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Retreat To The “Fuhrerbunker”: A Remembrance Of Things Past?

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“Is it an end that draws near, or a beginning?”-Karl Jaspers, Man in the Modern Age (1951)[1]

Toward the close of World War II, with the advancing Red Army not yet in Berlin, Adolph Hitler and some of his closest aides retreated to the Fűhrerbunker, a presumed shelter of last resort near the Reich Chancellery. On 29 April 1945, Hitler married Eva Braun. One day later, to be followed by the entire Joseph Goebbels family, they committed suicide.

What could this infamous historical event possibly have to do with US President Donald J. Trump and his rapidly-descending American presidency? To be sure, this current head of state is not guilty of genocide,[2] and likely does not have any sort of “final retreat” in mind. Nonetheless, on June 1-2, 2020, during a period of unusual uncertainty and instability in Washington DC, Trump briefly made his way to the White House basement “safe area” for improved personal security. While in no way reasonably analogous to thebloodied Fűhrerbunker of the Third Reich, it was nonetheless a grim reminder that we too, as a fragile and unraveling American society, could sometime have to confront our ownleader-created Gotterdammerung,or “Twilight of the Gods.”[3]

However irksome, such a reminder should have its proper and clarifying place in this country’s national consciousness. Even if taken only as metaphor, a presidential retreat to the “bunker,” whether as a singular isolated event or as continuous and ongoing practice of self-serving escape, could plausibly emerge in America’s collective future. At that fateful point,  it would likely be much too late to make any once-necessary policy remediations.

At that point, even while barely comprehending American crowds shriek their approval at rancorous presidential rallies, the existential damage will already have been done. Though the elucidating theatrical genre here would likely appear to be tragedy, the actual ambience of Donald Trump’s crumbling cities would probably resemble pathetic melodrama or an unseemly self-parody.

There would be little residual mystery here for the Trump minions or for anyone else.  To incredulous Americans, the once preventable horrors of a deranged national leadership will have become a fait accompli. Moreover, to this nation’s ineradicable shame, these once-distant horrors could run the gamut from various selective infringements of human rights, both national and international, to massively cascading death counts arising from “plague” (pandemic) and/or catastrophic nuclear war.[4] If this last atomic scenario might at first appear implausible or impossible, thoughtful Americans should bear in mind that any US president’s ultimate authority to use nuclear weapons is distinctly far-reaching and potentially incontestable.[5]

Once abused or simply misunderstood, this authority could open the way for America’s very own existential “twilight” and “retreat.”

In such too-easily rejected circumstances – “Out of sight, out of mind” –  it is well worth remembering the cautionary historical observation of Sigmund Freud: “Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great roles at all times in the history of mankind, and not merely when the accident of birth had bequeathed them sovereignty. Usually they have wreaked havoc.” Significantly, Freud wrote these sobering words before humankind had unlocked the secret of the atom, before any nation-state could ever have had reason to worry about finding itself in extremis atomicum.

Truth is exculpatory. As with so many previous dictators or would-be emperors, Donald J. Trump is generally unaffected by any decipherable considerations of Reason or Science. In the evident matter of a still-accelerating worldwide biological assault, he has without hesitation substituted his own conspicuously uninformed medical opinions for the country’s most well-qualified and esteemed epidemiologists. In these life-endangering behaviors, Trump remains able to make wildly  irrational substitutions because (like these previous dictators and would-be emperors) he feels himself unbound by any usual rules of calculation, logic or scientific method.[6] Or in the marvelously apt terminology created by 20th-century Spanish thinker Jose Ortega y’Gasset (The Revolt of the Masses,1930)” “The mass-man has no attention to spare for reasoning; he learns only in his own flesh.”[7] 

Lest anyone may not yet have noticed, Donald J. Trump is philosopher Ortega’s “mass man” par excellence. At first glance, any such demeaning ascription could appear to be inappropriate prima facie. How, after all, can an American president be a “mass man?” Mustn’t there be something basically wrong with a such an ascription, as even by definition, the nation’s leader is patently above mass? Isn’t this very plainly therefore an obvious oxymoron?

