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Seeking Power Over Death: Lethal Mainspring Of World Politics

Consequences of War by Peter Paul Rubens

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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]

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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]

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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.

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               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.

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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]

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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.

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               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.

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               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.

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               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.

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               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.

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               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 Bereshttps://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/reimagining-world-politics-longer-view-american-victory

[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: https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2013/03/08/iraq-afghanistan-and-the-end-of-winning-wars

[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:  https://blog.oup.com/2011/08/philosopher-king/

[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, https://blog.oup.com/2011/08/philosopher-king/

[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).

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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International Law

Legal Implications of Sea Level Rise for Small Island States

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A new World Bank study examining the potential legal implications of sea-level rise on the maritime and legal rights of Pacific Island nations provides a pathbreaking review of the key legal questions and highlights that some international legal conventions may need to be reconsidered.

The new study, Legal Dimensions of Sea Level Rise: Pacific Perspectives, sets out the latest developments in international law to support policy considerations now underway in the Pacific and around the world. The report assesses how states would defend their existing territories and marine resources in accordance with international law when dealing with rising seas and land loss.

Furthermore, the report considers more existential questions for these countries such as whether statehood could continue if a nation were to become uninhabitable and legal rights and implications for citizen mobility if people are to be relocated.

Global mean sea-level will continue to rise throughout the 21st century due to the effects of climate change. In many areas, this will result in increased coastal flooding, storm surges, cyclones and even land loss. In small Pacific atoll nations, these impacts are expected to be more severe, with entire islands at risk of becoming uninhabitable. Along with the loss of homes and resources, the loss of land to rising seas would also have profound impacts on countries’ legal and maritime rights.

“The impacts of climate change are a global concern, however the loss of territory is a real and clear threat to the very existence of Pacific states, and particularly atoll nations,” said Benoit Bosquet, World Bank Regional Director for Sustainable Development in East Asia and the Pacific. “Such impacts would be unprecedented and create similarly unprecedented legal questions. We hope this work will provide useful analysis for Pacific nations and small island states facing these unique and challenging questions.”

The Pacific region has been a leader in considering policy and legal options in the face of sea-level rise, most recently with the Members of the Pacific Island Forum endorsing the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change Related Sea Level Rise in August 2021.

While the report highlights a range of legal and policy tools available to island states, a re-examination of the current paradigms of international law are also suggested. One example is clarifying how territorial and maritime entitlements – including to resources – can be preserved in the face of rising sea levels. Something the Pacific Islands Forum’s recent Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones has just set out to do.

“As the impacts of climate change are being felt, it is clear that adaptation alone will not be sufficient for small island states such as the Marshall Islands,” said Acting RMI Chief Secretary, Catalino Kijiner. “This work will be helpful in informing government decision-making in the context of rising sea levels, and will help direct how the international community can best provide island and atoll nations with the support we need to address these unprecedented challenges.”

The study, authored by David Freestone and Duygu Cicek, has been developed as part of the World Bank’s work on Building Resilience in Pacific Atoll Island Countries with financing from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific supporting 87 projects totaling US$2.09 billion in commitments in sectors like agriculture, health, education and employment, climate resilience and adaptation, energy, fisheries, rural development, economic policy, macroeconomic management, aviation and transport, telecommunications, and tourism.

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International Law

Murderous Immortalities: Taliban Victory, Palestinian “Resistance” and Jihadi Terrorism

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afghanistan terrorism

An immortal person is a contradiction in terms.”-Emmanuel Levinas, God, Death and Time (2000)

Taliban Victory and Jihadi Terror: Strategic and Legal Connections

At the surface, there are no clear connections between Taliban victory in Afghanistan and wider Jihadi terrorism. Upon closer inspection, however, the Taliban triumph reflects more than Islamist success in just one country. Potentially, at least, strengthened Islamist governance in that perpetual battleground country will expand to other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

               In all likelihood, this corrosive expansion will be soon and possibly sudden.

               Further details are necessary. The Taliban’s rapid re-conquest of Afghanistan reenergized global jihad’s determined war against the “unbeliever,” especially the United States and Israel. Among other things, dramatic submission of the world’s principal superpower (the evident head of a “Zionist-Crusader alliance”) to Koran-directed “true believers” is being regarded by Islamist loyalists as an auspicious omen for “holy war.” For tangible example, the future of Palestinian “resistance” groups such as Hamas now appears substantially brighter. In this connection, though Hamas is a Sunni organization, it is still supported by Shiite Iran. Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad regard the US defeat in Afghanistan as a premonition of eventual operational success and as proof of divine guidance.[1]

               These are not exclusively military or religious issues. There are also various legal or judicial consequences to be considered.[2] To begin, the Palestinian insurgency is generally identified as “terrorism” by Israel and much of the West.[3] Even if assorted Palestinian fighting organizations could be granted “just cause” for their stated political objectives, the means they have chosen are often patently unjust.[4]

               Under authoritative law, the oft-repeated assertion that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is no more than an empty witticism. Under international law, insurgent resorts to force, even those with a presumptive just cause, become terrorism ipso facto when they are applied indiscriminately to targeted populations.[5] In essence, indictments of Palestinian armed force as terroristic are fully justified whenever insurgent fighters act against the codified[6] or customary rules of “proportionality,”[7] “discrimination” (“distinction”) and/or “military necessity.”[8]

               Under binding international law, which is always an integral part of United States domestic/municipal law,[9] even the “sacred” rights of insurgency must always exclude any deliberate targeting of civilians or resorts to force intended to inflict gratuitous suffering. Shallow political witticisms aside, no insurgent force can ever assert a right to employ “any means necessary.” Though such clichéd revolutionary slogans may prove useful in mobilizing popular Palestinian support against Israel, they have no valid jurisprudential content.[10]

Explicit Legal Standards

                Prima facie, the pertinent normative rules are unambiguous. In world law, any insurgency that intentionally blurs the lines between combatant and non-combatant populations is impermissible. Irrespective of any “just cause,” such insurgency is “terrorism.”[11] Moreover, in these easily recognizable matters, there can be  no proper legal exceptions and no legal defense arguments based on purportedly reciprocal wrongs.

               “Rights cannot derive from wrongs” remains a peremptory expectation of all international law.[12] Similarly, there can be no valid legal claims based on “the other side’s” alleged wrongdoing.

