“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 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.”
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. 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.
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.
How pitifully inadequate are America’s political processes and institutions in dealing with this president’s willfully chaotic instincts. 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,” 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.”
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. 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.“
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. Even without mens rea, or what the jurists would call “criminal intent,” Trump’s vaguely casual unconcern for science-based judgments on disease, law 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.
One culminating imperative. Now is our final opportunity to identify this defiling president by his correct name. He is a monster.
 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.”
 See President Donald Trump’s quoted statement on June 11, 2018.
 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.
 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).
 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.
 Most egregious here are recent federal government (FEMA) seizures of medical ventilators for preferable shipment to pro-Trump governors.
 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.”
 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.
 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.”
 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.”
 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/
 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.
 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.”
Interpreting the Biden Doctrine: The View From Moscow
It is the success or failure of remaking America, not Afghanistan, that will determine not just the legacy of the Biden administration, but the future of the United States itself.
The newly unveiled Biden doctrine, which renounces the United States’ post-9/11 policies of remaking other societies and building nations abroad, is a foreign policy landmark. Coming on the heels of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, it exudes credibility. Indeed, President Biden’s moves essentially formalize and finalize processes that have been under way for over a decade. It was Barack Obama who first pledged to end America’s twin wars—in Iraq and Afghanistan—started under George W. Bush. It was Donald Trump who reached an agreement with the Taliban on a full U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Both Obama and Trump also sought, albeit in strikingly different ways, to redirect Washington’s attention to shoring up the home base.
It is important for the rest of the world to treat the change in U.S. foreign policy correctly. Leaving Afghanistan was the correct strategic decision, if grossly overdue and bungled in the final phases of its implementation. Afghanistan certainly does not mean the end of the United States as a global superpower; it simply continues to be in relative and slow decline. Nor does it spell the demise of American alliances and partnerships. Events in Afghanistan are unlikely to produce a political earthquake within the United States that would topple President Biden. No soul searching of the kind that Americans experienced during the Vietnam War is likely to emerge. Rather, Washington is busy recalibrating its global involvement. It is focusing even more on strengthening the home base. Overseas, the United States is moving from a global crusade in the name of democracy to an active defense of liberal values at home and Western positions abroad.
Afghanistan has been the most vivid in a long series of arguments that persuaded Biden’s White House that a global triumph of liberal democracy is not achievable in the foreseeable future. Thus, remaking problematic countries—“draining the swamp” that breeds terrorism, in the language of the Bush administration—is futile. U.S. military force is a potent weapon, but no longer the means of first resort. The war on terror as an effort to keep the United States safe has been won: in the last twenty years, no major terrorist attacks occurred on U.S. soil. Meantime, the geopolitical, geoeconomic, ideological, and strategic focus of U.S. foreign policy has shifted. China is the main—some say, existential—challenger, and Russia the principal disrupter. Iran, North Korea, and an assortment of radical or extremist groups complete the list of adversaries. Climate change and the pandemic have risen to the top of U.S. security concerns. Hence, the most important foreign policy task is to strengthen the collective West under strong U.S. leadership.
The global economic recession that originated in the United States in 2007 dealt a blow to the U.S.-created economic and financial model; the severe domestic political crisis of 2016–2021 undermined confidence in the U.S. political system and its underlying values; and the COVID-19 disaster that hit the United States particularly hard have all exposed serious political, economic, and cultural issues and fissures within American society and polity. Neglecting the home base while engaging in costly nation-building exercises abroad came at a price. Now the Biden administration has set out to correct that with huge infrastructure development projects and support for the American middle class.
America’s domestic crises, some of the similar problems in European countries, and the growing gap between the United States and its allies during the Trump presidency have produced widespread fears that China and Russia could exploit those issues to finally end U.S. dominance and even undermine the United States and other Western societies from within. This perception is behind the strategy reversal from spreading democracy as far and wide as Russia and China to defending the U.S.-led global system and the political regimes around the West, including in the United States, from Beijing and Moscow.
That said, what are the implications of the Biden doctrine? The United States remains a superpower with enormous resources which is now trying to use those resources to make itself stronger. America has reinvented itself before and may well be able to do so again. In foreign policy, Washington has stepped back from styling itself as the world’s benign hegemon to assume the combat posture of the leader of the West under attack.
