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Approaching the Brink? Nuclear Decision-Making by US President Trump in 2020

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 “Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great roles at all times in the history of mankind…. Usually, they have wreaked havoc.”-Sigmund Freud

“He likes me.” (New Year’s Day, 2020) US President Donald Trump explaining why Americans need no longer worry about North Korea

Though written before the nuclear age, Sigmund Freud’s early warning about non-rational decision-making in world politics remains valid. Indeed, in the midst of a steadily-expanding nuclear weapons and infrastructures, this warning has become even more prescient than before. Moreover, such expanding risks need not be confined to foolishness, delusion, neurosis or lunacy. In part, at least, these risks could rise between perfectly rational and well-intentioned national adversaries, and need to be analyzed, inter alia, within the still-evolving context of “Cold War II.”[1]

Exactly which national security risks confronting the United States are conceivably existential? Most plausible is the stubbornly complex problem of North Korea. Here, everything may first appear simple to US President Donald Trump, but would actually prove bewilderingly complex and daunting. In essence, during any upcoming periods of competitive risk-taking with Kim Jung Un, certain intersecting and reinforcing searches for “escalation dominance” by the two leaders could lead suddenly or incrementally to an inadvertent nuclear war. Most worrisome, in this regard, would be variable underestimations of enemy resolve and unforeseen synergies between US and North Korean policy decisions.

Immediately, Mr.Trump must make himself much better-informed about all pertinent nuclear conflict scenarios. Necessarily, whatever differences or nuances obtain between them, these narratives would develop within our persistently anarchic[2]or “Hobbesian” world system.[3] Correspondingly, both the Congress and the citizenry would need to maintain a close and preferably non-partisan watchover Trump’s discernible willingness to take nuclear war decision-making with seriousness of purpose.[4]In this matter, the American president would need to be reminded that no genuinely scientific estimates of nuclear war are logically possible.[5]The reason?  In science, accurate probability assessments must always be based upon the ascertainable frequency of pertinent past events.

Happily, there has never been an authentic nuclear war.[6]

I have been studying nuclear war and strategy for half a century. Following four years at Princeton in the late 1960s, long an intellectual center of American nuclear history and thought, I began to think about adding a personal contribution to the already-growing literatures of nuclear strategic thought. By the mid- 1970s, I was busily preparing an original manuscript on U.S. nuclear strategy and the corollary risks of nuclear war.[7]

At that time, I also became interested in certain very specific questions of presidential authority to order the use of American nuclear weapons.

I soon learned, among other things, that allegedly reliable technological safeguards had been built into all American nuclear command/control decisions, but that these safeguards could not apply at the presidential level. To an aspiring strategic scholar, this ironic disjunction didn’t make any intellectual sense, especially in a world where national leadership irrationality was not without precedent. For needed clarifications, I reached out to General Maxwell D. Taylor, USA/ret., a distinguished former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In impressively rapid response to my query, General Taylor sent off a detailed handwritten reply. Dated 14 March 1976, the General’s letter concluded soberly: “As to those dangers arising from an irrational American president, the only protection is not to elect one.”

Until now, I had never given any extended thought to this boldly truthful but distressing response. Somehow, I had continuously assumed that “the system” would operate according to plan. Always. Today, as the presidency of Donald Trump coincides with a North Korean nuclear standoff and still-expanding Iranian nuclearization, General Taylor’s 1976 warning takes on much greater meaning. Further complicating matters is Trump’s New Year’s Day 2020 observation about North Korean strategic progress. There was no need to worry, he offered reasuringingly, because Kim Jung Un “likes me.” And as if this might not be a compelling enough explanation, the president added: Kim Jung Un (a dictator who has murdered thousands of North Korean citizen’s) is “a man of his word.”

A primary question should now come immediately to mind. What should be done by the US National Command Authority if it should ever decide to oppose a presumptively inappropriate/irrational presidential order to launch American nuclear weapons? Could the National Command Authority reliably “save the day” by acting in an impromptu or creatively ad hoc fashion? Or should there already be in place various credible and effective statutory measures to (1)assess the ordering president’s reason and judgment; and (2) countermand any determinably wrongful order?

 In law, Article 1 of the US Constitution, Congressional war-declaring expectations of the Constitution notwithstanding, any presidential order to use nuclear weapons, whether issued by an apparently irrational president or by an otherwise incapacitated one, must be obeyed. All things considered, to do otherwise in such dire circumstances would be prima facie illegal; that is, impermissible on its face. And President Trump could sometime order the first use of American nuclear weapons even if the US were not under any specifically nuclear attack, a prerogative that would add yet another problematic layer of presidential nuclear authority.

 A further distinction, both strategic and legal, must be made between first use and first strike. There exists an elementary but vitally important difference. This vital difference has to do, in part, with distinguishing permissible self-defense from aggression.[8] The latter is a properly codified crime under international law.[9] It is, therefore, reciprocally prohibited by US law.

Where should American nuclear decision-making policy go from here? To begin, a coherent and comprehensive answer will need to be prepared for the following antecedent question: If faced with any presidential order to use nuclear weapons, and not offered sufficiently appropriate corroborative evidence of any actually impending existential threat, would the National Command Authority: (1)be willing to disobey? and (2)be capable of enforcing such seemingly well-founded expressions of authoritative disobedience?

In any such unprecedented nuclear crisis circumstances, all relevant decisions could have to be made in a compressively time-urgent matter of minutes. Such tight chronological constraints could quickly become pressing and overriding. What then?

More precisely, we must inquire, is the current US president reasonably well-prepared to deal with any such bewildering and consequential eventualities? If not, what shall we do to effectively remediate such an intolerable shortcoming? Significantly, there can be no more urgent strategic query.

. Though almost everyone might feel comforted if the escalating North Korean nuclear crisis were somehow to subside, there will inevitably arise certain other similar or plausibly more portentous atomic emergencies.[10] To respond purposefully, this country will require far more than a purely ad hoc or reactive policy decision from the White House. It will require intersecting foreign policy goals that are expressly identified and based upon calculable considerations of intellect or “mind,” not just on idle or banal political rhetoric.

There is one last but vital observation to be offered here. Whether in reference to some proposed military intervention or some other considered military action, the American president is always bound not only by US law, but by international law. The latter, which is discoverable in various customary norms as well as in bilateral and multilateral treaties, remains an integral part of American law.[11] Such “incorporation” is most prominently expressed at Article 6 of the US Constitution (the “Supremacy Clause”), and also at various major US Supreme Court decisions.[12]

Is US President Donald Trump remotely familiar with this or any other section of the Constitution?

The answer is obvious and distressing.

There is more. US President Donald Trump’s policies for dealing with adversarial nuclear threats must remain consistent with presumed American military requirements and with all corollary jurisprudential obligations. Inevitably, striking the necessary and optimal balance between both coinciding national imperatives will confront this president with tangible intellectual and ethical challenges of the very highest order and simultaneously, at the same time. It follows that Americans will soon need to take more seriously (1) Sigmund Freud’s early warning about psychologically compromised or disabled national leaders; and (2) the correlative hazards of an accidental or inadvertent nuclear war.

While all accidental nuclear wars would necessarily be inadvertent, not all inadvertent nuclear wars need be accidental. Indeed, the expectedly greatest dangers regarding Donald Trump decision-making “at the brink” would concern one form or another of miscalculation, a warning that while “ordinary” competitive risk-taking with Pyongyang or Tehran might not easily be avoided, the American search for “escalation dominance” should nonetheless be tempered by presumptively core considerations of national survival.

