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Still Asking the Wrong Questions: A Perilous American Error

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“The enemy is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.”-Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952)[1]

How did America get to this fragile place?

Often, history deserves pride of place. For Americans, much remains to be learned from the rise of European Nazism in the 1930s.[2]  German Philosopher Karl Jaspers captures the essence of such prospective learning in his classic work, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952): No nation can ever fix its core problems in the realm of politics.

               There is more. Taken by themselves, no election outcomes, however well-intentioned or reliable, can compensate for a pervasively “unphilosophical spirit.”

               Supporting evidence abounds. Even now, Americans generally fail to look meaningfully behind the news. What matters most is not whether Donald Trump will run again (he won’t), but identifying the retrograde forces that created such a dissembling presidency in the first place. This is not “just” a question of narrow historical interest. It must now be asked systematically and dialectically[3] to avoid a second and more lethal American retreat into anti-Reason.

               Donald J. Trump, though conspicuously law-ignoring and anti-science, was never America’s underlying problem. This “original” problem has always been something less tangible. It is  a society and polity willing to abandon intellect and justice for imaginations of conspiracy and patriotism.[4] Now, to prepare capably for an otherwise portentous future, Americans must look more closely at the broader society from which this president was drawn.

                Ultimately, as we must learn, the problem is not that the “average American” knows too little about matters of national consequence. It is that he or she wants to know very little.[5] Until Americans can finally escape from such a limiting lack of vision, another Donald Trump (e.g. Ted Cruz; Ron DeSantis; Josh Hawley) will be pacing in “the wings.”[6]

               There is more. Americans generally exhibit expectations of human rationality, an always-problematic expectation that is bound to disappoint. After all, the “true world,” as we may learn from Albert Camus and certain other classical thinkers (e.g., Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard and Freud) is not predictably rational, and disorienting divergences between expectation and reality can often produce outcomes “worse” than simple irrationality.

               They can produce “the absurd.”

               In Albert Camus’ deft clarification (The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942 (Fr.): “The absurd is born of this confrontation between human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.”[7] Human need is effectively immutable. But human silence, an expression of absurdity, is a matter of volition.

A nation celebrating “common sense” over erudition

               Elucidating explanations are inter-related. Americans have typically valued a “practical” education. It was not by mere happenstance that Donald J. Trump rose to power in a country so openly proud of its sweeping historical and cultural illiteracy.[8] The fact that this president never read anything himself – literally, never, ever – was not generally taken as a liability. On the contrary, even today, mass publics in the United States reserve few intellectual expectations for America’s national leaders.[9] Still worse, obvious intellectual debility is often enviable.

               Prima facie, it is taken as a presidential asset.[10]

               Though grotesque and cumulatively lethal, the assertion is indisputable.

               Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.”[11]

               Next time, the “silence of the world” may not be “unreasonable.”

                Once upon a time, when some still-calculable number of Americans sought to consider mind-challenging books and annoyingly complex ideas (these two activities are “force multiplying” and gainfully reciprocal), Ralph Waldo Emerson urged his fellow citizens to embrace “plain living and high thinking.”[12] Today, this earlier philosophic plea for personal and social equilibrium (one trait shapes the other) has been too-casually cast aside. We ought also to be forewarned that any such sensible plea would be widely ridiculed.

               Under the aegis of former US President Donald Trump, legions of citizens saw no problem with suffering an anti-education president. In part, such ominous indifference to intellect and science could be traced to this country’s unrelieved barrage of crude and voyeuristic distractions, many of which currently center on sadism, torture and mass murder. Matters were not helped by Trump’s continuously open encouragements of corrosive public discourse, encouragements laced with incoherent argument, baseless rancor and a very dreary profanity.

                Finally, it’s time for candor. Very early in his defiling presidency, Donald J. Trump promised, at one of his Goebbels-style “rallies,”[13] to protect a nonexistent Article of the US Constitution. But even then, his unhidden historical ignorance was glossed over as minor or unimportant.  Nonetheless, it did represent another humiliating symptom of a wider and more insidious national “pathology.”

