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Embracing Government By Anti-Reason: Are Americans Heading For The “Fǚherbunker”?

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“There is something inside all of us that yearns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought, but for the whisperings of the irrational.”-Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952)

In the closing days of the Third Reich, when still-surviving Germans finally realized that they had been following a murderous charlatan,[1] it was way too late for any redemptive turnaround. But why had they been so wittingly deceived in the first place? After all, prima facie, the Fuehrer’s starkly limited education and wholesale incapacity to reason had been evident from the start. Had the German people somehow been influenced by a subconscious preference for “whisperings of the irrational,” that is, for the always-pleasing simplifications of “mystery” over any “penetrating clear thought?” And if so, were these nefarious influences more than narrowly or peculiarly German defects? Were they determinably generic for all peoples and thus effectively timeless?

Today there arise various other good reasons for analytic perplexity. These questions become even more bewildering when one considers that many true believers of the Fuehrer were conspicuously well-educated and also well acquainted with established “textbook” requirements of  logic and modern science. In the end, of course, there are many additional, varied and predictable answers to factor in – including  cowardice, fear and  presumed self-interest – but most broadly coherent explanations must still correctly center on a populist loathing of complex explanations and a national surrender to “mass.”

Sometimes this source of surrender (“mass” is the term of preference embraced by Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung[2]) has been called “herd” (Friedrich Nietzsche); “horde” (Sigmund Freud) or “crowd” (Soren Kierkegaard),  but all of these terms have essentially the same referents and reveal virtually identical significations. Above all, the discernible common meaning is that an easy to accept “groupthink” makes annoyingly difficult individual thinking unnecessary, and thereby renders feelings of individual responsibility moot or beside the point.

Now we may detect all this once again in Donald Trump’s increasingly deformed and weakened United States. In this determinedly unreasoning president’s vision of resurrected American “greatness,” more conscious citizen thought is presumed to be not just extraneous, but also harmful. “I love the poorly educated” were the exact words Trump used during the 2016 campaign. Not to be ignored, these words were a near-exact replication of Joseph Goebbels’ favored National Socialist sentiment, one most famously expressed at the 1934 Nuremberg rally (“Intellect rots the brain.”). Though admittedly painful to accept, Mr. Trump’s current “know nothing” vision  endangers present-day Americans just as plainly and existentially as earlier Nazi deformations had corrupted Europe.[3]

While Germany ended with an incomparably grotesque Gotterdammerung in the spring of 1945 – an apocalyptic consummation driving both Hitler and Goebbels (with Goebbels’ entire family) to commit ritual suicide in the Fuhrenbunker –  Americans now face a  “twilight of the Gods” of their own making:  at least hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 fatalities.

In fairness, US President Trump did not cause this plague of virulent disease pandemic. Nonetheless, his endlessly injurious manipulations of “mass” have repeatedly undermined myriad and indispensable contributions of science. To wit, in the year 2020, tangible portions of the “civilized” United States began to accept medical advice from Donald Trump that fully contradicted well-established medical orthodoxy, including promoting alleged medications that have subsequently proved useless at best or pernicious at worst.  At the same time, authoritative, well-respected and capable professional scientists have been fired to make way for the next viscerally compliant batch of Trump sycophants and presidential lap dogs.

If these unprecedented affirmations of anti-Reason were not sufficiently endangering, they have been reinforced by a shameless battery of propagandistic deflections. As just one egregious example, in the middle of May 2020, Trump held a news conference to announce his successful “launch” of America’s “Space Force” and to laud its “super-duper missile.” One needn’t be a deep thinker to recognize the utter irrelevance of any such crude military initiative to US security, or the obvious public relations intent of announcing such a program at this perilous time; that is, as a convenient distractionfrom a rapidly expanding disease plague, one taking cynical advantage of ordinary Americans’ usual and well intentioned patriotism.

Let us be even more precise. The United States is not becoming Nazi Germany. That’s not the problem. But this assessment ought not to become a simple “all or nothing” comparison. Then, as now, an irreversible social and economic decline arrived more-or-less indecipherably, effectively in generally hard-to-fathom increments. While there are abundantly vital differences between then and now, between the Third Reich and Trump’s America, there are also several very disturbing forms of close resemblance. If we should wittingly choose to ignore these forms, we would also risk ending up in irremediably perilous national circumstances.

Or to continue with a useful metaphor, we would risk heading for our own separate and collective versions of the Fűherbunker.

