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(Un)expected President

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]hock! Disbelief! Total surprise! Those media (and politicians) who have in the preceding election campaign totally uncritically, but systematically supported Hillary Clinton, try by using such words to convince the public opinion (and themselves most probably) that the election of Donald Trump as the next American President is a total surprise (a mistake, almost). But – this is not how things really are. This is, simply, not true.

On one hand Trump seems to be a surprise to those who conducted an almost unprecedented media campaign for the former Secretary of State and for those too who allowed to be convinced (if not deceived) by this campaign, but on the other hand Trump’s victory is no surprise at all for those who tried, free of all prejudices, to analyze all elements of the election campaign and its foreseeable result. Of course one could argue about the fact that it is tragic for today’s America and its political scene, dominated by Republicans and Democrats who successfully prevent any “third candidate” to come even close to the presidential race, that in these elections we witnessed the confrontation between an excentric millionare, a somewhat dubious businessman and a figure from the reality shows and a woman directly responsible for destabilizing the whole Middle East and for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. But, there is not one single word about this from those who are “shocked” and “surprised”.

The campaign started with the firm conviction that the winner will be Hillary Clinton, former First lady, former senator from New York and former Secretary of State. Her victory was, so to say, programmed and she was treated as a favorite in everything and in every moment. This went so far (and we know it thanks to Wikileaks) that the leadership of the Democratic party torpedoed, during the primaries, the campaign of Bernie Sanders who portrayed himself as a socialist and announced a political revolution, thus becoming the most dangerous rival of Clinton. Although not young himself, Sanders and his ideas attracted young voters (some surveys conducted after the election show that in some key states, where Hilary Clinton failed, Sanders would have been victorious over Trump). But, the nomination had to go to Hillary, a favorite of financial circles who financed her campaign either directly, or in advance, paying her enormous fees for lectures in which she said things that she would never repeat in the campaign and before those whose votes she wanted to win. But, besides being a favorite of financial circles, she was a favorite of those political circles too who wanted the continuation of the policy of a “transformed” Barack Obama, a President welcomed with great hopes, who during his first term of Office took a starting position, marked by his speeches in Cairo and Prague, only to become the true successor of George W. Bush, bombing even more countries than he did and inaugurating again, after a short intermezzo, interventionism plus confrontation with Russia as undisputed cornerstones of Washington’s foreign policy.

And so Sanders was eliminated and the nomination went to Hillary Clinton, a women whose intelligence and political experience could not be denied, but who was described by the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, as a person who was eaten alive by her own ambition. On the other side there was Donald Trump, climbing towards the nomination for a presidential candidate, financing in the first stage almost entirely the campaign out of his own pocket. His success was not the result of the policy of the party’s leadership, but mostly of the votes of those who were attracted by his very often extremely rude populism, on the verge of open racism (these characteristics will gradually almost disappear during Trump’s campaign that was to follow). And he got the nomination on a very stormy Republican party’s convention, during which some delegates in protest even left.

And the arena was ready for the confrontation between a political amateur, “racist, sexist and vulgar person” with an experienced politician (although he would say that her experience was a bad one). In this moment the political-media machinery started to work “full speed”. About Trump nothing good could have been said or written, despite the fact that in his first foreign policy speeches, as a presidential candidate, some new and encouraging tones were registered, while at the same time it was not possible (or allowed), at least in the mainstream media, to either say or write anything negative about Hillary Clinton, despite the never brought to end scandal with her using an unprotected server for sending messages as Secretary of State and despite the fact that she obviously lied saying she did not erase any of the messages and that not a single one dealt with matters of national security. The curtain was up for a battle between the “evil” Trump and the “good” Hillary. In reality the curtain was up for a mud-wrestling between two candidates who were not selective at all choosing the instruments to destroy each other. And the propaganda machine continued to work full speed. After each TV confrontation public opinion surveys were published showing Hillary was “convincingly better” in comparison with her opponent (there was, as far as we know, only one exception). After that voters opinion surveys were published, all of them giving Hillary great chances to win and Trump almost none.