Within the collective West, U.S. dominance is not in danger. None of the Western countries are capable of going it alone or forming a bloc with others to present an alternative to U.S. leadership. Western and associated elites remain fully beholden to the United States. What they desire is firm U.S. leadership; what they fear is the United States withdrawing into itself. As for Washington’s partners in the regions that are not deemed vital to U.S. interests, they should know that American support is conditional on those interests and various circumstances. Nothing new there, really: just ask some leaders in the Middle East. For now, however, Washington vows to support and assist exposed partners like Ukraine and Taiwan.
Embracing isolationism is not on the cards in the United States. For all the focus on domestic issues, global dominance or at least primacy has firmly become an integral part of U.S. national identity. Nor will liberal and democratic ideology be retired as a major driver of U.S. foreign policy. The United States will not become a “normal” country that only follows the rules of realpolitik. Rather, Washington will use values as a glue to further consolidate its allies and as a weapon to attack its adversaries. It helps the White House that China and Russia are viewed as malign both across the U.S. political spectrum and among U.S. allies and partners, most of whom have fears or grudges against either Moscow or Beijing.
In sum, the Biden doctrine does away with engagements that are no longer considered promising or even sustainable by Washington; funnels more resources to address pressing domestic issues; seeks to consolidate the collective West around the United States; and sharpens the focus on China and Russia as America’s main adversaries. Of all these, the most important element is domestic. It is the success or failure of remaking America, not Afghanistan, that will determine not just the legacy of the Biden administration, but the future of the United States itself.
From our partner RIAC
AUKUS aims to perpetuate the Anglo-Saxon supremacy
On September 15, U.S. President Joe Biden worked with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison together to unveil a trilateral alliance among Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS), which are the major three among the Anglo-Saxon nations (also including Canada and New Zealand). Literally, each sovereign state has full right to pursue individual or collective security and common interests. Yet, the deal has prompted intense criticism across the world including the furious words and firm acts from the Atlantic allies in Europe, such as France that is supposed to lose out on an $40-billion submarine deal with Australia to its Anglo-Saxon siblings—the U.K. and the U.S.
Some observers opine that AUKUS is another clear attempt by the U.S. and its allies aggressively to provoke China in the Asia-Pacific, where Washington had forged an alliance along with Japan, India and Australia in the name of the Quad. AUKUS is the latest showcase that three Anglo-Saxon powers have pretended to perpetuate their supremacy in all the key areas such as geopolitics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. In short, the triple deal is a move designed to discourage or thwart any future Chinese bid for regional hegemony. But diplomatically its impacts go beyond that. As French media argued that the United States, though an ally of France, just backstabs it by negotiating AUKUS in secret without revealing the plan. Given this, the deal among AUKUS actually reflects the mentality of the Anglo-Saxon nations’ superiority over others even if they are not outrageously practicing an imperialist policy in the traditional way.
Historically, there are only two qualified global powers which the Europeans still sometimes refer to as “Anglo-Saxon” powers: Great Britain and the United States. As Walter Mead once put it that the British Empire was, and the United States is, concerned not just with the balance of power in one particular corner of the world, but with the evolution of what it is today called “world order”. Now with the rise of China which has aimed to become a global power with its different culture and political views from the current ruling powers, the Anglo-Saxon powers have made all efforts to align with the values-shared allies or partners to create the strong bulwarks against any rising power, like China and Russia as well. Physically, either the British Empire or the United States did or does establish a worldwide system of trade and finance which have enabled the two Anglo-Saxon powers to get rich and advanced in high-technologies. As a result, those riches and high-tech means eventually made them execute the power to project their military force that ensure the stability of their-dominated international systems. Indeed the Anglo-Saxon powers have had the legacies to think of their global goals which must be bolstered by money and foreign trade that in turn produces more wealth. Institutionally, the Anglo-Saxon nations in the world—the U.S., the U.K, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—have formed the notorious “Five eyes alliance” to collect all sorts of information and data serving their common core interests and security concerns.