For America in a time of plague, a single core question must consistently remain uppermost, lest we forget how we even got here, to a point where an American president could say without embarrassment and without much public reaction: “During the Revolutionary War in the United States, American military forces took control of all national airports,” or to deal with the Corona virus, we should consider an “internal body cleansing,” perhaps even widespread ingestion of certain household “disinfecting chemicals.” How shall this massively ominous American presidency  best be explained? Inter alia, we will need some purposeful answers here  before we can be rescued. In part, at least, we can learn from the pre-Nazi German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. This means that some correct answers should be sought in the paradoxical juxtaposition of American privilege with American philistinism.

 For such a seemingly self-contradictory fusion,  Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term, one that he hoped would eventually become universal.

This  creatively elucidating German word was Bildungsphilister. When expressed in its most lucid and coherent English translation, it means “educated Philistine.”[4] To a significant and verifiable extent, this term underscores both the rise of German Nazism in the 1930s and the rise of populist support for then candidate Donald J. Trump in 2016.[5]

 Naturally, there is much more. In all linguistically delicate maters, carefully-crafted language and  “penetrating clear thought” are required. Accordingly, Bildungsphilister is a word that could shine some additional needed light upon Donald Trump’s uninterrupted support among so many of America’s presumptively well-educated and visibly well-to-do.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had several-times commented: “I love the poorly-educated,” but – in the end – a substantial fraction of his actual voter support arrived from the not-so-poorly-educated. It had been very much the same story back in Germany in 1933. We can ignore this portentous commonality only at our own existential risk.

Always, anti-Reason is an existential threat, but never more menacing than during an active disease pandemic. And always, however we may find it discomfiting, truth is exculpatory. Incontestably, even by definition, uncomfortable truths are upsetting and bewildering, but they remain truths nonetheless. Apropos of this plainly unassailable conclusion, any ascertainable distance between “I love the poorly educated” and “Intellect rots the brain” is not nearly as substantial as might first appear.

In essence, and plausibly also in consequence, they mean exactly the same thing.

There remain markedly meaningful distinctions between German National Socialism and the current US presidential administration, most significantly in leadership intent, but these distinctions generally express more of a difference in magnitude than in pertinent demographic aspects. At one obvious level, a great many American citizens (tens of millions) remain wholly willing to abide a president who not only avoids reading anything, but who announces his indifference to learning with fully limitless pride. For a president who consistently claims that corona virus testing and contact tracing are “overrated,” and who simultaneously announces mindless and incoherent threats of starting a new Cold War with China, “I love the poorly educated” should become an easily recognizable mantra.

We may recall too that for negotiating successfully with North Korea,[6] President Trump had openly advised “attitude, not preparation.”[7]At any normal or Reason-based level of policy assessment, this advice was openly caricatural. But Trump’s once-unimaginable comment was not actually intended as satire. Not at all.

The dissembling policy problem with President Donald Trump is not just a matter of bad manners, occasional foolishness or gratuitous incivility. More than anything else, it is the quality of a far-reaching derangement and incapacity, a particularly lethal fusion that recently led Donald Trump to “punish” the World Health Organization for imaginary wrongdoings, and at the very same moment that such perverse withholding of funds could only further impair critical worldwide Covid19 responses.[8] Now, substantially more “penetrating clear thought” is desperately needed to understand this country’s manifold Trump-era declensions,[9] including its seemingly endless violations of authoritative international law.[10]

 Do many (or any) Americans actively object to a president who has never even glanced at the US Constitution, the very same allegedly revered document he so solemnly swore “to uphold, protect and defend?” Is it reasonable or persuasive to “uphold protect and defend” a document that has never even been read? Is it reasonable or persuasive for “We the people….” not to be troubled by such a vast intellectual and ethical disjuncture? How long shall we endure profoundly lawless presidential behaviors concerning almost every manner of public responsibility and public service?

While Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort are rewarded by this president for placing loyalty to “Fűehrer“above justice, tens of millions of poor Americans now being forced to work without proper  disease protections can only make desperate personal plans to “sleep in the dust.”[11]

There is more. Key questions about pertinent historical analogies should not be skirted, obfuscated or ridiculed any longer. How, then, has the United States managed to arrive at such a portentous and dismal place in history? What have been the relevant failures (both particular and aggregated) of American education, most notably failures in our once-vaunted universities? It’s an unsettling but sensible two-part question, especially as the Trump presidency assiduously transforms a “merely” self-deceiving country into one that represents a finely-lacquered collective corpse.  

