Connect with us

Americas

Recycling Power Politics: For America, A Lethal “Resurrection”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Prof. Louis René Beres

Published

on

“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. No element could move and grow except with and by all the others with itself.”- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man

“Everyone for himself” has never really been a realistically goal-serving orientation of world politics. The explanation for this conclusion is clear and unambiguous. Whenever a nation’s foreign policy is detached from promisingly gainful intellectual foundations,[1] it is destined for failure.

               In the specific matter of President Donald J. Trump’s emphasis on “America First” – this nation’s latest resurrection of Realpolitik or zero-sum power politics – the United States is reducing its quickly vanishing opportunities for security and even survival.[2]  

               Left unrevised, the prognosis here is plain and multifaceted. Considered together with the ever-growing microbial aggressions of Covid19, Americans can expect little reasonable hope for a tangibly secure future.[3]  What next? Turning away from a perpetually failed system of national and world politics, where should rational US policymakers now “place their bets?”

               To begin, even after such continuing intellectual failure, latent and residual foreign policy hopes must still be grasped and acknowledged. Among other things, scholars and practitioners  will need to take seriously that American and global survival interests are inextricably bound up with each other. What we require is (1) an incremental but prompt escape from the contentious spirit of competitive tribes (a lethal spirit that is irremediable); and (2) a correspondingly sincere  acceptance of “human oneness.”[4]  For the moment, the odds of actually meeting such a manifestly difficult requirement will seem precariously low, but the evident risks are still well worth taking.

               That is understatement.

               It’s not complicated. What cannot benefit the world system as a whole can never benefit the individual nation-state.[5]

                Conceptually, we are all still very much at the beginning. Until now, we humans, not just Americans, have consistently managed to miss what is most urgently important on the global stage. It is this: There exists  a latent but determinative “oneness” to all world politics.

               For apt guidance, a further query surfaces. Where should we look? For a start, this critical dimension of  human identity can be encountered in certain vital (but generally-ignored) world literatures; especially among such literary-philosophic giants as Sören Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud,[6] Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung,  Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. This dimension’s persistent rejection in “real life,” even by the world’s allegedly great universities, reflects more than a lamentable unworthiness. It reflects an utterly elemental threat to every single nation-state on this vastly beleaguered planet.

               There are pertinent details. Left unrevised, the stubborn human commitment to an endlessly belligerent nationalism signifies a future of plague, war and genocide.[7] In essence, no nation’s foreign policy that is inherently at cross-purposes with systemic well-being can ever be described as “realistic.” Inevitably, the rancorous logic of possessive individualism in Realpolitik-driven world politics will undermine the existential security of national and international life.

               To better illustrate the arguments against Realpolitik and its crudely derivative Trump- posture of  “America First,” we ought to consider the following analogy: The nations in  world politics coexist in the fashion of herdsmen who must share a common  pasture and who feel it advantageous to continuously increase the size of their herds. Although these herdsmen have calculated that it is in their own best interests to regularly augment their respective herds, they have calculated incorrectly, This is because they failed to consider the cumulative  impact of their separate actions, an outcome which is an overgrazed commons and subsequent economic ruin.

               Certain antecedent questions should now arise. Why have we humans (and we Americans in particular) insistently made ourselves existentially vulnerable? The only lucid answer here should reflect upon a thoroughly pervasive worldwide willingness to seek personal identity as members of some particular group. Such an explanation is not bewildering. To wit, we humans generally fear solitude or “aloneness” more than anything else on earth, sometimes even more than death.[8]

               Amid a growing “balance-of-power” chaos that is presently stampeding across several continents,[9] we humans  willingly abide a distinctly primal loyalty to compelling claims of a “tribe.” Always, everywhere, individuals desperate “to belong” will subordinate themselves to the most substantially far-reaching expectations of nation, class or faith. What then?

               More often than we might first care to admit, such subordination carries with it a more-or-less overriding acceptance of “martyrdom.” Recalling the marooned English schoolboys in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, we are reminded that the veneer of human civilization is verifiably razor thin.[10] Vastly impressive scientific and medical discoveries aside, whole swaths of humankind still remain fiercely dedicated to ancient and atavistic practices of both sacrifice and war.[11]

               To the point, what first appears to us as “just fiction” in Lord of the Flies is also darkly and enduringly real.

               In order to change direction, which is indispensable, we must begin at the beginning; that is, with the microcosm, with the individual human being. In this connection, death remains the unassailable prototype of all injustice. More than anything else, the palpably. primal fear of  “not being” is determinative.  When it is considered together with the understanding that human death fear can create various irresistible inclinations toward collective violence, this difficult insight may reveal a long overlooked US foreign policy opportunity.

               Evidence abounds. Above all, we still fail to understand something absolutely primary: The always universal apprehension of death, taken as a common human anguish, could sometimes help to prevent war and terror. More specifically, if creatively “exploited,” this ubiquitous apprehension could invite a steadily expanding ambit of human empathy and worldwide compassion.[12]

               By definition, inter alia, any such positive and welcome expansion would represent the opposite of President Donald Trump’s “American First.”

                “America First” remains a deformed foreign policy,  one based not upon any thoughtful and measured analytic foundations, but on a visceral and incrementally caustic celebration of human self-centeredness. Remembering philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, this “egocentric ideal” is “false and against nature.”

               There is more. Left in place, “America First” is apt to prove wholly injurious to US national interests. Reciprocally, only a serious eleventh hour attempt to understand an imperative global “oneness” can save the United States from the irremediable hazards of a seat-of-the-pants foreign policy built upon sand. One continuing expression of such worrisome hazards is nuclear war.[13]

               In these matters, policy posture reflects provenance. The United States can never be assisted or saved by narrowly political solutions fashioned ad hoc, as evident antitheses of authentic thought. Foreign policy is not, as Mr. Trump still steadfastly maintains, “about attitude, not preparation.”[14] On the contrary, it must be the well-reasoned product of historical and scientific understanding. American national security is never correctly about “branding,” about fashioning the “best deal” or about tenaciously insisting that others “pay their fair share.”

               On these concerns, President Trump should finally acknowledge that US national security is not fundamentally about raw commerce or the marketplace.[15] Failing to make such an acknowledgment could put the United States in a steadily worsening trajectory of misplaced priorities.

               To succeed in meaningful ways, US national security policy must steer clear of presidential calls to endless belligerence, and reflect instead on an indispensable commitment to global cooperation and human species singularity.[16] Only then, together with all others, America could become recognizably  “first.” Already, back in 1758,  Emmerich de Vattel had noted, in The Law of Nations (Or the Principles of Natural Law): “Nations, being no less subject to the laws of nature than individuals, what one man owes to other men, one Nation, in its turn, owes to other Nations.”[17]

               Later, the justly celebrated eighteenth-century jurist continued: “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.” In other words, we may learn from the Swiss legal scholar, narrowly nationalistic or nativist foreign policies represent the diametric opposite of what is genuinely required.

                But what is required? In global politics, appropriately durable remediations will demand a more penetrating depth of analytic thought. At the outset of his sorely needed conceptual turnaround, this president will have to accept a fully imaginative and broadly global set of security policy understandings. This challenging set would express the subtle but unavoidable awareness that the outer worlds of politics and statecraft are a predictably mirrored reflection of our innermost private selves.

