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Looking Back: Donald Trump, Israel and the Costs of Complicity

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The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”-W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

From the start of his sordid presidency, Donald J. Trump has presented himself as a “friend of Israel.” Surprisingly, because it is generally a country of smart and well-educated people, this sham has been widely accepted among otherwise thoughtful Israelis. In time, however, there will be a continuously high price to pay for such demeaning and destructive complicity.

               More precisely, the cumulative costs to Israel will be experienced in moral, jurisprudential and strategic terms.

               Plausibly, they will be suffered along several intersecting fronts, whether in assorted spasms of rapid misfortune or “just” incrementally.

               What has actually been happening? De facto, though not by any conscious policy decision, the Trump administration sought to replicate some of the worst dissembling features of authoritarian governance. While such a grievous charge might ordinarily have seemed unreasonable, gratuitous  or even outrageous, this is no longer the case. With his continuously open support of white supremacy, and by his repeated subordinations of national and international law to personal whim, this bitterly corrosive  president has focused more on dominating his nation’s mean streets than on maintaining even a thin veneer of justice.[1]

 In law and in life generally, truth is exculpatory. The uniformly anti-intellectual tone and orientation of dissembling Trump rallies has more closely resembled Der Fuehrer shrieking at 1930s Nuremberg rallies in Germany than the public activities of any previous American president. Even this now outgoing president’s ostentatiously vulgar and bellicose language seems to have been plucked from the playbook of Joseph Goebbels.

To be sure, there has been no discernible resonance here with the high-minded writings of Thomas Jefferson or any other respected US president.

“Intellect rots the brain,” concluded Der Fuehrer’s Minister of Propaganda at a Nuremberg party rally in 1935.

“I love the poorly educated,” said candidate Donald J. Trump in 2016.

On November 14, 2020, in an especially crude tweet, even for this atavistic president, Trump declared: “ANTIFA SCUM ran for the hills today when they tried attacking the people at the Trump Rally, because those people aggressively fought back…..DC Police, get going — do your job and don’t hold back!!!”

               What “job” was this? Were the American people listening here to an authentic American head of state, or the incoherent ramblings of Il Duce? This is not a silly question.

               Not at all.

               Moral and intellectual judgment ought never be so easily cast aside in Jerusalem. From the start, Israel ought to have known much better than to align its core interests with utterly conspicuous and unprecedented Trump derangements. Also stingingly ironic is that a principal surviving remnant of the Jewish People – that is, the Jewish State born directly from the ashes of genocidal murder[2] – could have chosen to identify both its  interests and ideals with such a sorely derelict foreign leader.         

               Why accept such stark asymmetries? Though Israel has always been prompt to declare “Never Again” for the Jewish People, its citizens have generally accepted Donald J. Trump’s disregard for the coinciding human rights of other peoples and nations, and for the derivative imperatives of dignity and learning.

               There are distinctly concrete or tangible wrongs that must be re-considered and taken into account. Proudly, Donald Trump has cheerfully stood by  assorted hate groups that vilify universal human rights[3] and also the ancient Jewish ideals of law and justice. When this president adopted barbarous illegal positions on immigration (e.g., positions that undermine various peremptory[4] legal obligations that concern the legitimate rights of refugees) and separated thousands of  young and infant children from their families at US borders,[5] the associated American offenses were much more serious than “merely” illegal.

               They were also a slap in the face to a people that had long-suffered from a history of forced expulsions and international exclusions –  the Jewish People. Stephen Miller, Trump’s personal “architect” of immigrant exclusions, is the grandson of Jewish refugees from anti-Semitic pogroms. A key tenet of his grim standard for refugee admission to the United States has been “merit.” Like Trump, he has stipulated that America admit only “the good ones.”[6]

               In once unimaginable cases, Trump-created immigration offenses[7] and corollary criteria of selection reek of earlier harms perpetrated against defenseless European Jews.[8]

               The ironies are unspeakable, but still worth noting. For Israelis cultivating US presidential support at all costs,  the pertinent details are painful to recount and impossible to contest. Under the indifferent aegis of Donald J. Trump and his coterie of dedicated administrative sycophants, this pattern of illegality continues to include forced deportations of minor children and forcible expulsions of the most severely disadvantaged.

               It is not a pattern that ought ever be overlooked or embraced by a decent “Jewish State.”The ironies are simply too conspicuous, too great and too defiling.

               “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…..” say the words inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty from a never-to-be-forgotten poem by Jewish author Emma Lazarus.

               There are other serious issues involved in Israel’s regrettable willingness to betray its most sacred ideals in cynical exchange for Trump patronage. Most perplexing and worrisome of all have been those matters that center on the always-key realms of war avoidance and peacemaking. In these essential matters, this US president’s complete lack of any informed and coherent vision of foreign affairs has been obvious.

               By preferring visceral seat-of-the-pants planning (“attitude, not preparation,” says Trump) to any focused forms of policy creation,[9] Donald Trump has sought to “reward” Israel with a series of  marginal “victories” –  e.g., moving the American Embassy from  Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and a demonstrably Faustian agreement to arm the UAE with US F35s as the quid pro quo for diplomatic recognition by Abu Dhabi. At best, these alleged “gains” will represent Pyrrhic victories for Israel.[10]

               And all of the presumed benefits to Israel ignore or exacerbate the more authentically critical security problems still at issue in its volatile region. Most obvious and problematic here are the expectedly continuous antipathies of the Palestinians.

               Whatever the issue, truth is always “exculpatory.” The many Palestinian elements seeking sovereignty with a determined prise de conscience, with an aroused consciousness, will not only remain fixed on achieving their still-overriding national goal. Now, too, they will more likely prepare for the next round of inter-communal violence. This suggests, most urgently and with the ironic compliments of Donald J. Trump, another intifada.[11]

               At every level of assessment, the UAE “deal” negotiated by the American president’s “good offices” to Israel – and also the kindred deals with Bahrain and Sudan – was devoid of any gainful substance. In essence, to praise the US-UAE agreement for enhancing Israel’s security is a bit like commending US President Ronald Reagan’s October 1983 invasion of Grenada on the grounds that Americans have not since had to face any Grenadian-inflicted aggressions.

