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“Living On Mountains”: Antecedents of a Dignified and Secure World Order

Edvard Munch: The Human Mountain. Munch Museum, Oslo

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One must become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath one.”-Friedrich Nietzsche, Zarathustra

During the dissembling Trump Era, perhaps more than ever before, Americans have had to endure the “wretched ephemeral chatter of politics.” Though this demeaning “chatter” recently became toxic to its core – deeply injurious to the United States as a once-dignified and secure nation-state[1] – there seem to be no promising paths of any prompt remediation. As a result, Americans have been unable to take sound counsel from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, to position themselves “on mountains.”

               Not yet have we been able to rise reassuringly above the Trump presidency’s multiple policy derelictions and its determinedly vulgar “syntax.”[2]

                In principle, at least, any such elevation would have been favorable to both national and global well-being. These two primary arenas of needed improvement are by no means separate or discrete. Rather, they are closely intersecting, mutually reinforcing and inextricably intertwined.

               Always, it must be understood, the world must be examined holistically.

               Always, whatever we decide to do, the “macrocosm,” the world, reveals a decisive but latent “oneness.”

               Still, Reason yields to anti-Reason. Americans have not yet positioned themselves for any genuine “world order reform.”[3] Quite the contrary. By its gratuitous and expressly belligerent nationalism, Trump’s “America First”[4] enhanced the dark forces of war,[5] terrorism[6] and utterly expansive lawlessness.[7]

               The key causes here are elementary. Unassailably, science and logic have often been minimized or disregarded in the United States. Our most plainly evident shortcomings in this regard were erected upon several overlapping fallacies. To be sure, the recent election of a new American president represents a plausibly auspicious transformation, but even this indispensable change can do nothing to improve the underlying and determinative structures of global consciousness.

               There is more. Over time, Americans have repeatedly been instructed that hyperbolic patriotism is an admirable and proper sentiment. Nonetheless, such self-congratulatory sentiments ought not be ones of exaggerated national superiority. To wit, what Americans might ordinarily have once considered to be a merely decent patriotism could now undermine this nation’s most vital national interests.

                It’s not all that complicated. We humans inhabit the same singe imperiled planet. Even by definition, we are conspicuously co-dependent upon one another. Whether we like it or not, our private errors and our collective fates have become deeply intersecting and intimately interconnected.[8] At times, they have also become tangibly synergistic.

               What does this imply, both broadly and specifically? At the point where certain specific intersections have become synergistic, the “whole” impact of any international intersection will exceed the sum of its constituent policy “parts.” In the conceivably next-to-worst case narrative, these cumulative impacts will be injuries of one sort or another, including some forms of catastrophic war. In the most genuinely worst case scenario, these war-inflicted harms would be nuclear[9] and be magnified by the assorted effects of microbial assault (pandemic). For the moment, Americans are not yet caught up in an all-consuming international conflict, but we are already the suffering victims of ongoing biological “plague.”

               Two questions arise immediately:

               (1) What correct policy inferences should be drawn from this by America’s national leaders?

               and

               (2) What impressively valid conclusions could we expect?

               To respond meaningfully, it must first become obvious that many apparent benefits of traditionally-defined patriotism are actually harmful and unpatriotic. Because the combined result of individual nation-state judgments that conflate belligerent nationalism with patriotism inevitably weaken all nation-states, it is high time for the incoming American president to think beyond any past or prospective iterations of  “American Exceptionalism.” From now on, the particular policy objectives coalescing around this falsifying mantra must be calculated more seriously.

                Soon, true American patriotism must come to mean significantly more than mumbled empty witticisms or nonsense cheers from an obedient public “mass.”[10]  

               As a start, or perhaps as a welcome resurrection of some pre-Trump levels of presidential literacy, incoming US President Joe Biden and his senior national security counselors should be reminded that history is worth close  study and deserves a corresponding pride of place. This seemingly obvious point was lost upon Biden’s manifestly illiterate predecessor.[11]  Biden and his senior appointees could soon be reminded, perhaps as an illuminating  prise de conscience,  that classical Greek and Macedonian war postures were based upon determinably sound theoretical foundations.[12]

               More succinctly stated, such ancient postures were founded upon variously calculable struggles of “mind over mind.” Whatever else their varying deficiencies, these postures were not crafted from the corrosively visceral chants of an unthinking “amen chorus.” They were not drawn from some atavistic mass that classical Greek thinkers would have called hoi polloi.[13]

               Over the years, though not always embraced, such enviable “mind-over-mind” orientations provided an overlooked but perpetually-prudent model of national security planning.[14] Nonetheless, across almost the entire globe, national military planning efforts remains narrowly focused upon correlations of individual force structure and on disparate elements of a wrongly-presumed national interest.

               Before improved analytic thought could be expected,[15] America’s national security policy planners would first need to become more attentive to complex policy intersections and interdependencies, including what we have called “synergies.”[16] In any synergistic interaction, the policy behaviors of rival states could produce outcomes that represent calculably “more” than the simple sum of their constituent parts. A timely example for President Joe Biden might be prospective US-North Korean policies of crisis escalation, policies in which one side or the other (or both) would casually mistake the other’s moves and where results could be much worse than any simple arithmetic summation would have predicted.