               In aptly scientific or philosophical terms, these “outer worlds” are epiphenomenal.

               More precisely, as Mr. Trump will soon need to fathom, it is only within the deeply opaque mysteries of individual human mortality –  mysteries focused on the effectively timeless and universal preoccupation with securing earthly power over death – that we must seek to discover the core truths of human interdependence and American national security.[18] It follows that whenever we look toward more the secure management of terrorism, war, and genocide, any stubbornly continuous posture of “America First” would inevitably undermine our most sacred national objectives.

               There is much more for this White House to learn. At a minimum, President Trump ought not draw any credible hopes for creating an improved and lawful US national security policy by clinging to well-worn and hackneyed examples of American “exceptionalism.”  Though gleefully unacknowledged even in our best schools and universities, there remains a noteworthy and palpable gap between humankind’s still-advancing technical understanding and its persistently uncontrollable passions.[19]

               Today, regarding virtually all human communities, including these United States, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, Freud and Jung could suggest more promising security policy ideas to a starkly unlearned American president than could Bacon, Newton, Descartes, Galileo or even Einstein.

                The relevant questions and issues go back a very long way. Ancient Greek tragedies had wisely recorded a necessarily primal query: “Where will it end? When will it all be lulled back into sleep, and cease, the bloody hatred, the destruction?”[20]

                Where then shall we go from here? Exeunt omnes? Our American president seems to have demonstrably few original ideas, and, correspondingly, a never-ending panoply of backward and law-violating policy postulates.[21] Among the latter are manifestly unhelpful distortions of global trade policies, and a blatantly counter-productive interference with law-based immigrations.

               Back to the microcosm. Leaving aside certain incontestable intellectual advantages, we are assuredly not the same as every other species. Thereis rampant killing among the “lower” animals, of course, but it is only residually willful or gratuitous. Mostly, it is survival driven. Such killing may simply be “natural.” Biologically, at least, it can generally “make sense.”

                What sort of human species, we will then need to inquire, can tolerate or even venerate more purely hideous and maladaptive sources of gratification? To what extent, if any, is this markedly venal quality related to our steadily-diminishing prospects for building modern civilizations upon promising premises of human oneness? And once more, we must inquire, to what extent, if any, does human murderousness derive from an utterly primary and more-or-less ubiquitous human death fear?  This last question is more important than it is obvious. This is true, even for the rational formulation of American foreign policy and for implementing certain corollary obligations of global consciousness and world order.[22]

                “Our unconscious,” wrote Freud, “does not believe in its own death; it behaves as if it were immortal.” What we ordinarily describe as heroism may in some cases be nothing more than denial. Still, however widely disregarded, an expanded acceptance of  personal mortality may effectively represent the very last best chance we have to endure as a once-enviable American nation.

               Already back during the Trojan War, as we may learn from Homer, Achilles led his Greek warriors to battle against Troy with the literally incomparable rallying cry:  “Onward, for immortality.”

               Can President Trump and his advisors learn something here that might benefit both the nation and the wider global community, something that could move us gainfully beyond Schadenfreude (taking pleasure from the sufferings of others), and toward certain viable forms of wider human cooperation? To be sure, the latter represents the only plausible path to the former. Once again, these core orientations are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually reinforcing.

               Death does “happen” to us all,  but our potentially useful awareness of this expectation is blunted by multiple and overlapping deceptions. Basically, to somehow accept forthrightly that we are all authentically flesh and blood creatures of biology is more than most beleaguered humans can bear. “Normally,” there is even a peculiar embarrassment felt by the living in the presence of the dead and dying. It is almost as if death and dying had  been reserved exclusively for “others.”

               There is more. It is as if death were an “affliction” that can never expectedly darken our own personal and presumptively “eternal” lives. Judged by a now near-universal obsession with social media, and with being continuously and recognizably “connected,” this view may be rooted, at least in part, in the potent idea of personal death as the last and most insufferable extremity of being left “alone.”

               That we, as individuals, should still cleave so desperately to various allegedly sacred promises of redemption and immortality is not, by itself, a global-survival or national-survival issue. It becomes a truly existential problem, and one that we may thus convincingly associate with war, terrorism, orgenocide,only when these various promises are forcibly reserved to certain selected national segments of humanity, and are then openly denied to other “less-worthy” states. States are “the coldest of all cold monsters,” says Nietzsche in Zarathustra,[23] but – from fellow German philosopher Hegel, “The State is the march of God through the world.”[24]

               In the end, as President Trump must still learn to understand, all national and global politics are merely reflection, epiphenomenal, a thinly symptomatic expression of more deeply underlying private needs. Undoubtedly, the most pressing of all these accumulated needs is the avoidance of personal death. It is finally time to look more closely behind the news. In all global politics, as it now warrants further repeating, there is no presumptively greater form of power than power over death.  

               But “America First” or similar postures of “everyone for himself” will not bestow such a power.

               For the most part, it is not for us to choose when we should die.  Instead, our words, our faces, and even our irrepressible human countenance will sometime lie immeasurably beyond any discernible considerations of conscious decision or individual choice. Still, we can usefully choose to recognize our shared common human fate and, concurrently, our derivative and unbreakable interdependence. This uniquely powerful intellectual recognition could carry along with it an equally significant global promise, one that remains distressingly distant and wholly unacknowledged in the “everyone for himself” Trump White House.

               Much as we might prefer to comfort ourselves with various qualitative presumptions of societal hierarchy and national differentiation, we humans are really pretty much the same. This incontestable sameness is plainly manifest to all capable scientists and physicians. Still, our single most important similarity, and the one least subject to any reasonable hint of compelling counter-argument, is that we all die.

               Ironically, perhaps, whatever our more-or-less divergent views on what  might actually happen to us after personal death, the basic mortality that we share could still represent the last best chance we have for enhanced global coexistence and more viable world community. This is the case, however, only if we can first accomplish the astoundingly difficult leap from acknowledging a shared common fate to “operationalizing” our more expressly generalized feelings of empathy and caring. As is so often the case, any such “leap” is first and foremost an intellectual task.

                Across an entire planet, wecan care for one another as humans, but only after we have first accepted that the irrefutable judgment of aresolutely common fate will not be waived by any harms that are inflicted upon “others,” that is, upon the presumptively “unworthy.” While markedly inconspicuous, modern crimes of war,[25] terror and genocide are often “just” conveniently sanitized or disguised expressions of sacrifice. In the most starkly egregious instances, corresponding violence could represent a consummate human hope of overcoming private mortality through the targeted mass killing or exclusion of specific “outsiders.”[26]

               It’s not a new thought. Consider psychologist Ernest Becker’s paraphrase of Nobel Laureate Elias Canetti in Escape From Evil (1975):  “….each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.”

                Americans and  other residents of a conspicuously interconnected planet now have a right to expect that any president of the United States should attempt to understand these vital and nuanced linkages. Here, always, our national foreign policies must build upon more genuinely intellectual sorts of understanding. Without exception, our just wars, counter-terrorism conflicts and anti-genocide programs must be fought or conducted as fully intricate contests of mind over mind, and not just as narrowly tactical struggles of mind over matter.

