Connect with us

Americas

Unseen Benefits of The CoronaVirus On Virulent Pathogens And Global Solidarity

People wear face masks at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan. UN News/Li Zhang

Published

on

Back in the 1950s, as a child growing up in the middle of New York City, I attended Saturday afternoon movies about interplanetary war. Typically, in those easily forgotten films, Soviet and American soldiers would end up fighting on the same side against a common enemy, even during the furiously adversarial Cold War.[1] Though hardly an ideological premise of either superpower “pole,”[2] Washington and Moscow recognized the primacy of undertaking cooperation against an overriding global menace.

To be sure, there is no evident “message” here concerning world politics. After all, we ought never to rely upon wholly contrived or fictive scenarios of alien invasion to buttress human survival. Nonetheless, potentially at least, a plausible catalyst has recently presented itself. This unwanted and unwitting benefactor is worldwide pandemic, a fearsome and pathogen-based threat that confronts humankind in toto, and without regard for any national, racial, ethnic, religious or ideological differences.

Ironically, the coronavirus pandemic could effectively become a real-world alternative to cinematic alien invasion; that is, a purposeful and pragmatic source of long-sought human unity.

Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.”  However counterintuitive, the incontestable commonality of corona disease threat could underscore and animate the creation of a genuinely cooperative world politics. Significantly, it’s not as silly or fanciful as it may first sound.

Not at all.[3]

Where are we at right now? For the moment, the United States under Donald Trump’s presidential aegis is oriented toward the literal opposite of expanding global community. Even more to the point, Trump’s doctrinal emphasis on the incessantly belligerent nationalism of “America First” represents a rejection of human commonality in any form.[4] Illogical and bitterly rancorous, this ill-fated rejection has no recognizable basis in science or law.[5] Rather, it reinforces the long-discredited view that we humans are unchallengeable masters of the universe, clearly destined to lord over innumerable lesser species, apparently forever.

All this though the viruses, bacteria and assorted other pathogens have been around for much longer than we, much longer, and will likely survive any number of man-made catastrophic “insults” that could simultaneously threaten humankind with extinction.

 It is finally time to inquire intellectually/analytically: What are the expected consequences of believing that one “powerful” country can or should prosper at the expense of all others? Left unmodified, the most palpable effect of this president’s delusionary policies of undiminishing conflict will be an accelerating tribalism here on earth.[6] To the extent that the starkly corrosive effects of this tribalism could sometime display a credible nuclear dimension, these effects could suddenly or incrementally propel the United States toward irretrievable forms of catastrophe.[7] On the other hand, a firm rejection of American tribalism in every one of its injurious expressions could sometime prove generally or universally gainful.

 Ultimately, if we humans are going to survive as a species, truth must win out decisively over political wizardry and philistine thinking.[8] The irresistible conclusion here is that American continuance and prosperity are inextricably linked with a much wider global impact. Accordingly, it is profoundly and unforgivably foolish to suppose that this nation – or, indeed, any other nation on earth – should expect meaningful progress at the deliberately sacrificial expense of other nations. Disease pandemics are prospectively universal, and can provide impetus not only for mitigating a particular pathology, but also for institutionalizing wider patterns of global cooperation.[9]

By its very nature, the president’s core mantra of perpetually belligerent nationalism is crude and injurious. Instead of “America First,” the only sensible posture for any U.S. president must be some coherent variation of “all the world together.” Such an improved mantra might not be all that difficult to operationalize if there were antecedent political will.[10] Nor would it necessarily be bewilderingly complex. In fact, the basic idea is discoverable in the prescient words of 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,” summarized the Jesuit scientist and philosopher, “is false and against nature. No element can move and grow except with and by all the others with itself.”

Prima facie, the key message here is simple, straightforward and thoroughly illogical to contest. This message communicates, among other things, that no single country’s individual success can be achieved at the tangible expense of other countries. Moreover, we should learn from the same message, no individual national success is reasonably sustainable if the world as a whole must thereby expect a diminishing future.

No conceivably gainful configuration of Planet Earth can ever prove rewarding if the conspicuously vast human legions which comprise it are set morally, spiritually, and intellectually adrift. It is, of course, precisely such a willful detachment from secure national and international moorings that is fostered by Donald Trump’s unsupportable “America First.”[11]

Earlier, observed William Butler Yeats, in what already represented a broadly metaphorical indictment of what could be expected, “Theblood-dimmed tide is loosed.” But just as it was then for the empathetic Irish poet, today’s expanding global chaos is still primarily a symptom. It is, as the professional philosophers would likely prefer to describe, “merely epiphenomenal.”