To be sure, this “Fűhrer’s” loyal followers would  object strenuously. Yet, these very same followers would deny any Trump-committed wrongdoings, even if they were direct personal witnesses. For them, as for their endlessly-dissembling leader, truth and falsity are readily interchangeable.

Utterly.

“I love the poorly educated” ranted candidate Trump back in 2016.[8]

“Intellect rots the brain,” warned Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in 1934.

“Whoever can dominate the street will one day conquer the state,” offered Joseph Goebbels at Nuremberg rally in 1934.

“The goal is to dominate the street,” echoed Donald Trump on June 1, 2020.

Is there a curious verbal and philosophical kinship here?  Is it even possible that Trump is well aware of Goebbels’ “wisdom,” and sees therein some very compelling examples? It was Joseph Goebbels, after all, who became well-know for the logic-torturing statement that any lie can become “truth” if it is merely repeated often enough.

Whether literally, or “merely” as metaphor, any upcoming Trump retreat to the Fuhrerbunker would necessarily follow certain catastrophic declensions of the wider American commonwealth. It follows, inter alia, that our most overriding current responsibility must be to heed such portentous warnings, and thereby to remain standing as a civilized national community as long as such a vital stance is still at least possible. Among many other things, this means an unswerving obligation to stand firmly against the multiplying and incessantly primal surrenders of the Trump administration, even when our duly elected representatives in the Congress display gratuitous servility to this incoherent presidency and an almost measureless level of personal cowardice.

Observing the groveling, obsequious and breathtakingly fawning behavior of the vice president, secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, homeland security secretary, Republican leadership in the Senate, secretary of health and human services, etc., etc. –  the humiliating list goes on and on – Americans should finally inquire: What is going on here? To ask such a basic question, citizens needn’t even be well-read, educated or determinedly intellectual. They might ask, therefore, without any fear of retribution: What are the well-habituated sycophants sustaining this hideous president so afraid of?

Here we have a fundamentally core question that must be raised quickly and resolutely. There is, after all,  no conceivable set of justifications for such pervasive and irredeemable official cowardice. Historically, however, there is ample precedent in the “Thousand Year Reich.”

Of what consequences are they so afraid? In the absolutely worst case scenario for these relentless administration sycophants, they would simply have to get real jobs and do some real work. Of course, judging from their generally conspicuous lack of any tangible learning or acquired wisdom, this expectation could still prove overwhelming. To wit, most Americans no longer expect even their highest officials to do any serious reading. In the case of the president, the unassailable  truth that Trump reads nothing –  nothing at all – is actually more of an asset than a liability for his followers. The fact that this president who “learns only in his own flesh” has never bothered to read the US  Constitution elicits similarly little public consternation.

In essence, presidential historical and jurisprudential illiteracy is very widely acceptable. This is the case even among Trump’s opponents, who by now have relinquished even their most basic citizenship expectations.

There is more. Even among the most conscientious political reporters and journalists, tough questions put to the president invariably deal narrowly with certain purported policy delinquencies of the moment, but never with this president’s more overriding and general incapacity. The real problem with US President Donald Trump, however, is not that he makes variously specific mistakes or commits assorted particular harms. It is that he is intrinsically unfit to be President of the United States.

Period.

In April 1945, the Third Reich –  “the thousand year Reich” – went up in smoke. For the most part, the individual Germans who had made this twelve-year horror possible were not identifiably “evil.” Rather, in the precisely-fashioned language of political philosopher Hannah Arendt, who had been a student of Professor Karl Jaspers, these docile people were merely ordinary or “banal.”[9] What had made this murderous and genocidal regime possible, therefore, was not any deliberate malice or  bloodlust, but instead the very sort of pervasive cowardice we witness today in the United States, -especially at the level of gratuitously belligerent government officials.

Plausibly, the multiple harms now being inflicted upon the United States and other parts of the world by President Donald J. Trump will not rise to the level of a nuclear war or genocide. Nonetheless, this is difficult to confirm for certain. The most fearful war or genocide consequences that could come immediately to mind are for the most part unprecedented or sui generis. It follows, from the standpoint of science and formal logic, that nothing can be said about the true probability of any such consequences. Accordingly, it would be foolhardy to dismiss them prima facie as somehow exaggerated or insignificant.

