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If You Like Covid-19, You’ll Love Nuclear War

Prof. Louis René Beres

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“Defenseless under the night; Our world in stupor lies….”-W.H. Auden

Even now, after some many staggering and irreversible leadership mistakes on Corona virus – grievous errors that could eventually cost the lives of very many Americans – President Donald J. Trump continues to hold undiminished US nuclear weapons authority. Though a great many American voices will respond angrily to any conjunction of these two discrete threats as manipulative or unfair, such responses would still ignore a core commonality. Incontestable and irremediable, this stubbornly shared connection on disease and war concerns Mr. Trump’s indifference to approaching complex problems analytically.  

It also reveals his incapacity to feel even a scintilla of human empathy for other human beings.

 What does all this really mean? In what specific policy directions should we Americans now be propelled? For the United States, at a bare minimum, it signifies that there will be a painfully heavy price to pay for Donald Trump’s multiple and compounding debilities. More precisely, looking ahead to certain more-or-less inevitable US nuclear crises with North Korea, China, and/or Russia, these bitter presidential limitations could portend fully existential harms to the United States. It follows that all citizens now ought to think more self-consciously about various key national problems of survival.

They will need to do this with decipherable logic, abundant clarity and more robust presidential commitments to science.

Just because we Americans are presently under an unprecedented pandemic disease assault does not mean that we are immunized from the more routinely catastrophic  hazards of ordinary geopolitics. At the very same moment that President Trump should be building cooperative bridges with other countries more thoughtfully and conspicuously, he opts instead for relentlessly crude reassertions of belligerent nationalism. Even now, at an increasingly uncertain time of grave collective peril for the United States, Trump reserves his monosyllabic celebratory prose not for any promising forms of expanded international cooperation, but for sustaining gratuitous conflict throughout the shattered world system’s endlessly corrosive “state of nature.”[1]

Though it makes absolutely no intellectual or ethical sense, Donald Trump reserves his self-praising applause for the self-immolating embers of “America First.”

This can’t end well.  It can’t end well  because this president abhors even the rudiments of historical education, classical literature and calculation-based or problem-solving learning. For him, it’s never about understanding, but only about “making a deal.” On creating peaceful relations with North Korea, it was never about reaching any substantive understandings, but rather “falling in love.” How could such a caricatural diplomatic stance ever have been taken seriously by anyone in the US Congress or executive branch of government?

Ever?

But Americans needn’t ever share this misplaced abhorrence, Accordingly, if we the citizens have learned anything at all from the easily accessible history of world politics, a pattern of structural anarchy first formally put into place after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, it is that a continuously unregulated system of win-at-all-costs thinking  leads directly to war and other assorted civilizational breakdowns.

Always, history deserves pride of place. The unwinding global “state of nature” has never succeeded in the past, and shows absolutely no signs of offering any encouraging durability for the future.[2] Taken together with an American president who has shown no willful regard for US Constitutional separations of authority (not even a tiny shred of such an indispensable regard),  this past reveals a singularly ominous formula for upcoming synergy. What this means, in greater detail, is a unique and prospectively lethal intersection.

It means the simultaneous occurrence of worldwide disease pandemic with atomic war.[3]

After recalling so much pain that we Americans have already witnessed and suffered under President Donald Trump, this newest expectation ought not to be dismissed too casually or gratuitously, as if it were merely some sort of unfounded or partisan citizen apprehension. Rather, it must finally be recognized that an inappropriate or irrational nuclear command decision by US President Donald Trump is entirely conceivable and perhaps even plausible. Though nothing conclusive can ever be said about the true mathematical probability of any such fearful scenario,[4] there is still ample reason for concern.

To begin, we must promptly inquire: Might this unsteady and unseemly American president soon become subject to still more serious forms of personal dissemblance and/or psychological debility? Leaving aside Trump’s largely unprecedented and breathtaking venality,[5] his open indifference to history and above all his continuing malfeasance and shameless dishonesty, should he still be allowed to decide whether we Americans should live or die? This is not a silly, exaggerated or contrived query by any means.

In essence, today, at this nadir of widespread governmental indifference to law, a deeply flawed American president now serves with wholly insufficient nuclear command constraints.

There is more. This bold assertion is by no means controversial. Any presidential order to use nuclear weapons carries an inherent expectation to be followed. Certain identifiable figures along the operational chain of command could sometime choose to disobey such an order, but – at least initially – any such disobedience could be deemed unlawful prima facie.

Indeed, there are many informed reasons why such an argument could be properly challenged,  inter alia, on the basis of original US Constitutional authority, but in these  resurrected “Know Nothing” times, such authority is waning  by the hour.

To wit, can anyone still seriously maintain  that this president’s Attorney General or Republican leadership surrogates in the Congress would ever dispute Donald Trump’s right to do whatever he pleases in weighty matters of war and peace, including even the use of nuclear weapons?

And there is still more. Some derivative questions now also arise. Should this particular incumbent or any future US president ever be granted such extraordinary decisional authority over uncountable lives, a grant that plainly could never have been foreseen by the Founding Fathers? Could such a steeply lopsided allocation of nuclear authority fairly and propitiously represent what was originally intended by America’s Constitutional”separation of powers?” Can anyone reasonably believe that such unhindered existential power could conceivably have been favored by the “Fathers”? Even by definition, there is only one possible answer.[6]

Significantly, even for the vast legions of Trump supporters who never read a   single book, the correct answers are obvious, uncomplicated and altogether irrefutable.[7]

At a minimum, we can readily extrapolate from both Articles I and II of the Constitution that the Founders displayed an almost palpable concern about expanding Presidential power long before nuclear weapons. This plausibly presumptive concern predates even any imagination of such apocalyptic possibilities.[8] So, in order to progress sequentially, we must ask: What next?

Both as scholar and policy-centered nuclear strategist, I have been involved with these critical security issues for the past fifty years, for interests in both Washington and Jerusalem. On 14 March 1976, in response to my direct query concerning American nuclear weapons launching authority, I received a letter from General (USA/ret.) Maxwell Taylor, a former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. The principal focus of this letter (attached hereto) concerned assorted nuclear risks of US presidential irrationality.[9] Most noteworthy, in this handwritten communication, was the straightforward warning contained in General Taylor’s closing paragraph.

Ideally, Taylor wisely cautioned me, presidential irrationality – an inherently grave problem – should be dealt with during an election process, and not in the throes of any subsequent decisional crisis.

“….the best protection is not to elect one…”

By definition, of course, regarding our current presidential nuclear security problem, it’s too late to follow General Taylor’s now-prophetic advice. We must inquire, therefore, with a more decidedly narrow but still aptly undeflected focus: “What is the actual US governing situation regarding this most vital security issue?” Always, of course, there are assorted structural protections built into any presidential order to use nuclear weapons, including substantial and multiple redundancies. These ought never to be disregarded.

Nonetheless, virtually all these reassuring and reinforcing safeguards could become operative only at the lower or sub-presidential  nuclear command levels. Expressly, these pertinent safeguards do not apply to the Commander-in-Chief, that is, to the democratically elected President of the United States. What about him (or, in the future, her)?

 Inter alia, there seemingly exist no permissible legal grounds to disobey a presidential order to use nuclear weapons. In principle, perhaps, certain senior individuals in the designated military chain of command could still sometime choose to invoke variously selected “Nuremberg Obligations,”[10] but any such last-minute invocation would almost certainly yield to certain more recognizable (and manipulable) considerations of U.S. domestic law.[11]

Now, already approaching the proverbial eleventh hour, reasonable scenarios of nuclear war safeguards must be carefully postulated and closely examined. Should an American president choosing to operate within a bewildering chaos of  his own making sometime issue an irrational or seemingly irrational nuclear command, the only way for the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the National Security Adviser and several possible others to effectively obstruct this wrongful order could be “illegal” on its face. Under the very best of circumstances, certain informal safeguards might manage to work for a time, but too blithely accepting the unrealistic assumption of  a “best case scenario” is hardly a durably sensible path to protracted US nuclear security.

Under the worst of circumstances, which ought not to be wished away by fiat, some or all of the designated and authoritative decision-makers could also be laid low by “biological” or disease-based adversaries, by a two-pronged assault on US security structures with wholly unpredictable outcomes. What then?

At a minimum, We the people ought to inquire promptly about identifying more suitably predictable and promising institutional impediments. These barriers could better shield us from a prospectively debilitated or otherwise compromised US president. “The worst,” says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt instructively, “does sometimes happen.”

