Connect with us

International Law

Why states undermined their sovereignty by signing NPT?



Nuclear weapons are known as brawny and cataclysmic weapons. The source of the energy of such weapons is fission and fusion of atoms. Such weapons release huge amount of radiation which can cause “radiation sickness”. Nuclear weapons were used once in a history in 1945. 80000 people were killed in Hiroshima and 70000 in Nagasaki. Due to the evidence of catastrophic impact, they have not been used in any war till today. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a subject of concern in the international system. There are nine states which possess nuclear weapons: United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and china. Proliferation is a spread of nuclear weapons both horizontally and vertically. In order to deal with the proliferation, NPT was introduced and still working globally.


NPT is known as “treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons”. It thwarts the states from acquiring nuclear weapons’ technology or developing fissile material for nuclear weapons. The NPT is a multilateral treaty which was opened for signature on July 1st 1968 and entered into effect on March 5th 1970. Its signatory parties are 186 which joined it either by ratification or accession. Russia, UK and US are its depositaries. According to this treaty the states which have manufactured nuclear explosives prior to January 1st 1967 are legal nuclear states which include US, UK, Russia, France and china also known as de-jure states whereas Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel are de-facto nuclear states. There three main pillar of NPT:

  • “Prevention of spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology.
  • Promotion of co-operation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • Achievement of nuclear as well as general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”.

Since the formation of these contraptions, a lot of gloomy predictions were made like in 21st century 20 states would acquire nuclear weapons but only nine states have been observed as nuclear weapon states till today. However, 65 years ago almost 39 states were engaged in nuclear program but sooner or later they gave up their ambition. From the second half of the 1980, the states which were indulge in the nuclear activities were relatively low. This is because of the 186states have signed NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state and condemned proliferation. The question arises here is what motivate states to not acquire nuclear weapons. There are many theories from the past decade to answer this question are grouped into four overarching groups:

  • Capability
  • Security
  • International norms and perception
  • Domestic political context

These are elaborated below:

The capability of any state regarding formation of nuclear weapons comprises on:

  • Technological capability
  • Economic capability

Development of nuclear weapon is not facile. Production of facile material is the most challenging and expensive, scientifically and technologically both. The transformation of that material into a deliveryweapon and development of the delivery system require technological and financial capabilities and which has become an effective obstacle for the less developed countries. As those countries don’t have advanced scientific and technological infrastructure and are not financially strong to afford the investment needed to start its own nuclear program. So, capabilities became a stumbling block for less developed states due to which they sign NPT as a non-nuclear state. But this is not only the decisive factor in taking decision whether to forgo nuclear weapons or not. Political willingness also play a crucial role in it because it devote a considerable share of states’ resources to military sector or public sector e.g. Pakistan and north Korea are poor states with less capabilities but they have developed nuclear weapons. So, it also depends upon the psychology of the leaders too. This point is concluded by saying:

“More highly developed countries proliferate more readily, less highly developed counters do so less readily”.

Security is the dominant theory to explain both questions: why states go nuclear and why not? Security is very appealing factor for the states to acquire nuclear weapons but acquiring nuclear weapons is not always the best way to ensure security. As this world is anarchic and states are rational unitary actor, so for the security, states go for self-help. But sometimes, acquiring nuclear weapons poses a greater threat than to forgo them because it may cause more distrust and tension among the adversaries. Due to the distrust one state may attempt pre-emptive strikewhich can cause nuclear war and end of the both states. So, to avoid this situation, state opted to go non-nuclear because in this condition it has not that’s much adversaries and can focuses on the other public sectors. According to the “prudential realism: “nations under certaincircumstances mayprudently forgo military capabilities that is threatening because states and security-conscious entities”. States which are involve in low intensity conflict would likely to go non-nuclear by signing NPT. Alliances also play an important role in security according to neo-liberalism. States are likely to go in alliance with any nuclear state in order to avoid the risk, cost and difficulties of nuclear weapon programs e.g. NATO countries are in alliance with US. But that nuclear state must give a guarantee of “positive and negative assurance security” so those states chose to sign NPT as a non-nuclear states.

International norms and perceptions also assist states in deciding whether to sign NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state or not. The norms of international system highly influence the perceptions of the states especially norms in the international treaties like NPT. States have a lust of prestige and status in international system. On the basis of non-proliferation norms, states perceive that their status and prestige would be increased by forgoing nuclear weapons. According to Jacques Hymans: “ most states think of themselves as, and want to be seen as , good international citizens and good international citizens don’t build nuclear arsenals”. Due to this reason, majority of thestates don’t acquire nuclear weapons. Constructivism is the basis of international norms and perceptions which have made normative situation for the states in general. NPT have changed the normative environment and situation got changed due to which many states forgo nuclear weapons. Cost-benefit analysis got changed by the non-proliferation norms. It has made nuclear weapon program technically, financially and politically expensive. It has also change the assumption of appropriate state behavior. So to maintain the good self-image in international system states have signed NPT as a non-nuclear weapon states.

The factors of domestic political context have many dimensions. In this cluster, types of governmental systemplay a crucial role for the states to sign NPT as a non-nuclear states. According to some researchers, democracies are less likely to engage in conflicts than autocracies. Democracies obey international laws at greater level to become a good citizen of internal system due to which the chances of democracies to become nuclear states are less. From the lens of political-ideology if a system aims for the economic growth that it would not go for nuclear weapons. According to Solingen “the nuclear programs are less likely to emerge in countries where the political culture is in general sympathetic to economic openness, trade liberalization, foreign investments, and international economic integration” e.g. Saudi Arabia. Psychology of domestic actor also play a crucial role in influencing the decision regarding nuclear weapons and societal groups too. In short, it depends upon the national political circumstances and dynamics that effect the decision of perusing or forgoing nuclear weapons.


Nuclear free zone or weapons of mass destruction free zone is a great disincentive for the states if combined with the credible pledges by the US and other nuclear states to provide positive and negative assurance security to the non-nuclear weapon states. Like in Middle East only Israel has acquired nuclear weapons which can be equalized by the security given by US or other nuclear state in order to make Middle East nuclear-free zone. As NPT is known as bargaining treaty which offer economic incentives to the states and compel other states to sign NPT. All the above factors showed the reasons of the will of states but some states sign NPTbecause of the fear of the sanction because none of the state survive if it becomes isolated from the whole world e.g. economic sanctions upon Iran. Many under developed countries are unable to resist the pressure of the developed stays and for their survival, they need their support. So, in return, they obey the orders of developed states and don’t go for nuclear weapons. Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus dismantle their nuclear arsenals because of the incentive of the positive assured security. Whereas, the nuclear programs of Brazil and Argentina were dissuaded by the regional security arrangement. South Africa gave its nuclear weapons for the sake of its development. Under developed countries focus on the development of health, education sectors etc. due to which they dismantle their nuclear weapons and got economic assistance. In a nutshell, NPT played a crucial role in resisting nuclear proliferation but at the same time it is monopolizing the power of nuclear states.

Asma Tanveer is a student of Strategic and Nuclear Studies at National Defence University. She has great interest in international politics, nuclear politics, and strategies of warfare.