Thus the stage was set for the final act – the ritual execution of the candidate who refused to accept that everything was over, until he himself comes to the conclusion that it is over – despite his sometimes openly racist statements and their public echo (mainly abroad) and despite his sexual scandals (real or fabricated, most probably both). But, and this is obvious now, Trump was not acting without knowing what he was doing. Repeatedly invoking the silent majority, he played on the card of the Americans (and there are not only a few of them) abandoned by the society and those who feared they could experience the same destiny. It might be a paradox, but it is true: in the eyes of these people the blonde billionar appeared as some sort of a Robin Hood. In him they saw their last straw. He promised to bring back the factories that fled to “cheap countries”, he announced big projects for modernizing the infrastructure, he spoke about opening new working possibilities and “making America great again”. Former Secretary of State could not respond to this with her cheap slogan about America being great “because it is good” (most probably her staunchest supporters were afraid that someone could ask people from Libya or Syria what they think about both America and her being good). Above all she made both a strategic and tactical mistake: she did not want to deal with Trump as an unworthy opponent; instead of him she choose as her opponent the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, degrading Trump to his mere puppet. Consequently her speeches were more and more anti-Russian intoned and cold war colored, so that Trump with his announcement of talks and deals with Russia (especially in the fight against global terrorism) started to sound moderate and common sense driven (to those who wanted to hear and understand, naturally).

The day of the decision came. And it was, as it was. And we have today President-elect Donald Trump, elected with a convincing majority (of electoral votes, popular votes are not decisive, due to the specific American system of electing the President).His first speech after Hillary Clinton conceded in a phone call to him was well calibrated, low key, but not without substance, it was the address of a statesman. The pledge that he will ban all Muslims from entering the USA disappeared from his web page. And while he is preparing to take over in direct talks with the current President who was obviously forced to join the anti-Trump hysteria, proclaiming him totally unfit for the highest position in the state, some media who all of a sudden see clear, or the Russian media, who never openly sided with Trump, but never demonized him either, have fun exposing politicians form the West with their statement before the US elections and after. Just one example, the British foreign minister, Boris Johnson. Before the elections he boasted how he avoids certain streets in New York, out of fear he might bump into Donald Trump. And after the elections he is “looking forward to work with President Trump’s administration”.

It seems realistic to expect that Trump will disappoint both the European extreme rightists (who are overwhelmed by his victory), as well as liberals (not necessarily of left orientation) who are despairing and exchanging messages of condolences. Trump is without any doubt a conservative, but he comes not out of the same nest as the European neo-fascists who are more and more aggressive with every day passing; he played without any scruples the lowest instincts of the voters to get as many votes as possible, but his domestic policy will most probably be similar to those of Nixon and Reagan. These were, one must admit, not the best times for liberals, but neither were they put before committees for investigating anti-American activities, nor were they forbidden to work. In the field of foreign policy Trump will enter the path of calming down the relations with Russia (that are almost on the boiling point), which is still his “magnum crimen” in the eyes of some European politicians, prisoners of the past; he will enter the path of strengthening (but with Russia and not against it) the fight against global terrorism. Otherwise he will orient America towards itself, putting it in a semi-isolation and giving the US an active role on the international scene only when American interests are in question (and not necessarily interests of the Wall Street). To many he might appear as dangerous, simply because he is an unknown. Potentially he is really dangerous if he insists on denying the global warming and transforms this into American policy. But it seems to us prematurely and simply not serious to judge him today completely negative only because he avoided (in accordance with the law) to pay for years the federal tax and because of his sexual escapades (does anybody still remembers Bill Clinton, the Oval Office and Monica Levinsky?). Equally not serious is to state that his election victory is “a surprise” and “totally unexpected”. This author published in July this year an article under the title “President Trump?”, stating as follows: “The rich businessman whose biggest advantage is that he owes nothing to anybody, because he is until now more or less financing his campaign out of his pocket, presented a mixture of populism, demagogic approach, sounding phrases and pure politics.” Further: “Repeating constantly that he will bring back the sense of security to every American, he openly pledged his support to homosexual community, promising to protect it from any kind of violence (and thanked – as a Republican – the audience for applauding him after this). And he made sure that among his supporters there were representatives of other races (such as ‘Koreans for Trump’).” And finally: “Trump’s first big political speech shows that the battle for the white House will be waged between two at least equal rivals; Trump will without any doubt repeat the slogan used in his speech on the Convention: She says: ‘Everything will stay as it is.’ And I say: ‘Nothing will remain as it is.’ And with some sarcasm, but not without effect: ‘She is asking her supporters to say that they are with her. And I am telling you and the whole of America: I am with you, I will be your voice, I will be your champion.’” Published in July 2016.