               In proper legal terminology, tu quoque, an argument that the “other side’s” transgressions justify “any means necessary,” has long been formally discredited. Under international law, any argument for tu quoque is inherently invalid after the landmark judgments handed down at Nuremberg (Germany) in 1945-46 and at the  later Far East (Japan)  ad hoc criminal tribunal.[13]

               For both Israeli (IDF) and Palestinian insurgent forces, the usual right to armed force[14] can never supplant the peremptory rules of humanitarian international law. Such primary or jus cogens rules (norms that permit “no derogation”[15]) are also correctly referenced as the law of armed conflict orthe law of war. Inter alia, attentiveness to this basic law must remain an integral part of any armed force’s military operations. This immutable law has evident doctrinal roots in the Hebrew Bible, the Law of Athens and in Roman Law (most notably Emperor Justinian’s Institutes).

               During Israel’s last Gaza war, diversionary legal manipulations by Hamas and its supporters were de rigeur. Again and again, without any legal basis, supporters of Palestinian terror-violence against Israeli noncombatants insisted that “the ends justify the means.” Leaving aside the ordinary ethical standards by which any such argument must always be characterized as indecent, the law is similarly plain: In any insurgency, even the most allegedly noble cause (ends) can neverjustify openly inhumane effects (means).

               In law, such matters are not complicated. For more than two thousand years, core legal principles have specified unequivocally that intentional violence against the innocent isprohibited. Always.

               In ongoing matters of terrorism and counter-terrorism, legal reasoning ought never be disregarded.[16] Clichés do not make sensible policies, nor do they make  authoritative law. In contemporary jurisprudence, one person’s terrorist can never be another’s “freedom-fighter.” Even presumptively allowable resorts to insurgent force must always conform to long-settled laws of war.

               The message is clear. International law cannot be invented and reinvented according to particular situations. It maintains very specific and determinable form and content. It cannot be defined and redefined by insurgent groups or by insurgent patrons. This is especially the case when insurgent violence intentionally targets a designated victim state’s most vulnerable civilian populations.

               In these cases, ipso facto, insurgent violenceis terror-violence.

               Sometimes we hear insurgent groups referenced as “national liberation movements.” Nonetheless, when such groups fail to meet the test of just means, they can never be protected as lawful or legitimate. Even if “compelling law” (“peremptory” or jus cogens rules) were to accept the factually questionable argument that certain terror groups had fulfilled broadly accepted criteria of “national liberation,” (e.g., Palestinian Hamas), they would still not satisfy the equally germane legal standards of discrimination, proportionality, and military necessity.

               Significantly, these core standards are not reserved to national armies. They are expressly applied to insurgent or sub-state armed forces by the common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and by the two 1977 Protocols to these Conventions.

               There is more. In law, all war[17] and insurgency is governed by ascertainably common standards of “humanity.”[18] These overarching criteria are binding upon all combatants by virtue of comprehensive customary and conventional international law, including Article 1 of the Preamble to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907. This foundational rule is generally called the “Martens Clause;” it makes all persons responsible for upholding the “laws of humanity” and the associated “dictates of public conscience.”

The Obligations of Comity

                World law requires continuous international cooperation, an obligation made most conspicuously famous by Emmerich de Vattel’s Law of Nations (1758) and William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769). Though probably unknown to a majority of practicing lawyers in the United States, Commentaries represent the literal foundation of United States domestic law.  

               Under an always-compulsory international law, terrorist crimes mandate universal cooperation in apprehension and punishment. As punishers of “grave breaches” under international law,[19] all states are expected to search out and prosecute (or extradite) individual terrorists. In no conceivable circumstances, and whatever the presumed expectations of religious faith, are states permitted to identify terrorist “martyrs” as “freedom fighters.”

               In law, we have seen, rights can never stem from wrongs.[20] Even if certain populations continue to insist on treating the most recalcitrant jihadist insurgents as “martyrs,” such treatment can have no exculpatory or mitigating effect on punishing attendant terror-crimes. Despite any alleged justness of cause, and this includes frequently-cited Palestinian references to “sovereignty” and “self-determination,” nothing in international law can justify the deliberate targeting of non-combatant Israeli populations.[21]

                There are certain notable jurisprudential ironies. During the last Gaza War, such targeting killed and injured not only Palestinians working in Israel, but also Thai agricultural laborers whose only reason for working in Israel was to support indigent families back home. “Credo quia absurdum,” said the ancient philosopher Tertullian. “I believe because it is absurd.”

                Several years back, Mohammed Deif, then leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, summed up his organization’s raison d’etre: “Our soldiers yearn for death, the way the Zionist soldiers yearn for life.” Though this succinct summary was more than just a bit misleading – after all, Hamas terrorists “yearn for death” only because they associate “martyrdom” with personal immortality – a consuming ambiance of death is still their preferred geostrategic orientation.[22]

Palestinian Insurgency Beginnings

                In some ways, at least for Hamas and other Palestinian insurgents,[23] those earlier days represent a sort of Dickensian “best of times.” Then, under a more broadly welcoming insurgent canopy, Palestinian “diversity” was able to emerge and strengthen. At that moment, even atheistic and Marxist elements were allowed to make some collaborative cause with Islamists, a phenomenon that would be unheard of today.

               There is more. Then, in deference to variously fundamental emphases on operational collaboration, no particular ideology was encouraged to become a singularly hegemonic orientation. This apparent largesse was evident even inside Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella terror group first formed in 1964. That seminal formation took place three years prior to the Six Day War; this means three years before there were any “Israel Occupied Territories.”

               What exactly was the PLO seeking to “liberate” during those years? This is not a difficult question. The answer was and remains all of Israel, the entire micro-state that is still identified on both Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas maps as “Occupied Palestine.”.