Continue Reading

International Law

Is Democracy the best political system in the world?



photo: MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

Democracy simply means the rule of people through fair elections and equal participation. Democracy follows certain principles and rules. People who are ruling at present should determine the person who will rule in their temporary absence. They have to monitor the behaviors of all in the offices. Assets need to be shown by all the political leaders. Elections cannot be just fair. They need to be free and conducted frequently. The set of rules and regulations followed by the leaders and the nation are all written in a constitution. The main job of the government is to provide food, clothes, and shelter to the nation along with welfare. The Constitution limits the power of the government over how and when to make a decision. The government itself cannot make up rules and laws. It works on the rule that no one is above the law. The judiciary reviews all the regulations. It is the main role of a democratic state to see that rules aren’t being violated. Democracy defines liberalism i.e. the dignity, freedom, and equality of an individual and also, democracy ensures the freedom of media too.

However, democracy has many features. Power is separated among Legislation, executive, and Judiciary. The constitution is the set of rules and laws. Decrees are sent in by the government regulating how the laws are being applied. Elections are held and there are a few political parties that hold elections within themselves and choose a leader among themselves who further stands in a nationwide election for a seat. There are three basic types of democracy.

Direct democracy in which the head of state is a member of the government for one year. The government is made of the people elected by the political parties. Parliament is elected for a fixed legislative period. It is not necessary for the member of the government to be members of the parliament. Laws are made in a rather time taking process. It seems to offer more checks and balances. It worked very well with the Swiss.

Presidential democracy is one of the types of democracy. Like in the USA and France, the president is the head of the government and the state. President is elected by the people. Ministers are nominated by the people too. According to this type of democracy, there is an institutional difference between the government and the parliament. President has a very strong position. Laws are debated over and are passed by the parliament.

Another type is the Parliamentary democracy like that in UK, Spain, and Germany. Head of the state can be a Prime Minister who will be an elected person or a monarch. The parliament has the audacity to dismiss the government made by the parliament itself. The members of the government have to be the elected members of the parliament. Though laws are made by the government they are passed by the parliament.

Democracy basically is a competition of power as a political system. The elected people are the highest political form of society. From leaders to the nation, power is deliberately flowed giving everyone their freedom and rights. The leaders are though holding the power temporarily. It is the duty of the elected people to listen to the problems and issues of the people. The people have the right to criticize their leaders and ask for an answer if they have done something wrong or have not abide by the rules. Elections are to be occurred at regular intervals as per the law. This means that people who are sitting on powerful seats cannot prolong their tenure without asking from the people of their country. Elections should be held fairly. All the political parties and candidates should be selected fairly.

Participation of women is considered very important in this case. In all the political parties, women hold a fixed number of seats and are given importance. They work with men at all times for the upbringing of the state and to keep up a stable democratic state. They have an equal right to vote and choose their leader accordingly. Women all across the world have joined politics now and are going for campaigns for the political parties. They are not being held back by anything in this world.

The rule of law plays an important role in a democratic state. Citizens are to be protected, given food, and provided shelter according to the law. If you are being fined or tax is being imposed on you, then they will be in accordance with a law that has been passed already. Nobody is above the law whether it’s a president or a king of a state. If someone is charged with a crime then that person has the right to a free and speedy trial in a court. None of the government officials can break the laws.

While looking over the 21st century, one sees that democracy has created certain issues in the world too. Starting mainly with the fact that it can provide power to a corrupt individual. The people who have been elected for the most powerful seat of the state get access to the budget of the country and they will get many chances to misuse them. Such officials can keep their subordinates very happy too by keeping their pockets full. So the answer to the question asked in the very beginning is yes. Democracy is so far the best form of the political system in this present world of hustle and bustle. With the advent of the 21st century, a number of downfalls have been seen but in the end what matters is the fact that people have the freedom of expression, a right to speak, a right to choose their own government and indulge themselves in the state affairs equally. All a nation wants is the food to eat, a place to live, and clothes to wear. It is the responsibility of the state to provide them that and it is the nation’s right to demand those things. Therefore, leaders chosen by fair elections are the ones who take the countries to their glories.  

Continue Reading

International Law

Separatism factor: How should the world community react on separatist sentiments?



The notion of separatism is not new: ethnic minorities have been struggling to gain independence in various regions around the world for ages. As the majority of the modern states is not ethnically homogeneous, many have a potential of an arising struggle of independence of the minorities, especially taking into consideration the rise of nationalism. This issue is indeed of a global scale as the separatist movements persist concerns not only underdeveloped and developing countries but developed as well, again only proving that it can arise anywhere in the world.

The separatist movements might be considered as an internal and external threat to peace at the same time as it affects many actors. It is, of course, the state where the separatist movement emerged as the minority is willing to gain independence from it, violating the integrity of the state. However, the neighboring countries fall under the blow too. As a result, the separatist sentiments spread further, putting at risk international peace and security as the struggle for independence might escalate into an armed conflict.

The way the political and territorial landscape might change in the result of the separatism movements activity and states breakups has been already seen a couple decades earlier. The consequences of separatism sentiments are quite alarming and might lead not just to autonomy for the state: the events around 1990s show how drastically can the political landscape change not only of a state, but of a region or the world as a whole. The dissolution of Yugoslavia and Kosovo’s demands for autonomy, the split of Yugoslavia, separation of the satellite states of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the USSR – these brought a big change in a system of international relations, which was not made by peaceful means only (including violent conflict in certain cases).

However, despite the previous examples in history that show the struggle and negative impact for the civilians, the minorities demanding for autonomy might still use violent means. Since it is impossible to eliminate and fully control separatist movements, the issue indeed needs special attention as every case is special. However, there might be still certain common approach or a mechanism in an intergovernmental organization to deal with separatism developed as when it comes to acceptance of the newly emerged actors the opinions divide, which complicates the relations between the states that might have already been uneasy. Thus, the following questions arise: how should the world community react to the cases of separatism? Is it the state’s sole responsibility to deal with separatist movements or they should be regulated in the cooperation with other authorities such as international and intergovernmental organizations? Should there be a universal and unanimous approach to deal with cases of separatism?

In order to answer these questions, it is first important to define to what extent it is possible to give the green light for the separatist movements. Should they all be suppressed in order to save the integrity of a bigger state or should the people be actually given the right for the determination? Of course, it is hard to give a definite answer, however, in order to develop a certain strategy that would allow to tackle and handle the issue of separatism, these questions should be answered as well.

The bigger amount of actors there are in the system of international relations – the more complicated it might be to build dialogue, seek compromise to resolve the conflicts and overall maintain international stability. So, in order to try to decrease or at least regulate the amount of separatist sentiments, the factors that affect the minority’s decision to separate should be taken into considerations. Usually these factors include: discontentment with economy, political and cultural differences.

Most likely, talking about the fact whether these questions should be handled individually or collectively, the latter one seems to be more rational as in the time of globalization any instability can make a great impact on other actors in the system. Dealing with separatist cases has a lot to do with conflict resolution and conflict prevention, which are among the United Nations’ core responsibilities. However, the United Nations’ effectiveness in it is often questionable despite the successful cases. However, as intergovernmental organization that has enough instruments and mandates, it can contribute a lot to the regulation of issues concerned with separatist movements. It can also serve as a platform for discussion of these issues, contributing for building a dialogue for both conflicting parties and the concerned states. So, a greater emphasis on using the intergovernmental organizations might facilitate and manage the conflicts concerned with separatist sentiments, focusing on the use of peaceful means that would prevent from conflict escalation, contributing to international security.

Concerning the unanimous approach, as it was mentioned before, it is hard to develop a single template that would fit all the cases. However, focusing on negotiating in order to eliminate the possibility of escalating to a violent one would certainly contribute to a decrease of negative impact of separatist movements, not bringing it to the extreme. Also, monitoring the development of separatist sentiments would play a big role in a way that it allows to resolve the conflict peacefully. Together, monitoring and early response is probably the best approach to conflict management and resolution, and it has to do with separatist cases as well.