There are pertinent examples. As just one worrisome case, if some internal crisis in the Trump administration were sometime to occur at the same time as a North Korean nuclear crisis, a catastrophic nuclear war could not be ruled out. In this connection, it is also crucial to understand that Trump has never understood the most elementary elements of nuclear deterrence, and originally felt that “attitude,” rather than “preparation,” would successfully “denuclearize” the Pyongyang regime.[10]

More precisely, said Trump, after returning from the Singapore Summit,” Kim Jung Un and I “fell in love.” At that still-early stage in his defiling presidency, it ought already have become obvious that “the emperor has no clothes.” Already, it should have been apparent that this was not simply a remediable problem of bad manners or spasmodically careless error.

Why, then, was he permitted to go on by so many who surely knew better? Why should so many have continued to believe that this president was capable of understanding myriad complex, intersecting and even synergistic problems? Now, as just one more portentous  step toward the “Fuhrerbunker,”  Trump  supports policies that undermine the most utterly indispensable safeguards against further Covid-19 resurgence. Millions of Americans have even accepted this president’s incoherent line contra competent science and informed immunology, sometimes to the extent of personal experimentations with Trump-recommended “detoxifying” disinfectants.

“Is it an end that draws near,” inquired  Karl Jaspers, “or a beginning?” The answer will depend, in large part, on what another major post-war German philosopher had to say about the Jungian or Freudian “mass.” In his own classic study, Being and Time (1953),  Martin Heidegger 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” represent the ever-present herdcrowd, horde or mass, an “untruth” (the term favored by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard)  that can all-too-quickly suffocate personal growth and identity.

Anywhere, these assemblies are an eternally reassuring source of shelter from individual citizen responsibility. Such sources of “untruth” were  recently present in Tulsa just as they had earlier been present in 1930s Berlin. How else can we explain a public that enthusiastically cheers an American president who complained, at his June 20th Oklahoma rally, “There is too much testing (Covis19) going on,” or which stood by silently when Trump ordered his lapdog attorney general to transform the US Department of Justice into a corrupted agency of personal benefit and political enforcement?

For instructive purposes, analogies are not always meant to be exact, literal or “perfect.”[11] There are, of  course,  very substantial differences between the rise of German National Socialism in the 1930s and this incumbent American president’s subversion of American democracy. At the same time, there are also increasingly disturbing points of commonality between the philosopher’s “The They” and Donald J. Trump’s viscerally loyal minions. Left in place, this president could suddenly or eventually lead a fragmenting and imperiled American state toward its own apocalyptic end, whether by war, plague or “metastasizing” internal decay.

Should this outcome be permitted to happen, a US presidential retreat to the “Fűhrerbunker” could sometime prove to be more consequential than mere metaphor.

At that once unimaginable point, the American survivors would be asking themselves exactly the same question that surviving Germans had asked themselves back in the dark summer of 1945.

Among other things, that point could become a notably unwelcome “remembrance of things past.”[12]


[1] Karl Jaspers is the distinguished twentieth century German philosopher best known for his post war classic, The Question of German Guilt (1947). This book will be briefly discussed toward the end of the present essay.

[2] He did instruct his Secretary of State and Attorney General to openly denounce the International Criminal Court’s planned investigation of alleged US war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. This direction was in fundamental contradiction of America’s obligation to both national and international law. In the words used by the U.S. Supreme Court in The Paquete Habana, “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction, as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.  For this purpose, where there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.”  See The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 678-79 (1900).  See also:  The Lola,  175 U.S. 677 (1900);  Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F. 2d 774,  781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984)(per curiam)(Edwards, J. concurring)(dismissing the action, but making several references to domestic jurisdiction over extraterritorial offenses), cert. denied,  470 U.S. 1003 (1985)(“concept of extraordinary judicial jurisdiction over acts in violation of significant international standards…embodied in the principle of `universal violations of international law.'”).

