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Donald Trump, War and the Shape of Chaos

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“And we are here as on a darkling plain, Swept by confused alarms of struggle and flight,Where ignorant armies clash by night”. -Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach

With the evident expansion of Trump-induced instabilities around the world (most recently in Syria, Iran, Turkey, Ukraine and North Korea), a recurring word on scholarly minds is “chaos.” Going forward, however, such usage will need to become more conspicuously nuanced and intellectually precise. Or to clarify:

In world politics, anarchy is an old story.

Chaos is not.

But what, exactly, are the noteworthy differences?

In part, at least, a correct answer must be determinedly jurisprudential. Under modern international law, system wide anarchy was first formally instituted at the Treaty of Westphalia. Back in 1648, by the end of the Thirty Years’ War  (the last of the major religious wars sparked by the Reformation), a decentralized system of world politics had been expressly codified. Thereafter, a so-called “balance of power” became the ritualistically dominant template of all national foreign policy behaviors.  Concurrently, it became the dominant national objective in almost any “game of nations.”

Still, this balance is “so called” because it was (and remains ) a simplifying fiction; intangible, non-measurable and quite plainly unrealizable. In essence, it offers intellectually-unambitious statesmen and politicians a convenient slight-of-hand metaphor, and, correspondingly, a ready pretext for virtually all manner of manipulative foreign policy interventions. Ironically, over time, this alleged goal has triggered repeated systemic breakdowns,[1] and  also fostered an effectively permanent global imbalance.

Under international treaty law, language is always of signal importance. Accordingly, the terms of this seventeenth-century Treaty call, inter alia, for “a just equilibrium of power.” War avoidance is never actually  mentioned in the document. Significantly, in world law, aggressive war was never properly criminalized until the much later Pact of Paris (aka Kellogg-Briand Pact) of 1928.

What do we now have left of this treaty-based international regime? Basically,  we can now preserve only the crumbling architecture of what Irish poet William Butler Yeats (The Second Coming) had termed “mere anarchy.” For the most part, some representative forms of chaotic disintegration are visibly underway in the Middle East, and also in Africa, Asia and assorted other places in Europe and South America. In these increasingly dissembling areas, the traditional threat mechanisms of Westphalian anarchy are either decreasingly viable or entirely absent. In several more places than we might care to admit, many already-muted  expressions of reason and rationality have already given way to grievously unbridled passions or even to genuine madness.

War and genocide are now often mutually reinforcing rather than mutually exclusive.

Nowadays, there no longer remains any plausible pretext of system-wide national searches for “balance.” To some extent, the more traditionally “normal” calculations of equilibrium have already  been rendered infeasible or inconceivable because of nuclear weapons proliferation. In these ominous cases, individual states have become unable to decipher or delineate any usable measures of balance with other pertinent states.

Though the concept may still sound pleasing or reassuring, there is no ascertainable “balance of power” in world politics.

None at all.

Derivatively, international law will not adequately save  the United States or any other state or alliance of states. Following US President Donald Trump’s unilateral termination of the INF Treaty with Russia, and with the very serious follow-on prospect of a Trump abrogation of the US-Russia INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) Treaty, further nuclear proliferation is virtually assured. In quick succession, especially if accompanied by expectedly deficient plans for national command and control among the new nuclear powers, once “unthinkable” weapons could very quickly become “thinkable.”

What then?

In the past several years, portentously, US President Donald Trump has mused openly about nuclear weapons as rational instruments of war –  and not just as passive elements of essential national deterrence.

 There is more. There are also various foreseeable interactions between individual catastrophic harms, so-called synergies  that could make the overriding risks of any looming global nuclear chaos still more pressing. Immediately, these interactions must  be taken into suitable analytic account. Under no circumstances should an American president ever choose to disregard such complex interactions simply because they are too daunting, confusing or bewildering.

Mr. Trump’s expressed decisional priorities notwithstanding, the best way to deal with an expanding global chaos is not by “attitude,” but by “preparation.”[2]

For Israel, a country smaller than Lake Michigan, the dangers of Trump’s latest policies concerning Syria are especially great and prospectively sui generis. Facing not only an expanding nuclear threat from Iran (a consequence in part, of Trump’s earlier US withdrawal from the JCPOA Iran Pact of 2015),  but also the general regional disorder occasioned by an American president’s sudden  capitulations to Syria, Turkey and Russia, Israel could soon find itself with active adversaries on several simultaneous fronts. These adversaries could be assorted sub-state Jihadist enemies (e.g., a reconstituted ISIS) and include even state-sub state “hybrids.”