               Now, after America’s defeat in Afghanistan, only identifiable Jihadists – those who are properly versed in Ribat (religious conflict fighting for “Islamic land”) – will be invited to participate in the Jihadist’s “divinely-mandated” armed struggle. Overall, the Palestinian fight will continue to change from being a preeminently secular and tactical conflict to one that may wittingly ignore all more ordinary and usual strategic/legal imperatives. Still, this all-consuming “struggle” remains founded upon unwavering commitments to “sacred violence.”  At its conceptual heart, such struggle reveals present-day expressions of “religious sacrifice.”[24]

Violence and the Sacred

                For the Palestinian terror movement against Israel, violence and the sacred remain deeply interpenetrating and inherently inseparable. Though it maintains various more-or-less legitimate claims of “self-determination,” religious sacrifice is what Jihadi Palestinian insurgency is ultimately all about. To finally understand this key point represents a sine qua non of successful counter-terrorism. Without a deeper understanding of such primal content, neither Israel nor the United States could ever mount systematically effective counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East or North Africa.

               Foundational links between religious sacrifice and violent insurgency have a long and potentially instructive history. To acknowledge and gain useful insight from this chronology, planners and policy-makers may look back to ancient Greece, specifically, to Plutarch. Ideas of Palestinian-Islamic religious sacrifice are ferociously adversarial and explicitly Islamist, but they are not unprecedented.

                The first century biographer’s Sayings of Spartan Mothers can speak to current issues. Plutarch recognizes the honorable female parent as one who deliberately rears her sons for civic sacrifice. Always, such a venerated Greek mother was relieved to learn that her son had died “in a manner worthy of his self, his country and his ancestors.” On the other hand, “unworthy” Spartan sons who failed to live up to this enviably bold standard of sacrifice were singled out for severe reprimand, and extensive public humiliation.

               One woman, we may learn from Plutarch, whose son had been the sole survivor of a disastrous military engagement, killed him brutally with a tile. Culturally, it seems, this killing was the only fitting punishment for the son’s unpardonable cowardice. Later, the eighteenth-century Swiss (Genevan) philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, citing to Plutarch, described another citizen-mother’s tale as follows: “A Spartan woman had five sons in the army and was awaiting news of the battle.  A Helot (slave) arrives trembling; she asks him for the news. `Your five sons were killed.’  `Base slave, did I ask you that?’ The slave responds: `We won the victory.’  The mother runs to the temple, and gives enthusiastic thanks to the gods.”  

                There are serious lessons here for both Israel and the United States. Even now, and plausibly more so after Afghanistan, it is impossible to deny that the deepest roots of Jihadist terror originate from cultures that display similar views of religious sacrifice. Always, the key purpose of such ritualistic violence extends beyond any presumed expectations of civic necessity. Always, this rationale goes directly to the heart of individual human fear; that is, to the palpable font of existential dread.[25]

               Though bitterly ironic, any such primal fear of death is linked with martyr-centered terrorism, even today. For Palestinian terrorists, there are multiple accepted paths to immortality. Back in 2009, Palestinian-American terrorist, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, actively sought the death sentence for his murder spree at Fort Hood back on November 5 of that year. Per his explanation in open court, “If I die by lethal injection, I would still be a martyr.”

               What could be clearer? What earthly promise could possibly be more gratifying to this mass killer than a religiously pledged conferral of eternal life? Significant connections between existential dread and Jihadi terrorism are conspicuous and potentially insidious.

               At his or her existential core, the Hamas fighter is not primarily interested in land or equality or justice. This terrorist wittingly kills himself or herself, together with various innocent others, to ensure a personal life that will literally never end. Accordingly, the so-called “death” that he or she actually expects to suffer in consequence of this “sacrificial “suicide” is really nothing more than a momentary inconvenience. In the final tally, it represents just a vaguely minor distraction.

               In such matters, truth may emerge through paradox. Hamas and otherPalestinian “martyrs” kill themselves as “suicides” in order not to die. There is no more central truth to Jihadi terror that is so consistently ignored or widely misunderstood.

               There is more. While seemingly irrational, the Jihadi martyr, the Shahid, can still calculate rationally that his/her intended suicide will be “cost-effective. This hero-fighter, after all, is embarked on what is presumed to be a divinely-guided trajectory. He/she has chosen a gloriously fiery path to life immortality. For him or her, there can be no more perfect path.

Martyrdom and Jihad

               In Islam, “martyrdom” has always been closely associated with Jihad. Unequivocal and celebratory invocations for such sacrificial killing can be found in the Koran (9:111) and, more explicitly, in the canonical hadith. “Do not consider those who are slain in the cause of Allah as dead,” instructs the Koran, “for they are living by their Lord.” For Hamas, such obligatory aspects of sacrificial terror ought never be overlooked by Israel or the United States. The two-sided nature of terror/sacrifice – the sacrifice of the victim and reciprocal death of “the Martyr” – is codified in the Charter of Hamas:  “The Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise…`I swear by that (sic.) who holds in His Hands, the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill.’”

               Today, post-Afghanistan implications of this Islamist decisional calculus warrant intensive study in both Jerusalem and Washington. Convinced that Shahada (“Death for Allah”) violence against the Israel will lead to a glorious martyrdom, the true Jihadist can never be effectively deterred solely by ordinary threats of armed reprisal. Among other pertinent ironies, such one-dimensiomnal threats could sometimes become an incentive to additional and/or enlarged terrorism.

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

                For Israel, especially after Afghanistan, there exists no expectedly tolerable “Two-State Solution.” For the most part, the Islamic world recognizes only one state in this tiny part of the Middle East, and this state is not Israel. On 29 November 2012, the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian Authority’s formal status to Nonmember Observer State,  This upgrade allows “Palestine” to bring complaints against Israelis before the International Criminal Court (ICC), but not as a state.[26]

               In specifically juridical terms, Palestine has limited “legal personality,” but not as a fully sovereign state.

                Israel and its Islamist terrorist enemies maintain very different orientations to “peace.” This stark asymmetry puts Israel at a disadvantage in virtually any “peace process.” While Israel’s Islamist enemies dutifully manifest their “positive” expectations for immortality, individual and collective, via the doctrinal slaughter of “heathen,” Israel’s leaders flatly reject their foes’ faith-based and annihilatory decisional calculus.

                Among other relevant perils, Israel now confronts a real and still-expanding threat of both unconventional war and unconventional terrorism.  Faced with opponents who are not only willing to die, but who actively seek their own ecstatic “deaths,” Jerusalem should better understand the critical operational limits of ordinary warfare, national homeland defense and “mainstream” strategic deterrence. In the end, power over death could trump every tangible form of power, including forms that are based upon aircraft carriers, missiles or technologically advanced weapon systems. The core cause of this expectation lies at the heart of what it means to be human.