[3] Here we may recall Swiss Playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt’s succinct reminder of what is both obvious and repressed: “The worst sometimes does happen.” But where understood in the express imagery of the theatre, as below, this “worst” is likely to present itself not as high tragedy, but as pathos or farce.

[4] For authoritative early accounts by this author of nuclear war 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

[5] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, at 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).

[6] In part this is because he knows that many of his followers are actively seeking to avoid any too-challenging analyses or obligations of clear thought. Recalling the philosopher Karl Jaspers, in Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952): “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.”

[7] Similarly, we may learn from Swiss psychologist and philosopher Carl G. 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.” At this point of almost fevered US citizen surrender to street-master Donald J. Trump, it is no longer difficult to imagine such a sweeping social downfall.

[8] This brings to mind a warning by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, in The New Spirit and the Poets (1917): “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.”

[9] See Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963).

[10] See, by Professor Louis René Beres, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School:  https://harvardnsj.org/2020/03/complex-determinations-deciphering-enemy-nuclear-intentions/

[11] In technical philosophy of science terminology, such perfect or “one-to-one” resemblances are known as “isomorphism.”

[12] The literary origin of this phrase, of course, is Marcel Proust’s early 20th century allegorical biography, his novel in seven parts, Remembrance of Things Past.

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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Summit without System

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It is clear why the Russia—U.S. Presidential summit is in the limelight of the world community. In the history of international relations, high-level meetings often become significant events that change the paradigm of bilateral and multilateral contacts. However, this happens when the accompanying factors—necessary for a reverse, revision, or update—mature. Experts agree that the depth of contradictions does not allow us to achieve serious changes. There are opinions that the summit will see an attempt to form some confrontation rules and establish a set of rivalry principles. In my opinion, this should not be expected for a number of reasons that lie in the structure of the contemporary international relations, which is transit in nature. Most likely, the summit will aim to establish personal contacts and tete-a-tete communication, dating in a new capacity.

The Geneva summit of June 16, 2021 has been prepared for a long time and resulted from a telephone conversation between the presidents as well as the subsequent work of the United States and Russian diplomatic services. The Russian-American relations have always been about security, strategic stability, and world order. Bilateral relations are kept to a minimum, and economic cooperation is at its minimum levels. The depth of contradictions regarding regional conflicts does not allow us to expect any serious changes. Theoretically, a successful dialogue can be achieved in those areas that account for similar interests and do not contradict the interpretations of national security. This could be the Iranian, Syrian and Afghan dossiers. In fact, there have never been insurmountable contradictions as regards these issues. In turn, the Ukrainian crisis is viewed by the parties from fundamentally different approaches, with the situation in the Eastern European country seen as the opposite. The conversation here will probably be short, and a compromise will not be found. The issues of strategic stability and arms control also have different interpretations, but at least so far, they have not been fundamental. Perhaps, these are all problems where some understanding could be achieved. In short, the agenda is broad but rather unpromising.

In any case, a meeting is always better than no meeting. The summit being held signals that it is possible and necessary for the United States to deal with Russia. For the new administration, a meeting’s necessity is dictated by the diplomatic structures and the need to establish personal contacts. Indeed, today the relations between the two nations cannot be called normal, working and effective. Given the military and geopolitical capabilities of the two countries, this fact itself is fraught with many threats, security dilemmas and conflict potential. A normalization in relations is a necessity, both for bilateral cooperation and for the global system. At the same time, the prospects for finding any common denominators are shallow. Moreover, this is practically impossible and—given the worldview perspectives of two countries—untimely.

The difficulties of normalization, in my opinion, lie in the systemic factor. Actors see the world, processes, practices, and the international relations system in different ways. Looking at the same things, Russia and the United States see them in contrasting ways, which complicates things and any substantive discussion, not to mention setting rules of the game. There is no consensus or compromise in understanding the international relations system, the role of states, IGOs and NGOs. In Russia, they believe that the United States is in decline. America is convinced that Russia is in decline. In Russia, the realist approach is not only dominant but, perhaps, the only acceptable option for the Kremlin, as the geopolitical interpretation of events seems to be the only relevant mindset.