The US is already navigating in “uncharted waters.” While President John F. Kennedy did engage in personal nuclear brinkmanship with the Soviet Union back in October 1962, he had then calculated his own odds of a consequent nuclear war as “between one out of three and even.” This seemingly precise calculation, corroborated both by JFK biographer Theodore Sorensen and by my own later private conversations with former JCS Chair Admiral Arleigh Burke (my lecture colleague and roommate at the Naval Academy’s Foreign Affairs Conference of 1977) suggests that President Kennedy was (1) technically irrational in imposing his Cuban “quarantine;” or (2) wittingly acting out certain untested principles of “pretended irrationality.”

Significantly, in markedly stark contrast to the present moment, JFK was operating with tangibly serious and intellectually capable strategic/legal advisors. He did not choose Adlai Stevenson to represent the United States at the United Nations because he was “glamorous” (a standard of selection openly and generally favored by current US President Donald J. Trump).

Going forward, the most urgent threat of a mistaken or irrational U.S. presidential order to use nuclear weapons flows not from any “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack –  whether Russian, North Korean, Chinese  –  or American  – but from a sequentially uncontrollable escalatory process. Back in 1962, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinked” early on in the “game,” thereby preventing any mutual and irrecoverable nuclear harms. Now, however, any seat-of-the-pants escalatory initiatives undertaken by President Trump could reveal stunningly unstable decision-making consequences.

At that late point, the once potentially lethal effects of a nuclear war would no longer be hypothetical. They would have become a “glowing” fait accompli. Literally.

 None of this is just another political or partisan  “witch hunt.” Immediately, especially while a disease pandemic remains existentially threatening by itself, Donald Trump should be made to understand the unprecedented risks of being locked into a stubborn or refractory escalatory dynamic with another country, one from which there could sometime appear no recognizable range of choice except a presumptively abject American capitulation or a nuclear war. Although this US president might sometime be sincerely well advised to seek “escalation dominance” in certain selected crisis negotiations with identifiable adversaries, he would still urgently need to avoid any catastrophic miscalculations.

Moreover, this is not even to factor in the corresponding and potentially intersecting problems of hacking intrusions, accidents or Covid-19 mental/intellectual impairments.

For the immediate future, this key imperative concerning miscalculation avoidance would seemingly apply most directly to certain one-upmanship scenarios with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, an always impossible-to-predict process wherein both countries could ultimately emerge with fully unsatisfactory outcomes. Here, a good deal would depend upon more-or-less foreseeable “synergies” between Washington and Pyongyang, and on various difficult-to- control penetrations of cyber-conflict or cyber-war. Americans might sometime even have to acknowledge the out-of-control interference of certain cyber-mercenaries, unprincipled third parties working only for personal or corporate financial compensations.

Whether we like it or not, and at one time or another, nuclear strategy is a challenging “game” that US President Donald Trump will, despite intrinsic intellectual deficits, have to play. Prima facie, this will not be a contest for amateurs, that is, for those who would expressly prefer “attitude, not preparation.”[12] To best ensure that this too-easily-distracted president’s strategic moves would remain determinedly rational, thoughtful and cumulatively cost-effective, therefore, it will first be necessary to enhance the formal decisional authority of his most senior military and defense subordinates. As indispensable corollary, any such enhancement would be at the discernible expense of pertinent presidential authority.

At a minimum, the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Advisor, and one or two others in appropriate nuclear command positions should prepare in advance to assume certain more broadly collaborative and secure judgments in extremis atomicum.[13]

Still, even such a proposed widening of pertinent authority could not be “guaranteed.” In the end, following General Maxwell Taylor’s earlier letter sent to me in 1976, the best protection is still “not to elect” a president who is unfit for such unmatched leadership responsibility. Beyond any reasonable doubt (an evidentiary judicial standard that also fits well in this particular extra-judicial context), we are discussing here an incomparable leadership responsibility.

There is something else. From the standpoint of correctly defining all relevant dangers, it is important to bear in mind that “irrational” does not necessarily mean “crazy” or “mad.”  More specifically, any prospectively fateful expressions of US presidential irrationality could take very different and variously subtle forms. These forms, which could remain indecipherable or merely latent for a long time, include (a) a disorderly or inconsistent value system; (b) computational errors in calculation; (c) an incapacity to communicate correctly or efficiently; (d) random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of strategic decisions; and (e) internal dissonance generated by some structure or other of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of authoritative individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a unitary national decision maker).

From the singularly critical standpoint of US nuclear weapon control issues (problematic issues[14] likely to be worsened by the continuous American strategic postures of  both “First Use” and “Launch on Warning” and by the potentially devastating consequences of still-spreading Covid-19 harms), legitimate reasons to worry about the Trump presidency do not hinge on any exclusive expectations of “craziness.” Rather, looking over the above list of five representative decisional traits, there is already good cause not just for worry (which per se could never represent a rational or purposeful US reaction), but for manifestly non-partisan objectivity and for a very consistent prudence. It won’t be easy, and it won’t necessarily succeed longer-term or indefinitely by electing a different president.[15]

But, for the immediate moment, US national security and even US literal survival require the prompt and law-based restraint of an irremediably-flawed American president. It follows also that the security benefits of any such needed controls would have corresponding security benefits for the world as a whole. In principle, at least, the full importance of this corollary or “spillover” benefit could sometime prove authentically overwhelming.

The country must take heed. If we Americans continue to abide such a blatantly law-violating[16] and science-averse president, we would be risking nothing less than a viable national future. To recall the poet Auden, we would then have condemned ourselves to remaining “defenseless,” and in an irreversible “stupor.” This is not a condemnation the Founding Fathers of the United States could ever have foreseen – or excused.

—————


[1] Thomas Hobbes, the 17th- century English philosopher, argues that the “state of nations” is the only true “state of nature,” that is, the only such “state” that exists in the world: In Chapter XIII of Leviathan (“Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery”),  Hobbes says famously: “But though there had never been any time, wherein particular men were in a condition of war, one against the other, yet in all times, kings and persons of sovereign authority, because of their independence, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms, and continual spies upon their neighbors, which is a posture of war.”

[2] Consider here the timeless insight of French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone-for-himself’ is false and against nature.”

[3] On the plausible consequences of a nuclear war by this author, excluding any now pertinent synergies with a disease pandemic, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986); and Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed., 2018).

[4] This is because (1) any statement of authentic probability must be based upon the determinable frequency of pertinent past events and because, in this present case (2) there are no pertinent past events.

[5] Comparing the two presidents from the standpoint of total personal corruption, Watergate figure John Dean succinctly concluded:   “Trump is like Richard Nixon on  stilts and steroids.”

[6] On the other hand, it was President Donald Trump who once claimed that heroic American  military forces had taken early control of all US airports during the eighteenth century  Revolutionary War.

[7] During the 2016 campaign, lest anyone forget, candidate Donald Trump declared: “I love the poorly educated.” Quite purposefully, perhaps, this declamation echoed Third Reich Propaganda  Minister Joseph Goebbels’ 1934 remark at the Nuremberg party Rally: “Intellect rots the brain.”

[8] One of this author’s earliest books was (Louis René Beres) Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (The University of Chicago Press, 1980).

[9] Recalling philosopher Karl Jaspers: “The rational is not thinkable without its other, the non-rational, and it never appears in reality without it.” (See Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time, 1952).

[10] See Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal;  2 August 1950.

[11] At the same time, of course, because the Constitution is the properly conspicuous bedrock of US domestic law, and because that document stipulates that only Congress can declare war, designated military chain of command decision-makers could argue credibly that their anticipated interference with Presidential nuclear commands would be domestic law-enforcing rather than domestic law-violating. In reality, however, one could hardly expect such principled or informed positions from the president’s fully obedient cronies (hardly self-thinking partners) in the US Congress.

[12] This was Donald Trump’s explicit hierarchy of preferences concerning the earlier Singapore Summit with North Korea.

[13] This assumes, of course, that these chain-of-command subordinates (all appointed by President Donald J. Trump) will themselves be equal to their extraordinary responsibilities.

[14] The overarching issue here is inadvertent or accidental nuclear war. While an accidental nuclear war would also be inadvertent, there are forms of inadvertent nuclear war that would not necessarily be caused by mechanical, electrical or computer accident. These forms of unintentional nuclear conflict would be the unexpected result of misjudgment or miscalculation, whether created as a singular error by one or both sides to a particular (two-party) nuclear crisis escalation or by certain unforeseen “synergies” arising between any such singular miscalculations.

