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Nuclear Decision-Making and Presidential Authority: Existential Perils of the Trump Era

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“Defenseless under the night; Our world in stupor lies….”– W.H. Auden

It is no longer just a casual apprehension. Now, an inappropriate or irrational nuclear command decision by US President Donald Trump is conceivable and perhaps even plausible. Though nothing conclusive can be said about the mathematical probability of any such fearful scenario,[1] there still remain ample reasons for concern.

Certain compelling and overriding questions necessarily arise.  To begin, one must inquire: Might this unsteady American president become subject to more serious forms of dissemblance or psychological debility? Leaving aside Mr. Trump’s largely unprecedented venality, his open indifference to history and (above all) his continuing malfeasance, should he still be allowed to decide (quite literally) whether we should live or die? This is not a silly, exaggerated or contrived query by any means. In essence, at this point of markedly conspicuous uncertainty in United States law, a problematic American president now likely serves with insufficient nuclear command constraints.

As we will soon see, this partial conclusion is very plainly incontestable.  

Some further and derivative questions now also arise: Should this incumbent or any other future US president be granted extraordinary decisional authority over uncountable lives? Could such a steeply lopsided allocation of authority fairly and propitiously represent what was originally intended by America’s Constitutional”separation of powers?” Can anyone reasonably believe that such unhindered existential power could have actually been favored by America’s Founding Fathers?

Again, the correct answers are obvious, uncomplicated and altogether irrefutable.

At a minimum, we can extrapolate from both Articles I and II of the Constitution that the Founders displayed an almost palpable concern about expanding Presidential power long before nuclear weapons. Moreover, this plausibly presumptive concern predates even any imagination of such apocalyptic possibilities.[2] So, to progress sequentially: What next?

Both as a scholar and policy-centered nuclear strategist, I have been involved with these critical issues for the past fifty years, though always in a generic rather than “president-specific” sense. On 14 March 1976, in response to my direct query concerning American nuclear weapons launching authority, I received a letter from General (USA/ret.) Maxwell Taylor, a former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. The principal focus of this letter (attached hereto) concerned assorted nuclear risks of US presidential irrationality. Most noteworthy, in this handwritten communication, was the straightforward warning contained in General Taylor’s closing paragraph.

Ideally, Taylor wisely cautioned, presidential irrationality – an inherently grave problem – should be dealt with during an election process, and not in the throes of any subsequent decisional crisis.

“….the best protection is not to elect one…”

By definition, regarding our current presidential nuclear security problem, it’s too late to follow General Taylor’s prophetic advice. We must presently inquire, therefore, with a more narrow but still undeflected focus: “What is the actual current US governing situation regarding this most vital security issue?” Always, of course, there are assorted structural protections built into any presidential order to use nuclear weapons, including substantial and multiple redundancies.  Nonetheless, virtually all these reassuring and reinforcing safeguards could become operative only at lower or sub-presidential  nuclear command levels.

 Expressly, these safeguards do not apply to the Commander-in-Chief, to the democratically elected President of the United States.

 This means, inter alia, that there seemingly exist no permissible legal grounds to disobey a presidential order to use nuclear weapons. In principle, perhaps, certain senior individuals in the designated military chain of command could still sometime choose to invoke variously selected “Nuremberg Obligations,”[3] but any such last-minute invocation would almost certainly yield to the more recognizable considerations of U.S. domestic law.[4]

Now, already at the eleventh hour, pertinent scenarios must be postulated and closely examined. Should an American president choosing to operate within a bewildering chaos of  his own making sometime issue an irrational or seemingly irrational nuclear command, the only way for the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the National Security Adviser and several possible others to effectively obstruct this  wrongful order could be “illegal” on its face. Under the very best of circumstances, informal safeguards might manage to work for a time, but blithely accepting the unrealistic assumption of  a “best case scenario” is hardly an optimally sensible path to US nuclear security.

Instead, We the people ought to inquire about identifying more suitably predictable and promising institutional impediments, barriers to shield us from a prospectively debilitated or otherwise compromised US president.

 Already, to apply a common but useful metaphor, the US is navigating in “uncharted waters.” While President John F. Kennedy did engage in personal nuclear brinkmanship with the Soviet Union back in October 1962, he had then calculated his own odds of a consequent nuclear war as “between one out of three and even.” This seemingly precise calculation, corroborated both by JFK biographer Theodore Sorensen and by my own later private conversations with former JCS Chair Admiral Arleigh Burke (my lecture colleague and roommate at the Naval Academy’s Foreign Affairs Conference of 1977) suggests that President Kennedy was (1) technically irrational in imposing his Cuban “quarantine;” or (2) wittingly acting out certain untested principles of “pretended irrationality.”