In the meantime the “champion” became President-elect. He will take over in mid-January next year. Until then the horror of those who played (for their own interest, but wrongly) on the card of Hillary Clinton, as well as the horror of those who without any real basis believed the she is the Godgiven President f the US, will calm down. Donald Trump, the man who described himself with the words: “I know the system best. So I am the one who can fix it” – 45th President of the USA. So, why not?

Americas

It’s Back to “Rocket Man”: Trump Steadily expanding risks of a Nuclear war With North Korea

Prof. Louis René Beres

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

“We fell in love” crowed Donald Trump about Kim Jung Un, after their Singapore summit back in June 2018. But this grotesquely curious romance was destined not to last. In fact, since early December 2019, it’s been consistently retrograde, back to Trump’s nonsensical recriminations; that is, to the American president’s conspicuously demeaning reliance upon childish epithets.

But to what conceivable strategic purpose? Once again, at least for the still-dissembling White House, it’s not about substantive geopolitical threats. Instead of purposefully enhancing American diplomatic leverage – which might actually make some bargaining sense – it’s just about “rocket man.”[1]

Even at this late point, objective strategic analyses are altogether necessary. Leaving aside the obvious futility of launching ad hominem insults as allegedly productive diplomacy, any upcoming crisis decision-making processes between Washington and Pyongyang will be shaped by Kim Jung Un’s unswerving commitment to personal military power. Inevitably, the flagrantly simplistic notion that this North Korean dictator would ever consider trading off the most visibly tangible implements of such power for presumptive national economic benefits is erroneous on its face.

In strategic matters, truth is always exculpatory. North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is irreversible. Prima facie, “denuclearization” remains an unrealizable goal –  a bitterly naive and conveniently distracting fiction.[2]

What next? The best case scenario available to the United States must now be a mutually acceptable relationship of stable nuclear deterrence. Still, there will be various “potholes” and recurrently unpredictable nuances. Going forward, a generally understated but particularly serious sub-risk for both the United States and North Korea will concern inadvertent nuclear war.

Oddly enough, the actual level of public concern about such prospectively grievous conflict – at least from the standpoint of palpable population fears – remains incommensurately small.

Now what? To begin, President Trump must carefully approach these complex issues at a suitably conceptual level. Then inter alia, it would become easier for Trump and his advisors to understand that the specific nuclear war risks posed by inadvertence must be carefully differentiated from the expected hazards of any deliberate nuclear war. The particular hazards of an intentional nuclear war could stem only from those Washington-Pyongyang hostilities that had been purposely initiated with nuclear weapons and/or deliberately responded to with nuclear weapons.

Moreover, this argument holds whether such unprecedented military actions were undertaken to achieve some form of strategic surprise, or as the result (expected or unexpected) of North Korean enemy irrationality.[3]

There is more. In any deliberate nuclear war scenario, and before any presidential ordering of an American preemption,[4]the expressly designated North Korean leadership would need to appear to US intelligence as(a) operationally nuclear and (b) psychologically irrational. Without this second expectation, any US preemption against an already-nuclear North Korean adversary would be irrational.

Trump, therefore, must continuously monitor not only relevant North Korean nuclear assets and capabilities, but also the substantially intangible mental health (decision-making) characteristics of Kim Jung Un. Although some might mock this second intelligence imperative as unnecessary or even impossible, it nonetheless remains conceivable that the authoritative dictator in Pyongyang could sometime choose to pretend irrationality. What then?

In fact, as we already well know, it is only Kim Jung Un’s counterpart in the White House (and not Kim himself) who has mused publicly about the potential rationality of pretended irrationality and who (until recently) took evident pleasure in claiming that the two presidents once “fell in love” back in Singapore.

When the US president and his latest batch of national security advisors consider the co-existing and fearful prospects of an inadvertent nuclear war with North Korea, their primary focus should remain oriented in institutional directions. This means attention to the expected stability and reliability of Pyongyang’s command, control and intelligence procedures. Should it be determined that these “C3I” processes display unacceptably high risks of mechanical/electrical/computer failure; indecipherable pre-delegations of nuclear launch authority; and/or unpredictable/unreliable launch-on-warning procedures (sometimes also called “launch-on-confirmed-attack”), a still-rational American president could then feel a more compelling need to consider an appropriate preemption.