The philosophers would be correct. For the world as a whole, chaos and anarchy are never the genuinely underlying “disease.” Always, that more determinative pathology remains rooted in certain ostentatiously great and powerful states that stubbornly fail to recognize the imperatives of human interrelatedness. Plainly, this core incapacity to acknowledge our species’ indestructible biological “oneness” has been a long-term problem; it is not in any way particular to certain American presidents or to the United States in its entirety.

 Now, in the literal midst of a worldwide pathological assault from the corona virus, what should we expect from President Trump’s still-unhidden contempt for world community?  Most plausibly, world politics will increasingly encourage or enlarge an already basic human deficit. This deficit is the incapacity of individual citizens and their respective state societies to discover authentic self-worth as individual persons; that is, deeply within themselves. Such an enduring deficit was foreseen in the eighteenth century by America’s then-leading person of letters, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Today, revealingly, the still-vital insights of “American Transcendentalism” remain recognizable only to an excruciatingly tiny minority of citizens.

And this is presumptively an “educated society?”[12]

Notwithstanding its impressive intellectual antecedents, including some earlier occupants of the White House, the United States is a country that almost never reads serious books. This cryptic observation is not offered here in any offhanded or gratuitously mean spirited fashion, but, quite the contrary, as a lamentable fact of American life, one famously commented upon during the first third of the nineteenth century by a distinguished French visitor to the new republic, Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America). This same fact led the Founding Fathers of the United States, including Thomas Jefferson (the most identifiably democratic among the celebrated group), to rail against any uneducated mass participation in the new nation’s formal governance.

As a necessary corrective, Jefferson set forth in his Notes on Virginia a plan of elementary schooling, one by which “twenty of the best geniuses will be raked from the rubbish annually.”

Somehow, whatever we might presently think of Jefferson’s earlier expectations for “The American People,” the current president has managed to miss what is manifestly most important to our common human future. This vital element is the critical inner horizon of world politics, and all that it implies. In literature, this seemingly indecipherable horizon, an exquisitely subtle zone of understanding, is not in any usual fashion understandable. Nor is it oriented toward maximizing practical commerce or personal wealth, ordinarily the worshipped mainsprings of life in the United States. For background, this horizon can still be encountered and understood in the writings of Sören Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Let us (finally) be aptly conceptual about such matters; that is, to look behind the daily news. This means the microcosm. Here on earth, the tribe, in one form or another, is “the beginning.” Always.

From the muddled primal promiscuity of our species’ earliest ventures into global politics, determinative behavior has been driven by some kind or other of specific group elevation and by the resultant inter-group conflicts.

From the identifiable human origins of our so-called “civilizations,” and also from the pitiably aggregated totals of individual human souls seeking satisfying forms of a secular redemption, most people have felt themselves lost or abandoned outside the encompassing warmth of a protective tribe.

It is this degrading and potentially lethal inclination that is continually fostered by Donald Trump’s belligerent or zero-sum nationalism, by America First.[13]

There is more. The veneer of human civilization remains distressingly razor thin. Oddly, whole swaths of humankind remain openly dedicated to certain ancient and grotesque sacrificial practices. In this connection, by ritualistically linking violence and the sacred, many terrorist murders are being justified as “holy war” or “freedom fighting.” But they remain basically and incontestably murders.

As a determined response to serious challenges, from pandemic control to nuclear war avoidance, competitive nationalism is sorely misconceived. If left unchallenged, this atavistic mantra will only further harden the hearts of America’s most recalcitrant enemies, thereby exacerbating the essential search for viable human remedies. What we really need is a broadening of support for more enduring impulses of global solidarity and human interconnectedness.

 From the seventeenth-century Peace of Westphalia (1648), which ended the last of the religious wars sparked by the Reformation, international relations have been shaped by a protean or ever-changing “balance of power,” and by certain evident corollaries of war, terror and genocide.[14] To be sure, hope still exists, but now it must sing softly, in an embarrassed undertone, with circumspection, inconspicuously, almost sotto voce. Although counter-intuitive, the time for any visceral celebrations of nationalism, military technology and even social media is at least partially over.  Now, in order to survive on an imperiled planet, all of us, together, must seek to rediscover an individual life, energetically, one that is consciously detached from nationally pre-patterned kinds of conformance and from all disingenuously contrived visages of imagined tribal happiness.