Significantly, in stark contrast to the present moment, JFK generally was operating with tangibly serious and intellectually capable strategic/legal advisors. He did not choose Adlai Stevenson to represent the United States at the United Nations because he was “glamorous” (the standard so openly favored by current US President Donald J. Trump).

Going forward, the most urgent threat of a mistaken or irrational U.S. presidential order to use nuclear weapons flows not from any “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack –  whether Russian, North Korean, or American – but from a sequentially uncontrollable escalatory process. Back in 1962, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinked” early on in the “game,” thereby preventing any mutual and irrecoverable nuclear harms. Now, however, any seat-of-the-pants escalatory initiatives undertaken by President Trump could reveal markedly unstable decision-making consequences.

At that late point, the once potentially lethal effects of a nuclear war would no longer be hypothetical. They would have become a literally “glowing” fait accompli.

 This is not just another political problem or alleged “witch hunt” in Washington. Accordingly, Donald Trump should immediately be made to understand the wholly unprecedented risks of being locked into a unique escalatory dynamic from which there could sometime be no recognizable range of choice except abject capitulation or nuclear war. To be sure, this would not be the same dynamic he had previously encountered in the more narrowly commercial and mundane matters of hotel construction or casino gambling. Although this American president might be well advised to seek “escalation dominance” in certain selected crisis negotiations with similarly determined national adversaries, he would urgently need to avoid any catastrophic miscalculations.

And this is not even to factor in the corresponding and potentially intersecting problems of hacking intrusion or accident.

For the immediate future, this imperative would seemingly apply most directly to one-upmanship scenarios with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, an impossible-to-predict process wherein both countries could emerge with the least satisfactory outcomes. Here, a good deal would depend upon more-or-less foreseeable “synergies” between Washington and Pyongyang, and on difficult to control penetrations of cyber-conflict or cyber-war. We might even have to acknowledge the out-of-control interference of cyber-mercenaries, unprincipled third parties working only for personal or corporate compensations.

Whether we like it or not, and at one time or another, nuclear strategy is a challenging “game” that US President Donald Trump will somehow have to play. Prima facie, this will not be a contest for amateurs, for those who expressly prefer “attitude, not preparation.” To best ensure that this too-easily-distracted president’s strategic moves would remain determinedly rational, thoughtful and cumulatively cost-effective, it will first be necessary to enhance the formal decisional authority of his most senior military and defense subordinates.

At a minimum, the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Advisor, and one or two others in appropriate nuclear command positions should prepare in advance to assume more broadly collaborative and secure judgments in extremis atomicum.[5]

Even such a proposed widening of pertinent authority could not be “guaranteed.” In the end, following General Maxwell Taylor’s earlier letter sent to me in 1976, the best protection is still “not to elect” a president who is unfit for such unmatched leadership responsibility. Beyond any reasonable doubt (an evidentiary judicial standard that also fits well in this particular extra-judicial context), we are discussing here an incomparable leadership responsibility.

There is something else. From the standpoint of correctly defining all relevant dangers, it is important to bear in mind that “irrational” does not necessarily mean “crazy” or “mad.”  More specifically, any prospectively fateful expressions of US presidential irrationality could take very different and variously subtle forms. These forms, which could remain indecipherable or merely latent for a long time, include (a) a disorderly or inconsistent value system; (b) computational errors in calculation; (c) an incapacity to communicate correctly or efficiently; (d) random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of strategic decisions; and (e) internal dissonance generated by some structure or other of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of authoritative individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a unitary national decision maker).

From the singularly critical standpoint of US nuclear weapon control issues (problematic issues[6] likely to be worsened by the continuous American strategic postures of  both “First Use” and “Launch on Warning“), legitimate reasons to worry about the Trump presidency do not hinge on any credible expectations of “craziness.” Rather, looking over the above list of five representative decisional traits, there is already good cause not just for worry (which would not represent a rational or purposeful reaction), but for manifestly non- partisan objectivity and for very consistently conspicuous prudence. It won’t be easy, and it won’t necessarily succeed long-term by electing a different president.