Going forward, there could be no greater “fool” in the White House than an American president who fancies himself a “very stable genius” but patently lacks all basic elements of needed intellectual preparation. Accordingly, to avoid “havoc” – an indispensable avoidance – the American president should first learn from classic military strategist Carl von Clausewitz’s On War concept about “friction.” This oft-quoted concept references the always vital difference between “war on paper” and “war as it actually is.” Although Donald Trump still reveals tangibly little intellectual capacity to understand differences between calculated threats of international violence and US military power, it is a deficit that must first be acknowledged before it can be remedied.

Therein lies the overriding strategic policy challenge to the United States. Unless it can be suitably met and overcome, America’s rapid approach to the “brink” could generate authentically catastrophic nuclear outcomes. Under assorted hard-to-fathom circumstances, for example, there could sometime evolve an insufficient understanding of (or attention to) certain hybridized adversaries by the Trump White House, e.g., Iran and Hezbollah. These plausible kinds of deficit could include, inter alia, various unforeseen synergies between state and sub-state adversaries.

For the moment, at least, America is endangered by a president who is plainly “over his head” in managing his nuclear decision-making authority It also goes without saying that American presidential obligations concerning this fearful authority are of the highest possible national and international urgency. Potentially, after all, these complex and multi-layered obligations are now literally coextensive with civilizational survival.

At no point should we regard any future presidentially-spawned atomic havoc as tolerable or forgivable.


[1]In orthodox political science terms, positing the expansion of “Cold War II” means expecting that the world system is becoming increasingly bipolar. For early writings, by this author, on the global security implications of just such an expanding bipolarity, see: Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Reliability of Alliance Commitments,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 25, No.4., December 1972, pp. 702-710; Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Tragedy of the Commons,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 26, No.4., December 1973, pp, 649-658; and Louis René Beres, “Guerillas, Terrorists, and Polarity: New Structural Models of World Politics,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 27, No.4., December 1974, pp. 624-636.

[2] With anarchy, international law remains a “vigilante” system, or, in other words, “Westphalian.” This latter reference is to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which concluded the Thirty Years War, and created the now still-existing decentralized, or self-help, 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.

[3] The chaotic condition of Westphalian global anarchy stands in contrast to the classical jurisprudential assumption of solidarity between all states in a presumably common struggle against aggression and terrorism. Such a peremptory expectation (known formally in international law as a jus cogens assumption), is already mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 C.E.); Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli Ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey, tr., Clarendon Press, 1925) (1690); and Emmerich De Vattel, 1 Le Droit des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758).

[4]For the most part, the U.S. has been modernizing its nuclear arsenal primarily by upgrading existing weapon systems, rather than by deploying altogether new types of such weapons. The ICBM force is in a final phase of a decade-long $8 billion modernization program. Beginning in 2017, the U.S. Navy began to deploy a modified version of the trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The U.S. Air Force has already begun Life Extension Programs for its air-launched cruise missile, as well as for the B-2 and B-52 bombers. In any event, prima facie,U.S. nuclear modernization efforts and plans undercut the publicly-stated U.S. goal of achieving “bold reductions” in Russian and U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons in Europe.

[5] For an early look at these problematic estimations, see: Anatol Rapoport, Strategy and Conscience (New York: Schocken Books, 1964), 323 pp.

[6] US atomic attacks during World War II do not constitute examples of a nuclear war; rather; they “merely” represent two instances of nuclear weapons use during a conventional conflict.

[7] This book was subsequently published in 1980 by the University of Chicago Press: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics.http://www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-Nuclear-Catastrophe-World-Politics/dp/0226043606

[8]Punishment of aggression is a firm and longstanding expectation of international criminal law.  The peremptory principle of Nullum Crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment,” has its origins in the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1728 – 1686 B.C.E.); the Laws of Eshnunna (c. 2000 B.C.E.); the even earlier Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100 B.C.E.) and the law of exact retaliation, or Lex Talionis, presented in three separate passages of the Jewish Torah

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

[10] See, generally, Seneca, 1st Century AD/CE: “We are mad, not only individuals, but nations also. We restrain manslaughter and isolated murders, but what of war, and the so-called glory of killing whole peoples? …. Man, the gentlest of animals, is not ashamed to glory in blood-shedding, and to wage war when even the beasts are living in peace together.” (Letters, 95).

[11]  Note further the jus cogens principle that international law is ultimately deducible from natural law. In this connection, according to Blackstone, each state is always expected “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against that universal law….” See: 2 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, “Of Public Wrongs.” Lest anyone ask about the significance of Blackstone for current US national security policies, one need only point out that Commentaries are an original and core foundation of the laws of the United States.

[12] See especially The Paquette Habana, 175 US 677, 700 (1900); and Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726, F. 2d, 774, 781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984) per curiam.

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

A Dangerous Interregnum

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Authors: Zlatko Hadžidedić and Adnan Idrizbegović*

Less than two months are left for the transition of government in the United States of America. Not a long period, but sufficient to trigger processes that the next American administration would not be able to reverse. There are no reasons to doubt that President Trump, who still refuses to concede the election defeat, will try to make the future of the Biden Administration as difficult as possible. In this context, let us remember that President Trump hails the abandonment of the nuclear treaty with Iran as his highest achievement, so it would be reasonable to assume that he would do almost anything in his power to make this very step irreversible. The question of whether that includes the option of a military attack on Iran, therefore, hangs in the air.    

We are witnessing a current concentration of American air power in Iran’s neighbourhood. This particularly refers to strategic B52 bombers and F16s from American bases in Europe. Further arrival of F35s in the region would increase the likelihood of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. This likelihood might also be increased with the announced arrival of the aircraft carrier Nimitz into the Gulf waters. As news agencies reported, the military option of that type had already been seriously considered by President Trump and his advisors, although it did not enjoy a high degree of support among the highest US military officers. In the forthcoming period, as long as Trump sits in the White House, it is realistic to expect that this dispute between the military and the Administration will gain in intensity, given the fact that President Trump’s team is well-known for its stubborn sticking to its original agenda.

In this context, it must be noted that the nuclear treaty with Iran was declared as one of President Obama’s greatest foreign policy successes. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a detailed agreement with five annexes reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany). The nuclear deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and Iran’s compliance with the nuclear-related provisions of the JCPOA was verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It was a groundbreaking agreement that satisfied security concerns of Americans, Iranians, Arabs, Europeans, as well as others, opening the gates for Iran’s readmission onto the global scene. By adopting this treaty, Iran left its position of a pariah state. By betraying the treaty, President Trump has transformed the favourite role of the US as a leader of the free world into that of a pariah state. Does that imply his willingness to go even further in his rejection of all norms of international law, by launching a military action against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, as a logical continuation of his unlawful withdrawal from the ratified international treaty? 

From President Trump’s perspective, such an action should prevent a quick and easy return of the US to the treaty in the post-Trump period. A war in the Gulf should lead to an instant rise of oil prices; consequently, it should also lead to the strengthening of the US dollar, linked to the prices of oil. In the times of the failing global economy, additionally burdened by the crippling effects of the pandemic, this would be the most favourable impetus to the withering economy of the US. The rise of oil prices would also have a negative effect on the manufacturing-oriented economies of American competitors in China and Europe. This rise would also strengthen the military industrial interests in the US, commonly backing the Republican Party, potentially at the expense of the financial ones, which traditionally stand behind the Democratic Party. 

A thorough, or even only partial, destruction of the Iranian nuclear programme would certainly be the most favourable outcome for hardliners on both sides, and President Trump probably sees it as a chance to either remain in power despite the election results, or to undermine the position of the future Administration. No doubt, that would trigger a robust return of Iranian hardliners to power in the forthcoming elections, which would probably close the door to negotiations with Iran for the President-elect. Most likely, it would give a strong push to the Tehran radicals to renew the nuclear programme, this time exclusively for military purposes. Since an attack itself would probably be launched from the US military bases in the region, it would also trigger an Iranian retaliatory attack on these countries. Such a development would probably strengthen homogeneity among the cornered Arab NATO countries, such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar, pushing them further into Israeli arms. This would also bring the Sunni-Shiite rift beyond the point of repair. Needless to say, most hardliners, not only in the West, would be absolutely delighted with that result. 