                In all world politics, any deeply felt promise of immortality must be of distinctly “transcendent importance.”[27]This signifies, among other things, that the primary Israeli/American  orientation to wage prudent battle in counter-terrorism operations should focus on “mind over mind,” and not just “mind over matter.” Whenever insurgent enemies assign absolute primacy to the words “I believe,” it should be a signal to Jerusalem that the best Israeli response must be undertaken at a recognizably intellectual level.[28] Though intangible and not easily understood by ordinary politicians or planners, an enemy search for power over death could sometimes prove decisive,  overriding even the perils of ordinary military harms.

Quo Vadis

               What next? To dismiss such a distressingly complex reality will be tempting for Israel and also the United States, but such blithe dismissal could prove catastrophic.[29] When a determined enemy is driven by presumptively existential notions of “I believe,”[30] the aggregated arsenal of plausible counter-measures must become correspondingly flexible. This compelling analytic imperative would become even more obvious should that enemy become endowed (directly or indirectly) with nuclear[31] or other weapons of mass-destruction.[32]

               In the longer term, after Afghanistan, Israeli and US strategic policy planners should bear in mind that acts of nuclear terrorism need not require authentic nuclear weapons;  they could involve “only” conventional rocket attacks on Israel’s Dimona reactor.[33] In the final analysis, Israeli and American  deterrence postures will have to function as a seamless web,[34] allowing decision-makers to choose rationally from an already-available range of cost-effective policy options.

               Such fateful choice could sometime concern insurgent foes who seek not “merely’ sovereignty and self-determination,[35] but also “power over death.”

Summing Up: Perils and Remedies

               For Israel and the United States, the current Jihadi terrorist danger lies at two discrete but still interrelated levels. First, it exists at the level of the individual Islamist individual, the “chosen one” who seeks “martyrdom” through a deliberate path of insurgent violence. Second, it exists at the level of Islamist states, sovereign-actors which may sometime decide to represent, in institutionalized macrocosm, certain human “self-sacrificers.”

               Someday, and more-or-less plausibly, these states may choose collective “self-sacrifice” through the initiation of chemical, biological or nuclear war.  Such a conflict might be fought not for any traditional military reasons, but instead for the “liquidation” of “infidels.” On its face, any such grim determination would represent the unholiest of possible “marriages” between aggressive war and genocide, two mega-crimes identified under codified and customary international law.[36] In any such conflict, the defining Jihadist playbook would not be the classical military theories of Sun-Tzu or von Clausewitz, but rather the presumptively gratuitous destructiveness of de Sade.

               The root problem to understand here is Jihadistdeath fear, and the consequent dread-based compulsion to sacrifice variously despised “others.” This compulsion, in turn, stems from a widespread and doctrinal Islamist belief that killing unbelievers and being killed by unbelievers represents the most direct path to personal immortality. In very briefest summation, Jihadist terrorist unwillingness to accept personal death may lead to the killing of “others” in order to escape this presumptively unbearable fate.

                For many Islamist terrorist enemies, both individuals and states, killing Jews and “crusaders” offers optimal “immunization” against personal death and disintegration. Conceptualized in expressly psychological categories of analysis, the death fear of the Islamist enemy “ego” is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the “other.” Among psychologists and sociologists,, this complex idea was famously captured by Ernest Becker’s vivid paraphrase of Elias Canetti: “Each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.”[37]

               There is more. The Jihadist enemies of Israel and the United States do not intend to do evil.[38]  Rather, they commit to the killing of Jews, Americans and other “infidels” with undisguised religious conviction, with limitless “purity of heart.” Perversely “sanctified” killers, these relentless enemies will continue to generate an incessant search for more and more victims. Though mired in blood, this terrorizing search will usually remain tranquil and self-assured for the perpetrators, a twisted disposition born of conspicuous self-delusion. This is that the terrorist violence against “unbelievers” is properly “sacrificial.”

               It is never infamous or shameful.

Confronting a Hydra

               Not merely by accident, the military wing of Fatah, allegedly the more moderate and secular exponent of Palestinian terror, is named the Al-Aqsa MartyrsBrigade. In roughly the same fashion as Palestinian Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah’s “Brigade” remains oriented toward more than “armed struggle.” It remains dedicated to certain coinciding principles of religious sacrifice. This all-consuming commitment promises its followers not just military victory over the “Zionist occupiers” and their American patrons, but immunity from death.

               By definition, these are incomparably potent promises.

               Palestinian terrorism is prospectively more dangerous today, after Afghanistan, than it was previously. In Israel’s early days, there werealready Fedayeen (“self-sacrificers”) adversaries, but their dominant motives were explicitly nationalistic and only derivatively “Islamic.” Today, Jerusalem must learn to think in terms of “desacralizing” this relentless adversary, of convincing Jihadists that the ritualized murders of “Jews” or “Zionists” will lead not to any promised paradise, but to insufferable “terrors of the grave.” Above all else, this counter-terrorist effort must become an intellectual task, not just a narrowly political or propagandistic one.

               Now there are associated operational questions. To wit, should Israel and the United States continue to target Jihadist terrorist leaders, a controversial strategy of political killing that could arguably preclude any need for wider wars? While the benefits of getting rid of specific terrorist masterminds without mounting any full-scale war are temptingly meaningful and perhaps even self-evident, it is also true that the Jihadi terror threat now confronting Israel and the United States resembles the mythic Hydra. This creature was a monster of many heads, one which was impossible to kill. Each time a single head was “successfully” excised by Hercules, as analysts may recall, two new ones grew in its place.

               For Israel and America, this is not an encouraging metaphor.