For the immediate moment, however, US national security requires the prompt and law-based removal of this deeply-flawed president. It follows, also, that the security benefits of such an indispensable removal would have corresponding security benefits for the world as a whole. In principle, at least, the full importance of this corollary or “spillover” benefit could prove overwhelming or even incalculable.

Otherwise, we could all remain too long in a lethal or existential “stupor.”


[1] This is because (1) any statement of authentic probability must be based upon the determinable frequency of pertinent past events and because, in this present case (2) there are no pertinent past events.

[2] One of this author’s earliest books was (Louis René Beres) Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (The University of Chicago Press, 1980).

[3] See Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal;  2 August 1950.

[4] At the same time, of course, because the Constitution is the very conspicuous bedrock of US domestic law, and because that document stipulates that only Congress can declare war, designated military chain of command decision-makers could argue credibly that their anticipated interference with Presidential nuclear commands would be domestic law-enforcing rather than domestic law-violating.

[5] This assumes, of course, that these chain-of-command subordinates (all appointed by President Donald J. Trump) will themselves be equal to their extraordinary responsibilities.

[6] In essence, the overarching issue here is inadvertent or accidental nuclear war. While an accidental nuclear war would also be inadvertent, there are forms of inadvertent nuclear war that would not necessarily be caused by mechanical, electrical or computer accident. These forms of unintentional nuclear conflict would be the unexpected result of misjudgment or miscalculation, whether created as a singular error by one or both sides to a particular (two-party) nuclear crisis escalation or by certain unforeseen “synergies” arising between any such singular miscalculations.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Review of indo pacific strategy of the United States

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President Biden strategy is based on, “Free and open indo pacific enduring and flourishing world ahead.”-President Biden statement on QUAD summit on September 24,2021

Indo pacific is the home of the United states so they have really acute policies in this region. The united states have announced the Indo pacific strategy and the role of US in the coming 21st century for the betterment of the indo pacific and its stability and how can they work for this region and how they can utilize this region for the better cause of the world. The united states alliances system has deeply helped the world and they have tried their best to support and spread the agenda of the liberalism regarding open market, free and openness, connectedness, prosperity of the world, security of the world with respect to traditional and nontraditional security dynamics of the world which includes climate green security and they also tend to reflect on the post pandemic world order.

Since the united states is in the indo pacific region itself. This region geographically touches its coast from pacific to Indian coast and economically is the emerging yet emerged dominating hub of 2/3rd economy of the world and seven major militaries of the world. It also owns and supports $900 billion foreign direct investments and even it supports 300 million jobs by US. For US this regions stability is really crucial and important. Any damage to this region is considered as a threat to US itself and for US the stability of this region is really crucial and important as this region provide opportunities and making it a hegemon of the world and also thus increases risks for US either. This region got more important to US after world war2 and after end of the cold war and even in during presidency of president George Bush and also in the trumps era and also in the presidency of the president Biden.

Since president Biden is focused to invest more in every corner of the world keeping it engaged and integrated focusing from the northeast Asia to southeast Asia and from north to south including indo pacific. Since he stated that,

“We will focus in every corner of the region, from northeast Asia to southeast Asia including south Asia to Oceania and pacific islands.”

this defines the importance and utility of this region to the US.

Indo pacific strategy is based on 5 principles that motivates US to work on. These are The indo pacific strategy Is based on:

  1. Free and open indo pacific.
  2. Building connections in the region and beyond.
  3. Prosperity of the indo pacific region
  4. Security of indo pacific region
  5. Building regional resilience in the 21st century

Advance a free and open indo pacific:

It is in the vital interests of the us to advance a free and open indo pacific region and they are working to advance this home region where government can make their own choices and become consistent under the obligation of international law. They are working hard to enforce democratic type of government in this region and enforcing democratic institutions and establishing a vibrant civil society and press free society. They are also trying hard to expose corruptions and drive reforms. They are also trying hard to make the regions skies and seas according to international law and are trying hard to achieve major advance technologies like cyber space and internet.

Build connections within and beyond region:

It is believed that free and open indo pacific can be achieved only if we build connections within and beyond the indo pacific region through economy, trade and organizations and institutions etc. since US is making adaptability through alliance system and through trade. Well US is looking forward to deepen its treaty alliances with japan, Thailand, Philippines and republic of Korea and looking forward to strengthen its relations with India, Taiwan, Mongolia, Thailand, Vietnam and pacific islands. They are also empowering QUAD and ASEAN states. US is also supporting India to achieve the race of regional hegemony. US is also expanding its diplomatic presence in the indo pacific zones and expanding it in a futile way.