               The key question surfaces. What was this collective “disease,” one as virulent as Covid19? Above all, it was a presidential “victory” for “mass man.” “What the mob once learned to believe without reasons,” queries Friedrich Nietzsche in the Fourth Part of Zarathustra, “who could overthrow that with reasons?”

               Friedrich Nietzsche already understood. He had reflected (also in Zarathustra) that “When the throne sits upon mud, mud sits upon the throne.”[14]  Disregarding the millions who “with reasons” still refused to renounce his glaringly debased presidency, Trump never argued that American history should warrant serious study. Unsurprisingly, such study could have helped undo the lethal sovereignty of “mass man.”

               Ironies abound. How many Americans who energetically champion “gun rights” today have ever paused to consider that the Founding Fathers never expected modern automatic weapons? How many adrenalized “patriots” can sincerely believe that the Founders would have wanted 350 million privately-held weapons with rapid-fire capabilities, including many in the hands of citizens living in varying stages of derangement?

               There is more. Could any argument for “Second Amendment Rights” be more plainly disingenuous than those putting unimaginable sentiments into the mouths of 18th century revolutionaries? Perhaps there is one. In the last year of his administration, Trump asserted at a Goebbels-style “rally” that, during the American Revolution, Washington ‘s army “took control of all national airports.” This was by the same president who had earlier urged use of American nuclear weapons against hurricanes.

               Credo quia absurdum. “I believe because it is absurd.”

               What do Americans really know about their country’s cultural and intellectual beginnings? How many current citizens realize that their eighteenth-century Republic was the direct religious heir of John Calvin and a lineal philosophical descendant of both John Locke and Thomas Hobbes?[15] How many can appreciate that the fearful Hobbesian “state of nature” in Leviathan – a “state of war”[16] or “war of all against all” (bellum omnium contra omnes) – was deemed insufferable by the philosopher because therein “…the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.”

               How man have even heard of Thomas Hobbes or John Locke?

               Hobbes strongly cautioned against any social order that might (wittingly or unwittingly) create this “dreadful equality.” After all, following any such creation, “…the life of man (would necessarily be) solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

               Ominously, for President Trump, going back to “nature,” both nationally and internationally, could represent only a positive or welcome development. More exactly, in his disjointed Realpolitik view of the world, “might makes right” could have become a core part of “making America great again.”  

Becoming a “crowd.”[17]

               This is not the first time in modern history that a “crowd” has loved to chant in belligerent chorus. For one worrisome example, we need only recall the ritual chants of Joseph Goebbels heard at the Nuremberg Rallies before the War. What Goebbels did instruct, with a shrill and perverse genius – a lesson seemingly well learned by Donald Trump – is that the bigger the lie, the more believable it can become.

               “Cobid19 will disappear by itself.” “Injections of household disinfectant should be considered as therapy.” At first, such phrases don’t seem to make any sense, but if a leader chants often enough against “crooked” opponents and “fixed” elections, fewer will expect to see any “crookedness” on the chanting side.

               Such “logic” makes no evident sense. It is contrary to every recognizable standard of correct reasoning.  Still, to the end, it continued to work well for former President Donald Trump.

               “Intellect rots the brain,” warned Goebbels.

               “I love the poorly educated,” intoned Donald Trump.

               Not much difference here. As malignant planners of very precisely calculated deceptions, both screamers were “on the same page.”

               During his tenure, Mr. Trump, with nary a hint of any painstaking analysis, blithely encouraged additional countries to acquire their own nuclear weapons (e.g., Japan and South Korea). At a minimum, the former president’s misconceived encouragement had been spawned by his unawareness that possession of nuclear weapons does not automatically create credible deterrence. In the language of nuclear strategic theory – a language with which this author has been quite intimate for over fifty years in Washington, Geneva and Jerusalem –[18] the relevant fallacy has a suggestive name.

               It is called the “porcupine theory.”[19]

               Here, violators of strategic logic falsely equate nuclear weapons states with porcupines, assuming that because porcupines (presumably) leave each other alone in the forest, so too would nuclear weapon states steer clear of each other in world politics.[20] One problem with such metaphoric thinking concerns prospects of inadvertent or accidental nuclear war. Another concerns an always-present risk of decisional irrationality.[21]

The problem of simplifications

               In the end, America’s presidential selections are too often shaped by primal disfigurements. Many of this country’s cumulative political ambitions remain integrally bound up with embarrassing simplifications and stupefying clichés. The elaborately welcomed appearance of Duck Dynasty as principal “speaker” before Mr. Trump’s 2016 Republican National Convention already represented the reductio ad absurdum of a declining civilization.

