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

Prof. Louis René Beres

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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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Mistrust between Russia and the United States Has Reached an All-Time High

Igor Ivanov

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In August 2020, Politico magazine published three letters outlining their authors’ views of the ways the United States, and the West in general, should build relations with Russia. The first, published on August 5 and signed by over 100 prominent American politicians, diplomats and military leaders, states that Washington’s present policy towards Moscow “isn’t working” and that it is time that the United States “rethink” it. The gist of the proposals is that the United States “must deal with Russia as it is, not as we wish it to be, fully utilizing our strengths but open to diplomacy.”

This letter prompted a response, first from another group of former American ambassadors and political scientists (Politico, August 11) and then from several eminent politicians from Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia (August 13). Both groups agree that now is not the time to reconsider policies toward Russia.

I am well acquainted with many of the signatories to these three statements. I worked closely with some of them during my tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and met some of them during negotiations. I still keep in touch with several of them, as we participate in various informal international projects. Since most parties to the emerging discussion are both highly experienced professionals and public figures, their stances on Russia are well known. The list of signatories under each statement hardly came as a surprise to anyone.

I do not think it makes sense to dwell in too much detail on the arguments presented by the parties. At the same time, proceeding from my own experience of U.S.–Russia relations, I would think that I have the right to put forward some considerations of my own.

First of all, on whether a “new reset” in relations between Washington and Moscow is either possible or desirable. One gets the impression that the authors of the letters see the “old reset” spearheaded by the Obama administration as a kind of bonus or advance offered by the United States to Russia in the hope that the latter would “behave” properly. The debate focuses on whether or not Russia has justified this “advance,” and whether or not it deserves a new bonus. Personally, I cannot recall a single instance where the United States (during Barack Obama’s presidency or under any other administration) gave Russia a “bonus” or “advance” of any kind, made a unilateral concession or indeed did anything that was not in the interests of the United States.

As I see it, the “reset” fully met the long-term interests of both states, particularly in security. Only a very biased observer would claim that the New START Treaty constituted a unilateral concession to Moscow on the part of Washington. Similarly, NATO’s call at the 2010 Lisbon Summit for a true strategic partnership with Russia can hardly be viewed as a unilateral concession. In both instances, the interests of both parties were taken into account, as were the interests of international security in general.

Russia and the United States remain the world’s leading nuclear powers, boasting the largest strategic weapons capabilities. Moscow and Washington have been engaged in mutual deterrence for decades now. However, an objective analysis of the challenges and threats to Russian and U.S. security shows that the very real dangers that do exist emanate not from the two countries themselves, but rather from processes and trends that lie outside the bilateral relations. Accordingly, any predictions about the possible and desirable prospects for interaction between the two states will be incomplete at the very least if they are taken out of the overall context of the development of the international system.

We have to admit that mistrust between Russia and the United States has reached an all-time high. It will take years, maybe even decades, to rectify this situation. However, I am confident that, sooner or later, we will have to start moving in that direction, not because one party will “wear” the other down, forcing it to make unilateral concessions or even throw itself at the mercy of the winner. First, each side has a large safety margin and is willing to continue the confrontation for many years to come. Second, history shows us that peace achieved through unilateral concession rarely lasts.

Life itself, by which I mean each side understanding the long-term need of its own security, will force the United States and Russia to resume progress towards cooperation. Such an understanding, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the elections in the two countries, or with the opportunistic calculations of individual political forces. Regardless of these calculations, the world is rapidly moving towards the line beyond which a global disaster looms with increasing clarity. Once we take a peek beyond this line, the entire world, primarily its leading states, which bear special responsibility for the fate of the world, will have to make decisions that go beyond their own immediate interests.

As for the debates on when and with whom the United States should enter into a dialogue with Russia, I believe such discussions have zero practical value. It would be extremely unreasonable and even irresponsible to defer talks in the hope that more convenient or more accommodating interlocutors will appear in the partner country or, alternatively, that a more favourable general political situation for negotiations will appear.

I would like to refer to my own experience. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I constantly kept in touch with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and then with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. That was in the late 1990s–early 2000s. The bombings of Yugoslavia, the war in Iraq, the Middle Eastern crisis, the expansion of NATO and many, many other events objectively made the U.S.–Russia dialogue more difficult. Obviously, our views on many issues differed greatly. But we never broke off our dialogue, not for a day, no matter how difficult it was. Strictly speaking, this is the art of diplomacy: conducting a dialogue with a difficult partner, achieving agreements where the stances of the parties veer widely and the chances of reaching a comprise appear minimal.