With such indispensably candid expressions of an awakened human spirit, Americans may yet learn something that is useful and redemptive. We may learn, even during the harshly descending “Time of Trump,” that a commonly felt agony is more important than astrophysics; that a ubiquitous mortality is more consequential than any supposed financial “success;” and that shared human tears may reveal much deeper existential meanings and opportunities than any purported “balance-of-power.” [15]

This is most markedly true today with regard to those tangible “tears” associated with corona virus spread.

In his landmark work, The Decline of the West, first published during World War I, Oswald Spengler inquired: “Can a desperate faith in knowledge free us from the nightmare of the grand questions?” It remains a noteworthy query, one that will likely never be seriously raised in our universities, let alone on Wall Street or in the trump White House.  We may, however, still learn something about these “grand questions” by studying American responsibility for an expanding chaos in world politics.

At that time, moreover, we might finally learn that the most suffocating insecurities of life on earth can never be undone by militarizing global economics, by building larger missiles, by abrogating international treaties or by replacing one abundantly sordid regime with another in presumptively ”realistic” interests of “national security.”[16]

In the end, truth is exculpatory. Surprisingly, in a uniquely promising paradox, Trump’s America First policies’ express a continuous lie that can help us see the truth. This particular truth, cosmopolitan in outlook, is that Americans must become abundantly conscious of unity and relatedness between all human beings and between all nation-states.

The common enemy of a worldwide disease pandemic could become an appropriate beginning for such a new global consciousness.

Although still generally unrecognized, such lucidity must become integral to plausible possibilities of American national security and well-being. Now, before it is too late, is prospectively the last best time to replace the “passionate intensity” of belligerent tribal competitions with a greatly improved sort of “conviction.”[17] Newly armed with an informed understanding that would denounce “everyone for himself” strategizing in world politics, the myriad internal contradictions of Donald Trump’s “everyone for himself” philosophy could recede into a thoroughly well-deserved oblivion.

Could the desperately needed transition from “realist” world politics to more genuinely collaborative international interactions actually take place?[18] The pertinent odds are seemingly low, of course, but they are also not meaningfully calculable.[19] The current situation of worldwide pandemic as opportunity is sui generis and difficult to accept. Yet, it rightfully brings to mind the wise and reinforcing observation of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini: “The visionary is the only realist.”

In all that has been discussed and assessed above, irony abounds. But ironic observations need not in any way be disqualifying. Though it would seem inconceivable that any serious human benefits could be extracted from a virulent and unpredictable pandemic, there remain certain latent opportunities to discover planetary gain in a common disease adversary.

 In essence, because we could hardly seek to discover such a convenient foe in extra-planetary aggressions (in candor, a Martian invasion will not save us), national governments throughout the world should identify extended cooperation against the corona virus as a propitious first-step toward wider forms of global collaboration. Here, in what political scientists and other scholars used to call “functionalism” or “structural-functionalism,” there could take place a dignifying “spill over” of cooperative world politics from one very specific medical problem toward much wider affirmations of biological and social “oneness.”

Nothing could possibly be more sensible or urgently important. To be sure, there is nothing conceivably positive about any virulent disease pandemic, but the current corona virus spread could still harbor certain latent benefits for “world order” reform.[20]In this setting, we may again usefully recall filmmaker Federico Fellini: “The visionary is the only realist.”


[1] Professor Louis René Beres is the author of several early books dealing with US – Russian (Soviet) nuclear strategies and treaties. See, for example:  Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (The University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (DC Heath/Lexington, 1983); and Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (DC Heath/Lexington, 1984). See also his 2016 Israel-published monograph with US General (USA/ret.) Barry R. McCaffrey, Israel’s Nuclear Strategy and America’s National Security  https://sectech.tau.ac.il/sites/sectech.tau.ac.il/files/PalmBeachBook.pdf

[2] For early writings, by this author, on the global security implications of Cold War 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.

[3] One should be reminded of Bertrand Russell’s trenchant observation in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916): “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death.”

[4] One such form is world government. In this connection, noted Sigmund Freud: “Wars will only be prevented with certainty if mankind unites in setting up a central authority to which the right of giving judgment upon all shall be handed over. There are clearly two separate requirements involved in this: the creation of a supreme agency and its endowment with the necessary power. One without the other would be useless.” (See: Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers, cited in Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis, University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10 (1973-73), p, 27.)

