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Truth and Shadow: To Understand A Lethal American Presidency

Prof. Louis René Beres

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To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.”-Plato, The Republic

Though derelictions of an unprecedented sort, even the most evident shortcomings of Donald J. Trump’s presidency are essentially just “shadows.” To more fully understand what has brought the United States to such a once- unimaginable national declension, we must first learn to look beyond these reflections. As long as we remain focused on mere reflections of what is important, we will ensure only persistent governmental debility.

               What then? Among other things, we would need to concede American democracy to the perpetual sovereignty of unqualified persons. In consequence of such plainly intolerable concessions, there could emerge no meaningful solutions to what most imperils the United States. What might then be said about American “greatness?”

               “I’m sorry?”

               Exeunt omnes?

               For the United States, such deeply ironic surrenders should never need to be considered.

               At some point, this pathological sort of surrender or debility could include not “just” nuances of national deformation, but also de facto “blueprints” for a nation’s collective disappearance.

               There are better ways for a country to proceed. Americans ought not passively accept such immobilizing forms of bewilderment. This era remains, after all, the Nuclear Age.[1] It continues to be a time for prudence and abundant caution, not visceral or  reflexive response.

               To better understand certain still-threatening American defilements – an obviously primary obligation for all US citizens – analysts must begin at the beginning. Recognizably, this battered country’s authentic problems are not narrowly partisan or exclusively political. No national government – no President, no Congress, no hyper-adrenalized promises of “change” from one side or another – can expect to halt the insidious trajectories of our staggering decline.

               Wherever one looks, the Trump presidency has spawned a lethal assault on an already-fragile nation – a dissembling presidency that absolutely has to be removed by the country’s electorate – but even this grotesque leadership assault represents little more than a “shadow.”[2]

               Both literally and metaphorically, the United States is now caught up in a titanic struggle between life and death, between health and disease. In order to suitably “cure” the nation, not just of Covid19 but also of conspicuously corollary debilities of unqualified national governance, Americans must first correctly identify the pertinent “disease process.” Otherwise, at best, we might manage to excise certain visible pathologies, but still leave all underlying, systemic and metastasizing national “malignancies” fully intact.

               By definition, that would represent a meaningless or “pyrrhic victory” for a nation at existential risk.

               Always, as with identifying plausible solutions to the Corona Virus assault, pertinent analyses must be appropriately (1) systematic and (2) dialectical.[3] Hard questions must be raised. For one, how did Americans ever manage to get to this bitterly rancorous and disjointed national place? In time, will the long-term anarchy of inter-state relations be transformed into an even less sustainable chaos?[4]

               Relevant explanations – though not genuine long-term solutions – are still substantially unhidden.

               Somehow, driven by egocentric considerations of taxation, commerce and a barbarous presidential ethos of self promotion, our American system of governance has managed to create a uniquely toxic amalgam. From this palpably poisonous fusion of plutocracy and mob rule, virtually any conceivable destructions could still be born and multiplied.[5] As we have so unhappily been witnessing, this expanding wreckage has recently been enlarged.

               Where are we now? It is September 2020, and several alarming portents ought not be too-casually disregarded or thoughtlessly shrugged off. Currently, China, being diminished in increments by Donald J. Trump’s gratuitous insults and threats, is beginning to talk openly about selling off its approximately one trillion dollars of American debt (US Treasuries). During this same early September period, Trump has described US military veterans as “losers” and “suckers” (a perverse recapitulation of his prior disparaging references to American prisoner of war Senator John McCain as “no hero”); appointed a new postmaster-general in order to destroy mail-sorting equipment and slow-down the mails; and imposed bizarre sanctions on the International Criminal Court (a frontal attack upon international law in general).[6]

               There is still more. One again, this president has stood uncritically on the side of Vladimir Putin, this time regarding the latest Russian poisoning of dissidents. Trump also appointed a new and manipulable Covid19 advisor to assure America’s further subordination of science to politics, and has pushed ahead with an utterly incoherent and treasury-busting military parody known formally as “Space Force.”[7] Similarly incomprehensible was Trump’s previous withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization in the midst of pandemic.

               Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.”

               If these “crazy” infringements were not enough to satisfyingly worsen life in the US and also throughout the world, Donald J. Trump’s reliably obsequious attorney general stated shamelessly during a major television interview that he “could not really be sure” that voting twice is illegal. Said William Barr, America’s senior legal officer, “It depends upon the state.” Can this conceivably be a serious official response?

               Credo quia absurdum.

               There is more. Americans face many interrelated obligations. One overarching duty concerns this country’s distressingly proud culture of American illiteracy. Lest such an indictment sound harsh or even silly, one need only be reminded that this US president rose to high office by exclaiming to cheering rally crowds: “I love the poorly educated.”