               When Israel-Palestinian relations are taken into account, as they must, the net costs of these Trump-brokered agreements will significantly exceed their net gains. This means, by definition – at least as long as we can assume an Israeli capacity to estimate costs and benefits of alternative  courses of action – that Jerusalem’s behavior in these contrived matters was literally irrational.

               Self-evidently irrational.[12]

                In even the best of times, no one could reasonably describe the Middle East as an area of impending stability or prospective security.  In the worst of times, this endlessly-volatile region could quickly descend into a substantially more far-reaching condition of chaos.[13] Such a potentially lethal descent could have its origins in an impending nuclear confrontation with Iran[14] – a crisis made more likely by Trump’s earlier withdrawal from the Obama-era Iran pact and by his mid-November 2020 queries about launching an American military first strike – or in the still-expanding interstices of microbial assault. In a credibly worst case scenario, these causes, augmented by the similarly incoherent Trump withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq,  would  intersect synergistically.[15]

               Then, again by definition, the calculable “whole” of tangible injurious effects suffered by Israel[16] would be greater than the simple sum of its component “parts.”[17]

               Matters have not been helped by Donald Trump’s mid-November 2020 national security purges, including his removal of the Secretary of Defense and his firing the Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Security Branch.

               There is more. From its starkly disjointed  beginnings, the  posturing Trump presidency was detached from any identifiable considerations of history, law[18] or diplomacy.[19] Even now, saddled with such overwhelming and self-inflicted debilities, the outgoing American president “advances” unashamedly toward more conspicuous postures of anti-reason. These flagrantly non-analytic postures include conspiracy theories so utterly vacuous and outrageous that they would make even the most witting fools blush with a well-deserved embarrassment. If this were not enough humiliation to worry about, all this critique ignores Donald Trump’s unhidden disrespect for elementary logic, most distressingly his false correlation of Covid19 testing with increasing illness and his corresponding “medical” recommendation that citizens consider taking household disinfectants by injection.

               There is little here that is subject to dispute. President Trump’s disjointed Corona Virus policy continues to result in the needless deaths of a great many trusting Americans. Though lacking the “intent” or mens rea that is integral to the codified crime of genocide, the president’s Covid19 policy’s effect upon US civilian populations has been effectively genocidal.[20]

                From the standpoint of both the victims and their families, the juridical fine point here is immaterial. It’s a bit like the frogs who are killed by the playful rock-throwing of young children. The boys may not have meant any harms, but the frogs remain dead nonetheless.

               From the start, Israel had been forewarned. In all complex matters of world politics and foreign policy, this American president had always been operating ad hoc, without any considered plan or doctrine, lurching fitfully from one inane whim to another, always without any sturdy analytic moorings.[21] Whatever the subject, Trump  has navigated precipitously, leaping wildly from crisis to crisis, and always without an elementary grounding in theory,[22] ideology or science. Like his frivolously appointed and obsequious subordinates, Trump still reads nothing, nothing at all.

               Is this an American president from whom Israel should ever have expected wisdom, reason or informed guidance?

               The question is silly, prima facie.

                For Jerusalem, though already very late in the “game,” the cumulative security consequences of any Trump-induced regional disorder (Trump has said on several occasions, “I love chaos”) are apt to be far-reaching and at least partially irremediable. By assuming, without good reason, that this US President ever had Israel’s best interests in mind, or that he could figure out intellectually what those national interests might be, Israel could soon find itself dealing with progressively debilitating regional crises. Among major examples of especially serious Trump errors and deceptions, the American President’s April 2018 attack against Syrian chemical warfare facilities had little if any impact upon Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal dictatorship.[23]

               Even worse, this publicity-generated attack merely emboldened various anti-Damascus regime insurgents with jihadist orientations. Subsequently, these insurgents were crushed by al-Assad’s armed forces, hardly a victory for democratic rule in Syria or for any other society allegedly bound to the peremptory Biblical principle, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”[24]  Also, because of the Trump operation’s lack of strategic theoretical underpinning, matters could reasonably have gone the other way, favoring what was then a pro-ISIS adversary.

               Other basic questions should now arise. Whatever the specific issue at hand, Donald Trump has remained steeply beholden to Vladimir Putin, and would never consider doing anything assisting Israel or impacting the Middle East that did not first comport with the Russian dictator’s presumptive preferences.[25] Why?

               It’s not a silly question. It finally deserves a proper answer.

               Donald J. Trump could care less about Israel’s well-being or physical survival. His inauthentic outreach to Israelis and American Jews has had only one self-serving objective.  This was to re-elect Donald Trump and receive ego-salving homage as America’s boldly reigning “emperor.”

                Now, more than ever, history deserves appropriate pride of place. Since the seventeenth-century, the core structure of world politics has been consistently anarchic or “Westphalian.”[26] But anarchy means “only” the absence of any authoritative central government. To fully unravel still-meaningful effects of the destabilizing Trump presidency, Israel would need to prepare more systematically for “centrifugal” foreign policy developments. Any such condition of geo-strategic  disorder would be correctly identifiable as chaos.

               Quo Vadis? For Israel, a true condition of chaos could be more threatening than “mere” anarchy. In virtually any still-expressible form, this bewildering condition could play havoc with the best laid plans of any nation. From the always-critical standpoint of Israel’s military preparedness, it represents a persistently unpredictable and ever-changing  correlation of forces.[27] Suddenly or incrementally, this correlation could impair all “normal” national security preparations. This fearful impairment could arrive suddenly, as a dissembling “bolt-from-the-blue” enemy attack, or less dramatically, in tangible but unforeseeable increments.

               Whatever its mode of arrival, the results, for Israel, could be intolerable.

               These results will have been generated by misconceived and manipulative US presidential thinking. In consequence, any residual Israeli gratitude to Donald Trump as a “friend of Israel” will  have been sorely misplaced. Donald J. Trump is a friend only to himself, and even this “friendship” is self-distorted.