International stability and security is crucially important for the coherent development of the society. Without it maintenance and forehanded response to various threats to it, the international community will face disastrous challenges that potentially would cost human lives. As separatism might be considered as a threat as well, it must addressed and managed at the early stages. Cooperation of the local governments with such intergovernmental organization as the United Nations in these terms would probably be the best strategy in order to ensure a clear understanding of the situation (the demands and position of the parties involved in the conflicting satiation regarding the desire for autonomy), and as a result, take the measures necessary. Again, the early response is highly important as it allows to avoid violence, that is why monitoring of separatist sentiments should be regarded highly.

The current system of international relations is complex and relies a lot on interdependence. The actors in the system are tied up economically and politically, and despite all the benefits they get from it, the way the negative events might affect each of them can become a trigger or a cause for a crisis which would be difficult to resolve. Although separatism might be regarded more as a local threat meaning that the separatist movements can inspire the neighboring countries in the region, if it scales up and continues spreading further and further, it has a potential to result in a crisis of a world scale. So, before it potentially becomes a trend, the preventive measures should be integrated as soon as possible as it always take time to develop them. Managing the conflict when it has already escalated is feasible, but it is very likely that it will be difficult to avoid violence. Developing the grounds, platforms and mechanism that would allow to seek for the most peaceful ways for resolutions has to be done in advance. The cases of separatists sentiments are not so rare, and they are present even in the developed states. There can be listed numerous cases, including Catalonia, Scotland, Kashmir, Hong Kong and so on. These situations should not be left alone as they will not be resolved on their own and can escalate any time. They can grow in numbers, and before it happens, a more developed mechanism for its peaceful management should be created.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

International Law

Seeking Power Over Death: Lethal Mainspring Of World Politics



Consequences of War by Peter Paul Rubens

Abstract: At its core, history is the determinable record of humankind’s struggle for and against death. Though such a bold assertion might first appear self-contradictory, the corollary truths are clarifying. In general, we may learn, each nation-state does whatever it deems necessary to survive, but too often this “realistic” presumption requires the “death” of “others.”Now, by examining this zero-sum calculus more closely – a systematic assessment that would include certain primal expectations of the individual human being (the microcosm) – scholars may discover that this interminable struggle is also marked by an ironic reciprocity: Each state struggle for the “death” of designated others(in earlier millennia, before states, it was a struggle of empires)represents a fierce defense against its own potential annihilation. This perplexing simultaneity suggests that the underlying rationale of Realpolitik or power politics[1]is not acquisition of territory, wealth or “victory,”[2] but personal immortality. Once this bewildering rationale can be understood, therefore, such deeper insight could bestow upon our endangered planet variously enlightened opportunities for global survival. Grasped imaginatively, and with apt measures of urgency, these new modalities could become intellectual blueprints for world justice and world peace. In essence, these “blueprints” could offer humankind eleventh-hour reformist strategies of a once-inconceivable potency.[3]


In such primal matters, history must be our starting point.[4] In Man and Crisis (1958), 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset observes accordingly: “History is an illustrious war against death.” Though this comment is captivating, and sets the stage for our sought-after answer, it represents only a partial piece of a much wider truth: Ultimately, power over death represents the greatest conceivable form of power here on earth;[5]but acquiring such optimal power in world politics can also “demand” the  killing of  “others.”[6]

To acquire a politically manageable “power over death,” individuals (microcosm)and states (macrocosm) must first make tangible preparations to bring fatality to identifiable “enemies.” At times, this belligerent thinking would involve variously seductive notions of “martyrdom.”  As we may learn from the evening news, these notions may call not “only” for war, but also for genocide.[7]

In both cases, the planned mass killing of other human beings is more-or-less comparable to religious sacrifice, a primal custom oriented toward the ritualistic deflection of death to “others.”[8]

There is more. Going forward, scholars and policy-makers must suitably re-examine vital underlying links between microcosm and macrocosm. In this regard, Elias Canetti, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize for Literature, once wrote imaginatively of not being dead as the principal exemplar of all power. Confronted with what Canetti had called “terror at the fact of death,” humankind – both individually, and collectively – seeks one particular advantage above all others.

This evident advantage is “to remain standing” while others must prepare to “lie down.” In the end, it is those who can remain upright, however temporarily, who are meaningfully “victorious.”[9] It is these fortunate ones, after all, who have managed to “divert” death to less-fortunate “others.”

By definition, of course, there can be no greater or more advantageous diversion.

               A key lesson obtains here for states as well as for individuals. For all “players,” microcosm and macrocosm, the situation of physical survival is the unambiguously central expression of all power. But as belligerent nationalism makes meaningful survival more and more problematic, Realpolitik or power politics effectively deprives states of their most genuine power lever.[10] Left unmodified, the “all against all” Westphalian Process[11] effectively creates or merely magnifies adversarial relations, and encourages state enemies to then enjoy “microcosmic” triumphs that will remain unrecognized or concealed. These triumphs are the deeply-satisfying human emotions experienced by persons when confronting powerless individuals who are preparing to “lie down.”[12]


In world politics, the ultimate acquisition of power is never really about land or treasure or conquest or some other reassuring evidence of primacy. It is, rather, a presumed victory over death, ultimately a personal triumph, one described by Heinrich von Treitschke that is closely linked to the always-special prerogatives of sovereignty.[13]

Relevant reasoning here is straightforward. When my state is powerful, goes the argument, so too am I. At some point, when this state seems ready to prevail indefinitely, I too am granted a personal life that is gloriously unending. Stated somewhat succinctly: An “immortal” state creates (as either its citizen or subject) the “immortal” person.

Such abstract ideas can be bewildering.  Still, to actually feel such conceptual reasoning at a palpable level, one could intentionally recall the staggering images of mid-1930s Nazi party rallies at Nuremberg. Leni Riefenstahl’s monumental film celebration of Der Fuhrer, The Triumph of the Will, says it all best. Reminding the German people of Hegel’s famous aphorism, the legendary film underscores that a nation-state can actually become the “march of God in the world.”

Today, in 2021, neither the United States nor its enemies can seemingly understand this primal linkage. As a result, all states continue to be driven by policies that bring them neither personal satisfaction nor institutional safety. To the contrary, all they can continue to expect in a chaos-leaning Realpolitik world is a perpetual global landscape of war, terrorism and genocide. In the best of all possible worlds, however, humankind – recalling the ancient creed of Epicurus that death fear is foolish and irrational- would consider the one indispensable query:

What is death? A bogy. Turn it round and see what it is: you see it does not bite. The stuff of the body was bound to be parted from the airy element, either now or hereafter, as it existed apart from it before. Why then are you vexed if they are parted now? For if not parted now, they will be hereafter. Why so? That the revolution of the universe may be accomplished, for it has need of things present, things future, and things past and done with.”[14]

There is more. All states fail to understand that death is generally identified by their enemies as a zero-sum event. Anything that is done to sustain one’s own national survival invariably represents, for these enemy states, an intolerable threat to their own “lives” and a diminution of their own power. Reciprocally, anything that is done to effectively eliminate hated enemies must expectedly enhance their collective life and augment their collective power. Ideally, these strategies will fare best whenever God is “on our side.”[15]

There is still more. Because of the deeply intimate associations between collectivities/macrocosm (states) and (microcosm) individuals, the reciprocal life advantages of death and dying can be enjoyed doubly.