                Only a dual awareness of our common human destination, which is death, and the associated futility of sacrificial violence, can ever offer an accessible “medicine” against North Korea, Russia, China, Iran, and several other more-or-less foreseeable adversaries (state and terror group) in the global “state of nature.”  This “natural” or structural condition of anarchy was already well known to the American Founding Fathers,  most of whom had read Locke, Rousseau, Grotius and Hobbes as well as Vattel. Only this difficult awareness can ultimately relieve an otherwise incessant and still-ascending Hobbesian “everyone for himself” war of “all against all.”[27]

               More than ever before, history, which Ortega y’Gasset calls “an illustrious war against death,” deserves a conspicuous pride of place. America, as US President Donald Trump should sometime recall, was expressly founded upon the philosophy of Hobbes and the religion of Calvin. But this means something quite different in 2020 than it did back in 1787.

               What should this particular history now signify for White House foreign policy preparation ? This is not an insignificant query, but it does presuppose an American democracy founded upon authentic learning, and not on flippantly corrosive clichés or abundantly empty witticisms.

               Human death fear has much to do with a better understanding of America’s current and foreseeable enemies, national and sub-national.  Reciprocally, only a people who can feel deeply within itself the unalterable fate and suffering of a much broader global population will ever be able to decently embrace compassion and “rationally” reject collective violence. To be sure, this errant president should finally prepare to understand all that this implies, both with pointedly specific reference to the United States and to America’s various (and increasing) state and sub-state adversaries.

               Always, the existence of system in the world remains obvious and immutable.[28] “America First” or any other American resurrection of Realpolitik  means catastrophic failure. America can never  be truly “first” so long as its president insists upon achieving any such perilously misconceived status at the zero-sum expense of other states. To at least sustain this country’s basic security in world politics, the American president will finally have to move away from eternally futile forms of competition in military arms,[29]  and toward variously indispensable forms of competition concerning intellectual power.  Or in the very appropriate words of poet Guillaume Apollinaire, “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.”[30]

               In the beginning, in that primal promiscuity wherein the swerve toward power politics first arose, the forerunners of modern states established a system of competitive struggle that can never succeed. Still captivated by this misconceived system, US President Donald J. Trump allows the stunningly corrosive spirit of Realpolitik to metastasize further and further  across the earth, imperiling not only the present historical moment, but also any residual hopes for a survivable world order. It follows, as long we are able to prefer reason over anti-reason in our processes of national decision-making, that the “everyone for himself” ethos in world affairs now being resurrected by Trump’s “America First” must soon be intellectually discredited and suitably reversed.

               Nothing could possibly be more important.

               In the absence of such an imperative US policy challenge and reversal, future civilizations, such as might still arise, will examine the skeletal remains of our last Realpolitik epoch with a well-deserved sneer. Thrashing about in the paleontology of international relations, they will conclude that this once-avoidable epoch was already fetid upon its advent, that its accumulated national hopes were wholly contrived from the start, and that its doctrinal or rhetorical foundations (spawned at the Trump White House) had been constructed upon “sand.”


[1] The seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarks prophetically in Pensées: “All our dignity consists in thought….It is upon this that we must depend…Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.” Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Pascal’s 17th-century contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing further from Descartes – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge. Familiar to Spinoza, much of this effort was founded upon certain  then-familiar  Jewish sources.

[2] One must also recall that Donald Trump’s core philosophy of belligerent nationalism – codified as “America First” – undermines the most basic principles of international law. Such law is an integral part of the coordinating legal system of separately sovereign states in world politics, and assumes a reciprocally common obligation of all states to supply benefits to one another. This assumption of jurisprudential solidarity is known formally as a “peremptory” or jus cogens expectation, that is, one that is never subject to question or reversal. It can be discovered early in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis; Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace (1625); and Emmerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations or Principles of Natural Law (1758).

[3] The reader may be usefully reminded here of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s observation in Endgame: “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another, of seeking justification  always on the same plane?”

[4] See earlier books, by this author, offering more detailed visions of such an imperative escape. See especially: Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (1973); Louis René Beres, Transforming World Politics: The National Roots of World Peace (1975); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984) and Louis René Beres, America Outside the World: The Collapse of US Foreign Policy (1987).

[5] Recall here the pertinent parable from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations: “What does not benefit the entire hive is no benefit to the bee.” Unless we take meaningful steps to implement an organic and cooperative planetary civilization – one based on the irremediably central truth of human “oneness” –  there will be no civilization at all. To be sure, states have generally acted on very different assumptions, expecting, inter alia, that in this war of all against all (bellum omnium contra omnes), one state’s advantage is necessarily another’s disadvantage. What they have consistently failed to understand is that any such apparent gains and losses have always been short-term or transient.

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

[7] War and genocide need not be considered as mutually exclusive.  War might well become the means whereby genocide is undertaken.  According to Articles II and III of the Genocide Convention, which entered into force on January 12, 1951, genocide includes any of several listed acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such….”  See Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Done at New York, Dec. 9,  1948.  Entered into force, Jan. 12, 1951.  78 U.N.T.S.  277.

[8] Interestingly, says Jose Ortega y’ Gasset in Man and Crisis ( 1958): “History is an illustrious war against death.” 

[9] The idea of a balance of power – an idea of which the nuclear-age balance of terror is a current variant – has never really been more than a facile and perilous metaphor. In fact, it has never had anything to do with ascertaining true equilibrium. As such a balance is always a matter of individual and more-or-less subjective perceptions, adversary states can never be sufficiently confident that identifiable strategic circumstances are genuinely “balanced” in their favor. In consequence, each side perpetually fears that it will be left behind, and the corresponding search for balance produces ever wider patterns of both insecurity and disequilibrium.

[10] Dostoyevsky inquires: “What is it in us that is mellowed by civilization? All it does, I’d say, is to develop in man a capacity to feel a greater variety of sensations. And nothing, absolutely nothing else. And through this development, man will yet learn how to enjoy bloodshed. Why, it has already happened….Civilization has made man, if not always more bloodthirsty, at least more viciously, more horribly bloodthirsty.” See: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground 108 (Andrew R. MacAndrew, trans., New American Library, 1961)(1862).

[11] “There is no longer a virtuous nation,” warns the poet William Butler Yeats, “and the best of us live by candlelight.”

[12] In his magisterial Tragic Sense of Life, Basque philosopher Miguel De Unamuno identifies an indissoluble “association” between those who would unite together against a common foe –  most importantly, human mortality. Similar in part to Sigmund Freud’s “spontaneous sympathy” of souls, Unamuno’s argument is that an immutably universal fear of death can produce “pity” or genuine compassion between peoples, and that this common apprehension can thus be harnessed to fashion a more harmonious world order. This is not a lesson that can easily be used to change a nation’s pragmatic foreign policy directions; nonetheless, it does point convincingly toward more serious thinking about world affairs.

