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A Once Unimaginable Scenario: The President as Monster

Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) (detail; 1937), Picasso. © Succession Picasso/DACS 2018. Courtesy Sotheby's

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And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”-William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

For Americans, the incumbent Trump[1] presidency has become existentially worrisome. To be sure, it remains conspicuously inept and dysfunctional, but by now it has also  become  intensely foreboding. Today, rife with willfully corrosive behaviors, Donald Trump is very literally pushing the margins of national survival.

At its core, the existential Trump problem must be faced holistically. It is not purposeful to continue blithely with business as usual, with the delusion that this president’s analytic and moral shortcomings are in any way remediable. As corollary, it’s no longer defensible to suggest that Donald Trump could somehow be rendered “manageable” if only he would stop tweeting or substitute science-based threat assessments for his narrowly gratuitous rancor. Unmistakably, the “Trump Problem” is much bigger than any superficial crisis of genteel manners or refined policy protocols.

Truth is exculpatory. Donald Trump is who he is, period. His darkly pernicious condition is not subject to any feasible mitigation or improvement. Not at all.

“The mass-man,” as we were warned earlier by Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses (1930)  “has no attention to spare for reasoning; he learns only in his own flesh.”

This is how Trump “learns.” When asked on April 10 2020 how he would create metrics for determining when the country could be safely “opened up again,” he pointed to his head, and said: “This is my only metric.” Always, his crudely primal method of understanding  represents a seat-of-the-pants reasoning, worthless calculations produced by raw instinct and revealed with demeaning frivolity.

When  meeting in Singapore with Kim Jung Un in 2018, Trump dismissed all of the usual leadership obligations to study and prepare. Instead, he emphasized, again and again, offhandedly: “I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s all about attitude.”[2]

There is more. At authentically formal levels, this president is not really a proper example of Ortega’s “mass man.”  How could he be? He is, after all, the president. And by definition, the American president is always exceptional.

Nonetheless, though president, Donald Trump remains the dissembling puppeteer of an historically recurrent “plague,” not a biological pestilence, as we are experiencing at the present moment, but one similarly catastrophic. Basically, this insidious plague is an orchestrated Goebbels-style campaign of anti-reason and deliberate falsehood, a cowardly effort supported and sustained by legions of utterly shameless administration sycophants.[3] Although most Americans might resist  any too-candid comparisons of Trump leadership characteristics with examples from the Third Reich, there are still (regrettably,  of course) certain plausible and incontestable points of commonality.

Tangible consequences appear. The overwhelmingly nefarious implications of this monstrous overlap ought not be swept under the rug. Instead, they warrant very careful and correspondingly serious examination.

“Intellect rots the brain,” shrieked Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels at a Nuremberg rally in 1935. “I love the poorly educated” intoned Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign for the presidency. Inter alia, what these assertions have in common is an utterly inexcusable disdain for science and serious education. Derivatively, they also point to a mutually deformed and twisted national ideal, one that favors viscerally mindless public obedience to allegedly democratic governance.

In world politics, both near and far, none of this is entirely unprecedented. Obviously, we have seen monstrous “puppet masters” before. But in the United States, we are presently witnessing an especially virulent rebirth of historically lethal bewitchments. Moreover, we are observing and suffering in real time.

Most ominously, no matter how compelling and expansive the evidence of Trump’s myriad derelictions should become, millions of his dedicated adherents will remain steadfastly loyal to the master. In essence, faith, not facts, are what matter most to these  casually self-destructive Trump adherents. For them, without any apology or obeisance  to Jeffersonian democracy (because these adherents are generally unacquainted with any verifiable history), the phrase “I believe” is all that counts.

For them, the phrase “I think” is unknown or distinctly subordinate.