“Normally,” even if only at a subconscious level, the living person never really considers himself more powerful than at the very moment when he faces the dying person. Here, as we may learn again from Elias Canetti, the living human being comes as close as he or she can to encountering genuine feelings of personal immortality. In roughly similar fashion, the “living” nation-state never really regards itself as more powerful than at that moment when it confronts the apparently impending “death” of a despised enemy state. Only slightly less power-granting are those reassuring sentiments that arise from confrontation with a “dying” enemy state; that is, the same sentiments experienced by a belligerent state that seeks some tangible “victory” over another.

 In both cases, personal and collective, convention, good taste and sometimes skilled statecraft require that zero-sum feelings about death and power be suppressed. Such polite feelings ought not to be flaunted; nonetheless, they do remain prospectively vital and determinative.


               Oddly, perhaps, in all world politics, power is so closely attached to the presumed conquest of death(national and personal) that core connections have been overlooked. As a result, students and practitioners of international relations continue to focus mainly on epiphenomena, on easily recognizable ideologies, identifiable territories, tangible implements of warfare (arms control and disarmament) and so on. The problem is not that these conspicuous factors are unimportant to power, but rather that they are of a manifestly secondary or reflected importance.

There is more. During a war, any war, the individual soldier, a person who ordinarily cannot experience satisfyingly tangible power during peacetime, is offered an utterly unique opportunity to remedy such absence. Inter alia, the pervasive presence of dead bodies in war cannot be minimized. Actually and incontestably, it is a central fact of belligerency. To wit, the soldier who is surrounded by corpses and knows that he is not yet one of them is “normally” imbued with an absolute radiance of invulnerability, of immortality, of monumental and perhaps incomparable power.

Reciprocally, and in like fashion, the state that commands its soldiers to kill and not to die, “feels” similarly great power at the removal of a collective adversary. This surviving state, like the surviving individual warrior, is transformed, indisputably and correspondingly, into a potentially primal source of everlasting life. Such abstract observations are hardly fashionable among general populations; they may even appear barbarous and uncivilized. Yet, for now at least, scholars should be seeking not to prescribe more appropriate behavior for states, but rather to accurately describe such behavior. This means looking behind the daily news.

Always, truth must be exculpatory. True observations may sometimes be indecipherable or objectionable; but they are no less true.

               In an apparent paradox, some of America’s non-state enemies also seek to “remain standing” vis-a-vis the United States, to seek power in the life-or-death struggle against a despised “other.” One must say “apparent paradox” here because some of America’s terrorist enemies seem not only unconcerned about being able to remain standing, but actually seek to die themselves. In these cases, it would appear, quite literally, that the perpetrators do “love death.”[16]

               What is most important to understand here is that “to die for the sake of God” in these calculations is actually to not die at all. For example, by “dying” in a divinely commanded act of killing presumed enemies the Jihadist terrorist really does seek to conquer death, which he fears with a special terror, by “living forever.” Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosopher Tertullian. “I believe because it is absurd.”

Paradoxically, the “love of death” described by Jihadist terrorists is the ironic consequent of an all-consuming wish to avoid death. Since the death that this enemy “loves” is temporary and temporal, leading “in fact” to a permanent reprieve from any real death, accepting it as a tactical expedient becomes an easy matter. If, for any reason, the normally welcome death of an individual engaged in “holy war” were not expected to ensure an authentic life ever-after, its immense attractions would immediately be reversed.

America’s non-state terrorist enemies, in the fashion of its state enemies, also seek to “remain standing,” and to believe that this critical objective can be realized only when America –  the hated individual person in macrocosm – has already become the dead man lying down. Whenever the civilized and decent human being watching evening news about the latest suicide bombing asks incredulously, “Why do they inflict such horror?” there is an ascertainably correct answer: “They do this,” goes this reply, “out of an unhindered passion for the ultimate form of power; that is, to acquire power over death.”

The greater the number of enemy corpses, the more powerful terrorists will feel. Real power, understood as an irremediably zero-sum commodity, is always to gain in “aliveness” through inflicting death upon enemies.


An enemy, whether state or non-state, cannot possibly kill as many foes as his primal passion for survival may demand. This means, among other intersecting considerations, that he may seek to induce or direct others to satisfy this particular passion. As a practical matter, this deflecting behavior points toward an undeniable impulse for genocide, an inclination that could be actualized, in the future, by adversarial resort to higher-order forms of terrorism (chemical/biological/nuclear), and/or to crimes against humanity.[17]

The United States still has much to learn. But before its leaders can fully understand the true nature of enemy intentions and capabilities, they must first acknowledge the most primary connections between power and survival. Once it can be understood that enemy definitions of the former are contingent upon loss of the latter, these leaders will be positioned intellectually to take appropriate remedial action.

Always, the true goal of certain adversaries is as grotesque as it is unrecognized. This goal is to be left standing while assorted others are made to disappear. These relentless enemies must survive just so that their enemies do not. They cannot, by this zero-sum reasoning, survive together. So long as the enemy is “allowed” to exist, no matter how cooperative or congenial it has been, some states will not feel safe. They will not feel powerful. They will not feel power over death.

It is always a mistake to believe that Reason governs the world.[18] The true source of governance on this imperiled planet is power, and power is ultimately the conquest of personal death. This conquest, which displays a zero-sum quality among enemies, is not limited to conflicts in any one region. Rather, it is always a generic matter, a more or less universal effort that is made especially manifest between enemies. On this generic matter, one should consider the revealing remark of Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco in his Journal in 1966. Describing killing as a purposeful affirmation of one’s own survival, Ionesco observed:

I must kill my visible enemy, the one who is determined to take my life, to prevent him from killing me. Killing gives me a feeling of relief, because I am dimly aware that in killing him, I have killed death. My enemy’s death cannot be held against me, it is no longer a source of anguish, if I killed him with the approval of society; that is the purpose of war. Killing is a way of relieving one’s feelings, of warding off one’s own death.[19]

There is more. While certain enemies accept the zero-sum linkages between power and survival, others do not. Although this may suggest that some states stand on an enviably higher moral plane than their enemies, it may also place the high-minded or virtuous state at a security disadvantage, one that will make it too difficult to “remain standing.” This disturbingly consequential asymmetry between state enemies may be addressed by reducing certain adversarial emphases on power-survival connections, and/or by increasing enemy emphases on power-survival connections.

Questions must be asked. Must a state ultimately become barbarous in order to endure? Must it “learn” to identify true power with survival over others, a predatory species survival that cannot abide the survival of enemies?[20]

Prima facie, what is required is not a replication of enemy leadership crimes,[21] but policies that finally recognize death-avoidance as the essential starting point fornational security and national defense. With such recognition, visceral hostility and existential threat[22]could be rejected in toto, and an altogether new ethos – one based on a firm commitment to “remain standing” at all costs[23]– could be implemented.[24]


Core changes are necessary. All must finally rid themselves of the retrograde notion that killing another can confer immunity from personal mortality. In his Will Therapy and Truth and Reality, psychologist Otto Rank affirms: “The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the Sacrifice, of the Other. Through the death of the Other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of being killed.” What is being described here is still the greatest form of power discoverable anywhere:  power over death. Americans and other residents of a deeply interconnected planet have a right to expect that any president of the United States or major world leader would attempt to understand these complex linkages.

At a minimum, all of our national policies must build upon more genuinely intellectual and scientific[25]sorts of understanding.

               Always, our “just wars,”[26] counter-terrorism conflicts and anti-genocide programs must be fought or conducted as intricate contests of mind over mind, and not just as narrowly tactical struggles of mind over matter.