[13] For generic assessments of the probable consequences of nuclear war fighting by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018);   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 MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed.,  Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[14] This intellectually barren sentiment was first made explicit by Mr. Trump immediately prior to his June 12, 2018 Singapore Summit with Kim Jung Un.

[15] We may learn from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “One can never seek the Higher Man in the marketplace.”

[16] A properly antecedent question was raised by Jose Ortega y’Gasset in 1925: “Where,” the Spanish philosopher queried, “shall we find the material to reconstruct the world?” See Ortega’s The Dehumanization of Art (1925)(1968) by Princeton University Press, p. 129.

[17] Interestingly, this classical work was well-known to the Founding Fathers of the United States, and figured closely in the creation of both the US Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

[18] Those readers who might be inclined to probe such ideas at a more deeply philosophical level, may wish to consider Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man (1955): “Since the inner face of the world is manifest deep within our human consciousness, and there reflects upon itself, it would seem that we have only got to look at ourselves in order to understand the dynamic relationships existing between the within and the without of things….”

[19] Says Goethe famously, in Faust, Part One: “Speak not to me about the motley rabble, Whose sight no inspiration can abide. Preserve me from the tumult and the babble, That sweeps us helpless in its vulgar tide.”

[20] 1 The Complete Aeschylus: The Oresteia 146 (Peter Burian & Alan Shapiro, eds., 2nd ed., 2011; presenting the ending of Agamemnon.

[21] It ought never to be overlooked that international law has always been a part of US domestic law, both by virtue of the Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause” (Article VI) and of several major US Supreme Court decisions. The words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900), are instructive: “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.”

[22]    The concept of “world order” – as an organizing dimension of scholarship and as a normative goal of international affairs – has its contemporary intellectual origins in the work of Harold Lasswell and Myres McDougal at the Yale Law School, Grenville Clark and Louis Sohn’s WORLD PEACE THROUGH WORLD LAW (1966) and the large body of writings by Richard A. Falk and Saul H. Mendlovitz. For selected early works by this author, who was an original participant in the World Law Fund’s World Order Models Project (WOMP) at Princeton in the late 1960s, see: Louis René Beres and Harry R. Targ, CONSTRUCTING ALTERNATIVE WORLD FUTURES: REORDERING THE PLANET (1977); Louis René Beres and Harry R. Targ., eds., PLANNING ALTERNATIVE WORLD FUTURES: VALUES, METHODS AND MODELS (1975); Louis René Beres, PEOPLE, STATES AND WORLD ORDER (1981); Louis René Beres, REASON AND REALPOLITIK: US FOREIGN POLICY AND WORLD ORDER (1984); and Louis René Beres, AMERICA OUTSIDE THE WORLD: THE COLLAPSE OF US FOREIGN POLICY (1987).

[23] In this spirit, see also Nietzsche’s complementary comment in Zarathustra, “…it is for the superfluous that the state was invented,” and Jose Ortega y’Gasset’s observation in The Revolt of the Masses (1932):  “The state is the greatest danger….,”  mustering its immense resources “to crush beneath it any creative minority which disturbs it – disturbs it in any order of things: in politics, in ideas, in industry.”

[24] See Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, as quoted by Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 4th ed., 2 vols, Princeton New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1963, vol.2, p. 31.. In a similar vein, as part of his posthumously published Lectures on Politics (1896), Heinrich von Treitschke, citing to Johan Gottlieb Fichte, opines: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.”

[25] In law, states must judge every use of force twice: once with regard to the underlying right to wage war (jus ad bellum) and once with regard to the means used in actually conducting war (jus in bello). Following the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 and the United Nations Charter, there can be absolutely no right to aggressive war. However, the long-standing customary right of post-attack self-defense remains codified at Article 51 of the UN Charter. Similarly, subject to conformance, inter alia, with jus in bello criteria, certain instances of humanitarian intervention and collective security operations may also be consistent with jus ad bellum. The law of war, the rules of jus in bello, comprise: (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules. Codified primarily at the Hague and Geneva Conventions, these rules attempt to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into all belligerent calculations.

[26] See, on such complex conceptual argument, Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred (1972).

[27] Under international law, the question of whether or not a condition of war actually exists between states is often left unclear.  Traditionally, a “formal” war was said to exist only when a state issued a formal declaration of war.  The Hague Convention III codified this position in 1907.  This Convention provided that hostilities must not commence without “previous and explicit warning” in the form of a declaration of war or an ultimatum.  See Hague Convention III on the Opening of Hostilities,  Oct. 18, 1907, art. 1,  36 Stat. 2277,  205 Consol. T.S. 263.  Presently, a declaration of war may be tantamount to a declaration of criminality because international law prohibits aggression.  See Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy,  Aug. 27, 1948, art. 1,  46 Stat.  2343,  94 L.N.T.S.  57 (also called Pact of Paris or Kellogg-Briand Pact);  Nuremberg Judgment, 1 I.M.T.  Trial of the Major War Criminals 171 (1947),  portions reprinted in  Burns H. Weston, et. al.,  INTERNATIONAL LAW AND WORLD ORDER  148,  159 (1980);  U.N. Charter, art. 2(4).  A state may compromise its own legal position by announcing formal declarations of war.  It follows that a state of belligerency may exist without formal declarations, but only if there exists an armed conflict between two or more states and/or at least one of these states considers itself “at war.”

[28] In the precise words of philosopher and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his The Phenomenon of Man (1955): “The existence of system in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature….”

[29] The Devil in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman (1903) observes: “Man’s heart is in his weapons….in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself….”

[30] See, by the distinguished French poet, The New Spirit and the Poets (1917).

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.

Continue Reading
Comments

Americas

Gallup: Americans Tend to Trust Only News That Confirms Their Beliefs

Eric Zuesse

Published

on

On September 11th, Gallup headlined “Bias in Others’ News a Greater Concern Than Bias in Own News”, and reported (based upon polling a randomized sample of 20,046 American adults) that:

69% of Americans say they are more concerned about bias in the news other people consume than its presence in their own news (29%).” In other words: 69/29, or 2.38 times, as many Americans are closed-minded (prejudiced) regarding information-sources which don’t fit their ideology, than are not. Overwhelmingly in America, only Democratic Party information-sources are trusted by Democrats, and only Republican information-sources are trusted by Republicans. Each side distrusts the other’s information-sources. Gallup’s news-report aptly noted the important fact that “This plays into the political polarization in the U.S. national discourse.” The more prejudiced a population are, the more polarized it will be. Of course, one would expect this to be the case, but Gallup has now found striking new empirical evidence for it — that the public’s closed-mindedness is greatly increasing America’s political polarization. Each side is craving propaganda instead of truth, but each side’s voters want only the type of propaganda that is funded by the billionaires who also fund that side’s politicians and control that side’s ‘news’ media. Consequently, American politics is controlled by the conflict between liberal billionaires versus conservative billionaires — totally controlled by billionaires (instead of by the public). There is the liberal herd, and the conservative herd, but they’re both herds — not by the public in an actual democracy. And each of these two herds is controlled by its shepherd, who are its billionaires. (Here is how that’s done.) Billionaires control each Party and thereby control the Government. This is why the Government ignores the preferences of America’s public. As will be shown here, the September 11th Gallup findings help to explain how and why that results.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans can become exposed to the other side’s evidence and arguments unless they see those — the other side’s evidence and arguments, both for its own case and against the opposite side’s case (i.e., against the case that oneself believes). Not to see the opposite side’s viewpoint is to be blind to it, and thus to become locked into whatever oneself believes. This 69/29 is like a jury’s rendering its verdict and nearly three quarters of the jurors having not listened to — and thus not considered — the opposite side’s presentations. That’s a frightening situation to exist in any court of law, and it is an equally frightening situation to exist in any nation’s electorate.

