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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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Was Trump better for the world than Biden, after all?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Joe Biden and the State Department just approved a major deal with the Saudis for 500mln in choppers maintanance. Effectively, the US sold its soul to the Saudis again after the US intelligence services confirmed months ago that the Saudi Prince is responsible for the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration is already much more inhumane and much worse than Trump. Biden doesn’t care about the thousands of American citizens that he left behind at the mercy of the Taliban, the Biden administration kills innocent civilians in drone strikes, they are in bed with the worst of the worsts human right violators calling them friendly nations. 

Biden dropped and humiliated France managing to do what no US President has ever accomplished —  make France pull out its Ambassador to the US, and all this only to go bother China actively seeking the next big war. Trump’s blunders were never this big. And this is just the beginning. There is nothing good in store for America and the world with Biden. All the hope is quickly evaporating, as the world sees the actions behind the fake smile and what’s behind the seemingly right and restrained rhetoric on the surface. It’s the actions that matter. Trump talked tough talk for which he got a lot of criticism and rarely resorted to military action. Biden is the opposite: he says all the right things but the actions behind are inhumane and destructive. It makes you wonder if Trump wasn’t actually better for the world.

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Biden’s worrisome construct of security and self-defense in the first year of his term

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Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy is failing so far. He can’t get the Iran nuclear diplomacy on track. The Afghanistan withdrawal was a disaster seen by all, placing an unusually high number of weapons and armaments in the hands of the Taliban and leaving everyone behind, to the point that one wonders if it was intentional. The US military has been able to accomplish far more impressive and bigger logistics tasks in the past, so when they want to they can do it.

More worrisome, however – and because it is also oriented towards future impacts – is Biden’s construct of vital concepts such as security, international peace and self-defense which has already displayed a consistent pattern during the first year of his term. The signs are already there, so let me bring them out to the surface for you.

Treating a counter-attack in self-defense as an original, first-move strike

This is a pattern that can be noticed already in Biden’s reading of what constitutes defense. It first struck me in a place where you might not think of looking. It originated from the criticism of the previous Trump administration’s support for the destructive Saudi Arabia campaign on Yemen, leaving Yemen as the biggest famine and disaster on the planet. To avoid the same criticism, the Biden administration decided to do what it always does – play technocratic and legalistic, and hope that people won’t notice. On the face of it, it looked like Biden ended US participation by ending the “offensive” support for Saudi Arabia. Then in the months after the February decision, reports started surfacing that the US actually continues doing the same, and now most recently, some troops from Afghanistan were redirected towards Yemen. Biden didn’t end Yemen; he set up a task force to examine and limit US military action only to defensive capabilities, which sounds good to a general observer. It reminds me of that famous Einstein saying that all the big decisions were to be taken by him and all the small decisions were to be taken by his wife, but there hasn’t been one big decision so far. So see, it just turns out that everything falls under defense, ask the lawyers. Usually no one would object to the well-established right to defend yourself. The problem with that is that the US is actually in Yemen. Treating any counter-strike and any response to your presence as an original, first-move attack is not only problematic but it also simply doesn’t work in legal terms. It goes along the lines of “well, I am already here anyways, so your counter-response in self-defense is actually an attack and I get to defend myself”. If the issue was only with terrorist or rebel organizations (because let’s face it, who cares about the Houthies in Yemen?) I don’t think we would be discussing this. But as you guessed it, this approach can already be traced as a pattern in Biden’s thinking and the way he forges alliances, draws red lines and allows things to happen, and it stretches to areas that most people definitely care about such as a possible military conflict between the US and China.

Let’s take the newest development from today. The US just announced that it has entered into a trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, which is encirclement of China par excellence. Where it gets interesting is that the trilateral partnership is purported to be only for “advanced defense capabilities”. The equivalent of this is someone from another city squatting at the door step in your apartment, inviting two others to join, and then when in the morning you push them and step on them to go to work, the squatters claiming that you attacked them and calling the police on you in your own apartment. This is Biden’s concept of self-defense: since I am already here in your space, you are attacking me.