                Only a dual awareness of our common human destination, which is death, and the associated futility of sacrificial violence, can offer an accessible “medicine” against foreseeable adversaries in the global “state of nature.”  Only this difficult awareness can we relieve an otherwise incessant and still-ascending Hobbesian war of “all against all.”[27]

               More than ever before, history deserves reasonable pride of place. The United States, America’s current president should recall, was founded upon the philosophy of Hobbes and the religion of Calvin. Nonetheless, this means something very different in 2021 than it did back in 1787.

               What should this particular history now signify for American foreign policy preparation? This is not an insignificant query, but it does presuppose an American democracy founded upon authentic learning, not (recalling the Trump presidency) on flippantly corrosive clichés or abundantly empty witticisms. In this connection, individual human death fear has much to do with a better understanding of America’s national security prospects. Only a people who can feel deeply within itself the unalterable fate and suffering of a broader global population will ever be able to decently embrace compassion, coexistence and empathy.

               In the end, a “triumph of death” in one form or another is irresistible and inevitable, and attempts to avoid death by killing certain “despised others” are both futile and inglorious. Going forward, therefore, it is high time for new and more creative thinking about global security and human immortality. Instead of simply denying death, a cowardly and potentially corrosive emotion that Sigmund Freud labeled “wish fulfillment” in The Future of an Illusion(1927), we must finally acknowledge the obvious, and view it as a too-long-overlooked blessing. Ultimately, with such an eleventh-hour acknowledgment, all people and all nations on this endangered planet could begin to think more insightfully about our immutably common destiny. In turn, this means using an always-overriding human commonality as the secure basis for expanding empathy and worldwide cooperation.


               This is a visionary and fanciful prescription, one rather unlikely to be grasped in time. But there is still a plausible way to begin. This way would require the leaders of all major states to recognize that they are not in any meaningful way “world powers” (all are equally “mortal;” none have any verifiable “power over death”) and that a coordinated retreat from Realpolitik or traditional geopolitical competition would now be self-interested.

               There are other considerations. The primary planetary survival task is a markedly intellectual one, but unprecedented human courage will also be needed. For the required national leadership initiatives, we could have no good reason to ever expect the arrival of a Platonic philosopher-king;[28] still, even some ordinary political leaders could conceivably prove themselves up to the extraordinary task at hand. For this to happen, enlightened citizens of all countries must first cast aside all historically discredited ways of thinking about world politics, and (per the specific insights of  twentieth-century  German thinker Karl Jaspers) do whatever possible to elevate empirical science and “mind” over blind faith and stultifying “mystery.”[29]

               “In endowing us with memory,” writes philosopher George Santayana, “nature has revealed to us a truth utterly unimaginable to the unreflective creation, the truth of mortality[30]. The more we reflect, the more we live in memory and idea, the more convinced and penetrated we shall be by the experience of death; still, without really knowing it, this very conviction and experience will have raised us, in a way, above mortality.”

               The legacy of Westphalia (1648 treaty)[31] includes sacrilization of the state. Although we may discover such murderous sacrilization in the writings of Hegel, Fichte, von Treitschke and various others, there have also always been voices of a different sort. For Nietzsche, the state is “the coldest of all cold monsters.”  It is, he says in Zarathustra, “for the superfluous that the state was invented.” In a similar vein, we may consider the corroborating view of Jose Ortega y’Gasset in the Revolt of the Masses. Here, the Spanish philosopher identifies the state as “the greatest danger, always mustering its immense resources “to crush beneath it any creative minority which disturbs it….”

In all global politics, it now warrants further repeating, there can be no greater form of presumed power than power over death.


               For the most part, it is not for us to choose when we should die.  Instead, our words, our destinies, will lie far beyond any discernible considerations of conscious decision or individual selection. Still, we can choose to recognize our shared human fate and especially our derivative interdependence. This unbreakable intellectual recognition could carry with it significant global promise, one that remained distressingly distant and unacknowledged in the dissembling Trump White House years.

               Much as we might prefer to comfort ourselves with various qualitative presumptions of societal hierarchy and national differentiation – the stock in trade of Donald J. Trump’s administration – we humans are all pretty much the same.[32] Already, this incontestable sameness is plainly manifest to capable scientists and physicians. Our single most important human similarity, and the one least subject to any reasonable hint of counter-argument, is that we all die.

               It is from the universal terror of this common fate that Westphalian law invests nation-states with the singularly “sacred” attributes of sovereignty.

               And it is from the incontestable commonality of death that humankind can finally escape from the predatory embrace of power politics or Realpolitik in world politics.

               Ironically, whatever our more-or-less divergent views on what might actually happen to us after death, the basic mortality that we share could still represent the last best chance we have for viable global coexistence and governance. This is the case, however, only if we can first accomplish the astoundingly difficult leap from acknowledging a shared fate as mortal beings to “operationalizing” our species’ more expressly generalized feelings of empathy and cooperation.

               There is more. Across an entire planet, we can care for one another as humans, but only after we have first accepted that the judgment of a resolutely common fate will not be waived by any harms that we may choose to inflict upon “others,” that is, upon the “unworthy.” While markedly less than obvious, modern crimes of war, terror, and genocide are often “just” sanitized expressions of religious sacrifice. In the most starkly egregious instances, any corresponding violence could represent a consummate human hope of overcoming private mortality through the targeted mass killing or exclusion of certain specific “outsiders.”

               It’s a murderous calculus, and not a new thought. Consider psychologist Ernest Becker’s ironic paraphrase of Elias Canetti in Escape from Evil:  “…. each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.”

There is a deeply insightful observation latent in this idea. It is the uniquely dangerous notion that killing can confer immunity from one’s own mortality. Similarly, inWill Therapy and Truth and Reality, psychologist Otto Rank affirms: “The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the Sacrifice, of the Other. Through the death of the Other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of being killed.” What is being described here is plainly the greatest form of power discoverable anywhere:  power over death.


               Americans and various other residents of our interconnected planet have a right to expect that any president of the United States should attempt to seriously understand such vital and complex linkages. Here, America’s national policies must build upon more genuinely intellectual sorts of understanding.[33] Always, our just wars, counter-terrorism conflicts, and anti-genocide programs must be fought or conducted as fully intricate contests of mind over mind, and not just as narrowly tactical struggles of mind over matter.

                Only a dual awareness of our common human destination, which is death, and the associated futility of sacrificial violence, can offer accessible “medicine” against North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, and assorted other more-or-less foreseeable adversaries in the global “state of nature.”  This “natural” condition of anarchy was already well known to the Founding Fathers of the United States (most of whom had read Locke, Rousseau, Grotius, Hobbes, Vattel and Blackstone[34]). Now, only this difficult awareness can relieve an otherwise incessant and still-ascending Hobbesian war of “all against all.”

               More than ever before, history deserves a reasonable pride of place. America was expressly founded upon the philosophy of Hobbes and the religion of Calvin. But this means something quite different in 2021 than it did in 1787.

               What should this particular history signify for Biden White House foreign policy preparation? This is not an insignificant query, but it does presuppose an American democracy founded upon some serious measures of authentic learning, not on flippantly corrosive clichés or abundantly empty witticisms. For the foreseeable future, however, this is not really a plausible presupposition.[35]

               Human death fear has much to do with acquiring a better understanding of America’s current enemies, both national and sub-national (terrorist).  Reciprocally, only a people who can feel deeply within itself the unalterable fate and suffering of a much broader global population will ever be able to embrace compassion and “rationally” reject collective violence. To be sure, this new American president should prepare to understand what this implies, both with pointedly specific reference to the United States and to this country’s various (and still increasing) state and sub-state adversaries.