According to President Trump’s orders, the ongoing withdrawal of the American troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as Syria, must be completed 5 days before the transfer of power to the Biden Administration. The withdrawal itself (complete or partial) shall leave an enormous strategic gap, for which there is no alternative to fill the void. Such an exit strategy is without precedent in the American military history, especially given the monumental costs attached to the invading enterprise that took place in these three countries. President Trump’s orders, therefore, imply that another gigantic calculus may be at play this time, a calculus of lasting global significance. Let us remember that an absolute departure of all foreign troops from the region was, actually, Iran’s demand after the assassination of the commander of the Iranian Republican Guard, Kasseem Suleymani. Does that mean that President Trump has accepted Iranian rules, or even supremacy, in the Gulf? Does it mean that President Trump would abandon American allies in the Middle East, from Israel to Saudi Arabia? And what will happen with oil, hitherto controlled by American companies, which exploited it due to the American military presence? Of course, if President Trump is not abandoning literally all American positions, alliances and interests in the region, it is likely that he must have some other strategic rationale. Perhaps cutting the military expenditures sounds acceptable to the ears of the American public. However, it is not sufficient to justify the magnitude of the shift.

The hasty withdrawal of the US troops, however, serves one clear purpose: it deprives Iran of available American targets for its potential retaliation attempts, and inevitably redirects Iranian wrath at the American allies in the Gulf. Thus the withdrawal not only increases the probability of President Trump’s military adventure against Iran, but also leaves the Arab allies between Iran and Israel, to choose their strategic sponsor. The question is, whether the recent secretive meeting between the Saudi Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is to be interpreted in this context?

In any case, the heaviest weight of the American absence in the region will fall on Israel’s shoulders. The Israelis know that an attack on Iran would bean option that could provide Israel with a necessary timeframe to adjust to these new realities and acquire a projected control over their Arab neighbours. A strategic importance of the attack would, therefore, require participation of Israel’s military. As the Israelis know it too well, detrimental effects on the Iranian nuclear programme are essential for the very existence of the state of Israel, since the Islamic Republic Iran is finally in the position to capitalise its long-lasting struggle against American dominance in the Middle East and gain strategic control over the entire Levant and the Gulf, so as to be promoted into a global player. The level of communication between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu suggests that certain promises may have been made to the Israelis that an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is imminent. However, the assassination of the Iranian main nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, attributed to the Israeli intelligence agencies, might be interpreted as an attempt to undermine the Iranian nuclear programme without a full-scale attack, either because the Israelis do not believe in its feasibility, or because they are trying to avoid it, given its long-term consequences that eventually might prove unfavourable for Israel’s position.

There might be one more option at play, bearing in mind President Trump’s favourite „art of a deal“ strategy: a secret deal between the current US Administration and Iran, that the US leaves the Shiite world (Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, plus control over Afghanistan in potential partnership with Pakistan) to Iranian domination, in exchange for Iranian tacit permission to have the plutonium generator in Arak – suitable for development of a military nuclear programme – bombed and temporarily destroyed by the US. That option would buy several years to both the US and Israel, with a significant postponement of Iran’s eventual production of a nuclear weapon. To the other side, it would give Iran a chance to improve its geopolitical position as one of the two main powers in the region, in interim coexistence with Israel as a de facto leader of the Arab NATO alliance. Under these circumstances, a Shiite bloc led by Tehran, separating Sunni Arab countries from Turkey and Russian influence, might be a favourable development for the US. The questions are, of course, to what extent it would be acceptable to Israel, and to what extent it would draw Iran into overstretching, and effectively, into economic weakening.        

Whatever the calculus of the outgoing Trump Administration, the incoming Administration of the President-elect Biden has no interest in allowing that such dangerous developments take place. If President Trump orders an attack on Iran in the last 5 days of his mandate, right after the departure of the American troops from the region, all its negative consequences will be attributed to the Biden Administration, crippling their announced initiatives to stabilise the world affairs. For, Its geopolitical consequences could be numerous: a takeover of the Middle East by the strengthened Iranian radicals; a possible nuclearisation of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and maybe Egypt; a further rapprochement between Iran and Russia, this time in the sphere of strategic nuclear cooperation, which would eventually terminate the Western influence in Eurasia. 

By going in that direction, President Trump would promote the strategy of „poisoning the well“ to the future Democratic Administration, depriving it of prospects for relevant foreign policy results in its next 4 years. Eventually, that might lead to the second coming of Trump; and then, to a burial of American democracy and implementation of an authoritarian one-party regime, as desired by the Republican radicals ever since the mid-1970s. 

*Adnan Idrizbegović, Independent researcher, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

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“Living On Mountains”: Antecedents of a Dignified and Secure World Order

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Edvard Munch: The Human Mountain. Munch Museum, Oslo

One must become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath one.”-Friedrich Nietzsche, Zarathustra

During the dissembling Trump Era, perhaps more than ever before, Americans have had to endure the “wretched ephemeral chatter of politics.” Though this demeaning “chatter” recently became toxic to its core – deeply injurious to the United States as a once-dignified and secure nation-state[1] – there seem to be no promising paths of any prompt remediation. As a result, Americans have been unable to take sound counsel from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, to position themselves “on mountains.”

               Not yet have we been able to rise reassuringly above the Trump presidency’s multiple policy derelictions and its determinedly vulgar “syntax.”[2]

                In principle, at least, any such elevation would have been favorable to both national and global well-being. These two primary arenas of needed improvement are by no means separate or discrete. Rather, they are closely intersecting, mutually reinforcing and inextricably intertwined.

               Always, it must be understood, the world must be examined holistically.

               Always, whatever we decide to do, the “macrocosm,” the world, reveals a decisive but latent “oneness.”

               Still, Reason yields to anti-Reason. Americans have not yet positioned themselves for any genuine “world order reform.”[3] Quite the contrary. By its gratuitous and expressly belligerent nationalism, Trump’s “America First”[4] enhanced the dark forces of war,[5] terrorism[6] and utterly expansive lawlessness.[7]

               The key causes here are elementary. Unassailably, science and logic have often been minimized or disregarded in the United States. Our most plainly evident shortcomings in this regard were erected upon several overlapping fallacies. To be sure, the recent election of a new American president represents a plausibly auspicious transformation, but even this indispensable change can do nothing to improve the underlying and determinative structures of global consciousness.

               There is more. Over time, Americans have repeatedly been instructed that hyperbolic patriotism is an admirable and proper sentiment. Nonetheless, such self-congratulatory sentiments ought not be ones of exaggerated national superiority. To wit, what Americans might ordinarily have once considered to be a merely decent patriotism could now undermine this nation’s most vital national interests.

                It’s not all that complicated. We humans inhabit the same singe imperiled planet. Even by definition, we are conspicuously co-dependent upon one another. Whether we like it or not, our private errors and our collective fates have become deeply intersecting and intimately interconnected.[8] At times, they have also become tangibly synergistic.

               What does this imply, both broadly and specifically? At the point where certain specific intersections have become synergistic, the “whole” impact of any international intersection will exceed the sum of its constituent policy “parts.” In the conceivably next-to-worst case narrative, these cumulative impacts will be injuries of one sort or another, including some forms of catastrophic war. In the most genuinely worst case scenario, these war-inflicted harms would be nuclear[9] and be magnified by the assorted effects of microbial assault (pandemic). For the moment, Americans are not yet caught up in an all-consuming international conflict, but we are already the suffering victims of ongoing biological “plague.”

