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The Trump Presidency and Israel: An Injurious Patronage

Prof. Louis René Beres

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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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Americas

In Praise of the Lioness of Law: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her Jurisprudence

Punsara Amarasinghe

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image credit: Wikipedia

The death of the US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created an abyss in the court for the liberal voice where justice Ginsburg was seen as the linchpin of the liberal block of the Supreme Court at a time when that block was shrinking. Especially late judge had vociferously advocated for women ‘rights, environmental issues and often came up with unique dissents in delivering her judgements which were propelled by her jurisprudence which embodied the solemn ideal in American legal system “Equal Protection under the Law “. She was on a quest to defend the delicate balance between honoring the timelessness of American Constitution and recognizing the depth of its enduring principles in new centuries and under new circumstances.

She grew up in an era where men held the helm in every aspect of social life and especially the legal profession was utterly dominated by men. Recalling her legal studies at Harvard law school in the 50’s judge Ginsburg had stated later how she was once asked by the Dean of Harvard law school to justify her position as a law student that otherwise would have gone to a man. Yet she had the spunk to overcome all the obstacles stood on her way and excelled as a scholar becoming the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

In tracing her legal career that it becomes a salient fact, Judge Ginsburg marked her name in American legal history even decades before she joined the bench. While at the American Civil Liberties Union in the early seventies she made an upheaval in American in legal system in famous Supreme Court Case Reed Vs Reed. In Reed Vs Reed the brief drafted by Ginsburg provided an astute analysis on the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause. Ginsburg’s brief changed the aged long practice existed in the State of Idaho on favoring men over women in estate battles by paving the path for a discourse on gender equality rights in the USA.

Judge Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 1994 during Clinton administration marked the dawn of new jurisprudential chapter in the US Supreme Court. Two terms later, in the United States v. Virginia (VMI), Justice Ginsburg applied her lucid perspective to a sharply disputed constitutional claim. The United States challenged Virginia’s practice of admitting only men to its prestigious military college, the Virginia Military Institute. Writing for six Justices, Ginsburg held this policy unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. In reaching this result, Ginsburg adroitly cut away potentially confounding issues about women’s participation in the military or the advantages of single-sex education.

Her robust activism in securing gender equality often attracted the admirations of the feminist scholars and activists, but it should be noted that her contribution was not only confined to the protection of gender equality. She was a robust critique of racial dissemination which still pervades in American society and she frequently pointed out how racial discrimination has marred the constitutional protections guaranteed to every citizen. Especially in the case of Gratz Vs Bollitnger, she stressed on the commitment that the state ought to fulfil by eliminating the racial biases existing employment and education. Moreover, disabled citizens. In Olmstead v. Zimring, she held that “unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination” violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.45 She elaborated a two-fold concept of discrimination, noting that unneeded institutionalization both “perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life”.

In remembering the mortal departure of this prudent judge that one cannot forget her keenness in incorporating international law into her judgements regardless of the disinclination shown by conservative judges like Antony Scalia. Going beyond the mere textualism approach to the law, Ginsburg’s jurisprudence was much more akin to using international law to make substantive decisions. For instance, in her concurring verdict in Grutter Vs Bollinger, Justice Ginsburg relied upon international human rights law, and in particular upon two United Nations conventions, to support her conclusions.

Indeed, the demise of Ruth Ginsburg is a major blow for the liberalists in the USA, especially in an era where liberalist values are at stake under the fervent rise of populist waves propounded by Donald Trump. Especially late judge had been one of the harsh critics of Trump even before ascendency to the Oval office. The void created by the demise of judge Ginsburg might change the role the US Supreme Court if the successor to her position would take a more conservative approach and it will fortify the conservative bloc in the US Supreme Court. Trump has already placed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and the third pick would more deeply entrench the conservative views in the US Supreme Court, which would inevitably undermine the progressive policies taken during Obama’s administration towards issues such as the environment. The political storm appeared after the death of the late judge has already created a tense situation in US politics as president Trump is determined to appoint a judge to fill before the presidential election in November.