               Looking ahead to still-plausible crises between Washington and Pyongyang, each side (assuming basic and bilateral rationality) will be seeking to achieve “escalation dominance” and, simultaneously, to maintain national survival.[17] It follows from all this that whatever one’s own political inclinations or affiliations, US President Donald J. Trump’s “America First” foreign policies were unpatriotic and actually destined to fail.[18]

               Years earlier, Sigmund Freud, while not directly concerned with the particular dynamics of world politics or international relations, examined similar issues at the microcosmic or “molecular” level, that is, at the always-critical level of individual human beings. Looking over such psychologically focused examinations, Freud’s most rudimentary conceptual understanding – that unfettered “liberty” among individual human beings must invariably lead to uselessly antagonistic or “zero-sum” social conflicts – applies equally to  nation-states. If left alone to pursue their collective lives “patriotically”- that is, within that anarchic global state-of-nature that seventeenth century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes had famously called a “war of all against all”[19] – the separate state actors would be forced to endure the dissembling conditions of  “permanent war.”[20]

               Amid any such continuously ferocious global anarchy – a structure of disorder originally bequeathed at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 – there could never arise any satisfactory forms of civilization. The prospects would become even worse were traditional anarchy transformed into a genuine “chaos.”

               There is more. Notwithstanding the bitterly anti-intellectual stance of outgoing American president Donald J. Trump, history and learning still have an indispensable place in the United States. Recalling Thomas Hobbes Leviathan (1651, chapter XIII), the life of any states attempting to chase after narrowly nationalistic/populist goals must inevitably be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”[21] There would exist principal and palpable connections between traditional zero-sum notions of patriotism and what is now generally called “populism.”

               But how do we actually fix a global system founded upon and sustained by erroneous notions of patriotism? How should well-intentioned states (including the United States) plan their successful escape from the global “state of nature,” an escape for which there can be no viable alternative? There exist just two potentially coherent responses, and these responses need not be mutually exclusive.

               The first and most frequently recommended reaction focuses on changing a perpetually conflict-based mechanism of world politics. Even before the appearance of what was then called “World Order Studies” back at Yale and Princeton in the 1960s,[22] philosophers from Dante and Immanuel Kant to H.G. Wells, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Sri Aurobindo elaborated imaginatively on variable configurations of world government.[23] Today, even if we can convincingly oppose any or all such configurations, the underlying imperative to think in more disciplined fashion about “reordering the planet”[24] remains fully urgent.[25]

               The second reasonable response must transport analytic investigators back to true origins of the problem, that is, to the universally evident and undiminished imperfections of individual human beings. With this suitably intellectual posture, one that would correctly regard all world politics as epiphenomena or as mere manifestation of far deeper causes, the scholar’s (and eventually policymaker’s) overriding emphasis must be upon “fixing people.”[26]

                If the first reaction could be critiqued as “unrealistic” or “utopian,” the second would qualify even more plainly for such pejorative characterizations.

               But how shall we proceed?

               The most promising answers will require a consciously transformational focus upon the individual human being, on the microcosm and on his or her primary place in pertinent “global rescue” preparations. So long as it remains fully predicated upon erroneous definitions of patriotism, our nation-state system of world politics will still be incapable of serving humankind’s most basic security and justice obligations. Earlier, German-Swiss philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had exclaimed prophetically in Zarathustra that the “state is the coldest of all cold monsters,”[27] a darkly accurate view later reinforced by Spanish thinker Jose Ortega y’ Gasset.  Observed Ortega, “The state is the greatest danger.”[28]

                But even the most refined prescriptions for improved global coordination or governance will require antecedent changes in human behavior. This is the case, moreover, in spite of the apparent improbability of any such “molecular” changes. In other words, much as we might still think such changes unlikely or perhaps even impossible, we have no alternative.

               Quite literally, the present-day time-dishonored “Westphalian” world system is destined to fail.[29]

               In essence, it is now most urgent that we learn to supplant the relentlessly belligerent aspects of traditional patriotism with more gainful visions of cooperation, interdependence  and “oneness.” Apropos of such imperative learning, scholars and policy makers would be well-advised to recall the special wisdom of Jesuit French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”[30]

                This incontestable warning in The Phenomenon of Man assumes especially powerful relevance regarding outgoing US President Donald J. Trump’s deeply injurious  emphases on “America First.” By definition, these retrograde emphases were incompatible with any reasonably sought-after outcomes of world peace and justice. Instead, they pointed directly and unambiguously toward enlarged prospects of human insecurity and human degradation.

               Though understood only by those who are still willing to undertake disciplined thought, there exist intimate connections between intra-national and inter-national power processes. Among other things, these linkages suggest that “fixing states” could represent the vital intermediary step between fixing individual human beings and fixing the wider world. Accordingly, in American universities, which are increasingly being given over to narrowly vocational forms of education, we need to bring-back and amplify “world order studies” as a designated field of respectable academic inquiry.[31]

               For those prospective students still determined to study business, computers or technology, it will be worth keeping in  mind that there can be no meaningful achievements of individual wealth or success when the world as a whole tilts only toward war, terror, genocide and pandemic.

               In general, before humanity can maximize any rule-based and value-based forms of global cooperation, there will first have to take place certain distinctly primary human changes. Although it may be premature to identify a systematic and sequential inventory of such required changes, the basic process is by no means ambiguous. Wittingly, this process would reject the distracting delusions of a society given over to amusements and would accept instead, much like the Founding Fathers,[32] a challenging set of intellectual imperatives.

               Ultimately, any suitably alternative forms of global cooperation will demand dialogue not only among endlessly fractious nation-states, but also among individual human beings.

               Such forward-looking and dynamic thinking can bring us back gainfully to French Jesuit philosopher Teilhard, and to the primary importance of system: “The existence of `system’ in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature….Each element of the cosmos is positively woven from all the others.” Complementary “lessons” can be found in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata; these lessons conveniently recollect what used to be called “cosmopolitanism,” or a determined ideology of global integration :[33] “Then you should card it and comb it, and mingle it all/in one basket of love and unity,/Citizens, visitors, strangers, and sojourners – all the/entire, undivided community.”