For the self-parodying Trump faithful caught up in endlessly empty or contrived antimonies, the Cartesian “cogito” might just as well have never been uttered.[4]

Back in the eighteenth century, Thomas Jefferson, chief architect of the Declaration of Independence and a future American president, exclaimed with unhesitating erudition: “I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” US President Donald Trump, “learning only in his own flesh,” has effectively sworn an oath of “eternal support” for such insufferable tyranny. Earlier, he had returned from his Singapore summit with Kim Jung Un, declaring that the calculable risks of a bilateral nuclear war had been removed because he and Kim “fell in love.” Today, he offers daily independent assessments (grievously inexpert, by definition) of assorted drug efficacies against the Corona virus.

Simultaneously, he responds to authoritative science-based prescriptions with either capricious doubt or an open indifference.

For the United States, these loudly incoherent stream-of-consciousness excursions into gibberish are more than merely humiliating. At a time of palpable biological “plague,” such presidential declensions are starkly and immediately life-threatening. Jurisprudentially, they come very close to being genocide-like crimes.[5]

How pitifully inadequate are America’s political processes and institutions in dealing with this president’s willfully chaotic instincts.[6] Still, almost an entire country now displays a near infinite forbearance for Trump’s hugely inane and perilous commentaries. The resultant withering of a declining nation’s heart and mind point unerringly to once-unimaginable existential threats. While various mega-death scenarios of relentless pandemic are currently the most far reaching and credible, the more “normal” dangers of nuclear war and terrorism have not magically disappeared. Indeed, in the expected worst case narratives, war, terror and pandemic could occur more-or-less simultaneously, and with harshly interactive results that are not simply intersectional, but also multi-layered and synergistic.

There is more. In any scenario of overwhelmingly destructive synergy, the whole of any potential catastrophe would necessarily be greater than the sum of its constituent parts.

In this sobering connection, we may usefully recall Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt’s seemingly obvious but enduringly insightful remark: “The worst does sometimes happen.”

At best, there is nothing expressly murderous or genocidal in Donald Trump’s policies, whether foreign and domestic, but, unambiguously, there is always a far-reaching indifference to basic human welfare and well-being. Spawned by a very evident absence of ordinary compassion, this president gives new and portentous meaning to the core idea that pain is ultimately incommunicable from any one human being to another. “All men have my blood and I have all men’s,” wrote American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Self-Reliance,”[7] but this cosmopolitan sentiment is altogether alien and incomprehensible to Donald Trump. As with other challenging matters of intellectual judgment, this president’s near-total lack of empathic feelings reveals a stunningly frightful level of personal emptiness.

That is, they  reveal a grotesque American leader of breathtaking vapidity.

Where do we go from this unbearable point? Whatever else we might conclude, Donald Trump displays numerous and incontrovertible clinical derangements. Nonetheless, rather than continue to approach them as if they were somehow singularly meaningful and correspondingly remediable, Americans must finally understand  that (1)  there exists no feasible “fix” for any such complex concatenations of monstrous behavior, and (2)  the danger posed by this president is substantively overwhelming and “imminent in point of time.”[8]

Though Trump believes that all that he does is undertaken with absolute purity of heart, similarly felt convictions were easily detectable among the 1930s managers of Third Reich propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

Let us be candid. In America today, there is too much “noise.” Among those many citizens who so strenuously loathe refined intellect and serious thought, it is primarily a rancorous noise made on behalf of a destructive political impresario.[9] Moreover, these bewitched proselytes make their unreasoning noise with  enthusiasm because they see themselves welcomed as privileged members of a plainly valued “crowd.” Reciprocally and consistently, their disjointed leader makes a complementary set of dissembling  noises because he has been allowed to direct this unthinking crowd.

There are urgent lessons to be learned. For all Americans , the most ruinous evasion of all will be to seek comfort and succor in this most primordial form of political coming-together; that is, to seek to escape moral judgment as private citizens. This search won’t work. “In eternity,” reminds the 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “each shall render account as an individual.[10]

At least there will be this residual sort of “last judgment.”