The US is trying to start something with China but it doesn’t know how to, and China seems completely unconcerned with the US.  Chinese leader Jinping doesn’t even want to meet Biden, as became clear this week. China doesn’t care about the US and just wants to be left alone. They already said that in clear terms by reading it out loud to Wendy Sherman last month. Biden didn’t have to ask for a meeting in that phone call this week because he already knew the answer. Wendy Sherman got a clear signal on her China visit that the US president won’t be getting that coveted red carpet roll-out any time soon.

So the story says that the US is going all the way to the other side of the world and staging military presence there but only to defend itself. The US has no choice but to move in to defend all the US citizens at risk in the Indian Ocean — that’s the stand-up comedy line of the week. It is staging military presence right at China’s doorstep — if not in Chinese waters, and the idea is “yes, that’s your turf but now that I’m here, if you push me to leave, you are attacking me”. This is the strategy of narcissists and those that are looking to point the finger to their opponent when they just don’t have anything, so they stage something. China is in the long-term game, playing against itself. The US is that number 2 that’s trying to create provocation. In the Indo-Pacific, the US is biting more than it can chew. China is not a big mouth or one to throw around military threats. That’s the US style: “be very careful, we might bomb you if you don’t do what we say”. A dog that barks doesn’t bite. On the other hand, China is more like a Ferrari — it will go from 0 to 200 in seconds and then it will go back to its business. The US and Biden will be left whimpering but no one will jump to save the US from its own folly because self-defense in the US packaging is not even bought by the US government itself. Even they don’t buy their own packaging. So why should anyone else?

Treating embarrassing discoveries and things that don’t go my way as a threat to international peace

This one is a big one. With this one, Biden is playing with the queen, namely action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter in the name of international peace and security. A threat to international peace and security is grounds for action under Chapter 7 which includes military action, and it’s never to be spoken lightly. Words have consequences. The UN Security Council rarely specifies grounds for action under chapter 7 for threats to international peace and security but it’s enough to take a look at the practice: resolutions were passed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, in response to 9/11, against Kaddafi who was marching toward Benghazi to wipe out the people in 2011, in relation to genocide, etc. Grounds for a threat to international peace can’t be “because I don’t like the way things are turning out for me”.

Peace and security are not like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. There has to be an actual or imminent attack and actual military action or violence. Loose interpretations of threats to peace and security are a sign of weak leadership.

Leaders who construct dissent and criticism as terrorism in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, as I have argued about the FBI previously in the left media, are weak leaders. In smearing Martin Luther King, the FBI argued national security. As director Oliver Stone said in Cannes this summer, when he was investigating the JFK assassination, every time he was getting close, he heard “national security”. 

You can see a lot about the character of a nation by the way it constructs security, and notice traits such as narcissism, weakness, cheating. The Biden Administration has to know that a threat to international peace and security can’t be “things that make my government look bad”. In 2001, the world followed the US in Afghanistan because there was an actual military attack. The world won’t follow the Biden administration on a bogus threat to international peace that can best be summed up as a major embarrassment for the US government. Suggesting a link is a threat to the fabric of international society. Not only is it a sign of national narcissism but also a sign of arbitrariness and authoritarianism. Treating criticism and the exposure of US government crimes as if it were a military attack is what horror movies are made of. What’s next? Droning journalists?

Treating issues which are a subject to treaties, rules and negotiations as a threat to international peace  

The Biden security construct stretches to various regions, including my own. This first struck me with Biden’s executive order regarding the Western Balkans when he tied blocking these countries from EU accession to a threat to international peace, which carries significant consequences. If a country, let’s say Bulgaria, is exercising its lawful right to veto EU processes, hypothetically, based on Biden’s understanding, the US could table a resolution for Chapter 7 action to punish an EU member-state for blocking the accession of an EU candidate because that’s a threat to international peace. That could hypothetically lead to military action against an EU country making use of its veto. Biden doesn’t have a veto in the EU. Do you know who does? Bulgaria. So until Biden becomes an EU country he doesn’t have a say.

Biden was visibly irritated that the process of EU accession has been stalling for quite some time, especially with N. Macedonia and Albania at the EU’s doorstep, so he decided to give it a go. Let’s not forget that the Balkans are a favorite Biden region and this goes back to the 1990s. I have written about it before: Biden is stuck in the 2000s when if you mentioned the Western Balkans the words international peace were a guaranteed association. Not anymore. Negotiations, rules and voting are the peaceful and reasonable way to resolve issues, agree or even not agree in some situations, and are the opposite of war and aggression. Treating these ways as a threat to peace is just the rhetoric of those who can’t get their way. But it’s also indicative of a worrisome trend with Biden that anything that the US government doesn’t like can be dressed as a threat to international peace, which carries the most significant of all consequences in the international arena.