               There is more. The now-impending chaos must be differentiated from the more “normal”disorder associated with Carl von Clausewitz’s (the nineteenth-century Prussian military strategist) “friction” and “fog of war.”[28] At its core, this Trump-boosted chaos describes a deep and systemic level of unraveling, one that could 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.”

               There was never any defensible reason for Israel to make sordid deals with a deranged American president, to betray its interests and its ideals at the same time.

               At best, the US embassy move and the UAE/Bahrain/Sudan “peace agreements” will prove to be of very limited consolation to Israel. At worst, these “rewards” (designed only for Trump’s domestic political benefit) will be responsible for newly accelerating anti-Israel passions and policies, including new waves of Palestinian terror in Judea. Samaria (West Bank) and Israel proper. Any such revived instances of Sunni-Arab terror[29] could hasten rather than  hinder the creation of a Palestinian state,[30] a portentous outcome that could then generate  continuously ominous synergies with Iranian nuclear weapons development.[31]

                Also worrisome, in this regard, is that once such creation had become a fait accompli, Israel would likely experience new incentives to initiate “anticipatory self-defense” options.[32]

               Wittingly, many states in world politics, not just Israel, must acknowledge the steadily increasing risks from assorted forms of nuclear conflict.[33] In this connection, Donald Trump’s evident incapacity to suitably manage a nuclear crisis and/or control any more-or-less related military escalations is difficult to dispute. Should this outgoing US President still fail to prevent a single escalation from an ongoing crisis to overt nuclear warfare, the corollary effects would impact other parts of the world. These palpable effects would arrive in the form of prompt, immediate or latent physical casualties, and less dramatically, as the probable cause of unique social and economic misfortunes.[34]

                World politics is not geometry. In these complex spheres of interaction, ones where complex synergies are often involved, the whole can be greater than the 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 effort and/or in the many-sided Palestinian insurgency. Facing these prospectively intersecting and synergistic perils, Jerusalem is already well aware that the Hashemite monarchy in neighboring Jordan remains vulnerable to assorted new forms of Islamic radicalism. Also apparent to decision-makers in Jerusalem is that a continuously authoritarian el-Sisi military regime in Cairo might not be able to control the  re-aspiring Muslim Brotherhood indefinitely.

               Nothing done by the Trump administration addressed any of these key problems.

               In principle, at least, the Brotherhood or its kindred organizations could seek to get its hands on various weaponized pathogens or even nuclear explosives.[35] Regarding the “germ warfare” components, there would be very great uncertainties about plausible effects of use during an already ongoing viral pandemic. What  then?

               These are not policy problems for the analytically unprepared or intellectually faint-hearted. How, in his presumptively final days in office,  will US President Donald J. Trump respond to bewildering threats in the Middle East? Will it be with some residual intellection and geo-strategic planning, or instead, with predictably spasmodic explosions of aimless rancor and ad hominem bluster?

               Extrapolating from his past, the correct answer is distressingly obvious.  

               To the end, Donald Trump has continued to function with only a skeletal and constantly changing national security establishment – by intention, one utterly lacking in seriousintellectual gravitas or thought.[36] Never did he effectively fill the still-yawning directorial gaps in senior national governance with individuals of any real intellectual accomplishment. Never.

               With precious few exceptions, this president has staffed the upper levels of all principal government departments with viscerally obedient apparatchiks, not with capable and courageous thinkers.             

               There is more. Apropos of any derivative “Trump effects” upon Israel’s national security, Pakistan reveals another critical site of wider-area disintegration, one that could suddenly transform a “merely” volatile Middle East from basic Westphalian anarchy to a genuine chaos. To wit, if the already-nuclear regime in Islamabad should sometime fall toJihadists, all other regional sources of chaotic disintegration could promptly pale into comparative insignificance. In this regard, there is no evidence that the Trump administration has done even a modicum of appropriate planning.

               For Jerusalem, it is high time to inquire with recognizable interest and conviction: What would US President Trump do in this sort of grave development, and how would this expected American reaction impact Israel’s security and survival?

               This will not be an easy question to answer, but it must be considered carefully in Jerusalem. Naturally, the question must also be kept in Israel’s “mind” post-Trump, as the regional effects of this president’s multiple misunderstandings and derelictions could endure long after January 20, 2021. Specifically, there could occur various significant synergies between India-Pakistan rivalries, Iranian strategic apprehensions and the various consequences of US military withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq.

               Not for the intellectually faint-hearted or obedient clerk class to work out.

               In another expectedly worse case scenario for Israel, assorted Jihadists, emboldened by multiple expressions of Trump administration confusion and indecisiveness, would take 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 worrisome prospect, even if all the acquired weapons were to remain non-nuclear, bring to mind the correlative scenario of a “suicide-bomber in macrocosm.”[37]

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

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

               Back in the seventeenth-century, the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, had already recognized that although international relations 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 similarly “everyone-for-himself” circumstances. This is the case, argued Hobbes, because nations, unlike individuals, lack the capacity to destroy one another.

               But this once reassuring distinction is no longer meaningful.[38] Thomas Hobbes was clearly unable 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,” one that could normally exist only between individuals.

               Here, as more and more nations came to share what Hobbes had cleverly 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 his modern classic poem “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 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 made more likely by America’s manifestly ill-prepared and corrupted President Trump, might rage for a long while, perhaps until every flower of human culture had been trampled and once-intact 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 had been championing in the United States, such darkness could envelop entire regions of our long-suffering world in a single suffocating pall.

                What then? What will we have learned from still-enduring horrors of the Trump declension?

                 For Israel, the prime inheritor of Genesis, Trumpian chaos has augured severe and paradoxical kinds of national fragility. As a continuously beleaguered microstate, Israel could still become  (depending upon the precise extent to which it would have allowed itself to be manipulated and misguided by Trump “rewards”) the principal victim of even more-rampant regional disorder. In view of the far-reaching interrelatedness of all world politics -everything is “system” –  this victimization could arise even if the actual precipitating events of war and terror[39]were to occur elsewhere.