               Yet, it was not generally criticized.

               Why not? Because it was fully consistent – without causing tangible electoral disadvantage – with Donald Trump’s terminally proud aversion to refinement, syntax, intellect, law, and learning in any conceivable form[22] At deeper levels,  it was expressive of America’s more general celebration of low-level and degrading public entertainments. For this former president, there was more instructional value in Roseanne than in Shakespeare.

               For millions of Trump’s fellow citizens, that demeaning preference was no cause for criticism.

                Among many others, Ralph Waldo Emerson and his generation of American Transcendentalists would have winced. Our earliest presidents, after all, were individuals of meaningful accomplishment and at least some original thought.

               In July 1776, over one short Philadelphia weekend of dreadful heat and no modern conveniences, a then-future American president composed more infinitely valuable prose than the country’s president with all modern conveniences could produce in several contiguous lifetimes. Thomas Jefferson did not arrive at his presidency with a well-honed expertise in casino gambling or financial manipulations but with an elevating background in agriculture, architecture, science and philosophy.

               “One must never seek the higher man,” warned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in Zarathustra, “at the marketplace.” Years ago, it seems, America still stood for something more than buying, selling and an abundantly raw commerce. Years ago, America’s national debates did not center on killing and the right to arm oneself with military-style assault weapons. It may be that this country has never been ready to embrace Plato’s “Philosopher King,”[23] but there were discernible times in America’s national past that its philosophical debates sounded more like a mind-expanding university seminar than a self-defense course on tactical weapons.

               Americans remember their earlier presidents not for their transient commercial successes in a frenetic marketplace of goods screaming to be bought or sold, but for their historically auspicious presence in a mind-focused marketplace of ideas. For these increasingly-enviable presidents, it was more important to build a leadership legacy upon wisdom and learning than to show off shallow symbols of personal wealth. Donald Trump did not create “conspicuous consumption,” but neither did his electoral defeat put an end to such patterns.

The wider background

                The full horror of the Trump presidency – a horror still cheerfully accepted as “progress” by millions – began with the intellectually unambitious American citizen, that is, with the insistently flawed “microcosm.” The American electorate can never rise any higher than the amalgamated capacities of its members. Now, by virtue of “synergy,” the whole of the American polity has become more despoiled than the aggregate sum of its “parts.”

                Ultimately, for better or for worse, every democracy must come to represent the sum total of its constituent “souls,” those still-hopeful citizens who would seek some sort or other of personal “redemption.”[24] In today’s deeply fractionated American republic, however, We the people – more and more desperate for a seemingly last chance to “fit in” and/or “get ahead” –   inhabit a vast wasteland of lost human and intellectual opportunity. Within this desiccated society of cheap and abysmal entertainments, of political leaders without a scintilla of courage or any hint of integrity,[25] millions of “hollow men” (and women) remain chained to exhausting cycles of unsatisfying work.

               Manifold ironies are wrapped together here. While generally unrecognized, this de facto servitude is sometimes felt by the very very rich as well as the very very poor. This reflects a paradoxical “artifact” of American privilege, one that is based upon entire lifetimes spent on empty personal goals and sterile forms of accumulation.

                Given what most Americans are familiar with in their own daily lives, the country’s most spirited national debates continue to be about guns and killing, and not about history, literature, music, art, philosophy, or beauty.[26] Within this vast and predatory nether-world, huge segments of a nation’s unhappy population cheerlessly drown themselves in oceans of alcohol and drugs. Incrementally, this submersion, relentless and intractable, is becoming deep enough to swallow up entire centuries of national achievement and a once-sacred poetry.

