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The Caligula Presidency as an Existential Menace to American Democracy

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]t did not take very long before ancient Romans began to realize that the Caligula reign (which lasted some five years) represented a veritable threat to the Roman Republic and indeed the whole of the Roman Empire.

The Praetorian guards, whose duty it was to protect, the august Emperor of the Empire, came to that realization a bit more slowly but they too arrived at it, and then decided, wisely or misguidedly, as the case may be, to take things into their own hands. They proceeded to assassinate the emperor as he returned to his quarters from a gladiators’ game in the Coliseum.

Unethical and illegal, not to speak of loyalty and duty, to be sure, but a solution of sorts, one must admit. They had decided that a legal or ethical solution was next to impossible; so they resorted to an illegal and unethical one.

Let’s now jump to our present dire crisis. I have dubbed it “the Caligula presidency” because I see uncanny and ominous parallels with what went down some two thousand years ago in ancient Rome.

What is this crisis all about? Is it what Weaky Leak would like us to believe. Deep state taking over like the Orwellian Big Brother in 1984, eavesdropping on its citizens via state of the arts technology?

Is it terrorism? Al-Qaida, ISIS, getting its hands on nukes or controlling the computers that power our banks?

In some way it is all that. But that would still be a secondary peril. The first threat may turn out to be not terrorism but the way we respond to it, by turning against each other and in the process betraying our own ideals.

To imagine such a scenario we need not bring in Donald Trump as president of the United States. We can imagine it even without him. Thomas Jefferson had already imagined when he warned that “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” It is not that Jefferson was predicting the eventual demise of America as a polity. That may go on for a while just as Rome went on for some 400 years more after Caligula, when Romans went about their daily lives unimpeded, but America might disappear as an ideal democracy and as a symbol of liberty and tolerance.

But things have gotten worse than Jefferson might have imagined. We now have a leader who has no shame. He lies habitually and exploits our darkest fears regardless of consequences. He is simply unable to recognize when he is wrong and to rectify it. He takes responsibility for nothing but what appears useful to his own tremendous ego.

Take a couple or recent policy executions which he initiated by executive orders. The travel ban from selected Muslim countries. It reveals a mind-set, alive and well in the White House via the conspiracy theories of Steve Bannon, Trump’s strategist, that terrorists, like a giant tsunami, are flooding the country disguised as refugees. This is pure and simple a ban on Muslims, period.

Then there is VOICE, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, a new office Trump has created recently. This office was created after three Indian men were shot in separate attacks within the country, apparently mistaken for Muslims, or perhaps just because they were non-whites. The initiative of VOICE after these incidents bring one back to Nazi propaganda which blamed every societal ill on an alien race.

What is Trump doing here? Not hard to figure out. In the first place, remember that he is an entertainer. He is motivated rather than repulsed by the raw emotion of a mob. Indeed, fear is what defines much of America at the moment: fear of foreign terrorism, automation, new global markets, drug abuse, spiritual dislocation. Trump give it a name and scapegoat: Otherness. The people respond enthusiastically. They now see enemies everywhere, even here at home: the liberal media, the government agencies, the liberal philosophy underpinning much of democracy, free speech, all considered “enemies of the people.”

To combat those enemies (often dubbed Deep State) a White Nationalism has been created. The KKK used to be the racist symbolism of that mind-set. Now it is more respectable; it clothes itself in the mantle of patriotic Americanism.

Despite all this, the country as a whole continues to believe, a bit schizophrenically, that the country’s legacy is that of a nation of immigrants beyond religion and race. It is that belief that is deemed to be our singular place in the world. That bedrock belief explains the difficulty in reaching a consensus about unlawful immigration. Two seminal ideas are crashing here: the rule of law on one hand which is considered almost sacred, and compassion for others on the other hand, especially when declaring oneself a “Christian” nation.

You would expect that a sitting president would be helpful in sorting out these painful contradictions of public policy. What he has done, instead, is breach all the common boundaries of responsible political debate. His numerous enemies whom he insults habitually via Tweet, are not only Muslims, but Mexicans; not only the poor and disadvantaged, but the educated and the politically correct.

This sitting president, so similar to Caligula of old seems to care little for tolerance, pluralism, free press, as long as the mob stays loyal, well fed and entertained. But it seems that lately he has been losing that too. His popularity as a president is at an all time low.

Oh well, presidents come and go, but this is different. How so? In the sense that he may have unleashed in the body politic of the US a sort of cultural virus wherein the mantra “go back to your own country” does not belong exclusively to the KKK and other assorted racists, but it is fast becoming popular and common.

What’s even more disturbing is that there seems to be an assault on taken for granted American ideals by which this country thought of itself as exceptional. The question arises: is this the real threat? Is this the wrong path we have embarked upon from which there is no going back? And when do our leaders in Congress and the Judicial rise up and say “enough is enough”?

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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India and the ‘Summit for Democracy’: Behind the Silent Acceptance

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US president Joe Biden’s ‘Summit for Democracy’ has raised questions over the legitimacy of the American leadership in global geopolitics. The summit is planned for 9-10 December and will be attended by a ‘confusing’ list of 110 countries.

Among the invitees are EU (sans Hungary), Ukraine, Philippines, Pakistan, and India. Some major exclusions are Russia, China, and Turkey. The list is claimed to be based on ‘shared values’ and interests.