               Oddly, a hideously triumphant global chaoscould reveal both sense and form. Generated by mutually  reinforcing explosions of mega-war and mega-terror, any further Trump-induced disintegrations of world authority could assume a revealing shape. But how should such a unique shape, this sobering “geometry” of chaos, be suitably deciphered and understood in Jerusalem? As a correlative and similarly vital question, Israel’s leaders would then need to inquire as follows:

               “How, exactly, should we deal with potentially irrational nuclear adversaries, dedicated foes operating within both state and terrorist groups?”[40]

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

               There is more. Among other things, the whole world, like the individual nation-states that comprise it, is best understood as a system.  By definition, therefore, 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 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 variously informed expectations or scenarios of collapse in order to best 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 Hobbeshad earlier called in Leviathan a bellum omnium contra omnes, a “war of all against all,” Israel’s leaders must consider just how they should respond to any future national life in a global “state of nature.”

               These would not present encouraging or pleasing forms of analytic consideration. Still, they would  represent prudential policy steps, and must be undertaken.

               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 fearful times of biological “plague,” the specific actions of any microbial assault would be largely unpredictable but nonetheless 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, following the intellectually and morally deficient Trump presidency, Israel will have to orient its military planning doctrines more expressly toward worst-case possibilities. Already, Trump-initiated US troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, opposed internally by the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  are accelerating regional instabilities in ways that are both foreseeable and unforeseeable.

               Will one predictable result of these ill-considered withdrawals be increasing pressure upon Israel  to carry out assassinations/targeted killings[41] on behalf of Washington?[42] If so, what would this suggest about the true cumulative costs to Israel of the Trump-brokered “peace” agreements? This is a question well worth answering.

               In the final analysis, it will be apparent that the overall security costs of these pacts to Jerusalem will exceed the overall benefits. And this is to say nothing about the corresponding Israeli violations of international law mandated by American “largesse,” or about the indiscriminate Israeli submission to misconceived US presidential authority. Though every sham can have a patina, this moral and intellectual surrender could haunt Israel’s national integrity and self-respect for a painfully long time to come.

               There is one last time-urgent observation to make about Israel’s witting subordination to Donald J. Trump’s incoherent plans and expectations. Very recently, in mid-November 2020, Israel felt itself obligated to strike out at selected Iranian military targets in Syria. Simultaneously, in large part because of Trump’s earlier (and counter-productive) withdrawal from the Iran nuclear pact, Tehran has been accelerating its preparations to “go nuclear.” On both conventional and unconventional weapon fronts, this American president’s errors and incapacities have been encouraging Iranian belligerence and strategic threats toward Israel.

                In the end, Israelis, not Americans, will have to extricate from Trump-engineered humiliations and misfortunes.

               To avoid similar judgments or mistakes in the future, Israeli leaders ought never calculate that the flamboyant wishes of an American president are ipso facto coincident with their own nation’s best interests. At this late date, outgoing President Donald Trump has inflicted deeply corrosive harms upon the United States, but he has also set the stage for continuously creating certain corollary or corresponding harms to Israel. These significant harms, left unresolved, would not only imperil the Jewish State’s physical security, but also its still-residual “convictions” concerning international justice and human rights.[43]

               Israel take heed. “Passionate intensity,” when unsupported by intellect and self-respect, can never lead a nation toward safety or virtue.[44] Rather, any such tangible lack of support for Reason, anywhere in the world, augurs a sober existential warning. A small nation that had chosen to follow a dissembling and dishonest American patron could expect a future of unceasing lamentations and irremediable despair.[45]

               This should not be difficult to understand.

               For Israel, from the start, any deal made by US President Donald J. Trump “on its behalf” has been a bad deal.[46] “Proof” of this once-preventable result is already plainly evident in the moral and legal realm,, and will soon become similarly clear in pertinent matters of strategy and self-defense. These matters will involve, inter alia, adversarial actions issuing forth from various sectors of the Sunni Arab world (including some that have been beneficiaries of Trump deal making); Shiite Iran (including various cooperating elements of both Sunni al-Qaeda and Shiite Hezbollah); and Afghanistan (mainly once-dormant Taliban foes  newly-resurrected by Trump’s recently announced US troop withdrawals).

               In this last example, the negative consequences of Donald Trump’s misconceived foreign policy (terrorist training and terrorist safe havens) will not stem directly from any US actions undertaken “on behalf of Israel.” Rather, these unwanted results will stem indirectly from a policy intended originally by the outgoing American president for the presumed benefit of the United States. Some or all of these discrete consequences, of course, could sometime combine in more-or-less unforeseen ways, creating synergistic outcomes that are expectedly far worse than the calculable sum of their component parts.

               In such cases, the relevant costs to Israel of having acceded to Donald Trump’s seat-of-the-pants deal making will have become still more apparent and even less remediable.


[1]https://news.yahoo.com/trumps-new-pentagon-chief-counterterrorism-agency-white-supremacy-100030848.html

[2] 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 always 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. 

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

[4]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.”

[5] We 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.” It is manifest that neither Donald J. Trump nor his Attorney General has any awareness of these facts.

[6]By such alleged criteria of “merit,” it is plausible that neither Stephen Miller’s Eastern European refugee forbears or Donald Trump’s own refugee mother (who came to the US penniless from Scotland to work as a domestic) would have been granted legal admittance.

[7]When President Trump’s executive orders directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand his coercive program of “expedited removal,” he was in conspicuous violation of the legal principle known as non-refoulement. This principle is unambiguously codified at Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Automatically, owing to the prior incorporation of international human rights law into US law, these very serious violations extend to the authoritative immigration laws of the United States.

[8] The author, Professor Louis René Beres, was born in Switzerland at the end of the War, the only son  of Austrian Jewish Holocaust refugees.

[9]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.” Donald J. Trump is the quintessential “mass-man.”

[10]At worst, of course, the Trump-supplied massive weapons transfer to UAE (his quid pro quo for UAE recognizing Israel) will quickly find its way into the hands of more belligerent adversaries of Israel, including assorted Sunni terrorist groups. https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-block-trump-weapons-sale-uae-192114064.html

[11] 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.