The poet Yeats’ “rough beast” portends a monster, and monster is the only correct term of judgment for an American president who encourages manifold egregious crimes against the United States and other nations.[11] Even without mens rea, or what the jurists would call “criminal intent,”[12] Trump’s vaguely casual unconcern for science-based judgments on disease, law[13] and war could result in the death of millions. In effect, such presidential unconcern exhibits a uniquely hideous species of “vice,” a species so inherently riveting that it defies any more “measured,” “balanced,” or “objective” sorts of description.

Summing up our declining circumstances, an overriding general obligation arises. We must insistently inquire as follows: What precisely has been happening? For a meaningful answer, we may consult Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man:” “Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet, seen too often, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

Had he lived in the first quarter of the 21st century, the classical poet might have added “…then decline irretrievably.”

What then? Exeunt Omnes?  Hopefully, it’s a question that will never actually have to be raised. Still, any hope that is unsupported by both intellect and virtue is never a viable rescue strategy.

Never.

One  culminating imperative. Now is our final opportunity to identify this defiling president  by his correct name. He is a monster.


[1] Although decidedly unacademic and uncommonly harsh, the term “monster” here is appropriate and necessary. The beginning of wisdom,” counseled Confucius, “is to call things by their correct name.”

[2] See President Donald Trump’s quoted statement on June 11, 2018.

[3] Today this campaign is most nefarious (and  quite literally murderous) with regard to endless presidential lies on corona virus matters. With his persistently disingenuous claims about US progress against the spreading disease and corresponding testing, Trump has underscored that for the tyrant, truth is whatever seems convenient and self-serving. For this presidential monster, truth is always anathema, never exculpatory. For Trump, it is the “truth” of Joseph Goebbels, one which values presumed propagandistic benefit over the flesh-and-blood lives of citizens.

[4] Cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am.” The exact reference here is to the “universal doubt” encouraged by René Descartes, Discourse on Method (1637).

[5] Professor Beres is the author of several  major books and many law journal articles on genocide-like crimes. See, for example, Louis René Beres, “Genocide and Genocide-Like Crimes,” in  M. Cherif Bassiouni., ed., International Criminal Law: Crimes (New York, Transnational Publishers, 1986), pp. 271-279.

[6] Most egregious here are recent federal government (FEMA) seizures of medical ventilators for preferable shipment to pro-Trump governors.

[7] We may think also of the corresponding Talmudic observation: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.”

[8] In jurisprudence, this phrase appears as the solitary permissible justification for national acts of “anticipatory self-defense.” This principle of customary jurisprudence has its modern origins in the so-called Caroline Case, which concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. Following this landmark case, even the serious threat of an armed attack can sometimes be taken as sufficient justification for defensive military action. In more narrowly technical jurisprudence, the criterion of permissibility revolves around a danger presumed to be “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment or deliberation.” Of course, during the first third of the nineteenth century, there could have been no conceivable thought of forestalling a nuclear aggression.

[9] In a wholly negative assessment, Twentieth century German writer Thomas Mann would have called Trump a “magician.” See for example, his classic novella on the rise of Nazism, “Mario and the Magician.”

[10] The Kierkegaardian concept of “crowd” is roughly analogous to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s “herd,” psychologist Car G. Jung’s “mass,” or Sigmund Freud’s “horde.”

[11] Regarding US legal obligations toward other nations, see for example, by Louis René Beres:  https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/jurist-us-abandons-legal-obligations-syria; and https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/11/louis-beres-khashoggi-murder/

[12] Professor Louis René Beres  is the author of many law journal articles at Harvard National Security Journal; Yale Global Online, Oxford University Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); World Politics (Princeton) and Jurist.

[13] One must remember here that pertinent obligations of international law are also generally obligations of US law. In the precise 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.”