 Once upon a time in western philosophy (a genre obviously unfamiliar to absolutely anyone in the White House[12]), Plato revealed high leadership expectations for his “philosopher-king.”  Yet, even though we should no longer reasonably expect anything like a philosopher-king in the White House, we are still entitled to a man or woman president who reads and thinks seriously.

 Even in Trump’s grievously demeaned United States, true learning deserves its historic pride of place. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra warns prophetically: “One should never seek the `higher man’ at the marketplace.” But the suffocating worlds of business and commerce were precisely where a proudly “know nothing” segment of American society first championed belligerent impresario Donald J. Trump.

What else could we have possibly expected?

 In the United States, a society where almost no one takes erudition seriously, we are all ultimately measured by one singularly atrocious standard. We are what we buy.[13] Accordingly, the tens of millions of Americans being shunted aside by the White House as presumptively extraneous to their political “success” are less highly valued (much less) than those who have managed to attain egoistically the conspicuous rewards of “everyone for himself.”[14]

There is still more, much more. This American president is not “merely” a marginal or misguided figure. Quite literally, he is the diametric opposite of both Plato’s philosopher-king and Nietzsche’s “higher-man.” Unambiguously, and at its moral and analytic core, the Trump administration now exhibits a tortuously wretched inversion of what might once have been ennobling in the United States. Even more worrisome, we Americans are rapidly stumbling backwards, always backwards,  during an unprecedented viral pandemic, further and further, visibly, unsteadily, not in any measurably decipherable increments, but in giant or distressing quantum leaps of various self-reinforcing mortal harms.

In essence, these are historically familiar leaps of unforgivable cowardice, especially as evident in certain narrowly-partisan sectors of the Congress and federal government. How else shall we differentiate a now completely submissive attorney general or vice president or secretary of the treasury or secretary of human services or Senate Majority Leader from their manifestly hideous forbears in Munich or Berlin? Are they really all that different? Are they really any more upset by the prospective but possibly preventable deaths of several hundred thousand Americans from Pandemic disease than were Nazi officials Goebbels or Speer about then-suffering German families and workers?

A positive answer here would demand considerable leaps of permissible formal logic.

Among so many palpable deficits, America’s current president still does not begin to understand that US history warrants some serious re-examination. How many Americans have ever paused to remember that the Founding Fathers who framed the second amendment were not expecting or imagining automatic weapons? How many citizens ever bothered to learn that the early American Republic was the religious heir of John Calvin and the philosophical descendant of both John Locke and Thomas Hobbes? How many “successful” US lawyers have even ever heard of William Blackstone, the extraordinary English jurist whose learned Commentaries formed the indispensable common law underpinnings of America’s current legal system?

Literally and comprehensively, Blackstone is the unchallenged   foundation of American law and jurisprudence.[15]

Does anyone reasonably believe that Donald Trump has even ever heard of Blackstone? Is there a single Trump lawyer (personal or institutional) who could conceivably know (let alone read) about the seminal Blackstone’s unparalleled juristic contributions? If there were such a person, he would understand, ipso facto, what is so utterly defiled (and defiling) in this president’s Department of Justice.

It is therefore, a silly question.

There is more. Human beings are the creators of their machines, not the other way round. Still, there exists today an implicit and grotesque reciprocity between creator and creation, an elaborate and potentially lethal pantomime between the users and the used. Nowhere is this prospective lethality more apparent than among the self-deluded but endlessly loyal supporters of US President Donald Trump. They  follow him faithfully only because the wider American society had first been allowed to become an intellectual desert, and because they are most comfortable amid such reassuringly barren wastes.

Soon, we  must inquire, will they also, like Third Reich Propaganda  Minister Joseph Goebbels and his entire family, follow him dutifully and unquestionably into the “Fűherbunker?”

Epilogue

In an 1897 essay titled “On Being Human,” Woodrow Wilson inquired tellingly about the “authenticity “of Americans. “Is it even open to us to choose to be genuine?” he asked. This US and (earlier) Princeton University president had answered “yes,” but contingently, only if citizens would first refuse to cheer the “herds” or “hordes” or “crowds” of mass society. Otherwise, as Wilson had already understood, our entire society would be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty death of broken machinery, more hideous even than the biological decomposition of individual disease-ravaged persons.