               In the end, any state’s true patriotic interests can be met solely by cultivating a greater and more unqualified loyalty to humankind in general. In the United States, this rationally redirected loyalty, which would still likely be labeled “unpatriotic” by most Americans (even after the Trump horror) will require a prior and more robust development of intellect or “mind.”  Such a development, by design, would be at definitional odds with any once-exaggerated expectations of Trump-era “populism.”[34]

               Nothing truly useful could be solved by adding more and more adrenalized encouragements of technology or entrepreneurship.

               The overriding problem of “creating a future” in world politics will not be solved by any new multiplication of “personal devices.”

               It won’t help individuals to “win” in a “shark tank” competition if the tank itself has already been poisoned.

                There is more. We will need to replace the recognizably false communion of nation-states – a pattern, like the High Lama’s Lost Horizon prediction, that is close to collapsing – with a new and authentic harmony. When such an ambitious replacement is successful, or is at least discernibly underway, we could finally take seriously an earlier promise of Sigmund Freud. While Freud was not focused on world politics per se, he would surely still agree with the following proposition: A greatly expanded or fully supplanting power of global community can make sense only if there can first be rejected an inwardly-rotten “balance-of-power” global dynamic, a dynamic that is based on fear, trembling and a near-perpetual dread.[35]

               One last summary observation will be offered here, one that points toward a key potential barrier to creating a more just and viable future – toward overcoming an impediment to all conceivably plausible forms of human transformation. The worrisome “fly in the ointment” here concerns the continuously problematic assumption of human rationality. Even before Freud, and most markedly in Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, we may read with long-term benefit about “mystery” or the “whisperings of the irrational.”[36]

               Much as we might try to deny it, irrationality – not rationality – has often been the foundation of national decision-making in world politics.[37]

               Though daunting and seemingly out of place, literary/philosophic recognition of the “absurd” –  Credo quia absurdum; “I believe because it is absurd” – must be incorporated into all proposed nation-state programs for world order reform. Without such indispensable incorporation, every otherwise carefully worked-out prescription for international law[38] and global civilization could still fail.

               A counter-intuitive truth appears. Traditionally combative or zero-sum expressions of  nationalism can never be authentically patriotic. Though such expressions always “sound good,” they are nonetheless injurious to the celeb rants.

               Among even the most evident antinomies of the world, any truly promising spirit of patriotism must first acknowledge (1) the core singularity or “oneness” of our species;[39] and (2) the corollary interdependence of all nation-states. In the end, inter alia, any serious and decent forms of patriotism must plainly affirm that all human beings are enduringly and indissolubly interconnected.[40] The real enemy of the United States is never one particular ideology or another, but rather any orientation away from Reason, away from Science, away from Logic and away even from Truth.

               “The enemy,” in the words of 20th century German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time, “is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.” This has been the prevailing spirit of Trump Era patriotism in the United States.

                Its axiomatic. There can be no suitable foreign policy posture for the United States that is detached from the presumptive well-being of nation-states in general. Before this can be properly understood, however, it is vital that America’s still-serious political and legal thinkers heed Nietzsche’s timeless counsel from Zarathustra[41]: This is to “become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath one.”[42]

               None of this will be created ex nihilo, out of nothing. It will require special and essentially unprecedented acts of “will.”[43] In the final analysis, America will need to  get far beyond what Nietzsche worriedly calls “national egotism.” This derivative ailment  is rooted in various common human associations of personal significance with the nation as a whole.

                For Hegel, in The Philosophy of Right, the association is sacred. “The state is the actuality of the ethical idea….” Indeed, continues Hegel, the state is nothing less  less than  “the march of God in the world.” In his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observed similarly: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.”[44] These corrosive views of Hegel and Treitschke represent the diametric opposite of what is required for a more decent and durable system of planetary politics. To wit, Treitschke ends his sacrilization of  the state with the bitterly grotesque observation: “War is the only remedy for ailing nations.”[45]

               War is not what still-rational human beings should ever be seeking. Always, in the end,  Realpolitik or power politics will prove its own insubstantiality. Therein, however, lies a grave dilemma. Though Nietzsche calls upon us to “become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath one,” he still expects us to oppose the “egotism” of states energetically; that is, with suitably intellectual underpinnings and with a boldly philosophic determination.

               What now? Can these two seemingly contradictory imperatives – calm detachment and activism – ever be reconciled? How, precisely, shall we soar above fevered “herds” of the state and simultaneously acknowledge that the conflict-centered world still desperately needs “repair”?[46]

               Heraclitus tells us that “Men who love wisdom must inquire into very many things.”[47] Should we eventually fail in this many-sided inquiry, it will be because we have failed to recognize ourselves as the fundamental locus of responsibility and change. The plausible idea that humankind produces its own misfortunes has endured for millennia. Accordingly, Aeschylus, Homer and Hesiod were correctly convinced that it is our species’ persisting  disregard for wisdom that accounts for its endlessly murderous history.

               “In the end,” says Goethe, “we are creatures of our own making.”[48] Such callous disregard for wisdom (which, since Plato, includes virtue) spawns a sea of boundless ruin. In such a turbulent sea, comments the King of Argos in The Suppliant Maidens, “Nowhere is there a haven from distress.”

               Significantly, the Greek idea of Fate does not imply any absence of human control or responsibility. But it does carry a penalty for failures to cultivate justice and peace. Though Realpolitik has ancient origins – at least in terms of its core dynamic of zero-sum competition – its actual celebration  is a modern development. Also known as Machstaat, or power politics, per se glorifications of the state represent a distinct break with the traditional political “realism” of Thucydides, Thrasymachus (Plato) and Machiavelli.[49]

               From Hegel and Fichte to Ranke and Treitschke, Realpolitik has consistently undermined any residual human opportunities for dignified world order.

               Why then should it be encouraged to continue?

               Why should Trump’s grievously derelict “America First” have ever been thought purposeful or worthwhile?