               Two questions arise immediately:

               (1) What correct policy inferences should be drawn from this by America’s national leaders?

               and

               (2) What impressively valid conclusions could we expect?

               To respond meaningfully, it must first become obvious that many apparent benefits of traditionally-defined patriotism are actually harmful and unpatriotic. Because the combined result of individual nation-state judgments that conflate belligerent nationalism with patriotism inevitably weaken all nation-states, it is high time for the incoming American president to think beyond any past or prospective iterations of  “American Exceptionalism.” From now on, the particular policy objectives coalescing around this falsifying mantra must be calculated more seriously.

                Soon, true American patriotism must come to mean significantly more than mumbled empty witticisms or nonsense cheers from an obedient public “mass.”[10]  

               As a start, or perhaps as a welcome resurrection of some pre-Trump levels of presidential literacy, incoming US President Joe Biden and his senior national security counselors should be reminded that history is worth close  study and deserves a corresponding pride of place. This seemingly obvious point was lost upon Biden’s manifestly illiterate predecessor.[11]  Biden and his senior appointees could soon be reminded, perhaps as an illuminating  prise de conscience,  that classical Greek and Macedonian war postures were based upon determinably sound theoretical foundations.[12]

               More succinctly stated, such ancient postures were founded upon variously calculable struggles of “mind over mind.” Whatever else their varying deficiencies, these postures were not crafted from the corrosively visceral chants of an unthinking “amen chorus.” They were not drawn from some atavistic mass that classical Greek thinkers would have called hoi polloi.[13]

               Over the years, though not always embraced, such enviable “mind-over-mind” orientations provided an overlooked but perpetually-prudent model of national security planning.[14] Nonetheless, across almost the entire globe, national military planning efforts remains narrowly focused upon correlations of individual force structure and on disparate elements of a wrongly-presumed national interest.

               Before improved analytic thought could be expected,[15] America’s national security policy planners would first need to become more attentive to complex policy intersections and interdependencies, including what we have called “synergies.”[16] In any synergistic interaction, the policy behaviors of rival states could produce outcomes that represent calculably “more” than the simple sum of their constituent parts. A timely example for President Joe Biden might be prospective US-North Korean policies of crisis escalation, policies in which one side or the other (or both) would casually mistake the other’s moves and where results could be much worse than any simple arithmetic summation would have predicted.

               Looking ahead to still-plausible crises between Washington and Pyongyang, each side (assuming basic and bilateral rationality) will be seeking to achieve “escalation dominance” and, simultaneously, to maintain national survival.[17] It follows from all this that whatever one’s own political inclinations or affiliations, US President Donald J. Trump’s “America First” foreign policies were unpatriotic and actually destined to fail.[18]

               Years earlier, Sigmund Freud, while not directly concerned with the particular dynamics of world politics or international relations, examined similar issues at the microcosmic or “molecular” level, that is, at the always-critical level of individual human beings. Looking over such psychologically focused examinations, Freud’s most rudimentary conceptual understanding – that unfettered “liberty” among individual human beings must invariably lead to uselessly antagonistic or “zero-sum” social conflicts – applies equally to  nation-states. If left alone to pursue their collective lives “patriotically”- that is, within that anarchic global state-of-nature that seventeenth century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes had famously called a “war of all against all”[19] – the separate state actors would be forced to endure the dissembling conditions of  “permanent war.”[20]

               Amid any such continuously ferocious global anarchy – a structure of disorder originally bequeathed at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 – there could never arise any satisfactory forms of civilization. The prospects would become even worse were traditional anarchy transformed into a genuine “chaos.”

               There is more. Notwithstanding the bitterly anti-intellectual stance of outgoing American president Donald J. Trump, history and learning still have an indispensable place in the United States. Recalling Thomas Hobbes Leviathan (1651, chapter XIII), the life of any states attempting to chase after narrowly nationalistic/populist goals must inevitably be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”[21] There would exist principal and palpable connections between traditional zero-sum notions of patriotism and what is now generally called “populism.”

               But how do we actually fix a global system founded upon and sustained by erroneous notions of patriotism? How should well-intentioned states (including the United States) plan their successful escape from the global “state of nature,” an escape for which there can be no viable alternative? There exist just two potentially coherent responses, and these responses need not be mutually exclusive.

               The first and most frequently recommended reaction focuses on changing a perpetually conflict-based mechanism of world politics. Even before the appearance of what was then called “World Order Studies” back at Yale and Princeton in the 1960s,[22] philosophers from Dante and Immanuel Kant to H.G. Wells, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Sri Aurobindo elaborated imaginatively on variable configurations of world government.[23] Today, even if we can convincingly oppose any or all such configurations, the underlying imperative to think in more disciplined fashion about “reordering the planet”[24] remains fully urgent.[25]

               The second reasonable response must transport analytic investigators back to true origins of the problem, that is, to the universally evident and undiminished imperfections of individual human beings. With this suitably intellectual posture, one that would correctly regard all world politics as epiphenomena or as mere manifestation of far deeper causes, the scholar’s (and eventually policymaker’s) overriding emphasis must be upon “fixing people.”[26]

                If the first reaction could be critiqued as “unrealistic” or “utopian,” the second would qualify even more plainly for such pejorative characterizations.

               But how shall we proceed?

               The most promising answers will require a consciously transformational focus upon the individual human being, on the microcosm and on his or her primary place in pertinent “global rescue” preparations. So long as it remains fully predicated upon erroneous definitions of patriotism, our nation-state system of world politics will still be incapable of serving humankind’s most basic security and justice obligations. Earlier, German-Swiss philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had exclaimed prophetically in Zarathustra that the “state is the coldest of all cold monsters,”[27] a darkly accurate view later reinforced by Spanish thinker Jose Ortega y’ Gasset.  Observed Ortega, “The state is the greatest danger.”[28]

                But even the most refined prescriptions for improved global coordination or governance will require antecedent changes in human behavior. This is the case, moreover, in spite of the apparent improbability of any such “molecular” changes. In other words, much as we might still think such changes unlikely or perhaps even impossible, we have no alternative.

               Quite literally, the present-day time-dishonored “Westphalian” world system is destined to fail.[29]

               In essence, it is now most urgent that we learn to supplant the relentlessly belligerent aspects of traditional patriotism with more gainful visions of cooperation, interdependence  and “oneness.” Apropos of such imperative learning, scholars and policy makers would be well-advised to recall the special wisdom of Jesuit French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”[30]

                This incontestable warning in The Phenomenon of Man assumes especially powerful relevance regarding outgoing US President Donald J. Trump’s deeply injurious  emphases on “America First.” By definition, these retrograde emphases were incompatible with any reasonably sought-after outcomes of world peace and justice. Instead, they pointed directly and unambiguously toward enlarged prospects of human insecurity and human degradation.

               Though understood only by those who are still willing to undertake disciplined thought, there exist intimate connections between intra-national and inter-national power processes. Among other things, these linkages suggest that “fixing states” could represent the vital intermediary step between fixing individual human beings and fixing the wider world. Accordingly, in American universities, which are increasingly being given over to narrowly vocational forms of education, we need to bring-back and amplify “world order studies” as a designated field of respectable academic inquiry.[31]

               For those prospective students still determined to study business, computers or technology, it will be worth keeping in  mind that there can be no meaningful achievements of individual wealth or success when the world as a whole tilts only toward war, terror, genocide and pandemic.