[15] Observed Sigmund Freud, in a lesser-known work on Woodrow Wilson: “Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great roles at all times in the history of mankind, and not merely when the accident of birth had bequeathed them sovereignty. Usually, they have wreaked havoc.”

[16] In this  connection, law refers to both international and domestic law. Moreover, these normative regulations are interpenetrating and mutually reinforcing.. Recalling 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.'”).

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.

Americas

Building World Order from “Plague”: Utopian, but Necessary

Prof. Louis René Beres

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Pieter Bruegel's The Triumph of Death

“In the end, we are  creatures of our own making.”-Goethe, Faust

From the start of the current worldwide “plague,” US President Donald J. Trump has claimed the corona virus crisis can be easily managed. “Soon,” he has predicted again and again, “it will  go away, miraculously.” This stubborn expectation is silly at best and homicidal at worst.[1] Founded upon nothing of recognizable intellectual consequence, that is, of any actual tangible evidence, it remains a grimly false and self-serving expectation.

               Prima facie, in view of its palpable human costs, it is one of the most heinous presidential derelictions in American history.

               An antecedent question also arises. Why should an American president in the 21st century openly prefer gibberish-nonsense to science or “mind”?[2] The correct answer is discoverable, at least in part, in the unchanging mentality of  “mass man.” This all-too-conspicuous , nefarious and universal historical figure, as we may learn from twentieth-century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset  (The Revolt of the Masses,1930), “has no use for Reason.”

               “He learns,” warns Ortega famously, “only in his own flesh.”

               When Donald Trump went to Singapore for his initial summit with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un on June 12, 2028, he volunteered that he needed “no preparation,” just “attitude.” Here, incarnate, was the conspiracy-believing “mass man,”  figuring things out only  “in his own flesh.” Here was an American president who blames catastrophic multi-state fires on “forest management,” not climate change, who recommends injecting Covid patients with household disinfectants, and eagerly plays obedient lap-dog to Vladimir Putin.

               Here, in short, was a fearful archetype, the American herald of  continuously approaching misfortune and fatality.

               Though there can be no persuasive reassurances in any such president’s anti-science/anti-reason diatribes,  an unhidden potential for good may still lie latent  in this pandemic. More precisely, purposefully exploiting the vast pathogenic challenge of corona virus could help all affected peoples to reaffirm their integral human interdependence. Beyond any question, this obviously unwanted and unwitting “benefactor” now confronts humankind indiscriminately, in toto.

               There is more.   This plague delivers its toxic and corrosive debilities without any regard for national, racial, ethnic, religious or ideological differences. The basic lesson here is simple, yet powerful: In primal matters of biology, of “being human,” we are all essentially the same. Still, that evident “sameness” is not exclusively biological. Instead, it carries over to humankind’s multiple and intersecting needs as communities, nations and planet.[3]

               Fittingly, pandemic can be approached not only as a pathological scourge, but also as a prospective global unifier. In this regard,  corona virus harms could become a genuine source of a fragmented world’s long-sought human unity.

               How could this happen? It is a sensible query, one that merits serious and systematic attention. It’s not just a silly or offhanded thought. In reality, of course, it is utopian, but nonetheless necessary. What happens, we must now inquire, when  what is improbable is also necessary? It’s not a question for the intellectually faint-hearted.

                Where do we stand today? As a partial but important response, Donald J. Trump’s United States remains oriented toward the diametric opposite of global community, of solidarity, of what Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardon  in The Phenomenon of Man (1955) imaginatively calls “planetization.” This president’s incessantly cynical postures of belligerent nationalism represent a gratuitously rancorous rejection of human commonality. This ill-fated rejection has no recognizable jurisprudential basis in either codified or customary international law.

               Background matters. In 1758, in The Law of Nations, famed legal scholar Emmerich de Vattel affirmed the irrefutable primacy of human interdependence. Said the great Swiss jurist: “Nations….are bound mutually to advance human society….The first general law …is that each nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”  Vattel’s visionary ideals have never held any tangible sway in global politics, but today, in the grievously tarnished Trump-era, these ideals have been pushed farther away than ever before.

               Why should one allegedly “powerful” country, the United States, seek prosperity at the expense of other countries? Left unmodified, the most palpable effect of this unprepared American president’s retrograde policies will be a more starkly accelerating global tribalism .[4] To the extent that the corrosive effects of this false communion could sometime display or ignite even a nuclear conflict, these effects (whether sudden or incremental) could propel this imperiled planet toward irreversible catastrophe and enduring chaos.[5]

               A timely example would be Trump’s continuing references to the “China Virus,” a defiling derivative of this president’s “America First” posture. Among other things, a firm rejection of any such atavistic American tribalism could prove generally clarifying and indispensably gainful.

                There is more. Ultimately, if we humans are going to merely survive as a species, truth must win out over political wizardry. For Americans, one unavoidable conclusion here is that any continuance of national safety and prosperity must be linked inextricably with wider global impact. It is profoundly and unforgivably foolish to suppose that this nation – or, indeed, any other nation on this bleeding earth – should ever expect meaningful security progress at the intentional expense of other nations.

               The bottom line? We humans are all in this together. The current pandemic is universal or near-universal, and could thus provide impetus not only for mitigating a particular and insidious pathology, but also for institutionalizing wider patterns of durable global cooperation.

                By its very nature, the US president’s core mantra of celebrating a perpetually belligerent nationalism is crude and injurious. Now, instead of “America First,” the only sensible posture for Donald J. Trump or his successor must be some plausible variation of “we’re all in the lifeboat together.” Such an improved mantra might not be all that difficult to operationalize if there were first to emerge some antecedent political will.[6]

               The basic idea behind underscoring and exploiting a basic human “oneness” is readily discoverable in the elegant words of Pierre Teilhard De Chardin: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of everyone for himself,” summarizes the French Jesuit scientist and philosopher, “is false and against nature. No element can move and grow except with and by all the others with itself.”

               The key message here is simple, straightforward and illogical to contest or oppose. This message communicates, among other things, that no single country’s individual success can ever be achieved at the planned expense of other countries. Correspondingly, we should learn from the very same primal message that no national success is ever sustainable if the world as a whole must thereby expect a diminishing future.

               Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers: “I believe because it is absurd.” The pandemic can bring many discrepant civilizational matters into striking focus. No conceivably gainful configuration of Planet Earth can ever prove rewarding if the vast but segmented human legions which comprise it remain morally, spiritually, economically and intellectually adrift.

               It is, however, precisely such a willful detachment from more secure national and international moorings that is the legacy America’s Donald J. Trump.[7]

               In every important sense, the philosophers are correct. For the world as a whole, chaos and anarchy[8] are never the genuinely underlying “disease.” Always, that more determinative pathology remains rooted in certain ostentatiously great and powerful states that fail to recognize the overriding imperatives of human interrelatedness. This core incapacity to acknowledge our species’ indestructible biological “oneness” (a fact more utterly obvious with today’s Covid-19 pandemic) has been a long-term problem.

               It is not particular to any one American president or to the United States in its entirety.

                Now, in the literal midst of a worldwide pathological assault from the corona virus, what should we expect from President Trump’s unhidden contempt for cooperative world community?  Increasingly, if  left unimproved, world politics will further encourage an already basic human deficit. This deficit or shortfall  is the incapacity of individual citizens and their respective states to discover authentic self-worth as individual persons; that is, deeply, thoughtfully, within themselves. Such an enduring deficit was prominently foreseen in the eighteenth century by America’s then-leading person of letters, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

               Today, unsurprisingly, the still-vital insights of Emerson’s “American Transcendentalism” remain recognizable to only a tiny minority of citizens. How could it be any different. In the current United States, almost no one reads books. As for serious books of literature or science, the revealed minority of readers becomes excruciatingly small. This cryptic observation is not offered here in any offhanded or gratuitously mean spirited fashion, but, quite the contrary, as a simple fact of American life, one famously commented upon during the first third of the nineteenth century by distinguished French visitor to the new republic, Alexis de Tocqueville (See Democracy in America). This same fact led the Founding Fathers of the United States to rail against uneducated mass participation in the new nation’s formal governance.  

               The United States was never even imagined as a democracy.[9] Back then, in the 18th century, creating a republic was revolutionary enough.