               At its core, America’s “opiate addiction problem” is not about drugs per se. It is about rampant individual unhappiness and irremediable social despair. Now, moreover, the tangible residue of this problem can be found scattered as toxic litter over thousands of America’s beaches and playgrounds. In the end, this litter will instruct as the squalid symbol of a larger social disintegration, of a society that is now expansively complicit in its own unheroic demise.

                Small wonder that so many millions of Americans cling so desperately to their smart phones and related electronic devices. Filled with a deepening and ultimate horror of ever having to be left alone with themselves,[27] these virtually connected millions are visibly frantic to claim some still-recognizable membership in the leveling public mass. Earlier, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard had foreseen and understood this omnivorous mass, long before the “rise” of social media.

               “The crowd,” opined the prophetic 19th century thinker, “is untruth.”

               Later, in the twentieth century, and in a portentously similar insight, Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’Gasset foresaw the perilous consequences of “mass,” a term resembling Sigmund Freud’s “horde” and quite nearly identical to Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung’s “mass.”

               Whether one speaks of a “crowd,” “horde,” or mass,” the selected noun can speak volumes about how a non-reading and non- writing former president remains able to claim the enthusiastic support of millions. While seeking such support, there was never any compelling reason for Mr. Trump to bother reconciling his so-called policies with any verifiable facts. In this pernicious presidency, hypocrisy was always unhidden and undisguised.

               At the end of his criminalized presidency,[28] Donald J. Trump called openly for armed insurrection against the United States. Nonetheless, rather than generate a reaction of nation-wide horror and disbelief, this once-incomprehensible call elicited far-reaching exclamations of support. When these many millions of Americans stood proudly against the US Constitution and against the rule of law – allegedly as “patriots”- the extant political system provided no viable mechanisms of remediation.[29] Though flagrantly beyond the pale, such destabilizing citizen behavior is sometime apt to be repeated or even accelerated, especially as long as a major US political party (the party of President Donald Trump) chooses to remain a witting “co-conspirator.”

Looking ahead: “a world in stupor lies”[30]

                For the moment, at least, Americans remain grinning but hapless captives in a deliriously noisy and airless “crowd” or “herd” or “mass.”  Disclaiming any residual interior life, “We the People” proceed tentatively, and in almost every palpable sphere, at the lowest common denominator. Expressed in more easily grasped terms, even America’s vaunted “freedom” is becoming a contrivance.

                The simplifying American context offers a regrettable but ubiquitous solvent, a caustic solution dissolving almost everything of intellectual or analytic consequence. In education, the once revered Western Canon of literature, art and music has been replaced by more generalized emphases on “branding.” Already, apart from their pervasive drunkenness and enthusiastically tasteless entertainments, the once-sacred spaces of higher education have been transformed into a steadily rusting pipeline to ritualistic jobs and utterly numbing vocations.

               Soon, even if we should somehow manage to avoid nuclear war and nuclear terrorism – an avoidance not to be taken for granted –  the swaying of the American ship will become so violent that even the hardiest lamps will be overturned.[31] Then, the phantoms of great ships of state, once laden with silver and gold, may no longer lie forgotten. Then, perhaps, we will finally understand that the circumstances that could send the compositions of Homer, Maimonides, Goethe, Milton, Shakespeare, Freud and Kafka to join the disintegrating works of forgotten poets were neither unique nor transient.

.              In all societies, as Emerson and the other American Transcendentalists also recognized, the scrupulous care of each individual”soul” is what is most important. There can be a “better”American soul,[32] and also an improved American politics,but not until we are first able to acknowledge a more starkly prior obligation. This obligation references a national responsibility to overcome the always-staggering barriers of a Kierkegaardian “crowd” culture, and to embrace once again the liberating imperatives of Emersonian “high thinking.”

               In the end, the Donald Trump presidency was “merely” the most debilitating symptom of a much deeper American pathology, one that has yet to be conquered. In the United States, the most genuinely underlying disease remains a sweeping national unwillingness to think seriously. Left unchallenged, such reluctance could eventually transform the floundering nation into the lacquered corpse of a once-promising American Civilization.