               This 2016 campaign refrain was not just an off-the-cuff spasm of populist sentiment. Rather, it was a carefully fashioned echo of Joseph Goebbels’ 1934 Nuremberg rally shriek: “Intellect rots the brain.” It stands in starkly ironic contrast with the earlier expressed viewpoint of Thomas Jefferson. Said America’s third president: “To penetrate and dissipate the clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.”[8]

               Over the years, certain others have understood Jefferson’s wisdom. “The mass man,” says 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset, “learns only in his own flesh.” This is precisely the aspiring demagogue who now sits smugly in the American White House. With such inherently distorted national leadership, the United States can never expect to distinguish correctly between truth and shadows.[9]

               Never.

               None of this is mere hyperbole. After all, we continuously inhabit a feverishly anti-intellectual country, a place of consistent analytic decline, one where exemplary medical science is often anathema, where truth is often given no quarter and where virtually no one pauses to read a serious book. This worrisome demographic includes Donald J. Trump, who not only eschews the instructive written word – especially where it might sometime be elegantly fashioned or science-based – but who also draws vast political support because of his expressed loathing for literature, law[10] and philosophy.

                In the United States, this ironic loathing is not veneered or in any manner denied or disguised. Here, instead, a disfiguring American president’s consuming lack of intellectual and historical interests has actually come to represent an enviable political asset. Credo quia absurdum.

               Core citizen obligations obtain. Always, We the people must remain determinedly analytic. Derivatively, we should promptly inquire: Is there any graspable evidence to support genuinely existential threats or concerns?

               Incontestably, all of us are now under persistent and still-growing microbial assault from Covid19. Still worse, this biological “plague” could sometime intersect with the more “normal” geopolitical hazards of war,[11] terrorism and/or genocide.[12] In the imaginably worst case scenarios,[13] this intersection would also be “synergistic;” that is, a fearful coming-together wherein the injurious “whole” would be tangibly greater than the calculable sum of injurious  “parts.”[14]

                Significantly, credible explanations are unhidden. At the head of America’s government and society now sits a “mass man,” one who openly abhors intellect and simultaneously extracts correlative political  benefits. This would not be the case (and also America’s potentially existential curse) if the prevailing modalities of U.S. culture and law were more closely aligned with proper standards of evidence and truth. Now, on any given day, Donald Trump (or his designated lapdog of the moment, e.g., Attorney  General William Barr on voting twice, or Vice President Mike Pence, who fawns uncontrollably because he has no apparent license to think) makes statements that are preposterous prima facie.

               Back home in Indiana, Mr. Pence could never even have imagined a future in which he would ever be taken seriously.

               Credo quia absurdum.

               There is more. Although many Americans remain content with strangely still-lingering hopes to grow personal wealth, even the richest among us are deprived. Resigned to either a dreary future of exhausting and unsatisfying work, or to a terminal prospect of war and disease, even the financially most “successful” must now live with variously intersecting kinds of death and despair. Small wonder, then, that “no vacancy” signs hang prominently outside America’s largest prisons and that a progressively immobilizing Opiate Crisis is no longer even news.

               In a nation of increasingly institutionalized unhappiness, it is simply the “new normal.”

                There is more. For the most part, once flaunted American “truths” are now discoverable only as myth. One prominent example can be found in our massively beleaguered universities.

               For more than fifty years – the actual time I have lived in several of our most distinguished national universities – considerations of raw commerce have  trumped considerations of pure learning.[15] What is surprising these days is that dishonorable and illegal parental efforts to get their kids into college should even be considered scandalous. What were these coddled young people planning to learn?

               No one seems to know, not even the prospective students.

               To repair a broken country, candor and good taste – not just presidential elections – will be indispensable.For a time, We the people have no longer been motivated by any proper considerations of enduring human value. For the most part, we don’t actively seek any equanimity or “balance” as a healing counterpoint to frenetic daily lives. Distressingly, we still search anxiously for “opportunities” to buy into a life of narrow imitation, an inherently unsatisfying existence dedicated to leeringly empty pleasures and steadily-expanding mountains of pain-dulling drugs.

               At almost every level, therefore, Americans “freely” choose (like the oft-flaunted “American freedom” not to wear a mask) a life of diaphanous shadows over one of tangible truth.

               Not much mystery here. The relevant numbers are easily available and “beyond any reasonable doubt.” To wit, at each and every moment of the day, millions of America’s more-or-less exhausted citizens consume enough alcohol and drugs to suffocate any still-lingering residues of human wisdom. By itself, and long before Covid19, the Opiate Crisis cost the country several trillion dollars (to apply the narrowly quantifiable metric of money), and still represents wholly unfathomable levels of grievous human suffering.