A complex factor in any such decision-making process would be the apparent advent of hypersonic weapons in North Korean arsenals, and the extent to which any such ominous emergence was being suitably paralleled in American arsenals.

At this already advanced stage in North Korean nuclear military progress, the probable costs to the United States and certain of its allies accruing from any such defensive first-strike would be overwhelming and more-or-less “unacceptable.” Somehow, this foresee ably urgent understanding seems to have escaped Donald Trump, who has stated publicly on several worrisome occasions that North Korean tests of short-range missiles “do not worry” him. Among other shortcomings, this blithe and shallow presidential observation suggests that Trump is focused only on direct (long-range) missile threats to the United States, and somehow remains continuously unmindful of escalatory possibilities.

These inherently bewildering prospects include the profoundly destabilizing impact of shorter-range missiles upon US regional allies.

In principle, at least, certain calculable preemption options cannot be dismissed out of hand. More precisely, any residual American resort to “anticipatory self-defense” could be nuclear or non-nuclear and could even be indicated without any express regard for Kim Jung Un’s presumed rationality. Still, the well-reasoned cost-effectiveness of any US preemption would almost certainly be enlarged by any such carefully calculated presumptions.

What would be the most plausible reactions concerning a Trump-ordered preemption against North Korea? When all significant factors are taken into analytic account, Pyongyang, likely having no meaningful option to launching at least some massive forms of armed response, would intentionally target designated American military forces in the region and/or certain high-value South Korean armaments/personnel. President Trump, still assuming enemy rationality, should then expect that whatever its precise configuration of selected targets, North Korea’s retaliatory blow would be designed in part to avoid any massive (including nuclear) American counter-retaliations.

All such high-consequence calculations would involve multiple adversarial policy intersections, some which could be genuinely “synergistic”[5] and would assume perfect rationality on all sides. If, for example, the American president should decide to strike first, the response from Kim Jung Un should then be expectedly proportionate,[6] that is, similarly massive. In this heuristic escalatory “game, “the willful introduction of nuclear weapons into any ensuing conflagration might not be dismissed by either “player.”

What happens next?

As Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt has written, perhaps prophetically in this US-North Korea war scenario, “Sometimes, the worst does happen.”

 Noteworthy, too, at least at such a markedly uncertain and unprecedented point of prospective belligerency, any such game-changing introduction would more likely originate from the American side. This singular but all-embracing inference is based upon the understanding that while North Korea already has nuclear weapons and missile delivery vehicles (consequential weapons and delivery vehicles by definition), it is not yet prepared to seek “escalation dominance” vis-à-vis the United States. More precisely, for the moment, at least, it would seemingly be irrational for Pyongyang to launch its nuclear weapons first.

 Sometime, at least in principle, Trump, extending his usually favored stance of an argumentum ad bacculum (an illegitimate appeal to force) could opt rationally for a “mad dog” strategy.[7]Here, the American president, following his just-ordered preemption, would deliberately choose a strategy of pretended irrationality.

There is more. Any such determined reliance, while intuitively sensible and expectedly compelling, could backfire, thereby opening up a slippery path to various unstoppable escalations. Such a self-propelling competition in risk-taking could also be triggered by the North Korean president, then pretending to be a “mad dog” himself. Significantly, any feigned irrationality stance by Kim Jong Un might be undertaken exclusively by the North Korean side, or in an unplanned “synergy” with the United States.

In all conceivable variants of crisis bargaining situations between Washington and Pyongyang, and even without any calculable synergies, highest-level decision-making processes would be resoundingly and meaningfully interdependent.

All this means, inter alia, greater levels of complexity for decision-makers to unravel and a measurably lesser significance assigned to any once-presumptive “love” relationship between the two adversarial presidents.

Regarding complexity, and in absolutely all possible bargaining postures, each side would have to pay reciprocally close attention to the anticipated wishes and intentions of Russia (Cold War II[8]) and China. Aptly, one must now inquire, does President Trump genuinely believe that China would find it gainful to support him in any pending nuclear crisis with North Korea? To answer such a query, it ought to become plain that Trump’s still-ongoing and largely incoherent trade war with China will prove manifestly “unhelpful.”

