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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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Americas

America’s Exceptionalism in Mass-Shooting and Its Culture of Rugged Individualism

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Amid an unrelenting surge of gun massacres, many have wondered why the United States- the world’s leading country in mass shootings over the last century, is more prone to mass shootings than any other country. Gun violence, though, is prevalent in many parts of the world, for instance in most parts of Latin America. But in America, no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings by “lone-wolf” gunmen. According to Gun Violence Archive, 39 mass shootings have already taken place across the country in just the first three weeks of 2023. Last year the country witnessed around 647 cases of mass shooting with the consequence of more than 44,000 death tolls due to gun violence overall.

Like its political establishment, American public discourse has long firmly been divided over what causes this epidemic. The critics of this national sickness focus their fire on the second amendment of the American constitution and the nefarious political influence of the National Rifles Association (NRF). But here comes down to the question: will a mere constitutional amendment and the neutralization of special interest groups like the NRF lead to the solution to the endemic prevalence of lone-wolf mass shootings? The answer is: not likely, as the problem is deeply rooted in America’s culture itself: the culture of rugged individualism built on its deep-seated historical myth.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, rugged individualism is defined as “the combination of individualism and anti-statism … a prominent feature of American culture with deep roots in the country’s history of frontier settlement.” While individualism, as noted, may be conducive to innovation and resource mobilization, it can also undermine collective action, with potentially adverse social consequences. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was seen how America’s rugged individualistic mindset fomented by its frontier culture hampered the state responses to the pandemic, with many Americans having defied mandatory mask-wearing and vaccination programs.

Likewise, the gun is a great emblem and lethal offspring of American individualism. The nation has long valorized masculine heroes –violent frontiersmen or Hollywoodized American Archetype “White Loners” – who impose their will on the community’s enemies with violence. Added to that deep-seated historical ideal and cultural sickness are the deteriorating trend in kinship traditions and ever-declining “rational mobility”- a condition that helps establish bonds of support beyond immediate families on the basis of socially engaging emotions such as empathy warmth, trust, affection, etc.

Self-serving politicians and gun advocates often ridiculously propose giving more arms into the hands of “the good guys” to thwart “the bad guys with guns.” The Americans’ dire wishes for gun possession, however, stem less from their sense of personal or communal security rather more from an egocentric individualistic cultural reasoning that lacks the prioritization of collective communal safety. The unshakeable emotional and individualistic values Americans attach to guns frequently override concerns about the nation’s collective health and safety.          

The exercise of unfettered individualism is also seen in many parts of the western world, like in Europe; but nowhere in the world is this so infested by historical myth and pathological strains as in America- what the prominent criminologist Adam Lankford called “the uniquely American quality.” And where the United States is stunningly divergent from the rest of the world is the confluence of individualistic culture and the easiest access to guns. In no other part of the world gun access and rugged individualistic culture interact in the same way.

Although many European countries share the same cultural forces that produce aggrieved social outcasts. But those countries erect formidable hurdles on the way of purchasing guns legally that are quite unheard of in the United States: longer waiting periods, higher insurance costs, full-blown psychiatric evaluations, gun safety courses, etc. Resultantly, the country has more weapons than people: one in three adults possesses at least one firearm, and almost one in two adults resides in a home with a firearm.

But the prevalence of guns alone does not account for U.S. exceptionalism in mass shootings. For example, like the United States, much of Latin America is saturated with firearms but, despite high rates of gun violence, mass shootings there by a “lone wolf” gunman are exceedingly rare. And experts pointed to the cultural difference as a powerful factor playing out in creating a huge disparity in the number of mass shooting cases between the two regions.      

In America, ever-increasing personal and economic struggles combined with the inherent state structural tension and identity crisis continue to produce aggrieved social outcasts. On top of this, the ever-exacerbating political climate plagued by partisan divide, racial toxicity, and xenophobic bigotry has also been influencing socially and politically aggrieved outcasts, due to the absence of alternative social redressing mechanisms, to seek recourse by resorting to mass violence. Here, rugged individualism works in creating the very roots of virile fantasy to violence, a toxic political milieu in fueling grievances, and finally easy access to guns in triggering off those grievances in the form of mass shooting.      