How to avoid conflict, security dilemma and come to normalization? Today, there is probably no answer to this question. Stability requires institutions. This concept is much broader than organizations, fora or conferences. The institutional theory assumes that actors, bound by some common rules, norms and practices, will find a common language more easily, while the potential for conflict will be controlled. For the relations to be institutionalized, the necessary criterion is the legitimacy of recognizing a vis-à-vis as well as its rights, role and equality. This, unfortunately, is absolutely absent in the Russian-American relations.

Russia sees the world as multipolar, regarding itself as a great power—equal to the United States and China. Following this logic, Moscow demands an appropriate attitude and equality. Russia’s perspective on global processes reflects the growing influence of non-Western actors outside of liberal multilateralism. Moscow denies the international relations liberal theory in much the same way that the founders of the basic IR theory, Edward Carr and Hans Morgenthau, did. The liberal approach, and hence the vision of the United States, is seen as idealistic. In addition, individual divergences are treated not as exceptions to the rules but as an actual refutation of the theory itself. And the discourse hides real geopolitical goals that have nothing to do with its interpretation.

The dominant schools of international relations in the United States reject realist theory and, more importantly, see it as a problem of the current state in global politics. In addition, geopolitics and its methods are called obsolete. The consensus position believes that realism is refuted, as it fails to catch the zeitgeist of the much broader and more complex world. Consequently, the interpretations, practices, motives and arguments of the Russian side are not taken in at all. Their actions, in turn, are interpreted from the standpoint of critical, liberal approaches and methodologies of the English school. The dominant schools in the U.S. see the issues of national sovereignty, the role of non-state actors and military force differently. Some postulates neutralize the very concept of sovereignty and the main tenets of realism. Regional crises are considered not from the standpoint of security and geopolitics but as something essentially predicted by the dominant schools in the West, namely the desire of some states to become part of the family of democracies.

According to the English School, the United States treats NATO as a community of nations, believing the rhetoric of the alliance should be based on the need for securitization, as is required by the Copenhagen theory. The rhetoric from these points of view is aimed at the epistemological community, fixing the enemy to strengthen unity and security procedures. In Russia, which proceeds from classical realism or neorealism, we tend to think of NATO as of a military-political alliance that defends the geopolitical interests of a bloc of countries rather than of a community of global police officers. Numerous crises in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine are seen as attempts by the Atlantic alliance, which seeks hegemony, to expand its sphere of influence. The consequences are extremely negative, as they are deemed to be destabilizing, rooted in irresponsible decisions that ignore the social and regional characteristics of nations. NATO’s direct or indirect involvement in crises is seen as a threat that creates numerous security dilemmas. Moscow sees the strengthening of NATO and the United States as a threat to its national interests and security.

The practices, motivations and characteristics of a multipolar, unipolar or bipolar world are fundamentally different. Consequently, looking at the world through the prism of these theoretical interpretations leads to different, often mutually exclusive readings of the same processes. Indeed, the rules of international relations designed in 1945 and updated following the Cold War need to be revised. However, the leading actors are not going to do this yet, which, apparently, is a sign that the critical potential is lacking at this point. Amid unformed transit world order, which is in some cases similar to the Brownian motion, agreeing on rules of confrontation is inherently difficult.

Today, the relations between Russia and the United States are abnormal, irrational, lacking in systemic thinking, clear goal-setting, and acceptable practices. An experienced administration of professionals has come to power in the United States, and the fact that the summit is to be held demonstrates that the dialogue with Moscow is not toxic. Minimalism and the attempt to focus on small things to achieve practical results may well be the most positive scenario of the summit. At the same time, the transit nature of the current international relations system, which seems to be moving from a unipolar to a multipolar world, prevents the parties from understanding, hearing and accepting each other.

The United States as the largest and the most powerful superpower is experiencing a post-hegemony state, as Robert Cohen puts it. It is increasingly at odds with the new pole of power, China. Russia, not being a full-fledged superpower, is limited in its actions and resources, however, reluctant to give in and believing it is in its national interests to nominally keep a distance from the West. Moscow needs to establish fair relations with the global West, of which relations of equality will be the foundation. At the same time, there is no sound alternative to the ideological construction of a transit world order. The rules of confrontation are, in fact, a kind of detente which recognizes the legitimacy of each party’s demands. Under the transit era, it will be extremely difficult to arrive at.

