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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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Early Elections in Canada: Will the Fourth Wave Get in the Way?

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On August 15, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Liberal Party, announced an early parliamentary election and scheduled it for September 20, 2021. Canadian legislation allows the federal government to be in power up to 5 years, so normally, the elections should have been held in 2023. However, the government has the right to call early elections at any time. This year, there will be 36 days for the pre-election campaigns.

At the centre of the Liberals’ election campaign is the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic in Canada and the economic recovery. The coronavirus has also become a motivator for early elections. In his statement, Justin Trudeau emphasised that “Canadians need to choose how we finish the fight against COVID-19 and build back better. Canadians deserve their say, and that’s exactly what we are going to give them.” Thus, the main declared goal of the Liberals is to get a vote of confidence from the public for the continuation of the measures taken by the government.

The goal, which the prime minister did not voice, is the desire of the Liberal Party to win an absolute majority in the Parliament. In the 2019 elections, the Liberals won 157 seats, which allowed them to form a minority government, which is forced to seek the support of opposition parties when making decisions.

The somewhat risky move of the Liberals can be explained. The Liberals decided to take advantage of the high ratings of the ruling party and the prime minister at the moment, associated with a fairly successful anti-COVID policy, hoping that a high level of vaccination (according to official data, 71% of the Canadian population, who have no contraindications, are fully vaccinated and the emerging post-pandemic economic recovery will help it win a parliamentary majority.

Opinion polls show that the majority of Canadians approve Trudeau’s strategy to overcome the coronavirus pandemic. Between the 2019 elections and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trudeau’s government was unpopular, with ratings below 30%. Unlike Donald Trump, Trudeau’s approval rating soared after the outbreak of the pandemic to 55%. During the election campaign, the rating of the Liberal Party decreased and was 31.6% on September 16, which reduces the chances of a landslide victory.

Trudeau left unanswered the question of whether he’d resign if his party fails to win an absolute majority in the elections.

Leaders of opposition parties—the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, Bloc Québécois, and the Green Party—criticised Trudeau’s decision to call early elections, considering the decision inappropriate for the timing and situation with regard to the risk of the fourth wave of the coronavirus epidemic. They stressed that the government’s primary task should be taking measures to combat the pandemic and restore the economy, rather than trying to hold onto power.

The on-going pandemic will change the electoral process. In the event of a fourth wave, priority will be given to postal voting. Liberal analysts are concerned that the registration process to submit ballots by mail could stop their supporters from voting, thereby undermining Trudeau’s drive to reclaim a majority government. However, postal voting is the least popular among voters of the Conservative Party, and slightly more popular among voters of the Liberal and New Democratic parties. The timeframe for vote-counting will be increased. While ballots are usually counted on the morning after election day, it can take up to five days for postal voting.

One of the key and most attractive campaign messages of the Liberal Party is the reduction of the average cost of childcare services. Liberals have promised to resolve this issue for many years, but no active action has been taken. Justin Trudeau noted that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of this issue.

As in the 2019 elections, the Liberal Party’s key rival will be the Conservative Party, led by new leader Erin O’Toole. The Conservative Party’s rating a five days before the election was 31.3%. Conservatives suggest a different approach to childcare—providing a refundable child tax subsidy that covers up to 75% of the cost of kindergarten for low-income families. Trudeau has been harshly criticised by the Conservatives in connection with the scale of spending under his leadership, especially during the pandemic, and because of billion-dollar promises. In general, the race will not be easy for the conservative O’Toole. This is the first time he is running for the post of prime minister, in contrast to Justin Trudeau. Moreover, the Conservative Party of Canada is split from within, and the candidate is faced with the task of consolidating the party. The Conservative will have to argue against the billion-dollar promises which were made by the ruling Liberals before the elections.

The leaders of the other parties have chances to increase their seats in Parliament compared to the results of the 2019 elections, but they can hardly expect to receive the necessary number of votes to form a government. At the same time, the personal popularity of Jagmeet Singh, the candidate from the New Democratic Party, is growing, especially among young people. The level of his popularity at the end of August was 19.8%. Singh intends to do everything possible to steal progressive voters from the Liberal Party and prevent the formation of a Liberal-majority government. Singh will emphasise the significant role of the NDP under the minority government in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight that it was the New Democratic Party that was able to influence government decisions and measures to support the population during the pandemic.