Whatever the actual configuration of meaningful foes, Israel could then be face-to-face with a genuinely unique species of chaos.

 The evident portent of  any Middle East chaos – here we may point most convincingly to  Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey  and perhaps even Pakistan – would be accelerated or enlarged by enemy irrationality.  If, for example, Israel should sometime have to face a Jihadist adversary that would value certain presumed religious expectations more highly than its own physical survival, the tiny country’s core deterrent posture could be undermined or immobilized. Among other things, any such paralysis of Israeli military power could signify a heightened threat of nuclear war.[3]

Some further clarifications are necessary. In world politics, irrationality is never the same as madness. More precisely, an irrational adversary is one that could sometime value certain goals more highly than its own national self-preservation. A mad adversary, however, would display absolutely no preferred ordering of goals or values. It follows, plausibly, at least from the standpoint of maintaining successful Israeli deterrence, that facing enemy irrationality would be “better” than facing enemy madness.

Realistically, however,  any such analytic choice is unavailable. Whether Israel, the United States or any other state shall capably confront irrationality, madness, neither, or both, is not up to national decision-makers to determine. These possible outcomes are literally undeterminable.

“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” prophesied the poet Yeats, “and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”  Now, assembled in almost two hundred tribal armed camps known as states, all peoples coexist insecurely on a mercilessly fractionated planet. Ultimately, to reveal a more palpable understanding of where all are heading, we may conjure up the particularly nightmarish circumstances of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. On such a fearfully sorrowful landscape, the traditional playbook of nations would likely shift ominously from Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz to De Sade and Dostoyevsky.

Summing up succinctly,  our historic world system anarchy has now become more unstable than ever before. While this declension of global order owes largely to a growing fusion of chaos with leadership irrationality and/or apocalyptic weaponry, it is also the result of America’s newly incoherent foreign policy. Led by a president who takes his own historical illiteracy as a distinct asset, as a badge of pride, the United States can no longer be assumed to represent a stabilizing force in world politics.

Quite the contrary.

What should we expect? In time, with no longer any pretext of a “just equilibrium of power,” there will be no safety in arms, no rescue by political authority, no reassuring answers from science or technology. Even though we humans had seemingly become “civilized” over time, new wars could rage until every once-sturdy flower of culture had been trampled and all things human had been decimated or leveled. Then, civilization, unless rescued by presently still-unforeseen remedies, would perish in relentlessly paroxysmal quakes of  primordial disintegration.

What shall we do to avoid such an unspeakable chaos? How shall such unbearable circumstances best be averted? Before answering, we much all first acknowledge something markedly counter-intuitive: Chaos and anarchy actually represent opposite points of a single global continuum. Though counter-intuitive, they are essentially opposite conditions of world politics.

“Mere” anarchy, or the absence of central world authority, has always been “normal.” Chaos, however, is anything but normal. Rather, it is fully “abnormal.”

 Since the seventeenth century, our anarchic world can best be described as a system. What happens in any one part of this ungoverned world can affect what happens in some or all of the other parts.  Whenever deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one nation-state to another, the corollary effects can undermine all previously existing infrastructures of “balance.”

When this deterioration is rapid and catastrophic, as would be the case following the start of any unconventional war or unconventional terrorism, the effects would be immediate and overwhelming.  These particular effects would be chaotic.

Aware that even an incremental collapse of remaining world authority structures would impact its few remaining friends as well as its growing  cadre of enemies, leaders of the United States will sometime need to advance lamentably plausible premonitions of collapse. The sole point of this distressing task would be to chart more appropriately durable paths to national security and survival. Soon, and in partial consequence of certain Trump-generated policy fantasies, Americans  could need to consider how best to respond to life in a more progressively unmanageable state of chaos.

In the context of classical political philosophy, this would resemble the “state of nature” famously described in the seventeenth-century by Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, a condition wherein the life of every person could be “solitary, poor, nasty,  brutish and short.”