Immediately, relevant scenarios must be explicitly posited and dialectically examined.[9]If President Donald Trump’s initial defensive first strike against North Korea were observably less than massive, for example, a still rational adversary in Pyongyang would likely take steps to ensure that its optimal reprisal was correspondingly limited. But if Trump’s consciously rational and calibrated attack upon North Korea were (wittingly or unwittingly)launched against an irrational enemy leadership, the response from Pyongyang could then bean all-out retaliation.

This unanticipated response, whether a non-nuclear or non-nuclear-nuclear “hybrid” response, would be directed at some as yet indeterminable combination of US and allied targets.

Inevitably, by any sensible measure, this response could inflict starkly grievous harms.

It is now also worth considering that a North Korean missile reprisal against US interests and personnel would not automatically exclude the American homeland. However, should the North Korean president maintain a determinedly rational “ladder” of available strategic options, he would almost certainly resist targeting any vulnerable civilian portions of the United States. Should he remain determinably willing to strike targets in South Korea and/or Japan, he would still incur very substantial risks of an American nuclear counter-retaliation.

In principle, at least, any such US response would follow directly from this country’s assorted treaty-based obligations regarding “collective self-defense.”[10]

Such risks would be much greater if Kim’s own aggressions[11]had already extended beyond hard military assets, either intentionally or as “collateral damage” brought unwittingly to soft civilian populations and/or infrastructures.

There is more. Even if the unimaginably complex game of nuclear brinksmanshipin Northeast Asia were being played exclusively by fully rational adversaries, the rapidly accumulating momentum of events between Washington and Pyongyang could still demand each “contestant” to strive relentlessly for escalation dominance. It is in the notably unpracticed dynamics of such an explosive rivalry that the prospect of an actual “Armageddon” scenario could plausibly be actualized.

“Sometimes,” reminds Friedrich Durrenmatt, “the worst does happen.”

This unprecedented outcome could be produced in unexpected increments of escalation by either or both dominant national players, or instead, by some sudden quantum leap in destructiveness undertaken by the United States and/or North Korea.

Looking ahead, the only predictable element of this foreseeable US-North Korea strategic game is this situation’s irremediable and boundless unpredictability. Even under the very best or optimal assumptions of enemy rationality, all relevant decision-makers would have to concern themselves with potentially dense or confused communications, inevitable miscalculations, cascading errors in information, unauthorized uses of strategic weapons, mechanical, electrical or computer malfunctions and poorly-recognized applications of cyber-defense and cyber-war.

Technically, one further analytic distinction is needed between inadvertent nuclear war and accidental nuclear war. By definition, an accidental nuclear war would be inadvertent, but reciprocally, an inadvertent nuclear war need not necessarily be accidental. False warnings, which could be spawned by mechanical, electrical or computer malfunction, or by hacking,[12]would best fit under the clarifying narratives of an accidental nuclear war. Most worrisome, however, for all concerned, would be those forms of inadvertent nuclear war occasioned not by accident, but by confusion and/or miscalculation.

Irony is applicable. Such prospectively irremediable outcomes could be expressed though neither side had actually wanted war.

“Everything is very simple in war,” says Carl von Clausewitz inOn War, “but the simplest thing is still difficult.” With this seemingly banal but still profound observation, the classical Prussian strategist makes plain that capable military planning is always problematic. In large measure, this is because of what Clausewitz so famously called “friction.”In essence, friction describes “the difference between war as it actually is, and war on paper.”

Unless US President Donald Trump is able to better understand this core concept and prepare to meticulously manage all unpredictable risks of an unintentional war with North Korea, any future warnings about “rocket man” would prove operationally immaterial or blatantly injurious. While the specific identifiable risks of any deliberate or intentional nuclear conflict between the United States and North Korea should remain front and center in Washington, such formidable risks ought never be assessed apart from these other hazards of crisis decision-making. Significantly, all of these strategic risks could be overlapping, mutually reinforcing and/or synergistic. In at least some suchdaunting circumstances, the palpable “whole” of cumulative risk effects would be greater than the simple additive sum of constituent “parts.”