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet, whose popularity level was 6.6%, intends to increase the Bloc’s presence in Parliament and prevent the loss of votes in the province of Quebec in favour of the Liberal Party. According to him, it is fundamentally important to protect the French language and the ideas of secularism. The Bloc Québécois is also not interested in the formation of a majority government by the Liberals.

Green Party leader Annamie Paul is in a difficult position due to internal party battles. Moreover, her rating is low: 3.5%. Higher party officials have even tried to pass a no-confidence vote against her. Annamie Paul’s goal is, in principle, to get a seat in Parliament in order to be able to take part in voting on important political issues. The Greens are focused on climate change problems, the principles of social justice, assistance to the most needy segments of the population, and the fight against various types of discrimination.

Traditionally, foreign policy remains a peripheral topic of the election campaign in Canada. This year, the focus will be on combating the COVID-19 epidemic, developing the social sphere, and economic recovery, which will push foreign policy issues aside even further.

The outcome of the elections will not have a significant impact on Russian-Canadian relations. An all-party anti-Russian consensus has developed in Canada; none of the parties have expressed any intention of developing a dialogue with Russia.

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Interpreting the Biden Doctrine: The View From Moscow

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Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

It is the success or failure of remaking America, not Afghanistan, that will determine not just the legacy of the Biden administration, but the future of the United States itself.

The newly unveiled Biden doctrine, which renounces the United States’ post-9/11 policies of remaking other societies and building nations abroad, is a foreign policy landmark. Coming on the heels of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, it exudes credibility. Indeed, President Biden’s moves essentially formalize and finalize processes that have been under way for over a decade. It was Barack Obama who first pledged to end America’s twin wars—in Iraq and Afghanistan—started under George W. Bush. It was Donald Trump who reached an agreement with the Taliban on a full U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Both Obama and Trump also sought, albeit in strikingly different ways, to redirect Washington’s attention to shoring up the home base.

It is important for the rest of the world to treat the change in U.S. foreign policy correctly. Leaving Afghanistan was the correct strategic decision, if grossly overdue and bungled in the final phases of its implementation. Afghanistan certainly does not mean the end of the United States as a global superpower; it simply continues to be in relative and slow decline. Nor does it spell the demise of American alliances and partnerships. Events in Afghanistan are unlikely to produce a political earthquake within the United States that would topple President Biden. No soul searching of the kind that Americans experienced during the Vietnam War is likely to emerge. Rather, Washington is busy recalibrating its global involvement. It is focusing even more on strengthening the home base. Overseas, the United States is moving from a global crusade in the name of democracy to an active defense of liberal values at home and Western positions abroad.

Afghanistan has been the most vivid in a long series of arguments that persuaded Biden’s White House that a global triumph of liberal democracy is not achievable in the foreseeable future. Thus, remaking problematic countries—“draining the swamp” that breeds terrorism, in the language of the Bush administration—is futile. U.S. military force is a potent weapon, but no longer the means of first resort. The war on terror as an effort to keep the United States safe has been won: in the last twenty years, no major terrorist attacks occurred on U.S. soil. Meantime, the geopolitical, geoeconomic, ideological, and strategic focus of U.S. foreign policy has shifted. China is the main—some say, existential—challenger, and Russia the principal disrupter. Iran, North Korea, and an assortment of radical or extremist groups complete the list of adversaries. Climate change and the pandemic have risen to the top of U.S. security concerns. Hence, the most important foreign policy task is to strengthen the collective West under strong U.S. leadership.

The global economic recession that originated in the United States in 2007 dealt a blow to the U.S.-created economic and financial model; the severe domestic political crisis of 2016–2021 undermined confidence in the U.S. political system and its underlying values; and the COVID-19 disaster that hit the United States particularly hard have all exposed serious political, economic, and cultural issues and fissures within American society and polity. Neglecting the home base while engaging in costly nation-building exercises abroad came at a price. Now the Biden administration has set out to correct that with huge infrastructure development projects and support for the American middle class.