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The Politics of (In)security in Mexico: Between Narcissism and Political Failure

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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Security cannot be that easily separated from the political realm. The need for security is the prime reason why people come together to collectively form a state. Providing security is, therefore, one of the most basic functions of the state as a political and collective entity.

Last Friday, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) laughed during his daily morning press briefings over a national newspaper headline about 45 massacres during his presidency. This attitude summarises in a macabre way his approach to insecurity: it is not his top priority. This is not the first time that AMLO has showed some serious and deeply disturbing lack of empathy for victims of crimes. Before taking office, he knew that insecurity was one of Mexico’s biggest challenges, and he has come to realise that curbing it down will not be as simple as he predicted during his presidential campaign.

Since the start of the War on Drugs in 2006, Mexico has sunk into a deep and ever-growing spiral of violence and vigilantism as a result of the erosion of the capacity of the state to provide safety to citizens. Vigilantism is when citizens decide to take the law into their own hands in order to fill the vacuum left by the state, or to pursue their own very particular interests. Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Tabasco, Tamaulipas and Veracruz have over 50 vigilante organisations that pose substantial danger to the power of the state.

Vigilantism is not the only factor exacerbating the security crisis in Mexico: since 2006, young people have also started to join drug cartels and other criminal organisations. There are important sectors of the population who feel that the state has failed to represent them. They also feel betrayed because the state has not been able to provide them with the necessary means to better themselves. These frustrations make them vulnerable to the indoctrination of organised crime gangs who promise to give them some sort of ideological direction and solution to their problems.

As a result, it is not enough to carry out a kingpin arrest strategy and to preach on the moral duties we have as citizens as well as on human dignity. People need to be given enough means to find alternative livelihoods that are attractive enough to take them out of organised crime, Mexico can draw some important lessons from Sierra Leone who successfully demobilised and resettled ex-combatants after the armed conflict. Vigilantism, recruitment by organised crime, and insecurity have also flourished because of a lack of deterrence. The judicial system is weak and highly ineffective. A large proportion of the population does not trust the police, or the institutions in charge of the rule of law.

A long-term strategy requires linking security with politics. It needs to address not only the consequences but also the roots of unemployment and deep inequality. However, doing so requires decisive actions to root out widespread and vicious corruption. Corruption allows concentration of wealth and also prevents people from being held accountable. This perpetuates the circle of insecurity. Mexico has been slowly moving towards a borderline failed state. The current government is starting to lose legitimacy and the fragility of the state is further perpetuated by the undemocratic, and predatory governance of the current administration.

Creating a safer Mexico requires a strong, coherent, and stable leadership, AMLO’s administration is far from it. His popularity has consistently fallen as a result of his ineffective policies to tackle the pandemic, worsening insecurity, and the economic crisis. Mexico has reached over 72,000 Covid-19 deaths; during his initial 20 months as incumbent president, there has been 53,628 murders, among them 1800 children or teenagers, and 5888 women (11 women killed per day) This criminality rate is double than what it was during the same period in the presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012); and 55% higher than with the last president, Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). Mexico is also experiencing its worst economic recession in 90 years.

Insecurity remains as the issue of most concern among Mexicans, seeing the president laughing about it, can only fill citizens with yet more despair and lack of trusts in the government and its institutions. AMLO’s catastrophic performance is not surprising, though. Much of his failures and shortcomings can be explained by both ideology and a narcissistic personality. Having someone with both of those traits ruling a country under normal, peaceful times is already dangerous enough, add an economic crisis and a pandemic to the mix and the result is utter chaos.

AMLO embodies the prototypical narcissist: he has a grandiose self-image; an inflated ego; a constant need for admiration; and intolerance to criticism. He, like many other narcissists, thinks about himself too much and too often, making him incapable of considering the wellbeing of other and unable to pursue the public interest. He has a scapegoat ready to blame for his failures and mistakes: previous administrations, conservatives, neoliberalism, academics, writers, intellectuals, reporters, scientists, you name it, the list is long and keeps getting longer.