               In general, before humanity can maximize any rule-based and value-based forms of global cooperation, there will first have to take place certain distinctly primary human changes. Although it may be premature to identify a systematic and sequential inventory of such required changes, the basic process is by no means ambiguous. Wittingly, this process would reject the distracting delusions of a society given over to amusements and would accept instead, much like the Founding Fathers,[32] a challenging set of intellectual imperatives.

               Ultimately, any suitably alternative forms of global cooperation will demand dialogue not only among endlessly fractious nation-states, but also among individual human beings.

               Such forward-looking and dynamic thinking can bring us back gainfully to French Jesuit philosopher Teilhard, and to the primary importance of system: “The existence of `system’ in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature….Each element of the cosmos is positively woven from all the others.” Complementary “lessons” can be found in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata; these lessons conveniently recollect what used to be called “cosmopolitanism,” or a determined ideology of global integration :[33] “Then you should card it and comb it, and mingle it all/in one basket of love and unity,/Citizens, visitors, strangers, and sojourners – all the/entire, undivided community.”

               In the end, any state’s true patriotic interests can be met solely by cultivating a greater and more unqualified loyalty to humankind in general. In the United States, this rationally redirected loyalty, which would still likely be labeled “unpatriotic” by most Americans (even after the Trump horror) will require a prior and more robust development of intellect or “mind.”  Such a development, by design, would be at definitional odds with any once-exaggerated expectations of Trump-era “populism.”[34]

               Nothing truly useful could be solved by adding more and more adrenalized encouragements of technology or entrepreneurship.

               The overriding problem of “creating a future” in world politics will not be solved by any new multiplication of “personal devices.”

               It won’t help individuals to “win” in a “shark tank” competition if the tank itself has already been poisoned.

                There is more. We will need to replace the recognizably false communion of nation-states – a pattern, like the High Lama’s Lost Horizon prediction, that is close to collapsing – with a new and authentic harmony. When such an ambitious replacement is successful, or is at least discernibly underway, we could finally take seriously an earlier promise of Sigmund Freud. While Freud was not focused on world politics per se, he would surely still agree with the following proposition: A greatly expanded or fully supplanting power of global community can make sense only if there can first be rejected an inwardly-rotten “balance-of-power” global dynamic, a dynamic that is based on fear, trembling and a near-perpetual dread.[35]

               One last summary observation will be offered here, one that points toward a key potential barrier to creating a more just and viable future – toward overcoming an impediment to all conceivably plausible forms of human transformation. The worrisome “fly in the ointment” here concerns the continuously problematic assumption of human rationality. Even before Freud, and most markedly in Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, we may read with long-term benefit about “mystery” or the “whisperings of the irrational.”[36]

               Much as we might try to deny it, irrationality – not rationality – has often been the foundation of national decision-making in world politics.[37]

               Though daunting and seemingly out of place, literary/philosophic recognition of the “absurd” –  Credo quia absurdum; “I believe because it is absurd” – must be incorporated into all proposed nation-state programs for world order reform. Without such indispensable incorporation, every otherwise carefully worked-out prescription for international law[38] and global civilization could still fail.

               A counter-intuitive truth appears. Traditionally combative or zero-sum expressions of  nationalism can never be authentically patriotic. Though such expressions always “sound good,” they are nonetheless injurious to the celeb rants.

               Among even the most evident antinomies of the world, any truly promising spirit of patriotism must first acknowledge (1) the core singularity or “oneness” of our species;[39] and (2) the corollary interdependence of all nation-states. In the end, inter alia, any serious and decent forms of patriotism must plainly affirm that all human beings are enduringly and indissolubly interconnected.[40] The real enemy of the United States is never one particular ideology or another, but rather any orientation away from Reason, away from Science, away from Logic and away even from Truth.

               “The enemy,” in the words of 20th century German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time, “is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.” This has been the prevailing spirit of Trump Era patriotism in the United States.

                Its axiomatic. There can be no suitable foreign policy posture for the United States that is detached from the presumptive well-being of nation-states in general. Before this can be properly understood, however, it is vital that America’s still-serious political and legal thinkers heed Nietzsche’s timeless counsel from Zarathustra[41]: This is to “become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath one.”[42]

               None of this will be created ex nihilo, out of nothing. It will require special and essentially unprecedented acts of “will.”[43] In the final analysis, America will need to  get far beyond what Nietzsche worriedly calls “national egotism.” This derivative ailment  is rooted in various common human associations of personal significance with the nation as a whole.

                For Hegel, in The Philosophy of Right, the association is sacred. “The state is the actuality of the ethical idea….” Indeed, continues Hegel, the state is nothing less  less than  “the march of God in the world.” In his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observed similarly: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.”[44] These corrosive views of Hegel and Treitschke represent the diametric opposite of what is required for a more decent and durable system of planetary politics. To wit, Treitschke ends his sacrilization of  the state with the bitterly grotesque observation: “War is the only remedy for ailing nations.”[45]

               War is not what still-rational human beings should ever be seeking. Always, in the end,  Realpolitik or power politics will prove its own insubstantiality. Therein, however, lies a grave dilemma. Though Nietzsche calls upon us to “become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath one,” he still expects us to oppose the “egotism” of states energetically; that is, with suitably intellectual underpinnings and with a boldly philosophic determination.

               What now? Can these two seemingly contradictory imperatives – calm detachment and activism – ever be reconciled? How, precisely, shall we soar above fevered “herds” of the state and simultaneously acknowledge that the conflict-centered world still desperately needs “repair”?[46]

               Heraclitus tells us that “Men who love wisdom must inquire into very many things.”[47] Should we eventually fail in this many-sided inquiry, it will be because we have failed to recognize ourselves as the fundamental locus of responsibility and change. The plausible idea that humankind produces its own misfortunes has endured for millennia. Accordingly, Aeschylus, Homer and Hesiod were correctly convinced that it is our species’ persisting  disregard for wisdom that accounts for its endlessly murderous history.

               “In the end,” says Goethe, “we are creatures of our own making.”[48] Such callous disregard for wisdom (which, since Plato, includes virtue) spawns a sea of boundless ruin. In such a turbulent sea, comments the King of Argos in The Suppliant Maidens, “Nowhere is there a haven from distress.”

               Significantly, the Greek idea of Fate does not imply any absence of human control or responsibility. But it does carry a penalty for failures to cultivate justice and peace. Though Realpolitik has ancient origins – at least in terms of its core dynamic of zero-sum competition – its actual celebration  is a modern development. Also known as Machstaat, or power politics, per se glorifications of the state represent a distinct break with the traditional political “realism” of Thucydides, Thrasymachus (Plato) and Machiavelli.[49]

               From Hegel and Fichte to Ranke and Treitschke, Realpolitik has consistently undermined any residual human opportunities for dignified world order.

               Why then should it be encouraged to continue?

               Why should Trump’s grievously derelict “America First” have ever been thought purposeful or worthwhile?

               In the  beginning, in that starkly primal promiscuity wherein the modern swerve toward Realpolitik first occurred, forerunners of modern world politics established a system of struggle and bitter competition  that could never succeed. Still captivated by this failed system, the Trump-led United States allowed the pernicious spirit of power politics to spread across the entire spectrum of international interactions, like a palpable gangrene on the surface of the earth. Rejecting wisdom, virtue and all proper standards of logic, this spirit could never impose effective limits upon itself.

                It continues to be rife despite its evidence-based rebuffs. It still takes its long history of defeat for meaningful advances. In essence, this spirit has never “learned” anything.

               Now, the post-Trump United States may have a last opportunity to confront refractory derangements of Realpolitik as a palpable curse, and encourage the eclipse of these lethal “insults” with Reason and Virtue. In the absence of such needed confrontation, future civilizations will likely examine the skeletal remains of this last prenuclear war epoch with an audible sneer. Far better for us and our descendants that the United States and other major states now move toward obligatory acknowledgement  of international interdependence and human “oneness.”