Treating lawful counter-measures as a threat to national security

Perhaps the best and most fascinating example of lawful counter-measures I ever heard was brought by Andrew Clapham at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Here is the story. The UK issued unlawful sanctions on a country. In response, lawful counter-measures by that country targeted jam exports because a jam factory in Scotland was the key to turning the elections. The targeted counter-measures worked, hit jam exports, discontent people in the region voted the other way and the government that put in place the sanctions to begin with was ousted. This was a brilliant example that you hit where it hurts and you do it lawfully. Counter-measures don’t have to be identical. The US likes to put tariffs on Louis Vuitton bags in retaliation when it deals with France, for example. In the Trump trade wars, Europe would hit bourbon and jeans exports as a counter-measure. You hit their signature product. Not all counter-measures are illegal and count as an attack. International law is full of examples.

Similarly, lawsuits against a government are a lawful counter-measure. This area reveals another part of Biden’s worrisome construct of national security. A threat to sue the US government cannot in and of itself be a threat to national security. Tortured reading of what is national security is a sign of weak leaders, narcissists, those on the losing end, or straight up losers – or all of the above. 

Treating lawful counter-measures as a cause for self-defense is not only a sign of a wrong understanding of self-defense, but is the ultimate sign of narcissism. Usually those who attack know better and brace for impact in anticipation of the counter-measures. Narcissists, on the other hand, cry that they are being attacked when they receive a counter-strike in response. Strategists know better.

Mistreatment of whistleblowers, critics and opponents as spies and as a threat to national security

This one is an easy one. Only losers treat whistleblowers and critics as spies and as an automatic threat to national security. Take the treatment that Gary Stahl has received at the hands of the Biden Administration and the FBI, for example. Again, the US government doesn’t get to construe a huge embarrassment (in what will soon be revealed to shows the true criminal nature of the US government) as a threat to international peace. This is a problem for America. Not only doesn’t China plan to attack militarily the US any time soon over what’s to come, but China is largely unconcerned with the US and would like to be left alone. Any talk about a risk of military conflict could only mean that it is the US that plans to attack because they are embarrassed they got caught red-handed and the world will see the US government’s true nature. Talk of threat to international peace has a very high threshold. No one cares about how America would feel – that’s your problem, not an issue of international peace. 

The Biden concept of security is that of an ugly, pretentious, old woman who is told she can’t enter because her ticket is not valid. She then throws a feat screaming she was attacked, beaten and insulted, expecting everyone to be on her side. But the world simply doesn’t care about the problems of this pain-in-the-ass anymore. The US government will have to try much harder if they want to present the issue as anything close to security and self-defense, let alone a threat to international peace. That tune is old and there are no buyers. 

The US surely thinks very highly of itself if they think that a scandal like that is worthy of a military conflict but literally no one else sees the US as this important anymore. This scandal will matter only to America in what it reveals about all the layers of the US government across rank, institutions and administrations. That’s it. It ends there. Any talk of Chapter 7 threshold is war mongering and no one will care. 

People talk about the Biden doctrine on Afghanistan but the Biden doctrine that will be sealed in history will be something along the lines of “Anytime I get caught, it’s a threat to international peace and security.” This is how Biden will be remembered in history: for creative writing endeavors in the security field and no substantial foreign policy achievements. 

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Biden’s credibility restoration plan

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Although damages of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan cannot be easily undone, by taking a series of wise steps, Biden can send a strong signal that America is coming back.

Joe Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan has shattered his reputation as a safe haven for allies. This is while, he pledged to restore U.S. leadership after Trump by confronting China’s and Russia’s growing totalitarian ambitions, restoring historic alliances with European allies, and ending the never-ending conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

But he is not the only President whose decision has eventually damaged the United States’ global reputation. Donald Trump’s capitulation deal with the Taliban, Barack Obama’s indolence in Syria, and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq have all tarnished the United States’ credibility around the world. The question now; however, is no longer whether Biden and his predecessors should have acted differently. It’s how the United States can minimize the damage.