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Americas

American Democracy Remains Under Peril

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The democratic system of government in the United States underwent an unprecedented test two years ago when supporters of President Donald Trump attempted to reverse his election loss—some through illegal schemes, others through a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. American democracy has started to function better and its prospects have improved since that moment in history.

Extreme election deniers suffered defeats in crucial swing states like Arizona and Pennsylvania in the 2022 elections, which were successfully performed. The riots that attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election and the role that former US President Donald J. Trump played in inciting them were thoroughly documented by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol. Elections for president were held peacefully in Colombia while candidates with questionable commitments to democracy were rejected in Brazil and France.

The most powerful authoritarian governments in the world are currently having difficulties. The idea of a resurgent Moscow was dispelled by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disastrously planned and carried out war in Ukraine. China’s attempt to overtake the United States as the world’s greatest economy and most powerful nation has failed due to President Xi Jinping’s poor mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak. Xi’s domestic popularity has been further weakened by China’s real estate boom, a 20 percent young unemployment rate, a politically motivated crackdown on the private sector, and soaring local government debt.

However, despite their diminished power, Beijing and Moscow continue to constitute a significant threat to democracy. They will need to disparage other forms of administration and criticize their democratic rivals more and more as their domestic issues get worse. Beijing and Moscow are launching a campaign of deception that targets and amplifies the vulnerability of American democracy as a result of this. Russia and China both, This propaganda campaign tries to delegitimize Western-style democracy in order to quell calls for democratic reforms. In the long run, it aims to establish a new, fragmented international order that prioritizes “national sovereignty” over human rights. It also aims to oust and support friendly governments, as well as combat the growing perception that cooperating with Beijing and Moscow has negative effects on local citizens.

Because Western democracies are weak, Beijing and Moscow are supported in this endeavour. Trump keeps questioning the validity of the 2020 election, and he might soon be charged with a crime. Gridlock, partisan investigations and impeachment attempts, as well as cynical new initiatives to erode rather than restore confidence in the American voting system, may well dominate Capitol Hill for the next two years. Conspiracy theories and misinformation continue to abound on social media, and corporate content moderation attempts have fallen short. With the quick development of generative AI software, which can create deep fakes in which famous personalities appear to be talking and doing things they never said or did, the assault on reality is likely to get exponentially worse. For the two superpowers of disinformation in the world, China and Russia, all of this is a blessing. The propaganda is more effective the more reliable the content.

The decline of democracy in the US aids in the delegitimization of democracy by Beijing and Moscow. American democracy must be strengthened at home if it is to once again serve as a model that may inspire others. The fight for global soft power can only be won by Washington at that point.

Both domestic and foreign security issues are raised by the state of the American democracy. Principal authoritarian rivals of the United States, China and Russia, have taken advantage of (and made worse) America’s democratic divides and struggles in the race for world leadership. In order to recover the upper hand, the United States must simultaneously strengthen its own democracy and raise its profile as an advocate for democracy abroad. The democratic movement needs to attack.

A significant investment in American soft power will be needed for this. Public diplomacy spending in the United States peaked at $2.5 billion in 1994 (inflation-adjusted) and nearly surpassed that amount in 2010 and 2011. However, since then, as new problems have emerged, American efforts have remained unchanged, with total expenditures only amounting to $2.23 billion in 2020.

Washington must reenter the struggle for international soft power in a way that upholds American ideals. It must convey the truth in ways that appeal to and influence people around the world. The objective must be to advance democratic values, concepts, and movements in addition to effectively combating misinformation with the truth. Multiple trustworthy streams of information are required to combat misinformation and report the truth that autocracies repress. Additionally, they must be independent; even though the US government may give them financial support, they must run without editorial oversight. They will appear independent, which they are, in this manner.

