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Struggling With the Virus on Multiple Fronts: Unseen Impacts on the Risks of Nuclear War with North Korea

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“This virus is going to disappear.”-US President Donald J Trump, February 27th, 2020

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”-T S Eliot, The Waste Land

Currently, our greatest challenge is a worldwide struggle against virulent pathogens. At the same time, there is no corollary reason to believe that this overriding menace could remove or preclude other significant hazards, some of them potentially existential. Though such existential threat simultaneity might seem too daunting for calmly rational consideration in these difficult days – and ought therefore to be brought up only in subtle whispers or sotto voce – there can be no reasonable argument for excluding it as a prospective national security hazard.

Now is a time for complete candor. To wit, humankind is never offered any choice in prioritizing existential threats according to any one’s subjective apprehensions or preferences. Moreover, Americans will have to deal with these variously grievous perils together; that is, as they arise, intersect and advance in bewildering tandem with one another. As to identifying significant interactions between such threats systematically, some could emerge as boldly synergistic.

In these cases, the injurious whole would be more-or-less greater than the simple sum of its relevant parts.

This fearful expectation is true by definition.

More to the point, any overlap or congruence between Covid-19 pandemic effects and those of a credible nuclear conflict with North Korea would be more consequential than any simple “adding-up” of numbers or statistics.

Far more consequential.

It follows, inter alia, that nothing could possibly be gained by approaching such galvanizing subject matter without first embracing absolute candor and a science-based precision.

How then shall we best proceed?[1]

 To begin, a core obligation for the United States should avoid basing American nuclear strategy on any flagrantly erroneous assumptions. In this regard, at least one thing is already certain: Kim  Jung Un does not see the world through the same perceptual lenses as Donald Trump. Kim is notprimarily motivated by assorted promises of expanded personal wealth or national economic improvement.
What he seeks for himself, above all and continuously, is extraordinary and stable political power.

Unsurprisingly, this rather obvious objective is tied closely to North Korea’s secure and recognizable possession of nuclear weapons and related infrastructures.

Inextricably tied.

There is more. For analysts and policy planners, the vital issues here are not dense or ambiguous. For Kim Jung Un, prima facie, “denuclearization” represents an unacceptable option in any form. As a national objective, it is anathema. Period.                

Accordingly, while US President Trump now either ignores the North Korean threat altogether or continues to rely on presumed benefits of “attitude” over “preparation,” Kim Jung Un goes ahead with substantial ballistic missile development and testing programs. While Trump continues with strategically meaningless bluster and bravado, Kim readies his nation for an always-possible “final battle.” For the United States, this all-too evident asymmetry could sometime prove to be lethal or even fatal.

We did not elect an American president to serve only on behalf of his own private interests. To properly serve US national security interests rather than his own personal and vanity-centered preferences, Trump must immediately refine and reiterate his still-amorphous North Korea strategy. Among other things, this means developing an American security posture that is more expressly analytic and history-based than are Trump’s current and disjointed orientations.

Still more precisely, it signals that the American president should begin to think systematically and realistically about creating long-term nuclear deterrence relationships with North Korea. For the United States, such creation has worked before, even if in substantially different circumstances. It will now need to work again vis-à-vis North Korea.

In the best of all possible worlds, American  (possibly also North Korean) interests would be best served by Pyongyang’s complete denuclearization. But this is not the best of all possible worlds. For  now, especially, establishing stable nuclear deterrence relationships between these two adversarial states would represent a markedly worthy and gainful American achievement.

There is more. During any still-upcoming negotiations, Trump should take scrupulous care not to exaggerate or overstate America’s military risk-taking calculus. Such imperative diplomatic caution would derive in good measure from the historical absence of any comparable nuclear crises. Because there has never been a nuclear war,[2] there could be no reliable way for this president (or anyone else, for that matter) to ascertain the true mathematical probability of any US-North Korea nuclear conflict.

None at all.

For Donald Trump, who is accustomed to making wholly unwarranted strategic extrapolations from commercial real estate bargaining or casino gaming examples, this observation could first seem exaggerated. Still, plainly and incontestably, it is a true observation,  and truth, in science, if not in US domestic politics, is always “exculpatory.”

Always.

In any logical assessment of conflict, meaningful probabilities must be drawn from one quantifiable calculus only.  This calculus references the determinable frequency of pertinent past events. When there are no such events, there can be no such extrapolation.

Period.

This does not mean that Trump’s senior strategists and counselors should steer away from offering clear-eyed assessments regarding prospective nuclear costs and risks, but only that such assessments be drawn knowingly from various constantly shifting and hard-to-decipher geopolitical trends. At this time, such trends must include complex considerations of worldwide disease pandemic. But this sort of inclusion won’t be easy.

Among other concerns, some attendant problems would emerge as more complicated and steeply problematic than others. For one, world security processes must always be approached in toto, or as a totality; that is, as a more-or-less coherent system. What is happening now, in such far-flung places as India-Kashmir, China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, could have significant “spillover effects” in the northeast Asian theatre and beyond. This is true even while Covid-19 rages in some measure across these countries.

Rather than ignore such complex and seemingly distant effects altogether – in part, because they could appear too intellectually demanding – this American president will first have to accord them a more appropriate position of policy-making priority.

Today, military threats from an already-nuclear North Korea remain genuine, substantive and determinedly “robust.” The fact that Trump’s nuclear “button” is “bigger” than Kim’s, however, is less than determinative. In strategic deterrence relationships, a condition of relative nuclear weakness by one of the contending adversarial states need not imply any corresponding absence of power or influence.