               Today, our relevant focus must be on world politics, and on getting beyond state centrism. From pandemic control to war avoidance, belligerent nationalism has always been misconceived. Left to fester on its own intrinsic demerits, this atavistic  mantra will do little more than harden the hearts of America’s most recalcitrant state enemies. What we need now, as Americans, citizens of other countries, or as worried inhabitants of an imperiled planet, is a marked broadening of support for global solidarity and human interconnectedness.[10]

                From the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which ended the last of the religious wars sparked by the Reformation, international relations and international law[11] have been shaped by an ever-changing  but perpetually unstable “balance of power.” Hope still exists, more-or-less, but now it must sing softly, sotto voce, in an embarrassed undertone. Although counter-intuitive, the time for any visceral celebrations of nationalism, military technology and even artificial intelligence is at least partially over. 

               What is to be done? Always, the macrocosm follows microcosm. In order to merely survive on a fragmented planet, all of us, together, must seek to rediscover a consciously individual life, one that is wittingly detached from all pre-patterned kinds of  nationalistic conformance and from mass-determined visages of some imagined tribal happiness.

               Only then might we finally learn that the most suffocating insecurities of life on earth can never be undone by militarizing global economics, by building larger missiles, by abrogating international treaties or by advancing ”realistic” definitions of national security.

               In the end, whatever happens in the crumbling world of politics and nationality, truth must remain exculpatory. Accordingly, and in a uniquely promising paradox, disease pandemic  can help us see a much larger truth than the ones we have wrongly cultivated for centuries. This particular truth, a conclusion broadly pertinent and intellectually cosmopolitan, is that Americans must become more explicitly conscious of human unity and relatedness. Significantly, such a heightened consciousness or lucidity is not a luxury we can simply choose to accept or reject.

               Its selection is indispensable.

               It represents an ineradicable prerequisite of national and species survival. “Civilization,” offers Lewis Mumford In the Name of Sanity (1954), “is the never-ending process of creating one world and one humanity.”[12] The visionary prophets of world integration and human oneness ought no longer be dismissed out of hand as foolishly utopian. Now, more than ever, they define the residual wellsprings of human survival.[13]

               Macrocosm follows microcosm. All things must be seen in their totality. By itself, the corona virus pandemic is uniformly harmful and grievously corrosive. At the same time, and precisely because it represents such a conspicuously lethal threat to the world as a whole, it could be viewed as a prospectively life-affirming human unifier.

               “In the end,” Goethe reminds us, “we are creatures of our own making.” To continue,  every national society, but the United States in particular,[14] will need to embrace leaderships who can finally understand the irrevocable meanings of human interdependence and human “oneness.” In this auspicious embrace, all will need to understand the differences between a “freedom” that is uniformly gainful and one that selectively disregards the needs of certain others. In this regard, as President of the United States, Donald J. Trump has supported the most strikingly nefarious meaning of freedom, a freedom not to care about  other people (Americans and “foreigners” ). He has displayed such injurious orientations primarily with his retrograde anti-mask policies on Corona Virus, and by his corresponding antipathies toward science and scientists.

               In the words of this lethal  president, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other properly-credentialed epidemiologists have now been reduced lexically to the status of “idiots.”[15]

               What we require are not refractory affirmations of homicidal indifference, but a renewed awareness that true knowledge is inevitably much more than a manufactured contrivance. Going forward,  public policy must follow disciplined logic (correct reasoning) and rigorous science. Anything else would be inexcusable “wizardry,” and would lead us even farther astray from residual pandemic-based opportunities.

                In essence, the prescribed task still before us is complex, daunting, many-sided and bewildering, but there are no sane alternative options. None at all. Whatever policy particulars we should ultimately adopt, America’s initial focus must remain steadfast on considerations of human interrelatedness and “mind.” Until now, the grotesque Trump paradigm of bitter rancor and endless conflict has driven us further from both survival and law.[16] It is time to sweep that ill-conceived paradigm into the oft-referenced “ashbin of history.”

               Wittingly, Trump policies have produced devastating misfortune, mass dying and mounting casualties. Surely America can do better. Surely there must be more capable and decent leaders discoverable in the wings. Surely we can all do much better than merely cling to corrosive presidential postures of callous indifference and murderous egocentrism.

               If not, it’s time to inquire, what can even be the point of our being here? We are, after all,  “creatures of our own making.”


[1] Though a jurisprudential stretch, one might also think here of “genocidal” harms. In  effect, the number of Americans who are currently dying and still apt to die in more-or-less direct consequence of this rabidly anti-science American presidency resembles certain actual historical genocides. The key difference lies less in the measurable magnitude of “plague death” than in the absence of intent, or mens rea. Under pertinent international law, primarily the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), before authentic genocide can be taking place, there must first be discernible evidence of an “intent to destroy.” Whatever else may be said about Donald J. Trump’s gross indifference to American mass dying facilitated by his abject policies, it still likely lacks this express law-specified intent.

[2] The Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin coined a new term to denote the vital sphere of intellect or “mind.” This term is “noosphere;” it builds upon Friedrich Nietzsche’s stance well-known (especially in Zarathustra) that human beings must always challenge themselves, must continuously strive to “overcome” their otherwise meager “herd”-determined  yearnings.

[3] We may recall here the pertinent parable from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations: “What does not benefit the entire hive is no benefit to the bee.” Unless we take meaningful steps to implement an organic and cooperative planetary civilization – one based on the irremediably central truth of human “oneness” –  there will be no civilization at all.

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

[5] Though composed in the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan still offers a timeless vision of chaos in world politics. During chaos, says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII, “Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery,”  a “time of War….  every man is Enemy to every man… and…. the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition among individual human beings because of what he called the “dreadful equality” of individual men in nature – that is, being able to kill others – but this once-relevant differentiation has effectively disappeared with the spread of nuclear weapons.

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

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

[8] Anarchy, unlike chaos, is the “official” structural creation of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the treaty that ended the Thirty Years’ War and created the modern state system.

[9] Nurtured by the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and the religion of John Calvin, the American Founding Fathers began their Constitutional deliberations with the core notion that a citizen must inevitably be an unregenerate being who has to be continually and strictly controlled. Fearing democracy as much as any form of leadership tyranny, Elbridge Gerry spoke openly of democracy as “the worst of all political evils,” while William Livingston opined: “The people have been and ever will be unfit to retain the exercise of power in their own hands.” George Washington, as presiding officer at the Constitutional Convention, sternly urged delegates not to produce a document to “please the people,” while Alexander Hamilton – made newly famous by the currently popular Broadway musical – expressly charged America’s government “to check the imprudence of any democracy.”

[10] One pertinent aspect of this interconnectedness concerns legal rights of refugees. When President Trump’s executive orders direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand his coercive program of “expedited removal,” he has been in flagrant violation of the legal principle known as non-refoulement. This principle is unambiguously codified at Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Automatically, owing to the prior incorporation of international human rights law into US law, these serious violations extend to the authoritative immigration laws of the United States.

[11] For the authoritative sources of international law, see art. 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice: STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, Done at San Francisco, June 26, 1945. Entered into force, Oct. 24, 1945; for the United States, Oct. 24, 1945.  59 Stat. 1031,  T.S. No. 993,  3 Bevans 1153, 1976 Y.B.U.N., 1052.

[12] But,  Fyodor Dostoyevsky inquires: “What is it in us that is mellowed by civilization? All it does, I’d say, is to develop in man a capacity to feel a greater variety of sensations. And nothing, absolutely nothing else. And through this development, man will yet learn how to enjoy bloodshed. Why, it has already happened….Civilization has made man, if not always more bloodthirsty, at least more viciously, more horribly bloodthirsty.” See: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground 108 (Andrew R. MacAndrew, trans., New American Library, 1961)(1862).

[13] See, on these “prophets,” Louis René Beres, Reordering the Planet: Constructing Alternative World Futures (1974); Louis René Beres, Transforming World Politics: The National Roots of World Peace (1975); Louis René Beres, People, States and World Order (1981); Louis René Beres, America Outside the World: The Collapse of US Foreign Policy (1987); W. Warren Wagar, The City of Man (1963); and W. Warren Wagar, Building the City of Man (1971).

[14] Sigmund Freud, however, was always darkly pessimistic about the United States, which he felt was “lacking in soul” and was  therefore a place of great psychological misery or “wretchedness.” In a letter to Ernest Jones, Freud declared unambiguously: “America is gigantic, but it is a gigantic mistake.” (See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (1983), p. 79.