China and Russia have decried the summit for its inherent aim for perpetuating dividing lines between countries. Hungary has announced it would not back EU’s joint contribution to the summit. Turkey has been reprimanded for its recent attempts to break away from the US shackles of influence.

The guest list has created a black and white scenario for most of the countries, highlighting the strategic interests that the US pursues in contemporary geopolitical landscape. However, it has thrown unexpected surprises for the South Asian region, which semes to put India in a spot.

Why US is being criticised for the Summit?

According to a Pew report, only few believe that US democracy in its current state serves as a good model for other countries. A high 72 percent say that US democracy is no longer a good example to follow for others. Another report by the European think tank labels US as a ‘backsliding democracy’.

The reports highlight how American model of democracy has appealed generations through use of soft power mechanisms strengthened by a booming economy. With a slowing economy, American model’s attraction too is expected to wane.

In some opinions, Biden’s summit is a desperate attempt to check the bleeding of the US influence in the global arena. But there are just too many factors which might prove this attempt to be a folly rather than a masterstroke.

The ongoing paranoia around a Ukrainian and Taiwan invasion has led to a reminiscence of ‘cold war’ between China and Russia on one hand, and the western allies led by the US on another.

With this has arrived US attempts to pre-emptively nullify any possibilities for a renewed non-aligned movement. The summit provides a lever to pull countries in the US ambit in garb of shared values and interests, threaten others who are standing at the periphery, and snub the rest for symbolizing the demarcation between allies and adversaries.

By inviting Taiwan, the summit has raised questions over not just the US’ adherence to ‘One China Policy’ but has also attempted to infuse a debate in other countries to take a fresh stand towards it. This might to create tensions between some invitees and Beijing.

Is India in a quandary?

Over the last few years several reports from think tanks based in US and Europe have highlighted, criticised, and questioned India’s waning democratic credentials. While one report classified India as an ‘electoral autocracy’ and no longer an ‘electoral democracy’, some other have categorised India as a ‘flawed democracy’ and as only ‘partly free’, indicating that Indian democracy is under seige.

These reports often caused debates in Indian domestic political arena and created opportunities for the opposition parties and groups to question the government in power. In light of this, the invite by the Biden administration comes as a relief for the Indian government.

But it is not like India’s democratic credentials might have a lot to do with the invite. The concept of Biden’s summit creates no divisions between the invitees when it comes to the nature of democracy existing in these countries.

Considering the summit brings Pakistan at an equal footing with India in terms of democratic standards, the summit highlights the US’ deeply infused strategic interests in the invitee list, as well as in the overall concept.

Moreover, by omitting Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from the list, Biden government seems to have signalled US’ unhappiness with their stance towards the regional geopolitics. Making it difficult for these countries to navigate their way in a increasingly complex South Asian geopolitical scenario of two rising powers.  

Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar recently concluded the Russia-India-China trilateral meeting with his counterparts. The three voiced mutual opposition to the US’ unilateral decision making in several areas, and a need for creating a more balanced and multipolarity-based global order through co-ordination and co-operation.

In this light, Biden’s summit also provides a tool to nudge New Delhi away from any meaningful collaboration with Moscow and Beijing. If the Indian government ignores the summit, it is bound to attract questions in the domestic arena as well.

Now while it becomes an imperative for India to be a part of the summit, its posturing at the summit would highlight India’s tilt towards either continuing with a non-aligned tradition, siding with the west, or raising disagreements with it to preserve strategic autonomy.

What is to come ahead?

The duality of the Biden administration’s vision lies in its propagation of ‘shared values’ while US has and continues to engage in substantive efforts to coordinate with authoritarian regimes wherever it suits its own strategic interests.

In a hard-hitting rebuttal, Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging all the foreign partners not to engage in democratization, not to draw dividing lines, and to recognize in practise the principle of the sovereign equality of states as enshrined in the UN charter. Also, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wan Yi has highlighted that practise of democracy varies according to different national conditions and cannot be one template or one standard and emphasised on the need to get out of the ‘democracy trap’. Not many non-invitees have decided to take a overtly harsh stance as of now, but a similar stance from other countries snubbed by the Biden administration can be expected.

The summit will change the South Asian dynamics considering how it draws a line between China, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka on one side, and India, Pakistan, Nepal on another. A silent acceptance of the US’ attempts to check its waning influence might give a wrong signal when the world is becoming more multipolar than ever.

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Reason, Science and Empathy: Interrelated Foundations of American Survival

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“Science, by which I mean the entire body of knowledge about things, whether corporeal or spiritual, is as much a work of imagination as it is of observation….-Jose Ortega y’Gasset, Man and Crisis (1958)

Reason, anti-Reason and Mortality

The distracting whispers must be rejected. To survive long-term, especially during times of growing biological peril, Americans will have to disavow the always-dissembling voices of anti-reason. Such imperative disavowal will have to (1) be emphatic, and (2) coincide with a reaffirmed national commitment to scientific logic and human empathy. Failing this primary obligation, Americans will likely have to harden themselves to previously unimaginable forms of derangement and suffering.[1]

               Still, it’s not really a bewildering obligation. Looking back at the refractory Trump Era, we should already be well-familiar with the blatantly lethal obfuscations of shallow rhetoric and deliberate mystification. Even for a nation not generally accustomed to any serious considerations of “high thinking” (a phrase favored by 19th century American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson), there can be no defensible excuse for having tolerated (much less supported) violent insurrection against the United States.