[5] 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 were an original and core foundation of the laws of the United States.

[6] There is no longer a virtuous nation,” warns the poet William Butler Yeats, “and the best of us live by candlelight.”

[7] The worst of these forms of catastrophe concern the risks of a nuclear war occasioned by an unprepared or self-deluded American president. In this regard, we may recall the words of “beat poet” Lawrence Ferlinghetti back in 1958 (A Coney Island of the Mind): “In a surrealist year some cool clown pressed an inedible mushroom button, and an inaudible Sunday bomb fell down, catching the president at his prayers on the 19th green.”

[8] Recalling Soren Kierkegaard (The Sickness unto Death; 1849): “Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs….Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility….it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.”

[9] Says Emmerich de Vattel, in 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.”

[10] In modern philosophy, the evident highlighting of this useful term lies in Arthur Schopenhauer’s writings, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration (and by his own expressed acknowledgment), Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely (and perhaps more importantly) upon Schopenhauer. Goethe. also served as a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the prophetic work, The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very grand essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the occasion of the centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948) and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[11] Significantly, international law is part of United States jurisprudence. In the words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900))  See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).Moreover, the specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[12] See, by this author, at The Daily Princetonian:  https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[13] “The enemy,” noted German philosopher Karl Jaspers, in a more generic sense, “is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.” See: Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time, 1971, p. 66.

[14] International law remains a “vigilante” or “Westphalian” system of jurisprudence. The Peace of Westphalia created the 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.

[15] The concept of a balance of power – an idea of which the nuclear-age balance of terror is a more recent variant – has never been more than a facile metaphor. Further, it has never had anything to do with any calculable equilibrium. As such a balance is always a matter of individual and more-or-less subjective perceptions, adversary states may never be sufficiently confident that strategic circumstances are “balanced” in their favor. In consequence, as each side must perpetually fear that it will be “left behind,” the search for balance continually produces wider insecurity and disequilibrium.

[16] In this connection, an always attendant or corollary risk has to do with irrational decision-making in world politics. Expressions of such decisional irrationality could take different but sometimes overlapping forms. These forms, which would have no necessary correlations with authentic madness, include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker)

[17] Apropos, from William Butler Yeats’ The Second Coming: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre; the falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

[18] The sixteenth-century Florentine philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, joined Aristotle’s foundations for a scientific study of politics with assumptions of realpolitik to reach certain pragmatic conclusions about politics.  His most important conclusion underscores the dilemma of practicing goodness in an essentially evil world:  “A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good.” (See THE PRINCE, Chapter XV).  Recognizing this tragic state of affairs, Machiavelli proceeds to advance the arguments for expediency that have become synonymous with his name.  With the placing of the idea of force at the center of his political theory, the author of THE PRINCE stands in sharp contrast to the Platonic and early Christian concepts of the “good.”  Rejecting both Plato’s argument that there is a knowable objective “good” that leads to virtue, and Augustine’s otherworldly idea of absolute goodness, Machiavelli constructs his “realistic” political theory on the assumption that “all men are potential criminals, and always ready to realize their evil intentions whenever they are free to do so.” In his instructions to the statesman on how to rule in a world dominated by force, he shamelessly advises “to learn how not to be good.”  The seventeenth-century materialist and social philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, elaborated a complex system of thought in which man was reduced to a state of nature and then reconstructed.  Seeking a science of human nature that would have the rigor of physics, Hobbes looked to introspection as the source of a genuine or “realistic” understanding:  “Whosoever looketh into himself and considereth what he doth when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, etc., and upon what grounds, he shall thereby read and know, what are the thoughts and passions of all other men, upon the like occasions.” (See Introduction to LEVIATHAN).  The results of such an analysis of one’s own thought processes led Hobbes to his celebrated theory of the social contract:  the natural egoism of man produces a “war of all against all” in the absence of civil government and must be tempered by absolute monarchy.  Moreover, the condition of nature, which is also called a condition of war marked by “continual fear, and danger of violent death,” has always been the characteristic condition of international relations and international law:  “But though there had never been any time, wherein particular men were in a condition of war one against another; yet, in all times, kings, and persons of sovereign-authority, because of their independency, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms, and continual spies upon their neighbors, which is a posture of war.”  (See LEVIATHAN, Chapter XIII).