This is not just rhetoric but an objective reflection of the mentality as Australian Foreign Minister Payne candidly revealed at the press conference where she said that the contemporary state of their alliance “is well suited to cooperate on countering economic coercion.” The remarks imply that AUKUS is a military response to the rising economic competition from China because politics and economics are intertwined with each other in power politics, in which military means acts in order to advance self-interested economic ends. In both geopolitical and geoeconomic terms, the rise of China, no matter how peaceful it is, has been perceived as the “systematic” challenges to the West’s domination of international relations and global economy, in which the Anglo-Saxon superiority must remain. Another case is the U.S. efforts to have continuously harassed the Nord Stream 2 project between Russia and Germany.
Yet, in the global community of today, any superpower aspiring for pursuing “inner clique” like AUKUS will be doomed to fail. First, we all are living in the world “where the affairs of each country are decided by its own people, and international affairs are run by all nations through consultation,” as President Xi put it. Due to this, many countries in Asia warn that AUKUS risks provoking a nuclear arms race in the Asian-Pacific region. The nuclear factor means that the U.S. efforts to economically contain China through AUKUS on nationalist pretexts are much more dangerous than the run-up to World War I. Yet, neither the United States nor China likes to be perceived as “disturbing the peace” that Asian countries are eager to preserve. In reality, Asian countries have also made it clear not to take either side between the power politics.
Second, AUKUS’s deal jeopardizes the norms of international trade and treaties. The reactions of third parties is one key issue, such as the French government is furious about the deal since it torpedoes a prior Australian agreement to purchase one dozen of conventional subs from France. Be aware that France is a strong advocate for a more robust European Union in the world politics. Now the EU is rallying behind Paris as in Brussels EU ambassadors agreed to postpone preparations for an inaugural trade and technology council on September 29 with the U.S. in Pittsburgh. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared in a strong manner that “since one of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable, so we need to know what happened and why.” Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for European affairs, went even further as he put it, “It is once again a wake-up call for all of us in the European Union to ask ourselves how we can strengthen our sovereignty, how we can present a united front even on issues relevant to foreign and security policy.” It is the time for the EU to talk with one voice and for the need to work together to rebuild mutual trust among the allies.
Third, the deal by AUKUS involves the nuclear dimension. It is true that the three leaders have reiterated that the deal would be limited to the transfer of nuclear propulsion technology (such as reactors to power the new subs) but not nuclear weapons technology. Accordingly, Australia remains a non-nuclear country not armed with such weapons. But from a proliferation standpoint, that is a step in the direction of more extensive nuclear infrastructure. It indicates the United States and the U.K. are willing to transfer highly sensitive technologies to close allies. But the issue of deterrence in Asia-and especially extended deterrence-is extremely complicated since it will become ore so as China’s nuclear arsenal expands. If the security environment deteriorates in the years ahead, U.S. might consider allowing its core allies to gain nuclear capabilities and Australia is able to gain access to this technology as its fleet expands. Yet, it also means that Australia is not a non-nuclear country any more.
In brief, the deal itself and the triple alliance among AUKUS will take some years to become a real threat to China or the ruling authorities of the country. But the deal announced on Sept. 15 will complicate Chinese efforts to maintain a peaceful rise and act a responsible power. Furthermore, the deal and the rationales behind it is sure to impede China’s good-will to the members of AUKUS and the Quad, not mention of their irresponsible effects on peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
Was Trump better for the world than Biden, after all?
Joe Biden and the State Department just approved a major deal with the Saudis for 500mln in choppers maintanance. Effectively, the US sold its soul to the Saudis again after the US intelligence services confirmed months ago that the Saudi Prince is responsible for the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration is already much more inhumane and much worse than Trump. Biden doesn’t care about the thousands of American citizens that he left behind at the mercy of the Taliban, the Biden administration kills innocent civilians in drone strikes, they are in bed with the worst of the worsts human right violators calling them friendly nations.
Biden dropped and humiliated France managing to do what no US President has ever accomplished — make France pull out its Ambassador to the US, and all this only to go bother China actively seeking the next big war. Trump’s blunders were never this big. And this is just the beginning. There is nothing good in store for America and the world with Biden. All the hope is quickly evaporating, as the world sees the actions behind the fake smile and what’s behind the seemingly right and restrained rhetoric on the surface. It’s the actions that matter. Trump talked tough talk for which he got a lot of criticism and rarely resorted to military action. Biden is the opposite: he says all the right things but the actions behind are inhumane and destructive. It makes you wonder if Trump wasn’t actually better for the world.
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