Even the presumptively weaker party in such asymmetrical dyads could deliver “unacceptable damage” to the stronger.

 There is more. President Trump will need to bear in mind that many or all of northeast Asia’s continuously transforming developments will be impacted by “Cold War II,”[3] an oppositional stance with Russia and (somewhat comparably or derivatively) China. Similarly important will be this US leader’s willingness to acknowledge and factor-in certain consequential limits of “expert” military advice. These generally unseen limits are not based upon any presumed intellectual inadequacies of America’s generals, but only on the unassailable knowledge that no person has ever fought in a nuclear war.

Again, this all-too relevant bit of knowledge is indisputable.

By definition – and going forward with all inherently time-urgent considerations of US – North Korea policy formation – American strategic calculations will be fraught with various and utterly daunting uncertainties. Still, it will be necessary that Donald Trump and his designated counselors remain able to offer the best available war-related estimations. Among prospectively causal factors – some of them overlapping, interdependent or (again) even “synergistic”[4] – the plausible risks of a nuclear war between Washington and Pyongyang will depend upon whether such a catastrophic conflict would be intentional, unintentional or accidental.

 In principle, at least, this tripartite distinction could prove vitally important to any hoped for success in US nuclear war prediction and prevention processes.

 In facing any future North Korean negotiations, it will be necessary that competent US policy analysts systematically examine and measure all foreseeableconfigurations of relevant nuclear war risk. Expressed in the game-theoretic parlance of formal military planning, shifting configurations could present themselves singly or one-at-a-time (the expectedly best case for Washington), but they could also arise suddenly, unexpectedly, with apparent “diffusiveness,” or in multiple and overlapping “cascades” of strategic complexity.

What is to be done? To properly understand such bewildering cascades will require carefully-honed, well-developed and formidable analytic skills. This will not likely be a suitable task for a presidential political appointee or for the otherwise intellectually faint-hearted. It will require sharply refined combinations of historical acquaintance, traditional erudition and a demonstrated capacity for advanced dialectical thinking. Such disciplined thinking goes back to the dialogues of Plato, and the ancient but timeless awareness that reliable analysis calls for continuous asking and answering of key questions.

There is more. This challenging task could require American strategic thinkers who are as comfortable with classical prescriptions of Plato and Descartes as with the more narrowly technical elements of modern military theory and hardware. For the moment, these are obviously not the sorts of thinkers one finds around US President Donald Trump.

There is more. It is conceivable that neither Washington nor Pyongyang is currently paying sufficient attention to the residually specific risks of an unintentional nuclear war. To this point, each president would seem to assume the other’s complete decisional rationality. If, after all, there were no such mutual calculation, it would then make no ascertainable sense for either side to negotiate further security accommodations with the other.

None at all.

Viable nuclear deterrence (not denuclearization) must become the overriding US strategic goal with North Korea. But this complex objective is contingent upon certain basic assumptions concerning enemy rationality. Are such assumptions realistically valid in the particular case of a potential war between two already-nuclear powers? If President Donald Trump, despite once “falling in love” with Kim Jung-Un, should sometime begin to fear enemy irrationalityin Pyongyang, issuing new threats of US retaliation might then make starkly diminishing diplomatic sense.

At that literally unprecedented stage, American national security could come to depend upon some residually optimal combinations of ballistic missile defense and defensive first strikes. Again, by definition, determining such complex combinations would necessarily lack any decisional input or counsel from relevant concrete and quantifiable historical data.

In an imaginably worst case scenario, the offensive military element could entail a situational or comprehensive preemption – a defensive first strike by the United States – but at that manifestly late stage, all previous hopes for bilateral reconciliation would already have become moot. There would then obtain no “ordinary” circumstances wherein a preemptive strike against a North Korean nuclear adversary could still be considered “rational.”

None of these difficult strategic decisions should be reached casually or easily. With the steadily expanding development of “hypersonic” nuclear weapons, figuring out optimal US policy combinations from one North Korean crisis to another could quickly become overwhelming. Though counterintuitive amid such prominently intersecting complications, the fact that one “player” (the US) was recognizably “more powerful” than the other (North Korea) could quickly prove irrelevant.

 In all foreseeable circumstances, there would obtain certain overlapping issues of law and strategy. Under international law, which remains an integral part of US law,[5] the option of a selective or comprehensive defensive first-strike might be correctly characterized as “anticipatory self-defense.” But this would be the case only if the American side could also argue coherently and persuasively that the “danger posed” by North Korea was recognizably “imminent in point of time.” Such discernible “imminence” is required by the authoritative standards of international law; that is, by the formal criteria established after an 1837 naval incident famously called “The Caroline.”[6]

Now, in the expanding nuclear age, offering aptly precise characterizations of “imminence” could prove sorely abstract and densely problematic. For example, in  justifying his earlier assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, Trump used the term “imminence” incorrectly (sometimes even confusing “imminence” with “eminence”) and without any convincing factual evidence.

For the moment, especially in the  midst of a worldwide  biological crisis, it seems reasonable that Kim Jung Un would value his own personal life and that of his nation above every other imaginable preference or combination of preferences. In any corresponding scenario, Kim is visibly and technically rational, and must remain subject to US nuclear deterrence.[7]But it could still become important for a negotiating American president to sometime distinguish between authentic instances of enemy irrationality and contrived or pretended irrationality.[8]

Is US President Donald Trump – a self-declared “very stable genius” – up to meeting such a challenging task?

This is no longer a silly question.

