscalculation or outright irrationality of an  American president. On these matters, by this author, see: Louis Rene Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/

[52] The final (second) impeachment of Donald Trump also brings to mind certain fragments  of Euripides that concern tragic endings. Here, we may learn from the classical playwright, “Whom God wishes to destroy, He first makes mad.” Inter alia, Greek tragedy explores the wider civil harms that any deranged “sovereign” mind can produce. Looking at the United States today, struggling with rampant “plague” and with extraordinary domestic instability, there is a still-discoverable wisdom in classical Greek tragedy.

[53] This question raises certain antecedent matters of “will.” Modern philosophic origins of this diaphanous term lie in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer,  especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration, Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely and perhaps even more importantly upon Schopenhauer. Goethe was also a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’Gasset, author of the singularly 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 centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948), and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[54] This brings to mind the closing query of Agamemnon in The Oresteia by Aeschylus: “Where will it end? When will it all be lulled back into sleep, and cease, the bloody hatreds, the destruction”?

[55] “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another,” asks Samuel Beckett philosophically in Endgame, “of seeking justification always on the same plane?” Thought the celebrated Irish playwright was certainly not thinking specifically about world politics or national security, his generalized query remains well-suited to this strategic inquiry. As competitive power-politics has never worked, why keep insisting upon it as a presumptively viable doctrine?

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