Already, largely because of current US presidential unpreparedness and shortsighted White House manipulations,  we are at the sobering brink of this particular condition of “nature.”

Or to meaningfully recall  certain oft-recited stanzas of poet Matthew Arnold, “….we are here as on a darkling plain.”


[1] For the most part, these breakdowns could be classified in authoritative  law as recognizable “aggressions.”

[2] When arriving in Singapore for his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, the American president stated that what would prove most important at the meeting was “not preparation, but attitude.”

[3] In 2003, Professor Louis René Beres served as Chair of Project Daniel for PM Sharon in Israel (Iranian nuclear weapons).

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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Americas

Global Warming And COP26: Issues And Politics

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The president’s massive social services and infrastructure package is under consideration by Congress.  The problem is Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia.

Not only is West Virginia a coal-producing state but Mr. Manchin owns two coal companies.  Although in a blind trust operated by his son, it is clear that coal companies make money when they sell coal.

But coal is a serious polluter, possibly the worst among fossil fuels.  Any serious attempt to reduce the impact of climate change will replace coal with at least natural gas — available in abundance and emitting almost 50 percent less CO2 according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Republicans — many of whom deny global warming following Trump’s lead — adamantly oppose the plan en bloc, so Senator Manchin’s vote is crucial.  For the moment then, the fate of the planet lies in the hands of one man because, quite simply, if the US backs off, China will be relieved of pressure — also Russia which has an abundance of fossil fuels.

Hence the importance of the COP26 climate summit scheduled for October 31 – November 2 in Glasgow.  Originally planned for 2020, the meeting was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.  The town is preparing for an influx of 25,000 people as lobbyists, conference attendees and demonstrators arrive. 

It is an interesting meeting, liked by some to a teacher requiring a class to prepare and bring term papers.  The 200 countries represented will be bringing their plans to meet the goals of the Paris accords.  These require the signatories to commit to enhance ambitions every five years — thus 2020 postponed to 2021 — under the so-called ‘ratchet mechanism’.  The Paris Accords aimed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius and to aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As often, people leak documents to help their agenda.  This time a huge leak shows how important fossil fuel using and producing countries are attempting to modify a crucial scientific report.  Oil producer Saudi Arabia, coal producer Australia and heavy user Japan are among those questioning a rapid change from fossil fuels.  Saudi Arabia for one also lobbied previously in 2015 with some success.

This time the lobbying effort consists of more than 32,000 submissions (by governments, corporations and other interested parties) to the team of scientists preparing scientific reports designed to coalesce the best science on tackling global warming.  One can imagine the headache for the scientists, who for the most part have a regular job, often as professors.  Produced as “assessment reports” by IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) these represent a consensus of the views of different governments, and are used by them to decide what action will be needed. 

The many bodies involved, the complicated murky politics and the enormous pressure from different parties all point to the crucial fact that billions of dollars are involved now in today’s dollars versus promises of a better and distant future.  We can only hope we have  decision makers with foresight, and leaders without Trumpian climate change ignorance and excess.

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America’s Two-Tiered Justice System

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The Constitution states only one command twice. The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states. These words have as their central promise an assurance that all levels of government must operate within the law and provide fair procedures to all its citizens.

In this politically divisive climate, the central promise has been broken with little to no assurance that one can trust the American democratic system where some courts have disavowed their responsibility to uphold the Constitution’s meaning of the laws passed by Congress. For instance, the Bill of Rights was passed because of concepts such as freedom of religion, speech, equal treatment, and due process of law were all deemed so fundamental to protect every legal resident in the nation; yet we are now witnessing politically charged judicial appointments eradicating these principles under which all persons and entities are accountable to equally enforce and independently adjudicate, as well as being consistent with international human rights.

On the heels of the Chinese coronavirus, there is an escalating epidemic of unequal justice and character assault where much of the news media is politically aligned with the rulers in turning a blind eye or complicit in the coverup; and in some cases, ravenously endorses the demise of what has essentially now become political dissidents falsely accused, intimidated, and jailed. While many Americans are attempting to scrape by in difficult times, they remain astute to the moral failure of the elites in power as well as the tacit elected opposition’s assiduous silence in whitewashing the legal duplicity. Historical trends over centuries of betraying the peasants eventually succumbs to a reckoning where the privileged corrupt politician and their corporate fascists will be exposed and held accountable in some fashion.  