In the past, Trump has praised pretended irrationality as a potentially useful US national security strategy. Apropos of this problematic praise, his earlier “fire and fury” warnings (issued before he “fell in love” with Kim Jung Un)[9] might have reflected a prospective “rationality of pretended irrationality” posture for the United States. Ultimately, such a posture could be adopted by either one or both sides.

What happens next?

This particular prospect adds yet another layer of complexity to the subject at hand, one that could sometime include certain force-multiplying biological synergies. These would be interactive outcomes where the “whole” was effectively greater than the mere sum of its apparent “parts.”

Although neither side would likely seek a shooting war, either or both heads of state could still commit assorted errors in the course of their respective strategic calculations. Such errors could represent an unintended consequence of jointly competitive searches for “escalation dominance.” Arguably, these errors are more apt to occur in those circumstances where one or both presidents had first chosen to reignite hyperbolic verbal rhetoric.

Even when the two leaders were reportedly once “in love.”

Portentously, even in reassuringly calm periods of polite and congenial diplomatic discourse, major miscalculations, accidents or “cyber-confusions” could accumulate. Again, such ill-fated accumulation could sometime be hastened by the unpredictable effects of disease pandemics.

What then?

In certain expectedly worst case scenarios, negotiations gone wrong could result in a nuclear war.[10] This ought never to be overlooked, In the words of Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, “The worst does sometimes happen.”

 There is more. An inadvertent nuclear war between Washington and Pyongyang could take place not only as the result of various misunderstandings or miscalculations between fully rational national leaders, but also as the unintended consequence (singly or synergistically) of mechanical, electrical, computer malfunctions or of “hacking”-type interventions. Going forward, these interventions could even include the clandestine intrusions of “cyber-mercenaries.”

In any still-impending crisis between Washington and Pyongyang, each side will inevitably strive to maximize two critical goals simultaneously. These are (1) to dominate the dynamic and largely unpredictable process of nuclear crisis escalation; and (2) to achieve desired “escalation dominance” without sacrificing vital national security obligations. In the final analysis, this second objective means preventing one’s own state and society from suffering catastrophic or even existential harms.

This recalls a prior point concerning obligatory assessments of relative military power. When President Trump, in an earlier verbal competition with Kim Jung Un, stated that the North Korean president may have his own nuclear “button,” but that his was “bigger,” the US leader revealed a major military misunderstanding. It is that today, in the still advancing nuclear age, atomic superiority is potentially per se insignificant, and could lead the presumptively stronger nuclear adversary toward certain potentially lethal expressions of overconfidence.

In such paradoxical circumstances, having had the “bigger button” would have become the dominant source not of strength, but of weakness. Here, size would actually matter, but only in a starkly unexpected or counter-intuitive way.

 As Donald Trump should better understand, even an enemy with a smaller “nuclear button” could inflict grave harms upon the “stronger” United States and/or its close allies in Japan, South Korea or elsewhere. It follows that to take any discernible comfort from the observation that North Korea has been testing “only” shorter-range ballistic missiles is to miss the main analytic point entirely. To clarify, several of North Korea’s nuclear test firings expressed a yield at least 16X larger than the Hiroshima bomb. That 14KT WW II bomb produced almost 100,000 immediate fatalities.

Such vital understandings about nuclear “button size” must obtain as long as Kim Jung Un’s “inferior” nuclear arms are seemingly invulnerable to any American preemptions and seemingly capable of penetrating ballistic missile defenses deployed in the United States, Japan or South Korea. Because of the extraordinary harms generated by even low-yield nuclear weapons, a small percentage or tiny fraction of Kim’s “inferior” nuclear arsenal could and should still appear unacceptably destructive in Washington, Tokyo or Seoul. Worth noting, too, is that in all of these critical dimensions of strategic judgment, the only reality that would figure in ongoing adversarial calculations would be perceived reality.

The bottom line of all such informed assessments concerning a possible US – North Korea nuclear war is that the underlying issues of contention and calculation are enormously complicated and well-nigh indecipherable. Faced with challenging measures of complexity, both operational and legal, each side must proceed warily, in a fashion that is both suitably purposeful and appropriately risk-averse. Although such prudent counsel may at first seem to run counter to assorted inter-linking obligations of “escalation dominance,” any still-upcoming Trump-Kim negotiations would necessarily involve very deep and variously uncharted “waters.”

All this is especially worrisome in the midst of Corona virus pandemic.

Looking ahead, any aggressive over-confidence (or what the ancient Greeks called “hubris” in theatrical drama) by President Trump or President Kim will have to be scrupulously avoided. Although everything at some upcoming negotiation might at first appear simple and calculable, history calls to mind Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz’s sobering observations about “friction.” This element represents “the difference between war on paper, and war as it actually is.”

In certain plausible cases, this difference could mean total war.

To avoid any such intolerable outcome between the United States and North Korea, a prudent and informed nuclear posture must be fashioned, not with barren clichés and empty witticisms, but with refined intellect and cultivated erudition. Much earlier, the ancient Greeks and Macedonians had already understood that war planning must be treated as a continuously disciplined matter of “mind over mind,” rather than just one of “mind over matter.”[11] Today, in more specific regard to US-North Korea nuclear negotiations and rivalry, a similar understanding should promptly obtain in Washington.

It would be far better for the United States to plan carefully for all strategic eventualities than to somehow stumble into a nuclear war with North Korea. The plain fact that such a “stumble” could take place without any ill will or bad intention should provide little tangible consolation for the millions of prospective victims. Assuredly, for these victims, any ounce of diplomatic prevention would have been well worth avoiding an unstoppable nightmare.