From our partner RIAC

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Biden: No More “Favourite Dictators”

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

 Former US President Donald Trump shared a strong personal rapport with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Trump made no bones about the fact, that he got along well with authoritarian leaders – especially in the Middle East. At the G7 Summit in 2019, Trump while looking for Egyptian President had even said, “Where’s my favourite dictator?”

Statements made by Biden before taking over as US President

On the other hand, Joe Biden before taking over as US President had repeatedly criticized Erdogan, MBS and Sisi for their poor human rights record, and had unequivocally stated that none of them would have a free pass in a Biden Presidency.  Biden had on numerous occasions flagged the dismal Human Rights record of Saudi Arabia, especially MBS’ involvement in the murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and lashed out at Trump for soft pedaling on the issue because of his personal rapport with MBS. Similarly, in August 2020, Biden had dubbed Erdogan as an ‘autocrat’ and also expressed the view that the US needed to lend support to opposition parties in Turkey. Biden had also issued a warning to Sisi, saying that there would be “no more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favourite dictator’.”

How President Biden has approached relations with the three leaders

During the Biden Administration, ties with Saudi Arabia have witnessed a change. A report which clearly points to MBS’ role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was released (Trump had refused to release this report). The US has withdrawn support for the Saudi war in Yemen, and defence agreements signed between the US and Saudi Arabia, during the Trump Administration have been put on hold. Yet, Biden while sanctioning Saudi officials in connection with the Khashoggi case, in addition to those sanctioned by the Trump administration, refused to impose sanctions on MBS owing to the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East (Saudi support is essential for the revival of the Iran Nuclear Deal/Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action-JCPOA) and the strong US-Saudi relationship. It would be pertinent to point out, that Biden’s decision not to impose sanctions on MBS has drawn strong criticism from many including members of his own party.

If one were to look at the case of Turkey in recent months, the Turkish President has himself toned down his Anti-West rhetoric and described his meeting with Biden on the sidelines of the recent NATO Summit as fruitful. While commenting on the meeting with Biden, Erdogan stated that ‘ We believe there is no problem that cannot be resolved in Turkey-US relations,’

The US President also said, that the meeting with Erdogan was positive and expressed hope that the bilateral relationship would improve in days to come.

While the meeting between Biden and Erdogan was positive, differences between both sides still persist over Turkey’s purchase of S400 missiles (the Trump administration had imposed sanctions in its final days and Turkey had also been removed from its F-35 fighter jet program)

Turkey’s strategic relevance

Turkey has stated that it is willing to play a role in security in Afghanistan, and guard Kabul airport, after the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Turkish President did say that Turkey would require diplomatic, logistic and financial support that the United States. The Biden administration’s outreach to Turkey indicates that in spite of differences over key issues, Istanbul’s potentially important role post the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is something, the US will not ignore. Erdogan on his part needs to have a reasonable relationship with US, given the fact that the Turkish economy has slowed down significantly.

If one were to look at the case of Egypt, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi role in the ceasefire between Israel and Palestine, was acknowledged by the Biden Administration. While the US President during a telephonic conversation hailed Sisi for his ‘successful diplomacy’ in the Israel-Palestine ceasefire, the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said:

‘We have had in Egypt a real and effective partner in dealing with the violence, bringing it to a close, relatively quickly. And now, we are working closely together to build something positive’

It would be pertinent to point out, that during his telephonic conversation with Sisi, in May 2021, Biden did flag the need for a ‘constructive dialogue’ on human rights in Egypt

Conclusion

While it is easy to criticise Joe Biden, he has the onerous responsibility of striking a  balance between values, which he has repeatedly referred to even after taking over as President, with US interests. Given the complex geopolitics of the Middle East, Biden while refraining from taking steps, which may be counterproductive has flagged his concerns with regard to Human Rights, and sent out a strong message that bilateral relations will be dictated by substance and not mere personal chemistry or optics. At the end of the day it is important not to forget Miles’s law — ‘where you stand depends upon where you sit’.