At that point, recalling US President Trump’s earlier inversion of what is actually true, it will be too late to purposefully understand what is most important: Nuclear crisis bargaining between adversarial states should be based not on “attitude,” but on “preparation.” Further, such inevitable bargaining ought never be founded upon any presumptive “love” relationships between the relevant adversaries or on any demeaning epithets drawn whimsically from contemporary musical compositions (e.g. “Rocket man”).

To meaningfully reduce the steadily-cascading risks of a nuclear war with North Korea, Donald Trump should immediately cease his caricatural personalizations of world politics, and focus instead upon far more serious policy considerations of intellectual substance.


[1]https://news.yahoo.com/trump-revives-threat-force-against-023727996.html

[2]https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/07/us/north-korea-denuclearization-off-table/index.html Also, see earlier, by this writer, at Yale Global Online:  Louis René Beres, https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/too-late-north-korea-denuclearization

[3] Recalling the 20th-century German philosopher, Karl Jaspers: “The rational is not thinkable without its other, the non-rational, and it never appears in reality without it.” This insight can be found in Jaspers’ “Historical Reflections” on Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

[4] Worth noting here too is that any such ordering of a preemptive attack (defensive first strike) by an American president would be problematic under US law (especially underUS Constitutional constraints). Always, there are critical jurisprudential as well as strategic implications involved.

[5] In any synergistic intersection – whether in chemistry, medicine or war – the “whole” of any result would exceed the simple sum of policy-determining “parts.”

[6]In legal terms, the principle of proportionality is contained in both the rules governing the resort to armed conflict (jus ad bellum) and in the rules governing the actual conduct of hostilities (jus in bello).  Regarding the former, proportionality relates to self-defense.  In the latter, it relates to conduct of belligerency. Proportionality is itself derivative from the more basic principle that belligerent rights are not unlimited (See notably Hague Convention No. IV (1907), Annex to the Convention, Section II (Hostilities), Art. 22: “The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited”).

[7] This term has certain historical roots in former Israeli Minister of Defense (General) Moshe Dayan’s remark about his own country’s strategic vulnerabilities: “Israel must be seen as a `mad dog,’ too dangerous to bother.” (See discussion by this writer, Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed., 20180.

[8]In political science terms, positing the expansion of “Cold War II” means expecting that the world system is becoming increasingly bipolar. For early writings, by this author, on the global security implications of just 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.

[9] The base term, “dialectic,” originates from the Greek expression for the art of conversation. A common contemporary meaning is method of seeking truth by correct reasoning. From the standpoint of shaping Israel’s nuclear strategy, the following representative operations could be regarded as essential but nonexclusive components: (1)a method of refutation conducted by examining logical consequences; (2) a method of division or repeated logical analysis of genera into species; (3) logical reasoning using premises that are probable or generally accepted; (4) formal logic; and (5) the logical development of thought through thesis and antithesis to fruitful synthesis of these opposites.

[10] For the differences between “collective self-defense” and “collective security,” see this writer’s early book: Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (University of Denver Monograph Series in World Affairs) (1973).

[11] Since World War II, aggression has typically been defined as a military attack, not justified by international law, when directed against the territory of another state. The question of defining aggression first acquired legal significance with the Draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1923. One year later, the Geneva Protocol of 1924 provided that any state that failed to comply with the obligation to employ procedures of peaceful settlement in the Protocol or the Covenant was an aggressor. Much later, an authoritative definition of aggression was adopted without vote by the UN General Assembly on December 14, 1974.

[12] This prospect now includes the plausible advent of so-called “cyber- mercenaries.”

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Americas

Some False Statements Made in the Trump- Impeachment Hearings

Eric Zuesse

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In the December 4th statement that was made by Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan was this:

We have become the shining city on a hill. We have become the nation that leads the world in understanding what democracy is. One of the things we understand most profoundly is it’s not a real democracy, it’s not a mature democracy if the party in power uses the criminal process to go after its enemies. I think you heard testimony, the Intelligence Committee heard testimony about how it isn’t just our national interest in protecting our own elections. It’s not just our national interest in making sure that the Ukraine remains strong and on the front lines so they fight the Russians there and we don’t have to fight them here.