Nightmare. According to the etymologists, the root is niht mare, or niht maere, the demon of the night. Dr. Johnson’s famous Dictionary claims this corresponds to Nordic mythology, which identifies all nightmare as some unholy product of demons. This would make it a play on the Greek ephialtes or the Latin incubus. In any event, in all of these fearful interpretations of nightmare, the idea of demonic origin is absolutely integral and indispensable.

But our current worries are of a very different and more secular sort. Recalling the earlier-cited warning of 18th century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau concerning diligent scholarship, there are certain inherent complexities in problem solving that must always be accepted, understood and overcome. At a time when our planet is imperiled by the simultaneous and potentially intersecting threats of disease pandemic and nuclear war, there can be no suitable alternative to herculean intellectual efforts.

None at all.


[1] As part of any answer to this question, it will be vital to understand that these are not easy problems to solve, and that meaningful remedies will need to be studied with extraordinary care. In this connection, I am reminded of philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau’s timeless observation in The Social Contract, a 1762 work familiar to America’s Founding Fathers: “I warn the reader that this essay requires to be read very seriously, and that I am unacquainted with any art which can make the subject clear to those who will not bestow on it their serious attention.”

[2] The atomic bombings of Japan in August 1945 do not properly constitute a nuclear war, but “only” the use of nuclear weapons in an otherwise conventional conflict. Significantly, too, following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there were no other atomic bombs still available anywhere on earth.

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

[4] See, by this writer, at Harvard Law School:  Louis René Beres,  https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/  See also, by this writer, at West Point:  Louis René  Beres https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[5] See especially art. 6 of the US Constitution (“The Supremacy Clause”) and the Pacquete Habana (1900). In the words used by the U.S. Supreme Court in The Paquete Habana, “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction, as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.  For this purpose, where there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.”  See The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 678-79 (1900).  See also:  The Lola,  175 U.S. 677 (1900);  Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F. 2d 774,  781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984)(per curiam)(Edwards, J. concurring)(dismissing the action, but making several references to domestic jurisdiction over extraterritorial offenses), cert. denied,  470 U.S. 1003 (1985)(“concept of extraordinary judicial jurisdiction over acts in violation of significant international standards…embodied in the principle of `universal violations of international law.'”).

[6] See Beth Polebau,National Self-Defense in International Law:  An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age, 59 N.Y.U. L. REV. 187, 190-191 (noting that the Caroline case transformed the right to self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a customary legal doctrine).

[7] Even before the nuclear age, ancient Chinese military theorist, Sun-Tzu, counseled, inThe Art of War:“Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence.” (See: Chapter 3, “Planning Offensives”).

[8] Expressions of decisional irrationality in US dealings with North Korea could take different and overlapping forms. These 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).

[9] Upon returning to Washington DC  after the Singapore Summit, President Trump made the following statement: “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

[10] There is now a substantial literature that deals with the expected consequences of a nuclear war.  For earlier works by this author, see, for example:  APOCALYPSE: NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE IN WORLD POLITICS (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980); MIMICKING SISYPHUS:  AMERICA’S COUNTERVAILING NUCLEAR STRATEGY (Lexington Books, 1983); REASON AND REALPOLITIK: U.S. FOREIGN POLICY AND WORLD ORDER (Lexington, MA:  Lexington Books, 1984); and SECURITY OR ARMAGEDDON:  ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY (Lexington, MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[11] See: F.E. Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1962), p. 63.

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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U.S. Climate Policy Could Break the Ice with Russia

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Photo: Fiona Paton/ flickr

“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity” — Albert Einstein

Within the climate crisis lies strategic opportunity for the United States. Climate change offers the chance to earn back the good will of allies, to prepare American cities for an urgently needed increase in immigration, and to reinvent U.S.-led institutions that have gone stale. Perhaps most of all, foreign policymakers should remain cognizant of how climate action can help the U.S. navigate relations with the other great powers.

As a recent report from the Center for a New American Security details, synergy between China and Russia is more problematic for U.S. interests than the sum of the challenges that each nation poses individually. Similarly, a recent Atlantic Council publication observed that “allowing Russia to drift fully into China’s strategic embrace over the last decade will go down as the single greatest geostrategic error.” Chinese and Russian interests do currently align on defense, economics, and the degradation of the U.S.-designed world order, but the nature of their alignment does not constitute an alliance.

In characterizing the relationship, this distinction is paramount. For as long as China and Russia remain merely convenient partners, rather than ideologically kindred allies, it is possible to keep these neighbors at arm’s length. To this end, the U.S. must reorient its approach to Russia. It is the Russian perception that world politics are rigged to benefit the U.S. at Russia’s expense that has prompted its support for China.

Russia’s national interests are rooted in the desire for respect. With this in mind, Russia could pull back from synergy with China if a better opportunity to advance these interests presented itself. Ultimately, the ability of the U.S. to offer a mutually acceptable alternative will hinge on two related factors: the Arctic and NATO. Critically, the issue of climate change is central to both of these factors.

In the Arctic, rapid warming removes barriers to resource exploitation, shipping activity, and great power competition. This has drawn many non-Arctic states to the region. Yet, even with China inserting itself as a “Near-Arctic State,” Russia has expressed the need for a hierarchy of regional influence in which the interests of Arctic states are prioritized over non-Arctic states. On this, American and Russian interests align.

Russian distrust of the U.S. complicates matters, however. Arctic military assertiveness from Russia is evidence of its sensitivity to the NATO alliance. In response, U.S. military branches have been releasing strategies for Arctic-specific forward defense. Such militarism is not conducive to improving relations, securing sovereign influence, or addressing climate change. 