               There are also some wider lessons to acknowledge. In world politics and international law, the ultimate acquisition of power is never really about land or treasure or conquest or some other traditionally reassuring evidence of national primacy. Rather, it is presumed victory over death, a personal triumph associated by German philosopher Heinrich von Treitschke with the always-special prerogatives of national sovereignty.[39]

               Though contrived, the relevant reasoning here is nonetheless straightforward. When my state is powerful, goes the basic argument, so too am I. At some point, moreover, when my state seems ready to prevail and to prevail indefinitely, I too am granted a personal life that will be gloriously unending. Stated more succinctly: An “immortal” state creates (either as citizen or subject) the “immortal” person.[40]

In a world that always craves simple explanations, such abstract ideas can prove bewildering for scholars and decision-makers.  Still, to decipher such causal notions at a meaningful level, analysts could do well to recall certain familiar images of mid-1930s Nazi party rallies at Nuremberg. Leni Riefenstahl’s monumental film celebration of Der Fuhrer, The Triumph of the Will, may say it best. Reminding the German people of philosopher Hegel’s famous aphorism, the legendary film underscores something of prospectively incomparable insight:

An individual nation-state can become much more than a mere juristic person.

 It can become the “march of God in the world.”

Looking ahead, in a warning apt to both Jerusalem and Washington,  Islamist terrorist strategies will fare best whenever it can be made persuasive to Jihadists that “God is on our side.”[41]

Final Strategies

               Some final questions surface. In the dissembling aftermath of Afghanistan, what is the best overall counter-terrorist strategy for Israel and the United States? To begin, Israeli and American strategic/ intelligence communities will need to identify new and more promising ways of deterring non-rational adversaries.[42]

               Simultaneously, especially as Palestinian statehood may now more likely be validated by variously steady increments of recognition in the U.N. General Assembly, these communities will need to avoid a potentially lethal fallacy. This is the probable error of accepting Palestinian statehood on the strength of ostensibly binding assurances to “demilitarize.” [43] To be sure, no international legal agreements can be self-enforcing.

               Though former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had cited Palestinian demilitarization as a condition of negotiating Palestinian statehood (a citation presented as evidence of his particular foresight and prudence), it could never actually have had such an intended effect. Jurisprudentially, at least, the reason for such doubt is clear and essentially incontestable: Every state maintains an “inherent” right of self-defense.[44] This “peremptory”prerogative can never be casually challenged or taken away. This truth obtains even if the new state itself should explicitly agree to certain firm limitations on its “jus cogens” right.[45]

                By ignoring core roots of Jihadi terrorism, Middle East peace programs could continuously detour Israel and the United States with starkly contrived “Two-State Solutions.” Should Israeli Prime Minister Bennet yield to any assorted pressures exerted by Jihadist terrorist patron states, he will have overlooked or underestimated the doctrinal origins of Israel’s most recalcitrant enemies. Should he choose, instead, to reject such dangerous pressures, the Prime Minister will have understood that Israel’s ongoing struggles with Palestinian terrorism have always been about much more than “land,” “settlements,” or “self-determination.”[46]

               For Israel – now facing a more determined struggle for Palestinian statehood after the conclusive US defeat in Afghanistan – this key fact can be disregarded only at considerable collective peril. Looking ahead, should Jerusalem commit various critical errors in securing itself against Iran and “Palestine” simultaneously (these complex perils are both mutually reinforcing and force-multiplying[47]), the consequences would also reverberate in the United States.[48] Although an immortal person is a “contradiction in terms,”[49] the Jihadi terrorist still presumes that a protracted “holy war” against Israel, America and other enemy states can confer power over death.

               In essence, therefore, what these Jihadists so enthusiastically embrace is “murderous immortalities.”


[1] In commending the Taliban on August 17, 2021, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh observed: “The demise of the US occupation of Afghanistan is a prelude to the demise of the Israeli occupation of the land of Palestine.” See “The Taliban’s Palestinian Partners: Implications for the Middle East Peace Process,” a report of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, No. 652, September 5, 2021.

[2] International law remains a “Westphalian” or “vigilante” system. Reference here is to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which concluded the Thirty Years War and created the now still-existing decentralized or self-help state system of world politics. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.

[3] For a discussion of authoritative criteria to distinguish permissible insurgencies from impermissible ones, see: Louis René Beres, “The Legal Meaning of Terrorism for the Military Commander,” CONNECTICUT JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 11., No. 1., Fall 1995, pp. 1-27

[4] See earlier, by this writer: Louis René Beres, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/05/19/justice-insurgency-and-the-gaza-war-an-international-law-perspective/

[5] According to the rules of international law, every use of force must be judged twice:  once with regard to the right to wage war (jus ad bellum), and once with regard to the means used in conducting war (jus in bello).  Today, in the aftermath of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, and the United Nations Charter, all right to aggressive war has been abolished.  However, the long-standing customary right of self-defense remains, codified at Article 51 of the Charter.  Similarly, subject to conformance, inter alia, with jus in bello criteria, certain instances of humanitarian intervention and collective security operations may also be consistent with jus ad bellum.  The laws of war, the rules of jus in bello, comprise (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules.  Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions (and known thereby as the law of The Hague and the law of Geneva), these rules attempt to bring considerations of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into belligerent calculations.

[6] According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a treaty is always an international agreement “concluded between States….” See Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M., 679 (1969).

[7] The law of armed conflict is largely concerned with the principle of proportionality, which has its jurisprudential and philosophic origins in the Biblical Lex Talionis, the law of exact retaliation. The “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” can be found in three separate passages of the Jewish Torah, or Biblical Pentateuch. These Torah rules are likely related to the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1728- expression 1686 BCE) – the first written evidence of penalizing wrongdoing with exact retaliation. In matters concerning personal injury, the code prescribes an eye for an eye (# 196), breaking bone for bone (#197), and extracting tooth for tooth (#199). Among the ancient Hebrews, we must speak not of the Lex Talionis, but of several. The Lex Talionis appears in only three passages of the Torah. In their sequence of probable antiquity, they are as follows: Exodus 21: 22-25; Deuteronomy 19: 19-21; and Leviticus 24: 17-21. All have similarities to various other Near Eastern legal codes. These three passages address specific concerns: hurting a pregnant woman, perjury, and guarding Yahweh’s altar against defilement. See Marvin Henberg, Retribution: Evil for Evil in Ethics, Law and Literature, 59-186 (1990). In contemporary international law, the principle of proportionality can be found in the traditional view that a state offended by another state’s use of force, if the offending state refuses to make amends, “is then entitled to take `proportionate’ reprisals.” See Ingrid Detter De Lupis, The Law of War, 75 (1987). Evidence for the rule of proportionality can also be found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) at Art. 4. Similarly, the American Convention on Human Rights allows at Art. 27(1) such derogations “in time of war, public danger or other emergency which threaten the independence or security of a party” on “condition of proportionality.” The military principle of proportionality requires that the amount of destruction permitted must be proportionate to the importance of the objective. In contrast, the political principle of proportionality states “a war cannot be just unless the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensure from the war is less than the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensue if the war is not fought.” See Douglas P. Lackey, THE ETHICS OF WAR A ND PEACE, 40 (1989).