                The ill-founded Trump presidency did notend with a catastrophic nuclear war, but even that “happy ending” represents just a temporary reprieve. Accordingly, unless citizens begin to work much harder at halting American society’s steep indifference to intellect, reason and law, they will have to face precisely the ominous kinds of metamorphoses Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard famously termed a “sickness unto death.” For those Americans who can still understand more than the empty witticisms stitched into red baseball caps, the truest work should begin not with politics directly (all politics are ultimately just reflection, or “epiphenomenal”)[33], but with a deliberate and purposeful fixing of private “selves.”[34]

               The American democracy, as we may yet learn from Thomas Jefferson, was never expected to flourish without an informed citizenry. Once this unassailable reasoning is properly understood and accepted, a still-imperiled nation could better guard itself against another grievously unfit president. The next time we are faced with an aspiring American dictatorship of empty slogans and tawdry deeds, a barbarous insurrection might quickly become more significantly destructive.

               Could there possibly be any more important sort of national awareness?[35] Evidence abounds that millions of Americans remain comfortably submerged in a common and recalcitrant unconsciousness, a stultifying paralysis that may make plausible every kind of authoritarian rule. To suitably combat this expressly an-democratic and anti-American inclination, responsible citizens will need to do much more than simply prepare to vote. The “enemy,” as foreseen by philosopher Karl Jaspers, is never merely a particular political leader, however malignant and dishonest.

                America’s true enemy is a pervasively “unphilosophical spirit,” one that desperately “wants to know nothing of truth.” There is no imaginable path to coexistence with such a primal adversary. We can’t live with such a perilous spirit indefinitely. To assume anything else means we are still asking the wrong questions.


[1]Seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarks prophetically in Pensées: “All our dignity consists in thought…It is upon this that we must depend…Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.” Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Pascal’s contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing additionally from Descartes – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge. And early in the 20th century, Guillaume Apollinaire observed: “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.” See: “The New Spirit and the Poets” (1917). See also, by this author, Louis René Beres

[2]This writer, Louis René Beres, came to the United States as a post-Holocaust refugee from Switzerland, in April 1947. He arrived, together with his parents, on liberty ship SS Marine Falcon, sailing to New York City from the French port of Le Havre.

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

[4] During the “Trump Era,” such abandonment led to major crimes against international as well as national law. Concerning violations of Nuremberg-category rules, see (by former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz:) https://www.yahoo.com/news/nuremberg-prosecutor-warning-trump-war-090342221.html

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

[6]The mass man or woman is a primitive and universal being, one who has “slipped back,” in the words of 20th century Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y’ Gusset, “through the wings, on to the age-old stage of civilization.” This meaning of Ortega’s “mass man” is essentially the same as C. J. Jung’s “mass man” and Soren Kierkegaard’s “crowd person.”

[7]See also, by this author, Louis René Beres at Horasis (Zurich):   https://horasis.org/imagining-sisyphus-happy-an-escape-from-trumpian-farce/

[8] On America’s long and injurious history of anti-intellectualism, see,  by this author, Louis René Beres: https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/05/02/a-time-for-candor-what-have-we-learned-from-the-pandemic/

[9]This may be due in part to diminishing impacts of higher education. https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[10]America’s Founding Fathers, however, were often genuine intellectuals, In the words of distinguished 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 magisterial Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Knopf, 1964), p. 145.

[11]As literary genre, the “theatre of the absurd” is highlighted by Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Arthur Adamov and Jean Genet. One can discover pertinent intellectual roots in the earlier writings (and paintings) of Surrealism, Zurich Dada and – especially for Albert Camus – Franz Kafka. The core problem here is not that absurdity is per se murderous or problematic, but that it can produce such harms if first allowed to become “malignant.”

[12]See Emerson’s classic essay, “Self Reliance” (1841).