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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Why Congress should be rough on Chris Miller at his testimony on Wednesday

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FBI director Chris Wray’s weak congressional testimony in March left most of the Capitol attack questions unanswered and most of us scratching our heads: if the chiefs of the intelligence agencies don’t know, then who does?

As I argued back in March, before Senate Wray picked the low hanging fruit questions — such as confirming that the Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was indeed Trump’s mob and not some other people — while conviniently glazing over the real questions.

This is why the congressional testimony by former acting Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, this Wednesday matters. The national guard mystery is still the elephant in the room that’s still sitting in the corner in loud, deafening silence.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee has been looking for answers from federal intelligence agencies on Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection since day one. They have knocked on pretty much any door they could think of, requesting information from sixteen offices in total. That brings us to Wednesday when the Committee will hear from Chris Miller, as well as Jeff Rosen, former acting Attorney General, and Robert Contee III, District of Columbia Police Chief, in a hearing titled “The Capitol Insurrection: Unexplained Delays and Unanswered Questions.”

Back in March, when Senate grilled Wray, the FBI director could not answer why the national guard was not sent in to quell the attack. Wray vaguely put the decision on local policy makers, conveniently circumventing federal responsibility.

Then months later, defense officials actually stated that the national guard was delayed for reasons of “optics” and worries over how it would look if Trump’s mob was pushed out forcefully, as they should’ve been. Miller dragged his feet for hours before giving the green light, as he wanted to imagine what exactly the national guard’s intervention will look like. The actual deployment took only 20 minutes, logistically speaking.

Miller has already spoken about Trump’s “cause and effect” words responsible for inciting the Capitol attacks. And some commentators like Sarah Burris at Raw Story already predict that Miller is about to throw Trump under the bus on Wednesday.

But that’s not enough. Where was Miller back then? The delay was his decision and no one else’s. The Congressmen and Congresswomen of the House Oversight and Reform Committee chaired by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, should not go easy on Miller only because now, after the fact, he is willing to speak up against Trump. Now it’s easy. Now it doesn’t count.

Trump removed Secretary of Defense Esper over his objection to sending the national guard on the Black Lives Matter movement that sparked up exactly one year ago. That’s why Trump replaced Esper with Miller. Miller could have also said no to Trump but he played along. That’s why Miller doesn’t get to play hero now. There are no heroes in the Trump Administration’s aftermath. Some “cause and effect” talk and hypocritical outrage after the fact don’t count. Now doesn’t count. The House Oversight and Reform Committee shouldn’t buy this. The time for cheap spins and late awakened conscience is up. Now is the time for real answers. Miller and Rosen should get a rough ride on Wednesday. Anything else would not be acceptable.

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The Way Out of the Impasse Between Iran & U.S.

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On June 18th, Iran will hold its Presidential election. The current Government is led by Iran’s moderates, who are the people that aren’t closed-minded to the possibility of America’s being less than 100% determined to take back Iran as America had grabbed that country in the 1953 U.S. coup there, which ended Iran’s democracy and installed the brutal and much-hated fascist Shah Reza Pahlevi. The non-moderates in Iran will not negotiate with the United States, and never did. Restoration of the Iran deal will be impossible if the non-moderates again win power there. But we have only until before that June 18th election to restore it, if it is to be done at all.

There is a superb explanation of this situation, by Alexander Mercouris, in a 38-minute talk by him at The Duran on 2 May 2021, and it is a preface to everything that I shall here be adding to it, which will be only my policy-conclusions which follow, I believe, quite logically, from the facts that he so clearly and accurately presents there. That video (which I recommend everyone to listen to) can be seen here:

He concludes by saying (and I add my comments [in non-italics and in-between brackets]), starting at 31:50-