As a consequence of Americans’ strong tendency to be closed-minded, America’s politics are, to a very large extent, driven more by prejudices than by the realities that the public are actually facing. Individuals are seeking for sources that will likeliest confirm what they already believe, and are seeking to avoid sources that are the likeliest to disconfirm their beliefs. This is consequently a population that’s highly vulnerable to being manipulated, by playing up to, and amplifying, the given Party’s propaganda, to which the given individual already subscribes. Republican Party billionaires (by their use of their conservative newsmedia and think tanks, etc., which they control) can easily manipulate Republican Party voters, and Democratic Party billionaires can, likewise, easily manipulate Democratic Party voters, by their liberal media, think tanks, etc. That’s billionaires, on each of the two sides, guiding each of the two Parties’ voters; and, therefore, the nation is an aristocracy — a country which is controlled by its wealthiest fewinstead of an authentic democracy (which is controlled not by the numbers of dollars, but actually by the numbers of residents, each one of whom is independently and open-mindedly seeking for credibly documented facts).  An aristocracy rules any such land. The public are not the rulers in such a nation. It’s not a democracy; it is a collective dictatorship, by its billionaires (its aristocracy). Both of the two Parties’ voters vote in accord with their billionaires’ agenda, but especially in accord with whatever is on the agenda that’s shared by both liberal and conservative billionaires — billionaires fund both of the national Parties: Democrats and Republicans, and thereby control both Parties. Billionaires, in each Party, have their very golden, very heavy, thumbs, pressing down hard upon the scale of any such ‘democracy’, such that regardless of which group of billionaires ends up winning any ultimate election, the public inevitably will lose, because it’s really just a contest between billionaires, who are stage-managing the nation’s entire political proceedings. This is like two boxers fighting in a ring, in which the selection-process which placed them there was corrupt; and, so, even if the ultimate winner is not equally corruptly pre-determined, the final result has nonetheless already been rigged (during the primaries). When the contenders have been selected by a corrupt process, the ultimate outcome cannot be a democracy.

This happens not only regarding elections, but regarding particular issues. For example, in 2002 and 2003, “regime-change in Iraq,” and “Saddam’s WMD,” were just as much agendas of liberal billionaires’ media and think tanks as they were of conservative billionaires’ media and think tanks (and were thoroughly based on lies); so, a closed-minded public were actually trapped, into the lies that were agreed-upon by both sides of the domestic American political spectrum — the sides that are funded and controlled by the liberal billionaires, and by the conservative billionaires. The nearly $2 trillion cost of the invasion and military occupation of that country, and the consequent destruction of that country, were done for America’s billionaires, and produced nothing for the American people except that enormous public debt and those injuries and deaths to America’s soldiers and to Iraqis. And that’s typical, nowadays, in this (just as in any) aristocracy: the aristocracy are served; the nation’s public serve to them. (In the U.S., this has caused “U.S. Satisfaction at 13%, Lowest in Nine Years”, as Gallup headlined on 4 August 2020; and it has caused Americas’ satisfaction with their Government to have ranged from its all-time low of only 7% in 2008, to its all-time high of only 45% at the very start of 2020 — well below 50%, for as long as Gallup has surveyed this.)

What all of the billionaires want is what the American public get as their Government. It’s bipartisanship amongst its billionaires. That’s what produces this Government’s policies. It’s what determines the Government that Americans get. However, what is basic in making it a dictatorship of the aristocracy-type (such as this America is) is that the population is very prejudiced, not open-minded — not each individual constantly seeking solid evidence to change one’s mind about how society works (what the reality in the nation actually is), so as for one’s view to become increasingly accurate over time. Instead, one’s myths are constantly being fed. Such a public, as this, are not individuals, in a democracy, but more like mobs, very manipulable

Often, America’s bipartisan views are based upon lies that virtually all billionaires want the public to believe. In such cases — and these instances are frequent — the truth is being simply ignored, or else outright denied, by both sides (and by the media, for both sides). Individuals’ prejudices are thus being increased, instead of reduced, by what the public see and hear in “the news.” Everyone has prejudices, and truth can predominate only if people are constantly skeptical of the sources that they are relying upon — constantly trying to root out and replace whatever false beliefs they have. This is the essence of scientific method. Democracy depends upon it. Aristocracy requires the opposite. America has the opposite.

Change away from this present situation, to a democracy, would be difficult. On both of America’s political sides, there needs to be far less trust of the Establishment (including its politicians, its media, its think tanks, etc.), in order for any real democracy to become able to exist. It’s not even able to exist now. And, therefore, it does not exist.

But what is even more depressing is that America’s educational system, most especially its colleges and universities, are encouraging, instead of discouraging, this situation, this closed-mindedness. The more educated an American is, the more closed-minded that person becomes — as is further shown in this same September 11th Gallup news-report:

Whereas 52% of Americans with a high school education or less are more concerned about bias in others’ news than in their own [and 45% of that minimally educated group think that the news which they are reading might be biased], the figure is 64% among those with some college education and is even higher among college graduates (73%) and those with postgraduate education (77%) [and only 22% of that maximally educated group think that the news which they are reading might be biased].” The most-educated Americans are the most-manipulable (the most closed-minded) Americans.

No finding in this Gallup report was as extreme as the finding that the more highly educated an American is, the less open that person is likely to be to changing his or her mind (outlook) about the situation. In other words: the more educated an American is, the more closed-minded that person tends to become. Higher education in America increases, instead of decreases, an individual’s closed-mindedness. However, other contrasts which were almost as extreme are:

“Those who identify as liberal (80%) are more concerned than conservatives (68%) and moderates (65%) with other people’s media bias. In other words: liberals are 80/65 or 1.23 times as closed-minded as are moderates, and are 80/68 or 1.18 times as closed-minded as conservatives are.

“While 58% of Black adults are more concerned about bias in others’ news than in their own, fully 73% of Asian Americans and 72% of White adults say the same.” Thus, African-Americans are 58/72.5 or 80% as closed-minded as are Euro-Americans and Asian-Americans.

This is the worst combination possible: it’s a closed-minded population, which is especially closed-minded amongst its most educated segment. The leading segment is also the most closed-minded segment. These are crucial agents of the billionaires, and they crucially inculcate into the next generation of Americans the aristocracy’s values.