               In the  beginning, in that starkly primal promiscuity wherein the modern swerve toward Realpolitik first occurred, forerunners of modern world politics established a system of struggle and bitter competition  that could never succeed. Still captivated by this failed system, the Trump-led United States allowed the pernicious spirit of power politics to spread across the entire spectrum of international interactions, like a palpable gangrene on the surface of the earth. Rejecting wisdom, virtue and all proper standards of logic, this spirit could never impose effective limits upon itself.

                It continues to be rife despite its evidence-based rebuffs. It still takes its long history of defeat for meaningful advances. In essence, this spirit has never “learned” anything.

               Now, the post-Trump United States may have a last opportunity to confront refractory derangements of Realpolitik as a palpable curse, and encourage the eclipse of these lethal “insults” with Reason and Virtue. In the absence of such needed confrontation, future civilizations will likely examine the skeletal remains of this last prenuclear war epoch with an audible sneer. Far better for us and our descendants that the United States and other major states now move toward obligatory acknowledgement  of international interdependence and human “oneness.”

               Then, finally, we could realistically take up Friedrich Nietzsche’s enduringly sound advice for “living on mountains.”


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

[2] Goethe says famously, in Faust, Part One: “Speak not to me about the motley rabble, Whose sight no inspiration can abide. Preserve me from the tumult and the babble, That sweeps us helpless in its vulgar tide.” Still, faced with the residual horrors of outgoing president Donald J. Trump, Americans don’t have the luxury of the great German poet. In essence, variously appropriate remedial programs must now be conceptualized and suitably implemented..

[3] The term world order reform has its contemporary origins in a scholarly movement begun at the Yale Law School in the mid-and late 1960s, and then “adopted” at the Politics Department at Princeton University in 1967-68. The present author, Louis Rene Beres, was a original member of the Princeton-based World Order Models Project, and wrote several early books in this scholarly genre.

[4] See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2019/06/louis-beres-america-first/  See also, by Professor Beres, at Yale Global Online: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/what-trumps-foreign-policy-ignores

[5] “Man’s heart is in his weapons,” observes the Devil in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, “in the arts of death, he outdoes Nature herself…..”

[6] 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”)).

[7] On Donald Trump’s most egregious violations of national and international law – violations of Nuremberg-category obligations – see by former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz: https://www.yahoo.com/news/nuremberg-prosecutor-warning-trump-war-090342221.html

[8] Regarding such core intersections, we may learn from Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “”You are a citizen of the universe.” A still-broader idea of human “oneness” followed the death of Alexander in 322 BCE, and with it came a coinciding doctrine of “universality.” By the Middle Ages, this political and social doctrine had fused with the medieval notion of a Respublica Christiana, a worldwide Christian commonwealth, and Thomas, John of Salisbury and Dante were looking upon Europe as a single community. Here, below the level of God and his presumed heavenly host, all the realm of humanity was considered as one living “body.” This is because all the world had seemingly been created for the same single and incontestable purpose; that is, to provide  the necessary background for the primal drama of human salvation. Only in its relationship to the universe itself was this world to be correctly considered as a part rather than whole. Clarifies Dante in De Monarchia: “The whole human race is a whole with reference to certain parts, and, with reference to another whole, it is a part. For it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, as we have shown; and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, which is evident without argument.” Today, the idea of human oneness can and should be justified in more conspicuously secular terms of human legal understanding.

[9] For early accounts by this author of expected nuclear war effects, see: 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, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[10] “The mass-man,” says Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses,””has no need for reason. He learns only in his own flesh.” Outgoing US President Donald J. Trump is the quintessential “mass man.”

[11] This is not by any means a baseless or gratuitous criticism of Donald J. Trump. Unassailably, this soon-to-be former president not only never reads, he remains conspicuously proud of this deliberate illiteracy. See, by Professor Beres, at Yale Global Online: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/trump-and-destruction-american-mind

[12] “Theories are nets,” reminds Karl Popper, citing to the German poet Novalis, “only he who casts, will catch.” See Popper’s epigraph to his classic, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959). Ironically, 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.”

[13] Similar anti-populist sentiments would have been discovered among the Founding Fathers of the United States. See, by Professor Beres, at Oxford University Press: https://blog.oup.com/2018/04/american-people-hamilton-trump/

[14] See F.E. Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War (1962).

[15] Recall, in this connection, Bertrand Russell’s timeless warning in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916): “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth, more than ruin, more even than death.”

[16] See, by this author, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School:  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 Professor Beres, at Modern War Institute, West Point:  https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[17] See, by this writer, Louis René Beres,  https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/28931

[18] Such failure, of course, would be most “palpable” and consequential when this country finds itself in extremis atomicum.

[19] A bellum omnium contra omnes. This is, of course, a purely philosophic term. In pertinent jurisprudence, there are certain more explicit criteria of a “state of war.” More precisely, under authoritative international law, the question of whether or not a true “state of war” exists between states remains generally ambiguous. To wit, traditionally, it was held that a formal declaration of war was necessary before a true state of war could be said to exist. Hugo Grotius even divided wars into declared wars, which were legal, and undeclared wars, which were not. (See Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace, Bk. III, Chs. III, IV, and XI.) By the start of the twentieth century, the position that war obtains only after a conclusive declaration of war by one of the parties was codified by Hague Convention III. This treaty stipulated that hostilities must never commence without a “previous and explicit warning” in the form of a declaration of war or an ultimatum. (See Hague Convention III Relative to the Opening of Hostilities, 1907, 3 NRGT, 3 series, 437, article 1.) Currently, declarations of war may be tantamount to admissions of international criminality, because of the express criminalization of aggression by authoritative international law, and it could therefore represent a clear jurisprudential absurdity to tie any true state of war to formal and prior declarations of belligerency. It follows that a state of war may now exist without any formal declarations, but only if there exists an actual armed conflict between two or more states, and/or at least one of these affected states considers itself “at war.”