               Americans need to be candid. These are not superficial infirmities. Instead, what we are describing hereare deep, irremediable and inconsolable levels of collective despair.

                Truth, not shadow, is exculpatory. Whatever is now being decided in our politics or in our universities, Americans are presently carried forth not by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “high thinking and plain living,” but by profoundly sorrowful eruptions of fear and agitation. At times, we the people may wish to slow down a bit and “smell the roses,” but America’s battered and battering ambience continues to impose upon its residents the ruthlessly merciless rhythms of a self-propelled machine.Left unchecked, the predictable end of all this delirium will be atrophied governance, advancing disease plagues and international war.[16]

                Donald J. Trump was not foisted upon the United States ex nihilo, out of nothing. He is, in fact, the predictable outcome of a society frequently indifferent or refractory to verifiable truth.  

                Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, we likely even possessed a potential to nurture individuals to become more than unthinking cogs of a compliant crowd, herd or mass.[17] Emerson, after all, had described Americans as a people guided by industry and  “self-reliance.” Now, however, we dutifully prepare to accept almost any conceivable personal infringements in order to avoid thought and cheerlessly “fit in.”

               In the end, credulity remains America’s worst enemy. Our still too-willing inclination to believe that personal and societal redemption can lie in politics and elections describes a potentially fatal disorder. Of course, many critical social and economic issues do need to be addressed further by America’s government, but so too must our deeper problems be solved at the individual human level.

               In the end, this is the only proper level for undertaking real change and transformation, the only stage that is not merely a reflection or shadow (what the philosophers would call “epiphenomenal”). Already back in the fourth century BCE, Plato set out to explain politics as a reflective and unstable realm of sense and matter, a second-order arena of human action formed by inconsequential half-thoughts and distorted perceptions.

                For Plato, in stark contrast to the stable or primary realm of immaterial “Forms” – from which all authentic truth must ultimately be drawn – the political world must be dominated by wizardry, falsehood and “anti-reason.”[18]

               Going forward, whatever our personal political preferences, history and intellect must be given a renewed pride of place.[19] Too often, we ought to finally know by now, a threatened civilization compromises with its afflictions, cheerlessly, and even while the “herds” (Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud) or “crowds” (Soren Kierkegaard) or “mass” (Carl G. Jung and Jose Ortega y’ Gasset) chant rhythmic nonsense in a fevered unison. To meaningfully restore us as a nation to long-term health and potential (these two objectives must always proceed together), we the peoplemust learn to lookbehind and even beyond the upcoming November elections.

               For now, the shadows are poisons in their own right, but the tangible sources of these poisons must be targeted as well.

                Donald J. Trump – despite the obvious perniciousness of his catastrophic presidency – was never this country’s core “disease.” Rather, he has been a pathological reflection, a darkening shadow, or what Plato would have predicted was the inevitable symptom of any society that mistakes transient half-thoughts for genuine understanding.[20] Though the ancient Greek philosopher’s most ambitious remedy –  “to make the souls of the citizens better”[21] – is hardly a realistic goal these days, it must remain a manifestly overriding objective of decent human governance.

               There is one last but still primary point. In certain all-too-frequent cases, a portion of society does not “mistake transient half-truths for genuine understanding” – that is, confuse shadow for truth – but  instead, makes such dire substitutions willfully and knowingly. In these always-ominous cases, ones where certain citizens declare themselves to be “conscientiously ignorant,”[22] there can be no calculable benefit to offering mindful clarifications or elucidations of what is real.[23] Here, the only residually rational path to “remediation” is both conspicuous and immutable.

                It is to blunt political influence of the self-deluding societal portion as much as practicable, and, simultaneously, to sharpen this influence among those who would still favor Reason over Anti-Reason.[24]

               In today’s Trump-defiled United States, this path offers a difficult but navigable route, an indispensable journey from shadows to truth. America can choose to take this correct path, but the decision time still available is not unlimited. Too long conned by a willfully self-serving president, citizens can either rise above the Trump-applauding “mass,” or feebly accept a continuous display of  terminal retrogression.


[1]For generic assessments of the probable consequences of nuclear war by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018);   Louis René Beres,  Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed.,  Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[2]In a recently-published book, this infringement has been declared a “serious national security threat” by a former FBI agent working on such urgent matters: See, in The New York Times: https://news.yahoo.com/ex-fbi-agent-russia-inquiry-154326623.html 

[3] Dialectical thinking originated in Fifth Century BCE Athens, as Zeno, author of the Paradoxes, was acknowledged by Aristotle as its inventor. In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerges as the supreme form of philosophic/analytic method. The dialectician, says Plato, is the special one who knows how to ask and then answer vital questions.