One option would be to change the Voice of America to resemble the British Broadcasting Corporation more closely. Its goal should be to serve as a role model for the values of the American democratic experiment by offering completely unbiased news on all nations, including the United States. Truth, independence, and expertise in reporting are necessary, but they are not sufficient to win the information battle. A decentralised, pluralistic web of high-quality media is also necessary. In autocracies, local media are ideally situated to collect and distribute evidence of corruption,

Serious policy mistakes and violations of human rights. In order to report the news and provide critical commentary in the absence of media freedom, the United States and its democratic allies must elevate and strengthen the underfunded local media. Funding for public interest media will be needed in the billions of dollars, much of which should go through the nongovernmental International Fund for Public Interest Media (including media operating in exile). The fund is a nonpartisan alliance of multinational foundations that can provide funding for regional independent media while preserving their independence.

Together with its democratic allies, Washington should explore fresh geopolitical and technological avenues for assisting closed regimes to overcome Internet censorship and social media surveillance. Autocracies will be less stable when those living in them have easier access to unbiased information and more secure means of communication with one another. In order to prevent autocracies from seizing control of international Internet standards and protocols, democracies must engage in active and coordinated diplomacy. The biggest flagrantly false and dangerous content must be removed. Social media companies must also take more action to combat the malicious manipulation of their platforms by foreign governments. And by tightening social media regulation, the US and other democracies should support these initiatives. TikTok should be removed from American devices as a first step.

But the democracy in America is not secure. The last Congress failed to pass legislation aimed at reducing the influence of money, strengthening and expanding voting rights, ending gerrymandering, ensuring ethical standards for elected officials, and enhancing election security, and there is little chance that it will succeed in the following one. Even worse, numerous states have taken action to limit voting rights and make it more challenging for minorities to cast ballots. Most concerning, several state legislatures with Republican control, led by North Carolina, are attempting to construct a doctrine of “independent state legislatures,” which would allow these bodies to rig election results and even draw partisan gerrymandered voting districts.without being subject to judicial, executive, or redistricting commission oversight. If domestic politics in the United Nations turn into a collection of one-party states, the country will be unable to confront autocracies on a global scale. The revival of American democracy and domestic achievement will be key to countering autocratic deception.

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Americas

Friction Between United States & Iran: The Tension and Its Impact

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Background Study

The relationship between the United States (US) and Iran has a long and complex history. In the early 20th century, the United States (US) played a key role in the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected government and the installation of a pro-Western monarchy under the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. This led to a deep mistrust of the United States by many Iranians. In the 1970s, the Shah’s regime was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The new Islamic Republic of Iran was deeply anti-American and took 52 American hostages in the US embassy in Tehran. The hostage crisis lasted for 444 days and severely damaged US-Iran relations. In the following decades, the US has had a policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation towards Iran, citing its support for terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran has also been known to support groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are designated as terrorist groups by the US.

In recent years, there have been some attempts at improving relations between the two countries. The Obama Administration negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, which lifted some sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear program. However, the Trump Administration withdrew from the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran. Currently, the US and Iran are in a situation of high tension, with both sides engaging in a series of hostile actions against each other, such as the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad by a US drone in 2020. The US has continued to put sanctions on Iran and labelled several Iranian organisations as terrorist organisations. In summary, the relationship between the United States and Iran has been characterized by a long history of mistrust, hostility and mutual accusations, with both sides engaging in actions that have escalated the tensions between them.

The Tension:

There are several accusations and actions that have contributed to the high tension conflict between the United States and Iran.

From the perspective of the United States, the main accusations against Iran include:

Supporting terrorism: The US government has long accused Iran of providing financial and military support to groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, which the US has designated as terrorist organizations.

Pursuit of nuclear weapons: The US has accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, despite Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

Human rights abuses: The US has also accused Iran of widespread human rights abuses, including the repression of political dissidents and minorities, and the use of torture and execution.

Threat to regional stability: The US has accused Iran of destabilizing the Middle East through its support for groups like the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Assad regime in Syria.