[20] Also, see Emmerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations (1758),  “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”

[21] Significantly, Hobbes’ Leviathan was well-familiar to the founding fathers of the United States, especially Thomas Jefferson.

[22] This author, Louis René Beres, was a part of this original disciplinary inauguration at Princeton in the 1960s. In turn, much of this Princeton-based inauguration was derived from still earlier work done by Myres McDougal and Harold Lasswell at the Yale Law School.

[23] My own doctoral dissertation at Princeton, completed in 1971, explored the logical foundations of global legal centralization. See: Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10, Monograph No.3., 1972-73), 93pp; also Louis René Beres and Harry R. Targ, Reordering the Planet: Constructing Alternative World Futures (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1974).

[24] See Louis René Beres, Reordering the Planet: Constructing Alternative World Futures (1974), above.     

[25] Here we may learn from the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s Endgame: “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another, of seeking justification always on the same plane?”

[26] Rabbi Eleazar quoted Rabbi Hanina who said: “Scholars build the structure of peace in the world.” The Babylonian Talmud, Order Zera’im, Tractate Berakoth, IX

[27] The classic contra-view is offered by Friedrich Hegel in The Philosophy of Right,, which calls the state “the march of God in the world” and “the actuality of the ethical idea.” This contra notion of the state as a sacred phenomenon was most dramatically formalized by fascist movements in the 20th century. Inter alia, the modern roots of such state-worshiping behavior lie most prominently in Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation and also in the assorted writings of Heinrich Treitschke.

[28] “The   State,” explains Ortega in The Revolt of the Masses, “after sucking out the very marrow of society, will be left bloodless, a `skeleton,’ dead with that rusty death of machinery, more gruesome even than the death of a living organism.”

[29] One may think here of the detailed warning by the High Lama in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon: “The storm…this storm that you talk of….It will be such a one, my son, as the world has not seen before. There will be no safety by arms, no help from authority, no answer in science. It will rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and all human things are leveled in a vast chaos….The Dark Ages that are to come will cover the whole world is a single pall; there will be neither escape nor sanctuary.”

[30] Such falsity is plainly evident in attempts by certain individual nation-states to secure themselves against Covid19 harms without any regard to the welfare of other nation-states.  https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/11/10/un-experts-decry-covid-vaccine-hoarding-no-one-is-secure-until-all-of-us-are/

[31] See, for example, Louis René Beres and Harry R. Targ, Planning Alternative World Futures: Values, Methods and Models (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1975).

[32]The Founding Fathers of the United States were intellectuals. As explained by American historian Richard Hofstadter: “The Founding Fathers were sages, scientists, men of broad cultivation, many of them apt in classical learning, who used their wide reading in history, politics and law to solve the exigent problems of their time.” See Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 145.

[33] A wonderful “summary text” of these complex issues remains W. Warren Wagar’s Building the City of Man: Outlines of a World Civilization (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1971), 180 pp.

[34] Still the best source of explanations for this “barrier” is Jose Ortega y’ Gasset’s seminal The Revolt of the Masses (1930).

[35] Always a key component of this dynamic is the imperative of national self-defense in a “Westphalian” (anarchic) world system. Integral to this imperative is the idea of a permissible preemption or “anticipatory self-defense.” The customary right of anticipatory self-defense has its modern origins in the Caroline incident, an event that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, against British rule. Following this incident, the mere threat of a serious armed attack could sometimes be taken as sufficient legal justification for preemptive military action. In an historic exchange of 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 did not require a prior attack. Here, a proportionate and discriminate military response to military threat was judged permissible, as long as the danger posed was determinably “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” The term “Westphalian” references the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which formally created the current system of global Realpolitik.

[36] See Karl Jaspers, Reason and anti-Reason in Our Time (1952): “There is something inside all of us that earns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought but for the whisperings of the irrational….” (p. 67).

[37] One element here is the always-crucial link between religious faith and diminished death fear. “`I believe,'” says Oswald Spengler, “is the great word against metaphysical fear, and at the same time it is an avowal of love.'” See his The Decline of the West, his Chapter on “Pythagoras, Mohammed, Cromwell.”

[38] International law is ultimately deducible from Natural Law. According to Blackstone, each state and nation is always 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….” See: 2 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, “Of Public Wrongs.” Lest anyone ask about the significance of Blackstone, one need only point out that Commentaries are the original and core foundation of the laws of the United States.

[39] Says the Talmud: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.” On this human singularity, the most evident and unassailable commonality is our mortality. Whatever our other differences, in the end, we all die.  Moreover, Epicureanism, Stoicism and Buddhism all acknowledge an harmonious conflation of self and world. While each instructs that the death of self is meaningless, perhaps even a delusion, all still agree that the commonality of deathcan overcome corrosive divisions. This recognized “oneness” can provide humankind with certain authentic sources of expanding global cooperation. Whether or not we can ever get beyond our fear of death, it is only this conspicuous commonality that can lift us far enough above planetary fragmentation and explosive global disunity.

[40] To be sure, any such affirmation seems improbable. Nonetheless, reminds Italian film director Federico Fellini insightfully: “The visionary is the only realist.” Similarly, from the German philosopher Karl Jaspers: “Everyone knows that the world-situation in which we live is not a final one.” (Man in the Modern Age, 1951).