               Then, finally, we could realistically take up Friedrich Nietzsche’s enduringly sound advice for “living on mountains.”


[1] “There is no longer a virtuous nation,” prophesied the Irish poet W B Yeats, “and the best of us live by candle light.”

[2] Goethe says famously, in Faust, Part One: “Speak not to me about the motley rabble, Whose sight no inspiration can abide. Preserve me from the tumult and the babble, That sweeps us helpless in its vulgar tide.” Still, faced with the residual horrors of outgoing president Donald J. Trump, Americans don’t have the luxury of the great German poet. In essence, variously appropriate remedial programs must now be conceptualized and suitably implemented..

[3] The term world order reform has its contemporary origins in a scholarly movement begun at the Yale Law School in the mid-and late 1960s, and then “adopted” at the Politics Department at Princeton University in 1967-68. The present author, Louis Rene Beres, was a original member of the Princeton-based World Order Models Project, and wrote several early books in this scholarly genre.

[4] See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2019/06/louis-beres-america-first/  See also, by Professor Beres, at Yale Global Online: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/what-trumps-foreign-policy-ignores

[5] “Man’s heart is in his weapons,” observes the Devil in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, “in the arts of death, he outdoes Nature herself…..”

[6] Under 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”)).

[7] On Donald Trump’s most egregious violations of national and international law – violations of Nuremberg-category obligations – see by former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz: https://www.yahoo.com/news/nuremberg-prosecutor-warning-trump-war-090342221.html

[8] Regarding such core intersections, we may learn from Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “”You are a citizen of the universe.” A still-broader idea of human “oneness” 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 human legal understanding.

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

[10] “The mass-man,” says Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses,””has no need for reason. He learns only in his own flesh.” Outgoing US President Donald J. Trump is the quintessential “mass man.”

[11] This is not by any means a baseless or gratuitous criticism of Donald J. Trump. Unassailably, this soon-to-be former president not only never reads, he remains conspicuously proud of this deliberate illiteracy. See, by Professor Beres, at Yale Global Online: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/trump-and-destruction-american-mind

[12] “Theories are nets,” reminds Karl Popper, citing to the German poet Novalis, “only he who casts, will catch.” See Popper’s epigraph to his classic, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959). Ironically, Novalis’ fellow German poet, Goethe, declared, in his early Faust fragment (Urfaust): “All theory, dear friend, is grey. But the golden tree of life is green.”

[13] Similar anti-populist sentiments would have been discovered among the Founding Fathers of the United States. See, by Professor Beres, at Oxford University Press: https://blog.oup.com/2018/04/american-people-hamilton-trump/

[14] See F.E. Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War (1962).

[15] Recall, in this connection, Bertrand Russell’s timeless warning in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916): “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth, more than ruin, more even than death.”

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

[17] See, by this writer, Louis René Beres,  https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/28931

[18] Such failure, of course, would be most “palpable” and consequential when this country finds itself in extremis atomicum.

[19] A bellum omnium contra omnes. This is, of course, a purely philosophic term. In pertinent jurisprudence, there are certain more explicit criteria of a “state of war.” More precisely, under authoritative international law, the question of whether or not a true “state of war” exists between states remains generally ambiguous. To wit, traditionally, it was held that a formal declaration of war was necessary before a true state of war could be said to exist. Hugo Grotius even divided wars into declared wars, which were legal, and undeclared wars, which were not. (See Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace, Bk. III, Chs. III, IV, and XI.) By the start of the twentieth century, the position that war obtains only after a conclusive declaration of war by one of the parties was codified by Hague Convention III. This treaty stipulated that hostilities must never commence without a “previous and explicit warning” in the form of a declaration of war or an ultimatum. (See Hague Convention III Relative to the Opening of Hostilities, 1907, 3 NRGT, 3 series, 437, article 1.) Currently, declarations of war may be tantamount to admissions of international criminality, because of the express criminalization of aggression by authoritative international law, and it could therefore represent a clear jurisprudential absurdity to tie any true state of war to formal and prior declarations of belligerency. It follows that a state of war may now exist without any formal declarations, but only if there exists an actual armed conflict between two or more states, and/or at least one of these affected states considers itself “at war.”

[20] Also, see Emmerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations (1758),  “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”

[21] Significantly, Hobbes’ Leviathan was well-familiar to the founding fathers of the United States, especially Thomas Jefferson.

[22] This author, Louis René Beres, was a part of this original disciplinary inauguration at Princeton in the 1960s. In turn, much of this Princeton-based inauguration was derived from still earlier work done by Myres McDougal and Harold Lasswell at the Yale Law School.

[23] My own doctoral dissertation at Princeton, completed in 1971, explored the logical foundations of global legal centralization. See: Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10, Monograph No.3., 1972-73), 93pp; also Louis René Beres and Harry R. Targ, Reordering the Planet: Constructing Alternative World Futures (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1974).

[24] See Louis René Beres, Reordering the Planet: Constructing Alternative World Futures (1974), above.     

[25] Here we may learn from the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s Endgame: “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another, of seeking justification always on the same plane?”

[26] Rabbi Eleazar quoted Rabbi Hanina who said: “Scholars build the structure of peace in the world.” The Babylonian Talmud, Order Zera’im, Tractate Berakoth, IX

[27] The classic contra-view is offered by Friedrich Hegel in The Philosophy of Right,, which calls the state “the march of God in the world” and “the actuality of the ethical idea.” This contra notion of the state as a sacred phenomenon was most dramatically formalized by fascist movements in the 20th century. Inter alia, the modern roots of such state-worshiping behavior lie most prominently in Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation and also in the assorted writings of Heinrich Treitschke.

[28] “The   State,” explains Ortega in The Revolt of the Masses, “after sucking out the very marrow of society, will be left bloodless, a `skeleton,’ dead with that rusty death of machinery, more gruesome even than the death of a living organism.”

[29] One may think here of the detailed warning by the High Lama in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon: “The storm…this storm that you talk of….It will be such a one, my son, as the world has not seen before. There will be no safety by arms, no help from authority, no answer in science. It will rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and all human things are leveled in a vast chaos….The Dark Ages that are to come will cover the whole world is a single pall; there will be neither escape nor sanctuary.”

[30] Such falsity is plainly evident in attempts by certain individual nation-states to secure themselves against Covid19 harms without any regard to the welfare of other nation-states.  https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/11/10/un-experts-decry-covid-vaccine-hoarding-no-one-is-secure-until-all-of-us-are/

[31] See, for example, Louis René Beres and Harry R. Targ, Planning Alternative World Futures: Values, Methods and Models (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1975).

[32]The Founding Fathers of the United States were intellectuals. As explained by American historian Richard Hofstadter: “The Founding Fathers were sages, scientists, men of broad cultivation, many of them apt in classical learning, who used their wide reading in history, politics and law to solve the exigent problems of their time.” See Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 145.

[33] A wonderful “summary text” of these complex issues remains W. Warren Wagar’s Building the City of Man: Outlines of a World Civilization (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1971), 180 pp.

[34] Still the best source of explanations for this “barrier” is Jose Ortega y’ Gasset’s seminal The Revolt of the Masses (1930).

[35] Always a key component of this dynamic is the imperative of national self-defense in a “Westphalian” (anarchic) world system. Integral to this imperative is the idea of a permissible preemption or “anticipatory self-defense.” The customary right of anticipatory self-defense has its modern origins in the Caroline incident, an event that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, against British rule. Following this incident, the mere threat of a serious armed attack could sometimes be taken as sufficient legal justification for preemptive military action. In an historic exchange of notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that did not require a prior attack. Here, a proportionate and discriminate military response to military threat was judged permissible, as long as the danger posed was determinably “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” The term “Westphalian” references the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which formally created the current system of global Realpolitik.