[8] The principle of military necessity is defined authoritatively as follows: “Only that degree and kind of force, not otherwise prohibited by the law of armed conflict, required for the partial or complete submission of the enemy with a minimum expenditure of time, life and physical resources may be applied.” ADAM ROBERTS & RICHARD GUELFF, DOCUMENTS ON THE LAWS OF WAR 10 (3rd ed. 2000) (quoting U.S. DEP’T OF THE NAVY ET AL., THE COMMANDER’S HANDBOOK ON THE LAW OF NAVAL OPERATIONS, NWP 1-14M, 6.2.6.4.2, (July 2007)). The term “military necessity” is found, inter alia, in the 1946 Judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg: Extracts on Crimes Against International Law, in ADAM ROBERTS & RICHARD GUELFF, DOCUMENTS ON THE LAWS OF WAR 155 (1989). 

[9] The US Neutrality Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 960 (originally Sec. 25) (1794) was enacted in order for the new American republic to implement the Law of Nations. Pertinent Congressional authority derived specifically from article 1, Section 8, clause 10 of the U.S. Constitution. See also Talbot v. Jansen, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 133, 156 (1795) (Paterson, J).

[10] Specific applications of the law of war to insurgents (non-state combatants) dates to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. As more than codified treaties and conventions must comprise the law of war, it is plain that the obligations of jus in bello (justice in war) are part of “the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations” (from Art. 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice) and thereby bind all categories of belligerents. (See Statute of the International Court of Justice, art. 38, June 29, 1945, 59 Stat. 1031, T.S. 993).  Further, Hague Convention IV of 1907 declares that even in the absence of a precisely published set of guidelines regarding “unforeseen cases,” the operative pre-conventional sources of humanitarian international law obtain and still govern all belligerency. The related Martens Clause is included in the Preamble of the 1899 Hague Conventions, International Convention with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War by Land, July 29, 1899, 187 Consol. T.S. 429, 430.

[11] 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”)).

[12] Ex injuria jus non oritur.

[13] The criminal responsibility of leaders under international law is not limited to direct personal action or to official position.  On the pertinent 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 (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 is also 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 Stat.  1544, E.A.S.  No.472, 82 U.N.T.S.  279, art.

[14] This right must always be understood in terms of the continuously decentralized system of international law bequeathed at Westphalia in 1648. See: op cit., 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.

[15] According to Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: “…a peremptory norm of general international law is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of states as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.” See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969), 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M.  679 (1969).

[16] The primal importance of reason to legal judgment was prefigured in ancient Israel.  Jewish theories of law, insofar as they display influences of Natural Law, offer a transcending order revealed by the divine word as interpreted by human reason.  In the words of Ecclesiastics 32.23, 37.16, 13-14:  “Let reason go before every enterprise and counsel before any action…And let the counsel of thine own heart stand…For a man’s mind is sometimes wont to tell him more than seven watchmen that sit above in a high tower….”

[17] Under international law, the question of whether or not a “state of war” exists between states is generally ambiguous. 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, Chas. 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.”

[18]Underlying these common standards is a unifying concept of human “oneness.”  The history of western philosophy and jurisprudence contains many illustrious examples of such welcome cosmopolitanism. Most notable are Voltaire and Goethe. We need only recall Voltaire’s biting satire in the early chapters of Candide and Goethe’s oft-repeated comment linking the contrived hatreds of belligerent nationalism to declining stages of human civilization. We may also note Samuel Johnson’s famously expressed conviction that patriotism “is the last refuge of a scoundrel;” William Lloyd Garrison’s observation that “We cannot acknowledge allegiance to any human government…. Our country is the world, our countryman is all mankind;” and Thorsten Veblen (“The patriotic spirit is at cross-purposes with modern life.”) Of course, there are similar sentiments discoverable in Nietzsche’s Human, all too Human and in Fichte’s Die Grundzűge des gegenwartigen Zeitalters.” Finally, let the reader recall Santayana’s coalescing remark in Reason and Society: “A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.” The ultimate point of all these cosmopolitan remarks is that narrow-minded patriotism is inevitably “unpatriotic,” at least in the sense that it is not in the genuine long-term interests of citizens or subjects.

[19].The term “Grave Breaches” applies to certain serious infractions of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol I of 1977. The actions defined, as “Grave Breaches” in the four Conventions must be performed willfully or intentionally, and against the different groups of “protected person” identified by each Convention. The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions are under obligation “to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed,” a grave breach of the Convention. As defined at Art. 147 of Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (6 U.S.T. 3516, signed on Aug. 12 1949, at Geneva), Grave Breaches  “shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention:  willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Reference to Grave Breaches can also be found in the INTERIM REPORT OF THE COMMISSION OF EXPERTS, UNITED NATIONS DOCUMENT, S/25274, and January 2, 1993, at Sec. 3., Art. 47.

[20] Op Cit, Ex injuria jus non oritur.

[21]Some supporters of a Palestinian state argue that its prospective harms to Israel could be reduced or eliminated by ensuring the new Arab state’s immediate “demilitarization.” For informed reasoning against this argument, see: Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal, Winter 1998, pp. 347-363; and Louis René Beres and Ambassador Shoval, “On Demilitarizing a Palestinian `Entity’ and the Golan Heights: An International Law Perspective,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vo. 28., No.5., November 1995, pp. 959-972.

[22] In science-based studies of world politics, rationality and irrationality have now taken on very precise meanings. In this regard, a state or terror group is presumed to be rational to the extent that its leadership always values national survival/group survival more highly than any other conceivable preference or combination of preferences. Conversely, an irrational state or terror group is one that would not always display such a markedly specific preference ordering. On pragmatic or operational grounds, ascertaining whether a particular state adversary such as Iran would be rational or irrational could become a problematic and daunting task. Regarding Jihadi terror groups, on the other hand, it is plain by definition that they are inherently prone to irrational decision-making.