Critics will hasten to say that the U.S.–Russia dialogue in the early 21st century failed to prevent many conflicts and wars, and that is true. But it also helped prevent far graver consequences and, where possible, even led to the signing of important mutually acceptable agreements (New START, etc.). The experience of global diplomacy tells us that the only way to find solutions is through dialogue. The sooner our leading politicians realize it, the faster we will step away from mutual public accusations and destructive information wars waged with cutting-edge technologies and move towards earnest talks on the crucial issues of the 21st-century agenda.

Giving general advice is easy. It is even easier to take the high horse, insisting on staying faithful to one’s values and principles. It is much more difficult for those who have been accorded the requisite powers to make specific decisions. As the great American economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” All we can do is hope that politicians in Russia and the United States will prefer the unpalatable to the disastrous.

From our partner RIAC

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The Farce of Post 9/11 U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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This week refugee camps in Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos were set ablaze rendering over 20,000 refugees homeless.  Apparently the fires were started by the refugees themselves who are sick of lives in limbo on the EU periphery.  They want to reach the heartland, get jobs, build lives for themselves.

An inevitable consequence of our modern wars, refugees have become an emblem.  Old newsreels show us their lined, worried faces in the Second World War and TV has them live from Yugosloavia, a country disappeared and reemerged as several ethnic  parts, while numerous principal actors of the time faced judges in the international courts.

Then there is 9/11 in the US — a term meaning September 11 as in the US, unlike Europe and many parts of the world, the month is written first followed by the day and year.  Patriot Day, as it has been labeled, September 11 marks the day when commercial airliners were used as weapons to destroy the World Trade Center, a skyscraper in New York City, and attack the Pentagon, the military’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

If the mastermind of the attack was a turned, non-Afghan, Mujahedin commander camped out in Afghanistan, who following Soviet withdrawal turned his attention to the other major power … committing, in his mind, the unpardonable sin of parking troops on his native soil of Saudi Arabia — no matter, they were there for protective purposes from an increasingly belligerent Saddam Hussein.

The results we know.  A naive George Bush and a populace thirsting for revenge attacked Afghanistan leading to the longest war in American history.  Many presidents later, Donald Trump too is trying to negotiate a pull-out of US troops with the Taliban.  Yes, Afghanistan holds elections and has a president, even a military, but guess what will happen if US troops leave without any resolution with the Taliban.

George Bush’s rival for governor in Texas had a great line.  ‘Poor George,’ she would say, ‘he can’t help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.’  So George went after Iraq and lacking his father’s good sense (who after liberating Kuwait withdrew) he stayed to democratize Iraq without examining the country’s demographics.  Majority Shia, it has a democratic leadership now that is Shia and closely allied with Shia Iran.  Fast forward to the present and the current president, Donald Trump, is withdrawing troops from Iraq and is in a stand-off with Iran. 

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking American foreign policy in the Middle East is a plot from a Gilbert and Sullivan farce.  Except for a sad and sobering fact.  More than a million lives lost, refugees still streaming out and many, many millions of lives displaced … including a Christian Iraqi from Baghdad who runs a 24-hour convenience store a couple of miles from my house.

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American Democracy and “The Barbarism of Specialisation”

Prof. Louis René Beres

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Jose Ortega y' Gasset

“The specialist ‘knows’ very well his own tiny corner of the universe; he is radically ignorant of all the rest.”-Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (1930)

It has been almost one hundred years since Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset  published The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas, 1930). A prescient indictment of anti-Reason, and an immediate forerunner of modern classical works by German scholars Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers,[1] Ortega was most plainly concerned about Europe’s growing fragmentation of learning. Witnessing a world rapidly abandoning the traditional goal of  broadly-educated or “whole” human beings, he worried about a future in which there would be more capable scientists than ever before, but where these scientists were otherwise unexceptional and without any wider embrace of erudition.

                These observations were seminal. Among other things, the prophetic philosopher foresaw “educated” societies in which even the proud holders of impressive university degrees were “conscientiously ignorant” of everything outside their own vocational bailiwicks. In essence, Ortega had anticipated the present-day United States. Here, even in an oft-vaunted “advanced society,” the most exquisitely trained physicians, lawyers, accountants and engineers generally reason at the same limiting level of analysis as technicians, carpenters or lightly schooled office workers.