[19] In science and mathematics, true probabilities must always be based upon the discernible frequency of pertinent past events.

.

[20] 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 “adopted” at the Politics Department at Princeton University in 1967-68. The author, Louis René Beres, was an early member of the Princeton-based World Order Models Project, and the author of several early books in this once-promising scholarly genre.

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.

Continue Reading
Comments

Americas

Israel, the Middle East and Joe Biden

Published

on

Photo by Adam Schultz

How will a Biden Administration change American policies on Iran, the Palestinians and Israel’s tightening relationships with Arab states?

Some two years ago, Democrats harshly attacked Trump for withdrawing US troops from Syria and thereby undermining the alliance with the Kurds. However, Democratic leaders also favor a reduced US presence in the Middle East and understand the region’s declining relevance to US global policy.  It was Democrat Obama who withdrew US troops from the Iraqi bloodbath; Biden, if elected, will presumably continue a similar course. The US is no longer dependent on Middle Eastern oil, China is perceived as its greatest threat, and the defeat of ISIS has lowered the strategic terror threat level to US national security.

Biden, just like Trump and Obama, probably believes that the US can downscale its presence in the region and rely on its allies (the Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, of course) and on the alliances being forged between its partners over the past two decades. The US could increase aid to a specific ally at a time of need (as was the case with the massive 2014 influx of Syrian refugees into Jordan) or Iraq (during the fighting with ISIS), but it is loath to continue meddling in local conflicts. What is more, the painful lesson of the intervention in Iraq has dissolved the Bush Administration’s messianic belief in the democratization of the Middle East. Concern about Russia or China filling the vacuum left by the US is also no longer deterring US leaders (like Obama and Trump) who are trying to score points with voters by troops drawdowns and free the administration up to deal with different matters, among them the “Pivot to Asia”.

As a Democrat, Biden is expected to be more sensitive than Trump to human rights violations in the Middle East. He condemned the conduct of the Saudi regime following the murder of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi in fairly harsh language several times and also called for curbing weapons sales to Riyadh.

However, if elected, Biden’s first order of business will be dealing with the biggest health and economic crisis the US has experienced since 1929. He will have to create jobs and deal with thousands of burning domestic matters. Those will be his flagship issues. He may have to set aside his moral repugnance and allow weapons exports to prevent job and profit losses for Americans. Trump, too, was harshly critical of Saudi Arabia prior to his election, but subsequently changed his tune and conducted his first overseas trip there as president.

One can cautiously assess that any change in US policy toward the Gulf would not undermine Israel’s rapprochement with those states. The strategic regional threats (expansion of Iran’s hegemony and its violations of the nuclear agreement, as well as Turkish activity in the region) will remain unchanged, and therefore the interest in economic and security cooperation between Israel and Gulf states will remain. Arab states that traditionally view Israel as a bridge to the White House could try to exploit this now official relationship to promote their standing with Congress and a new administration, if one is installed.

Biden’s position on the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) is of concern these days to both Israeli and Arab leaders, which could further cement their ties. Arab leaders are concerned about Biden rejoining and reviving the deal that Trump abandoned. They are relying on Biden’s criticism of the unilateral US pullout from the agreement and his declaration that he would make every effort to rejoin it. Nonetheless, Biden’s people seem to understand that they cannot simply turn back the clock. Blinken, one of Biden’s closest aides and potential future national security adviser, has said in interviews that the US would not return to the agreement until Iran fulfills all its commitments – meaning, until Iran walks back all its violations of the agreement. It is hard to predict just how Biden might draw Iran to the negotiating table, but as long as such an option is viable, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf states will have sufficient grounds to close ranks.

Biden is a sworn supporter of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is expected to re-open the US Consulate in East Jerusalem, restore US aid to the Palestinians and invite the PLO ambassador back to Washington. However, this does not mean that he will place the Palestinian issue on his list of priorities, especially given the domestic crisis and ongoing tensions with China. The Palestinian issue is unlikely to return to center stage following a change in the US administration. The Arab world is growing increasingly weak as the coronavirus continues to spread, the economic crisis deepens and unemployment rises. Arab states also fear that the major non-Arab states in the region – Turkey and Iran – will exploit this weakness. Should that happen, the Palestinian issue is unlikely to attract much interest from key Arab states, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which also dictate the conduct of the Arab League.