[36] See Karl Jaspers, Reason and anti-Reason in Our Time (1952): “There is something inside all of us that earns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought but for the whisperings of the irrational….” (p. 67).

[37] One element here is the always-crucial link between religious faith and diminished death fear. “`I believe,'” says Oswald Spengler, “is the great word against metaphysical fear, and at the same time it is an avowal of love.'” See his The Decline of the West, his Chapter on “Pythagoras, Mohammed, Cromwell.”

[38] International law is ultimately deducible from Natural Law. According to Blackstone, each state and nation is always expected “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against that universal law….” See: 2 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, “Of Public Wrongs.” Lest anyone ask about the significance of Blackstone, one need only point out that Commentaries are the original and core foundation of the laws of the United States.

[39] Says the Talmud: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.” On this human singularity, the most evident and unassailable commonality is our mortality. Whatever our other differences, in the end, we all die.  Moreover, Epicureanism, Stoicism and Buddhism all acknowledge an harmonious conflation of self and world. While each instructs that the death of self is meaningless, perhaps even a delusion, all still agree that the commonality of deathcan overcome corrosive divisions. This recognized “oneness” can provide humankind with certain authentic sources of expanding global cooperation. Whether or not we can ever get beyond our fear of death, it is only this conspicuous commonality that can lift us far enough above planetary fragmentation and explosive global disunity.

[40] To be sure, any such affirmation seems improbable. Nonetheless, reminds Italian film director Federico Fellini insightfully: “The visionary is the only realist.” Similarly, from the German philosopher Karl Jaspers: “Everyone knows that the world-situation in which we live is not a final one.” (Man in the Modern Age, 1951).

[41] In “The drunkards song,” a passage in Zarathustra, Nietzsche sums it all up with unparalleled simplicity and insight: “Tief ist ihr Weh” (“Deep is it’s pain”) says the philosopher about the world. This “lied” was put to music by Gustav Mahler in his Third Symphony, 4th Movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aM9hezKudY&list=RDuPQSokfeQN8&index=2

[42] For now, large numbers of Americans, misdirected by a president who opposed Reason and Law at every turn,  decry science and medicine in a calculated preference for ignorance.  Twentieth-century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gassett clarifies the generic bases of such a leader-induced declension in his The Revolt of the Masses (1930):  “It’s not that the vulgar believes itself to be superexcellent and not vulgar, but rather that the vulgar proclaim and impose the rights of vulgarity or vulgarity itself as a right.” It is precisely this perverse “right of vulgarity” that still animates docile Trump legions of cultivated thoughtlessness and inconscience.

[43] The modern philosophic origins of “will” lie most prominently in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, especially his The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration, Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely and perhaps even more importantly upon Schopenhauer. Goethe was also a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the singularly prophetic twentieth-century work, The Revolt of the Masses (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very lofty 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).

[44] See by this author, Louis René Beres, at Horasis: Switzerland https://horasis.org/soaring-above-politics-death-time-and-immortality/

[45] Treitschke, of course, lived before the nuclear age. Would he have proposed this same “remedy” were his country discoverable in extremis atomicum?

[46]See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://www.21global.ucsb.edu/global-e/march-2018/repairing-world-its-source

[47] Fragment, 49.

[48] Faust, Part One.

[49] In the Melian Dialogues, Thucydides notes famously about the Peloponnesian War, “The standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel,” and that “the strong do what they have the power to do, and the weak accept what they have to  accept.”  In Book 1 of The Republic, Plato has Thrasymachus explain to Socrates that “Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” Machiavelli’s Prince  places the presumed advantages of raw power at the very center of his political theory.

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New Constitution in Chile: From a protected transition to an agonizing transition

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Image: Juan Manuel Núñez Méndez/ Unsplash

A constituent process has been installed in Chile. On October 25, 2020, the date of plebiscite, the alternative “Apruebo” (78%) by a new political constitution, and the option of “Constitutional Convention” (79%), obtained the majority over the option of “Rejection” (22%) and on the “Joint Constitutional Convention” option (21%), respectively.

This is the current state of things. But let’s go back a little bit about its origins.

In 1988 the Plebiscite took place that said NO to Pinochet, and which then led to the first presidential and parliamentary election, after 17 years of dictatorship. Pinochet accepts this plebiscite in large part, for fear of a popular rebellion, an issue that was akin to protests that would begin to occur moreively and progressively, from 1983 to 1986 in Chile (Délano, 1985; Delgado-Torres et al., 2018; Manzano, 2014, p. 80; Salazar Salvo, 2019) called “awakening” (Moulian, 2002, p. 261)- and for the attack on Pinochet (the so-called “Operation TWENTIETH Century”) on September 7, 1986  (Equipo de prensa CHV, 2015; Holzapfel, 2006; Zalaquett, 2011).

And all this popular uprising occurred, even though the media of the time were trying to produce distortions in the perception of the veracity of the facts. Iconic is, for example, the protest that took place in an act broadcast on television about John Paul II’s visit to Chile, where it is possible to contrast the social reality of the events produced at that time on camera, and the fully ukrainian journalistic narrative (TVN, 2015) With the Plebiscite of 1988, this would put an end to the right-wing military dictatorship or  Pinochetist dictatorship..

The new regime or state of business would arise from a political negotiation (Departamento de prensa, TVN, 2018; Godoy, 1999; Kaltwasser, 2007) an “antisocialpact”» agreed between a sector of politicians who opponent Pinochet, on the one hand, and on the other, Pinochet and the  pro-dictatorship political sectors. Pinochet leaves the political power of the executive, not without first sesuring him, of political-judicial immunity for the future and to his economic and political heritage which, and as such, should continue and be projected over time. Proof of the first, are the negotiations of the concerted government administrations to rescue him from trials in England  (Agencia EFE, 2018; Guzmán, 2001; Huneeus, 2018; Portales, 2018)and the one who was never tried on national soil  (Gárate, 2016) Thus it was said: “We have an unwritten covenant, but morally subscribed by all political forces, not to review the dictatorship”(Baby, 2011) To enable this, from an economic and political model that would have already been installed in dictatorship  (Salazar Vergara & Pinto, 1999)”transition” (a term adopted by Pinochet himself in Chacarillas’ speech in 1977), consisting of a process of administration protected by the continuators, is proposed. In short, Pinochet’s political power would be abandoned, but the political and economic model flanked by the Political Constitution and related laws would not be touched.

Between 1990 and 2000, there is a phase that we could call a protected transition, somewhat in reference to the name that some gave of this period as “protected democracy”  (Huneeus, 1997) Protected by Pinochet and political parties; protecting the model. All the measures taken of a police type in that period, and for the sake of this “protection”, were aimed at disarcting the movements of armed insurgency. Just like the Dictatorship, through the DINA, and its “turn continuator”, the CNI, did so with the self-styled “Revolutionary Left Movement”(MIR), and, in part, with the “Patriotic Front Manuel Rodríguez””  (FPMR),as well as the police during the transitional governments did so with the”Lautaro Youth Movement” or  MAPU Lautaro, and any other focus of insurgency that was thus, asítambién la policía durante los gobierno stransicionales lo hicieron con el “ (Labbé, 2019)

For their part, economic measures were geared towards the maximum economic opening of foreign capital. The Chilean economy was opened to the installation of foreign companies of all kinds in Chile, and Chilean companies with large economic conglomerates. It is the time of the Great Stores that trade with all kinds of goods and services, species of “Walmart”, that allowed a constant flow of purchase and sale of goods, on all those destined for consumption, an issue that led to the consideration of Chile by the authors, as a “paradise of consumption”  (Moulian, 2002) Outside of this, there was a strong export incentive but where only one sector of entrepreneurs (big company) enjoyed the benefits from this activity, of full liberalization of the economy based on an extractive economy where by which transnational corporations made use of domestic labour at low wages compared to the resulting benefits to enterprises, in addition, with serious environmental damage (Espectador, 2019)foreign contractors selling second-hand or obsolescent goods and services at the price of first-hand goods and services and state-of-the-art technology. Example of this, we have the purchase, by the administration of the government of Ricardo Lagos Escobar, of second-hand Spanish trains (Délano, 2008) the railway that united the capital Santiago with Chillán. Responsibilities are assumed for irregularities in the purchase and management of these goods (Sánchez, 2008)of influence by Ricardo Lagos Escobar for the purchase  (Donoso, 2008)workers  (Mostrador, 2011).