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The liberal international order has not crumbled yet

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Since 2017 when Donald Trump took office, the “liberal international order” erected in 1991 has been under serious challenges raised by the United States’ relative decline, the Trump administration’s isolationist policy, and on top of that, the outbreak of COVID-19. Indeed, this order is greatly plagued, which is evidenced by its dysfunction. Against this backdrop, its endurance in the upcoming time is questionable. Nevertheless, the liberal international order has not collapsed yet. It will even revive, and endure in the post-pandemic era.

The victory of Biden 

Notwithstanding facing great threats, the liberal international order is far from crumbling. On the contrary, it is gradually reviving. In the Western world, countries are making effort to reform their order that is on the verge of collapse. This is true in the US – the world democracy’s leader. Joe Biden’s victory against Donald Trump may be a positive signal for the US and the global democracy. As a strong advocate for values including democracy, multilateralism and international trade, at no doubt, President Biden will be opposite to Trump in his policy, both domestic and foreign ones. Indeed, during his first 100 days, Mr.Biden has implemented some meaningful things. Regarding the pandemic, he has a stricter approach than his predecessor’s: Mandatory mask wearing, a $1.9-trillions bill, historical vaccination campaign, to name a few. All of Biden’s actions have been so far effective, when the new cases and deaths are steadily declining, and the number of vaccinated people is substantially high. This lays a foundation for Biden to reinvigorate his country’s ruined democracy and governance system, as his efficiency in countering COVID-19 may help him regain American people’s trust on the future of American democracy.

In terms of foreign policy, President Biden has some radical changes compared to that of Trump, which might be favorable to the Western world. At first glance, Biden embraces multilateralism much more than his predecessor, with the hope of saving the American global leadership. He supports Washington’s participation in international institutions, which is illustrated by the rejoining of WHO, Paris Agreement and several multilateral commitments. In tandem with this, Biden values the US’ alliances and strategic partnership as vital instruments for the US’ hegemony. Unlike Trump’s transactional approach, Biden prioritizes early and effective engagement with allies to tackle regional and global issues, especially major ones like NATO, G7. In Asia, he also seeks for further cooperation with traditional allies such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and deepening partnership with Vietnam, Singapore, India and ASEAN countries.

More importantly, President Biden’s policies towards the US’ competitors and “rogue states” are far different from Trump’s. Granted, despite seeing China as the biggest threat to the American global leadership, Biden adopts a more flexible and multilateral policy. His administration looks to cooperate and compete with China, which implies a different trajectory of the US-China relationship in the upcoming time. Additionally, as noted above, instead of unilaterally escalating tensions with China as Trump did, Biden has been forging relations with traditional and potential Asian allies to contain China together, given China’s increasing assertiveness. With regard to Iran, Washington is now working on the Iran Nuclear Deal with other six parties, promising a potentially positive future on the relations of Iran with the US and the West. The bottom line is, a radical change in Biden’s foreign policy will be a clear message to the world that the US will still try to save the liberal international order and make this world safer for democracy.

The European Union is recovering 

Things are happening in the same pattern in Europe. European leaders are also closely cooperating, both inside and outside the bloc, to defeat COVID-19. That said, they are ardently supporting multilateralism. So far, the EU has spent billions of dollars in vaccine development as well as humanitarian support, demonstrating its solidarity in the battle against COVID-19. As such, if EU leaders can successfully lead their bloc out of the current crisis, they can reform this currently plagued institution in the post-pandemic era. Not only seeking further intra-bloc cooperation, but also European leaders are working with other major actors around the world to substantiate the global battlefront against COVID-19. Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her country and China to jointly develop COVID’s vaccine in an open, transparent way, and to a further extent, maintain good and stable bilateral partnership, regardless of two sides’ differences.