Biden should begin by speaking the truth. So far, the President has failed to admit the failure of his withdrawal plan. Biden ought to be straightforward with himself, the American people, and the whole world.

Biden’s policy should, of course, vary depending on the area and global conditions. To promote its interests in the Indo-Pacific area, the United States should station a few ambassadors, including a Navy or Coast Guard attaché, in the Pacific Island countries of Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. In addition, a considerable number of troops currently stationed in Afghanistan should be redeployed to the Pacific. Finally, Biden’s administration should engage with U.S. defense contractors to speed up the transfer of military equipment to Taiwan. Getting Taiwan its armaments swiftly would be a powerful show of support as a steadfast ally, as well as provide modern platforms to prevent a Chinese amphibious invasion.

The Biden administration should also do all in its power to rebuild relations with European partners. For the very first time, NATO invoked Article 5, which identifies an assault on one member as an assault on all. Since then, soldiers from a variety of countries have fought and died alongside US troops. Nonetheless, Biden decided to leave Afghanistan without consulting the governments of these countries, leaving them to plan emergency rescue efforts for their populations. Close allies of the United States are understandably enraged. America’s behavior is being chastised in Paris, Berlin, and the British House of Commons on both sides of the aisle.

Last month, at a meeting of regional leaders in Baghdad, Macron made it clear that, unlike the Americans, he was dedicated to remaining in the Middle East. “Whatever the American choice is,” he stated in public remarks in Baghdad, “we will maintain our presence in Iraq to fight terrorism as long as terrorist groups function and the Iraqi government requests our assistance.” It was a clear example of Macron’s idea of “strategic autonomy,” which implies European independence from U.S. security policy, and an attempt to use the United States’ humiliation to underline that Europe and Washington were not always on the same page. At an emergency G7 summit, Mr. Biden is said to have turned down allied requests to extend the August 31 deadline for exit.

The Biden administration’s recent decision not to penalize Nord Stream 2 pipeline participants has enraged Europeans as well. Poland and Ukraine underlined their worries in a joint statement about the ramifications of choices taken on the pipeline without the participation of nations directly impacted, claiming that Nord Stream 2 poses both geological and ecological risks to Europe.

As a result, whether it’s diplomatic recognition of the Taliban regime, humanitarian aid for the Afghan people, or any other major issue, the US should not take any more action without engaging partners. Mr. Biden should also dispatch senior members of his national security team to Europe and other regions of the world to reinforce America’s commitment to their security.

As to the Middle East, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, in a Foreign Affairs article described “America’s opportunity in the Middle East,” suggesting that diplomacy may work where previous military interventions have failed. The United States’ involvement in the area is frequently portrayed in military or counter-terrorism terms, and as a binary option between going all-in or going all-out. Instead, Sullivan advocated for a strategy that relied more on “aggressive diplomacy to generate more long-term benefits.”

Accordingly, the President and his team in Vienna should get the new Iranian administration back to the negotiating tables and rejoin the JCPOA and ease the tensions in the Middle East. Also, the United States should do all possible in Afghanistan to secure the safe transit of Afghans who qualify for U.S. visas to the Kabul airport – and to keep flights flying until they are able to leave. This should apply to both Afghans who dealt closely with the United States’ military, and to those who engage with U.S. media and humanitarian organizations and must get visas from a third country. In addition to ensuring that the United Nations and humanitarian groups have the resources they need, the United States should cooperate with its Security Council allies to guarantee that the Taliban does not hinder the free flow of help.

Moreover, to follow any influx of jihadists to Afghanistan, intelligence agencies will have to rededicate resources and increase surveillance. They must be pushed to coordinate their efforts on the Taliban in order to keep the most threatening groups under control. The United States could set an example by agreeing to accept a fair share of any displaced Afghans. Neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan, which already have millions of Afghan refugees, are closing their borders.

Biden may not be able to prevent all of the disastrous repercussions of the Afghan catastrophe, but he must act now before the harm to U.S. interests and moral stature becomes irreversible. By taking these steps, he can send a strong statement to the world that he has learned his lessons and that America is coming back.

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