               Always, the existence of system in the world is obvious, immutable and pertinent.[36]During the Trump era, “America First” meant America Alone and America Last. America could never have been truly “first” so long as (1) its president insisted upon achieving such exalted status at the grievous expense of so many others; and (2) while failing to understand that international law remains part of the law of the United States. To once again seek to secure ourselves by diminishing others would merely be a retrograde playbook forever-recurrent instances of war, terror and genocide.

               In the end, of course, for all humankind, as an irremediable element of biology, the “triumph of death” is inevitable. Attempts to somehow avoid death by killing certain despised “others”[37] are feeble, futile and inglorious. Going forward, therefore, it is high time for new and more creative thinking about global security and human immortality.

               Instead of denying death, a cowardly and potentially corrosive emotion that Sigmund Freud persuasively labeled “wish fulfillment” (see The Future of an Illusion, 1927), we must sincerely acknowledge the obvious, and as a long-overlooked blessing.  With just such an eleventh-hour acknowledgment, all people and all nations on this imperiled planet could finally begin to draw purposefully from our immutably common destiny – that is, from our very plainly shared mortality. Among other things, this means using that always-overriding “oneness”[38] as the intellectual basis for expanding empathy and its closely-corresponding pattern of worldwide integration.[39]

               All this is, to be sure, a visionary and fanciful prescription, one unlikely to be grasped in time. But there is still a practical way to begin. It would require the leaders of major states to recognize that they can never in any genuinely meaningful way be “world powers” in a global “state of nature” (all here are equally “mortal;”none has any “power over death”) and that a coordinated retreat from Realpolitik and interminable geopolitical competition would be both self-interested and indispensable.


               It follows from all this that the primary planetary survival task is a markedly intellectual one, a disciplined matter of “mind,” but courage will also be needed, unprecedented courage. To meet required national leadership initiatives, we could have no defensible reason to expect the timely arrival of a Platonic philosopher-king,[40] but even some ordinary political leaders could conceivably be up to the herculean task, that is, to become extraordinary. For this to happen,  enlightened citizens of all countries would first have to cast aside all historically discredited ways of thinking about global survival, and do whatever deemed possible to elevate science over continuous blind faith and contrived “mystery.”[41]

               “In endowing us with memory,” writes George Santayana, “nature has revealed to us a truth utterly unimaginable to the unreflective creation….the truth of mortality….The more we reflect, the more we live in memory and idea, the more convinced and penetrated we shall be by the experience of death; yet, without knowing it, perhaps, this very conviction and experience will have raised us, in a way, above mortality.”[42]

               Though few will actually understand, such a “raising” is necessarily antecedent to human survival in world politics, though only if it is linked purposefully and self-consciously to global integration.“Is it an end that draws near,” inquired philosopher Karl Jaspers, “or a beginning?” The correct answer will depend, in large part, on what another major post-war philosopher had to say about the Jungian/Freudian “mass.”

                In his classic study, Being and Time (1953), Martin Heidegger laments what he calls, in German, das Mann, or “The They.”  Drawing fruitfully upon certain earlier seminal insights of Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard as well as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, Heidegger’s “The They” represents the ever-present herd, crowd, horde or mass, an “untruth” (the term favored by Kierkegaard) that can quickly suffocate vital intellectual growth.  For Heidegger’s “The They,” the crowning untruth lies in its acceptance of immortality at both institutional and personal levels, and its encouragement of the falsely seductive notion that personal power over death is associated with (or derivative from) the “sacredness” of nation-states.


               The arena of world politics (macrocosm) is endlessly violent because individual human beings(microcosm)compulsively fear death. Though widely unacknowledged and patently ironic, the murderous connections are longstanding and difficult to dispute. Already, back in the 19th century, Heinrich von Treitschke convincingly linked world politics and “earthly immortality.” And even before this author of Lectures on Politics, George F. Hegel had identified the state in The Philosophy of Right as the “march God in the world.”

               Ultimately, states battle against other states amid Westphalian anarchy not for geopolitical primacy, but for individual human salvation. While the predictable result of such battles has always been death and mega death, not eternal or even longer life, an overriding mythology still endures. This is the lethal conviction that it is in war, not perpetual peace, that humans are able to acquire power over death. Sometimes, this acquisition is intended to be direct – that is, an immediate consequence of killing on the side of God. More generally, however, such power over death devolves indirectly to general populations that are not actually involved in the business of killing.

               Even such de facto “bystanders” can have “God on their side.”

               None of this is to wholly deny the validity of more traditionally accepted explanations of Realpolitik or power politics, namely that these struggles are about tangible goods, geography or “national security.” These conspicuous and common explanations are not “wrong”; they are however, trivial and epiphenomenal. Such explanations are generally “correct,” but merely as secondary reflections of what is most fundamentally important.

               In William Goldings’ classic novel, Lord of the Flies, the marooned boys make grotesquely ritualistic war upon one another because they have been thrust into a netherworld of fear and chaos, but only because this dissembling exile from “civilization” threatens them with personal death. Indeed, it is only after they have settled upon an amorphous but ubiquitous horror(“the beast”)that they decide to wage a titanic struggle to survive, a struggle that bears uncanny resemblance to the “normal” dynamics of world politics. In what amounts to yet another irony of inflicting death to bring freedom from death, the suffering boys are rescued by an English military ship, a naval vessel that will now transport them from their literally primal state of nature on the island to the more “civilized” state of nature in world politics.

               In essence, readers learn, the rancorous and barbarous conditions that obtained on the deserted island were actually just a microcosm of the wider system of international relations. But who can now rescue this wider system of Realpolitik from itself? Before we can meaningfully answer this core question, scholars and policy-makers will need to probe more closely behind the visible events the day, beyond mere reflection. Above all, this probe will have to be suitably theoretical.

                Theoretic generality is a trait of all serious scientific meaning, and scientific inquiry in such matters is indispensable.[43]

               In the beginning, in that primal promiscuity in which the lethal swerve toward politics first arose, forerunners of modern nation-states established a system of perpetual struggle and violent conflict, a system absolutely destined to fail.  Captivated by this self-destroying system of international relations, states still allow the degrading spirit of Realpolitik to spread everywhere unchecked, like an ideological gangrene on the surface of the earth. Rejecting all pertinent standards of logic and correct reasoning, this inherently false consciousness of power politics imposes no reasonable standards upon itself. It continues to be rife, despite its endless rebuffs. Somehow, Realpolitik takes its long history of defeat as victory. Prima facie, it’s a-historical proponents have never learned anything.

               The vast majority of human beings are unable to accept the biological truth of mortality.[44] Understood in terms of world politics, this suggests, inter alia, that state sovereignty will likely continue to be viewed by many as a suitable  institutional antidote to personal death. To be sure, such a view may not be explicitly apparent even to Realpolitik adherents, and it would very likely disregard certain palpable benefits other than a presumed power over death (e.g., enhanced personal status of belonging to a “powerful” country). Nonetheless, it is a perspective that will not simply fade away graciously on its own.

               It is high time for candor. Whatever our in-principle preferences, the plain fact of having been born augurs badly for the promise of immortality. Accordingly, the primal human inclination to deny an apparently unbearable truth will continue to generate the same terrors from which we allegedly seek refuge. The irony is staggering, but incontestable.