Similarly, the EU has been putting the Transatlantic relationship among the priorities of its foreign policy agenda. After Biden’s election, the European Commission has proposed refreshing the US-EU alliance and establishing a Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council, being seen as an informal tech alliance with the US to prevent China from dominating this critical sector. The Transatlantic relationship is perhaps one of the pillars for the liberal international order, given its long history and its contribution to maintain the global stability. In the last decades, this axis has been damaged by numerous issues, from economic to security, which is one of the main causes for the decline of liberal international order. Thus, a fresh Transatlantic relationship is conducive to the re-emergence of this order. In this respect, the EU’s effort to strengthen the Transatlantic alliance, despite being questionable in terms of feasibility and outcome, is still paving the way for reinvigorating of liberal international order. More notably, the most recent G7 Summit has illustrated the Western’s solidarity, when there is a convergence in most issues related to global governance and maintaining the Western-based order. This may be a harbinger of the liberal international order’s revival, at least in a foreseeable future.

Non-Western world is struggling 

The dynamics outside the Western world is also changing in a more favorable direction. Many non-Western countries, once were effective in combating against the pandemic, are now struggling with a greater threat. Taiwan, in spite of being praised as one of the most successful states in the battle against COVID-19, is currently facing another wave of pandemic when the new cases in this island are surging recently. Other successful stories, let us say Thailand, Japan or South Korea, are questionable of maintaining their momentum in preventing the virus, showcased by their relatively inefficiency during this new wave, in implementing strong measures and getting their people vaccinated. This raises question about these countries’ model of governance, which was used to be praised as a better alternative for a plagued, dysfunctional Western one, thanks to its merits in helping those above-mentioned states contain COVID-19.

Major non-Western blocs are in the midst of COVID-19 crisis as well. The clearest example is the BRICS. Except China, all other countries in this bloc have been tremendously suffering from the pandemic. Due to this, they are far from being recovered quickly. This failure in dealing with the virus undermines the bloc’s previous effort in establishing its position as a major, effective one, not to mention building a new, non-Western international order. This is also the case with ASEAN, as the organization was sharply divided by COVID-19. There are countries doing well with controlling the pandemic such as Vietnam, Singapore, but the Philippines and Indonesia are unable to do so, making this bloc suffering from institutional sclerosis without having any coherent COVID-19 policy. Therefore, non-Western blocs and countries are far from being more efficient than Western ones, implying they are unable to come up with any better international orders than the current liberal international one.

More importantly, Western values underpinning the liberal international order are universal. This is noteworthy when arguing for the long-lasting of Western order, as its existence and endurance mainly hinge on the universality of Western values. These values have been embraced by many countries for a very long time. Hence, despite being deteriorated in recent years, they cannot be easily changed. On the other hand, non-Western values are also not as highly embraced as Western ones. China, desiring to topple the US, is initiating numerous projects and agreements to spread its values around the world, making the world less Western and more Chinese/Asian. Nonetheless, Beijing has yet achieved any remarkable achievements in making their values more widespread and embraced by the rest of the world. Even worse, its image has been tarnished due to its rising assertiveness. Its projects in developing countries, especially BRI-related projects, have been notorious for a large number of problems related to environment or local corruption, and it is raising strategic uncertainty in the region by its increasing militarization, particularly on the South China Sea. These movements have turned China into a “malevolent” major power, hindering its process of disseminating and socializing its values to the world.

It is also worth noting that although Western values have declined, they have been proven to be benevolent for this world. Most recently, it is Western countries that have successfully developed good COVID-19 vaccines to save themselves and save the world from this unprecedented health crisis. Non-Western countries, for instance China and Russia, have their own vaccines, but they are not as welcome as other developed countries in the West in the vaccine race, because their vaccines are relatively less effective than Western-produced ones. Democracy, liberty, lassaiz faire are values that help Western countries or ones embrace such things able to produce massive amount of effective vaccines, and more broadly to develop a strong science and technology foundation. Producing and distributing vaccine for the rest of the world would make the West become a savior, which is good for saving the liberal international order.

Without doubt, the liberal international order has been in its worst time since 1991 when it reached its heyday. However, thanks to its merits, the liberal international order will not die. Instead, most countries will jointly save it, because they have been benefitting from this order for a long time, and will be so in the future. The order’s founding members are recovering, and cooperating closely to reform it, as well as there are no better international orders that can replace the existing one. Given these circumstances, the liberal international order would re-emerge as a dominant form of ordering this world after the pandemic, and would be perpetuated.

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