AMLO keeps contradicting himself and he does not realise it. He has been claiming for months that the pandemic is under control: it is not. He declares Mexico is ready to face the pandemic and we have enough tests and medical equipment: we do not. He says Mexico is on its way to economic recovery: it is not. He states corruption is a thing of the past: it is not. He says Mexico is now safer than ever before: it is not. When told the opposite he shrugs criticism off and laughs, the behaviour of a typical narcissist.

AMLO, alike narcissists, due to his inability to face criticism, has never cared about surrounding himself by the best and brightest. He chose a bunch of flunkies as members of his cabinet who try to please and not humiliate their leader. A further trait of narcissistic personalities is that they love conflict and division as this keeps them under control. The more destabilisation and antagonism, the better. AMLO since the start of his presidency has been setting states against states for resources and for pandemic responses, instead of coordinating a national response. He is also vindictive: playing favourites with those governors who follow him and punishing those that oppose him.

Deep down, narcissistic leaders are weak. AMLO is genuinely afraid to lead. He simply cannot bring himself to make decisions that are solely his. This is why he has relied on public referendums and consultations to cancel projects or advance legislation. He will not take any responsibility if something goes wrong: It was not him who decided, it was the people, blame them. He inherited a broken system that cannot be fixed during his term, blame the previous administrations, not him.

AMLO is a prime example of a textbook narcissist, unfortunately he is not the only one: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Recep Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte are only a few more examples of what seems to be a normalised behaviour in contemporary politics. Every aspect of AMLO’s and other leaders presidencies have been heavily marked by their psychopathology. Narcissism, however, does not allow proper and realistic self-assessment, self-criticism, and self-appreciation therefore such leaders will simply ignore the red flags in their administration and have no clue how despicably and disgracefully they will be remembered.

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Minor Successes And The Coronavirus Disaster: Is Trump A Dead Duck?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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That reminder from the Bible, ‘He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone’ may give us pause — but not journalists who by all appearances assume exemption.  And the stones certainly bruise.

Evidence for the bruises lies in the latest poll numbers.  Overall, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 50 to 43 percent, a margin that has continued to increase since January.  It is also considerably wider than the few points lead Hillary Clinton had over Trump four years ago.  It gets worse for Trump. 

In the industrial states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Trump in 2016 won by razor thin margins, he is losing by over 4 percent.  Also key to his victory was Wisconsin where, despite his success in getting dairy products into Canada, he is behind by a substantial 7 percent.  Key states Ohio and Florida are also going for the Democrats.

Trump was not doing so badly until the coronavirus struck and during the course of his news conferences he displayed an uncaring persona larded with incompetence.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man he fired for correcting Trumpian exaggerations became a hero and Trump the bully.

If that bullying nature won him small rewards with allies, he hit an impasse with China and Iran … while bringing the two closer to each other.  Then there is the border wall, a sore point for our southern neighbor Mexico.  President Lopez Obrador made sure the subject never came up at the July meeting with Trump,   Thus Mexico is not paying for it so far and will not be in the foreseeable future.

The United Arab Emirates, a conglomeration of what used to be the Trucial States under British hegemony. have agreed to formalize its already fairly close relations with Israel.  In return, Israel has postponed plans to annex the West Bank.  Whether or not it is in Israel’s long term interest to do so is a debatable question because it provides much more powerful ammunition to its critics who already accuse it of becoming an apartheid regime.  However, it had become Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sop to the right wing who will have to wait.  Of course, the reality is that Israel is already the de facto ruler.

If Mr. Trump was crowing about the agreement signed on September 15, although it is akin to someone signing an agreement with Puerto Rico while the United States remains aloof.  As a postscript, the little island of Bahrain also signed a peace deal with Israel.  Bahrain has had its own problems in that a Sunni sheikh rules a Shia populace.  When the Shia had had enough, Saudi and UAE troops were used to end the rebellion.  Bahrain is thus indebted to the UAE.

How many among voters will know the real value of these historic (according to Trump) deals particularly when he starts twittering his accomplishments as the election nears?

There things stand.  As they say, there is nothing worse than peaking too early.  Bettors are still favoring Trump with their money.  The longer anyone has been in politics the more there is to mine, and for an opponent to use to his/her advantage.  Time it seems is on Trump’s side.  

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