               In large part, this is because “professional” education in the United States has effectively superseded everything that does not ostentatiously focus on making money. The adverb here is vital in this description, because the overriding lure of wealth in America remains the presumed admiration it can elicit from others. As we ought already to have learned from Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759): “The rich man glories in his riches, 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.”[2]

               Almost by definition, any American concerns for intellectual or historical issues per se have become extraneous. This does not mean, however, that our strenuous national efforts at improving professional education  have been successful  or productive. On the contrary, as we witness the multiple daily technical failures of American democracy – e.g. the all-too evident incapacity of our ballot calculating technologies to keep abreast of shifting vote-counting modalities – this beleaguered polity is failing on multiple fronts.

               For many reasons, many of them overlapping, this has been a lamentable retrogression. Above all, it has impaired this country’s capacity to sustain an enviable or even minimally credible democracy. Though Thomas Jefferson had already understood that proper human governance requires a purposeful acquaintance with historical and sociological learning, Americans now inhabit a country where the president can say unashamedly, “I love the poorly educated.” Significantly, this perverse preference of Donald J. Trump did not emerge ex nihilo, out of nothing.

               It is a portentous but credible echo of Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels: “Intellect rots the brain.”[3]

               Ortega y’Gasset had a specific name for this generally defiling intellectual deformation. More exactly, he called it “The Barbarism of ‘Specialisation.”[4] Earlier, and in somewhat similar fashion, Friedrich  Nietzsche wrote about the “educated philistine.”[5] Both Ortega and Nietzsche recognized the irony that a society could become progressively better educated in various sub-fields of human knowledge and yet, simultaneously, become less and less cultured, less and less truly civilized.[6] In this regard, the German philosopher placed appropriate conceptual blame on what he preferred to call the “herd.”[7] For his part, the kindred Spanish thinker cast his particular indictment on the “mass.”

               Whatever the terminological differences, both sets of ideas were centered on the same basic critique; that is, that individuals had been casting aside the necessary obligation to think for themselves, and had, thereby, surrendered indispensable analytic judgments to “crowds.”[8]

               Today, both ideas can shed some useful light on American democracy, a system of governance under increasing assault by US President Donald J. Trump.        To the extent that American education has become rampantly vocational – that is, oriented toward more and more “pragmatic” kinds of specialization – the wisdom of Ortega y’Gasset and others is worth probing with ever-increasing care. Moreover, the corrosively “barbarous” impact of  specialization foreseen earlier by philosophers is now magnified by the injurious effects of worldwide disease pandemic. 

               Without doubt, this unwelcome magnification will need to be countered if American democracy is able merely to survive.[9]

               But analysis should begin at the beginning. Inter alia, it is a discomfiting beginning. Americans now inhabit a society so numbingly fragmented and rancorous that even their most sincere melancholy is seemingly contrived. Wallowing in the mutually-reinforcing twilights of submission and conformance, We the people have strayed dangerously far from any meaningful standards of serious learning. In consequence, though still a nation with extraordinary scientific, medical and commercial successes, the American public is often ill-equipped to judge candidates for  high political office.[10]

               As we have seen, utterly ill-equipped.

               Surveying ever-mounting damages of the Trump presidency,[11] some of which are synergistic or “force multiplying,” could anything be more apparent?

                The grievously baneful selection of Donald J. Trump in 2016 was anything but a cultural aberration.  It was, rather, the plausible outcome of an electorate relentlessly driven and even defined by “mass.” Without any real or compelling reasons, voting Americans freely abandoned the once-residual elements of Jeffersonian good citizenship.

               Together with the unceasing connivance of assorted criminals, charlatans and fools, many of them occupants of the present US Government’s most senior positions, a lonely American mass now bears core responsibility for allowing the demise of a once- enviable democratic ethos. To expect any sudden improvements to emerge from among this homogenized mass (e.g., by continuously making the citizens more particularly aware of this president’s manifold derelictions) would be to  overestimate its inclinations.  Though truth is always exculpatory, there are times when it yields to various forms of self-delusion.

               “What the mass once learned to believe without reasons,” queries Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “who could ever overthrow with reasons?”

               There will be a heavy price to pay for America’s still-expanding ascendancy of mass. Any society so willing to abjure its rudimentary obligations toward dignified learning – toward what American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called “high thinking” – is one that should never reasonably expect to survive.[12]

                There is more. Treating formal education as a narrowly instrumental obligation (“one should get better educated in order to get a better paying job”), Americans now more easily accept flagrantly empty witticisms as profundities (“We will build a beautiful wall;” “Barbed wire can be beautiful;” “The moon is part of Mars;”  “Testing for corona virus only increases disease;” “Just one percent of Covid19 victims have symptoms,” etc., etc), and consult genuinely challenging ideas only rarely.