[15]See: https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/trump-declares-americans-tired-hearing-200227368.html

[16] The core legal rights assured by the Declaration and Constitution can never be correctly confined to the people of the United States. This is because both documents were conceived by their authors as codifications of a pre-existing Natural Law. Although generally unrecognized, the United States was founded upon the Natural Rights philosophies of the 18th century Enlightenment, especially Locke, Hobbes, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Thomas Jefferson, an American president before Donald J. Trump, was well acquainted with the classic writings of political philosophy, from Plato to Diderot. In those early days of the Republic, it is presently worth recalling, an American president could not only read serious books, but could also write them.

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Unavoidability of Sino-American Rift: History of Strategic Decoupling

Anis H. Bajrektarevic

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Americans performed three very different policies on the People’s Republic: From a total negation (and the Mao-time mutual annihilation assurances), to Nixon’s sudden cohabitation. Finally, a Copernican-turn: the US spotted no real ideological differences between them and the post-Deng China. This signalled a ‘new opening’: West imaginedChina’s coastal areas as its own industrial suburbia. Soon after, both countries easily agreed on interdependence (in this marriage of convenience): Americans pleased their corporate (machine and tech) sector and unrestrained its greed, while Chinese in return offered a cheap labour, no environmental considerations and submissiveness in imitation. Both spiced it by nearly religious approach to trade.

However, for each of the twothis was far more than economy, it was a policy – Washington read it as interdependence for transformative containment and Beijing sow it as interdependence for a (global) penetration. In the meantime, Chinese acquired more sophisticated technology, and the American Big tech sophisticated itself in digital authoritarianism –‘technological monoculture’ met the political one.

But now with a tidal wave of Covid-19, the honeymoon is over.

(These days, many argue that our C-19 response is a planetary fiasco, whose size is yet to surface with its mounting disproportionate and enduring secondary effects, casing tremendous socio-economic, political and psychosomatic contractions and convulsions. But, worse than our response is our silence about it.

It is an established fact that the quintessence of Nazism was not Hitler and the circle of darkness around him. It was rather a commonly shared ‘banality of crime’ atmosphere: an acceptance of ordinary village people living next to Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau … The day when questioning stops and silent acceptance becomes a ‘new normal’ is a day when fascism walks in big time. So, our C-19 response illustrates –the argument goes– nothing else but a social pathology: the non-transparent concentration of power and our overall democracy recession; lasting consequences of cutbacks, environmental holocaust, privatisation of key intergovernmental and vital national institutions, ill-fated globalisation on (overly allopathic, mandated drugs -centred) healthcare, and luck of public data commons. Pandemic or plundermic …

Following a simple ratio that the one’s level of health is genetic expression of life-style choices made, there are also growing speculations if the lockdown – as the most notorious expression of monofocal perspective and rejection to any integrated judgment, is invasion or protection: Whether the aim is a herd-immunity or herd loyalty. And,if is there any back-to-normal exit from the crisis or this disaster ‘turned into planetary terror, through global coup d’état’ will be exploited to further something already pre-designed (with a fear, not as a side-effect, but rather as a manufactured tool to gain control) – more related to biotronics and demographics, than to health and economics or any common social purpose.

E.g. Le Monde Diplomatique – while examining the possible merge between tech oligopoly and political monopoly – claims: “Political decisions have been central in shaping this tragedy — from the destruction of animal habitats, to the asymmetric funding of medical research, to the management of the crisis itself. They will also determine the world into which we emerge after the worst is over.” Over the past 30 years, every critical conjecture had a similar epilogue: pardon and enhancement for the capital, a burden and suppression for the labour. The C-19 is no exception to it: Ever since early lockdowns of March 2020, the capital flows unhindered while the labour, ideas and humans are under the house arrest. The XXI century frontline is the right to health and labour, privacy and human rights. (LMD, IV20))

Still to be precise, the so-called virus pandemic brought nothing truly new to the already overheated Sino-American relations and to the increasing binarization of world affairs: It only amplified and accelerated what was present for quite some time – a rift between alienated power centres, each on its side of Pacific, and the rest. Would it be about an expansion of techno-totalitarian model of government as an alternative to liberal democracy? And, is now a time to return to the nation-state, a great moment for all dictators-in-waiting to finally build a cult of personality? Hence, will our democracy be electro-magnetised and vaccinated for a greater good (or greedier ‘god’)?

This text examines a prehistory of that rift; and suggests possible outcomes past the current crisis.

Origins of Future

Does our history only appear overheated, while it is essentially calmly predetermined? Is it directional or conceivable, dialectic and eclectic or cyclical, and therefore cynical? Surely, our history warns(no matter if the Past is seen as a destination or resource). Does it also provide for a hope? Hence, what is in front of us: destiny or future?[1]

Theory loves to teach us that extensive debates on what kind of economic system is most conductive to human wellbeing is what consumed most of our civilizational vertical. However, our history has a different say: It seems that the manipulation of the global political economy (and usage of fear as the currency of control) – far more than the introduction of ideologies – is the dominant and arguably more durable way that human elites usually conspired to build or break civilizations, as planned projects. Somewhere down the process, it deceived us, becoming the self-entrapment. How?

*                            *                            *                            *            

One of the biggest (nearly schizophrenic) dilemmas of liberalism, ever since David Hume and Adam Smith, was an insight into reality: Whether the world is essentially Hobbesian or Kantian. As postulated, the main task of any liberal state is to enable and maintain wealth of its nation, which of course rests upon wealthy individuals inhabiting the particular state. That imperative brought about another dilemma: if wealthy individual, the state will rob you, but in absence of it, the pauperized masses will mob you.

The invisible hand of Smith’s followers have found the satisfactory answer – sovereign debt. That ‘invention’ meant: relatively strong central government of the state. Instead of popular control through the democratic checks-&-balance mechanism, such a state should be rather heavily indebted. Debt – firstly to local merchants, than to foreigners – is a far more powerful deterrent, as it resides outside the popular check domain.

With such a mixed blessing, no empire can easily demonetize its legitimacy, and abandon its hierarchical but invisible and unconstitutional controls. This is how a debtor empire was born. A blessing or totalitarian curse? Let us briefly examine it.

The Soviet Union – much as (the pre-Deng’s) China itself – was far more of a classic continental military empire (overtly brutal; rigid, authoritative, anti-individual, apparent, secretive), while the US was more a financial-trading empire (covertly coercive; hierarchical, yet asocial, exploitive, pervasive, polarizing). On opposite sides of the globe and cognition, to each other they remained enigmatic, mysterious and incalculable: Bear of permafrost vs. Fish of the warm seas. Sparta vs. Athens. Rome vs. Phoenicia… However, common for the both(as much as for China today) was a super-appetite for omnipresence. Along with the price to pay for it.

Consequently, the Soviets went bankrupt by mid 1980s – they cracked under its own weight, imperially overstretched. So did the Americans – the ‘white man burden’ fractured them already by the Vietnam war, with the Nixon shock only officializing it. However, the US imperium managed to survive and to outlive the Soviets. How?

The United States, with its financial capital (or an outfoxing illusion of it), evolved into a debtor empire through the Wall Street guaranties. Titanium-made Sputnik vs. gold mine of printed-paper… Nothing epitomizes this better than the words of the longest serving US Federal Reserve’s boss, Alan Greenspan, who famously quoted J.B. Connally to then French President Jacques Chirac: “True, the dollar is our currency, but your problem”. Hegemony vs. hegemoney.

House of Cards (Forever r>g) 

Conventional economic theory teaches us that money is a universal equivalent to all goods. Historically, currencies were a space and time-related, to say locality-dependent. However, like no currency ever before, the US dollar became – past the WWII – the universal equivalent to all other moneys of the world. According to history of currencies, the core component of the non-precious metals’ money is a so-called promissory note – intangible belief that, by any given point in future, a particular shiny paper (self-styled as money) will be smoothly exchanged for real goods.

Thus, roughly speaking, money is nothing else but a civilizational construct about imagined/projected tomorrow – that the next day (which nobody has ever seen in the history of humankind, but everybody operates with) definitely comes (i), and that this tomorrow will certainly be a better day then our yesterday or even our today (ii).

This and similar types of collective constructs (horizontal and vertical) over our social contractshold society together as much as its economy keeps it alive and evolving. Hence, it is money that powers economy, but our blind faith in constructed (imagined) tomorrows and its alleged certainty is what empowers money.

Tellingly, the universal equivalent of all equivalents – the US dollar – follows the same pattern: Bold and widely accepted promise. For the US, it almost instantly substan-tiates extraterritorial economic projection: American can print (any sum of) money without fear of inflation. (Quantitative easing is always exported; value is kept home.)