In order to limit undue Chinese influence in the region and stabilize its relations with Russia by securing a multilateral agreement that formalizes an Arctic hierarchy, the U.S. will need to alter its foreign policy so that Russia perceives it to be a viable partner. The alteration should be sufficient for reducing friction with Russia’s core interests, but not so extreme that liberal values or American security are put in jeopardy. Such transactional considerations should include fashioning a new climate-positive role for the U.S. in NATO. After all, the permanent physical presence of roughly 76,000 U.S. troops on the European continent not only irks Russia, but this posture is also expensive, carbon-intensive, and perhaps not even the most effective approach to conflict deterrence. 

Indeed, research has shown that rapid deployment of new forces is significantly more likely to stymie aggression. This suggests that the U.S. should reduce its troop levels in Europe by at least 75 percent while bolstering rapid deployment readiness. This would allow the U.S. to simultaneously reduce its military’s fuel demand and greenhouse gas emissions, earn the good will necessary for stronger diplomacy with Russia, and still honor its security commitment to NATO in the event of a crisis. Moreover, the U.S. could then reinvest the potential savings into both Arctic sustainability and NATO’s capacity to manage climate insecurity.

Through the establishment of a bounded Arctic order and the greening of American leadership in NATO, the U.S. can dispel Sino-Russian synergy in the region and help maintain balance between the great powers. Specifically, these actions would both politically distance China from Russia and give the Kremlin substantial reason to begin feeling more optimistic about its relations with the West. To be sure, similar measures will be necessary in other regions to fully assure balance. However, the Arctic is a natural place for the U.S. to begin this endeavor. Usefully, the themes of climate mitigation and adaptation provide a blueprint for what countering Sino-Russian synergy elsewhere ought to generally entail.

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Overcoming The Tragedy of Plural Mother Tongue Denial in America

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Sunday morning , February 21, I was in the  Bangladesh High Commission  in Port Louis, Mauritius.Google reminds us”Bangladesh, to the east of India on the Bay of Bengal, is a South Asian country marked by lush greenery and many waterways. Its Padma (Ganges), Meghna and Jamuna rivers create fertile plains, and travel by boat is common. On the southern coast, the Sundarbans, an enormous mangrove forest shared with Eastern India, is home to the royal Bengal tiger.” 

This  justice and peace oriented mighty  South Asian  country of nearly 162,000,000 citizens, is also renowned for  successfully advocating for what is now  the United Nations recognized   annual February 21 Martyrs’ Day & International Mother Language  Day celebrated today in many countries around the world. It is the reason why…Namely ,when last week  my great friend , Her Excellency Rezina Ahmed , the High Commissioner for Bangladesh in Mauritius , requested I be one of the three judges for their youth essay competition for this day’s celebration focused on the meaning of this critically important day in their country and for the world in understanding the imperatives of mother tongue in human identity,dignity, openness, and achievements such as in education access and attainment. I gladly  reorganized my  overly hectic schedule to participate. 

We devalue, belittle, degrade, and dehumanize others and therefore ourselves as human beings when we deny them the human right  to  learn, express, and just daily be in their native ,that is mother tongue.We create and sustain discrimination, havoc ,and discord in societies and communities and institutions within them when we deny, marginalize, and exclude plural mother tongues and just stress and require in such an unGodly way,a hegemonic dominating one. When we create societies which fail to make room for the respectful and empowering expansion of languages spoken in a nation by its citizens and those populations veying for citizenship, we are sowing seeds for troubles easily avoided if government and civil society leaders recognize and welcome language newcomers rather than being xenopphobic , racist, ethnocentric ,and otherwise hostile towards them.This is especially the case when those of different mother tongues from the original one are positively contributing to the human resources, workforces, and cultural needs of  a nation and  when their diverse  speakers are  upright law abiding citizens in their families , communities, and larger society and world.

As an American whose ancestral mother tongues  were stripped away in the brutality of African slavery  and in the genocidal treatment of indigenous peoples, this day then has deep sentimental value to me.We need to recognize this day in an America deeply troubled by  too long devalued, ignored, and ridiculed plural  mother tongue realities coupled with contempoary rapid growth of mother tongue plurality as we become each day statistically Non-White and not just English speaking. 

In doing so we must confess first from colonial day one to now,America has always been a plural mother tongue state with English being the hegemonic language of the dominant.Our tradition of disregarding and devaluing Americans whose first language is other than English has been the historical roots of  political and economic inequalities, massive wastes of human talents, and the epidemic psychological traumas of millions of tens of millions of Americans stripped of their right to be heard and respected in their mother tongues and of those suffering from their dominant English superiority  complexes which eats away at their own humanity as they dehumanize Non-English speakers.

Spainish mother tongues signs are being  become seen  increasingly in American stores and other consumer and employing insitutions as  more a measure of the growing national size and  economic value of Spainish speaking peoples than needed humane and human  respect for Americans whose native tongue is not English.Trump’s easy fueling of anti-Spainish speaking people sentiment and practices, be they immigrants or not; even in native  English speaking Non-White populations such as African Americans and Asian Americans, was due to the iron grip of English only hegemony which continues to persist  in too many American systems, sectors, communities, and institutions, making English as Second language programs in primary through graduate schools marginal  or nonexistent in too many states with no plural mother tongue federal policy designed and well enforced in sight. It has led to disgraceful  public attacks against Spanish  speakers with more implicit  demeaning attacks against others who don’t speak English  especially when they are and more importantly look like they have Non-European  ancestry. Such bigoted English only idelogies , stereotypes, and actions are  unbecoming for any  democratic nation claiming to be a beacon of exceptional global goodwill.Our American tendency to ignore our historical and contemporary plural mother tongue character and to allow it to be a  disruptive and destabilizing political football adds fire to the view of our allies and foes around the world that our long  exceptional bright star global status is sliding downward on a banna peeling.