In every society, as Emerson and other American Transcendentalists had already recognized, the scrupulous care of each individualhuman “soul” is most important. Looking ahead, there can likely still be a “better”American soul[16] (and thereby an improved American politics),  but not before we can first acknowledge a prior obligation. This antecedent and unalterable requirement is a far-reaching national responsibility to overcome the barriers of  a “know nothing” culture or –  remembering German philosopher Karl Jaspers’ apt warning – “whisperings of the irrational.”

Though overwhelmingly lethal all by itself, the current Trump government of anti-Reason is as much a dreadful symptom of much deeper menacing  harms. Similar to any other complex matrix of virulent pathologies, the proper ordering of “therapeutics” will ultimately require this government to accomplish more than just a cosmetic excision of visible disease symptoms. In the end, to protect us all from a future that would be finalized in the Fűherbunker, Americans must finally learn to favor Reason and Science over stock phrases, shallow clichés, banal presidential phrases and barbarously empty witticisms.


[1] In this connection, notes Sigmund Freud: “Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great roles art all times in the history of mankind, and not merely when the accident of birth had bequeathed them sovereignty. Usually, they have wreaked havoc.”

[2] Says Jung in The Undiscovered Self (1957): “The mass crushes out the insight and reflection  that are still possible with the individual, and this necessarily leads to doctrinaire and authoritarian tyranny if ever the constitutional State should succumb to a fit of weakness.”

[3] Consider, for example, the stunning Goebbels-Trump commonality concerning approval of street violence. Said the Nazi Propaganda Minister: “Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street.” Much more recently, and in an almost identical vein, Donald Trump declared: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very  bad.”  See, by this writer: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/louis-beres-trump-violence/#

[4] The first language of the Swiss-born author, Professor Louis René Beres, was German. This is his own straightforward translation.

[5] Also appropriate here is the nineteenth century description offered by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in The Sickness Unto Death: “Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs….Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility….it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.”

[6] “I don’t think I have to prepare very much,” said Donald Trump before  his Singapore Summit with Kim Jung Un on June 11, 2018, “It’s all about attitude.”

[7] “The mass-man,” says philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gassett in The Revolt of the Masses (1930), “has no attention to spare for reasoning; he learns only in his own flesh.” This is exactly how President Trump “learns.” When asked on April 10, 2020 how he would create metrics for determining when the country could be safely “opened up again,” he pointed to his head, and exclaimed: “This is my only metric.” Always, this crudely primal method of understanding represents “in his own flesh” reasoning, his disjointed calculations spawned by raw instinct and revealed with demeaning frivolity.

[8] In stark contrast, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of WHO, spoke modestly, intelligently and purposefully: “COVID-19 does not discriminate between rich nations and poor, large nations and small. It does not discriminate between nationalities, ethnicities, or ideologies. Neither do we,” he said. “This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat, a dangerous enemy. When we’re divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.”

[9] Regarding US President Donald Trump’s persistent and often egregious crimes involving the law of war and the law of human rights (e.g., Syria; Afghanistan; Iraq; Mexican refugees, etc.), criminal responsibility of leaders under international law is not necessarily limited to direct personal action nor is it exculpable by official position. On this peremptory principle of “command responsibility,” or respondeat superior, see: In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1945); The High Command Case (The Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb), 12 Law Reports of Trials Of War Criminals 1 (United Nations War Crimes Commission Comp., 1949); see Parks, Command Responsibility For War Crimes, 62 MIL.L. REV. 1 (1973); O’Brien, The Law Of War, Command Responsibility And Vietnam, 60 GEO. L.J. 605 (1972); U.S. Dept. Of The Army, Army Subject Schedule No. 27 – 1 (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Hague Convention No. IV of 1907), 10 (1970). The direct individual responsibility of leaders is also unambiguous in view of the London Agreement, which denies defendants the protection of the act of state defense. See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS, Aug. 8, 1945, 59 Stat. 1544, E.A.S. No. 472, 82 U.N.T.S. 279, art. 7.

[10] Though wholly disregarded by President Trump, international law is an inherent part of United States law and 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.”

[11] One should also think here of the country’s indigenous peoples, especially “tribes” such as the Navajo Nation. These vulnerable peoples are suffering disproportionate harms from this pandemic, harms that are effectively considered tolerable or even reasonable by US President Donald Trump.