Americans are confounded by the coronavirus decrees requiring masks to be worn for thee and not for me double standards. The politicians hammer away at enforcing mask mandates on the common folk, yet they do not adhere to their own edicts while attending fine dining with their elite backers. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Californian Governor Gavin Newsome, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot all violated their own mask mandates in public venues while the masked servants waited on them.

President Biden was caught on video walking maskless through a swanky Washington restaurant in violation of the District’s laws on facial coverings, yet regular citizens are subject to civil penalties which result in fines of $1000.00 or revocation of licenses during the COVID-19 emergency. In defending the emperor, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said we should ‘not overly focus on moments in time that don’t reflect overarching policy.’ These double standard by the progressives are a far cry from Americans being punished and ostracized all over the country for not wearing a mask.

Identity politics has resulted in two systems of justice – one where BLM rioting and looting is described by the media as peaceful demonstrations and where assaulting police has no criminal consequences; yet the January 6th actions at the Capital has resulted in the largest round up of protesters ever seen in America. It is estimated that the Federal Government has upwards to 70 rioters/trespassers in solitary confinement and they are only let out in a larger area for one hour at 2 am due to COVID. Some of those being held in detention have been charged with trespassing on restricted grounds, others with assault and obstruction, and some haven’t been charged with anything. There are no bail hearings for these political activists yet BLM and Antifa rioters typically spend one night in the brig and let out the next day to rejoin the frontlines of carnage.  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vocally pushed for the January 6th ‘insurrectionists’ to be added to the TSA no-fly list. Civil liberties are being trampled by exploiting insurrection fears with people in attendance no longer permitted to take a flight in their own country and they have not been convicted of a crime. This action by the government had previously only happened to suspect foreign terrorists, and now it is happening to Americans under suspicion. We see no similar actions taken against the militant Antifa anarchists who attacked and torched federal buildings in Portland.

Washington DC has essentially been abusing these inmates in captivity. There have been complaints on the nourishment of their fellow Americans where they are served white bread and a packet of tartar sauce. This is ultimately a violation of the 8th Amendment that prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, nor cruel and unusual punishments, and from inflicting unduly harsh penalties. Some judges are expressing concern at the length of these pretrial incarcerations, however they’ve largely deferred to the Justice Department. Meanwhile anarchists who burn down buildings and shoot projectiles at police officers and federal buildings have charges dismissed. Justice is not equal.   

One female trespasser was shot dead by police during the Capital unrest and there was no outcry or charges against the officer. She was white and a Trump supporter. Federal prosecutors are not seeking criminal charges against the police lieutenant whose single shot killed Ashli Babbit, the 14-year veteran who served four tours with the US Airforce. If the unarmed Babbit committed any crime, it would have been for trespassing, a misdemeanor that should have seen her arrested and not slain. The lieutenant’s life was not at risk nor was he saving the lives of others as he stood with numerous police officers in riot gear and strapped with submachine guns. If a member of BLM was shot dead by police during an unlawful riot, there would have been an immediate racial outcry from political elites and from across the news media for justice followed by looting local retailers and ransacking a police precinct. The action by BLM is considered righteous violence whereas the slain Babbit had it coming to her.  

On a very disturbing and new level of injustice is the threatening actions being taken against parents of schoolchildren by the Department of Justice. Most Americans are familiar with the Patriot Act following 9-11 where the National Security Division conducts counterterrorism operations against foreign adversaries planning suicide bombings and stealing nuclear secrets. Now the Biden Administration, under Attorney General Merrick Garland, has turned the NSD’s crosshairs against everyday Americans conducting their civil duties and free speech as school board meetings.

Garland’s actions followed the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) claim that American public schools and its education leaders are under immediate threats and intimidation as parents grow frustrated over the divisive neo-Marxist Critical Race Theory being injected into their children’s curricula. This is clearly an injustice to weaponize the DOJ and FBI investigators to intimidate and arrest parents under the same counterespionage to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Parents may be angry, but they are certainly not domestic terrorists in taking on the powerfully partisan school unions who somehow believe they are justified to influence civilization by indoctrinating their children.        