America’s domestic crises, some of the similar problems in European countries, and the growing gap between the United States and its allies during the Trump presidency have produced widespread fears that China and Russia could exploit those issues to finally end U.S. dominance and even undermine the United States and other Western societies from within. This perception is behind the strategy reversal from spreading democracy as far and wide as Russia and China to defending the U.S.-led global system and the political regimes around the West, including in the United States, from Beijing and Moscow.

That said, what are the implications of the Biden doctrine? The United States remains a superpower with enormous resources which is now trying to use those resources to make itself stronger. America has reinvented itself before and may well be able to do so again. In foreign policy, Washington has stepped back from styling itself as the world’s benign hegemon to assume the combat posture of the leader of the West under attack.

Within the collective West, U.S. dominance is not in danger. None of the Western countries are capable of going it alone or forming a bloc with others to present an alternative to U.S. leadership. Western and associated elites remain fully beholden to the United States. What they desire is firm U.S. leadership; what they fear is the United States withdrawing into itself. As for Washington’s partners in the regions that are not deemed vital to U.S. interests, they should know that American support is conditional on those interests and various circumstances. Nothing new there, really: just ask some leaders in the Middle East. For now, however, Washington vows to support and assist exposed partners like Ukraine and Taiwan.

Embracing isolationism is not on the cards in the United States. For all the focus on domestic issues, global dominance or at least primacy has firmly become an integral part of U.S. national identity. Nor will liberal and democratic ideology be retired as a major driver of U.S. foreign policy. The United States will not become a “normal” country that only follows the rules of realpolitik. Rather, Washington will use values as a glue to further consolidate its allies and as a weapon to attack its adversaries. It helps the White House that China and Russia are viewed as malign both across the U.S. political spectrum and among U.S. allies and partners, most of whom have fears or grudges against either Moscow or Beijing.

In sum, the Biden doctrine does away with engagements that are no longer considered promising or even sustainable by Washington; funnels more resources to address pressing domestic issues; seeks to consolidate the collective West around the United States; and sharpens the focus on China and Russia as America’s main adversaries. Of all these, the most important element is domestic. It is the success or failure of remaking America, not Afghanistan, that will determine not just the legacy of the Biden administration, but the future of the United States itself.

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AUKUS aims to perpetuate the Anglo-Saxon supremacy

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Image credit: ussc.edu.au

On September 15, U.S. President Joe Biden worked with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison together to unveil a trilateral alliance among Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS), which are the major three among the Anglo-Saxon nations (also including Canada and New Zealand). Literally, each sovereign state has full right to pursue individual or collective security and common interests. Yet, the deal has prompted intense criticism across the world including the furious words and firm acts from the Atlantic allies in Europe, such as France that is supposed to lose out on an $40-billion submarine deal with Australia to its Anglo-Saxon siblings—the U.K. and the U.S.

               Some observers opine that AUKUS is another clear attempt by the U.S. and its allies aggressively to provoke China in the Asia-Pacific, where Washington had forged an alliance along with Japan, India and Australia in the name of the Quad. AUKUS is the latest showcase that three Anglo-Saxon powers have pretended to perpetuate their supremacy in all the key areas such as geopolitics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. In short, the triple deal is a move designed to discourage or thwart any future Chinese bid for regional hegemony. But diplomatically its impacts go beyond that. As French media argued that the United States, though an ally of France, just backstabs it by negotiating AUKUS in secret without revealing the plan. Given this, the deal among AUKUS actually reflects the mentality of the Anglo-Saxon nations’ superiority over others even if they are not outrageously practicing an imperialist policy in the traditional way.