(Empire’s currency loses its status when other nations lose confidence in ability of that imperial power to remain solvent. For the pre-modern and modern history, it happened with 5 powers – two Iberian, Dutch, France and the UK – before the US dollar took the role of world reserve currency. Interestingly, each of the empires held it for roughly a century. The US century is just about to expire, and there are already contesters, territorial and non-territorial, symmetric and asymmetric ones. On offer are tangibles and intangibles: gold, cryptocurrencies, and biotronics/nano-chemoelectricals.)

But, what does the US dollar promise when there is no gold cover attached to it ever since the time of Nixon shock of 1971?

Pentagon promises that the oceanic sea-lanes will remain opened (read: controlled by the US Navy), pathways unhindered, and that the most traded world’s commodity – oil, will be delivered. So, it is not a crude or its delivery what is a cover to the US dollar – it is a promise that oil of tomorrow will be deliverable. That is a real might of the US dollar, which in return finances Pentagon’s massive expenditures and shoulders its supremacy.

Admired and feared, Pentagon further fans our planetary belief in tomorrow’s deliverability – if we only keep our faith in dollar (and hydrocarbons’ energized economy), and so on and on in perpetuated circle of mutual reinforcements.

(Supplementing the Monroe Doctrine, President Howard Taft introduced the so-called ‘dollar diplomacy’ – in early XX c. – that “substitutes dollars for bullets”. This was one of the first official acknowledgements of the Wall Street – Pentagon symbiotic link.)

These two pillars of the US might from the East coast (the US Treasury/Wall Street and Pentagon) together with the two pillars of the West coast – both financed and amplified by the US dollar, and spread through the open sea-routs (Silicone Valley and Hollywood), are an essence of the US posture. Country that hosts such a dream factory, as the US does Hollywood, is easy to romanticize – though other 3 pillars are to take and to coerce.

This very nature of power explains why the Americans have missed to take the mankind into completely other direction; towards the non-confrontational, decarbonized, de-monetized/de-financialized and de-psychologized, the self-realizing and green humankind. In short, to turn history into a moral success story. They had such a chance when, past the Gorbachev’s unconditional surrender of the Soviet bloc, and the Deng’s Copernicus-shift of China, the US – unconstrained as a lonely superpower – solely dictated terms of reference; our common destiny and direction/s to our future/s.

Winner is rarely a game-changer

Sadly enough, that was not the first missed opportunity for the US to soften and delay its forthcoming, imminent multidimensional imperial retreat. The very epilogue of the WWII meant a full security guaranty for the US: Geo-economically – 54% of anything manufactured in the world was carrying the Made in USA label, and geostrategically – the US had uninterruptedly enjoyed nearly a decade of the ‘nuclear monopoly’. Up to this very day, the US scores the biggest number of N-tests conducted, the largest stockpile of nuclear weaponry, and it represents the only power ever deploying this ‘ultimate weapon’ on other nation.

To complete the irony, Americans enjoy geographic advantage like no other empire before. Save the US, as Ikenberry notes: “…every major power in the world lives in a crowded geopolitical neighborhood where shifts in power routinely provoke counterbalancing”. Look the map, at Russia or China and their packed surroundings. The US is blessed with its insular position, by neighboring oceans. All that should harbor tranquility, peace and prosperity, foresightedness.

Why the lonely might, an empire by invitation did not evolve into empire of relaxation, a generator of harmony? Why does it hold (extra-judicially) captive more political prisoners on Cuban soil than the badmouthed Cuban regime has ever had? Why does it remain obsessed with armament for at home and abroad? Why existential anxieties for at home and security challenges for abroad? Eg. 78% of all weaponry at disposal in the wider MENA theater is manufactured in the US, while domestically Americans – only for their civilian purpose – have 1,2 small arms pieces per capita.)

Why the fall of Berlin Wall 30 years ago marked a beginning of decades of stagnant or failing incomes in the US (and elsewhere in the OECD world) coupled with alarming inequalities. What are we talking about here; the inadequate intensity of our tireless confrontational push or about the false course of our civilizational direction? 

Indeed, no successful and enduring empire does merely rely on coercion, be it abroad or at home. The grand design of every empire in past rested on a skillful calibration between obedience and initiative – at home, and between bandwagoning and engagement – abroad. In XXI century, one wins when one convinces not when one coerces. Hence, if unable to escape its inner logics and deeply rooted appeal of confrontational nostalgia, the prevailing archrival is only a winner, rarely a game-changer.

How did we miss to notice it before? Simply, economy –right after history– is the ideologically most ‘colored’ scientific discipline of all.

To sum up; After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Americans accelerated expansion while waiting for (real or imagined) adversaries to further decline, ‘liberalize’ and bandwagon behind the US. One of the instruments was to aggressively push for a greater economic integration between regional and distant states, which – as we see now, passed the ‘End-of-History’ euphoria of 1990s – brought about (irreversible) socio-political disintegration within each of these states.

A Country or a Cause, Both or None?

Expansion is the path to security dictatum, of the post-Cold War socio-political and (hyper-liberal) economic mantra, only exacerbated the problems afflicting the Pax Americana, which acidified global stewardship; hence oceans, populations and the relations to the unbearable levels. That is why and that is how the capability of the US to maintain its order started to erode faster than the capacity of its opponents to challenge it. A classical imperial self-entrapment (by the so-called bicycle theory: keep pedalling same way or topple over).

Clearly, the US post-Cold War preponderance is now challenged in virtually every domain: America can no longer operate unrestrained in the traditional spheres of land, sea and air, not in newer ones like the (near and deeper) outer space and cyberspace. The repeated failure to notice and recalibrate such an imperial emasculation and retreat brought the painful hangovers to Washington, the most noticeably, by the last presidential elections.[2]Inability to manage the rising costs of sustaining the imperial order only increased the domestic popular revolt and political pressure to abandon its ‘mission’ altogether. (E.g. during the peak times of its longest – still ongoing – foreign intervention, the US was spending some $110 billion per annum in Afghanistan, roughly 50% more than annual American federal spending on education.) Perfectly hitting the target to miss everything else …

In short, past the Soviet collapse Americans intervened too much abroad, regulated too little at home, and delivered less than ever – both at home and abroad.  Such model attracts none. No wonder that today all around the globe many do question if the States would be appealing ever again. Domestically, growing number of people perceive foreign policy mostly as an expensive destruction, divinized trade and immigration as destroyers of jobsand communities. Its political system is unable to decouple and deconcentrate wealth and power which suffocates the very social fabrics.

Hence, Americans are not fixing the world anymore. They are only managing its decline. Look at their footprint in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Georgia, Libya, Syria, Ukraine or Yemen – to mention but a few. Violence as a source of social cohesion is dying out.                             

When the Soviets lost their own indigenous ideological matrix and maverick confrontational stance, and when the US dominated West missed to triumph although winning the Cold War, how to expect from the imitator to score the lasting moral or even a temporary economic victory?

Dislike the relationship with the Soviets Union which was on one clear confrontational acceptance line from a start until its very last day, Americans performed three very different policies on the People’s Republic: From a total negation (and the Mao-time mutual annihilation assurances), to Nixon’s sudden cohabitation.(Withdrawal of recognition from Formosa to Beijing formally opened relations between the two on 1 January 1979. On a celebratory tour to America later that very month, Deng Xiaoping recommended that China and the US were ‘duty bound to work together [and unite] to place curbs on the polar bear’).

Finally, a Copernican-turn: the US spotted no real ideological differences between them and the post-Deng China. This signalled a ‘new opening’ – China’s coastal areas to become West’s industrial suburbia. Soon after, both countries easily agreed on interdependence: Americans pleased their corporate (machine and tech) sector and unrestrained its greed, while Chinese in return offered a cheap labour, no environmental considerations and submissiveness in imitation. However, for both it was far more than economy lubricated by sanctified free trade, it was a policy – Washington read it as interdependence for transformative containment and Beijing sow it as interdependence for (global) penetration.American were left in a growing illusion that the Sino growth is on terms defined by them, and Chinese – on their side – grew confident that these terms of economic growth are only accepted by them.

The so-called Financial crisis 2008/09 (or better to say the peak time of Casino economy) undermined positions of the largest consumer of Chinese goods (US), and simultaneously boosted confidence of the biggest manufacturer of American products (PRC). Consequently, soon after; by 2012, Beijing got the first out-of-Deng’s-line leadership. (One of the famous Asia’s Bismarck dictatums was ‘hide the capabilities, bide your time’ – a pure Bismarckian wisdom to deter any domestic imperialism in hurry.) 