This means that the leaders keep themselves, conceptually, inside a cocoon. They have minimal contact with the most vulnerable members of the society, which is the less-educated members. That enhances inequality of opportunity, throughout the society. Since the most-highly-educated Americans are the group that are the most-closed to opinions which are contrary to their own, it’s easy for the most-highly-educated Americans to view individuals who disagree with those persons’ views as being simply a “basket of deplorables.” Their disagreement then becomes their contempt. ‘Facts’ about politics are — for those persons, highly educated persons — more derived from their values and priorities, than their values and priorities are derived from the political facts. Scientific epistemology is being turned upside-down, regarding political issues, in such a country. Overwhelmingly, some sort of faith, instead of any sort of science, determines what individuals in such a country believe about politics. In every aristocracy, this is the way that both conservative and liberal persons view any persons in the general public who oppose themselves: they’re viewed as being a “basket of deplorables.” It’s the very essence of elitism — on both sides. (For prominent examples of this: both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had contempt for each-others’ voters — blotted them out.) 

The leadership’s minimal contact with the public makes exceedingly unlikely the leadership’s compassion, concern about the sufferings that they, themselves, are causing down below. Actually, though every aristocracy claims to want to improve conditions for their public, the reality is that whenever doing that would entail their own losing power, that claim becomes exposed to be sheer hypocrisy — a lie; often a self-deception, and not merely a deception against the public. Deceiving themselves about their own decency is easy, because they have minimal contact with the most vulnerable members of the society, the very people whom they claim to care the most about (and to be working in politics to help). Fakery is built into each and every aristocracy. Americans’ strong tendency to be closed-minded causes the aristocratic con to be widely accepted as if it were instead truth. (Again: the “WMD in Iraq” con was a good example of this — the aristocracy’s media just blocked-out the reality.) Scientific studies have even demonstrated that the wealthier a person is, the less compassion the individual tends to have for people who are suffering.

Furthermore, since the less-educated persons aspire to be more-educated, they are — even without knowing it — aspiring to become less open to contrary views, instead of to become more open to such views. One bad consequence of this is: it strangulates imaginativeness, openness, and creativity, in favor of being rote, rigid, and bureaucratic. Another bad consequence of it is that the authority-figures, in such a society, are, in some important ways, actually inferior to the rest of the population. Moreover, America’s colleges and universities are not increasing their students’ open-mindedness (as they should) but the exact opposite — they are reducing their students’ open-mindedness. Even if professors are teaching some truths, the professors are training their students to be authoritarian, instead of to be open to a more truthful, comprehensive, and deeper understanding, which encompasses those truths, but also many more — which the majority of professors either ignore or else deny, because such deeper understanding violates the existing Scripture, or standard viewpoint (shaped by both sides’ billionaires). At least in the United States, this is now the normal situation. That Gallup poll showed it not merely weakly, nor even only moderately, but extremely.

This is a perverse situation, which bodes ill for the future of the entire nation. Any country which is like this is not only an aristocracy instead of a democracy, but it is greatly disadvantaged, going forward. It will be disadvantaged both in the arts and in the sciences. Its future will be stultifying, instead of dynamic. Aristocracies tend to be this way. Also, because it will remain highly polarized, its internal ideological frictions will waste a large proportion of the nation’s efforts. As a nation, its forward-motion, its progress, will thus largely be crippled, by its internal discord and distrust, between the two warring factions of its aristocracy — and friction between the respective followers on each side. 

This describes a declining culture — a nation that is in decline.

That’s what this poll-report, from Gallup, indicates, as clearly as any poll-findings can.

It indicates a nation in decline.

During the Presidential primaries in the Democratic Party, a major point of difference between the two major candidates, Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders, was whether billionaires are bad for the country: Biden said no; Sanders said yes. (This was a major reason why the billionaires made sure that Sanders would lose.) In any country where wealth-inequality is so extreme, there can be no authentic democracy. America’s extreme inequality of wealth makes democracy impossible in this country. America’s other problems follow from that. In reality, it’s a one-party state, and that party is controlled not actually by the counts of voters, but by the counts of dollars. It is an aristocracy; and its decline — to what has been documented here — follows from that fact. Whatever democracy America might once have had is gone now. It has become replaced by a land of mass-deceptions, which are bought and sold.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Continue Reading

Americas

What is the pocket pinch to stay at the White House?

Published

on

If you’re thinking about running to be leader, get ready to pony up more than half a billion dollars, judging from the last two campaign cycles and current fundraising trends.

Presidential elections are an expensive venture. At first glance, it may not appear that standing on a stage telling people why they should vote for you would be costly. However, the costs associated with getting a candidate’s name out there nationwide for all to become familiar with can be quite expensive.

It’s very difficult to track campaign expenditures across time. Changes in the numbers might be due to different campaign finance disclosure requirements. For example, thanks to the Citizens United decision in 2010, politicians can rely on outside groups called Super PACs to run advertisements, even if they technically aren’t supposed to “coordinate” with each other. Campaign operations have also changed significantly over the last few decades, evolving from a focus exclusively on TV and radio to robust online advertisements. Even when adjusted for inflation the amount of money it takes to become President has increased more than 250-fold from Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump. Super PACs have no limit on contributions. Corporations, labour unions, and other organizations may contribute as much as they want.

The catch is that a Super PAC must be independent and cannot contribute directly to a candidate and must disclose their donors (although by funnelling through a non-profit organization, disclosure rules can often be avoided or obfuscated). Super PACs can run ads supporting preferred candidates or bashing their opponents — they are just not able to coordinate with the candidate’s campaign or have a direct connection.

The amount of funds raised from corporations and other groups outside traditional campaign committees increased with the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which, along with other legal developments, loosened laws around election fundraising and spending. In addition, it seems campaigns are feeling more pressure, with each subsequent funding cycle, to raise more and outside groups are getting better at raising money.

These loopholes allow candidates to raise money through Super PACs they support and remain separate enough to stay within the law. Jeb Bush delayed his campaign specifically to raise as much money as possible directly through Super PACs. You are not violating any laws if you have not declared as a Presidential candidate yet.

To win the 2004 election, George W. Bush spent $345 million, which was the most expensive campaign in history at the time. The record didn’t last long: In 2008, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, the total amount of money spent by and for Barack Obama came in at $730 million, far surpassing Republican nominee John McCain, who spent a mere $333 million—and more than double Bush’s outlay.

Usually, the candidate who spends the most money wins. However, that did not prove true during the 2016 elections, when the runner-up, Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton, spent $768 million, nearly twice as much as the eventual winner, Republican candidate Donald Trump, who spent $450 million. Many also noted that the figure could have been even higher had Trump not used free media coverage.

But fundraising in the 2020 presidential race is outpacing that of the last two campaigns. Bernie Sanders with about $74 million, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with about $60 million and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with $51 million, based on Federal Election Commission data posted on Oct. 16. Despite polls showing former Vice President Joe Biden as the front-runner, his fundraising lagged at about $37 million.

Since Trump is planning to run for re-election in 2020, he chose not to terminate his campaign committee. He has targeted $1 billion as the total he would like to raise for his campaign.  The Trump campaign said it raised $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, bringing the campaign’s cash on hand to $40.8 million.

It’s worth wondering if these numbers are anything to worry about. Is a billion dollars that much money when it comes to deciding who should be President? To keep things in perspective, Americans spent over $1.8B on peanut butter in 2017 alone. Picking a President seems much more serious and rather inexpensive by comparison, even if Trump decides to advertise during the Super bowl.