Drive indo pacific prosperity:

The indo pacific is the home of Americans and so their prosperity is linked with the stability and prosperity of indo pacific regions. The real fact behind the investments to encourage innovation, strengthen economic competitiveness, produce good-paying jobs, rebuild supply chains, and expand economic opportunities for middle-class families almost for 1.5 billion people in the Indo-Pacific that will join the global middle class this decade. We will drive Indo-Pacific prosperity. The indo pacific regions can get prosperous by developing new trade and environmental traditions and by stabilizing traditional and nontraditional paradigms and domains in this region. Also by governing the digital economies and by introducing new digital framework in this region. US is introducing advance and resilient and more secure supply chains that are more diverse and predictable and open to the new world and new technologies. US is thriving hard to make investments and decarburizations and clean energy. They are tend to promote free and fair and open trade and investment through APEC which means Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation’s.

Bolster Indo- pacific security:

US has maintained its militia in this indo-pacific region for more than 75 years to maintain the security of this region and has kept its defense in this region to keep its security, stability and peace secure. The United States is extending and modernizing and enhancing its capabilities to defend their interest and to deter aggression in this region. US is bolstering this region and deterring the aggression and coercion by advancing integrated deterrence and deepening cooperation and enhancing integration with their allies and partners. US is also maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan strait and they are really about it. US is also innovating to operate rapidly in evolving threats of environment, cyber and other traditional and nontraditional domains of this domain. United states is determined to strengthen its extended deterrence and coordination with Japanese allies and Korean peninsula.  They are looking forward to deliver on AUKUS. US is also working with congress to fund the pacific deterrence initiative and maritime initiative.

Build regional resilience in 21st century to transitional threats:

The indo pacific major challenge is climate security and glacier melting’s which is leading to consistent rise in sea levels. Similarly, covid is also inflicting a painful and is also an economic troll across the region. This region is also vulnerable to natural disasters, recourse scarcity, internal threats and major governance challenges so US is firm to build the resilience to 21st century transitional threats by working its allies and partners to develop 2030 and 2050 targets, strategies and plans and policies by limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius. They are also firm to reduce regional vulnerabilities and its impact of climate change and environmental degradations and also working on health security after COVID-19 pandemic and its mass destruction in this zone.

Way forward:

The US is looking forward to work in strengthen and work in these zones which are as:

  1. They are driving and working more resources to the indo pacific and are determined to more transnational and individual based interactions.
  2. Leading indo-pacific economic framework
  3. Reinforcing deterrence
  4. Strengthening unified ASEAN.
  5. Supporting India’s regional leadership.
  6. Deliver on QUAD.
  7. Work on US- Japan-ROK cooperation.
  8. Firm to partner to work on resilience in the pacific islands.
  9. Supporting good governance and accountability in this region.
  10. Supporting open, secure and more trustworthy technologies in this region.

Conclusion:

US have entered significant time of Americans international strategy after the world war that their ambitions, goals and policies have become clearer in this region. The US will ascend to our authority charge on discretion, security, financial aspects, environment, pandemic reaction, and innovation. The Indo-Pacific’s future relies upon our decisions of United States and US strategies. “The US role in this region must be effective and enduring than ever for this region and the world.”

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America’s Exceptionalism in Mass-Shooting and Its Culture of Rugged Individualism

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Amid an unrelenting surge of gun massacres, many have wondered why the United States- the world’s leading country in mass shootings over the last century, is more prone to mass shootings than any other country. Gun violence, though, is prevalent in many parts of the world, for instance in most parts of Latin America. But in America, no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings by “lone-wolf” gunmen. According to Gun Violence Archive, 39 mass shootings have already taken place across the country in just the first three weeks of 2023. Last year the country witnessed around 647 cases of mass shooting with the consequence of more than 44,000 death tolls due to gun violence overall.

Like its political establishment, American public discourse has long firmly been divided over what causes this epidemic. The critics of this national sickness focus their fire on the second amendment of the American constitution and the nefarious political influence of the National Rifles Association (NRF). But here comes down to the question: will a mere constitutional amendment and the neutralization of special interest groups like the NRF lead to the solution to the endemic prevalence of lone-wolf mass shootings? The answer is: not likely, as the problem is deeply rooted in America’s culture itself: the culture of rugged individualism built on its deep-seated historical myth.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, rugged individualism is defined as “the combination of individualism and anti-statism … a prominent feature of American culture with deep roots in the country’s history of frontier settlement.” While individualism, as noted, may be conducive to innovation and resource mobilization, it can also undermine collective action, with potentially adverse social consequences. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was seen how America’s rugged individualistic mindset fomented by its frontier culture hampered the state responses to the pandemic, with many Americans having defied mandatory mask-wearing and vaccination programs.

