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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

Interpreting the Biden Doctrine: The View From Moscow

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Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From our partner RIAC

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AUKUS aims to perpetuate the Anglo-Saxon supremacy

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Image credit: ussc.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Was Trump better for the world than Biden, after all?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Joe Biden and the State Department just approved a major deal with the Saudis for 500mln in choppers maintanance. Effectively, the US sold its soul to the Saudis again after the US intelligence services confirmed months ago that the Saudi Prince is responsible for the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration is already much more inhumane and much worse than Trump. Biden doesn’t care about the thousands of American citizens that he left behind at the mercy of the Taliban, the Biden administration kills innocent civilians in drone strikes, they are in bed with the worst of the worsts human right violators calling them friendly nations. 

Biden dropped and humiliated France managing to do what no US President has ever accomplished —  make France pull out its Ambassador to the US, and all this only to go bother China actively seeking the next big war. Trump’s blunders were never this big. And this is just the beginning. There is nothing good in store for America and the world with Biden. All the hope is quickly evaporating, as the world sees the actions behind the fake smile and what’s behind the seemingly right and restrained rhetoric on the surface. It’s the actions that matter. Trump talked tough talk for which he got a lot of criticism and rarely resorted to military action. Biden is the opposite: he says all the right things but the actions behind are inhumane and destructive. It makes you wonder if Trump wasn’t actually better for the world.

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