               Always, the dire result of anti-Reason is more-or-less predictable; that is, a finely trained work force that manages to get a particular “job” done, but displays (simultaneously) nary a hint of  worthwhile learning, commendable human understanding or simple compassion. Concerning this last absence, empathy is not directly related to the “barbarisms of specialization,” but it does generally exhibit some tangible nurturance from literature, art and/or “culture.” Incontestably, the Trump White House is not “only” indifferent to basic human rights and public welfare,[13] it quite literally elevates personal animus to highest possible significations.

               This is especially marked where such animus is most thoroughly pedestrian.

               Intentionally mispronouncing the Democrat vice-presidential candidate’s first name is a small but glaring example of Donald Trump’s selected level of competitive political discourse. By its very nature, of course, this demeaning level is better suited to a first-grade elementary school classroom.

               There are even much wider ramifications of gratuitous rancor. When transposed to the vital arena of international relations, this president’s elevation of belligerent nationalism has a long and persistently unsuccessful history as Realpolitik or power politics.[14] Thinking himself clever, Donald Trump champions “America First” (the phrase resonates with those, like the president himself, who have no knowledge of history),but fails to realize that this peculiarly shameful resurrection of “Deutschland uber alles” can lead only to massive defeat and unparalleled despair.

               “I loathe, therefore I am,” could well become Donald J. Trump’s “revised” version  of  René Descartes “Cogito.”[15] Following Descartes, Sigmund Freud had understood that all human beings could somehow be motivated toward creating a “spontaneous sympathy of souls,” but America’s Donald Trump has quite expansively reversed this objective. Reinforced by the rampant vocationalism of this country’s education system, Trump has consistently urged citizens to turn against one another, and for no dignified, defensible or science-based reasons. In absolutely all cases, these grotesque urgings have had no meritorious or higher purpose.

               Instead, they remain utterly and viciously contrived.

               In the bitterly fractionated Trump-era United States, an authentic American individualhas become little more than a charming artifact.  Among other things, the nation’s societal “mass,”  more refractory than ever to intellect and learning, still displays no discernible intentions of ever taking itself seriously. To the contrary, an embittered American ‘mass” now marches in deferential lockstep, foolishly, without thought, toward even-greater patterns of imitation, unhappiness and starkly belligerent incivility.

               All things considered, the American future is not hard to fathom. More than likely, whatever might be decided in upcoming politics and elections, Americans will continue to be carried forth not by any commendable nobilities of principle or purpose, but by steady eruptions of personal and collective agitation, by endlessly inane presidential repetitions and by the perpetually demeaning primacy of a duly “sanctified” public ignorance.  At times, perhaps, We the people may still be able to slow down a bit and “smell the roses,”  but this is doubtful.

               Plainly, our visibly compromised and degraded country now imposes upon its increasingly exhausted people the breathless rhythms of a vast and omnivorous machine.

               This machine has no objective other than to keep struggling without spawning any sudden breakdowns or prematurely inconvenient deaths.

               Much as many might wish to deny it, the plausible end of this self-destroying machinery will be to prevent Americans from remembering who they are now and (far more importantly) who they might once still have become. At another reasonable level of concern, Americans remain threatened by nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, especially now, during the incoherent Trump-era. Significantly, although there exists a vast literature on law-based strategies of nuclear war avoidance, there is little parallel jurisprudential effort directed toward the prevention of nuclear terrorism.[16]

               In fact, presidential banalities aside, this is no longer a “nation of laws.” It is a nation of ad hoc, narrowly visceral response.

               There is more.  Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, we harbored a preciously unique potential to nurture individuals, that is, to encourage Americans to become more than a smugly inert mass,  herd or crowd. Then, Ralph Waldo Emerson (also fellow Transcendentalists Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau) described us optimistically as a people animated by industry and “self-reliance.”

               Now, however, and beyond any serious contestation, we are stymied by collective paralysis, capitulation and a starkly Kierkegaardian “fear and trembling.”

                Surely, as all must eventually acknowledge, there is more to this chanting country than Fuehrer-driven rallies, tsunamis of hyper-adrenalized commerce or gargantuan waves of abundantly cheap entertainments: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,” rhapsodized the poet Walt Whitman, but today, the American Selfhas devolved into a delicately thin shadow of true national potential. Distressingly, this Self has already become a twisting reflection of a prior authenticity.  Now it is under seemingly final assault by a far-reaching  societal tastelessness and by a literally epidemic gluttony.