[41] In “The drunkards song,” a passage in Zarathustra, Nietzsche sums it all up with unparalleled simplicity and insight: “Tief ist ihr Weh” (“Deep is it’s pain”) says the philosopher about the world. This “lied” was put to music by Gustav Mahler in his Third Symphony, 4th Movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aM9hezKudY&list=RDuPQSokfeQN8&index=2

[42] For now, large numbers of Americans, misdirected by a president who opposed Reason and Law at every turn,  decry science and medicine in a calculated preference for ignorance.  Twentieth-century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gassett clarifies the generic bases of such a leader-induced declension in his The Revolt of the Masses (1930):  “It’s not that the vulgar believes itself to be superexcellent and not vulgar, but rather that the vulgar proclaim and impose the rights of vulgarity or vulgarity itself as a right.” It is precisely this perverse “right of vulgarity” that still animates docile Trump legions of cultivated thoughtlessness and inconscience.

[43] The modern philosophic origins of “will” lie most prominently in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, especially his The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration, Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely and perhaps even more importantly upon Schopenhauer. Goethe was also a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the singularly prophetic twentieth-century work, The Revolt of the Masses (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very lofty essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the occasion of the centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948), and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[44] See by this author, Louis René Beres, at Horasis: Switzerland https://horasis.org/soaring-above-politics-death-time-and-immortality/

[45] Treitschke, of course, lived before the nuclear age. Would he have proposed this same “remedy” were his country discoverable in extremis atomicum?

[46]See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://www.21global.ucsb.edu/global-e/march-2018/repairing-world-its-source

[47] Fragment, 49.

[48] Faust, Part One.

[49] In the Melian Dialogues, Thucydides notes famously about the Peloponnesian War, “The standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel,” and that “the strong do what they have the power to do, and the weak accept what they have to  accept.”  In Book 1 of The Republic, Plato has Thrasymachus explain to Socrates that “Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” Machiavelli’s Prince  places the presumed advantages of raw power at the very center of his political theory.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Americas

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

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

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

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

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Biden’s worrisome construct of security and self-defense in the first year of his term

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Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy is failing so far. He can’t get the Iran nuclear diplomacy on track. The Afghanistan withdrawal was a disaster seen by all, placing an unusually high number of weapons and armaments in the hands of the Taliban and leaving everyone behind, to the point that one wonders if it was intentional. The US military has been able to accomplish far more impressive and bigger logistics tasks in the past, so when they want to they can do it.

More worrisome, however – and because it is also oriented towards future impacts – is Biden’s construct of vital concepts such as security, international peace and self-defense which has already displayed a consistent pattern during the first year of his term. The signs are already there, so let me bring them out to the surface for you.

Treating a counter-attack in self-defense as an original, first-move strike

This is a pattern that can be noticed already in Biden’s reading of what constitutes defense. It first struck me in a place where you might not think of looking. It originated from the criticism of the previous Trump administration’s support for the destructive Saudi Arabia campaign on Yemen, leaving Yemen as the biggest famine and disaster on the planet. To avoid the same criticism, the Biden administration decided to do what it always does – play technocratic and legalistic, and hope that people won’t notice. On the face of it, it looked like Biden ended US participation by ending the “offensive” support for Saudi Arabia. Then in the months after the February decision, reports started surfacing that the US actually continues doing the same, and now most recently, some troops from Afghanistan were redirected towards Yemen. Biden didn’t end Yemen; he set up a task force to examine and limit US military action only to defensive capabilities, which sounds good to a general observer. It reminds me of that famous Einstein saying that all the big decisions were to be taken by him and all the small decisions were to be taken by his wife, but there hasn’t been one big decision so far. So see, it just turns out that everything falls under defense, ask the lawyers. Usually no one would object to the well-established right to defend yourself. The problem with that is that the US is actually in Yemen. Treating any counter-strike and any response to your presence as an original, first-move attack is not only problematic but it also simply doesn’t work in legal terms. It goes along the lines of “well, I am already here anyways, so your counter-response in self-defense is actually an attack and I get to defend myself”. If the issue was only with terrorist or rebel organizations (because let’s face it, who cares about the Houthies in Yemen?) I don’t think we would be discussing this. But as you guessed it, this approach can already be traced as a pattern in Biden’s thinking and the way he forges alliances, draws red lines and allows things to happen, and it stretches to areas that most people definitely care about such as a possible military conflict between the US and China.

Let’s take the newest development from today. The US just announced that it has entered into a trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, which is encirclement of China par excellence. Where it gets interesting is that the trilateral partnership is purported to be only for “advanced defense capabilities”. The equivalent of this is someone from another city squatting at the door step in your apartment, inviting two others to join, and then when in the morning you push them and step on them to go to work, the squatters claiming that you attacked them and calling the police on you in your own apartment. This is Biden’s concept of self-defense: since I am already here in your space, you are attacking me.

The US is trying to start something with China but it doesn’t know how to, and China seems completely unconcerned with the US.  Chinese leader Jinping doesn’t even want to meet Biden, as became clear this week. China doesn’t care about the US and just wants to be left alone. They already said that in clear terms by reading it out loud to Wendy Sherman last month. Biden didn’t have to ask for a meeting in that phone call this week because he already knew the answer. Wendy Sherman got a clear signal on her China visit that the US president won’t be getting that coveted red carpet roll-out any time soon.

So the story says that the US is going all the way to the other side of the world and staging military presence there but only to defend itself. The US has no choice but to move in to defend all the US citizens at risk in the Indian Ocean — that’s the stand-up comedy line of the week. It is staging military presence right at China’s doorstep — if not in Chinese waters, and the idea is “yes, that’s your turf but now that I’m here, if you push me to leave, you are attacking me”. This is the strategy of narcissists and those that are looking to point the finger to their opponent when they just don’t have anything, so they stage something. China is in the long-term game, playing against itself. The US is that number 2 that’s trying to create provocation. In the Indo-Pacific, the US is biting more than it can chew. China is not a big mouth or one to throw around military threats. That’s the US style: “be very careful, we might bomb you if you don’t do what we say”. A dog that barks doesn’t bite. On the other hand, China is more like a Ferrari — it will go from 0 to 200 in seconds and then it will go back to its business. The US and Biden will be left whimpering but no one will jump to save the US from its own folly because self-defense in the US packaging is not even bought by the US government itself. Even they don’t buy their own packaging. So why should anyone else?