[13]See by this author, Louis René Beres:  https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[14]See, by this author at Yale Global, on “Courage: A Reading List,” Louis René Beres:  https://archive-yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/call-intellect-and-courage

[15] The idea of Natural Law/Higher was integral to philosophies of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, and therefore to the creation of US domestic law. Natural Law also figured importantly at the post-world War II Nuremberg Trials. In his opening statement to the International Military Tribunal, US Chief Prosecutor Justice Robert Jackson commented: “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.” William Blackstone’s Commentaries, the starting point of all US law, recognize and reaffirm 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.”) The first volume of Blackstone’s Commentaries appeared in 1765, the fourth in 1769. An American edition of the full work was printed in Philadelphia in 1771-72

[16] Under authoritative international law, which is generally part of US law, the question of whether or not a “state of war” exists between states is too often ambiguous. Traditionally, it was held that a formal declaration of war was necessary before any true state of war could be said to exist. Hugo Grotius divided wars into declared wars, which were legal, and undeclared wars, which were not. (See Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace, Bk. III, Chs. III, IV, and XI.) By the start of the twentieth century, the position that war can obtain only after a conclusive declaration of war by one of the parties was codified by Hague Convention III. This treaty stipulated, inter alia, 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, formal declarations of war could be tantamount to admissions of international criminality because of the express criminalization of aggression by authoritative international law. It could, therefore, represent a jurisprudential absurdity to tie any true state of war to prior declarations of belligerency. It follows, further, that a state of war may exist without any formal declarations, but only if there should exist an actual armed conflict between two or more states, and/or at least one of these affected states considers itself “at war.”

[17]Says Soren Kierkegaard in “Point of View, `That Individual,’ “It is in every man’s power to become what he is, an individual. From becoming an individual, no one, no one at all, is excluded, except he who excludes himself by becoming a crowd.” Later, the Danish philosopher adds: “The most ruinous evasion of all is to be hidden in the crowd in an attempt to escape God’s supervision of him as an individual….” Significantly, though religion-based on its face, this argument stands just as formidably on secular moral foundations.

[18]For several years, Professor Beres was a regular contributor to BESA (Israel);Israel Defense (Tel Aviv) and Chair of “Project Daniel” (Jerusalem, PM Sharon): See, Louis René Beres, https://besacenter.org/author/louis-rene-beres/page/2/; https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/%D7%93%D7%A2%D7%95%D7%AA/3153; and http://www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/03-ISSUE/daniel-3.htm

[19] A somewhat analogous fallacy in domestic politics is revealed in easy private access to guns and in arming teachers to deter school shootings. It makes little sense to argue (as did Donald Trump) that a disturbed individual with access to firearms would best be deterred by a “loving teacher” with a concealed handgun. Also worth noting is that in several thousand years of western philosophy, a hallmark of a civilized society has been “the centralized force monopoly of the community,” not an “every man for himself” vigilante system favored by former US President Donald Trump.

[20] One of this writer’s first scholarly assessments of the “porcupine” fallacy was published in Parameters: The Journal of the US Army War College (Department of Defense) in September 1979. See; Louis René Beres, “The Porcupine Theory of Nuclear Proliferation: Shortening the Quills,” Parameters, Vol. IX, No. 3, September 1979, pp. 31-37. More recently, see Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York and London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 2nd edition 2018.

[21]Recalling 20th-century German philosopher, Karl Jaspers: “The rational is not thinkable without its other, the non-rational, and it never appears in reality without it.” This complex insight can be found in Jaspers’ “Historical Reflections” on Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

[22] Former President Trump never showed awareness that international law is an integral part of the law of the United States. Recalling 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.'”).

[23]See, by this author: Louis René Beres, https://blog.oup.com/2011/08/philosopher-king/.  Plato’s theory, offered in the fourth century B.C.E, seeks to explain politics as an unstable realm of sense and matter, an arena formed and sustained by half-truths and distorted perceptions.  In contrast to the stable realm of immaterial Forms, from which all genuine knowledge must be derived, the political realm is dominated by myriad uncertainties of the sensible world. At the basis of Plato’s political theory is a physical-mental analogy establishing a correlation between head, heart and abdomen and the human virtues of intelligence, courage and moderation. 

[24]See C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self (1957).

[25]See, for example: https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/6-months-later-republicans-jan-100009245.html

[26]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, at Oxford University Press: https://blog.oup.com/2017/09/aesthetics-politics-donald-trump-beauty/

[27]See by this author, Louis René Beres, at Princetonian (Princeton University) (2011): https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2011/09/embracing-cellular-angst

[28] See: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/01/trump-organization-cfo-allen-weisselberg-pleads-not-guilty-to-tax-crimes.html

[29]See, by this author, at Princetonian (Princeton University): Louis René Beres, https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/02/emptiness-and-consciousness

[30] See by the poet W.H. Auden: “Defenseless under the night, a world in stupor lies.”