               Regarding this expressly gastronomic debility, it’s not that we Americans have become more and more hungry, but rather that we have lost any once residual appetites for real life.[17]

               In the end, credulity is America’s worst enemy. The stubborn inclination to believe that wider social and personal redemption must lie somewhere in politics remains a potentially fatal disorder. To be fair, various social and economic issues do need to be coherently addressed by America’s political representatives, but so too must the nation’s deeper problems first be solved at the level of microcosm, as a matter for individuals.

               In the end, American politics – like politics everywhere – must remain a second-order activity, a faint reflection of what is truly important. For now, it continues to thrive upon a vast personal emptiness, on an infirmity that is the always-defiling reciprocal of any genuine personal fulfillment. “Conscious of his emptiness,” warns the German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952), “man (human) tries to make a faith for himself (or herself) in the political realm. In Vain.”

                Even in an authentic democracy, only a few can ever hope to redeem themselves and the wider American nation, but these self-effacing souls will generally remain silent, hidden in more-or-less “deep cover,” often even from themselves. In a democracy where education is oriented toward narrowly vocational forms of career preparation, an orientation toward “barbaric specialization,” these residual few can expect to be suffocated by the many. Unsurprisingly, such asphyxiation, in absolutely any of its conceivable particularities, would be a bad way to “die.”[18]

               Donald J. Trump did not emerge on the political scene ex nihilo, out of nothing. His incoherent and disjointed presidency is the direct result of a society that has wittingly and barbarously abandoned all serious thought. When such a society no longer asks the “big philosophical questions” – for example, “What is the “good” in government and politics”? or “How do I lead a good life as person and citizen”? or “How can I best nurture the well-being of other human beings”? – the lamentable outcome is inevitable. It is an  outcome that we are currently living through in the United States, and one that might sometime have to be “died through.”

               Going forward, what we ought to fear most of all is precisely this continuously self-defiling outcome, not a particular electoral result. To be certain, at this point, nothing could be more urgently important for the United States than to rid itself of the intersecting pathologies of Covid19 and Donald Trump, diseases that are mutually reinforcing and potentially synergistic, but even such victories would only be transient. More fundamentally, recalling philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset’s timeless warning about the “barbarism of specialisation,” this country must resurrect an earlier ethos of education in which learning benefits the whole human being, not just a work-related “corner of the universe.”

               Also vital is the obligation to acknowledge the fundamental interrelatedness of all peoples and the binding universality of international law.[19]

               To survive, both as a nation and as individuals, Americans need to become educated not merely as well-trained cogs in the vast industrial machine, but as empathetic and caring citizens. “Everyone is the other, and no one is just himself,” cautions Martin  Heidegger in Being and Time (1932), but this elementary lesson once discoverable in myriad sacred texts is not easily operationalized.  Indeed, it is in this single monumental failure of “operationalization” that human civilization has most conspicuously failed though the ages. To wit, in Trump-era American democracy, the president’s core message is not about the co-responsibility of every human being for his or her fellows, but about “winners,” “losers,” and a presumptively preeminent citizen obligation to “Make America Great.”

               In this Trumpian context, “greatness” assumes a crudely Darwinian or zero-sum condition, and not one wherein each individual favors harmonious cooperation over an endlessly belligerent competition.[20]

               How shall we finally change all this, or, recalling Plato’s wisdom in The Republic, how shall we  “learn to make the souls of the citizens better?”[21] This is not a question that we can answer with any pertinent detail before the upcoming US presidential election. But it is still a question that we ought to put before the imperiled American polity soon, and sometime before it is too late.[22]

               American democracy faces multiple hazards, including Ortega y’ Gasset’s “barbarism of specialisation.” To be rescued in time, each hazard will have to be tackled carefully, by itself and also in coordinated tandem with all other identifiable perils. Overall, the task will be daunting and overwhelming, but the alternative is simply no longer tolerable or sustainable.

               Donald Trump’s removal from office is a sine qua non for all applicable remedies, but even such an needed step would target only a catastrophic symptom of America’s national “pathology.” By itself, saving the United States from Donald Trump would surely be indispensable, but it would leave unchanged the country’s still most deeply underlying “disease.” In  the end,[23] because Americans will need to bring a less “specialized” form of learning to their citizenship responsibilities, the nation will quickly have to figure out practical ways of restoring educational “wholeness.”