[12]More  generally, expressions of decisional irrationality in world politics could take different and overlapping forms. These include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker).

[13] 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

[14] Presently 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).

[15]Regarding Israel and Iran, see Louis René Beres and John T. Chain (General/USAF/ret.), “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran”?, The Atlantic, August, 2012; and also: Professor Louis René Beres and General Chain, “Israel and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012. General Chain was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).

[16]On occasion this “whole” could be minimized by certain lawful expressions of anticipatory self-defense. Non-nuclear preemption has figured importantly in previous Israeli strategic calculations.  This was most glaringly apparent in the wars of 1956 and 1967, and also in the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.  It was essentially the failure to preempt in October 1973 that contributed to heavy Israeli losses on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts during the Yom Kippur war, and almost brought about an Israeli defeat.  During January, May, and October 2013, Israel, understandably apprehensive about Damascus’ supply of military materials to Syria’s Hezbollah surrogates in Lebanon, preemptively struck pertinent hard targets within Syria itself. For a jurisprudential assessment of these undeclared but still-appropriate expressions of anticipatory self-defense, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, “Striking Hezbollah-Bound Weapons in Syria: Israel’s Actions Under International Law,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, Online,  August 26, 2013.

[17] 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/

[18] 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).

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

[20]https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/mary-trump-blood-on-his-hands-101528091.html

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

[22]“Theory is a net; only those who cast, can catch.” This metaphor is generally attributed to Novalis, the late 18th-century German poet and scholar. See introductory citation by Karl R. Popper, in his The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959). Ironically, perhaps, Novalis’ fellow German poet, Goethe, declared, in his early Faust fragment (Urfaust): “All theory, dear friend, is grey. But the golden tree of life is green.” (Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grűn des Lebens goldner Baum.)

[23]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/ 

[24]Deuteronomy, 16:20

[25]  Vladimir Putin has remained Donald Trump’s evident puppet-master. In essence, this US president has been “The Manchurian Candidate” on steroids.

[26]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.” When compared to “Westphalian” anarchy, any impending chaos could be more expressly primal, more primordial, perhaps even self-propelled and “lascivious.” We may think here, for further elucidation, of the near-total “state of nature” described in William Golding’s prophetic novel, Lord of the Flies. Before Golding, the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (see Ch. XIII of Leviathan) had warned that in any such rabidly dissembling conditions, the “life of man” must inevitably be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

[27]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

[28] 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

[29]Under international law, terrorist movements are always Hostes humani generis, or “Common enemies of mankind.” See: Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM J. INT’L L. (Supp 1935) 435, 566 (quoting King v. Marsh (1615), 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 Eng. Rep 23 (1615)(“a pirate est Hostes humani generis”)).

[30] 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.

[31]In principle, such synergies could shed light upon our entire world system’s state of disorder (a view that would reflect what the physicists call “entropic” conditions), and could be dependent upon each pertinent decision-makers subjective metaphysics of time. For an early article by this author dealing with plausible linkages between such a metaphysics and national decision-making processes, see: Louis René Beres, “Time, Consciousness and Decision-Making in Theories of International Relations,” The Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. VIII, No.3., Fall 1974, pp. 175-186.

[32] 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).

[33] 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 residual circumstances, even the actual resort to such weapons could be construed as 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.” Nonetheless, prima facie, should Israel ever allow itself to reach a point where nuclear weapons use were judged indispensable to continued survival, everything of existential meaning would already have been lost.

[34]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/  

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

[36]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.

[37] 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

[38] 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/

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

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

[41]For important legal distinctions between assassination and targeted killing, see:  Amos N. Guiora, Legitimate Target: A Criteria-Based Approach to Targeted Killing (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 107 pp.

[42]A current example may be found in Israel’s August 2020 elimination of Abu Muhammad al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command. While not possible to confirm, it is plausible that Israel acted here as a “sub-contractor” for the United States. When the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, certain senior al-Qaeda leaders fled to Iran. This suggests, inter alia, (1) that upcoming US withdrawals from Afghanistan could occasion a partial or full return of al-Qaeda from Iran, and  (2) that there can be significant ad hoc relationships forged between the Shiite majority regime in Tehran and the Sunni-jihadist terrorist group.

[43] Israel can expect no rescue from a deus ex machina. In ancient Greece, classic playwright Euripides sometimes concluded his plays with  a reassuring “god out of the machine.” Appearing above the action, in a sort of theatrical crane, the specifically relevant god was seemingly able to solve all sorts of dreadful complications arising from the action, and thereby to supply a decipherable and more-or-less happy ending.

[44] “There is no longer a virtuous nation,” wrote the Irish poet W B Yeats, “and the best of us live by candle light.”

[45] Appropriately here, the specific importance of Reason to moral judgment and legal order  was prefigured in ancient Israel, which accommodated Reason within its own system of revealed law.  In jurisprudence, Jewish theory of law, insofar as it displays elements of Natural Law, offers a transcending order revealed by the divine word as interpreted by Reason.  In the words of Ecclesiastics 32.23,  37.16,  13-14:  “Let Reason go before every enterprise and counsel before any action…And let the counsel of thine own heart stand…For a man’s mind is sometimes wont to tell him more than seven watchmen that sit above in a high tower….”

[46] Where these deals are thought of as “Faustian bargains,” they call into question not only Israel’s tangible national security, but also its “soul. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the essence of every human being. Neither Freud nor Jung provides a precise definition of the term, but it was not intended by either thinker in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a recognizable and critical seat of mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his predicted decline of America by express references to “soul.” He was seemingly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (i.e., awareness of intellect and literature), and supposed that the crude American commitment to a perpetually shallow optimism and material accomplishment would inevitably cause sweeping psychological misery. One might reasonably extrapolate from this indictment that Freud would have had the same or similar apprehensions about any other society that looked to the United States as a suitable model for imitation, e.g., Israel.