[23] Israel must now be increasingly wary that Hamas could move forcefully against PA in the West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and render that territory similar to Gaza. See, on this cautionary note, Ehud Eilam: https://www.jpost.com/opinion/dont-allow-israels-west-bank-to-become-afghanistan-opinion-679073

[24] For a classic scholarly book with this revealing title: See: René Girard, Violence and the Sacred (1977).

[25] In the Middle East, where theological doctrine divides into the dar al-Islam (world of Islam) and the dar al-harb (world of war), acts of terror against unbelievers have generally been accepted as expressions of sacredness. In turn, individual sacrifice derives, in large part, from a very conspicuously hoped-for power over death. By adopting atavistic practice, the Jihadist terrorist expects to realize an otherwise unattainable immortality. For Hamas, which seeks secular power as a new sovereign state of Palestine, certain obligatory aspects of sacrificial terror must never be overlooked. These aspects, underscoring the two-sided nature of terror/sacrifice – that is, the sacrifice of “The Unbeliever” (or “Apostate”) and reciprocal sacrifice of “The Martyr” – is codified within the Charter of Hamas as a “religious” problem.” For authoritative details of the Hamas Charter, see:  Louis René Beres: https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/jil/vol39/iss3/2/

[26] See: Louis René Beres (Israel): https://besacenter.org/israel-palestine-threat/

[27] See Alfred North Whitehead’s Religion in the Making (1926).

[28] In prophetic words of poet Guillaume Apollinaire (The New Spirit and the Poets, 1917): “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.”

[29] 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”?

[30] “`I believe,'” says Oswald Spengler, “is the great word against metaphysical fear, and at the same time it is an avowal of love.'” See: The Decline of the West, Spengler’s Chapter on “Pythagoras, Mohammed, Cromwell.”

[31]No state, including Israel, is under any per se legal obligation to renounce access to nuclear weapons; in certain distinctly residual circumstances, moreover, even the actual resort to such weapons could be construed as lawful. See generally The Legality of the Threat or Use of Force of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, 1997 I.C.J. (July 8). The final paragraph of this Opinion, concludes, inter alia: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”

[32] For earlier looks at the expected consequences of specifically nuclear attacks, by this author, 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). 

[33]Hamas fired rockets at Dimona back in 2014. Earlier, Saddam Hussein launched Scud-B rockets toward Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.  For an early and informed consideration of reactor attack effects, see:  Bennett Ramberg, Destruction of Nuclear Energy Facilities in War (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1980); and Bennett Ramberg, “Attacks on Nuclear Reactors: The Implications of Israel’s Strike on Osiraq,” Political Science Quarterly, Winter 1982-83; pp. 653 – 669. More recently, see: Bennett Ramberg, “Should Israel Close Dimona? The Radiological Consequences of a Military Strike on Israel’s Plutonium-Production Reactor,”Arms Control Today,May 2008, pp. 6-13.

[34]See, by this author and former Israeli Ambassador Zalman Shoval, at West Point, Pentagon: https://mwi.usma.edu/creating-seamless-strategic-deterrent-israel-case-study/

[35]On this choice, ancient philosophy can be helpful. More precisely, Plato’s theory, offered in the fourth century B.C.E, seeks to explain all political choice in terms of epiphenomena, an unstable realm of half-truths and distorted perceptions.  In contrast to the uniformly stable realm of immaterial Forms, a realm from which all genuine knowledge must be derived, the political arena is dominated by myriad contradictions of the reflected world, contradictions that inevitably fail to account for “metaphysical fear.”

[36] Article 38(1)(b) of the STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE describes international custom as “evidence of a general practice accepted as law.” The essential significance of any norm’s customary character is that the norms bind even those states that are not parties to the pertinent codification. Even where a customary norm and a norm restated in treaty form are apparently identical, these norms are treated as jurisprudentially discrete. During the merits phase of MILITARY AND PARAMILITARY ACTIVITIES IN AND AGAINST NICARAGUA, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated: “Even if two norms belonging to two sources of international law appear identical in content, and even if the States in question are bound by these rules both on the level of treaty-law and on that of customary international law, these norms retain a separate existence.” See: MILITARY AND PARAMILITARY ACTIVITIES IN AND AGAINST NICARAGUA, Nicar. V. US., Merits, 1986 ICJ, Rep. 14 (Judgment of 27 June).

[37] See Ernest Becker, Escape from Evil (1975).

[38] In this connection, for relevant generic understandings, see Michael Polanyi’s discussion of the “moral appeal of immorality” in the philosopher’s Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (1958).

[39] 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. On these special prerogatives, see also French political theorist Bertrand de Jouvenal, Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good (The University of Chicago Press, 1957).

[40] In scientific terms, of course, such “logic” is literal nonsense. Apropos of this point, see: Emmanuel Levinas, “An immortal person is a contradiction in terms.”  (God, Death and Time; 2000).

[41]Through the ages, with “God on our Side,” conflicting states and religions have asserted that personal immortality can sometimes be achieved at the sacrificial expense of certain despised “others,” of “heathen,” “blasphemers,” “apostates.” When he painted The Triumph of Death in 1562, Peter Bruegel drew upon his direct personal experience with both religious war and disease plague.  In the sixteenth century, he already 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” calculable outcome exceeds the sum of all constituent “parts.”

[42] This post-Afghanistan strategic imperative extends to assorted state enemies of Israel, especially a potentially nuclear Iran. See, in this connection, Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely deter a Nuclear Iran? The Atlantic, August 2012; and Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Israel; and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012. General Chain was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).

[43] See, op cit., Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal, Winter 1998, pp. 347-363; and Louis René Beres and Ambassador Shoval, “On Demilitarizing a Palestinian `Entity’ and the Golan Heights: An International Law Perspective,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vo. 28., No.5., November 1995, pp. 959-972.

[44] In principle, this right may extend to defensive first-strikes or preemption. The origins of the right to anticipatory self-defense in international law lie in customary law, in the Caroline. This was 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).