However, in the process of past few decades, Chinese acquired more sophisticated technology, and the American Big tech sophisticated itself in digital authoritarianism.

But,as America (suddenly) returns home, the honeymoon seems over now.

Why does it come now? Washington is not any more able to afford treating China as just another trading partner. Also, the US is not well situated to capitalize on Beijing’s eventual belligerence (especially with Russia closer to China than it was ever before).

The typical line of western neo-narrative goes as: ‘The CCP exploited the openness of liberal societies and particularly its freedom of speech as to plunder, penetrate and divert’. And; ‘Beijing has to bear the reputational costs of its exploitative practices’.

Accelerating collision course already leads to the subsequent calls for a strategic decupling (at best, gradual disengagements) of the two world’s largest economies and of those in their orbits. Besides marking the end of global capitalism which exploded since the fall of Berlin Wall, this may finally trigger a global realignment. The rest of the world would end up – willingly or not – in the rival (trade) blocks. It would not be a return to 1950s and 1960s, but to the pre-WWI constellations.

Epilog is plain to see: Neither more confrontation and more carbons nor more weaponized trade and traded weapons will save our day. It failed in our past; it will fail again any given day.

Entrapment in Imitation

Interestingly, China opposed the I World, left the II in rift, and ever since Bandung of 1955 it neither won over nor (truly) joined the III Way. Today, many see it as a main contestant, a leader from the global South. But, where is a lasting success?

There is a near consensus among the economists that China owes its economic success to three fundamental factors. Firstly, it is that the People’s Republic embraced an imitative economic policy (much like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan or ROK did before) through Deng-proclaimed opening. Second goes to a modest domestic consumption, and German-like thick home savings. Finally, as the third factor that the economists attribute to Chinese miracle, is a low production costs of Sino nation – mostly on expenses of its aging demography, and on expenses of its own labor force and country’s environment.[3](And that Beijing mixes up its nearly obsessive social control, environmental negligence and its dismal human and minority rights with the right to development.)

Therefore, many observers would agree that the so-called China’s miracle is a textbook example of a highly extractive state that generates enormous hidden costs of its development, those being social, environmental and health ones as much as expanding and lasting. And indeed, energy-intensive exports (especially carbon footprint) from China as well as its highly polluting industrial practices (overall ecological footprint) were introduced to and then for a long while tolerated in People’s Republic by the West.

Further on, China accepted a principled relation with the US (Russia, too), but insists on transactional one with its neighbors and BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) clients.

None of the above has an international appeal, nor it holds promise to an attainable future. Therefore, no wonder that the Imitative power fights – for at home and abroad – a defensive ideological battle and politics of cultural reaction. Such a reactive status quo has no intellectual appeal to attract and inspire beyond its borders.

So, if for China the XIX was a “century of humiliation”, XX “century of emancipation”, should it be that the XXI gets labeled as a “century of imitation”?

(The BRI is what the most attribute as an instrument of the Chinese planetary posture. Chinese leaders promised massive infrastructure projects all around by burning trillions of dollars. Still, numbers are more moderate. As the 2019The II BRI Summit has shown (and the forthcoming BRI Summit of November 2020 may confirm), so far, Chinese companies had invested USD 90 billion worldwide. Seems, neither People’s Republic is as rich as many (wish to) think nor it will be able to finance its promised projects without seeking for a global private capital. Such a capital –if ever – will not flow without conditionalities. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS or ‘New Development’ – Bank have some $150 billion at hand, and the Silk Road Infrastructure Fund (SRIF) has up to $40 billion. Chinese state and semi-private companies can access – according to the OECD estimates – just another $600 billion (much of it tight) from the home, state-controlled financial sector. That means that China runs short on the BRI deliveries worldwide. Ergo, either bad news to the (BRI) world or the conditionalities’ constrained China.)

How to behave in the world in which economy is made to service trade (as it is defined by the Sino-American high priests of globalization),while (preservation of domestic jobs and) trade increasingly constitutes a significant part of the big power’s national security strategy? And, how to define (and measure) the existential threat: by inferiority of ideological narrative – like during the Cold War; or by a size of a lagging gap in total manufacturing output – like in the Cold War aftermath. Or something third? Perhaps a return to an inclusive growth.

If our civilizational course is still the same – the self-realization of mankind; than the deglobalization would be a final price to pay for re-humanization of labor and overall planetary greening. Are we there yet?

Promise of the Schumann Resonance

Earlier in this text, we already elaborated on imperial fictions and frictions: Empires and superpowers create their own realities, as they are not bound to ‘situation on ground’. For them, the main question is never what they can but what they want in international conduct.

For sure, there is no intellectual appeal in a growth without well-being, education that does not translate into fair opportunity, lives without dignity, liberalization without personal freedom. Greening international relations along with a greening of social fabrics and its economy – geopolitical and environmental understanding, de-acidification and relaxation is that missing, third, way for tomorrow.

This necessitates both at once: less confrontation over the art-of-day technology and their de-monopolized redistribution as well as the resolute work on the so-called Tesla-ian implosive/fusion-holistic systems. That would include the free-transfer non-Hertzian energy technologies (able to avoid life in electromagnetic technologically generated soup of unbearable radiation toxicity, actually able to de-toxicate our troposphere from dangerous fields, waves and frequencies emittance- drawingus closer to Schumann resonance);carbon-sequestration; antigravity and self-navigational solutions;bioinformatics and nanorobotics. Surely, with the bioinformatics and nanorobotics being free from any usage for eugenics’ ends (including the vaccination for microchipping purpose).

In short, more of initiative than of obedience (including more public control over data hoovering). More effort to excellence (creation) than a struggle for preeminence (partition).Leader of the world needs to offer more than just money and intimidation.

‘Do like your neighbor’ is a Biblical-sounding economic prophecy that the circles close to the IMF love to tirelessly repeat. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a formidable national economic prosperity, if the good neighborly relations are not built and maintained.[4] Clearly, no global leader has ever in history emerged from a shaky and distrustful neighborhood, or by offering a little bit more of the same in lieu of an innovative technological advancement.

(Eg. many see Chinese 5G – besides the hazardous electrosmog of IoT that this technology emits on Earth’s biota – as an illiberal innovation, which may end up servicing authoritarianism, anywhere.[5]And indeed, the AI deep learning inspired by biological neurons (neural science) including its three methods: supervised, unsupervised and reinforced learning can end up by being used for the diffusion of digital authoritarianism, predictive policing and manufactured social governance based on the bonus-malus behavioral social credits.)

Ergo, it all starts from within, from at home; socio-economically and environmentally. Without support from a home base (including that of Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet), there is no game changer. China’s home is Asia. Its size and its centrality along with its impressive output is constraining it enough.

Conclusively, it is not only a new, non-imitative, turn of socioeconomics and technology what is needed. Without truly and sincerely embracing mechanisms such as the NAM, ASEAN and SAARC (eventually even the OSCE) and the main champions of multilateralism in Asia, those being India Indonesia and Japan first of all, China has no future of what is planetary awaited – the third force, a game-changer, discursive power, lasting visionary and trusted global leader.[6]

If there was ever in history a lasting triumph, this is over now. In the multipolar world of XXI century dominated by multifaceted challenges and multidimensional rivalries, there is no conventional victory.  Revolution or restauration?

Post Scriptum:

To varying degrees, but all throughout a premodern and modern history, nearly every world’s major foreign policy originator was dependent (and still depends) on what happens in, and to, Russia.So, neither a structure, nor content or overall direction of world affairs for the past 300 years has been done without Russia. It is not only a size, but also a centrality of Russia that matters. That is important as much (if not even more), as it is an omnipresence of the US ora hyperproduction of the PR China. Ergo, that is anuninterrupted flow of manufactured goods to the whole world, it is a balancing of the oversized and centrally positioned one, and it is the ability to controllably corrode the way in and insert itself of the peripheral one. The oscillatory interplay of these three is what characterizes our days.

Therefore, reducing the world affairs to the constellation of only two super-players – China and the US is inadequate – to say least. Itis usually done while superficially measuring Russia’s overall standing by merely checking its current GDP, and comparing its volume and PPP, and finding it e.g. equal to one of Italy. Through such ‘quick-fix’, Russia is automatically downgraded to a second-rank power status. This practice is as dangerous as it is highly misleading. Still, that ill-conceived argument is one of the most favored narratives which authors in the West are tirelessly peddling. What many analysts miss to understand, is in fact plain to see; throughout the entire history of Russia: For such a big country the only way to survive – irrespectively from its relative weaknesses by many ‘economic’ parameters – is to always make an extra effort and remain great power.