Likewise, the gun is a great emblem and lethal offspring of American individualism. The nation has long valorized masculine heroes –violent frontiersmen or Hollywoodized American Archetype “White Loners” – who impose their will on the community’s enemies with violence. Added to that deep-seated historical ideal and cultural sickness are the deteriorating trend in kinship traditions and ever-declining “rational mobility”- a condition that helps establish bonds of support beyond immediate families on the basis of socially engaging emotions such as empathy warmth, trust, affection, etc.

Self-serving politicians and gun advocates often ridiculously propose giving more arms into the hands of “the good guys” to thwart “the bad guys with guns.” The Americans’ dire wishes for gun possession, however, stem less from their sense of personal or communal security rather more from an egocentric individualistic cultural reasoning that lacks the prioritization of collective communal safety. The unshakeable emotional and individualistic values Americans attach to guns frequently override concerns about the nation’s collective health and safety.          

The exercise of unfettered individualism is also seen in many parts of the western world, like in Europe; but nowhere in the world is this so infested by historical myth and pathological strains as in America- what the prominent criminologist Adam Lankford called “the uniquely American quality.” And where the United States is stunningly divergent from the rest of the world is the confluence of individualistic culture and the easiest access to guns. In no other part of the world gun access and rugged individualistic culture interact in the same way.

Although many European countries share the same cultural forces that produce aggrieved social outcasts. But those countries erect formidable hurdles on the way of purchasing guns legally that are quite unheard of in the United States: longer waiting periods, higher insurance costs, full-blown psychiatric evaluations, gun safety courses, etc. Resultantly, the country has more weapons than people: one in three adults possesses at least one firearm, and almost one in two adults resides in a home with a firearm.

But the prevalence of guns alone does not account for U.S. exceptionalism in mass shootings. For example, like the United States, much of Latin America is saturated with firearms but, despite high rates of gun violence, mass shootings there by a “lone wolf” gunman are exceedingly rare. And experts pointed to the cultural difference as a powerful factor playing out in creating a huge disparity in the number of mass shooting cases between the two regions.      

In America, ever-increasing personal and economic struggles combined with the inherent state structural tension and identity crisis continue to produce aggrieved social outcasts. On top of this, the ever-exacerbating political climate plagued by partisan divide, racial toxicity, and xenophobic bigotry has also been influencing socially and politically aggrieved outcasts, due to the absence of alternative social redressing mechanisms, to seek recourse by resorting to mass violence. Here, rugged individualism works in creating the very roots of virile fantasy to violence, a toxic political milieu in fueling grievances, and finally easy access to guns in triggering off those grievances in the form of mass shooting.      

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American Democracy Remains Under Peril

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The democratic system of government in the United States underwent an unprecedented test two years ago when supporters of President Donald Trump attempted to reverse his election loss—some through illegal schemes, others through a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. American democracy has started to function better and its prospects have improved since that moment in history.

Extreme election deniers suffered defeats in crucial swing states like Arizona and Pennsylvania in the 2022 elections, which were successfully performed. The riots that attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election and the role that former US President Donald J. Trump played in inciting them were thoroughly documented by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol. Elections for president were held peacefully in Colombia while candidates with questionable commitments to democracy were rejected in Brazil and France.

The most powerful authoritarian governments in the world are currently having difficulties. The idea of a resurgent Moscow was dispelled by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disastrously planned and carried out war in Ukraine. China’s attempt to overtake the United States as the world’s greatest economy and most powerful nation has failed due to President Xi Jinping’s poor mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak. Xi’s domestic popularity has been further weakened by China’s real estate boom, a 20 percent young unemployment rate, a politically motivated crackdown on the private sector, and soaring local government debt.

However, despite their diminished power, Beijing and Moscow continue to constitute a significant threat to democracy. They will need to disparage other forms of administration and criticize their democratic rivals more and more as their domestic issues get worse. Beijing and Moscow are launching a campaign of deception that targets and amplifies the vulnerability of American democracy as a result of this. Russia and China both, This propaganda campaign tries to delegitimize Western-style democracy in order to quell calls for democratic reforms. In the long run, it aims to establish a new, fragmented international order that prioritizes “national sovereignty” over human rights. It also aims to oust and support friendly governments, as well as combat the growing perception that cooperating with Beijing and Moscow has negative effects on local citizens.