[12] In this connection, Americans should also be reminded of the total absence of any cultural life or life of the arts going on in the Trump White House. Together with Trump’s endless attacks on a ‘life of the mind,” this demeaning absence points toward the very worst imaginable case of Nietzsche’s Bildungsphilister or “educated Philistine.” See, by this author, at Yale Global: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/trumps-america-anti-intellectual-and-proud-it

[13] “The rich man glories in his riches,” says Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), “because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world….At the thought of this, his heart seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account, than for all the other advantages it procures him.”

[14] “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who  have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself,'” says Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man (1955), “is false and against nature.”

[15] Significantly, in this connection, Blackstone emphasized the importance of global cooperation between nations: “Each state is expected to aid and enforce the law of nations as part of the common law,” says Blackstone in  his Commentaries on the Law of England (1765) “by inflicting an adequate punishment upon the offenses against that universal law.” Similarly, says Emmerich de Vattel, in his prior and classic The Law of Nations (1758),  “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”

[16] Sigmund Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. In essence, he most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this country’s “shallow optimism” and to its corollary commitment to a dreadfully crude form of materialism. America, thought Freud, was very “lacking in soul.” See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Will Geneva Be Any Different Than Helsinki?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Any meeting between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. is inevitably an important international event. At some point in history, such summits decided the fate of the entire world, and the world held its collective breath as it followed Kremlin-White House talks on strategic arms or the two sides seeking agreements on urgent regional problems or any political signals coming from the superpower capitals prior to another round of negotiations.

The bipolar era has long been gone, and the Russia-U.S. relations are no longer the principal axis of international politics, although the suspense over bilateral summits remains. As before, the two countries are engaged in “top-down” interaction. Summits give the initial impetus to Moscow and Washington’s cumbersome bureaucratic machines, then diplomats, military personnel and officials start their assiduous work on specific issues, collaboration between the two countries’ private sectors and civil society perks up, the media gradually soften their rhetoric, bilateral projects in culture, education and science are gradually resumed.

Still, there are annoying exceptions to this general rule. In particular, the latest full-fledged Russia–U.S. summit in Helsinki in July 2018 failed to trigger improvements in bilateral relations. On the contrary, Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Finland’s capital aroused massive resentment among the anti-Russian Washington establishment. Ultimately, on returning home, the U.S. President had to offer awkward apologies to his supporters and opponents alike, and relations between the two countries continued to rapidly deteriorate after the summit.

Surely, nobody is willing to see another Helsinki scenario in June 2021, this time in Geneva. Yet, do we have good reason to hope for a different outcome this time? To answer this question, let us compare Donald Trump and Joseph Biden’s approaches to Russia-U.S. summits and to bilateral relations at large.

First of all, in Helsinki, Trump very much wanted the Russian leader to like him. The Republican President avoided publicly criticizing his Russian counterpart and was quite generous with his compliments to him, which inevitably caused not only annoyance but pure outrage in Washington and in Trump’s own Administration. Joe Biden has known Vladimir Putin for many years; he does not set himself the task of getting the Russian leader to like him. As far as one can tell, the two politicians do not have any special liking for each other, with this more than reserved attitude unlikely to change following their meeting in Geneva.

Additionally, in Helsinki, Trump wanted, as was his wont, to score an impressive foreign policy victory of his own. He believed he was quite capable of doing better than Barack Obama with his “reset” and of somehow “hitting it off” with Putin, thereby transforming Russia if not into a U.S. ally, then at least into its strategic partner. Apparently, Biden has no such plans. The new American President clearly sees that Moscow-Washington relations will remain those of rivalry in the near future and will involve direct confrontation in some instances. The Kremlin and the White House have widely diverging ideas about today’s world: about what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, what is fair and what is unfair, where the world is heading and what the impending world order should be like. So, we are not talking about a transition from strategic confrontation to strategic partnership, we are talking about a possible reduction in the risks and costs of this necessarily costly and lengthy confrontation.

Finally, Trump simply had much more time to prepare for the Helsinki summit than Biden has had to prepare for Geneva. Trump travelled to Finland eighteen months after coming to power. Biden is planning to meet with Putin in less than five months since his inauguration. Preparations for the Geneva summit have to be made in haste, so the expectations concerning the impending summit’s outcome are less.

These differences between Biden and Trump suggest that there is no reason to expect a particularly successful summit. Even so, we should not forget the entire spectrum of other special features of the Biden Administration’s current style of foreign policy. They allow us to be cautiously optimistic about the June summit.