We will see, over the next few weeks, whether the U.S. and Iran are able to overcome their common mistrust [which has resulted from Trump’s having cancelled the Iran deal, which had taken years to negotiate] and find a way forward, or whether opponents of the JCPOA [the Iran deal] in the United States, in Saudi Arabia and Israel, and in Iran itself, will instead prevail. I should say that I think that this is going to be a key moment in the Middle East. If the United States is able to re-enter the JCPOA, after having made various steps to walk away from it [Biden’s having promised that he wouldn’t return to it unless Iran would first agree, in advance, to making concessions, beyond those it had made in the JCPOA, which — if Iran, which had adhered to the deal, which the U.S. did not, were to do that — would outrage the Iranian public and thus guarantee the current Iranian Government’s fall and replacement by the non-moderates; so, that demand by Biden was stupid in the extreme], but if it re-enters it on Iranian terms [that is, unconditionally, which is the only way for the deal’s violator to be able to return to the deal], then it would be very difficult for people in the Middle East to see it [because Biden had promised not to do that] as anything other than a major concession and a signal that the United States is, indeed retreating from the Middle East. Iran will, at that point, be in the ascendant, and it will probably increase its influence in places like Iraq, and possibly Syria and Lebanon also. The Saudis and Israelis, by contrast, will be dismayed, and no doubt they will consider what steps they should take, possibly distancing themselves, to some extent, not perhaps from the United States, but from this Administration [meaning that many mega-donors to the Democratic Party while Biden or Harris are leading the Party will quit or greatly reduce their donations to it, and that Republicans will probably then easily retake the U.S. White House in 2024]. The alternative, however, it seems to me, is worse [for the United States and everyone]. If the United States and Iran cannot agree a way forward, and the JCPOA [restoration] fails, then the situation is set up for a showdown, at some point, between the United States and Iran, with Iran, almost certainly in that case, pushing forward [under rule by its non-moderates] with its nuclear enrichment program, and forging, at the same time, ever-closer ties with the new Eurasian powers, Russia and China, which are increasingly working together. At that point, some kind of military hostilities, in the Middle East, become more likely. 

The United States, once more, finds itself in a difficult position. It does so because of the way in which it has inserted itself, to such a degree, in the affairs of the Middle East, which, in some ways, it does not fully understand, and which it is certainly unable to control. 

Trying to build long-term policy in the Middle East by an outside power, like the United States has done, is like trying to build a castle on a foundation of sand. The edifice might look imposing for a while, but eventually it crumbles.

It seems to me that, whatever happens, over the next few weeks, we are going to see, with these negotiations, the beginning of that long retreat, or, rather, a further step in that long retreat, of the United States, from the Middle East, and [from] that era, which began in the 1970s, when the United States managed to establish itself as the prevailing overwhelmingly dominant power across the Middle East and the country that essentially decided the course of decisions and events there.

So, this will be a step towards the end of an era. If so, however — if the United States manages to withdraw in an orderly way by agreeing to the JCPOA, despite the embarrassment and, to some extent, the humiliation [because Biden has promised not to do this] that it will suffer — that will at least provide a route for a dignified farewell.

If, on the other hand, the negotiations fail, and the JCPOA dies, then the eventual outcome of an American retreat from the Middle East will probably happen still, but the sequence of events will be disorderly, chaotic, and, perhaps, violent.          

Biden chose, when he entered office in January, to commit his Administration to Trump’s foreign policies. He accepted the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which was a slap in the face to the Palestinians. He accepted Trump’s acceptance of Obama’s policy that Crimea and Donbas — which had separated themselves from Ukraine after Obama’s coup which had seized Ukraine’s government in February 2014, as a result of a plan by Obama which had started forming in Obama’s Administration in 2011 — must be seized back by Ukraine, and Biden promised that the United States would help Ukraine to do that. And he accepted Trump’s continuation of Obama’s plan to oust Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria and replace him with leaders who would be selected by the Saud family. He also accepted Obama’s and Trump’s change in American policy on Taiwan, toward switching away from the decades-long “one-China” policy of refusing to grant separate-nation status to Taiwan, toward now sending officials to Taiwan in violation of that policy and toward sending warships to the Taiwan Strait (internationally recognized by every nation except America to be Chinese territory) as a threat and preparation for publicly demanding that Taiwan be recognized by the United Nations as being a separate nation and no longer a province of China. All of these policies were build-ups toward some hoped-for surrender by Russia, and by China, and by Iran, to Biden, which would supposedly happen in some way without direct military conflict between the United States and Russia, and/or China, and/or Iran.