From the perspective of Iran, the main accusations against the United States include: –

Interference in Iranian internal affairs: Iran has long accused the United States of attempting to overthrow its government and interfere in its internal affairs.

Supporting Iran’s enemies: Iran has accused the United States of supporting its regional rivals, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, and of providing military and financial support to groups that seek to overthrow the Iranian government.

Violation of human rights: Iran has also accused the US of violating human rights, pointing to actions such as the use of drone strikes and the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Economic sanctions: Iran has accused the US of imposing economic sanctions on Iran, which it claims have caused significant harm to its economy and people.

In terms of actions that have escalated tensions, from the US side:

  • The killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad by a US drone in 2020.
  • The US has continued to put sanctions on Iran and labelled several Iranian organisations as terrorist organisations.
  • Increasing military presence in the Gulf region.

From the Iranian side:

  • Continuing to develop its nuclear program, in spite of the US sanctions.
  • Seizing of foreign oil tankers and ships.
  • Attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that were blamed on Iran.
  • Shooting down of a US drone in 2019

It’s worth noting that the situation is complex and multifaceted and both sides have taken actions that have escalated the tensions between them.

Its Impact.

The tension between the United States and Iran has had a significant impact on the international community. It has led to increased instability and uncertainty in the Middle East, with both sides engaging in actions that have the potential to escalate into a larger conflict. This can disrupt the oil supplies and lead to an economic crisis. The tension has also had an impact on the security of other countries in the region, as many of them are allied with the United States or Iran and could be caught in the middle of any potential conflict. This has also affected global oil prices due to the potential disruption of supplies from the Middle East. This has also had an impact on the ongoing negotiations and agreements between other countries and Iran, such as the Nuclear Deal. The US withdrawal from the deal and imposition of sanctions has affected other countries’ ability to do business with Iran and has also affected the ongoing negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Moreover, many countries have had to navigate the delicate balance between maintaining good relations with both the United States and Iran, as both countries are major powers with significant economic and military influence. This has led to some countries, particularly those in the Middle East, to align more closely with one side or the other, potentially damaging their relationships with the other. Secondly, the tension between the US and Iran has also affected the ability of countries to engage in business and trade with Iran, as the US has imposed economic sanctions on Iran. This has led to some countries to scale back their trade and investment with Iran, or to find ways to circumvent the sanctions. Thirdly, the tension has also affected the efforts of countries to mediate and resolve the conflict. Many countries have tried to act as intermediaries to de-escalate the tensions and find a peaceful resolution, but the deep mistrust and hostility between the US and Iran have made this a difficult task. Fourthly, the tension has also affected the security of other countries in the region, as many of them are allied with the United States or Iran, and they could be caught in the middle of any potential conflict.

Overall, the tension between the United States and Iran has had a significant impact on the formulation of foreign policies in the international borders, as many countries have had to navigate the delicate balance between maintaining good relations with both countries, while also addressing the economic stability and security implications of the tension.

Conclusion.

The tension between the United States and Iran is a complex and longstanding issue, and there is no easy solution to melting down the tension. However, some steps that could potentially help to alleviate the tension include:

Diplomatic negotiations: Direct talks between the United States and Iran could be an important step in resolving the tension, provided that both sides are willing to come to the table with open minds and a willingness to compromise.

Support from the international community: Other countries could play a role in mediating talks between the United States and Iran and in putting pressure on both sides to de-escalate the tension. The support of other countries in the region would be particularly important.

Lifting of economic sanctions: The lifting of economic sanctions on Iran could help to improve the country’s economy and reduce the impact of the sanctions on the Iranian people, which may reduce some of the hostility towards the United States.

Addressing mutual concerns: The United States and Iran have many concerns about each other’s actions, such as human rights abuses, support for terrorism, and destabilizing activities in the Middle East. Addressing these concerns in a direct and honest way could help to build trust between the two countries.

De-escalation of military activities: Both sides should avoid any action that could escalate the situation into a military conflict.

Evidently, these steps would likely be difficult to achieve, but they could help to reduce the tension between the United States and Iran, and provide some relief to the international community.

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