[31] See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://www.eurasiareview.com/19012019-trump-and-destruction-of-the-american-mind-oped/; reprinted from Yale Global Online (Yale University).

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

[33] Within this reflective activity, each citizen minimizes himself/herself into a quantité négligeable, an irrelevant being.

[34]“The self is sacred,” opines Ralph Waldo Emerson in several of his most classic essays.

[35]“Man cannot receive an answer,” warns philosopher Paul Tillich in Existence and the Christ (1951) “to a question he has not asked.”

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

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Americas

Global Warming And COP26: Issues And Politics

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The president’s massive social services and infrastructure package is under consideration by Congress.  The problem is Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia.

Not only is West Virginia a coal-producing state but Mr. Manchin owns two coal companies.  Although in a blind trust operated by his son, it is clear that coal companies make money when they sell coal.

But coal is a serious polluter, possibly the worst among fossil fuels.  Any serious attempt to reduce the impact of climate change will replace coal with at least natural gas — available in abundance and emitting almost 50 percent less CO2 according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Republicans — many of whom deny global warming following Trump’s lead — adamantly oppose the plan en bloc, so Senator Manchin’s vote is crucial.  For the moment then, the fate of the planet lies in the hands of one man because, quite simply, if the US backs off, China will be relieved of pressure — also Russia which has an abundance of fossil fuels.

Hence the importance of the COP26 climate summit scheduled for October 31 – November 2 in Glasgow.  Originally planned for 2020, the meeting was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.  The town is preparing for an influx of 25,000 people as lobbyists, conference attendees and demonstrators arrive. 

It is an interesting meeting, liked by some to a teacher requiring a class to prepare and bring term papers.  The 200 countries represented will be bringing their plans to meet the goals of the Paris accords.  These require the signatories to commit to enhance ambitions every five years — thus 2020 postponed to 2021 — under the so-called ‘ratchet mechanism’.  The Paris Accords aimed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius and to aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As often, people leak documents to help their agenda.  This time a huge leak shows how important fossil fuel using and producing countries are attempting to modify a crucial scientific report.  Oil producer Saudi Arabia, coal producer Australia and heavy user Japan are among those questioning a rapid change from fossil fuels.  Saudi Arabia for one also lobbied previously in 2015 with some success.

This time the lobbying effort consists of more than 32,000 submissions (by governments, corporations and other interested parties) to the team of scientists preparing scientific reports designed to coalesce the best science on tackling global warming.  One can imagine the headache for the scientists, who for the most part have a regular job, often as professors.  Produced as “assessment reports” by IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) these represent a consensus of the views of different governments, and are used by them to decide what action will be needed. 

The many bodies involved, the complicated murky politics and the enormous pressure from different parties all point to the crucial fact that billions of dollars are involved now in today’s dollars versus promises of a better and distant future.  We can only hope we have  decision makers with foresight, and leaders without Trumpian climate change ignorance and excess.

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America’s Two-Tiered Justice System

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The Constitution states only one command twice. The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states. These words have as their central promise an assurance that all levels of government must operate within the law and provide fair procedures to all its citizens.

In this politically divisive climate, the central promise has been broken with little to no assurance that one can trust the American democratic system where some courts have disavowed their responsibility to uphold the Constitution’s meaning of the laws passed by Congress. For instance, the Bill of Rights was passed because of concepts such as freedom of religion, speech, equal treatment, and due process of law were all deemed so fundamental to protect every legal resident in the nation; yet we are now witnessing politically charged judicial appointments eradicating these principles under which all persons and entities are accountable to equally enforce and independently adjudicate, as well as being consistent with international human rights.

On the heels of the Chinese coronavirus, there is an escalating epidemic of unequal justice and character assault where much of the news media is politically aligned with the rulers in turning a blind eye or complicit in the coverup; and in some cases, ravenously endorses the demise of what has essentially now become political dissidents falsely accused, intimidated, and jailed. While many Americans are attempting to scrape by in difficult times, they remain astute to the moral failure of the elites in power as well as the tacit elected opposition’s assiduous silence in whitewashing the legal duplicity. Historical trends over centuries of betraying the peasants eventually succumbs to a reckoning where the privileged corrupt politician and their corporate fascists will be exposed and held accountable in some fashion.  