Furthermore: Biden continues Trump’s — who continued Obama’s — policy to get the UK Government to transfer Julian Assange from a British super-max prison in solitary confinement to a U.S. Supermax prison in solitary confinement so that the U.S. can permanently remove Assange from access to the public and perhaps execute him on totally bogus charges. Assange has never been convicted of anything and has been imprisoned by the UK Government for over a decade, awaiting a court ruling that he can be extradited to the U.S. for elimination. Here was the first day of his only trial, which ended in no conviction and in what was expected to be his release from that super-max prison, and both on that first day and on the last day of his trial (as can be seen there), British ‘justice’ was clearly outrageous and suitable only for a dictatorship. Furthermore, instead of that regime releasing him, the U.S. regime under Trump and now continuing under Biden appealed UK’s ruling that had declined to extradite him, and both the UK and the U.S. Governments are keeping him in that UK supermax solitary confinement until UK either announces that he is dead or else extradites him to a U.S. prison to await his death in some American prison — regardless of whether or not he ever becomes convicted of anything.

Biden chose this astoundingly stupid and arrogant policy of the U.S.&UK imperium, instead of criticized and renounced his immediate predecessors’ policies on these matters.

It is vastly more difficult for him to reverse those stupid and dangerous policies now, after he had announced them, and to back America down from them peaceably, than it would have been if he had not entered the White House in the way that he did, as a continuation of George W. Bush and of Barack Obama and of Donald Trump’s policies on these matters. He has been continuing down their road to World War III.

His immediate predecessors were building toward World War III, and he chose to build more toward that War, but Mercouris seems to me to be expecting that Biden will discontinue that road now, after Biden’s having committed himself toward building that way even more than his immediate predecessors did.

The road to WW III is long, and Biden, by now, should recognize that we are nearing the end of that road, which would be the inevitable annihilationist destination of the road that the U.S. has been taking.

At this point, either Iran will, yet again, have to yield-up its sovereignty (basically return to being an American colony, as it was between 1953 and 1979), or Russia will have to yield-up its sovereignty (which it never did yield), or China will have to yield-up its sovereignty (which it formerly had done when Britain grabbed it), or else the United States will have to stop demanding them to yield up their sovereignty.

Why has Biden chosen this dead-end? The reason (besides his stupidity) is obvious: The only alternative for him has been and is for the U.S. Government to face courageously and honestly in front of the entire world, that its existing policies on each one of these matters is imperialistic and alien to what had been the plan and the intent of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his plan to end all imperialisms and replace them by the first global democratic federation of nations, by means of the sole possessor of strategic weaponry being the United Nations, the organization which FDR himself invented, created and named, but which his immediate successor, Harry S. Truman, catastrophically weakened in order to prepare for the U.S. Government itself to take over control of the entire world and dictate to it as the world’s first all-encompassing global empire. In 1991 when the Soviet Union and its communism and its Warsaw Pact military alliance all ended, it seemed as if Truman’s goal of a global U.S. dictatorship would finally be fulfilled, and that was supposed to be “the end of history.” But it was, instead, only America’s intensified war for global dictatorship, and the end of that war will come now, but definitely not on America’s terms.

Either Biden will, now, proudly take up and continue, the vision of FDR — to end all empires, meaning especially its own, and to transform the U.N. into what FDR had planned it to become, the democratic federation of all nations — or else, there will be global nuclear annihilation.