               Historically, there are only two qualified global powers which the Europeans still sometimes refer to as “Anglo-Saxon” powers: Great Britain and the United States. As Walter Mead once put it that the British Empire was, and the United States is, concerned not just with the balance of power in one particular corner of the world, but with the evolution of what it is today called “world order”. Now with the rise of China which has aimed to become a global power with its different culture and political views from the current ruling powers, the Anglo-Saxon powers have made all efforts to align with the values-shared allies or partners to create the strong bulwarks against any rising power, like China and Russia as well. Physically, either the British Empire or the United States did or does establish a worldwide system of trade and finance which have enabled the two Anglo-Saxon powers to get rich and advanced in high-technologies. As a result, those riches and high-tech means eventually made them execute the power to project their military force that ensure the stability of their-dominated international systems. Indeed the Anglo-Saxon powers have had the legacies to think of their global goals which must be bolstered by money and foreign trade that in turn produces more wealth. Institutionally, the Anglo-Saxon nations in the world—the U.S., the U.K, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—have formed the notorious “Five eyes alliance” to collect all sorts of information and data serving their common core interests and security concerns.

This is not just rhetoric but an objective reflection of the mentality as Australian Foreign Minister Payne candidly revealed at the press conference where she said that the contemporary state of their alliance “is well suited to cooperate on countering economic coercion.” The remarks imply that AUKUS is a military response to the rising economic competition from China because politics and economics are intertwined with each other in power politics, in which military means acts in order to advance self-interested economic ends. In both geopolitical and geoeconomic terms, the rise of China, no matter how peaceful it is, has been perceived as the “systematic” challenges to the West’s domination of international relations and global economy, in which the Anglo-Saxon superiority must remain. Another case is the U.S. efforts to have continuously harassed the Nord Stream 2 project between Russia and Germany.

Yet, in the global community of today, any superpower aspiring for pursuing “inner clique” like AUKUS will be doomed to fail. First, we all are living in the world “where the affairs of each country are decided by its own people, and international affairs are run by all nations through consultation,” as President Xi put it. Due to this, many countries in Asia warn that AUKUS risks provoking a nuclear arms race in the Asian-Pacific region. The nuclear factor means that the U.S. efforts to economically contain China through AUKUS on nationalist pretexts are much more dangerous than the run-up to World War I. Yet, neither the United States nor China likes to be perceived as “disturbing the peace” that Asian countries are eager to preserve. In reality, Asian countries have also made it clear not to take either side between the power politics.

Second, AUKUS’s deal jeopardizes the norms of international trade and treaties. The reactions of third parties is one key issue, such as the French government is furious about the deal since it torpedoes a prior Australian agreement to purchase one dozen of conventional subs from France. Be aware that France is a strong advocate for a more robust European Union in the world politics. Now the EU is rallying behind Paris as in Brussels EU ambassadors agreed to postpone preparations for an inaugural trade and technology council on September 29 with the U.S. in Pittsburgh. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared in a strong manner that “since one of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable, so we need to know what happened and why.” Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for European affairs, went even further as he put it, “It is once again a wake-up call for all of us in the European Union to ask ourselves how we can strengthen our sovereignty, how we can present a united front even on issues relevant to foreign and security policy.” It is the time for the EU to talk with one voice and for the need to work together to rebuild mutual trust among the allies.

Third, the deal by AUKUS involves the nuclear dimension. It is true that the three leaders have reiterated that the deal would be limited to the transfer of nuclear propulsion technology (such as reactors to power the new subs) but not nuclear weapons technology. Accordingly, Australia remains a non-nuclear country not armed with such weapons. But from a proliferation standpoint, that is a step in the direction of more extensive nuclear infrastructure. It indicates the United States and the U.K. are willing to transfer highly sensitive technologies to close allies. But the issue of deterrence in Asia-and especially extended deterrence-is extremely complicated since it will become ore so as China’s nuclear arsenal expands. If the security environment deteriorates in the years ahead, U.S. might consider allowing its core allies to gain nuclear capabilities and Australia is able to gain access to this technology as its fleet expands. Yet, it also means that Australia is not a non-nuclear country any more.

In brief, the deal itself and the triple alliance among AUKUS will take some years to become a real threat to China or the ruling authorities of the country. But the deal announced on Sept. 15 will complicate Chinese efforts to maintain a peaceful rise and act a responsible power. Furthermore, the deal and the rationales behind it is sure to impede China’s good-will to the members of AUKUS and the Quad, not mention of their irresponsible effects on peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

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