Treating embarrassing discoveries and things that don’t go my way as a threat to international peace

This one is a big one. With this one, Biden is playing with the queen, namely action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter in the name of international peace and security. A threat to international peace and security is grounds for action under Chapter 7 which includes military action, and it’s never to be spoken lightly. Words have consequences. The UN Security Council rarely specifies grounds for action under chapter 7 for threats to international peace and security but it’s enough to take a look at the practice: resolutions were passed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, in response to 9/11, against Kaddafi who was marching toward Benghazi to wipe out the people in 2011, in relation to genocide, etc. Grounds for a threat to international peace can’t be “because I don’t like the way things are turning out for me”.

Peace and security are not like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. There has to be an actual or imminent attack and actual military action or violence. Loose interpretations of threats to peace and security are a sign of weak leadership.

Leaders who construct dissent and criticism as terrorism in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, as I have argued about the FBI previously in the left media, are weak leaders. In smearing Martin Luther King, the FBI argued national security. As director Oliver Stone said in Cannes this summer, when he was investigating the JFK assassination, every time he was getting close, he heard “national security”. 

You can see a lot about the character of a nation by the way it constructs security, and notice traits such as narcissism, weakness, cheating. The Biden Administration has to know that a threat to international peace and security can’t be “things that make my government look bad”. In 2001, the world followed the US in Afghanistan because there was an actual military attack. The world won’t follow the Biden administration on a bogus threat to international peace that can best be summed up as a major embarrassment for the US government. Suggesting a link is a threat to the fabric of international society. Not only is it a sign of national narcissism but also a sign of arbitrariness and authoritarianism. Treating criticism and the exposure of US government crimes as if it were a military attack is what horror movies are made of. What’s next? Droning journalists?

Treating issues which are a subject to treaties, rules and negotiations as a threat to international peace  

The Biden security construct stretches to various regions, including my own. This first struck me with Biden’s executive order regarding the Western Balkans when he tied blocking these countries from EU accession to a threat to international peace, which carries significant consequences. If a country, let’s say Bulgaria, is exercising its lawful right to veto EU processes, hypothetically, based on Biden’s understanding, the US could table a resolution for Chapter 7 action to punish an EU member-state for blocking the accession of an EU candidate because that’s a threat to international peace. That could hypothetically lead to military action against an EU country making use of its veto. Biden doesn’t have a veto in the EU. Do you know who does? Bulgaria. So until Biden becomes an EU country he doesn’t have a say.

Biden was visibly irritated that the process of EU accession has been stalling for quite some time, especially with N. Macedonia and Albania at the EU’s doorstep, so he decided to give it a go. Let’s not forget that the Balkans are a favorite Biden region and this goes back to the 1990s. I have written about it before: Biden is stuck in the 2000s when if you mentioned the Western Balkans the words international peace were a guaranteed association. Not anymore. Negotiations, rules and voting are the peaceful and reasonable way to resolve issues, agree or even not agree in some situations, and are the opposite of war and aggression. Treating these ways as a threat to peace is just the rhetoric of those who can’t get their way. But it’s also indicative of a worrisome trend with Biden that anything that the US government doesn’t like can be dressed as a threat to international peace, which carries the most significant of all consequences in the international arena.

Treating lawful counter-measures as a threat to national security

Perhaps the best and most fascinating example of lawful counter-measures I ever heard was brought by Andrew Clapham at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Here is the story. The UK issued unlawful sanctions on a country. In response, lawful counter-measures by that country targeted jam exports because a jam factory in Scotland was the key to turning the elections. The targeted counter-measures worked, hit jam exports, discontent people in the region voted the other way and the government that put in place the sanctions to begin with was ousted. This was a brilliant example that you hit where it hurts and you do it lawfully. Counter-measures don’t have to be identical. The US likes to put tariffs on Louis Vuitton bags in retaliation when it deals with France, for example. In the Trump trade wars, Europe would hit bourbon and jeans exports as a counter-measure. You hit their signature product. Not all counter-measures are illegal and count as an attack. International law is full of examples.

Similarly, lawsuits against a government are a lawful counter-measure. This area reveals another part of Biden’s worrisome construct of national security. A threat to sue the US government cannot in and of itself be a threat to national security. Tortured reading of what is national security is a sign of weak leaders, narcissists, those on the losing end, or straight up losers – or all of the above. 

Treating lawful counter-measures as a cause for self-defense is not only a sign of a wrong understanding of self-defense, but is the ultimate sign of narcissism. Usually those who attack know better and brace for impact in anticipation of the counter-measures. Narcissists, on the other hand, cry that they are being attacked when they receive a counter-strike in response. Strategists know better.

Mistreatment of whistleblowers, critics and opponents as spies and as a threat to national security

This one is an easy one. Only losers treat whistleblowers and critics as spies and as an automatic threat to national security. Take the treatment that Gary Stahl has received at the hands of the Biden Administration and the FBI, for example. Again, the US government doesn’t get to construe a huge embarrassment (in what will soon be revealed to shows the true criminal nature of the US government) as a threat to international peace. This is a problem for America. Not only doesn’t China plan to attack militarily the US any time soon over what’s to come, but China is largely unconcerned with the US and would like to be left alone. Any talk about a risk of military conflict could only mean that it is the US that plans to attack because they are embarrassed they got caught red-handed and the world will see the US government’s true nature. Talk of threat to international peace has a very high threshold. No one cares about how America would feel – that’s your problem, not an issue of international peace. 