               Can this sort of rational calculation be expected? Maybe not. Perhaps, like the timeless message of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, this warning has “come too soon.” If that turns out to be the case, there may simply be no “later.”


[1] See especially Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time (Sein und Zeit;1953) and Karl Jaspers’ Reason and Anti-Reason in  our Time (1952). “Is it an end that draws near,” inquires Jaspers, “or a beginning?” The answer will depend, in large part, on what Heidegger has to say about the Jungian or Freudian “mass.” In Being and Time (1953), the philosopher laments what he calls, in German, das Mann, or “The They.”  Drawing fruitfully upon earlier core insights of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Jung and Freud, Heidegger’s “The They” represents the ever-present and interchangeable herdcrowd, horde or mass. Each such conglomerate exhibits “untruth” (the term actually favored by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard)  because it can encourage the “barbarism of specialisation” and suffocate broadly humanistic kinds of learning.

[2]Smith published Theory seventeen years before his vastly more famous and oft-cited Wealth of Nations (1776).

[3]See, on commonalities between Third Reich and Trump-era American democracy, by Louis René Beres at Jurist:  https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[4] Chapter 12 of The Revolt of the Masses (1930) is expressly titled “The Barbarism of ‘Specialisation.'”

[5]Here, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term, one he hoped could eventually become universal. This  German word was Bildungsphilister. When expressed in its most lucid and coherent English translation, it means “educated Philistine.” Bildungsphilister is a term that could shed useful light upon Donald Trump’s ongoing support from among America’s presumptively well-educated and well-to-do.

[6] On this irony, Kierkegaard says it best in The Sickness Unto Death (1849): “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.”

[7]Sigmund Freud introduced his own particular version of Nietzsche’s “herd,” which was “horde.” Interestingly, Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. He most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this country’s “shallow optimism” and also its corollary commitment to the crudest forms of materialism. America, thought Freud, was grievously “lacking in soul.” See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[8] In  essence, the “crowd” was Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s equivalent of Nietzsche’s “herd” and Ortega’s “mass.”

[9] The most ominous synergies of “barbarism” would link pandemic effects with growing risks of a nuclear war. On irrational nuclear decision-making by this author, see Louis René Beres, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon). For authoritative early accounts by Professor Beres of nuclear war expected effects, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[10] At a minimum, in this regard, the US public ought to be reminded of the explicit warning in Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: “Do not ever seek the higher man at the market place.” (Moreover, it would not be unfair to Nietzsche’s core meaning here to expand “higher man” to mean “higher person.”).

[11] Most egregious, in any assessment of these damages, is this president’s wilful subordination of national interest to his own presumed private interests. In this regard, one may suitably recall Sophocles’ cautionary speech of Creon in Antigone: “I hold despicable, and always have….anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.”

[12] Still the best treatments of America’s long-term disinterest in anything intellectual are Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964); and Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1959).

[13] See, by Louis René Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/the-trump-presidency-a-breathtaking-assault-on-law-justice-and-security/

[14] The classic statement of Realpolitik or power politics in western  philosophy is the comment of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic : “Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” (See Plato, The Republic, 29, Benjamin Jowett, tr., World Publishing Company, 1946.) See also: Cicero’s oft-quoted query: “For what can be done against force without force?,” Marcus Tullus Cicero, Cicero’s Letters to his Friends, 78  (D.R. Shackleton Baily tr., Scholars Press, 1988).

[15] “I think, therefore I am,” says René Descartes, in his Discourse on Method (1637). Reciprocally, in his modern classic essay on “Existentialism,” Jean-Paul Sartre observes that “…outside the Cartesian cogito, all views are only probable.”

[16] See, by Professor Louis René Beres: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1410&context=gjicl

[17] An apt literary reference for this condition of “lost appetite” is Franz Kafka’s story, The Hunger Artist.

[18] In more expressly concrete terms, average American life-expectancy, unenviable for several decades, has now fallen behind most of the advanced industrial world. While Trump boasts of a wall to keep out Mexicans and assorted “others,” more and more Americans are trying to cross in the other direction.

[19] Apropos of this universality, international law is generally part of the law of the United States. These legal systems are always interpenetrating. Declared Mr. Justice Gray, in 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)). 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.”

[20] Here it could be helpful to recall the words of French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”

[21] Long after Plato, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but clearly it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a still-recognizable and critical seat of both mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to “soul.” Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (e.g., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and to material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological misery.

[22] “Sometimes,” says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, “the worst does happen.”

[23] “In the end,” says Goethe, “we are always creatures of our own making.”

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