A social structure based on the acquisition of material wealth and their social ostentation would also have contributed, an irrepressible need of the popular classes to resemble the most affluent classes, there is an aspirationism  or uprhithism (Ariztía, 2016; Contardo, 2013) As the most affluent classes lived looking at Europe, and then the U.S. as their image to imitate, this eventually irrigated the entire Chilean social structure. There was no “identity” (with all the enose that has been for the postmodernist academy this term). Chile, fertile province for the ideology and practices of remote nations.

Now, on the one hand, was politics based on the logic of political parties, under a system of indirect representation without the possibility of revocation of mandates or citizen trials for poor performance (Salazar, 2011, 2015) On the other hand, the practical attempt to monopolize politics by political parties in Chile and exercise unweighted dominance of it leads us to the phenomenon of the partidarquía (Carrasco Jiménez, 2016, 2020).

The Chilean partidarquía  originated with the first post-Pinochet government, that is, in the government of Patricio Aylwin. The political blocs of Pinochet were clearly recognized, and the  pro-dictator bloc. These blocs would continue more or less dominantly until the first luster of the 21st century, when the student movement of 2001 and pinochet’s death in 2006 occur, turning points of the historical process in Chile.

Adherents to mass, incendiary and revolutionary protest socialism of the 1960s and 1970s began to enjoy the economic “goodness” of the model established by the dictatorship, and ceased to be (if ever really) critical of economic disadvantages. If their model worked for them, then it didn’t matter then the gangsterism, the arrogance, the threats, the corruption of the administration as ways to preserve power in all its manifestations. Instead, they were installed as ways of doing things, all with the aim of extending their prebendas, privileges, and domains. What Pinochet’s partisan bloc already perversely enjoyed, even before it became a bloc and simply being Pinochet’s adherents during its regime, would also begin to taste its perverse fruits the bloc opposing it. Therefore, right or left, it was already the same when it comes to embodying the vices of the political and economic model.

Many exhibited uninhibitedly their corrupt and corrupting practices, exercising nepotism, the trafficking of influences, the undue pressures, participating in street television shows as celebrities, posing as movie or rock stars in banal and gossip-oriented magazines, some showing their pectoral (The Clinic, 2015)others notorious for their romances and confessions (Equipo FMDOS, 2016)an exhibitionist egolatry. It should come as no surprise, then, that the world of the show is interspersed with that of partisan politics  (Sandoval, 2013).  We understood that they were public servants, but figuration, flattery and power made them feel like land gods.  Drunk with ego, they didn’t know what was going on in real Chile, in the one of daily life.

The partidarquía  was also built on political operators who did not belong to the dome, but lived off partisan clientelism. His entire social position, his “benefits”, were secured by the party only by his belonging and devotion. Jobs were secured to people without professional instruction, or who, having it, were and are of paradigmatic mediocrity, along with accumulating, a whole “toolbox” of bad practices: deviations from public resources for personal interests  (Bravo, 2019; Mostrador, 2019); obtaining professional qualifications to projects through bribery, threat and extortion  (Arroyo, 2017; Espinoza Riquelme, 2020; Jara Herrera, 2020); the granting, with public funds, of professional services at a cost to friends and family without merit (Cooperativa.cl, 2017; Kelly, 2020; Pizarro & Sepúlveda, 2017). Thus a working culture was built based on this mediocrity, on the trafficking of influences based on political favor. That is, a corruption of practices, an issue that was permeating every labor organization.

This, in some way, was accompanied by a whole process of deep banalization, a “concertary aesthetic” (Oporto Valencia, 2015, p. 254)kind of “soma” as described by Huxley in Brave New World, anopium that was distributed by the political system prevailing post-pinochetist and  transitional (1990-2000), whose effect produced some malaise of Chilean culture, and the evasion of the population to the social reality resulting from the model. Many “ingested” this drug, this alcohol, as an anesthetic ways of trying to subterranean (or “subterranean”)»rape and its «trauma, non-human rights violation, real and concrete violation of the body, one of the political foundations of Pinochet’s dictatorship, and element of the inherited model. So many others also consumed this “soma” so as not to hear. Pitifully led them to insult those who wanted to restart, with the necessary justice, their lives after the ageing, an issue that the political system threw under the carpet out of fear and cowardice  (Deutsche Welle, 2018; Herceg, 2020) In this way they were “resentful”, there was a boredom to listen to the issue of human rights, and in the most extreme cases, to mention that the unfinished work of the dictatorship lay in not having killed all those who were part of political dissent  (Guzmán, 2001) This type of violence demonstrated, in our view, two things: (1) that the model installed by the dictatorship was more than just a “brick” and a Constitution; it was a structural complex, within which the economic and the political are elements, but that the way to configure them socially and historically, is what defined the model; (2) that the model produced the same effects as in dictatorship, also in “democracy”, so that the people veded, were still veded.

This is how the questions that arose in everyday conversation, on the journey on public transport, in the opinion of the driver, the passengers, the clothesline, a cashier, in the mass chats, began to gather at a mouth where their waters were slowly growing. And the rumour of them did not stop, and it was timed by the stone on which the political parties had founded their building. This was decanting in a distrust of the “political class” and in a “crisis of representation” (Salazar, 2019).

It is not that the current Constitution, in itself, is “the” source of any possible corruption. Rather, the defect would be the type of relationship between the economic structure implemented in Chile and the established political-legal structure, a political-legal structure whose head, ceiling and support is the current Constitution. The result of the interaction and dynamics of both structures in Chile is a set of social and/or practical relationship modes that are distributed particularly throughout the social body. It would have to be the current social “celeste” in Chilean society, that is, “what are you willing to do to achieve the social objectives that the political-economic framework allows you”,thatis, cost. And optimization would indicate, in a society like ours, that media matters more than ends. Therefore,  political or class favor, which is but the “sale ofthe soul to the devil”, venta del alma al diablo implies a means of obtaining social position, riches, recognition. But if these are conceived only individual means for purposes other than just individual ones, the way of social relations, perhaps they could change. This lacks, in my view, the current social model. Individualism of this kind only generates unsportsman proof competition: a heavenly desire, whatever the way it cost it.

All these critical points are sharpened by bordering a phase that we will call agonizing transition. The transition is beginning to dilute, because the political and economic model that was intended to be founded would have already progressed in its maturation sufficiently. The transition was simply the “snake egg” that enabled the process of “maturation”  (Oporto Valencia, 2015) of a political and economic model that began to peck, the space for its culmination. And this was possible to perceive, because social problems became more acute and critical, and as a result, the social bubbling of this culmination begins to burst on the surface producing an ever-increasing social cracking. In other words, the more consolidation of the model, the greater the social cracking, and as a result, the student protests that were to come begin to take place.

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