               What next? Informed retrospectives must begin at the beginning. The beginning here is unambiguous. In the final analysis, we humans are all fundamentally the same.

               Whatever the viscerally pleasing and differentiating nuances of nationality, religion and culture, and whatever else we might choose to display as signs of some promisingly ennobling individualization, we are all ultimately creatures of biology. And more than any other discernible biological commonality, we are all mortal.[2] But is this common mortality a positive quality? Should we necessarily take this ubiquitous commonality as “a good thing?”

               Whatever the answer, the pertinent commonality is fixed and immutable. Inter alia, it has not generally been interpreted as a welcome source of potential human cooperation. On the contrary, wherever mortality has been conceptualized as a zero-sum quality (my life requires someone else’s death), it has spawned variously primal justifications for war, terrorism and genocide. If after all it can be presumed that “God is on our side,” what could possibly stand in the way of “our” victory and “my” redemption?

               Significantly, the zero-sum assumption is “net negative.” It remains narrowly ideological or theological, and is not in any fashion scientifically derived. In principle, therefore, once it can be understood that a shared mortality is universal and intellectually unchallengeable, all nations could begin to base their survival options on presumptions of  organic “oneness”[3] or “human interconnectedness.”  Among other things, such basing could be founded upon certain newly expanded  and often intersecting opportunities for empathy, scientific investigation and war avoidance.[4]

Plausible Options and Preferred Outcomes

               For the most part, currently available options and outcomes are markedly unhidden. Wherever one looks on this imperiled planet, it’s all pretty much the same. Day to day, year to year, we all witness a recurring saga of conspicuous human indifference, a never-ending story of momentary triumph, harm, pain, poverty, a timeless tale of living and dying.

               Recalling William Golding’s shipwrecked schoolboys in Lord of the Flies, we may infer that behind this fragile veneer lurks occasional human heroism but also a refractory barbarism. The distressing “civilizational” litany of wars, terror attacks, genocides[5] shows no persuasive signs of letting up. Dostoyevsky’s dark view of civilization has become more and more difficult to reject or to counter.[6]

               Let us be candid. By any reasonable historical and scientific measures, we humans too often scandalize what we create, even our own personal “being.” From the intersecting standpoints of national and civilizational survival, a very simple and direct query can no longer be avoided: “Could matters possibly get any worse?”

               There is more. Frequently, as in the case of still-exploding Covid19 deaths in the United States, evident wrongdoings do not rise to any identifiably de jure thresholds of pertinent crime. Still, the de facto results of previous presidential mismanagement remain manifestly negative or catastrophic. More precisely, in a great many “plague”-related fatalities, these results have proven willfully murderous and perhaps even genocidal.[7]        

               How shall this determined epidemic of anti-Reason be expected to end?[8]  As a long-retired university professor, I am correctly obliged here to be analytic.  Human beings, after all, have lived for about eight hundred lifetimes, most of which have been spent in caves.  It should come as no surprise that for most of the almost eight billion people now on earth, hunger, poverty, violence, and cruelty remain an absolutely “natural” state of affairs. Moreover, in an incomparably devastating irony, a huge portion of humankind’s precious but dwindling resources remain earmarked for the infliction of deliberate harms.

               Unsurprisingly, we humans may continue to expect plutocracy, exploitation and apocalyptic war.

               During the malignant Trump Era in the United States, such perverse priorities became cause for variously ecstatic celebrations of personal and collective ignorance. These infinitely lethal behaviors did not simply disappear along with the barbarous Trump presidency. Arguably, even now, the dissembling voices of anti-science and anti-reason are growing louder by the day. At this point, some of the dominant American conspiracy theories defy not only tangible evidence, but also elementary logic.

The Historic War Against “Mind”

                “Intellect rots the brain,” shrieked Third Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels in 1934 Germany. “I love the poorly educated,” volunteered presidential candidate Donald J. Trump back in 2016. The basically authoritarian sentiments here have distressingly much in common. In both cases, the expressed sentiments reflect a society that prefers easy mystification to any challenging analytic calculations.

               “The crowd is untruth,” summed up Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in the 19th century. Such succinct prescience can also be discovered in Friedrich Nietzsche’s “herd,” Sigmund Freud’s “horde,” and Carl G. Jung’s “mass.” In essence, these terms mean the very same thing.[9] They are collective incarnations of anti-thought.

               Even now, most notably in the still Trump-defiled United States, science yields to certain daily deceptions; imaginary enemies are more-or-less continuously being contrived by the science-loathing “crowd.” Accordingly, certain core questions should no longer be casually sidestepped or politely avoided. To wit: How much treasure, how much science, how much human labor and planning. how many centuries of learning will  now continue to be ransacked in order to prevent  or undermine American democracy, racial justice and international peace?[10] Will Americans continue to seek national security through a delusionary “balance-of-power” paradigm, an imagined symmetry that has never worked since its formal modern inception in the seventeenth century,[11] and  can never conceivably work in the future.