[45]This also a “Higher Law” or “Natural Law” principle. In his DE OFFICIIS, Cicero wrote:  “There is in fact a true law namely right reason, which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men and is unchangeable and eternal…. It will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow.  But there will be one law eternal and unchangeable binding at all times and upon all peoples.”  See also DE LEGIBUS, Bk. i, c, vii.  Blackstone’s COMMENTARIES expressly recognize that all law “results from those principles of natural justice, in which all the learned of every nation agree….”  See William Blackstone, COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND, adapted by Robert Malcolm Kerr (Boston; Beacon Press, 1962), Book IV, “Of Public Wrongs,” p. 62 (Chapter V., “Of Offenses Against the Law of Nations.”). Thomas Aquinas recalls Augustine as follows:  “St. Augustine says: `There is no law unless it be just.’ So the validity of law depends upon its justice.  But in human affairs a thing is said to be just when it accords aright with the rule of reason: and as we have already seen, the first rule of reason is the Natural Law.  Thus all humanly enacted laws are in accord with reason to the extent that they derive from the Natural law.  And if a human law is at variance in any particular with the Natural law, it is no longer legal, but rather a corruption of law.” See SUMMA THEOLOGICA, 1a 2ae, 95, 2; cited by D’ Entreves, supra, pp. 42 – 43

[46] Philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset had understood these superficially political issues at much deeper and generic levels. Ultimately, the seminal Spanish thinker understood, these issues have been about the continuous human struggle against death. Always, therefore, they have been about God and personal immortality.

[47] This notion of “force-multiplying” resembles the concept of “synergy,” an interaction or intersection whereby the resultant “whole” is always greater than the additive sum of its “parts.”

[48] More specifically, Israel’s nuclear strategy could have certain meaningful implications for U.S. national security. On these generally ignored connections, see Louis René Beres and (General/USA/ret.) Barry McCaffrey, ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY AND AMERICA’S NATIONAL SECURITY, Tel-Aviv University and Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, Tel-Aviv, December 2016: https://sectech.tau.ac.il/sites/sectech.tau.ac.il/files/PalmBeachBook.pdf

[49] See epigraph, above, by philosopher Emmanuel Levinas.

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International Law

South China Sea: The Equation of a New Cold War

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China is an emerging power in the current world. China has come a long way from its former position to its current one. The Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949 by defeating Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang party, and under Mao Zedong, China’s economic growth continued. China is currently the second largest economy in the world. The Cold War is currently raging between the superpowers America and China. International experts have dubbed it the “New Cold War”. China has disputes with the United States over the Hong Kong-Taiwan issue, the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Sino-US trade crisis, and so on. At present, there is tension over the South China Sea in this superpower. The United States has already formed “quads” with India, Japan and Australia to reduce China’s growing influence in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.

The South China Sea issue is an important issue in international politics. But there are reasons why this tension is growing.

 During World War II, Japan occupied the islands in the South China Sea. After the defeat of Japan, the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations of 1943 and 1945 recognized the rights of the Republic of China to the islands in the South China Sea. In 1947, the then nationalist Chinese government formally annexed 159 islands, islands and shelf states.

Various historical events from the time of World War II to the present day have turned the South China Sea into the center of tension in the world today. The South China Sea is very important in international geopolitics. The South China Sea is an important international shipping lane. But over the years, numerous small islands in the sea, many of which have been claiming ownership of coral islands, coral reefs and islands, have been the focus of controversy in the region for some time. Has become more and more vocal. The country claims the disputed area has been part of China for centuries and China has gradually strengthened its military presence there in support of their claim.

Under UN maritime law, an independent state can claim maritime territory up to 12 nautical miles from its coast. Moreover, the area up to 200 nautical miles is called ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’. In this region they can enjoy freedom of natural resources, aquatic animals or fish, construction of artificial islands, etc.

But according to China’s Nine Dash Line, they are claiming about 2,000 kilometers of maritime territory from the mainland. There are several islands in this region. Such as- Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal Area, Paracel Islands and several coral islands. And that has created controversy and tension, which has also involved countries in Asia and the Pacific on the issue.

Geographically, the South China Sea is an important strategic region of the world. In the heart of this sea is a huge amount of natural resources. The region is rich in mineral oil and natural gas. Many people depend on fish and seafood for their livelihood. More than a third of the world’s ships pass through this region. More than  40 trillion is traded this year. The South China Sea is one of the most important regions for world trade. One-third of the world’s cargo ships ply this route. As a result, it is natural for China to try to maintain its dominance in the region. The South China Sea is one of the most important and busy maritime regions in the world. The region is connecting Africa and Europe with Asia. In addition, the South China Sea is rich in resources. The region is rich in marine fish as well as a huge amount of natural resources. There are huge reserves of natural gas and mineral resources. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the South China Sea dispute is caused by 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas below 8. Countries in the region that claim huge natural resources include Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which have sparked conflicts with China. More than  40 trillion is traded this year. Which

 One-third of global maritime trade.

The question now is how much China will benefit if it can take full control of the South China Sea.

 This waterway is essential for China to have a global and regional impact. Because, eighty percent of China’s transportation is this way. Even 55 to 60 percent of India’s trade depends on this sea route. The other country has to get permission from China for shipping and pay the revenue. This will increase China’s economic growth, increase the importance of geopolitics. By exploiting huge amounts of natural resources, China will be able to make its economy more dynamic and increase military spending. The dominance of the United States and India will diminish. In South Asia and global politics, China will be able to increase its dominance in the economy. The implementation of China’s mega project Belt and Road Initiative will be accelerated, the world’s communication with China will be easier, trade will expand.

But the rise of China cannot be accepted by the United States and its allies. They have increased military influence at sea and are constantly increasing tensions. By maintaining good relations with India and exploiting allies the Philippines and Taiwan, the United States is seeking to dominate the South China Sea. It is true that maintaining dominance over the South China Sea is important for the United States to deal with China. Free Taiwan, Japan and South Korea from Chinese aggression

 To do so, the United States needs to control the South China Sea. Also attacking mainland China as a pre-zero system, suppressing China’s mega project Belt and Road Initiative.

International and regional powers are also working in the South China Sea to bring about a shift in the balance of power and polarization in international politics in the wake of the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan and China’s gains. As a result, tensions have often risen in the South China Sea. Moreover, the South China Sea waterway is very important for the United States.

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