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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Gallup: Trump Globally the Least Respected U.S. President This Century

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On January 15th, the Gallup World Poll issued its preliminary report for their upcoming “Rating World Leaders: 2021” report. It shows the results that have been tabulated for 60 of the 135 countries where they annually sample global public opinion about U.S. leadership. One especially clear finding from it is that when their final report for all 135 countries will be issued, it will show that among the three U.S. Presidencies on which Gallup has internationally surveyed — which are only the three U.S. Presidents in this century — Trump is clearly the one who is globally respected the least, even lower than George W. Bush was respected.

Here are the findings, in each of the 60 nations, and the percentage increase or decrease from Gallup’s last completed survey report, “Rating World Leaders: 2020”:

“Approval of U.S. Leadership Across 60 Countries and Areas”

“Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the United States?”

%  “Approve”:

  • Dominican Republic, 66% was 56% in 2020
  • Cameroon, 62 was 61
  • Georgia, 61 was 43
  • Zambia, 56 was 26
  • Albania, 56 was 67
  • Philippines, 55 was 58
  • Uganda, 53 was 47
  • Mauritius, 50 was 59
  • Zimbabwe, 50 was 59
  • Ecuador, 43 was 34
  • Colombia, 42 was 41
  • Moldova, 40 was 45
  • Brazil, 40 was 38
  • Japan, 39 was 34
  • Kyrgyzstan, 34 was 32
  • Namibia, 34 was 31
  • Bulgaria, 32 was 26
  • Cambodia, 32 was 49
  • Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, 31 was 31
  • Poland, 30 was 59
  • South Korea, 30 was 41
  • Bolivia , 30 was 31
  • Australia, 29 was 23
  • Taiwan, Province of China,    28 was 40
  • New Zealand, 26 was 17
  • Mexico, 26 was 17
  • Malta, 26 was 30
  • Ethiopia, 25 was 37
  • Argentina, 24 was 26
  • Ukraine, 24 was 32
  • Greece, 21 was 19
  • Croatia, 21 was 25
  • Morocco, 21 was 22
  • Serbia  , 20 was 19
  • Ireland, 20 was 30
  • Finland, 20 was 20
  • Slovenia, 19 was 20
  • Cyprus, 19 was 27
  • Tunisia, 19 was 24
  • Italy, 19 was 22
  • France, 18 was 23
  • Russia, 18 was 11
  • Netherlands, 18 was 20
  • Canada, 17 was 22
  • Spain, 17 was 23
  • Chile, 16 was 16
  • Estonia, 15 was 17
  • United Kingdom, 15 was 25
  • Denmark, 14 was 24
  • Turkey, 13 was 12
  • Slovakia, 13 was 28
  • Norway, 12 was 15
  • Portugal, 12 was 14
  • Belgium, 12 was 17
  • Sweden, 11 was 12
  • Switzerland, 10 was 13
  • Austria, 9 was 11
  • Iran, 6 was 6
  • Germany, 6 was 12
  • Iceland, 5 was 9

Remarkably, Gallup doesn’t poll in China on this question. (Nor does Pew.)

Notably, Trump is more disapproved-of in Europe than in any other part of the world. (Also, as Pew reported on 16 December 2020, “In Europe, more trust Putin than Trump.”)

Those percentage-changes that we’ve just shown total to a decline, among all 60 countries, of 121 percentage-points (-121%), or, almost exactly, a -2% change from the 2019 findings that had been reported in Gallup’s “Rating World Leaders: 2020”.

Gallup says that “until all of Gallup’s 2020 fieldwork is complete in a few months, it is still too early to say that the U.S. will see its worst ranking in the history of Gallup’s World Poll.” However, Gallup’s “Rating World Leaders: 2020” report covered 135 lands, and the 60 lands that they have tabulated as of now, for the 2021 report, seem to be a representative sampling of all of those 135, and collectively those 60 populations have reduced their respect for America’s leadership by 2%. In the 2020 report, the global level of approval for America’s leadership was 33%. The all-time-low had been the 30% figure in 2017, Trump’s first year, a finding which was based on Trump’s promises, not on his performance. The upcoming final Gallup report “Rating World Leaders: 2021” will — if the results from those 60 lands do turn out to be representative of the global findings — produce a 31% global approval level by all of the approximately 135 lands that will be covered in it. For each of Trump’s four years, then, the global percentages will have been (for each one of his four years) 30%, 31%, 33%, and (now, in his final year) 31%. Each year, it was even lower than the prior record low, of George W. Bush, had been, at 34% in 2008

There was higher disapproval than approval of America’s leadership during the Presidencies of George W. Bush and of Donald Trump than there was approval of either U.S. President’s leadership. Strikingly, however, there was higher approval than disapproval during (and throughout) the two terms of office of Barack Obama. That Nobel Peace Prize winner was/is internationally admired. (Crazy, but true: he was an international charmer.)

Here are summarized (with links to the evidence regarding) the actual chief international achievements of each of these three U.S. Presidents:

George W. Bush: destroying Iraq, and destroying Afghanistan.

Barack Obama: destroying Syria, and destroying Ukraine, while continuing Bush’s destructions of Iraq and of Afghanistan.

Donald Trump: destroying Iran, and destroying Venezuela, while continuing his predecessors’ destructions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine. He also made the destruction of Palestine even worse than it had previously been.

So, the question regarding incoming U.S. President Joe Biden will be whether he will continue this tradition further, or reverse it. Because, it’s really all the same tradition, throughout all three U.S. Presidencies this century. By contrast, global perceptions are that those three U.S. Presidents were drastically different from one another.

On 15 September 290290, Pew bannered “U.S. Image Plummets Internationally as Most Say Country Has Handled Coronavirus Badly” and reported that:

The publics surveyed also see Trump more negatively than other world leaders. Among the six leaders included on the survey, Angela Merkel receives the highest marks: A median of 76% across the nations polled have confidence in the German chancellor. French President Emmanuel Macron also gets largely favorable reviews. Ratings for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are roughly split. Ratings for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are overwhelmingly negative, although not as negative as those for Trump.