To address the original question: you can spend as much as you want in running for President, but if you want to win, the ante is somewhere around $500 million, and it may actually top $1 billion per major party candidate this year. Yes, it seems outrageous, but keep things in economic perspective. We spent almost $600 million on snacks during the last Super Bowl. Surely, a Presidential election is more important than halftime guacamole.

So, if you’re planning to make a run for the White House, you’ll want to start saving your money now!

Note: All information collected from the data in Investopedia website

Continue Reading

Americas

Presidential Evil And American Good: Can They Coexist?

Prof. Louis René Beres

Published

on

Niccolò Machiavelli

If men or nations do evil in a good cause; if they cover themselves with guilt in order to fulfill some high responsibility; or if they sacrifice some high value for the sake of a higher or equal one they make a tragic choice.-Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

When Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr posited the tragic choice of evil for the sake of good – a choice inherent in both the “human condition” and the anarchic state of nations – he was not focused on differences within a specific national government. Today, however, in the dissembling United States, a similarly tragic choice confronts America’s citizens in particular. Here the apparent choice is bold and straightforward:

               Shall Americans support an evil president in the greater interest of some wider political good?

               Though plausible in principle, no such dilemma actually exists. In  current US political circumstances, there is no supportable argument that Donald Trump’s disjointed and seat-of-the-pants policies, either foreign or domestic, can bestow any verifiable net benefits. To the main point, by allowing a willfully corrosive president to act in its name, the United States has defiled American national interests and  global human interests simultaneously.

               Apropos of proper logic, one presumptive conclusion is unambiguous: There is notragic” choice involved here (the choice identified above by Realpolitiker[1] Reinhold Niebuhr),  just an obvious and overriding imperative to rid both nation and planet of Trump-era toxicity. Prima facie, in this case at least, presidential evil and American good are mutually exclusive.

               There is more. With each passing day, weary Americans must face several stark and ironic contradictions. At an historical  moment when uplifting numbers of good people are making great personal sacrifices to help others (e.g., medical communities working against Covid19;  firefighters in the west; hurricane search-and-rescue personnel in the south, etc.), a US president acts wittingly to undermine his own country’s safety and security. This behavior includes a continuously incomprehensible stance of support for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who it would appear can wish no harms upon the United States.[2]

               While according to any reasonable criteria of intellectual assessment these cumulative Trump behaviors are injurious and inexcusable,[3] millions of US citizens still maintain that his plainly deranged presidency represents a calculable “net positive.”

               What does this really mean? By definition, even now, these Trump-supporting Americans believe that manifest presidential evil can be compatible with national welfare and national progress. Somehow, in this case, they believe that such once-unimaginable evil can also be good. Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers, “I believe because it is absurd.”

               How can all this be helpfullyexplained? Conceptually, it would be best to begin at the beginning. The contradiction we are so painfully witnessing with this stumbling White House administration is not uniquely American. Already, back in the sixteenth-century, philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli observed famously,  “A man who wishes to  make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good.”

               Machiavelli need not always be clarifying or relevant. There is nothing here to suggest that this classic argument from The Prince would in any way support Donald J. Trump’s foreign and/or domestic policies. This president’s particular descents into wrongdoing and dereliction are not an expression of any gainful policy “realism.” Rather, they are singularly lamentable expressions of wantonly gratuitous harms.

               In an unsteady age when the risks of a nuclear war[4] could coincide with expanding biological destructions – that is, with the devastating microbial assaults of a Corona-Virus “plague”[5] – such harms can have no conceivable justifications.

               None at all.

               There is more. Context is important. All humans, wherever they may live, must bear persistent witness to the distressingly thin veneers of  “civilization.” Recalling William Golding’s marooned boys in Lord of the Flies, we must repeatedly discover, beneath any delicate varnish of supposed coexistence, a lascivious human inclination to brutalize  certain “others.”

               However informally it may be calculated, this primal inclination is “normally” judged agreeable and cost-effective.

                Science and technology notwithstanding, empathy and compassion remain in calculably short supply on planet earth. Accordingly, substantial fractions of humankind remain slouched in a perpetually bruising darkness, hoping not to create promising new forms of human civilization, but to “better” inflict myriad varieties of unspeakable slaughter. During the debilitating “Trump Years,” years of steadily-expanding presidential evil, the United States has made an egregious choice.

               Knowingly, it has placed itself directly within such nefariously cascading “darkness.”

               As “analysts,” Americans should now be more policy-specific. In Donald Trump’s United States, there is always some blatantly self-serving presidential explanation for human rights abuse. To wit, we are instructed, the latest victims are despicable, “illegal” or, in some ways at least, not fully human. Always, they are “others,”  mere others. And as we are repeatedly informed by the president’s reliably obsequious minions, this particular victim population is not at all like us. It is deserving of necessary “punishment.”

               Credo quia absurdum.  “I believe because it is absurd.” It is a very old story. The struggle between “Us and Them” is very plainly generic, not US-specific. If we are “good,” they are not. Period. Such grimly bifurcated reasoning is especially perverse and ironic today, during a pandemic crisis when the common biological “oneness” of the human species couldn’t possibly be more obvious

               In high tragedy, as originally performed back in fifth-century BC Athens, humans were routinely presented as inherently flawed guests in a divinely-created universe. This ancient presentation, though presently “modified” with assorted  regional and religious nuances, remains difficult to dispute. After all, following even a “small” nuclear war –  a plausible event, at least in the currently downward trajectory of world affairs – cemeteries the size of whole cities could be needed to bury the uncountable dead.

               Then, recalling the pre-nuclear imagery of poet T S Eliot, there could be no “lilacs breeding out of the dead land.” Then, there would be no discernible “good,” only variously decaying bearers of “evil.”

               Promptly, in far-flung parts of the world, both within and between individual nation-states, a “waste land” could become the new normal. Such “normalcy,” one substantially worse than even the new-normal of Covid19 life on earth, ought never become an intentionally sought-after expectation. For rational thinkers, this point hardly requires any present-moment clarifications.

               No sane person can be in favor of necropolis.

               “Art is a lie,” noted Pablo Picasso, “that lets us see the truth.” In this paradoxical description, theatrical tragedy can remind us that earthly spheres of order, justice and good remain severely compromised  by evil, and that  no amount of technology or science can ever compensate for our species’ multiple leadership transgressions. If, as in high tragedy, we humans should sometimes be punished in apparent excess of our specifically personal wrongdoings –  “Whom God wishes to destroy,”  warned the Greek tragedian, Euripides, “He first makes mad.” –  even this “unfair” fate could not declare us to be “innocent.”

               Not reasonably.

               There is more. Always, it is the gripping silence and self-inflicted fears of ordinary people that sustain the human world’s abundant madness. Often, these primal fears center on certain irrepressible expectations of personal death. But sometimes they can also rest on various corollary anxieties about personal exclusion. More than anything else, and for several markedly different yet intersecting reasons, we humans continue to seek the comfortingly calming warmth of  “mass.”