Clearly, Biden, throughout his life, has been stupid and arrogant, but the question facing him now is whether to continue this, right up to its ugly end, or else to announce, proudly, that he is a decent person and will return America, and the world, to what had been FDR’s vision for it.

If he chooses the latter path, then — and this is the only way to do it — America will again take up the banner of freedom and democracy, to the entire world: including nations that it (for whatever reasons, valid or not) disapproves of. And, then, he will win the Nobel Peace Prize, which Obama had won but did only one thing ever to have deserved, which was the JCPOA (which he hadn’t yet even envisioned when he was accepting that entirely unearned Prize).

Whereas Mercouris seemed to me to be optimistic that Biden would do the sane thing, I am not, because Biden has given no indication that he is willing to renounce his, and his immediate predecessors’, extremely ugly record, of reaching to grab the entire world.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

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Trump Lost, Biden Won. Is Joe Biden’s presidency a signal towards Obama’s America?

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image source: obamalibrary.gov

Greek statesmen, Pericles once said, “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean the politics won’t take interest in you”. The same is the case of United States politics which knowingly or unknowingly has an impact on world politics. That is why the result of the US elections are of great interest to states across the world. Although, for the United States, the goal is to maintain American primacy, to see a world in which the United States can use its predominant power to get its way, regardless of what others want. However, it is a fact that the political landscape of the United States has mostly been dominated by two parties, Republicans and Democrats, who not only differ in their ideas, policies, priorities but also in their approaches towards addressing the key issues facing the country. 

Comparing the two, we see the Republicans are more conservative in their approach as compared to the liberal Democrats. Therefore, the recent election in the US (2020), with Biden (Democrat) won and trump (Republican) lost is also a signal towards a changed approach in many issue areas The focus is to see, whether the new President, Joe Biden who remained the 47th vice president during Obama’s administration for eight long years is going to follow the same lines as Barack Obama and whether he going to reverse the policies of Donald Trump?

Looking at first the climate change issues, President Joe Biden’s plans to tackle  it seems more ambitious than any of the US presidential candidates so far. Biden during his presidential campaign proposed $2trillion over four years to significantly escalate the use of clean energy in transportation, electricity and building sectors. His public health and environment platform planned the establishment of a climate and environmental justice division. He further intends to make the US electricity production carbon-free by 2035 with achieving net-zero emissions by middle of the century. Apart from all these, the most noticeable is President Joe Biden’s promise to reverse Trump’s plan to exit from the Paris climate agreement that was signed back in 2016 under Obama’s administration. 

As Joe Biden in response to the former President, Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement on 4th-Nov 2020, tweeted “Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.” He further stated“Reversing the decision would be one of my first acts as president”. This is exactly what happened as Joe Biden’s first act in the Oval Office was his signing an executive order to have the United States rejoin the Paris climate agreement.  Thus, while Trump has taken a strident anti-climate approach, President Joe Biden decision shows his intentions to bring back the policies of Obama towards climate change. 

Considering the health sector, we again find difference in approaches of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, yet similarity between Biden and Obama. As, President Joe Biden in his presidential campaign speech in Lancaster on June 25, 2020 defended the first American healthcare law also known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare that was initiated by Obama’s administration. He stated, “I’m proud of the Affordable Care Act. In addition to helping people with pre-existing conditions, it delivered vital coverage for 20 million Americans who did not have health insurance”. This depicts President Joe Biden’s plans to restore Obama’s health care policies. 

America is known as the land for all, a land of cultural diversity, but we have seen with Donald Trump coming to power, the immigration rules became very strict as he imposed restrictions on foreigner’s visits to the US. An example of this is Trump’s first Muslim travel ban announced on January 27, 2017, whereby five Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, were banned from traveling to the United States. Trump stated, the act is needed for national security and to save the country from terrorism. However, this discriminatory act was opposed by ex-President Obama, who in 2016, stated: “America was a country founded on religious freedom. We don’t have religious tests here”. 