Thus, as  we move from the nightmare of the four year Trump era even though Trumpism is an anti-plural mother tongue ideology to be around for awhile, let us take advantage of this Biden-Harris glimmer of sunlight to promote the meaning of this day, to hold it high in opposition to the nightmare we are leaving behind as we grapple and become the open dignified America not back but the kind of emerging  open America we must become and remain..from now on.

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Secretly, Biden’s Foreign Policies Are Trump’s Foreign Policies

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Though U.S. President Joe Biden is publicly critical of Donald Trump’s foreign policies, he’s continuing almost all of them and is changing only minor ones. The changes are almost entirely in rhetoric, not in policies, as will be documented here.

A good example of this entirely rhetorical ‘difference’ is described in a February 19th article from Reuters, “Drawing contrast with Trump, Biden promises U.S. allies a partnership that’s not transactional”. Biden’s policy, to “promote democracy over autocracies,” condemns Trump’s polices as having been “transactional” instead of based on “values.” But, actually, America’s invasions, and coups, and economic sanctions, during the past few decades, have been ‘justified’ by condemning the U.S. regime’s target-nations (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine before America’s 2014 coup there — and now Ukraine is ‘our ally’) as not being “democratic,” and as not adhering to ‘human rights’, as if the U.S. regime itself were an authentic democracy, or were unquestionably better on human rights than the targets against which its aggressions are directed — none of which is true

If America were a democracy, then why does it have a higher percentage of its residents in prisons than does any other nation on the planet? And they’re almost all poor people, who couldn’t even afford a good lawyer. That’s ‘equal rights’? America is a country of equal rights? And it provides equal opportunity there, if your father went to prison? (Many ex-cons in America aren’t even allowed to vote. And their job-prospects, with a prison record or empty years shown on a CV, are permanently reduced.) Biden condemned “Trump, who angered allies by breaking off global accords and threatening to end defense assistance unless they toed his line. ‘Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They’re not transactional’ [he said].” Liberal hogwash — purely arrogant lies, by the U.S. regime, so that it can continue to perpetrate aggression against its target-nations, while appearing, to suckers, to be a ‘kinder and gentler nation’.

The hypocrisy of that is understood by all of America’s allies — all leaders of the empire’s vassal-nations. They know that many of those allied leaders are, themselves, even more tyrannical than America’s leaders are. For example, on February 16th, the BBC bannered “Princess Latifa: ‘Hostage’ ordeal of Dubai ruler’s daughter revealed”, and reported: “The daughter of Dubai’s ruler who tried to flee the country in 2018 later sent secret video messages to friends accusing her father of holding her ‘hostage’ as she feared for her life. In footage shared with BBC Panorama, Princess Latifa Al Maktoum says commandos drugged her as she fled by boat and flew her back to detention.” Will Biden therefore dump its UAE vassal-nation, for this “problem,” which goes all the way back to the year 2000 and has never yet caused the U.S. regime to drop any ‘ally’?

Another of ‘democratic’ America’s vassal leaders, the one who controls Saudi Arabia, had perpetrated the 2 October 2018 luring into Istanbul’s Saudi Consulate of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi (who feared for his life even as he entered there) where he was immediately dismembered and chopped-up by the team of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, and thus was placed on public display how above-the-law Saudi Arabia’s Government really is. The five execution-team-members, whom the Crown Prince had reason to believe might testify against him if released, were sentenced to death. So, anyone who would be hired for such an operation in the future would be a fool to trust that employer. The only real insiders in such a regime are at the very top. ‘Honor among thieves’ doesn’t exist at that high a level. Finally, on 9 September 2019, Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper bannered “Saudi hit squad’s gruesome conversations during Khashoggi’s murder revealed”, and reported that

The recordings, which took place before the murder between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, 2018, reveal in detail the plans and preparations made between the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and the Riyadh administration.

On Sept. 28, when Khashoggi came to the Saudi Consulate for papers to marry his fiancee Hatice Cengiz, Ahmed Abdullah al-Muzaini, who worked as Saudi Arabia’s intelligence station chief at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, informed Riyadh with an emergency code that Khashoggi had arrived at the consulate. Khashoggi’s return to the consulate on Oct. 2 was also informed to Riyadh.

On the same day at 7:08 p.m., Saudi Consul Otaibi held a phone call with an official from the office of Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide of Crown Prince Mohammed.

During the conversation, the murder of Khashoggi was called [in order to code so as to hide what was going on, in case Turkish intelligence were listening-in] “a private matter” and “a top-secret mission.” The official told the Saudi consul that “the head of state security called me. They have a mission. They want one of your officials from your delegation to deal with a private matter. They want someone from your protocol… for a private, top-secret mission. He can even get permission if necessary.”

These statements are proof that the murder of Khashoggi was not done without the consent of the Saudi crown prince.

And Israel’s Netanyahu isn’t leading a racist apartheid theocratic nation? And Saudi Arabia’s monarch and his son Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud aren’t also leading a pro-jihadist regime, and America’s Government don’t know this?

Not “transactional”? It’s actually just replacing Trump’s transactionalism by Biden’s more hypocritical type.