It’s also our national interest in promoting democracy worldwide, and if we look hypocritical about this, if we look like we’re asking other countries to interfere in our election, if we look like we’re asking other countries to engage in criminal investigations of our President’s political opponents, then we’re not doing our job of promoting our national interest in being that shining city on a hill.

She said: “We have become the shining city on a hill.” Here is a list of just a few of the democratically elected presidents and prime ministers in foreign countries whom the U.S. regime overthrew, by coups, in order to install brutal dictatorial regimes there that would do sweetheart deals with America’s international corporations. Also, unsuccessful, merely attempted, U.S. coups are discussed there.

Furthermore, the scientific studies of whether the U.S. Government is controlled by the public (a democracy) or is instead controlled only by its very wealthiest (an aristocracy) are clear: this country is an aristocracy, not a democracy at all, except, perhaps, in the purely formal senses of that term — our great Constitution. Far-right judges have recently been interpreting that Constitution in the most pro-aristocratic, anti-democratic, ways imaginable, and this might have something to do with why the scientific studies are finding that the U.S. is now a dictatorship. And this fact, of America’s now being a dictatorship, was blatantly clear in America’s last Presidential election, which was actually a s‘election’ by Americas’ billionaires — not  by the American public.

How, then, can Professor Karlan be respected about anything, if she lives in a dictatorship (by its aristocracy) and is deluded to think that it’s still (which it never was completely) a democracy?

Furthermore: her statements about Ukraine are equally deluded. She is obviously unaware that the Obama Administration started planning its coup against Ukraine in 2011 and started implementing it in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on 1 March 2013, and started in June 2013 soliciting bids from U.S. companies to renovate at least one building in Crimea for use by the U.S. Navy to replace Russia’s main naval base — which Russian naval base was and is in Crimea — by a new U.S. naval base to be installed there. 

The craziest thing of all about Karlan’s statement, however, is this part: “It’s not just our national interest in making sure that the Ukraine remains strong and on the front lines so they fight the Russians there and we don’t have to fight them here.”

Imagine if someone said, “It’s not just our national interest in making sure that the Mexico remains strong and on the front lines so they fight the Americans there and we [Russians] don’t have to fight them here.”

If a Russian were to assert that, would the statement be any more justifiable than what Karlan said regarding Ukraine? Of course not! Even an idiot can recognize this fact. But Karlan can’t.

On December 5th, the anonymous “Moon of Alabama” blogger, whose opinions and predictions turn out to have been correct at perhaps the highest rate of anyone on the internet, headlined “The Delusions Of The Impeachment Witnesses Point To A Larger Problem” and he not only pointed out the “delusional” beliefs of Professor Karlan (“One must be seriously disturbed to believe such nonsense. How can it be that Karlan is teaching at an academic level when she has such delusions?”), but he noted that:

How is it in U.S. interest to give the Ukraine U.S. taxpayer money to buy U.S. weapons? The sole motive behind that idea was greed and corruption, not national interest:

[U.S. special envoy to Ukraine] Volker started his job at the State Department in 2017 in an unusual part-time arrangement that allowed him to continue consulting at BGR, a powerful lobbying firm that represents Ukraine and the U.S.-based defense firm Raytheon. During his tenure, Volker advocated for the United States to send Raytheon-manufactured antitank Javelin missiles to Ukraine — a decision that made Raytheon millions of dollars.

The missiles are useless in the conflict. They are kept near the western border of Ukraine under U.S. control. The U.S. fears that Russia would hit back elsewhere should the Javelin reach the frontline in the east and get used against the east-Ukrainians. That Trump shortly held back on some of the money that would have allowed the Ukrainians to buy more of those missiles thus surely made no difference.

To claim that it hurt U.S. national interests is nonsense.

It is really no wonder that U.S. foreign policy continuously produces chaos when its practitioners get taught by people like Karlan. …

The Democrats are doing themselves no favor by producing delusional and partisan witnesses who repeat Reaganesque claptrap. They only prove that the whole affair is just an unserious show trial.

In the meantime Trump is eliminating food stamps for some 700,000 recipients and the Democrats are doing nothing about it. Their majority in the House could have used the time it spent on the impeachment circus to prevent that and other obscenities.

Do the Democrats really believe that their voters will not notice this?