This is what President Joe Biden also believes in, as he called Trump’s actions on immigration a pitiless assault on American values. On November 8, 2020 during the presidential campaign, he said,“My administration will look like America with Muslim Americans serving at every level,” and “on my first day in office I’ll end Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban.”So, President Joe Biden did what he said, as on his first day in office he signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations, including orders to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and end the Muslim ban

Then racism that increased in the US under former President Donald Trump is now challenged by President Joe Biden as he came up with a very different idea just like Barack Obama’s notion of “A more perfect Union”. Example of which is Kamala Harris, who became the first black Asian America woman vice-president in American history. More can be seen by Joe Biden giving credit to African Americans for helping him win the election. So, his presidency is seen as a sign of hope to end racism in the country. 

Moving further, we know globalization has cut the long-distance short, it has made countries more interconnected in all aspects, especially economic. To name a champion of globalization, obviously no other than the USA comes into the mind of every single person. Under the administration of Obama, we have seen the US convening the G-20 summit, introduced macro-economic policies, signed Trans pacific partnership, and much more. However, the question is, whether the US is going to retain this all under Joe Biden’s presidency? What would be his approach towards the ongoing US-China trade war? 

President Joe Biden from the very start has focused on rebuilding the domestic economy, as the slogan ‘Build Back Better’. Therefore, he clearly stated that the US will not enter any international trade deals unless the domestic concerns of labor and the environment are fully addressed. Moreover, looking at the US-China trade war, which started back in 2018 when the Trump administration imposed tariffs on Chinese goods worth more than $360bn, we don’t find much difference except the tactics. As Joe Biden too in his presidential campaign accused China of violating international trade rules, subsidizing its companies, and stealing U.S. intellectual property. He promised to continue with Trump’s heavy tariffs on Chinese imports, but while Trump did this all unilaterally, Biden would continue it together with the allies.

On issues related to national security, we again find President Joe Biden’s approach a bit different from that of Donald Trump. Considering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or p5+1 deal that was signed between Islamic Republic of Iran and 5 permanent members of UNSC along with Germany. It imposed several restrictions on Iran in exchange for sanction reliefs and was achieved by Obama’s administration under his “constructive engagement policy“in 2015 But Trump smashed it by calling it a historical blunder and in 2018 under his “Maximum pressure policy” pulled the USA out of the deal and reinstated sanctions. Iran too after the withdrawal of US from JCPOA and upon Iran Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) commander Qasim Sulemani killing by the US airstrike announced that it no longer adheres to the 2015 Nuclear Deal. 

Now, the hope is President Joe Biden, as he stated in his presidential campaign that the “maximum pressure” policy has failed, emphasizing that it led to a significant escalation in tensions, and that Iran is now closer to a nuclear weapon than it was when Trump came to office. Therefore, he pledged to rejoin the nuclear accord if Iran returns to strict compliance. Here again it shows President Joe Biden’s intention to follow Obama’s approach of constructive engagement towards Iran. 

When it comes to Afghanistan, Trump decided to end the endless war in Afghanistan by having a peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban, according to which the US will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan. However, Joe Biden has not taken any clear decision on it yet. But he is under pressure as the Taliban wants the new president to follow the same peace accord achieved by the Trump administration. Yet, the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani has requested President Joe Biden to rethink the Afghan peace deal. Therefore, it is too early to say what Biden would do. 

To sum up, the 78 years old Joe Biden who has smashed the election records by securing more votes than any presidential candidate in the history of United States elections, he has not only raised high expectations, but there are numerous challenges on his way as well. This is because his policies would now be a center of focus for many. In most of the issue areas, we see President Joe Biden reversing the policies of Donald Trump and following the path of Obama’s Administration. Something which he promised during his presidential campaign as he said to take the country on a very different path from what it has been in the past four years under former President Donald Trump’s administration. However, it’s just the start of a new journey for America and the future decisions by President Joe Biden will uncover a lot more

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