Because Western democracies are weak, Beijing and Moscow are supported in this endeavour. Trump keeps questioning the validity of the 2020 election, and he might soon be charged with a crime. Gridlock, partisan investigations and impeachment attempts, as well as cynical new initiatives to erode rather than restore confidence in the American voting system, may well dominate Capitol Hill for the next two years. Conspiracy theories and misinformation continue to abound on social media, and corporate content moderation attempts have fallen short. With the quick development of generative AI software, which can create deep fakes in which famous personalities appear to be talking and doing things they never said or did, the assault on reality is likely to get exponentially worse. For the two superpowers of disinformation in the world, China and Russia, all of this is a blessing. The propaganda is more effective the more reliable the content.

The decline of democracy in the US aids in the delegitimization of democracy by Beijing and Moscow. American democracy must be strengthened at home if it is to once again serve as a model that may inspire others. The fight for global soft power can only be won by Washington at that point.

Both domestic and foreign security issues are raised by the state of the American democracy. Principal authoritarian rivals of the United States, China and Russia, have taken advantage of (and made worse) America’s democratic divides and struggles in the race for world leadership. In order to recover the upper hand, the United States must simultaneously strengthen its own democracy and raise its profile as an advocate for democracy abroad. The democratic movement needs to attack.

A significant investment in American soft power will be needed for this. Public diplomacy spending in the United States peaked at $2.5 billion in 1994 (inflation-adjusted) and nearly surpassed that amount in 2010 and 2011. However, since then, as new problems have emerged, American efforts have remained unchanged, with total expenditures only amounting to $2.23 billion in 2020.

Washington must reenter the struggle for international soft power in a way that upholds American ideals. It must convey the truth in ways that appeal to and influence people around the world. The objective must be to advance democratic values, concepts, and movements in addition to effectively combating misinformation with the truth. Multiple trustworthy streams of information are required to combat misinformation and report the truth that autocracies repress. Additionally, they must be independent; even though the US government may give them financial support, they must run without editorial oversight. They will appear independent, which they are, in this manner.

One option would be to change the Voice of America to resemble the British Broadcasting Corporation more closely. Its goal should be to serve as a role model for the values of the American democratic experiment by offering completely unbiased news on all nations, including the United States. Truth, independence, and expertise in reporting are necessary, but they are not sufficient to win the information battle. A decentralised, pluralistic web of high-quality media is also necessary. In autocracies, local media are ideally situated to collect and distribute evidence of corruption,

Serious policy mistakes and violations of human rights. In order to report the news and provide critical commentary in the absence of media freedom, the United States and its democratic allies must elevate and strengthen the underfunded local media. Funding for public interest media will be needed in the billions of dollars, much of which should go through the nongovernmental International Fund for Public Interest Media (including media operating in exile). The fund is a nonpartisan alliance of multinational foundations that can provide funding for regional independent media while preserving their independence.

Together with its democratic allies, Washington should explore fresh geopolitical and technological avenues for assisting closed regimes to overcome Internet censorship and social media surveillance. Autocracies will be less stable when those living in them have easier access to unbiased information and more secure means of communication with one another. In order to prevent autocracies from seizing control of international Internet standards and protocols, democracies must engage in active and coordinated diplomacy. The biggest flagrantly false and dangerous content must be removed. Social media companies must also take more action to combat the malicious manipulation of their platforms by foreign governments. And by tightening social media regulation, the US and other democracies should support these initiatives. TikTok should be removed from American devices as a first step.

But the democracy in America is not secure. The last Congress failed to pass legislation aimed at reducing the influence of money, strengthening and expanding voting rights, ending gerrymandering, ensuring ethical standards for elected officials, and enhancing election security, and there is little chance that it will succeed in the following one. Even worse, numerous states have taken action to limit voting rights and make it more challenging for minorities to cast ballots. Most concerning, several state legislatures with Republican control, led by North Carolina, are attempting to construct a doctrine of “independent state legislatures,” which would allow these bodies to rig election results and even draw partisan gerrymandered voting districts.without being subject to judicial, executive, or redistricting commission oversight. If domestic politics in the United Nations turn into a collection of one-party states, the country will be unable to confront autocracies on a global scale. The revival of American democracy and domestic achievement will be key to countering autocratic deception.

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