That said, should Biden decide to revive the Arab Peace Initiative and mobilize Saudi and other Arab support (perhaps in return for a more determined US stand on Iran, the supply of US strategic weapons, etc.), pressure on Israel over the Palestinian issue could re-emerge. If Israel chooses to respond with accelerated construction in the settlements, in defiance of US policy, states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE would likely toe the line of the US administration but would not cut ties with Israel as a result.

In conclusion, a Biden victory would not affect the strengthening relationship between Israel and Arab states, especially if he opts to focus on the Iranian issue and a US return to the JCPOA. The Middle East’s relevance to the US is expected to continue its decline, prompting cooperation among its partners in the region in order to forge a robust front and repel threats from the non-Arab states (Iran and Turkey). A changed US approach to the Palestinian issue could increase pressure on Israel slightly, but is not expected to substantially change the current dynamics.

Continue Reading

Americas

Prospects for U.S.-China Relations in the Biden Era

Published

on

By

The U.S. presidential election which will be held on November 3 is drawing ever closer. As the Trump administration performs poorly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the death toll in the U.S. exceeded 210,000, the election trend appears to be very unfavorable for Donald Trump.

According to a recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Joe Biden led Trump by 14 percentage points in the national elections. It is worth noting that retired American generals, who have traditionally been extremely low-key in politics, publicly supported Biden this year, something that is quite rare. On September 24, 489 retired generals and admirals, former national security officials and diplomats signed a joint letter in support of Biden. Among them are Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisans, showing that they have crossed the affiliation, and jointly support Biden to replace Trump. Although the opinion polls do not represent the final election, with the election only being one month away, the widening of the opinion gap is enough to predict the direction of the election.

For the whole world, especially for China, it is necessary to prepare for the advent of a possible Biden era of the United States. During Trump’s tenure, U.S.-China relations have taken a turn for the worse, and China has been listed as the foremost “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States.

There is a general view in China that after the Democratic Party comes to power, U.S.-China relations may worsen. The reason is that the Democratic Party places more emphasis on values such as human rights and ideology and is accustomed to using values such as human rights, democracy, and freedom in foreign policies against China. However, as far as U.S.-China relations are concerned, it is too vague to use the simple dichotomic “good” or “bad” to summarize the relationship of the two countries.

However, it is certain that after Biden takes office, his policies will be different from Trump’s. An important difference between Biden and Trump is that Biden will follow a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement his own policies, and he will also seek cooperation with China in certain bottom-line principled arrangements. It should be stressed that it is crucial for China and the United States to reach some principled arrangements in their relations.

From an economic point of view, should Biden become the next President, the United States will likely ease its trade policy, which will alleviate China’s trade pressure. It can be expected that the Biden administration may quell the U.S.-China tariff war and adjust punitive tariff policies that lead to “lose-lose” policies. If Biden takes office, he might be more concerned about politics and U.S.-China balance. In terms of trade, although he would continue to stick to the general direction of the past, this would not be the main direction of his governance. Therefore, the U.S.-China trade war could see certain respite and may even stop. In that scenario, China as the largest trading partner of the United States, could hope for the pressures in the trade with the U.S. being reduced.

China must also realize that even if Biden takes power, some key areas of U.S.-China relations will not change, such as the strategic positioning of China as the “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States. This is not something that is decided by the U.S. President but by the strategic judgment of the U.S. decision-making class on the direction of its relations with China. This strategic positioning destined that the future U.S.-China relations will be based on the pattern dominated by geopolitical confrontation. Biden sees that by expanding global influence, promoting its political model, and investing in future technologies, China is engaging a long-term competition with the U.S, and that is the challenge that the United States faces.

On the whole, if and when Biden takes office, the U.S. government’s domestic and diplomatic practices will be different from those of the Trump administration, although the strategic positioning of China will not change, and neither will it change the U.S.’ general direction of long-term suppression of China’s rise. However, in terms of specific practices, the Biden administration will have its own approaches, and will seek a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement its policies. He may also seek to reach some bottom-line principled arrangements with China. Under the basic framework, the future U.S.-China relations will undergo changes in many aspects. Instead of the crude “an eye for an eye” rivalry, we will see the return to the traditional systemic competition based on values, alliance interests, and rules. Facing the inevitable changes in U.S.-China relations, the world needs to adapt to the new situation.