                How can we still fail to understand that though the metaphor of equilibrium is captivating and reassuring (older Americans can think here of the Vietnam War “dominos” analogy),  this prescribed arrangement for managing global power[12] is merely a formula for continuous despair?[13]

               Frightened by the ineradicable face of personal mortality, how much longer, all must wonder, can we pretend that zero-sum definitions of conflict represent a realistic path to immortality? In this connection, “immortality” is indisputably the lexically correct term. After all, the ultimate expectation of every “sacred” instance of war, terrorism[14] and genocide is plain, It is  “power over death.”[15]

                To be sure, we don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions. But we should want to know why we have progressed so little as a species and as a nation – at least from the critical standpoints of Empathy, Science and Coexistence –  and what each individual still has to gain from continuing to push on personally.

Quo Vadis: What Next?

                On some core matters, very little has changed. In world politics, the corpse has always been “in fashion.” Today, a mere score of years after the close of a century that can reasonably be called the Age of Atrocity, whole nations of corpses could quickly become the rage.  Indeed, with the dreadful confluence of plague, war and inequality, it is already happening.

               What happens next?

               Bob Dylan once sang, “the executioner’s face is well-hidden.”  As for the proverbial “good people,” their predictably ritual silence remains vital to all that would madden and torment. Here in the United States, millions of docile citizens continued not only to abide a president who defiled virtually everything for which his country stands, but actually remain in his “camp” after a Trump-generated insurrection. Again, this was a president who violated national and international law,[16] who proclaimed that “the Moon is part of Mars” and who read absolutely nothing, nothing at all.

               What sort of Republic is this?

               Plus ca change…. Nothing primal really changes.  The dinosaurs ruled this once beautiful planet for millions of years, far longer than the brief tenure of our own despoiling species. Long gone, they have left us only their crushed bones as mementoes.

               What artifacts shall we dare leave behind?

               A related question can no longer be suppressed: Have we no historical memory?  Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage and Rome, ground to dust, and burned into oblivion.  Is this what it’s ultimately all for?  Do we humans remain alive merely to become captives of an habitually corrupted knowledge and a deservedly terminal despair?[17]

               Hope should remain; of this most Americans are certain. But today’s calls for rebirth must sing softly, sotto voce, muted, and in a dolorous undertone.  Now, finally, we must learn to understand that the visible Earth is made of ashes and that ashes can signify warnings that are momentous. Through the obscure depths of history, we must struggle valiantly to make out the phantoms of once great ships of state, and to learn that the often-unanticipated disasters that sent them down were ultimately ouraffair.[18]

               There is more. Americans must strive to study history, but not in the “normal” atmospheres of contrived heroism and pretended national greatness.  Prima facie, Trump Era gibberish has no place in a functioning democracy.

               To grasp true lessons of history and long life, we must come to despise any such sullied ways of interpreting the world.  The worst barbarians, we should already know after Trump, are not outside the gates. As in ancient Rome, many are sequestered deep withinthe city, often as exemplars of wealth, privilege and alleged “good fortune.” These barbarians include not only sinister fomenters of large scale international violence, but also legions of ordinary citizens, “good people” who nonetheless revile any too-intellectually demanding obligations of Reason and Science.[19]

America and the “Mass Man”

               The core danger lies in “mass.” The “mass man,” we learn from 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses, “has no use for reason. He learns only in his own flesh.” This person could also be labeled as “Herd Man” (Nietzsche); “Crowd Man” (Kierkegaard) or “Horde Man” (Freud).[20] All are comparably characterized by a willful abandonment of critical judgment and independent thought.

               Ipso facto, former President Donald J. Trump was the undisputed champion of Ortega’s “mass man.” Perhaps he was even its quintessentially inglorious incarnation.

               In the end, the problem we humans have felt so acutely, the problem of identifying meaning and security on an increasingly endangered planet, is a problem we can never fully solve. Nonetheless, we do want to go on, to hang on by our fingernails if necessary, to feel, to learn, to help, to love and to grasp life amid all of its unstoppable flirtations with lifelessness. A nation, we must reason, like an individual, should not be forced to die indefinitely. Even at twilight, worn and almost defeated, and on a planet about to rendezvous with new forms of disease, war, terrorism and genocide, each nation’s “life” must be meaningfully affirmed.  

               Any such proper affirmations must be offered in the clarifying accents of Reason and Science. 

               Though Donald J. Trump is no longer in the White House, his egregious assaults on science and reason remain palpable and destructive. Accordingly, millions of his determinedly anti-intellectual followers remain committed to variously preposterous conspiratorial explanations of complex problems. These problems include microbial assault (viral pandemic), personal weapon confiscations and election outcomes.

               At the same time, we Americans know only too well that Science can be adapted to the most appalling ends and that even when joined together with Reason, it must prove inadequate for ensuring a dignified general survival. Now, finally more aware that our civilization displays the same potential fragility as an individual life, a deeply etched pattern of Empathy will also be required.  At the end of his extraordinary life, Albert Einstein reminded presciently: “Without ethical culture, there is no salvation for humanity.”

               In the best of all possible worlds, such a residual pattern could still be drawn purposefully from humankind’s immutable commonality of death – that is, from our conspicuous universal mortality – but this is not yet the best of all possible worlds. Even though death is never more glaringly ubiquitous than during a time of “plague,” the ongoing reaction of national governments to planet-wide viral threat remains narrowly nationalistic and cumulatively self-defeating. To actually get beyond such grievous civilizational limitations would now demand a herculean “work of imagination,” not just a more-or-less competent “science of observation.”

               On the special requirements of Empathy, Americans should recall that oftentimes in history grievously evil goals have called openly for “moral” behaviors. National Socialism’s sinister appeal to German youth in the 1930s and 1940s was expressly grounded in “moral obligations” of “racial hygiene” and “anti-Bolshevism.” These alleged obligations were seductively “packaged” together with boisterously stirring claims of “historic national destiny.”

               During the Trump Era in the United States, an era of tragic farce, this moral appeal of immorality – a de facto ethical inversion – openly undermined this nation’s Constitution-based legal order. Whether this paradoxical appeal will continue to foster such dire inversions in the years ahead remains to be seen. But it should already be taken as a portentous warning of what may still lie ahead, and not merely as regrettable fait accompli.

An Invariant Truth

                Certain tentative conclusions will have to be drawn. Truth is always exculpatory.  Whatever the differences in any detailed particulars, America’s survival must begin with the microcosm. This means a beginning with the individual human being who is already able to see beyond the endless banalities and empty witticisms of American politics and who can also finally muster the requisite personal “will”[21] to call pertinent  things by their correct names.[22]

               There is more. Any such beginning would have to originate in those still-tangible spaces that are already oriented toward serious considerations of learning or “Mind.” As a retired university professor who spent more than a half century in exactly such rare spaces, I believe that even the most uncomfortable expectations about American democratic requirements can hold viable sway or perhaps even prevail. In the Ptolemaic paradigm, just as in the Bible, the human microcosm was originally assigned an enviably central position in the universe. Ironically, however, this usefully favored position was diminished by the scientific advancements of Copernicus.

               What this all means for American survival is essentially the following: Science, when viewed as a work of imagination, must join forces with Reason and Empathy to ward off future national descents into political incoherence. In “operationalizing” this imperative conceptual alignment, the thought-based American citizen – the mass-defying “microcosm” – must be placed at democracy’s center-stage and assume a tangible share of meaningful civic responsibility. By definition, of course, proper democratic governance is always about Science, Reason and Empathy, but it also requires ever-witting and wittingly-informed citizen participation.


[1] In the 17th century, French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked prophetically, in his celebrated Pensées: “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.” Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Pascal’s 17th-century contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing further from René Descartes – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge.

[2] Throughout history, geopolitical processes have often been associated withovercoming human mortality. In his posthumously published lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observed: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.” Earlier, German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel opined, in Philosophy of Right (1820), that the state represents “the march of God in the world.” The “deification” of geopolitics, a transformation from mere principle of action to a sacred end unto itself, drew originating strength from the doctrine of sovereignty advanced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially conceived as a principle of internal order, this doctrine underwent a specific metamorphosis, whence it became the formal or justifying rationale for international anarchy –  that is, for the global “state of nature.” First established by Jean Bodin as a juristic concept in De Republica (1576), sovereignty came to be regarded as a power absolute and above the law. Understood in terms of modern international relations, this doctrine encouraged the notion that states lie above and beyond any form of tangible legal regulation in their interactions.

[3] On “oneness,” we may learn from Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “”You are a citizen of the universe.” A still-broader idea of this species singularity followed the death of Alexander in 322 BCE, and with it came a coinciding doctrine of “universality.” By the Middle Ages, this political and social doctrine had fused with the medieval notion of a Respublica Christiana, a worldwide Christian commonwealth, and Thomas, John of Salisbury and Dante were looking upon Europe as a single community. Here, below the level of God and his presumed heavenly host, all the realm of humanity was considered as one living “body.” This is because all the world had seemingly been created for the same single and incontestable purpose; that is, to provide the necessary background for the primal drama of human salvation. Only in its relationship to the universe itself was this world to be correctly considered as a part rather than whole. Clarifies 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, the idea of human oneness can and should be justified in more conspicuously secular terms of scientific understanding.

[4] See, by this author, Louis René Beres (Zurich):  https://horasis.org/an-ironic-juxtaposition-global-security-and-human-mortality/

[5] Regarding Donald Trump’s most egregious violations of national and international law – i.e., violations of Nuremberg-category obligations concerning genocide prevention- see, by former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz: https://www.yahoo.com/news/nuremberg-prosecutor-warning-trump-war-090342221.html

[6] Laments Fyodor Dostoyevsky in Notes from Underground: “And what is it in us that is mellowed by civilization? All it does, I’d say, is develop in man a capacity to feel a greater variety of sensations.” “Civilization,” adds Lewis Mumford, “is the never-ending process of creating one world and one humanity.” Still the best syntheses of contemporary creative outlines for a world civilization are W. Warren Wagar, The City of Man (1967) and W. Warren Wagar, Building the City of Man (1971).

[7] In law, the crime of genocide requires “intent to destroy,” an element that is presumably absent in pertinent Trump-inflicted harms. Nonetheless, as in the parable of a frog killed by the thoughtless games of frivolous young boys, the American victims of Trump’s blatant disregard are just as dead as they would have been from some more consciously injurious presidential intent, that is, from an authentic mens rea.

[8] This brings to mind the famous 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”?

[9] Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were also interested in the “unscientific” but still insightful idea of a “soul.” Both psychologists/philosophers thought of soul (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For them, it referenced a still-recognizable and critical seat of mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to “soul.” He was already disgusted by a civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (i.e., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that this crude American commitment to shallow optimism and material accomplishment would sometime occasion sweeping psychological misery.

[10] Concerns for international peace must inevitably be linked to concerns about “just wars.” Such wars, wrote Hugo Grotius in The Law of War and Peace (1625) must arise “from our love of the innocent.” Now, however, it is plain, even by definition, that a nuclear war could never be “just” and that certain earlier legal distinctions (e.g., just war vs. unjust war) must be re-evaluated and re-assessed. In the final analysis, moreover, to successfully prevent a nuclear war, it will be necessary to resist any world system declension toward further expressions of belligerent nationalism.

[11] Reference here is to the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War in 1648, and ushered in the modern state 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.

[12]On the concept of global power management, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (1973).

[13] “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another,” warns playwright Samuel Beckett in Endgame, “of seeking justification always on the same plane?”

[14] Under authoritative international law, terrorist movements are always Hostes humani generis, or “Common enemies of mankind.” See: Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM J. INT’L L. (Supp 1935) 435, 566 (quoting King v. Marsh (1615), 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 Eng. Rep 23 (1615) (“a pirate est Hostes humani generis”)).

[15]See, for example, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2019/07/louis-beres-counter-terrorism/

[16] Though never understood by former US president Donald Trump, international law is largelya part of US law.  In the words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).The more specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”  For pertinent earlier decisions by Justice 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).

[17]“Who is to decide which is the grimmer sight,” asks Honore de Balzac, “withered hearts, or empty skulls?”

[18] Today such learning must factor in the conceivable prospect of a nuclear war. For assessments of the probable consequences of a nuclear war by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018); 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 MA:  Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed.,  Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[19] Simultaneously, we cannot be allowed to forget that theoretical fruitfulness must be achieved at some more-or-less tangible costs of “dehumanization.” As Goethe reminds us is Urfaust, the original Faust fragment: “All theory, dear friend, is grey, And the golden tree of life is green.” (Translated here by Professor Beres, the author, from the German: “Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grűn des Lebens goldner Baum.”)

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

[21] Modern philosophy’s origins of the term “will” lie in 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 even more importantly upon Schopenhauer. Goethe also represented 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).

[22] A pessimistic note on this point can be found in the German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant’s worrisome observation: “Out of timber so crooked as that from which man is made, nothing entirely straight can be built.” This is my own translation from the original German: “Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert warden.” See: Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Humanity, xi (Henry Handy, ed., 1991) quoting Immanuel Kant’s Idee Zu Einer Allgemeinen Geschichte in Weltburgerlicher Absicht (1784).

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Democracy Summit and the fall of American-backed Muslim Brotherhood

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

The world was surprised by the American arrangements for the American administration, led by “Joe Biden” and the American Democratic Party, to organize the “World Democracy Conference”, which will bring together all the democratic countries in the world with a purely American choice, during the days of December 9 and 10, 2021, with the participation of nearly 110 countries around the world, while leaving the other half of it is marginalized, authoritarian, or neglected without similar calls being made to it, claiming that it is not democratic, according to the American perspective of understanding the process of democracy from a purely narrow perspective that does not fit the needs of other countries, according to their national, regional and religious circumstances and characteristics, among others. This in itself is a new provocative American attempt to break up the world and divide it, according to strict ideological bases, according to what “Biden” announced before in the alliance of democracies around the world in the face of authoritarianism and authoritarianism, and his intention of that is mainly China and Russia, then the rest of the uncivilized world will come behind them.  And who gave them multiple names, in this new global division, that they are: (undemocratic, tyrannical, dictatorial, authoritarian, autocratic, and tyrannical), and the other such names that competed the organizers of this conference referred to in describing all those who differ with them ideologically and politically in  The foundation, led by China and Russia in the first place, and as the Chinese State Councilor and Chinese Foreign Minister “Wang Yi” said:

“This American democracy summit aims mainly to strengthen the division in the world under the banner of democracy, and it only serves the strategic needs of the United States”

   But on the other hand, the US administration’s omission of invitations to the countries of the region to attend the conference mainly means (dividing the region in favor of its Chinese and Russian competitors, and even more dangerously, the failure of the Israeli-Gulf Arab peace plans under American auspices, as well as the reflection of what is happening on Israel’s security due to the difficulty of the future of security cooperation and coordination  between the countries of the region and Israel due to the sensitivity of their current position on the United States of America), and perhaps this is what many extremist terrorist groups may exploit to launch continuous attacks on American and Israeli targets, given the security vacuum left by the United States of America in the region in favor of both China and Russia, which has become an essential component of the Egyptian, Arab and Gulf foreign policy agenda, especially in light of the “escalation of American interference in the internal affairs of Egypt and the countries of the region in the field of democracy and human rights”, which reached its climax and escalated with the preparation of the United States of America for a conference that brings together all democratic countries in the world.  During which all the countries of the region were excluded with the exception of “Iraq and Israel”, which will inevitably affect (Israeli peace plans under American auspices with the Gulf states and the region, as well as the United States of America giving the green light to extremist terrorist movements and militias to target the security of the Hebrew state, and perhaps all the Gulf countries and countries in the region hesitate to sign and complete new peace agreements with Israel, given the American interference in  their internal affairs).

   Which, I believe, helped “divide the world and the countries of the Middle East at the present time between going to Washington or to the two emerging powers in the world, namely: China and Russia”. Hence, the economic power of China, through its “Belt and Road initiative”, is heavily dependent on its financing and expertise away from the idea of ​​“American political conditionality”. For example, we find that on the Egyptian side, it would have been unlikely that prominent projects on the ground, such as (the new administrative capital and the new industrial zone of the Suez Canal), would have been practically translated without the Chinese aid to the countries of the region and Egypt in the first place.

   Hence, the error of these current American policies will inevitably affect Israel’s security, as (it will inevitably weaken the desire and enthusiasm of many in the region, whom the United States of America used to pay more attention to signing and concluding more peace agreements and political normalization between its Israeli ally and other countries in the Arabian Gulf and the region mainly under US sponsorship). Accordingly, we will analyze a number of the following foundations and indicators to understand the repercussions of this American step to exclude the countries of the region on their interests in the region and on Israel’s security itself.

The importance of the “June 30 Revolution” in Egypt appears to reveal the double standards of America towards the will of the Arab peoples themselves against the American interest, which increased after President “El-Sisi’s nomination for the presidency”, at a time when the popularity of the United States of America declined in Egypt, following its position on the June 30 Revolution, and the subsequent wave of political events that followed June 30, a position that probably did not satisfy anyone, whether from the group of supporters who wanted clear support from Washington, or even from the group of opponents, who wanted a stronger position on the part of the United States of America, and this unless (Washington’s reluctance to stand in support of any party), in addition to proving the American failure to pass its democracy in the region with the failure of the Arab Spring revolutions, the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt and later in Tunisia and Sudan, and the growing weakness of political Islam currents in the region.

    Here we can find a logical relationship between (the reasons for Washington’s refusal to invite Egypt to the conference of American democracies in December 2021, and the June 30 revolution in Egypt), the failure of the Arab Spring revolutions and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt, as follows:

   We can understand and analyze (the role and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, its recent conferences and meetings with a number of American officials, and the successive statements of personalities belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood regarding their “agreement with the new approach of the American administration”, led by President “Joe Biden” not to invite the Egyptian state and the countries of the region), due to the failure of the Arab Spring revolutions, which produced Muslim Brotherhood governments backed by the United States of America.

 The activity of all the organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood began in the United States of America, after (the success of the “June 30 Revolution in Egypt” and the advent of President “El-Sisi” and the alliance of the Egyptian military institution with the masses in the streets was proven), with the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Arab Spring revolutions in most Arab countries, supported by the USA.

  Therefore, the attempt of the United States of America for (developing a plan to antagonize the Arab peoples against their rulers or to shed light on unreal events to distract the Arab world and the region in subsidiary events with the help of the American-active Muslim Brotherhood), began in the same period and time in which it was witnessing the rebuilding of the Arab Spring countries again, especially the beginning of building the new Egyptian state in the first place.

   What is worth studying and analyzing here, is the submission of a memorandum by the US Congressman, “Frank Wolf”, to the US House of Representatives, calling for an investigation with former President “Barack Obama” and his Secretary of State, “Hillary Clinton”, after the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Egypt, “Mohamed Morsi”. In 2012, on charges of “supporting the group with nearly $50 million in the presidential election during the run-off”.

  At the time, the US Congressman “Frank Wolf” announced after the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood and its candidate for government, that:

“American politicians have supported the activity of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political agenda in Egypt at the expense of other parties that do not like Washington”

   Representative “Frank Wolf” also made direct accusations against former US President “Obama” and the US administration itself, accusing the White House of (creating politically illegal practices to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and aiming to create an atmosphere and a state of chaos in the region through supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, sacrificing American interests in order to support the project of political Islam), and although the issue was not escalated, it had a wide resonance within the American Congress, and it was reopened again after the June 30 revolution and the isolation of Morsi, but it was kept secret later.

  And here we can observe and explain what the US Congressman “Frank Wolf” said about his assertion about (deliberate questioning by organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood in Washington for all the plans and successive successes of starting the implementation and rebuilding of Egyptian institutions and its new administrative capital with different foundations and modern ideas), and these organizations deliberately shed light on the negatives without exposure to the positives of building new facilities, bridges, and roads, all of which took place during the era of President “El-Sisi”, and all Brotherhood organizations also deliberately, with American assistance, mainly work on (igniting and dividing the region, increasing and growing the intensity of regional competition and polarization between all parties and forces internally  and externally).

   American Representative “Frank Wolf” in the US Congress and all his supporters considered: “the attempts that have been made to spread chaos and disorder in Egypt and the countries of the Arab Spring revolutions with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood organizations are deliberate”, and this is during the same period, in which politicians must be wise to not luring them into side battles that waste their gains and the achievements of their people. Therefore, the correct behavior, according to the wise, was that everyone in Egypt and the Arab region should devote themselves to building the interior.

   Here we can follow (the map and activity of all branches of Brotherhood organizations in the United States of America after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt), similar to its strategy and its extended organizations in Britain and Europe, but it was more elitist in the United States of America, through the organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood, which are known by name in the United States of America, such as:

 (MSA Muslim Student Association, which began in 1963, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, which was established in American lands since 1983, the Islamic Society of North America ISNA, the Committee on American Islamic Affairs CAIR, which was founded in 1994)

   Additionally, there are some other organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have global activity and influence within the United States of America and various European countries, all of which aimed to make continuous attempts to influence the position of their governments towards Egypt and the countries of the Arab Spring revolutions.

  Indications can be identified in (organizing the ranks and bases of the Muslim Brotherhood inside the United States of America after the advent of the administration of Democratic President “Joe Biden” has been begun), with the aim of influencing the image of democracy in Egypt and the region.  And that is through the activity of the system of families affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is spread almost throughout the United States, and the task of each family was to (establish its roots in the region in which it is, by influencing the largest number of those around it), and to take care of the newcomers of the Brotherhood  Muslims to the United States of America, as well as the establishment of new schools, mosques and clinics to expand their influence within American society and communicate with all American political decision-making circles to promote the failure of Egyptian democracy and the fall of political Islam currents loyal to Washington and its democracy

  And all those American organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood began to (promote the failure of democracy in Egypt and the countries of the region by holding conferences and calling for it, and claiming the current regimes reject democracy on the American way, and even laying out different plans for the American democratic administration to reveal different ways to embarrass Arab regimes that reject the political project  of the Muslim Brotherhood), led by the Egyptian state and its military establishment.

    The old international Brotherhood organizations have been active among them, by communicating and rapprochement with American decision-making circles, including: The Muslim Students Association “MSN”, which is the association founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is one of the most important institutions that have been active in American universities, and about 600 student associations have emerged from within  USA so far. With (attempting to influence American officials to put pressure on the regimes in Egypt and the region, therefore, several large conferences were organized to gather, mobilize and expand the base of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda within American society and its intellectual and research centers), especially the American circles of influence and influence.

  We find that the most dangerous American statements in this context are the analysis of the well-known American thinker “Noam Chomsky” and his revelation of deliberate American interference in the affairs of Egypt and the region after the failure of the Arab Spring revolutions backed by the United States, by saying that:

 “The percentage of popular opposition to the United States of America in Egypt – which is the most important state in the  region – has reached  out  to  80%, and therefore America and its allies do not want governments that express the will of the people. If this happens, America will not only lose its control over the region, but will also be expelled from it. It has a plan that is typically implemented by Washington and it doesn’t take a genius to understand it”

  We find that this type of American support for the alleged democracy in several countries around the world, in the form that the internationally known American thinker “Noam Chomsky” spoke about, we have witnessed many precedents and evidence around the world over and over again, it happened with (Simosa in Nicaragua, the Shah  In Iran, Marcos in the Philippines, Devilliers in Haiti, the leader of South Korea, Maputo in the Congo, Ceausescu, the favorite of the West in Romania, Suharto in Indonesia). As it is a completely typical and permanent matter, it applies to many cases, especially the countries of the Arab Spring revolutions.

   In the same context, the American academic “Robert Spencer”, as a specialist in the affairs of extremist Islamic movements, indicated that: “The Muslim Brotherhood had worked actively for several decades before within the corridors of American political decision-making”, through several fronts, such as: (Council on American Islamic Relations, Muslim Student Associations, Islamic Society of North America), as well as 29 other organizations operating in the United States of America under various umbrellas and names, and the US Federal Investigation Agency, called them as they are (organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood with the international extensions).

   And the American researcher “Robert Spencer” explained the reasons for the success and growth of the Muslim Brotherhood’s power in the face of the regimes and countries of the Arab Spring revolutions and the Middle East, emphasizing that it is (US-backed), by pointing out that (most of those international organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood were established in the eighties. Those fronts continued to act as a “pressure lobbyists” on the White House’s decisions towards Egypt and the countries of the region), even after the failure of American policies towards their support after the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood, even though it was proven that Washington was unable to support them after the failure of the American-backed Arab Spring revolutions basically.

  The most amazing thing here is the American side’s demand for Egypt to achieve stability at the same time as they support the Muslim Brotherhood within the corridors of political decision-making in Washington itself to spread chaos in Egypt and our Arab countries.  This is what we find in published public statements, that the “National Security Council of the United States” has approved in most of its policies and orientations towards Egypt and President “El-Sisi” in the post-Muslim Brotherhood era, that “the first American demand from Cairo is to maintain security and local and regional stability by any means”, considering that:

   “The mission of the Egyptian side and President El-Sisi entails, at that stage, the necessity of preserving the security and stability of Israel and the neighboring countries of Israel, as a fundamental pillar in the geo-strategic composition of the Middle East, which successive US administrations and governments attach great importance for this matter”

  Through our previous analysis of the scene, we can find a logical relationship between the American support for the Muslim Brotherhood, its exertion of internal pressure on the American administration led by “Joe Biden”, and the exclusion of Egypt and all countries in the region from participating in the “World Democracy Conference”, which is called by Washington itself, according to its own criteria. Which is the first and most important thing that is taught to students of political science, which is that politics is based on interest, and that there is no friendship in relations between states, and as “Winston Churchill” said previously: “There is no such thing as permanent friendship, but there is such a permanent interest”. Therefore, the achievement of each party’s interest is the basis in relations between states, and therefore the urgent priority of politicians in the (post-revolutionary era), is achieving the interest of their peoples and their countries, by preserving the revolutionary gains achieved by all, away from any external pressures or provocations.  As is the case in the current American scene towards Egypt and the countries of the region, and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the American interior itself.

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