First, Donald Trump never put too much store by arms control, since he arrogantly believed the U.S. capable of winning any race with either Moscow or Beijing. So, his presidential tenure saw nearly total destruction of this crucial dimension of the bilateral relations, with all its attendant negative consequences for other aspects of Russia-U.S. interaction and for global strategic stability.

In contrast, Biden remains a staunch supporter of arms control, as he has already confirmed by his decision to prolong the bilateral New START. There are grounds for hoping that Geneva will see the two leaders to at least start discussing a new agenda in this area, including militarization of outer space, cyberspace, hypersonic weapons, prompt global strike potential, lethal autonomous weapons etc. The dialogue on arms control beyond the New START does not promise any quick solutions, as it will be difficult for both parties. Yet, the sooner it starts, the better it is going to be for both countries and for the international community as a whole.

Second, Trump never liked multilateral formats, believing them to be unproductive. Apparently, he sincerely believed that he could single-handedly resolve any burning international problems, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to North Korea’s nuclear missile programme.

Biden does not seem to harbor such illusions. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of multilateralism, and he clearly understands that collaboration with Russia is necessary on many regional conflicts and crises. Consequently, Geneva talks may see the two leaders engage in a dialogue on Afghanistan, on the Iranian nuclear deal, on North Korea, or even on Syria. It is not at all obvious that Biden will succeed in reaching agreement with Putin immediately on all or any of these issues, but the very possibility of them discussed at the summit should be welcomed.

Third, Trump was not particularly fond of career diplomats and, apparently, attached little value to the diplomatic dimension of foreign policy. The Russia-U.S. “embassy war” had started before Trump—but not only did Trump fail to stop it, he boosted it to an unprecedented scale and urgency.

Sadly, the “embassy war” continues after Trump, too. Yet President Biden, with his tremendous foreign policy experience, understands diplomatic work better and appreciates it. Practical results of the Geneva summit could include a restoration of the diplomatic missions in Washington and Moscow to their full-fledged status and a rebuilding of the networks of consular offices, which have been completely destroyed in recent years. Amid the problems of big politics, consular services may not seem crucial but, for most ordinary Russians and Americans, regaining the opportunity for recourse to rapid and efficient consular services would outweigh many other potential achievements of the Geneva summit.

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“Choose sides” is practically a bogus idea for US military partners

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“Choosing sides” is practically a non-starter for US military allies such as Japan and South Korea. These nations, first and foremost military allies of the US, are forging cordial and productive ties with other countries based on military alliances with the US. The nature and level of partnerships varies greatly from those of allies, despite the fact that they appear to be quite heated at times.

Military concerns have been less important in the postwar period, but economic concerns have been extremely heated, social and cultural interactions have been close, and the qualitative differences between cooperative relations and allies have gotten confused, or have been covered and neglected.

Some unreasonable expectations and even mistakes were made. In general, in the game between the rising power and the hegemony, it is undesirable for the rising power to take the initiative and urge the hegemony’s supporters to select a side. Doing so will merely reinforce these countries’ preference for hegemony.

Not only that, but a developing country must contend with not only a dominant hegemony, but also a system of allies governed by the hegemony. In the event of a relative reduction in the power of the hegemony, the strength of the entire alliance system may be reinforced by removing restraints on allies, boosting allies’ capabilities, and allowing allies’ passion and initiative to shine.

Similarly, the allies of the hegemonic power are likely to be quite eager to improve their own strength and exert greater strength for the alliance, without necessarily responding to, much alone being pushed by, the leader. The “opening of a new chapter in the Korean-US partnership” was a key component of the joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States following the meeting of Moon Jae-in and Biden. What “new chapter” may a military alliance have in a situation of non-war?

There are at least three features that can be drawn from the series of encounters between South Korea and the United States during Moon Jae-visit in’s to the United States: First, the withdrawal of the “Korea-US Missile Guide” will place military constraints on South Korea’s missile development and serve as a deterrence to surrounding nations. The second point is that, in addition to the Korean Peninsula, military cooperation between the US and South Korea should be expanded to the regional level in order to respond to regional hotspots. The third point is that, in addition to military alliances, certain elements in vaccinations, chips, 5G, and even 6G are required. These types of coalitions will help to enhance economic cooperation.

Despite the fact that Vice President Harris wiped her hands after shaking hands with Moon Jae-in, and Biden called Moon Jae-in “Prime Minister” and other rude behaviors, the so-called “flaws” are not hidden, South Korea still believes that the visit’s results have exceeded expectations, and that Moon Jae-in’s approval rate will rise significantly as a result.

The joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States addresses delicate subjects such as the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Of course, China expresses its outrage. It is widely assumed that this is a “private cargo” delivered by Biden’s invitation to Moon Jae-in to visit the United States.

Moon Jae-in stated that he was not pressured by Biden. If this is correct, one option is that such specific concerns will not be handled at all at the summit level; second, South Korea is truly worried about the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns and wishes to speak with the US jointly.

South Korea should be cognizant of China’s sensitivity to the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns. When it comes to China-related concerns, the phrasing in the ROK-US joint statement is far more mild than that in the ROK-Japan joint declaration. Nonetheless, the harm done to South Korea-China ties cannot be overlooked.

South Korea highlights the “openness” and “inclusiveness” of the four-party security dialogue system, which allows South Korea to engage to some extent. South Korea will assess the net gain between the “gain” on the US side and the “loss” on the Chinese side. China would strongly protest and fiercely respond to any country’s measures to intervene in China’s domestic affairs and restrict China’s rise.

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Political Violence and Elections: Should We Care?

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The next Sunday 6th of June, the Chamber of Deputies along with 15 out of the 32 governorships will be up for grabs in Mexico’s mid-term elections. These elections will be a crucial test for the popularity of the president and his party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). They currently hold majority in the Lower Chamber of the national Congress, and these elections could challenge this.

Recent national polls indicate that the ruling party, MORENA, is still the most popular political force in Mexico, and they are poised to win not only several governorships, but also several municipalities. They are also expected to maintain control of the Lower  Chamber, although with a loss of a few seats. In order to ensure MORENA keeps its current majority in the Congress, they have decided to pursue an electoral alliance with the Green Party (PVEM) and the Labout Party (PT). It is expected that with this move, they will be able to ensure the majority in the Chamber of Deputies in the Congress.

There is, however, another aspect that is making the headlines in this current electoral process: The high levels of political and electoral violence, The current electoral process is the second most violent since 2000. The number of candidates that have been assassinated is close to 30% higher than the mid-term electoral process of 2015. More than 79 candidates have been killed so far all across the country.

Insecurity in Mexico has been an ongoing issue that has continued to deteriorate during the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). AMLO has continually criticised his predecessors and the valid problems of their approaches to insecurity in Mexico along with the War on Drugs policy. However, to date, he has yet to offer a viable alternative to tackle the security problems he inherited. During his campaign, AMLO coined the phrase “abrazos no balazos” (hugs not bullets) to describe his approach toward improving security in Mexico. He believed that to successfully tackle the worsening crisis of insecurity, the structural conditions that forced people to commit crimes had to be addressed first: Namely inequality, poverty, low salaries, lack of access to employment etc. To date, insecurity in Mexico continues to worsen, and this had become evident during the current electoral process.

This nonsensical approach to insecurity has resulted in the first three years of his government reaching over 100,000 murders, along with the nearly 225,000 deaths as a result of the pandemic.

What should be particularly worrying in this spiral of violence, is the prevalence of political and electoral violence during the current process. Political violence represents not only a direct attack on democratic institutions and democracy itself, but it also compromises the independence, autonomy, and integrity of those currently in power, and those competing for positions of power. It affects democracy also because political violence offers a way for candidates to gain power through violent means against opposition, and this also allows organised crime to infiltrate the state apparatus.

Political violence is a phenomenon that hurts all citizens and actors in a democracy. It represents a breeding ground for authoritarianism, and impunity at all levels of government. This limits the freedoms and rights of citizens and other actors as it extinguishes any sort of democratic coexistence between those currently holding political power and those aspiring to achieve it. Political violence also obstructs the development of democracy as it discredits anyone with critical views to those in power. This is worrying when we consider that 49% of those assassinated belong to opposition parties. This increase in political violence has also highlighted AMLO´s inability to curtail organised crime and related violence.

Assassination of candidates is only the tip of the iceberg. Organised criminal groups have also infiltrated politics through financing of political campaigns. Most of electoral and political violence tends to happen an municipal levels, where it is easier for criminal groups to exert more pressure and influence in the hope of securing protection, and perpetuate impunity, or securing control over drug trafficking routes. This should be especially worrisome when there is close too government control in certain areas of the country, and there is a serious risk of state erosion at municipal level in several states.

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