Right above that was this graph, which shows starkly the false European perception that Barack Obama was vastly superior to George W. Bush and Donald Trump:

Apparently, most Europeans have no problem with a U.S. President who continues America’s use of torture, and who continues America’s legal immunity of prosecution for banksters, and who imposes ethnic cleansing abroad, and who aims for achieving a U.S. first-strike ability to conquer Russia by a sudden nuclear blitz attack. Style is everything, for them; substance is nothing, to them. Why didn’t they like Hitler? Is it only because he did it to them?

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Why won’t Bowdich evoke 9/11 now?

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“Day of fire”. That’s how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the Capitol insurrection, which happens to be the exact same phrase President George W. Bush used on the occasion of 9/11. That is not coincidental. But why won’t the FBI draw 9/11 parallels now?

In spring last year, when I was running for UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech, in a leaked memo to the New York Times, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich was quoted in a reaction to the Black Lives Matters protests. Bowdich maintained that the protesters should be arrested under an outdated racketeering law from the 1940s. The leaked memo showed that Mr Bowdich considered the social justice movement “a national crisis” comparable to 9/11. The hundreds of thousands of people mourning and marching across the country, unified by the simple thought that no life should be taken lightly, for nothing, were actually similar to terrorists in the eyes of the FBI who wanted to charge them as racketeers. Why won’t Bowdich evoke 9/11 now, when it comes to far-right actual terrorism? We are talking about plans to blow up buildings and assassinate law-makers.

There is evidence appearing now through the courts that the Trump mob indeed intended to capture and assassinate congressmen. A new court filing by federal prosecutors says that Trump supporters intended to “capture and assassinate” elected officials during the Capitol riot.

The FBI has a misplaced terrorism obsession with the progressive left, while lightly ignoring the far-right, which is by far the more violent and much more organized group. The Capitol events security mishandling demonstrated a different attitude when it comes to the latter group.

There is a difference between street clashes with police in social justice protests that have gone overboard and have turned violent, on one hand, and placing bombs at political buildings, plans to kidnap and assassinate politicians, and violent usurping of the certification of a democratically elected president. The difference should be obvious, and yet the FBI is pursuing its obsession with the left voices, largely ignoring the violent extremists and the real violent terrorism threat on the far right, as recently revealed by an Intercept investigation.

In a public statement, the FBI made sure that the public understood its own misguided standard used in the threat assessment in the Capitol attacks by the Trump mob, namely the aspirations vs intentions test. The FBI official explained that the FBI needs to consider that some online activity and planning by the far right could simply be “keyboard bravado”. So, “keyboard bravado” is now the new “locker room talk”.

It is not surprising that the FBI uses different standards to assess the threat on the far-left and on the far-right. Former FBI director Hoover called Martin Luther King “one of the most dangerous negroes in America”. MLK was far from a hero for the FBI. It is not uncommon for the FBI even today to mischaracterize center-left voices of reasonable progressives who are anti-violence, pro-rights and pro-equality as far-left anarchists and communists, magnifying the threat on the left while ignoring the bigger threat on the right. Calling reasonable center-left Democrats anarchists and communists is a classical President Putin move. Let’s recall that ahead of the presidential elections in November, Russian President Putin endorsed Biden and the Democrats as communists whom we would get along with, in order to discredit them.

Let’s look at the actions and the security measures present around the two types of crowds. In a recent interview I wondered why FBI deputy director Bowdich won’t evoke 9/11 now in relation to far-right terrorism, in the context of the methods that the FBI sometimes uses to suppress and deal with progressive voices.

The FBI have opened mow many cases for “domestic terrorism” into the Capitol attack and it is true that they are saying that they are treating these cases as “international terrorism” but where is the FBI public condemnation of terrorism? We have not seen public statements by the FBI director Christopher Wray and FBI deputy director David Bowdich. Why won’t Bowdich come out and evoke 9/11 now, just like he did with the Black Lives Matter movement?

America has a long way to go to recover from the damage that Trump and his cronies spread across the various US agencies have done to democratic principles and human rights. The Trump institutional capture of key agencies such as the FBI and the CIA, let alone DOJ, has led the country into a downward spiral. I myself just launched a $1 UN lawsuit against the Trump circle at the UN, in attempt to clear the Trump circle also from the UN.

The capitol events were an embarrassment for the FBI who failed the due diligence standard of the reasonably expected measures that should have been taken in a similar situation because they were dealing with the President’s supporters. Then, the FBI decided to justify their inaction with the false “keyboard bravado” explanation, which does not explain anything.

The FBI are now running social media campaigns for the collection of evidence on suspects in the Capitol attacks but the truth is that the FBI does not need random people to phone them and point them to the bad guys. The FBI follow these groups and people, they know everything. It’s just a question of choice as to when to bring out the collected over time evidence. The FBI is in a hurry now only because there is public and social pressure to do something. All of America is watching what will happen to the bad guys.

A couple of days ahead of the Capitol events, I noted on Twitter that Homeland Security acting Secretary, Chad Wolf, was on a trip to Cyprus, while America was “burning”.  The Cyprus frictions in the European Mediterranean seem like a holiday now, in comparison to the Capitol events. Several days later, Wolf resigned.

With the news that President Trump intends to issue over 100 new pardons during his last two days in office, the question of justice for the Capitol events is as relevant as ever, as it is reasonably expected that some of the pardons could relate to the Capitol attacks.

It is safe to say that former Attorney General Bill Barr is not missed by many people. The Trump supporters’ cases would not have received fair treatment at the Department of Justice under his watch. The new Attorney General in the Biden Administration, judge Merrick Garland, in fact, might discover that many cases from the Bill Barr time will have to be reopened.

The top security priority now is President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, 20 January, while Trump holds a separate rally. The Capitol events served as a warning.

Looking forward, it is time for American democracy to demonstrate its elasticity. And legal justice necessarily has to be a part of that, ignoring phony calls for “unity” and “healing” made by the criminals themselves who are trying to escape justice now.  There can’t be unity without ensuring justice first.