To this end, let us quickly contrast the above narrative with some key facts: Russia holds the key positions in the UN and its Agencies as one of its founding members (including the Security Council veto right as one of the P5); it has a highly skilled and mobilized population; its society has deeply rooted sense of a special historic mission (that notion is there for already several centuries – among its intellectuals and enhanced elites, probably well before the US has even appeared as a political entity in the first place). Additionally and tellingly, Moscow possesses the world’s largest gold reserves (on surface and underground; in mines and its treasury bars); for decades, it masters its own GPS system and the most credible outer space delivery systems (including the only remaining working connection with the ISS), and has an elaborate turn-key-ready alternative internet, too. 

Finally, as the US Council of Foreign Relations’ Thomas Graham fairly admits: “with the exception of China, no country affects more issues of strategic and economic importance to the US than Russia. And no other country, it must be said, is capable of destroying the US in 30 minutes.” (FAM, 98-6-19, pg.134)


[1]Flow and irreversibility (as well as the non-directionality and the Boltzmann’s unfolding) of time is one of the fundamental principles that governs visible (to say; comprehensible) universe. If and when so, the Future itself must be certain, but unshaped. Hence, Future is a manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics (one of the fundamental principles of chemo-physics that governs us), but it also has to be (a net sum of) our collective projection onto the next: Collapse of the (multivectoral) probability and its realisation into (a four dimensional) possible tomorrow.

[2]Average American worker is unprotected, unorganised/disunionised, disoriented, and pauperised. Due to (the US corporate sector induced) colossal growth of China, relative purchasing power of American and Chinese labourer now equals. At present, the median US worker would frictionlessly accept miserable work conditions and dismal pay, not too different from the one of the Chinese labourers – just to get a job.The first to spot that and then wonderfully exploited it was the Trump team.

[3]High tech and know-how appropriation via mandated/forced technology transfers and copy-cats, joint ventures, discriminatory patent-licencing practices and cross-sectoral state-led industrial modernisation have lifted China up the value chain. No wonder that its GDP per capita has jumped from $194 (1980) to over $9,000(2019). Beijing is modernising its navy, and is engaged in international economic expansion and geopolitical projection via its Belt and Road Initiative, and so far has bought, built or is operating 42 ports in 34 countries. In the meantime, Washington is publicly lamenting return to a ‘worker-focused trade policy’ – as the US Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer calls it – and openly objecting to both ‘market-distorting state capitalism in China and a dysfunctional WTO’. “No trade policy decision since the end of WWII proved more devastating to working people than the extension of permanent normal trade relations to China in 2000. Despite President Clinton’s predictions… , the opposite occurred” – he concludes. (FAM, 99/04/20)

[4]Fully aware of it, China and Russia (in their historical and yet still ongoing rapprochement) are pushing on a new Asian continental/regional security organisation. Building on the best legacy of comprehensive pan-European security mechanism – that of the Vienna-based OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), these two are committing themselves to and inviting their neighbours to join with the CICBMA (Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia), architecting the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) and the QCCM (Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism). It is on a top of already elaborate SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and well-functioning economic FORAs – China-run AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) and Russia-backed EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union). Hence, in a matter of just two decades the central section of Eurasian continent became the most multilateralised – and therefore stabile, region of the world. The collective one is far better than the bilateral or selective/Ad Hoc security arrangement preferred by the US in the Asia-Pacific. Alliances are built on shared interested, solidified by formulated principles and maintained on reliability and predictability – hence, are structural stabilisers. 

[5] Seems that China leads but is not alone with its much-criticised bonus-malus social credit system powered by facial recognition technology. Human Rights monitory agencies (including the US Carnegie Endowment’s AI Global Surveillance Index) report that practically each and every of the G-20 countries extensively uses the AI-enabled surveillance appliances, including variety of facial recognition programs, aimed at social ‘predictability’. Not to mention that such new technologies are particularly dangerous for weak democracies since many of their digital tools are dual use technology.

[6]Over the past few months, People’s Republic has upped the ante in nearly all of its many territorial disputes and even provoked new ones, in another departure from past practice. Beijing has also reversed course when it comes to its national periphery. “Past Chinese leaders, notably Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, believed in the institutionalized processes of collective leadership. Xi has disabled or neutralized many of these channels. The world may now be getting a sense of what China’s decision-making looks like when a singularly strong leader acts more or less on his own -noted Campbell-Rapp-Hooper recently (FAM, 4/2020). That of course triggers constant shockwaves all over Asia. While Indonesia is contemplating the NAM’s reload and the ASEAN block strengthening, others are reactive. India and Japan, two other Asian heavyweights, are lately pushed to sign up on the so-called Indo-Pacific maritime strategy with the United States. However, none of these three has any coherent plan on what to do on the Asian mainland. They all three differ on passions, drives and priorities. This is so since the truly pan-continental organization is nonexistent in Asia.

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Americas

Trump’s failed Cuba policy signals lack of concern for human rights in practice

Iveta Cherneva

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President Trump’s latest announcement last month in relation to tightening the restrictions on Cuban travel and exchange was not a surprise. As one of the last things that President Obama did before he left office, the Cuban embargo lift was among President Trump’s favorite things to reverse. 

At the end of the day, it has become a Trump unspoken rule that any policy that carries the name Obama, such as the Iran nuclear deal, must be overturned, and very often not because it is a bad policy but simply because it is a part of Barrack Obama’s legacy.

The Cuban embargo of course is not an exception. But with the presidential elections nearing in two weeks, there is a more immediate role in trying to win over Cuban- American voters in Florida by sounding tough on the Cuban regime. As usual, more hot air from Donald Trump does not result into more effective policies, however. Trump’s Cuba policy is a failed policy.

I have spent my time in Washington DC working for the human rights of the Cuban people and Cuban political prisoners oppressed by the Fidel Castro regime. I have interviewed former political prisoners tortured in the Castro prisons who were released by Fidel to come to the United States with Barbara Walters. I maintained a database of over 500 political prisoners whose whereabouts and exact prison location we knew. I worked with members of Congress on the Adopt a Prisoner program. I have reviewed Cuba’s record vis-a-vis international human rights standards. I knew some of the Damas de Blanco — The Ladies in White — whose sons were unjustly imprisoned, and have met Cuban feminist authors pushing for women’s rights in Cuba. The people like me who worked for the Center for a Free Cuba were blacklisted by the Castro regime. Later on, while at and around the United Nations in Geneva, I helped the UN Special Rapporteur on torture with his visit to Cuban prisons by providing the names of political prisoners he should look for. I continued meeting dissidents of the regime and reported their stories while at the UN in Geneva. 

I can tell you that Donald Trump’s policies do not work.

Donald Trump does not care about the Cuban people in Cuba or about Cuban-Americans in Florida. He cares about sounding tough on the Castro regime in order to win Florida in November. Even though his main policy rationalle is grounded in concern for human rights, his policies make it much harder for human rights work to take place. Tighter restrictions make it extremely difficult to speak with families on the ground and gain information on the wherabouts of political prisoners. Staying at a hotel is also not an option for Americans, as all hotels are state owned. The Cuban people need an open exchange and information flow. The previous embargo made it very hard to ship radios and TV sets to Cuba, for example. Activists like us relied on keeping the Cuban people informed. Creating more open societies always relies on more exchange and more flow of goods and ideas with the outside world — not less. Travel is essential for this. 

These factors are not in President Trump’s calculations. What he is interested in, as usual, is sounding more tough than useful. 

When this year I was a finalist for the position of UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech — the top UN expert to defend freedom of speech worldwide — the Trump Administration stopped me using a set of illegal means behind the scenes. I have defended the human rights of the Cuban people — among other topics — but Donald Trump does not care about that. What he is interested in is winning and in quashing dissent, at any cost. Otherwise, he would not have ended my candidacy. 

That’s why I urge Cuban Americans to not vote for Donald Trump on 3 November. Look at the actions, not the hot air and promises. Donald Trump does not care about human rights, the Cuban people in Cuba or Cuban-Americans in Florida. Florida deserves a president who would weigh the impact on the people instead of repeatedly, over and over again, putting himself first. Florida deserves better. Florida can do better.

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