(Of course, they do, and they might be right. After all, polls show that Democrats still believe that Barack Obama was a terrific President, just as Republicans believe that George W. Bush was a terrific President. The fact that both  — and Trump himself —were/are among the worst in American history eludes the voters in both Parties. But though I disagree with his opinion on that particular matter, he’s just asking a question there, and I hope that his more optimistic take than mine turns out to be right, and that the voters — in both Parties — are coming to recognize that American politics right now is almost 100% a con-game, in both Parties.)

Why do people pay subscription-fees, to Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, and to the New York Times, and to other media that are controlled by America’s billionaires, when far higher-quality journalism, like that of “Moon of Alabama” (and like the site you’re reading here) is freely available on the internet? Who needs the mainstream ‘news’-media, when it’s filled with such unreliable claptrap, as respects (instead of exposes) what persons such as Karlan say? Jonathan Turley is to be taken seriously, and he is at the very opposite end from Karlan’s opinions in the impeachment hearings (and regarding much else). (And the hearings-transcript in which both law-professors testified is here.) But the exception is Turley, and Karlan is far more the norm in the U.S.-media mainstream. And virtually all Democratic-Party propaganda-organs (‘the liberal press’) are playing up the Karlan claptrap. So: yes, I do think that “the Democrats [referring to the ones in the House of Representatives, of course] really believe that their voters will not notice this.” Most voters are just as “deluded” (misinformed by the ‘news’-media) as Professor Karlan is.

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Americas

Two Cases, Minor and Major

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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on

News stories have Donald Trump being mocked by France’s Macron at a Buckingham Palace reception for the NATO leaders meeting.  A nearby open mic caught the incident.  Trump’s response was to call Macron two-faced.

Macron returns to a France paralyzed by the biggest strike in years.  Teachers and transport workers are alarmed by his plan targeting their traditional pension scheme.  They would now have to retire later or accept lower benefits.

Trump returns to face impeachment.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the House to get on with it and draw up the Article of Impeachment.  Trump also wants the same.  So he said upon his return from Europe.  He wants it over so he can get on with running the country, which he says has a bustling economy, the lowest unemployment in recent history and a booming stock market.

The source of Trump’s self confidence:  a Republican majority in the senate bound to acquit him.  Truth be told, this is an unusual impeachment in that it has not managed to obtain the support of a single member of the president’s own party.  Prior impeachments of others had more substantial grounds and always some bilateral support.

This impeachment is also unusual for its triviality.  Taking together the partisanship and the weak reasons, some legal scholars warn it sets a bad precedent, and the possibility that future presidents might well face the prospect not as rarely as in the past. 

To summarize the issue:  it stems from Joe Biden’s son Hunter earning $50,000 per month serving on the board of Burisma, the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian gas enterprise, while lacking any professional expertise in the company’s area of business.  The clear implication is that it was due to his father being Vice President of the United States.  Trump simply asked for an announcement from the Ukrainian president that they were opening an investigation.  So what is worse nepotism or an inquiry into it?

From the relatively trivial to the deadly serious.  The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hear the case against Myanmar for the Rohingyan genocide.  Aung San Suu Kyi as tarnished as her Nobel Peace Prize remains obdurate.  Her country’s claim the genocide case stems simply from the world”s inability to understand the complexities of the issue.

Forget the BBC film clip of one incident where the perpetrators boasted proudly of their handiwork as smoke from a village they had set alight rose in the background.  Killing  or stealing livestock, destroying crops to make return impossible was another tactic in the event villagers escaped.  Rape, mass murder, people being burnt alive locked in their houses are well documented.  Later, the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission confirmed convincing evidence of genocide.

Aung San Suu Khyi will face a legal team from Gambia.  Why?  Well it’s a story of happen-chance.  Last year Gambia’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou visited Bangladesh for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s annual conference.  What he saw and heard there recalled for him painful memories of the Rwandan genocide where he had prosecuted cases.

With the OIC delegation he visited Rohingya refugee camps to hear repeated stories of rape, murder and arson, and on his return he was able to convince the OIC to file a case with the ICJ.  It is the first of its kind since the 1990s from the then demised Yugoslavia — the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Serbia and Montenegro charging genocide filed in 1993.   

And a timely warning to over-enthused promoters of religious nationalism willing to step over the line of human decency and respect for the other.  Look where it leads. 

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