               It is the “mass man.” an elucidating and derivative construct of Spanish existentialist philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset (The Revolt of the Masses,1930) who created US President Donald J. Trump. Stated differently, this American president, who promises to “Make America Great Again” is the openly evil product of American “mass.”[6] By itself, this collective does not intend to create evil, but intent is not at all determinative.

               It is quite enough that the mass prefers baseless opinion to documented fact and a willful anti-Reason to proper learning or tangible science.

               There is more. As a species, not just as Americans, there exists no compelling or defensible reason for us to fawn upon myriad past mistakes. Now, instead, with a view to achieving some still-plausible and verifiable progress, Americans must look back courageously. “How much treasure,” they must finally inquire, “how much science, how much labor and planning, how many vast oceans of sacred poetry, have we already ransacked, just to render our disparate human civilizations even more miserable and more imperiled?”

               I don’t know each pertinent answer. I do know, however, that our shallow and corrupted civilizational institutions, including America’s humiliating presidential elections, can never save us. This nation’s most revered universities,  perched deliberately above the distressingly mundane clamor of work, politics and family, remain unmindful of the world’s most urgently important intellectual questions.

               Thoroughly unmindful.

               Unassailably, though painfully indelicate to acknowledge, higher education in the  expansively deranged Trump-Era proceeds hand in hand with a ubiquitously crude and predatory commerce. In partial consequence, our colleges and universities shamelessly crush most residual reflexes of lingering student intellect or individuality. This crushing is not undertaken with any insidious intent – and the challenges to academic success during a pandemic are anything but minor –  but the US posture of anti-Reason is nonetheless destructive. Sorely destructive.

               In today’s Trump-defiled United States, American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson’s once venerable goal of a people that is “plain living and high thinking” is more than just forgotten. This once-lofty objective presently now lies very far beyond any identifiable popular interest or hint of public imagination. Why not? Living together with unhidden presidential evil, what else should we expect?

                The American university, a dutifully obliging adjunct of the wider corporate/political universe, now lies distant not only from human learning, but also from human survival. French philosophers of the eighteenth-century Age of  Reason had preferred to speak optimistically of a siècle des lumieres, a “century of light,” but today, the ivy-covered walls are inestimably fouled by a congealing darkness, by a suffocating pall of excruciating conformance, vulgar self-interest and even a peculiarly-fashionable loathing of anything detached from money.

               There is a professionally favored euphemism here. It’s called “wealth maximization.” The language provides cover for a nation’s abject indifference to serious learning.

               None of this devaluation was initially created by the Trump “ascendancy,”[7] but it has been strongly reaffirmed in absolutely every respect by a starkly unworthy American president.[8]

               As an easily verifiable matter of human history, resisting evil has had little to do with human intelligence. More often than we may care to admit, such intelligence is conveniently manipulated to justify or enlarge certain “others'” most excruciating forms of  human suffering. Indeed, looking over the still-mounting wreckage of Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States, we see the palpably grim results of such manipulation,  both domestically and in various other countries harmed by the dissembling American foreign policies.

               In some cases, these are harms of US omission or inaction, rather than of commission. A specific case in point would by Syria, where Trump’s immutable unwillingness to get on the wrong side of Vladimir Putin has already created societal disintegration and unspeakable torment.[9]

               The main theme or question before us allows only a single coherent response. There is no way that a “good” American society can be created or sustained by an “evil” American president. Period. Before the United States allows itself to become even more thoroughly lost to any still credible hopes for human improvement  and national survival, American citizens will have to build more purposefully upon this rudimentary wisdom. To be sure, we remain disturbingly far from understanding (let alone electing) Plato’s “Philosopher King,”[10] but now we are at least better advised to reject American presidential evil at absolutely all costs.

               Donald J. Trump does no evil for the sake of good. There is nothing “tragic” about his persistent across-the-board choice of evil              postures and policies. In essence, he makes these barbarous choices because he is authentically committed to evil for evil’s own sake.

               Left uncorrected, Trump will continue to bring to these deeply unhappy United States a self-inflicted future of national humiliation and determined anti-reason.

               No such future could ever “make America great again.”


[1] On Realpolitik or power politics, see, by this author, Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpoliitk: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington Books, 1984). See also his later book: Louis René Beres, America Outside the World: The Collapse of US Foreign Policy (Lexington Books, 1987).

[2] Incontestably, of course, Russia remains a significant nuclear threat to the United States. See, for example, by this author, Louis René Beres, at The War Room (US Department of Defense: Pentagon): https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/

[3] Journalist Bob Woodward called Trump’s efforts to conceal his knowledge of the virus from the public “one of the most tragic, outrageous acts by a sitting president in, maybe in history.”

[4] For early and informed assessments of nuclear war risks and consequences by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018);   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 MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed.,  Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986). See also, by Professor 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/

[5] Such biological assaults have thus far been considered only as natural occurrences. Going forward, however, it is possible that pertinent pathogens could be weaponized, and that future instances of “plague” could emerge as a deliberate form of warfare and/or terrorism.

[6]Like Jose Ortega y’Gasset, the Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung spoke usefully of  “mass.” Earlier, Friedrich Nietzsche, had referenced this demeaning phenomenon as the “herd;” Sigmund Freud, as the “horde;” and Soren Kierkegaard, as the “crowd.”

[7] See,  by this author, at The Daily Princetonian, Louis René Beres: https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[8] See, by this author, at Yale Global Online, Louis René Beres: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/trump-and-destruction-american-mind

[9] These are not just matters of moral responsibility. The United States is obligated by the international law of human rights to intervene on behalf of such cruelly victimized populations. These international legal obligations are also incorporated in the national law of the United States, per Article 6 of the US Constitution (the “Supremacy Clause”) and several major US Supreme Court decisions. In the precise words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering 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)).

[10] See, by this author, at Oxford University Press, Louis René Beres: https://blog.oup.com/2011/08/philosopher-king/

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Reports2 hours ago

How Iraq Can Turn Economic Diversification into Growth and Stability

Nearly two decades after the 2003 war, Iraq finds itself at a crossroads: caught in a fragility trap and faced...

EU Politics4 hours ago

Commission sets new plan to support green and digital transition and EU recovery

Today, the European Commission adopted a Communication on a new European Research Area for Research and Innovation. Based on excellence,...

International Law6 hours ago

Act realistically in the age of realism

To understand the geo-politics of the world in a simpler or lucid way, there is a law, not in Political...

Eastern Europe8 hours ago

Nagorno-Karabakh: Finding the path to peace

The clashes on Sunday, 27 September 2020, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region resulted in the largest number of reported casualties between...

Defense10 hours ago

India’s Test of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle and Implications for South Asia

In September this year, India claimed to have successfully tested scramjet engine technology. This has been indigenously developed for its...

Economy12 hours ago

Belt and Road in Central and East Europe: Roads of opportunities

The second decade of the 21st century put the geoeconomic emphasis and cooperation within the framework of China’s “One Belt,...

Environment14 hours ago

Bernice Notenboom calls for action to tackle “the biggest threat we face – climate change”

“The pandemic gives us some hope because we have proven that we can all join together. But, why do we...

Trending