And the hypocrisy here goes beyond the “not transactional” lie. On February 18th, Reuters headlined “U.S. says ready for talks with Iran over nuclear deal” and this propaganda reported that:

Washington would respond positively to any European Union invitation to talks among Iran and the six major powers who negotiated the original agreement: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

“We are ready to show up if such a meeting were to take place,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, after a senior EU official said he was prepared to convene such a meeting among the parties to the deal.

But it’s just a nothingburger.

Though Russia supported an unconditional restoration of the Iran deal, because only the U.S. had broken it and quit it, the U.S. ‘allies’ backed the aggressor-nation (the U.S. regime), “during a video meeting with his British, French and German counterparts gathered in Paris,” as Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken (who has supported every U.S. invasion including the 2003 invasion of Iraq) led them: 

“Secretary Blinken reiterated that … if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end,” a joint statement from the four nations said.

America broke it first, but Iran must return to it first — according to America (which broke it first). Only idiots would accept such wacky ‘reasoning’. But Joe Biden’s Administration appeals only to such idiots. And yet America’s liberals deride Trump for Trump’s stupidity, and for the stupidity of his followers. Truth, and progressivism (which opposes all lies, conservative or liberal), have virtually no representation in today’s American politics. Progressives are marginalized here.

Also on February 18th, the Moon of Alabama blogger bannered “Why Is Biden Creating Himself An Iran Quagmire?” and he wrote that the U.S. side were not only demanding that Iran cancel its own departure from the Iran deal (which cancellation had followed after the U.S. had already abandoned the deal) before the U.S. and its gang would return to the negotiating table to restore the Iran deal, but that in addition the U.S. and its ‘allies’ would demand that Iran restrict its missile program — which hadn’t even been included in the Iran deal — before the U.S. and its allies would negotiate a return to the Iran deal. In other words: Iran would have to make concessions first — though only the U.S. had actually broken the deal — and the U.S. and its ‘allies’ still wouldn’t negotiate unless and until Iran would first agree to reduce its missile-forces (which weren’t part of the Iran deal). Furthermore, already, a law recently passed in Iran’s Parliament requires Iran’s Government to bring an end to the IAEA inspections, starting on February 23rd; so, Iran’s Government wouldn’t be allowed to back down to the U.S. regime’s demands, even if Iran’s President were stupid enough to want to do so.

Instead of the gangster — the U.S. regime — apologizing for what it had done, it tries to fool its own and allied publics into believing that Iran — and not the U.S. gang — were the criminals here. The blatancy of America’s being a regime instead of a democracy is obvious (after all, America stole Iran in 1953 and has been trying to grab it back ever since Iran finally broke away in 1979), and Biden’s pretense to being in a better category than Trump is based on lies that only fools could believe.

And then there’s Syria. 

On January 23rd, Zero Hedge — linking to reliable online sources — headlined “A Large US Military Convoy Rolled Into Syria On 1st Day Of Biden Presidency”. Not only is the new U.S. President Joe Biden intensifying America’s invasion of Syria, but he is preparing to increase the theft of oil that his predecessor Trump began in Syria after Trump’s predecessor Obama had begun America’s attempted conquest of Syria in 2012.

Among the sources which were linked to, in that news-report, is Syrian National News Agency (SANA), which — in the past — has proven to have been truthful, about the war, far more often than standard U.S. and other anti-Syrian ‘journalism’ has been shown to have been. SANA reported, on January 21st (Biden’s first day as U.S. President) that:

The so-called US-led international coalition has sent weapons and logistical materials to its illegitimate bases in Hasaka countryside.

Local sources told SANA that a convoy consisted of 40 trucks loaded with weapons and logistical materials, affiliated to the so-called international coalition have entered in Hasaka countryside via al-Walid illegitimate border crossing with north of Iraq, to reinforce illegitimate bases in the area. 

Over the past few days, helicopters affiliated to the so-called international coalition have transported logistical equipment and heavy military vehicles to Koniko [Conoco] oil field in northeastern Deir Ezzor countryside, after turning it into military base to reinforce its presence and loot the Syrian resources.

That oil field had been heavily contested during 2016 between Syria’s Government (which owns it) and ISIS, until U.S. President Barack Obama bombed Syria’s troops who were protecting it, and immediately ISIS forces moved in, and took it over (as was Obama’s intention). That oil facility promptly became the chief source of income for ISIS’s Syrian operation, to overthrow Syria’s Government.

On 30 April 2017, I had bannered “How Obama & Erdogan Moved ISIS from Iraq to Syria, to Weaken Assad”, and explained:

Chris Tomson of Al Masdar News headlined on Monday May 1st, “Syrian Army tank takes direct hit from ISIS guided missile in Deir Ezzor”[on Sunday, April 30th] and reported that, “Currently, government forces are less than 1500 meters from linking up Deir Ezzor city to its airbase,” which would be an essential link-up in order for the Syrian government to begin to restore control over the largest city in eastern Syria. Here will be the account of how U.S. President Barack Obama handed that city over to ISIS by means of two key actions, so as to weaken Assad’s government.

Today, Der Zor, or Deir Ezzor, Syria’s major oil center, is controlled by ISIS or Daesh, but Obama’s warplanes bombed the Syrian government troops there on 17 September 2016 and thereby ended the then 5-day-old ceasefire that John Kerry had spent months putting together with Sergei Lavrov [Russia’s Foreign Minister], and thus Obama effectively ended all peace negotiations with Russia regarding Syria. Then, when U.S. and Turkish forces attacked ISIS in Mosul Iraq, an escape-path was intentionally left by them for those ISIS jihadists to travel west to Der Zor, so that they could not only take over the oil wells there, but do major damage to the Syrian government’s army forces in that key city, after Obama had bombed there on September 17th. Consequently, Erdogan and Obama were now using ISIS in Mosul as a means for reinforcing ISIS in Syria, in such a way as to provide oil-income to ISIS and also to directly weaken Assad’s government.