Continue Reading

Americas

Third world needs ideological shift

Published

on

As nations across the world have been pooling their efforts to contain the COVID-19 spread, the looming economic crisis has caught the attention of global intelligentsia. In the light of health emergency, The policy makers of Asia, Africa and Latin America have been struggling to steer the economic vehicle back to normalcy. Although, the reason for the economic slump could be attributed to the pandemic, it is also important to cast light on the economics of these tricontinental nations. Been as colonies for more than two centuries, these players had adopted the style of economics which is a mix of market economics and socialism. The imperial powers of the then Europe had colonised these nations and had subjugated them with their military and political maneuvers. Under the banner of White man’s burden, the Imperial masters had subverted the political, economical, social and cultural spheres of the colonies and had transformed these self-reliant societies into the ones which depend on Europe for finished products. The onslaught on the economical systems of colonies was done through one way trade. Though, the western powers brought the modern values to the third world during colonial era, they were twisted to their advantage. The European industrial machines were depended on the blood, sweat and tears of the people of colonies. It is clear that the reason for the backwardness of these players is the force behind the imperial powers which had eventually pushed them towards these regions in search of raw materials and markets i.e., Capitalism. Needless to say, the competition for resources and disaccord over the distribution of wealth of colonies led to twin world wars. Capitalism, as an economic idea, cannot survive in an environment of a limited market and resources. It needs borderless access, restless labour and timeless profit. While the European imperial powers had expanded their influence over Asia and Africa, the US had exerted its influence over Latin America. Earlier, at the dawn of modern-day Europe, The capitalist liberal order had challenged the old feudal system and the authority of church. Subsequently, the sovereign power was shifted to monarchial king. With the rise of ideas like democracy and liberty, complemented by the rapid takeoff of industrialization, the conditions were set for the creation of new class i.e., capitalist class. On the one hand, Liberalism, a polical facet of capitalism, restricts the role of state(political) in economical matters but on the other hand it provides enough room for the elite class and those who have access to power corridors to persuade the authority(state) to design the policies to their advantage. Inequality is an inescapable feature of liberal economics.

The powerful nations cannot colonise these nations as once done. The Watchwords like interconnectedness, interdependency and free trade are being used to continue their domination on these players. As soon as the third world nations were freed from the shackles of colonialism, they were forced to integrate their economies into the global economical chain. Characterized by the imbalance, the globalization has been used as a weapon by the Western powers to conquer the markets of developing nations.

The Carrot and stick policy of the US is an integral part of its strategy to dominate global economical domain. The sorry state of affairs in the Middle East and Latin America could be attributed to the US lust for resources. In the name of democracy, the US has been meddling in the internal affairs of nations across the developing world. Countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Iraq and Syria have challenged the US,a global policeman. Back in the day,soon after assuming the power, the Left leadership in Latin American countries had adopted socialist schemes and had nationalised the wealth creating assets, which were previously in the hands of the US capitalists. Irked by the actions of these nations, the US had devised a series of stratagems to destabilize the regimes and to install its puppets through the imposition of cruel sanctions and by dubbing them as terrorist nations on the pretext of exporting violent communist revolution. With the exception of the regimes of Fidel castro in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the US is largely successful in its agenda of destabilizing anti-American governments in the region. The US has a long history of mobilising anti-left forces in Latin America, the region which US sees as its backyard, in an attempt to oust socialist leaders. At present, by hook or by crook, the trump administration has been trying to depose Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, a socialist.

In addition,The US has been colonising the minds of the third world citizens psychologically with its cultural hegemony and anti-left indoctrination. It is important to understand that the reason for the neo-fascism, which is unfurling across the developing and developed world alike, is rooted in capitalism.The third world citizenry is disgruntled and the ultra-nationalist right wing forces in these countries have been channeling the distress amongst the working class to solidify their position. Growing inequalities, Falling living standards, Joblessness and Insecurity are exposing the incompetence of capitalism and have been pushing a large chunk of workforce in the developing countries into a state of despair.Adding to their woes, the Covid-19 has hit them hard.

The US, with the help of IMF and the world bank, had coerced the developing countries to shun welfare economics.The term “Development” is highly contested  in the economic domain.Capitalists argue that the true development of an individual and the society depends upon economic progress and the free market is a panacea for all problems.Given the monopolistic tendencies in the economical systems across the developing world, the free market is a myth, especially in a societies where a few of business families, who have cronies in policy making circles, dominates the economical and social scene.The time has come for the governments of these nations to address these issues and ensure that the wealth would be distributed in a more equitable manner.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending