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The Trump Presidency and Israel: An Injurious Patronage

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Abstract: Despite widely-held presumptions in Israel that US President Donald J. Trump remains a net asset for their country, nothing could be further from the truth. For several clear and compelling reasons, there are no imaginable circumstances wherein Israel could benefit from an American administration so gravely lacking in moral compass, historical understanding and intellectual vision. Moreover, as there exists no reasonable prospect that Donald J. Trump could ever “improve,” that is, inter alia, begin to calculate complex geostrategic options in suitably analytic terms, there is no good reason to assume that corresponding lethal risks for Israel could be reduced. Most significantly, of course, such risks could sometime involve matters of alarmingly existential consequence.

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I hold despicable, and always have….anyone who puts his own popularity before his country“-Sophocles, Antigone, Speech of Creon, King of Thebes

Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.” Even now, at a precarious moment in history when an American president’s moral and intellectual  incapacities lie unhidden and beyond any reasonable doubt, many Israelis remain willing to keep their mistaken faith with Donald J. Trump. In the end, this ironic faithfulness could become more than just a debilitating embarrassment. It could spawn deeply catastrophic consequences for Israel.

               But why “ironic?” For one thing, it is difficult to imagine that a principal surviving remnant of the Jewish People – one born literally “out of the ashes” of genocidal murder[1] – could now choose to align itself with such a derelict American president.  To wit, Trump stands proudly by  several assorted hate groups that vilify universal human rights.[2] Similarly, when this president adopts starkly illegal positions on immigration (e.g., positions that undermine various peremptory[3] legal obligations concerning the legitimate rights of refugees) and separates thousands of  young and infant children from their families at US borders,[4] the American offenses are even more than inherently illegal.

               In once unimaginable cases, these offenses reek of an earlier pattern of grievous harms perpetrated against defenseless European Jews.[5]

               The law-violating details are impossible to contest. Under the stunningly indifferent aegis of Donald J. Trump, this pattern still includes the forced deportations of minors and the severely disadvantaged. Prima facie, it is not a pattern that ought ever to be disregarded by an expressly Jewish State.The ironies are simply too great.

               There is more. Other serious issues are involved in questioning Israel’s indefensible willingness to betray itself. Most perplexing and worrisome are those issues that center on the always-pertinent realms of war avoidance and peacemaking, and on this US president’s patent lack of an informed or coherent vision of foreign affairs.

               In essence, by preferring visceral seat-of-the-pants planning to any conscientiously focused forms of policy preparation,[6] Donald Trump has “rewarded” Israel with a series of  marginally significant “victories” –  e.g., moving the American Embassy from  Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and a Faustian agreement to arm the UAE with F35s in exchange for diplomatic recognition of Israel by Abu Dhabi.

At best, these will represent narrowly Pyrrhic victories. The alleged benefits to Israel wholly ignore the authentically critical security problems at work in the region.

               Most obvious here are the expectedly continuous and corollary antipathies of the Palestinians.

               To be sure, the many Palestinian elements seeking sovereignty with a determined prise de conscience, with an aroused consciousness, will not only remain fixed on achieving this overriding goal. Now, too, they will more likely prepare for the next round of intercommoned violence, for yet another intifada.[7]

               At every level of assessment, the UAE “deal” offered by the American president to Israel is pure parody. Superficially, for Israelis,  it may at first seem nice to be reassured that they will likely never be attacked from UAE, but this threat was never a serious safety concern in the first place. To praise the US-UAE agreement for enhancing Israel’s security is a bit like commending US President Ronald Reagan’s Grenada invasion on the grounds that Americans have never since had to face any Grenadian-inflicted aggressions.

               Credo quia absurdum. “I believe because it is absurd.”

               A “test” question surfaces. Should Americans be grateful for the Reagan action? After all, since that president’s armed intervention on 25 October 1983,  there has been no invasion of the United States by Grenada. Undoubtedly, since then, we have had to fear no surprise attack from this Caribbean island nation of 111,000 inhabitants.

               We see here, retrospectively and prospectively, the periodic triumph of absurdity in foreign policy making. We see, therefore, that these are not aptly serious queries. Basically, the recent US-UAE agreement represents a demonstrably silly order of policy priorities, a plainly modest “accomplishment.”

               Cumulatively, from the standpoint of controlling or blunting any  further Iranian nuclearization, the  corollary “security benefits” bestowed upon Israel by US President Donald Trump’s UAE deal are either wholly contrived or entirely insignificant.  Examined dispassionately, they are merely the transient product of Trump’s overriding obsession with appearance and gloss, with colorful but always-unimportant veneers of any genuine success. 
               There is more. Even in the best of times, no one could ever reasonably describe the Middle East as an area of prospective stability or security.  In the worst of times, this endlessly-volatile region could quickly descend into a substantially more far-reaching condition of chaos.[8]Such lethal descent could have its origins in an impending nuclear confrontation with Iran[9] or in the still developing interstices of biological plague/viral microbial assault. In a worst case scenario, these causes would  intersect, perhaps even synergistically.

               By definition, in such a case, the calculable “whole” of tangible injurious effects would be greater than the simple sum of its component “parts.”[10]

               At its conceptual heart, the disjointed Trump presidency is  detached from any pertinent considerations of history, law[11] or diplomacy.[12] Even now, saddled with such overwhelming and self-inflicted debilities, this president “advances” unashamedly, toward various postures of determined anti-reason and dedicated anti-thought.  These postures include vacuous conspiracy theories that would make even the most witting fool blush with embarrassment. And this is to say nothing about Trump’s “medical” recommendations for citizens to take household disinfectants by injection, or his blaming the California wildfires on an insufficient amount of preventive “raking.”

               Credo quia absurdum.

               Unambiguously, Israel stands warned. In all complex matters of world politics and foreign policy, this president has been operating ad hoc, without any considered plan or doctrine, lurching fitfully, from one inane whim to another, and without sturdy analytic moorings.[13] Whatever the subject, Trump  navigates precipitously, jumping from one crisis to crisis, always without an elementary grounding in theory, ideology, or science. Like his appointed and uniformly obsequious subordinates, Trump reads nothing, quite literally, nothing at all.

               There is more. For Jerusalem, the cumulative security consequences of any Trump-induced regional disorder could be especially far-reaching and potentially irremediable. By stubbornly assuming that this US President actually has Israel’s best interests in mind, or that he could conceivably figure out what those interests might actually be, the Jewish State could quickly find itself dealing with progressively debilitating regional crises generated by Washington. To wit, it is clear that the President’s earlier April 2018 attack against Syrian chemical warfare facilities had very little impact upon Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal dictatorship,[14] and that it further emboldened various anti-Damascus regime insurgents with jihadist orientations. While these insurgents were eventually crushed by al-Assad’s armed forces – hardly a victory for democratic rule in Syria – matters could reasonably have gone the other way; that is, to what was then a pro-ISIS operation. Also worth bearing in mind in Jerusalem today is that Donald Trump remains beholden to Vladimir Putin, and that he would never do anything concerning Israel and the Middle East that did not first comfort with the expressed preferences of his Russian “counterpart.”[15]

               Why would this be the case? Among other things, it’s about time that America’s allies began to ask themselves exactly this vital question. On its face, it is a question that would have been incomprehensible during the administration of any preceding US president.

               There is more. Always, history deserves its appropriate pride of place. Since the seventeenth-century, the core structure of world politics has been consistently anarchic or “Westphalian.”[16] But anarchy means “only” the absence of any central government. To unravel still-expected external effects of the rancorous Trump presidency, Israel would soon need to prepare more systematically for relevant “centrifugal” foreign policy developments. Linguistically, any such condition of geo-strategic  disorder would then be identifiable as chaos.

               For Israel, a true condition of chaos could be substantially more threatening than “mere” anarchy.  In virtually any still-expressible form, this condition could play havoc with even the best laid plans of nations. From the critical standpoint of Israel’s military operations, it is a constantly unpredictable, frightful and ever-changing  correlation of forces,[17] one that could easily impair all “normal” and potentially indispensable national security preparations. This intolerable impairment could arrive suddenly, as a dissembling “bolt-from-the-blue” enemy attack, or less discernibly and much less dramatically, in tangible but de-facto unforeseeable increments.

               A prophetic example of the latter would be a series of critical Israel policy missteps generated by the confused US presidential thinking and expectations in Washington.

               There is more. This now-impending chaos is meaningfully differentiated from the more “normal”disorder associated with Carl von Clausewitz’s (the nineteenth-century Prussian military strategist) “friction” and the “fog of war.”[18] This Trump-boosted chaos describes a deep and systemic level of unraveling, one that could rapidly create unprecedented and residually primal forms of international conflict. It follows, for Israel, that regional chaos could quickly and conclusively smother any still-simmering hopes for some cumulatively gainful “Trump Effect.”

               At best, the US embassy move and the UAE “peace” agreement will prove to be of small tangible consolation to Israel. At worst, these
“rewards” will be responsible for accelerating anti-Israel passions and policies, including new waves of Palestinian terror in Judea. Samaria (West Bank) and Israel proper. Ironically, any such new instances of Palestinian terrorism could hasten rather than  hinder the creation of a Palestinian state,[19] an outcome that could generate variously ominous synergies with Iranian nuclear weapons development.  Also worrisome, in this regard, is that once such creation had become a fait accompli, Israel would likely experience new incentives to accept certain “anticipatory self-defense” options.[20]

               Wittingly, many states in world politics, not just Israel, must now acknowledge the increasing risks from increasingly plausible forms of nuclear conflict.[21] In this connection, Donald Trump’s sorely evident incapacity to suitably manage a nuclear crises, and/or to control any more-or-less related military escalations, is difficult to dispute. Should this US President ever fail to prevent just a single escalation from ongoing crisis to nuclear warfare, the corollary effects would palpably impact several other parts of the world. These effects would arrive in the form of prompt/immediate or latent physical casualties, and less conspicuously, as the evident cause of certain unique (social and economic) misfortunes.[22]

               There is more. World politics is not geometry. In world politics, where synergies are often involved, the whole can be even greater than the simple sum of its parts. For Israel, going forward, the most obvious chaos-generated perils could concern (1) escalating violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan, Libya and/or Syria; and (2) near-simultaneous deteriorations in the still-ongoing Iranian nuclearization or in the many-sided Palestinian insurgency. Facing these prospectively intersecting or synergistic perils, Jerusalem is already well aware that the Hashemite monarchy in neighboring Jordan remains vulnerable to assorted new forms of Islamic radicalism, and that the continuously authoritarian el-Sisi military regime in Cairo might not be able to control a  re-aspiring Muslim Brotherhood indefinitely. In principle, at least, the Brotherhood could seek to get its hands on weaponized pathogens or even nuclear explosives.[23]

               These are not policy problems for the analytically or intellectually faint-hearted. How will US President Trump respond to these bewilderingly complex and intersecting threats in the Middle East? Will it be with some thoughtful intellection and geo-strategic planning, or instead, with spasmodic explosions of random, ad hominem bluster? Extrapolating from the past, the plausible answer is distressingly obvious.  

               Displaying little reassemble doubt, Trump will continue to function with only a skeletal and constantly changing national security establishment – by intention, one lacking any seriousintellectual gravitas or thought.[24] Never will he effectively fill the still-yawning directorial gaps in senior national governance with individuals of any real and commendable intellectual accomplishment. Never.       

               Apropos of any derivative “Trump effect” upon Israel’s national security,  Pakistan reveals another critical site of area disintegration, one that could quite suddenly transform a “merely” volatile region from simple Westphalian anarchy to more genuine chaos. If the already-nuclear regime in Islamabad should sometime fall toJihadists, all other regional sources of chaotic disintegration would promptly pale into comparative insignificance. For Jerusalem, therefore, it is high time to inquire with recognizable conviction: What would US President Trump do in this sort of grave matter, and how would this expected reaction impact Israel’s security and survival?

               Again, this will not be an easy question to answer, but it must be considered carefully nonetheless.

               In another presumptively worse case scenario for Israel, assorted Jihadists, emboldened by multiple expressions of Trump administration confusion and indecisiveness, would take either singular or “hybrid” control in one or several of the more plainly unstable Arab and/or North African governments. Ultimately, these “martyrdom-driven” leaders could acquire certain game-changing weapons of mass destruction. This prospect, even if the acquired weapons were all to remain non-nuclear, should bring to mind the fearful scenario of a “suicide-bomber in macrocosm.”[25]

               Also worth noting here is that a Jihadist “hybrid” could be entirely a terror-group amalgam (no direct state involvement) or an asymmetrical alignment between a particular terror-group/groups and a kindred state.

               With the expected advance of expected Trump-enhanced chaos in the Middle East, Israel could sometime have to face certain nuclear and ideologically Islamist enemies on both the Iranian and Arab fronts. Even in the absence of old enemies with new atomic arms, nuclear and biological materials could still find their way to Shiite Hezbollahin Lebanonand/or to Palestinian Hamas in Gaza. Along the way, Jerusalem – following Washington’s now predictably uncertain and disjointed policies –  could find itself in the position of having to take sides with one or another set of traditionally mortal enemies.

               Back in the seventeenth-century, the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, already recognized that although international relations must exist indefinitely in a “state of nature,” a condition of anarchy (not one of genuine chaos), these decentralized relations are nonetheless more tolerable than the condition of individual human beings living in anarchy. This is so, argued Hobbes, because nations lack the capacity of individuals to utterly destroy one another.

               This distinction is no longer meaningful.[26] Thomas Hobbes was not able to conceptualize a world with nuclear weapons. Now, proliferation of these weapons, especially in the Middle East, could quickly reduce the orthodox and relatively tolerable Westphalian anarchy of international relations to an authentically Hobbesianchaosof “nature” that would exist between individuals. Here, as more and more nations came to share what Hobbes had called a “dreadful equality,” a more-or-less symmetrical capacity to inflict mortal destruction, the portent of  regional nuclear calamity could become correspondingly more likely.

               In “The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats wrote of a time in which “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” Succinctly, the celebrated Irish poet had then revealed what continues to elude historians, diplomats, statesmen, and scholars:In the not-too-distant future, there could arrive a moment wherein there would be no safety in numbers, treaties, or armaments; no help from “civilizations;” no counsel from public authority; and no last-minute rescues from science.

               Such an apocalyptic “moment,” one now being made more likely by America’s manifestly ill-prepared president, might rage for a long while, perhaps until every flower of human culture had been trampled and entire human communities had been ground insidiously into the dust. From this seemingly resurrected medieval darkness, from this foreseeably Trump-facilitated chaos, there would be neither escape nor sanctuary. Rather, like the “America First” or “know nothing” illiteracy that Mr. Trump has been championing within the United States, it could envelop entire regions of our world in a single and suffocating pall.

                 For Israel, the prime inheritor of Genesis, any Trumpian chaos portends unusual and paradoxical kinds of national fragility. As a relentlessly beleaguered microstate, Israel could sometime become  (depending upon the precise extent to which it would have allowed itself to be manipulated and misguided by US President Trump) the principal victim of an even more- rampant regional disorder. In view of the exceptionally far-reaching interrelatedness of all world politics, this could become the case even if the actual precipitating events of war and terror[27] would occur elsewhere; that is, in  some other distant region of our fragile and imperiled planet.

               Oddly, perhaps, a hideously triumphant global chaoscould still reveal both sense and form. Generated by reinforcing explosions of mega-war and mega-terror, further Trump-induced disintegrations of world authority would then assume a revealingly discernible shape. But how should this unique shape, this sobering “geometry” of chaos, be suitably deciphered and usefully understood by Israel? As a corollary and similarly vital question, Israel’s leaders would then also need to inquire:

               “How, exactly, should we deal with potentially irrational nuclear adversaries, foes operating within both state and terrorist groups?”[28]

               What if US President Donald Trump should make certain profoundly irrational decisions? What would this mean for Israel? Scientifically, there is no reliably analytic way to make any such probabilistic predictions (because scientific  probabilities must always be calculated according to the determinable frequency of pertinent past events), but this significant prospect is still  altogether conceivable.

               The whole world, like the individual nation-states that comprise it, is best understood as a system.  By definition, what happens in any one part of this world always affects what happens in some or all of the other parts. When, for example, global deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one country to another, the effects could undermine international stability in general. When deterioration is sudden and catastrophic, as it would be following the onset of any unconventional war and/or act of unconventional terrorism, the unraveling effects could become immediate and overwhelming. 

               The State of Israel, a system of interdependent and interpenetrating parts like every other state, exists precariously in our much larger world system.  Aware that any Trump-inspired collapse of regional authority structures (most plausibly, in increments) would, in one way or another, impact its few friends as well as its many enemies, leaders of the Jewish State should now advance informed expectations or scenarios of collapse in order to prepare suitable forms of  response. Ultimately, recognizing that any rapid and far-reaching global collapse could spawn a more or less complete return to “everyone for himself” in world politics, or what philosopher Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan had earlier called a bellum omnium contra omnes, a “war of all against all,” Israel’s leaders must prudently consider just how they should respond to any future national life in a global “state of nature.”

               These would not present reassuring or pleasing forms of analytic consideration.

                There is more. Such eleventh-hour considerations could be critical to the extent that the triggering mechanism of collapse would originate within the Middle East itself, from massive chemical, biological and, in the future, nuclear attacks against Israel. In these times of biological “plague,” the specific actions of any microbial assault would be largely unpredictable but highly consequential.

               Any chaotic disintegration of the regional or wider-world system, whether slow and incremental, or sudden and catastrophic, would impact the Israeli system. Accordingly, during the intellectually and morally unprepared Trump era, Israel will have to more expressly orient its military planning doctrines toward worst-case possibilities. In the final analysis, to best avoid any further declensions into an intolerably Hobbesian “state of nature” in the Middle East, the prime minister and his principal counselors will have to detach Israel’s residual and core plans for national security from any purported “breakthroughs” advanced by Donald Trump.

               Even if he is defeated at the polls in November, Donald J. Trump will remain president of the United States until January 20, 2021. During this uncertain period,[29] Israel will likely run some of the same security risks that imperil its much larger American patron. Here, just like the United States itself, Israel should bear in mind the astute warning sentiments expressed by Creon, King of Thebes, in Sophocles’ classic play, Antigone. As it remains predictable that Trump will continue to place his own presumed personal interests over those of the United States in toto, any ritualistic Israeli following of the US president on national security matters could prove both legally incorrect and strategically misguided.

               In essence, with such intersecting errors, Israel’s  unflagging “loyalty” to a willfully incoherent American patron could bring that country a bitterly new version of lamentations.

               The rest is silence.


[1] See, for example, Louis René Beres, “Genocide and Genocide-Like Crimes,” in  M. Cherif Bassiouni., ed., International Criminal Law: Crimes (New York, Transnational Publishers, 1986), pp. 271-279.   On the crime of genocide under international law, see: See Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, opened for signature, December 9, 1948, entered into force, January 12, 1951, 78 U.N.T.S. 277.  Although the criminalizing aspect of international law that proscribes genocide-like conduct may derive from sources other than the Genocide Convention (i.e., it may emerge from customary international law and also be included in different international conventions), such conduct is an egregious crime under international law.  Even where the conduct in question does not affect the interests of more than one state, a traditional canon of international legal validity, it becomes an international crime ipso facto whenever it constitutes an offense against the world community delicto jus gentium. 

[2]Though Trump’s Israeli and American supporters sometimes advance a purportedly utilitarian argument about  these evident infractions of law and justice, they ought better bear in mind the following peremptory principle of jurisprudence: “Rights cannot derive from wrongs” (Ex injuria jus non oritur).

[3]In the precise words of Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969: “A peremptory norm of general international law….is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole, as a norm from which no derogation is permitted, and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.”

[4] One must remember here that  the core obligations of general international law are simultaneously obligations of US law. Recalling the precise words of Mr. Justice Gray, in delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).The specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[5] This writer, Professor Louis René Beres, was born in Europe at the end of the War, the only son  of Austrian Jewish Holocaust refugees.

[6]The “mass-man,” we may learn from 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset,  The Revolt of the Masses, “learns only in his own flesh.”

[7] For authoritative legal criteria to distinguish permissible insurgencies from impermissible ones, see: Louis René Beres, “The Legal Meaning of Terrorism for the Military Commander,” CONNECTICUT JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 11., No. 1., Fall 1995, pp. 1-27.

[8] See latest book by this writer, Louis René Beres, 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

[9] For the moment, of course, such a confrontation could not involve a full-fledged nuclear war (because Iran is not yet nuclear). For the moment, therefore, it is not an imminent risk. Looking ahead, however, for informed assessments of the probable consequences of nuclear war fighting, by this author, see Louis René Beres, SURVIVING AMID CHAOS: ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016/2018); 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: U S 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).

[10] See, by this writer, at Harvard Law School:  Louis René Beres,  https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/  See also, by this writer, at West Point (Pentagon):  Louis René  Beres https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[11] For early pertinent decisions on US “incorporation” of  authoritative international law by Chief Justice John Marshall, see: The Antelope, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 66, 120 (1825); The Nereide, 13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 388, 423 (1815); Rose v. Himely, 8 U.S. (4 Cranch) 241, 277 (1808) and Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, 6 U.S. (2 Cranch) 64, 118 (1804).

[12] See, by  his writer: Louis René Beres, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/wanted-plan-nuclear-diplomacy-26395

[13] See, on this point, by Louis René Beres at Israel Defense: https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/28532

[14]Regarding illegal US support for the Syrian regime, see, by this author at Jurist:  Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/07/us-abandoning-legal-obligations-in-syria/ 

[15] In this context, use of the term “counterpart” about Putin is generous or charitable. More candidly, Vladimir Putin is Donald Trump’s puppet-master, and the current US president is “The Manchurian Candidate” on steroids.

[16]Reference here is to the world system creating Peace of Westphalia, which concluded the Thirty Years War  in 1648. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119. Together, these two treaties comprise the “Peace of Westphalia.”

[17]For earlier examinations of this “correlation,” by this author, see:  https://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/israel-palestine-and-correlation-of-forces-in-the-middle-east/2005/04/20/; and also, at Israel Defense: https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/idf-correlation-forces-strategy-order

[18] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/foreign-policy/344344-risks-of-accidental-nuclear-war-with-north-korea-must-be

[19] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady insistence that any Palestinian state remain “demilitarized” is not merely unrealistic, but also potentially inconsistent with pertinent international law. On this point, see: Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal,Winter, 1998, pp. 347-363. See also, by Professor Beres and AMB. Shoval, at West Point (US Department of Defense): https://mwi.usma.edu/creating-seamless-strategic-deterrent-israel-case-study/  Zalman Shoval is two-times Ambassador of Israel to the United States.

[20] The customary right of anticipatory self-defense, which is the legal expression of preemption, has its modern origins in the Caroline Incident. This was part of the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. (See: Beth Polebau, “National Self-Defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,”  59 N.Y.U. L. REV.  187, 190-191 (noting that the Caroline Incident transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a customary legal doctrine). Following the Caroline, even the threat of an armed attack has generally been accepted as justification for a militarily defensive action. In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then-U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that does not actually require a prior armed attack. (See Polebau, op. cit., citing to Jennings, “The Caroline and McLeod Cases,”  32 AM. J. INT’L L., 82, 90 (1938).) Here, a defensive military response to a threat was judged permissible as long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.” (See Polebau. supra, 61).

[21] Nonetheless, it warrants pointing out that no state on earth, including Israel, is under any per se legal obligation to renounce access to nuclear weapons, and that in certain distinctly residual circumstances, even the actual resort to such weapons could be lawful. On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice at The Hague handed down its Advisory Opinion on “The Legality of the Threat or Use of Force of Nuclear Weapons.” The final paragraph of this Opinion, concludes, inter alia: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”

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

[23] See, by this author, at BESA (Israel):  Louis René Beres, https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/terrorism-power-death/

[24]In the 17th century, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked prophetically, in his justly celebrated 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.

[25] See early book on this subject by this author, Louis René Beres,  https://www.routledge.com/Terrorism-And-Global-Security-The-Nuclear-Threatsecond-Edition-Completely/Beres/p/book/9780367289881  See also: Louis René Beres,  https://elibrary.law.psu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://search.yahoo.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1335&context=psilr

[26] In this connection, see, by this author, at US Army War College (US Department of Defense):  Louis René Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/

[27] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1317&context=jil

[28] See, for example, by this author at Besa (Israel):  Louis René Beres, https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/north-korean-threat-rationality-intentionality-nuclear-war/

[29] At this point, we cannot even be certain (in view of Trump’s own documented comments) that this president would reliably relinquish office in the properly codified manner mandated by the US Constitution.

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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Why are some Muslims, from India to the U.S Voting against their Natural Allies

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Recent national elections in the U.S. and regional elections in India have presented an interesting conundrum. The numbers show that some Muslims, are voting in a counter-intuitive fashion. Given the rise of Islamophobia and right-wing religious nationalism, both in the U.S. and in India, one would surmise that Muslims would vote overwhelmingly to the left of center. But both, in India and in the U.S., many Muslims have however chosen to send a message to the center-left – your sympathetic rhetoric and your verbal condemnations of Islamophobia is not enough, we want to see concrete policies that improve our political and economic conditions. Neither the promises of Joe Biden, nor the fear of Hindu-nationalism is influencing their vote. These Muslims are, for sure, in a minority albeit a growing one. Politicians on the center-left may ignore them at their own peril.

In the U.S.

In the U.S., President-Elect Joe Biden’s campaign outreach to Muslims went far beyond that of any presidential candidate in the past. Biden’s campaign had a manifesto for American Muslims and a designated outreach person. Biden spoke at Muslim conventions and even quoted from Islamic scripture. He dropped an “inshallah” in the debates. Biden promised to end the so called ‘Muslim-Ban’ on day one and has repeatedly condemned Islamophobia. Biden spoke up for Uyghur Muslims in China and Kashmiris in India and has opposed the annexation of West Bank. He has promised to resume relations with the Palestinians and restore aid to them. Even Imran Khan, the PM of Pakistan, a self-proclaimed champion of Muslims, does not have such an impressive pro-Muslim curriculum vitae, he has repeatedly refused to speak up for the Uyghurs.

While a majority of American Muslims campaigned very aggressively for the Biden-Harris ticket and raised millions of dollars for the Democrats, the exit polls indicate that only 69% of American Muslims voted for them. On the face value that is a huge win, but if you look at in comparison to the past it is troubling. Despite the fact that Biden went far beyond any other candidate in his outreach to Muslims, and the Islamophobia of President Trump is well documented, Biden has garnered the least percentage of votes by a Democratic presidential candidate in the last four elections according to exit polls conducted by the Council on American Islamic Relations.
 A possible explanation for this relatively weak performance is that, for some Muslims his “iron-clad” support for Israel and his willingness to work with pro-Hindutva operatives in the U.S., make his opposition to Islamophobia sound less credible.  Words are not enough. If his electoral promises do not actually translate into actual policies, one can expect further decline in Muslim support for Democrats. American Muslims are a rapidly growing and politically engaged community that is over represented in swing states.

A closer reading of the exit polls suggest that things are worse than they seem. The exit polls show that while 17% American Muslims voted for Trump (up from 13% in 2016), 11% declined to reveal who they voted for. It is possible that they lean heavily towards Trump, hence the secrecy. That would mean that in spite of all his Islamophobic rhetoric, Trump may have doubled his support among American Muslims. One Trump supporter told me he voted for Trump because Trump did not invade a single Muslim country in four years unlike Biden who supported the invasion of Iraq.  

YearCandidateMuslim Vote
2008Barack Obama88%
2012Barack Obama85%
2016Hillary Clinton74%
2020Joe Biden69%

In Bihar

The recent elections in Bihar has an interesting story to tell. The state is clearly polarizing as most gains have been made by parties on the extremities. Prime minister Modi’s right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) went from winning 53 wins in the 2015 elections to winning 74 of the 243 seats in 2020. A significant swing in favor of Hindutva ideology. The Communist Party (CPI-ML) gained 9 seats, it had 3 seats in 2015 to 12 seats in 2020. The communist parties combined had a 400% increase, they went from 4 to 16 seats. The parties in decline are the so-called secular centrist parties. The Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD) which is the biggest single party in the state lost five seats (80-75) and the Indian National Congress (INC), the grand old party of India, also lost ground (27-19).

Clearly the secular center is shrinking. The biggest surprise of the elections was the performance of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All Indian MajlisIttehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a Muslim party, which in the past five years has gone from 0-5 seats. The Majlis won in predominantly Muslim area of Seemanchal and is being accused by commentators of stealing the secular vote away from secular parties. Some are describing Majlis as BJP’s B-Team.

It is interesting that now in Indian politics, the code for Muslim vote is ‘the secular vote’. Indian Muslims are now the last line of defense for the rather rapidly shriveling secular space. The criticism of Owaisi and the Majlis for denting the prospects of secular parties in Bihar is both misplaced and inaccurate.  The question that is important is not why Owaisi’s Majlis, a party historically based in Hyderabad (South India) is contesting elections so far in the North of India. The key question is why are Muslims in Bihar voting for Majlis? A party that has no record of governance in their region.

In a speech months before the elections, Owaisi predicted a tectonic shift in Seemanchal’s politics and he said that it was coming because of the profound injustices and inequities that plague Muslims of that region. If secular parties that have governed the state for decades had delivered good governance to Muslims, Owaisi would have stayed at home.

Muslim Disillusionment

Muslims are increasingly disillusioned by secular and left politicians. Islamophobia was on the rise even before Trump became President and 37% of American Muslims, pre-covid pandemic, were found hovering near the poverty line. There is much discontent. I think just as 17-25% American Muslims voted for Trump rejecting the centrist politics of Democrats – many Muslims in Bihar too are frustrated by the failure of secular parties to improve their material condition. The region of Bihar where Owaisi’s party won five seats is the poorest and infrastructurally the least developed area of the state. Voting for secular parties for decades did not help them much. They have been voting without hope. They too are tired of the lip service.

Muslims of Bihar are fortunate that they have an alternative in Majlis and they are able to reject both Indian secularists and Hindu nationalists unlike some American Muslims who feel that they are stuck between Republicans who are Islamophobic and Democrats who promise much but deliver little. The minority of Muslims who appear to be voting counter intuitively, seemingly against their own interests, either for Donald Trump in the U.S. or the Majlis in Bihar, are clearly sending a signal to secular politicians – do not take our vote for granted, you need to earn our vote.

The center-left may be a natural ally of Muslims, but if it does not deliver for Muslims, they may lose their vote in ever increasing numbers.

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Which Coronavirus Policies Succeed, And Which Fail: N.Y. Times Analysis Confirms Mine

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According to an analysis by and in the New York Times on November 18th, which is headlined “States That Imposed Few Restrictions Now Have the Worst Outbreaks”, “Coronavirus cases are rising in almost every U.S. state. But the surge is worst now in places where leaders neglected to keep up forceful virus containment efforts or failed to implement basic measures like mask mandates in the first place, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the University of Oxford.”

At Strategic Culture, on May 21, I had published my own analysis, which was based upon tracking the data globally and within countries, and within the various states of the United States, which analysis concluded that countries (and states) which apply the least-stringent regulations in order to keep as low as possible the spread of the virus are failing the most to contain or limit that spread. I labelled those the “libertarian” countries, and I noted that what I called the “socialist” countries — the nations which were the most strictly imposing scientifically confirmed regulations in order to keep those numbers down — were having the best success at limiting the spread of this virus. My study was global, and its headline was “Ideology and Coronavirus”. Unlike the Times article, I was forthright about the ideological implications of the coronavirus data — because those implications are vastly important. (The handling of this pandemic is providing reams of data that test the effectiveness of the various locales’ predominant ideology at dealing with a global life-or-death years-long public-health emergency in regions throughout the world. This is like a global laboratory experiment testing the two opposite ideologies: libertarianism, which is against government regulation, versus socialism, which applies government regulation. No government is purely one or the other, but those are the two poles.)

The analysis in the Times article shows a chart, and represents on it almost all of the states, as dots that indicate both the amount of regulation which has been applied, and the lowness of the infection-rate which has resulted; and, at the upper left corner on it, are the two Dakotas, as “Weak recent containment measures and many cases,” while at the bottom rightmost corner is Hawaii as “Strict measures and fewer cases.”

The Times chart is showing, only locally within the United States, during just the past few weeks, what my analyses had shown, regarding not only the international and longer-term data, but also within the United States itself and recently, not only longer-term and internationally. One of my articles, on November 1st and titled “The Highest Covid-Infection-Rate States”, showed the infection-rate for all 50 states, and noted that, “In 2016, the top 17 [the states with the highest rates of this infection in 2020] voted for Trump, and the bottom 5 voted for Clinton. All but 3 of the top 24 voted for Trump, but from numbers 25 to 45, there was a political mixture. The highest infection-rate state, North Dakota, has a Covid-19 infection-rate that is 14.6 times higher than the lowest Covid-19 infection-rate state, Vermont.” Of course, the Republican Party (Trump’s Party) is the more libertarian Party, and the Democratic Party (Clinton’s Party) is the more socialist (though actually just as totalitarian) of the two Parties. (Both Parties represent only their billionaires, who also own and control the media; and this is the way that America’s aristocracy controls the Government. For example, the very pro-Democratic-Party website PoliticalWire quoted from and linked to the NYT’s article, but always fails to include any of mine, because I am critical against both Parties. Truly independent news-media are almost non-existent in the United States.)

Whereas the Times’s chart of “Avg. new cases per 100,000” failed to include Vermont, Vermont is the state that has, for the longest time, been among the best three on not only cases per million but also deaths per million, from this virus, and substantially better even than Hawaii, and both states are among the two or three that in recent decades have been the strongest for Democratic candidates, and the weakest for Republican candidates. However, Vermont especially is politically independent, and, so, it has a Republican Governor, Phil Scott, whose record on containing this virus has been the best in the nation; and he was just re-elected in a landslide, 69% of the votes (largely because of this terrific record). Right now, however, the number of daily new cases has shot up suddenly about fivefold in just the past week; so, Phil Scott’s record is in jeopardy. If that surge quickly ends, then he could become the strongest Republican to run against Kamala Harris or Joe Biden in 2024. He would not only receive almost all Republican votes (since that’s his Party), but also at least a third of Democratic votes, and almost all independent votes. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he would be the likeliest to win the Republican nomination, because (just as is true about the Democratic Party) that Party’s billionaires will be making that choice. (It was blatantly true also with regard to Biden and Harris.) This epidemic will be a major political challenge both in 2022 and in 2024. Anyone who wants to see Governor Scott’s press conferences regarding this crisis, so as to know precisely what his coronavirus-policies have been, can see them here. His November 20th press conference is here. He and his governing team receive and answer there many intelligent questions, so that the policies which have led to the best results in America are amply explained there.

On November 16th in South Dakota (and then repeated nationally on National Public Radio on November 20th), reporter Seth Tupper headlined “Two States, Different Paths: Vermont Keeps Virus Low While Rivaling SD’s Economy” and provided a thorough report, including graphs of infection-rates over time, comparing two states, South Dakota, which has the nation’s second-highest infection-rate (after only North Dakota’s 9%) of 7.8%, versus Vermont, which has the nation’s lowest infection-rate, of only 0.5% — one-fifteenth as high. Tupper explained the different policies that the Governors of those two states had applied, and how those policies produced vastly different results for the infection-rates and the death-rates in their states’ populations, but only moderately higher increase in unemployment in Vermont than in South Dakota, which at the peak in April had reached 16% unemployment in Vermont, versus only 10% peak in South Dakota; and, by the time of August, both states had nearly identical low unemployment-rates. Whereas the death-rates from the disease soared around a thousand fold, between April and November, in South Dakota, the death-rate remained virtually flat, almost no increase, in Vermont, throughout that entire period. However, both states were now experiencing soaring infection-rates during the current, second, wave of the epidemic.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

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Trump’s Election Shenanigans Pale Before The Threats From Melting Polar Glaciers

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Despite Joe Biden exceeding the magic number of 270 that guarantees a majority in the electoral college, President Donald Trump has not conceded.  Does he have a plan to overturn the wishes of the electorate? 

According to Trump he did not lose, he was cheated out of a legitimate win by voter fraud and ballot stuffing.  Accordingly, he has filed lawsuits in those critical states with narrow margins of victory for Biden — so far without tangible success — to block certification of the vote and persuade Republican legislatures to overturn the state vote as fraudulent and award the electoral votes to him. 

Trump’s window of action is narrowing.  A major target state was Michigan with 20 electoral votes.  However, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has now certified Biden’s victory meaning he should get its electoral votes. 

While Trump’s shenanigans continue, the world faces a real danger of melting ice sheets and glaciers.  A long term denier of global warming, Mr. Trump now accepts it but believes the earth will right itself without any effort by humans. 

Scientists meanwhile are particularly concerned with the Florida-sized Thwaites glacier in the Antarctic.  Its collapse they fear could destabilize surrounding glaciers eventually causing catastrophic global sea level rises measured not in inches but feet. 

The glacier rises 60 to 75 feet above water across its 75 mile face.  Remembering that 90 percent of it is under gives some notion of the quantity of ice.  The Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel is conducting a survey this winter for the first time as part of a five-year international research program to learn just how fast the glacier is melting and how much it might be adding to rising seas. 

The problem is the shape of the glacier under the water and the warming waters eating away that core while the ice on top gets thicker and thicker as the glacier retreats inland.  At some point the glacier is likely to collapse of its own weight into the ocean.  Scientists who have modeled the scenario fear the process is unstoppable once it starts.  Worse it puts much of the West Antarctic ice sheet at risk of following it into the sea.  Any wonder then that Thwaites is also known as the Doomsday glacier. 

At the other pole the Greenland ice sheet had a record-breaking 2019, shedding the most ice since 1948 — an estimated 532 billion tons.  It of course increases coastal flooding along the eastern seaboard particularly the Carolinas and Florida.  Fortunately for the residents, the 2020 melt from Greenland, while well above the 1981 to 2010 average, was lower than recent years particularly 2019.

Donald Trump does not believe he lost the election and he does not believe in global warming.  Christmas is just around the corner and it’s reassuring to know he believes in Santa Claus . . . and the tooth fairy.

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