               In its obvious desperation to live perpetually, humankind has embraces a cornucopia of faiths that offer life everlasting is exchange for unchallengeable loyalty. Such loyalty is then transferred from faith to State, which battles (or prepares to battle) with other states. Though historians, political scientists and pundits routinely describe such conflicts as a tangible struggle for secular influence (power politics), it is often something different altogether. This is a struggle between Good and Bad, Right and Wrong, Decency and Indecency, even the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of Darkness.” In this last example, apocalyptic imagery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is invoked not because any or all of a combatant state’s rationale is necessarily religious, but because such imagery best portrays the enormity of ideological attachments.

               In the United States, ideas of prevailing apocalyptic contest obtained widely during the 1950s Eisenhower years, and also later during the Reagan Administration.[45] More recently, Donald Trump’s core message of “American First” was assuredly not without underlying or implicit references to righteous struggles in world politics with
“God on our Side.” Unambiguously, for several million Trump supporters, their leader’s slogan of “America First” was essentially an eschatological code term used to signal impending End Times.

               “Death,” says Norbert Elias, “is the absolute end of the person. So the greater resistance to its demythologization perhaps corresponds to the greater magnitude of danger experienced.”[46] Now, major state sin world politics must strive more vigorously to reduce the magnitude and likelihood of anticipated existential danger. In this connection, they must remain wary of planting new false hopes that offer only illusions of personal survival through perpetual international war or war-planning.

               Today, the world is still full of noise and gratuitous rancor, but it is still possible to listen for real “music.” For this to happen, leaders, citizens and subjects will first have to detach themselves from mythical promises of power over death. In the most promising of all possible worlds, the underlying human death fear could itself be made to disappear,[47] but this prospect seems very blatantly unreal. It follows, conspicuously, that vastly more “gentle” foundations will be required for world politics –foundations other than the conflictual dynamics of Realpolitik. Happily, such foundations have already been identified and crystallized in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s fruitful concept of “Planetization.”

               What does this really mean? At its core, planetization is not just one step further along the incremental continuum of authority from “civilization.” Rather, it represents the very opposite of civilization.[48] Looking ahead, moreover, a meaningful emphasis on global “oneness” or planetization represents humankind’s only real hope for survival. Both scholars and statesmen must expressly affirm that such survival is first and foremost an intellectual obligation, one that can be satisfied not by pre-scientific hopes for nation-state “victories” amid Realpolitik, but by concrete steps toward worldwide cooperation.

               It is time for candor, We are all mortal; we all die. The point of global survival is not to deny such an incontestably common fate, but to draw most productively upon it for planet-wide reconciliations.[49] What we need now most on this grievously imperiled planet is not a continuously mistaken focus on simplistic reflections of reality or epiphenomena[50]  (think here of America’s obsessive daily focus on transient political personalities and superficial news makers), but authentically durable archetypes of global restructuring.[51] Inevitably, such pie-in-the-sky recommendation will generally be dismissed as naïve or “visionary,” but – as we may still learn usefully from Italian film maker Federico Fellini – “The visionary is the only realist.”


[1] Such politics define a “vigilante” or “Westphalian” system. For legal origins, se: 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. Also, in pertinent international law, there are certain core obligations that each state owes to every other state, individually and collectively.

[2]See, by this author: Louis René Beres

[3]  “It must not be forgotten,” says Guilaume Apollinaire, in The New Spirit and the Poets (1917), “that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.”

[4] All history has a subjective element.  In the words of Oswald Spengler (The Decline of the West, 1918): “Every culture and every period has its own way of regarding history. There is no such thing as history in itself.”

[5]In world politics, says philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, any deeply-felt promise of immortality is of “transcendent importance.”  Seehis Religion in the Making, 1927.

[6] While this connection is most obvious inmatters concerning Jihadist terrorism, it is also found in certainmore orthodox mass casualty behaviors of international war. See, on Jihadist terror and power over death, by this author: Louis René Beresfile:///C:/Users/lberes/AppData/Local/Temp/Sacred%20Violence%20Religion%20and%20Terrorism.pdf

 and Louis René Beres, file:///C:/Users/lberes/AppData/Local/Temp/Religious%20Extremism%20and%20International%20Legal%20Norms%20Perfidy%20Preem.pdf

[7]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 genocidal conduct may derive from a source other than the Gen­ocide Convention (i.e. it may emerge from customary international law and be included in different international conventions), such conduct is dearly a crime under international law. Even where the conduct in question does not affect the interests of more than one state, it becomes an inter­national crime whenever it constitutes an offense against the world community delicto ius gentium. See M.C. Bassiouni, International Criminal Law: A Draft International Criminal Code 30‑44 (1980). See also Bassiouni, “The Penal Characteristics of Conventional International Criminal Law,” 15 Case W. Res. J. Int’l 27‑37 (1983).

[8] Still the best scholarly clarification of these connections are René Girard, Violence and the Sacred (1977) and René Girard, The Scapegoat (1986).

[9]See, by this author, Louis René Beres:

[10] On the various meanings of Realpolitik, see, by this author, Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984).

[11] See # 1, supra. This references a continuing process of threat, counter-threat and war.

[12]This brings to mind the closing query of Agamemnon in The Oresteia by Aeschylus: “Where will it end? When will it all be lulled back into sleep, and cease, the bloody hatreds, the destruction”?

[13] See Louis René Beres, “Self-Determination, International Law and Survival on Planet Earth,”Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 11, No.1., pp. 1-26.

[14] See Epicurus, The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers (Whitney H. Oates et al., 1940), p. 282.

[15] G.F.  Hegel goes even further, saying in Philosophy of Right(1821) that the state is nothing less than “the march of God in the world.” Through the ages, and with “God on our Side,” conflicting states and religions have asserted that personal immortality can sometimes be achieved, but only at the sacrificial expense of certain despised “others,” of “heathen,” “blasphemers,” “apostates.” When he painted The Triumph of Death in ca. 1562, Peter Bruegel drew upon his direct personal experience with religious war and disease plague.  Already in the sixteenth century, he had understood that any intersection of these horrors (one man-made, the other natural) could be ill-fated, force-multiplying and even synergistic. This last term describes results wherein the “whole” outcome exceeds the calculable sum of all constituent “parts.”

[16]See, for example, by this author: Louis René Beres, “Martyrdom and International Law,” Jurist, September 10, 2018; and Louis René Beres, “Religious Extremism and International Legal Norms: Perfidy, Preemption and Irrationality,” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 39, No.3., 2007-2008, pp. 709-730.

[17]For definition of Crimes Against Humanity, see: Agreement for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis Powers and Charter of the International Military Tribunal, done at London, August 8, 1945, 59 Stat. 1544, 82 U.N.T.S. 279 (entered into force, August 8, 1945).

[18]See Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952).

[19] This comment from Ionesco’s Journal appeared in British Magazine Encounter (May 1966). See also: Eugene Ionesco, Fragments of a Journal (Grove Press, 1968). Elsewhere, says Ionesco, “People kill and are killed in order to prove to themselves that life exists.” See the distinguished dramatist’s only novel, The Hermit 102 (1973).

[20]Such questions have been raised by this author for many years, but usually in explicit reference to more broadly theoretical or generic nuclear threats. See, for example, Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (1972); Louis René Beres, Terrorism and Global Security: The Nuclear Threat (1979; second edition, 1987); Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984); Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (1986); and Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (2016).