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Latin America and China: The difficulties in relations and Covid-19

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The relations between China and Latin America have developed positively, but some problems and challenges are also being faced. Firstly, the intensified strategic and economic competition between China and the United States has increased the negative impact on the relations between China and Latin America. Trump’s Administration already used zero-sum competition and Cold War mentality to mark Sino-U.S. relations, believing that China’s rise in Latin America could upset the U.S. order in the Western Hemisphere.

Back in February 2018, during a visit to Latin America the then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said that China was using its economic influence to bring Latin America into its sphere of influence, and criticised it as seeking a new imperial power for its geopolitical expansion.

In 2018, Rand Corporation published the 400-page report At the Dawn of Belt and Road. China in the Developing World. The report pointed out that China’s contacts in Latin America and its geopolitical advantages held back the U.S. presence in the region.

Specifically, the report explored China’s economic, political and security roles in Southeast Asia, Oceania, Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report also analysed China’s bilateral relations with key States in each region. Finally, it dealt with the negative consequences of the Chinese strategy towards developing countries for the United States. Therefore, it maintained that strategists and decision-makers in the Armed Forces, and all U.S. military staff, needed to focus on China and anyone interested in developing international relations with that country. An attitude of threat not only towards China.

Another factor preventing – at least apparently – the development of China-Latin America relations is the retreat of Progressives and the advance of Conservatives in the landscape of political change in the Subcontinent: this poses a challenge to the development of mutual relations.

2017 and 2018 were general election years in thirteen Latin American countries. In Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and other countries, the old traditional and left-wing parties lost elections. Therefore, Latin America is divided into two camps: one is the left-wing one represented by Cuba and Venezuela, and the other is the right-wing camp composed of Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Conversely, the fast development of China-Latin America relations from 2003 to 2013 was favoured by the political atmosphere of the left-wing camp. Currently, however, the transition from the Left to the Right tells us that some countries rely on the United States in terms of development projects and ideologies. Therefore, the political transition has become an additional challenge for the development of relations between China and Latin America.

Another crisis point is the impact of the pandemic. Here are some data regarding the Covid-19 cases until January 17, 2021:

Latin America: 16,753,447

North America: 23,091,187 (USA: 22,423,006; Canada: 668,181)

Europe: 28,291,217

Asia: 18,549,010

Africa: 3,059,974

Oceania: 56,556

Latin American countries record relatively high urbanisation rates, with peaks of 70-80%. Large cities are very densely populated, with a high percentage of informal employment and weak national control abilities, which create the conditions for the spread of Covid-19.

On the other hand, the United States-which is the worst affected country in the American Continent – has increased the repatriation of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries for reasons of epidemic prevention and control, thus further aggravating the situation in these already disadvantaged countries.

Why is the pandemic in Brazil so severe? The indifference of President Bolsonaro’s government towards the epidemic, as well as ineffective measures and omissions in control are the main reasons for the spread of the epidemic in Brazil. The first case was discovered in Brazil on March 12, 2020 and the epidemic soon began to spread throughout the country, which currently records 8,131,612 cases and 203,580 deaths.

Brazil’s former Health Minister, Nelson Teich, advocated isolation, but Bolsonaro’s philosophy is different. He believes that imposing quarantine curbs economic development. Health Minister Teichresigned. The new Minister is Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, who has no medical training and no experience in managing public health disasters.

An official of the Brazilian Ministry of Health said that the number of people infected by the pandemic is officially eight million, but it has actually exceeded ten million. This unprecedented public health crisis has triggered economic recession and could lead to new social unrest. These are all new challenges.

The impact of Covid-19 on the entire Latin American region is very severe. According to the World Bank statistics, it has been the most severe crisis ever since the Great Depression in the 1920s and 1930s. The blow to the region is reflected mainly in four aspects:

1) exports have declined.

2) The prices of raw materials have fallen. Due to reduced demand, prices have inevitably fallen. Recently, everyone has seen a drop in copper prices, especially as Peru and Chile, the copper mining centres of the world, have been forced to close their mines due to the impact of the pandemic.

3) Tourism has collapsed. Latin America is a kind of cultural-exotic attraction for North Americans and Europeans. With Covid-19, there is no way for tourism and passenger transport to go back to the traditional levels of normalcy.

4) The inflow of remittances has decreased significantly. They are one of the main driving forces for economic development in the area, especially in regions like Central America and countries like Mexico.

The Latin American immigrants working in the United States put aside the money they earn and send it to their families – a key source of income for Latin America. As the U.S. economy has been severely hit, also remittances have been significantly reduced, to the detriment of the entire subcontinent.

With specific reference to Covid-19, it should also be mentioned that on June 24, 2020, the U.S. Congress held a full-scale hearing and invited a number of U.S. experts to express their views.

Those experts included Robert Evan Ellis of the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. One of the main points he made was that the U.S. government should strengthen its support for Latin American allies to prevent China from using ‘medical diplomacy’ to expand its sphere of influence in Latin America, along with advances in supply chains, strategic acquisitions and loans to troubled governments, while the West remains economically weakened and politically distracted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hence, in his view, the United States should resolutely stop China’s technological expansion in Latin America. This means that the United States should not acquire and share Chinese medical know-how.

Ultimately, the pandemic has not changed China’s goals or overall strategy. It provides an unprecedented opportunity for China to move forward with its implementation. With the help of the Chinese government’s controls on its population to impose and enforce quarantine, and thanks to its huge financial reserves and leverage on the economy, China is emerging from the crisis (albeit certainly weakened) ahead of most Western and non-Western countries.

The pandemic and its health, economic and other effects are likely to persist and continue to weaken the United States and Europe for some time. The interplay between partial economic reopening and the time needed to develop, test and massively produce a vaccine will extend this process.

In Latin America and in other less developed parts of the world, the situation is likely to be far worse. Less capable public health systems, large informal sectors, vulnerable small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as limits to governments’ ability to borrow money to protect vulnerable populations, and the related economic sectors will put pressure on economies as they suffer from Western countries’ declining investment and demand for their exports. In China, on the other hand, things are being solved.

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