The Biden concept of security is that of an ugly, pretentious, old woman who is told she can’t enter because her ticket is not valid. She then throws a feat screaming she was attacked, beaten and insulted, expecting everyone to be on her side. But the world simply doesn’t care about the problems of this pain-in-the-ass anymore. The US government will have to try much harder if they want to present the issue as anything close to security and self-defense, let alone a threat to international peace. That tune is old and there are no buyers. 

The US surely thinks very highly of itself if they think that a scandal like that is worthy of a military conflict but literally no one else sees the US as this important anymore. This scandal will matter only to America in what it reveals about all the layers of the US government across rank, institutions and administrations. That’s it. It ends there. Any talk of Chapter 7 threshold is war mongering and no one will care. 

People talk about the Biden doctrine on Afghanistan but the Biden doctrine that will be sealed in history will be something along the lines of “Anytime I get caught, it’s a threat to international peace and security.” This is how Biden will be remembered in history: for creative writing endeavors in the security field and no substantial foreign policy achievements. 

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Biden’s credibility restoration plan

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Although damages of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan cannot be easily undone, by taking a series of wise steps, Biden can send a strong signal that America is coming back.

Joe Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan has shattered his reputation as a safe haven for allies. This is while, he pledged to restore U.S. leadership after Trump by confronting China’s and Russia’s growing totalitarian ambitions, restoring historic alliances with European allies, and ending the never-ending conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

But he is not the only President whose decision has eventually damaged the United States’ global reputation. Donald Trump’s capitulation deal with the Taliban, Barack Obama’s indolence in Syria, and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq have all tarnished the United States’ credibility around the world. The question now; however, is no longer whether Biden and his predecessors should have acted differently. It’s how the United States can minimize the damage.

Biden should begin by speaking the truth. So far, the President has failed to admit the failure of his withdrawal plan. Biden ought to be straightforward with himself, the American people, and the whole world.

Biden’s policy should, of course, vary depending on the area and global conditions. To promote its interests in the Indo-Pacific area, the United States should station a few ambassadors, including a Navy or Coast Guard attaché, in the Pacific Island countries of Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. In addition, a considerable number of troops currently stationed in Afghanistan should be redeployed to the Pacific. Finally, Biden’s administration should engage with U.S. defense contractors to speed up the transfer of military equipment to Taiwan. Getting Taiwan its armaments swiftly would be a powerful show of support as a steadfast ally, as well as provide modern platforms to prevent a Chinese amphibious invasion.

The Biden administration should also do all in its power to rebuild relations with European partners. For the very first time, NATO invoked Article 5, which identifies an assault on one member as an assault on all. Since then, soldiers from a variety of countries have fought and died alongside US troops. Nonetheless, Biden decided to leave Afghanistan without consulting the governments of these countries, leaving them to plan emergency rescue efforts for their populations. Close allies of the United States are understandably enraged. America’s behavior is being chastised in Paris, Berlin, and the British House of Commons on both sides of the aisle.

Last month, at a meeting of regional leaders in Baghdad, Macron made it clear that, unlike the Americans, he was dedicated to remaining in the Middle East. “Whatever the American choice is,” he stated in public remarks in Baghdad, “we will maintain our presence in Iraq to fight terrorism as long as terrorist groups function and the Iraqi government requests our assistance.” It was a clear example of Macron’s idea of “strategic autonomy,” which implies European independence from U.S. security policy, and an attempt to use the United States’ humiliation to underline that Europe and Washington were not always on the same page. At an emergency G7 summit, Mr. Biden is said to have turned down allied requests to extend the August 31 deadline for exit.

The Biden administration’s recent decision not to penalize Nord Stream 2 pipeline participants has enraged Europeans as well. Poland and Ukraine underlined their worries in a joint statement about the ramifications of choices taken on the pipeline without the participation of nations directly impacted, claiming that Nord Stream 2 poses both geological and ecological risks to Europe.

As a result, whether it’s diplomatic recognition of the Taliban regime, humanitarian aid for the Afghan people, or any other major issue, the US should not take any more action without engaging partners. Mr. Biden should also dispatch senior members of his national security team to Europe and other regions of the world to reinforce America’s commitment to their security.

As to the Middle East, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, in a Foreign Affairs article described “America’s opportunity in the Middle East,” suggesting that diplomacy may work where previous military interventions have failed. The United States’ involvement in the area is frequently portrayed in military or counter-terrorism terms, and as a binary option between going all-in or going all-out. Instead, Sullivan advocated for a strategy that relied more on “aggressive diplomacy to generate more long-term benefits.”

Accordingly, the President and his team in Vienna should get the new Iranian administration back to the negotiating tables and rejoin the JCPOA and ease the tensions in the Middle East. Also, the United States should do all possible in Afghanistan to secure the safe transit of Afghans who qualify for U.S. visas to the Kabul airport – and to keep flights flying until they are able to leave. This should apply to both Afghans who dealt closely with the United States’ military, and to those who engage with U.S. media and humanitarian organizations and must get visas from a third country. In addition to ensuring that the United Nations and humanitarian groups have the resources they need, the United States should cooperate with its Security Council allies to guarantee that the Taliban does not hinder the free flow of help.

Moreover, to follow any influx of jihadists to Afghanistan, intelligence agencies will have to rededicate resources and increase surveillance. They must be pushed to coordinate their efforts on the Taliban in order to keep the most threatening groups under control. The United States could set an example by agreeing to accept a fair share of any displaced Afghans. Neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan, which already have millions of Afghan refugees, are closing their borders.

Biden may not be able to prevent all of the disastrous repercussions of the Afghan catastrophe, but he must act now before the harm to U.S. interests and moral stature becomes irreversible. By taking these steps, he can send a strong statement to the world that he has learned his lessons and that America is coming back.

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