[21]Under international law, which is also law of the United States, responsibility of national leaders forinternational crimes is not limited by official position or by requirement of direct personal actions.  On the principle of command responsibility, or respondeat superior, see: In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1945); The High Command Case (The Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb) 12 LAW REPORTS OF TRIALS OF WAR CRIMINALS 1, 71 (United Nations War Crimes Commission Comp. 1949); see: Parks, COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY FOR WAR CRIMES, 62 MIL.L.REV. 1 (1973); O’Brien, THE LAW OF WAR, COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY AND VIETNAM, 60 GEO.L.J. 605 (1972); U.S. DEPT OF THE ARMY, ARMY SUBJECT SCHEDULE No. 27 – 1 (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Hague Convention No. IV of 1907) 10 (1970).  The direct individual responsibility of leaders for genocide and genocide-like crimes is unambiguous in view of the London Agreement, which denies defendants the protection of the Act of State defense.  See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS, Aug. 8, 1945, 59 Strat.  1544, E.A.S.  No. 472, 82 U.N.T.S.  279, Art. 7.  Under traditional international law, violations were the responsibility of the state, as a corporate actor, and not of the individual human decision-makers in government and in the military.

[22]On the prospective lawfulness of such threats, including nuclear threats and even actual nuclear engagement, see: “Summary of the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons,” Advisory Opinion, 1996, I.C.J., 226 (Opinion of 8 July 1996). The key conclusion of this Opinion is as follows: “…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.”

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

[24]The precise origins of anticipatory self-defense in customary law lie in the Caroline, a case that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. Following this case, the serious threat of armed attack has generally justified certain militarily defensive actions. 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 did not require an antecedent attack. Here, the jurisprudential framework permitted a military response to a threat so long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” See: Beth M. Polebaum, “National Self-defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,” 59 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 187, 190-91 (1984) (noting that the Caroline case had transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a legal doctrine). Still earlier, see: Hugo Grotius, Of the Causes of War, and First of Self-Defense, and Defense of Our Property, reprinted in 2 Classics of International Law, 168-75 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1925) (1625); and Emmerich de Vattel, The Right of Self-Protection and the Effects of the Sovereignty and Independence of Nations, reprinted in 3 Classics of International Law, 130 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1916) (1758). Also, Samuel Pufendorf, The Two Books on the Duty of Man and Citizen According to Natural Law, 32 (Frank Gardner Moore., tr., 1927 (1682).

[25]Says Jose Ortega y’Gassett about science (Man and Crisis, 1958): “Science, by which I mean the entire body of knowledge about things, whether corporeal or spiritual, is as much a work of imagination as it is of observation…. The latter is not possible without the former.”

[26] See especially Hugo Grotius (The Law of War and Peace, 1625); Christian Wolff, The Law of Nations Treated According to the Scientific Method (1749) and Samuel Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man, According to the Law of Nature (1735). Worth noting here is that though the Founding Fathers of the United States were well familiar with Grotius, Wolff and Pufendorf, these names would go wholly unrecognized today by the US Congress.

[27] Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan still offers an illuminating and enduring vision of chaos in world politics. Says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII, “Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery:” during chaos, a condition which Hobbes identifies as a “time of War,” it is a time “…where every man is Enemy to every man… and where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” At the time of writing, Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition existing among individual human beings -because of what he called the “dreadful equality” of individual men in nature being able to kill others – but this once-relevant differentiation has effectively disappeared with the global spread of nuclear weapons.

[28] See by this author, at Oxford University Press, Louis RenéBeres:

[29] See Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952).

[30] See observation by philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, God, Death and Time (1993): “An immortal person is a contradiction in terms.” (p. 45).

[31]The condition of anarchy, which has its codified origins at the Peace of Westphalia,stands in marked contrast to the jurisprudential assumption of solidarity between all states in the presumably common struggle against aggression and terrorism. Such a peremptory expectation (known formally in international law as a jus cogens assumption), is already mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 C.E.); Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli Ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey, tr., Clarendon Press, 1925) (1690); Emmerich De Vattel, 1 Le Droit des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758).

[32]We may also think here of an applicable Talmudic metaphor: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.”

[33] Useful hereare the more deeply philosophical insights of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man (1955):”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. No element could move and grow except with and by all the others with itself.”

[34] According to Blackstone, echoing Vattel, each state and nation is 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.

[35] Anti-intellectualism has always been a large part of American political life. Ironically, 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. See also the authoritative volume by Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (1959).

[36] In the precise words of philosopher and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his The Phenomenon of Man: “The existence of system in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature….”

[37] Such attempts may be more appealing during times of disease pandemic, when the “benefits” of scapegoating are especially palpable. During the medieval Black Death, for example, it was common to blame the Jews as well poisoners. In the twentieth century, Third Reich propaganda was often deliberately propped up on the foundations of such previously orchestrated irrationality.

[38]Concerning such commonality or “oneness,” we may learn from Epictetus, the ancient Greek Stoic philosopher, “You are a citizen of the universe.” A still-broader idea of human singularity followed the death of Alexander in 322 BCE; with it came a coinciding doctrine of “universality” or interconnectedness. By the Middle Ages, this political and social doctrine had fused with the notion of a respublica Christiana, a worldwide Christian commonwealth, and Thomas, John of Salisbury and Dante were looking upon Europe as a single and unified Christian community. Below the level of God and his heavenly host, all the realm of humanity was to be considered as one. This is because all the world had been created for the same single and incontestable purpose; that is, to provide secular background for the necessary drama of human salvation. Here, only in its relationship to the universe itself, was the world considered as a part rather than a whole. Says 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 fully

justified/explained in more purely historical/philosophic terms of human understanding.

[39]There have been prophets of global integration in the modern era, especially Condorcet, Immanuel Kant, Auguste Comte and H.G. Wells. For the best treatment of these thinkers and their still-indispensable ideas, see W. Warren Wagar’s the City of Man (1963) and Building the City of Man: Outlines of a World Civilization (1971). Professor Wagar was a great visionary himself, one with whom I had the personal honor to work at Princeton (World Order Models Project) in the late 1960s.

[40] See, by this author, at Oxford University Press:  Louis René Beres,

[41] “There is something inside all of us,” writes philosopher Karl Jaspers, “that yearns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought but for the whisperings of the irrational.” (See Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time, 1952). Today, in the United States, the “mysteries” of QAnon should come readily to mind.

[42] See George Santayana, The Life of Reason or the Phases of Human Progress: Reason in Religion 260 (1905).

[43] “Theory is a net,” says the German poet Novalis in a quotation embraced by Karl Popper (The Logic of Scientific Discovery) “only those who cast, can catch.”

[44] This “truth” is perhaps best explained by the philosopher George Santayana in his Reason in Religion (1905).

[45] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984); and Louis René Beres, America Outside the World: The Collapse of US Foreign Policy (1987).

[46] See Norbert Elias, The Loneliness of the Dying 44 (1985).

[47]Fear of death, we have already seen in world politics, not only degrades normal life, it creates vast fieldsof premature corpses.

[48]In his Notes from Underground (1862): Dostoyevsky reminds us about civilization: “All it does, I’d say, is develop in man a capacity to feel a greater variety of sensations. And nothing, absolutely nothing else. And through this development man will yet learn how to better enjoy bloodshed.”

[49] Although he doesn’t ever approach these issues from the standpointof international relations or international law, the Basque philosopher Miguel de Unamuno best explains the most imaginative and profound connections between the ineradicable universality of death and what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin calls “planetization.” When I was still a “working professor” at Purdue University, I always advisedmy best students that Unamuno’s Tragic Sense of Life (1921) was the single most important book I had ever read. I continue to stand by this far-reaching assessment.

[50] The classic source of elucidating such a mistaken focus is, of course, Plato’s allegory of the cave in The Republic, an allegory wherein human beings never see reality, but only vague “shadows” of reality.

[51] On the meaning of such useful frames of reference, see: Elemire Zolla, Archetypes: The Persistence of Unifying Patterns (1981).

Continue Reading