Garland’s poster boy for his hideous partisan support of the NSBA is a Virginia father who was arrested at a school board meeting when he attempted to raise the alarm over his young daughter being raped in the school washroom. The father became the symbol of angry parents confronting school officials when he was taken down by several police officers and apprehended for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He became vocally upset when school officials denied the attack on his daughter, but he was not physically confrontational.

The father said it is scary that our government will weaponize themselves against parents and they’re using my video across the nation to spread fear; while the school officials did not seem to want to listen to him regarding his daughter being assaulted by a boy wearing a skirt who took advantage of transgender rules to access the girl’s washroom. The boy has now been charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, one count of anal sodomy, and one count of forcible fellatio related to the incident at that school. At a later date, the same boy was charged for a similar attack at neighboring school where he allegedly forced a victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her.  Regardless of the raped daughter, Garland and the NSBA still have their video of the father being wrestled down to support the use of the FBI against parents and send a chilling effect on harmless dissent.  

The Russian collusion narrative against then President Donald Trump may seem dated, however it can never be swept aside or forgotten in what may well have been the biggest political scandal and injustice to a man in American history. The country endured four years investigating Russian collusion into the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 presidential win with senate and congressional impeachment hearings over a Clinton-paid-for fake dossier, the biased Obama hatchet men overseeing the FBI and CIA shirking the law, a frenzied media that never let up on Trump’s guilt, and a special counsel comprised of Clinton partisans that turned over every leaf that eventually found the nearly crucified Trump to be innocent of the false charges. The former president had to withstand an incessant blitzkrieg of injustice through his entire presidency while leading the most powerful country in the world.   

On the hand, there is compelling evidence that President Joe Biden spent years while in government enriching himself through family ties, specifically his son Hunter, to the tune of millions of dollars in foreign money from China, Russia, and Ukraine. The foreign players simply used the unqualified son to leverage access to Biden while satisfying Hunter’s greed and questionable lifestyle. Biden has little to no ability to stand up to China or Russia knowing they are holding damaging transactions over his head. There have been no investigations into Biden’s quid-pro-quo against Ukraine or the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to Biden family members, no impeachments, and the news media buried these stories; including damaging information found on Hunter’s laptop during the 2020 presidential election. Had Trump and his sons engaged in these activities, there would have been a very different level of justice.   

What of this injustice that is making its mark on history? If we take a moment to think through the confusion of the moment and see the morale issue involved, then one may refuse to have this sense of justice distorted to grip power rather than for the good of the country. Those who have sown this unjust wind may eventually reap a whirlwind that provokes reform by convulsion of the people instead of a natural order of business. We must all remember that democracy lies with the people of this land and whether the nation will be stirred to stand for justice and freedom in this hour of distress and go on to finish in a way worthy of its beginning.  

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Biden’s Department of Justice: parents as domestic terrorists

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In recent developments in the United States, US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, and the FBI have put under the FBI radar parents as potential domestic terrorists. You heard it right. This is now a new formal legal policy contained in memos of the Department of Justice trying to reign in parents discussions on Biden’s new school curricula. They are not going after potential outbursts but outright terrorism. 

This is an attack on freedom of speech in the sense that parents have the right to discuss and disagree with the new Biden school curricula. This is where the issue originated: parts of Biden’s new school curricula are not accepted by many parents and if they disagree, the FBI treats them now as potential domestic terrorists as a matter of policy. Apart from a First Amendment case, this is also a case for international human rights law and I reported the development to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech this week hoping to get a statement.

The Department of Justice is referring to some constitutional provision on “intimidation of views” to override and take down one of the most firmly established rights, the right to freedom of speech, in quite frankly a ridiculous interpretation. Those parents that dare to speak up against controversial parts in the new text books could be investigated for domestic terrorism. This is the most incompetent interpretation on limitations of freedom of speech I have seen in awhile. 

Garland and the FBI have totally lost their marbles. The woke discussion is not funny to me anymore. It increasingly looks like a woke tyranny that has nothing to do with rights and equality anymore but simply serves as a vehicle to empower the FBI to run wild against regular people. This lunacy needs to be stopped.

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