[4] Historically and jurisprudentially, anarchy is an old-story, dating back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Chaos, however, is “more than” anarchy, and would render all national  policy decisions even more uncertain, unpredictable and problematic.

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

[6]The obligations of international law are generally obligations of US law. In the precise words used by the U.S. Supreme Court in The Paquete Habana, “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction, as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.  For this purpose, where there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.”  See The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 678-79 (1900).  See also:  The Lola,  175 U.S. 677 (1900);  Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F. 2d 774,  781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984)(per curiam)(Edwards, J. concurring)(dismissing the action, but making several references to domestic jurisdiction over extraterritorial offenses), cert. denied,  470 U.S. 1003 (1985)(“concept of extraordinary judicial jurisdiction over acts in violation of significant international standards…embodied in the principle of `universal violations of international law.'”).

[7]See, by Louis René Beres,  https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2019/12/28/trumps-space-force-a-predictable-future-of-war-and-chaos/

[8]Too often these days, this means an increasingly job-centered notion of higher education. In this unfortunate devolution, see, by this author, at Princeton: Louis René Beres, https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[9]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.

[10] For the authoritative sources of international law, see art. 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice: STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, Done at San Francisco, June 26, 1945. Entered into force, Oct. 24, 1945; for the United States, Oct. 24, 1945.  59 Stat. 1031,  T.S. No. 993,  3 Bevans 1153, 1976 Y.B.U.N., 1052.

[11] Notes Sigmund Freud: “Wars will only be prevented with certainty if mankind unites in setting up a central authority to which the right of giving judgment upon all shall be handed over. There are clearly two separate requirements involved in this: the creation of a supreme agency and its endowment with the necessary power. One without the other would be useless.” (See: Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers, cited in Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis, University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10 (1973-73), p, 27.)

[12] See,  by Louis René Beres, https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://search.yahoo.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1151&context=ilr

[13] “The worst,” says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, “does sometimes happen.”

[14] For pertinent issues of a nuclear war, see, by this author, Louis René Beres, at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon).

[15] See, by this writer, at Princeton:  http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[16] Ironically, this expectation of international war stands in contrast to the customary legal assumption of solidarity between states. This rudimentary assumption concerns a presumptively common struggle against both anarchy and international war. Such a “peremptory” expectation, known in formal jurisprudence as a jus cogens assumption, was already mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 CE); Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey., tr, Clarendon Press, 1925)(1690); and Emmerich de Vattel, 1 Le Droit Des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758). According to Blackstone, each state and its leaders are expected “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against that universal law . . . .” WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, PUBLIC WRONGS, in COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND, Book 4 Ch. 1 (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co. 1893).  Though assuredly not known to US President Trump or to his most senior legal advisors, Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries represent the core foundation of all US law.

[17]These key terms, more-or-less synonymous, were favored, respectively, by Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and  Carl G. Jung.

[18]Accordingly, we may learn from Karl Jaspers’ Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time: (1952): “Reason is confronted again and again with the fact of a mass of believers who have lost all ability to listen, who can absorb no argument and who hold unshakably fast to the Absurd as an unassailable presupposition – and really do appear to believe.” Could any words better describe the “mass-man” (and “mass-woman”) who presently prefers Donald Trump’s medical Covid19 judgments to those of Dr. Anthony Fauci?

[19]See, by this author, at Yale, Louis René Beres, Yale Global Online: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/call-intellect-and-courage

[20]“It must not be forgotten,” says Guilllaume Apollinaire in The New Spirit and the Poets (1917),”that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.” Still the best treatments of America’s long-term disinterest in things intellectual are Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964); and Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1959).

[21] Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung both thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the intangible essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provided any precise definition of the term, but it was not intended by either in some ordinary or familiar religious sense. For both psychologists, it represented a recognizable and critical seat of mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present analytic context, is that Freud explained his predicted decline of America by making various express references to “soul.” Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (e.g., awareness of intellect, literature and history); he even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological or emotional misery.

[22] This is a phrase used by Jose Ortega y’Gassett in The Revolt of the Masses (1932), commencing the Spanish philosopher’s timeless chapter on “The Barbarism of `Specialisation.'”

[23]As explained best by Friedrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “What the mass once learned to believe without reasons, who could ever overthrow with reasons?”

[24] On this seemingly everlasting bifurcation, see especially German philosopher Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952). Karl Jaspers is best-known to the present writer for his classic The Question of German Guilt (1947, wherein he observes with timeless prescience: “A general truth must not serve to level out the particular present truth of our own guilt.”

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

Punsara Amarasinghe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Americas

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

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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