Obama never told anyone that he favored ISIS and all jihadists over Assad’s government, but he showed it clearly and consistently by his actions

12 August 2012 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency warning[whose original can be seen here] that the Obama Administration’s strategy might drive ISIS from Mosul in Iraq to Der Zor in Syria, has actually been carried out as a plan instead of a warning — a plan to weaken and ultimately oust Syria’s non-sectarian President Bashar al-Assad and replace him with a Sunni Sharia-law regime (one led by jihadists). The 2012 DIA warning had called this scenario an “unraveling,” but Obama and the U.S. Congress actually chose it, so as to set the incoming President Trump up with an opportunity to replace Assad’s government by one that the Sauds and their U.S.-made weapons will control.

Previously, Al Qaeda had been stealing Syria’s oil, and the EU was cooperating with the Obama regime in order to help sell into the EU nations. Syrian troops briefly grabbed it back, but Obama now forced Syria’s Army out and handed that oil-facility to ISIS, so that they could make money from it and continue the job of weakening Syria’s Government.

On 9 March 2019, three years into Trump’s Presidency, I headlined “Syria Accuses U.S. of Stealing 40+ Tons of Its Gold” that ISIS had accumulated from their foreign sales of Syria’s oil. However, now that U.S. President Trump knew that ISIS had been ‘earning’ that much money from selling that oil, he wanted to become the person who would be choosing whom would be funded by Syria’s oil. So, on 30 October 2019, I bannered “How the U.S. Regime ‘Justifies’ the Theft of Syria’s Oil” and reported that

On 26 Oct, the New York Times headlined “Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for New Syria Troop Mission” and opened by saying that “in recent days, Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country.” They closed with a statement from Bruce Riedel, retired from the CIA: “‘Let’s say he does do it,’ Mr. Riedel said. ‘Let’s say we establish the precedent that we are in the Middle East to take the oil. The symbolism is really bad.’” The propaganda-value of a ‘news’-report is concentrated in its opening, and especially in what the ‘reporter’ (fulfilling the intentions of his editors) selected to be at the very end (such as Riedel’s statement). However, is what’s wrong with taking Syria’s oil actually the “symbolism,” as Riedel said, or is it instead the theft — the reality (and why did the NYT pretend that it’s the symbolism)? Nowhere did that NYT article use the word “theft,” or anything like it, but that is the actual issue here — not mere ‘symbolism’.

So, Biden will continue that operation, which Obama had started and Trump continued.

The goal is to hand to the Saud family control over Syria’s government. The Sauds are to select whom the rulers of Syrians will be. That has been the plan ever since the CIA’s second coup, which briefly overthrew Syria’s Government, in 1949. 

And then there’s Julian Assange, who has never been convicted of anything but is being drugged and held in a British maximum-security prison as the latest stage in his decade-long imprisonment-without-conviction for anything. A British judge dropped all charges against him and was keeping him in prison pending a decision by Joe Biden (via Merrick Garland) on whether or not to re-assert Donald Trump’s re-assertion of Barack Obama’s assertion that Assange had stolen (though he never stole) and made public U.S. Government secrets and should be extradited to the U.S. for what everyone expects to be a kangaroo court trial that would end in his execution for having done what Daniel Ellsberg had done in the Pentagon Papers case about the Vietnam War. The international hero, Assange, is to be ‘tried’ in a U.S. court. On February 12th, the New York Times bannered, “Biden Justice Dept. Asks British Court to Approve Extradition of Julian Assange”. Biden continues Trump’s continuation of Obama’s attempt to murder Julian Assange.

Ultimately, Biden’s foreign policies are putting Democratic Party lipstick onto the Republican Party’s pig. That’s his ‘change’, on U.S. foreign policies. 

Just like with Hitler, it’s all fakery, except that (like with Hitler) the evil which motivates it, and which threatens the entire world, is all too real. Whether the U.S. regime will go all the way to yet another World War in order to impose it everywhere (as Hitler aspired to do), is unknown. (Some experts think the signs point that way.) Hitler went that far, but lost his war. And his spirit (minus the anti-Semitism) then took over in Washington, but with ‘kinder’ rhetoric. The results in the nuclear Age would be that everyone would lose. The only way to stop that would be to stop Washington, but that’s a decision which only Washington’s vassal-nations would make — if they will.

And even on his domestic polices, Biden lies in order to serve the priorities of the billionaires who funded his way into the White House. For example, on February 20th, NPR headlined “FACT CHECK: Biden’s Comments On Loan Forgiveness And Elite Colleges” and proved that he was deceiving the public about that issue. He is as corrupt as they come. The stopping of the U.S. aristocracy will either come from abroad, or not at all. It won’t come internally from within the U.S., because the regime doesn’t allow its public to recognize that it’s a regime — an imperialistic aristocracy — instead of  a democracy. It’s more cunning than Hitler was. America’s aristocracy recognizes that in modern times, personification of their regime (in a monarch or other ‘divinely ordained’ individual or “Fuehrer”) produces only a fleeting dictatorship and one that is hard to keep in line or continue with a successor. In modern times, a ‘democratic’ dictatorship has more lasting power. So, that’s what we now have. The spirit of Hitler lives on, in America’s aristocracy.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

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