Americans are confounded by the coronavirus decrees requiring masks to be worn for thee and not for me double standards. The politicians hammer away at enforcing mask mandates on the common folk, yet they do not adhere to their own edicts while attending fine dining with their elite backers. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Californian Governor Gavin Newsome, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot all violated their own mask mandates in public venues while the masked servants waited on them.

President Biden was caught on video walking maskless through a swanky Washington restaurant in violation of the District’s laws on facial coverings, yet regular citizens are subject to civil penalties which result in fines of $1000.00 or revocation of licenses during the COVID-19 emergency. In defending the emperor, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said we should ‘not overly focus on moments in time that don’t reflect overarching policy.’ These double standard by the progressives are a far cry from Americans being punished and ostracized all over the country for not wearing a mask.

Identity politics has resulted in two systems of justice – one where BLM rioting and looting is described by the media as peaceful demonstrations and where assaulting police has no criminal consequences; yet the January 6th actions at the Capital has resulted in the largest round up of protesters ever seen in America. It is estimated that the Federal Government has upwards to 70 rioters/trespassers in solitary confinement and they are only let out in a larger area for one hour at 2 am due to COVID. Some of those being held in detention have been charged with trespassing on restricted grounds, others with assault and obstruction, and some haven’t been charged with anything. There are no bail hearings for these political activists yet BLM and Antifa rioters typically spend one night in the brig and let out the next day to rejoin the frontlines of carnage.  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vocally pushed for the January 6th ‘insurrectionists’ to be added to the TSA no-fly list. Civil liberties are being trampled by exploiting insurrection fears with people in attendance no longer permitted to take a flight in their own country and they have not been convicted of a crime. This action by the government had previously only happened to suspect foreign terrorists, and now it is happening to Americans under suspicion. We see no similar actions taken against the militant Antifa anarchists who attacked and torched federal buildings in Portland.

Washington DC has essentially been abusing these inmates in captivity. There have been complaints on the nourishment of their fellow Americans where they are served white bread and a packet of tartar sauce. This is ultimately a violation of the 8th Amendment that prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, nor cruel and unusual punishments, and from inflicting unduly harsh penalties. Some judges are expressing concern at the length of these pretrial incarcerations, however they’ve largely deferred to the Justice Department. Meanwhile anarchists who burn down buildings and shoot projectiles at police officers and federal buildings have charges dismissed. Justice is not equal.   

One female trespasser was shot dead by police during the Capital unrest and there was no outcry or charges against the officer. She was white and a Trump supporter. Federal prosecutors are not seeking criminal charges against the police lieutenant whose single shot killed Ashli Babbit, the 14-year veteran who served four tours with the US Airforce. If the unarmed Babbit committed any crime, it would have been for trespassing, a misdemeanor that should have seen her arrested and not slain. The lieutenant’s life was not at risk nor was he saving the lives of others as he stood with numerous police officers in riot gear and strapped with submachine guns. If a member of BLM was shot dead by police during an unlawful riot, there would have been an immediate racial outcry from political elites and from across the news media for justice followed by looting local retailers and ransacking a police precinct. The action by BLM is considered righteous violence whereas the slain Babbit had it coming to her.  

On a very disturbing and new level of injustice is the threatening actions being taken against parents of schoolchildren by the Department of Justice. Most Americans are familiar with the Patriot Act following 9-11 where the National Security Division conducts counterterrorism operations against foreign adversaries planning suicide bombings and stealing nuclear secrets. Now the Biden Administration, under Attorney General Merrick Garland, has turned the NSD’s crosshairs against everyday Americans conducting their civil duties and free speech as school board meetings.

Garland’s actions followed the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) claim that American public schools and its education leaders are under immediate threats and intimidation as parents grow frustrated over the divisive neo-Marxist Critical Race Theory being injected into their children’s curricula. This is clearly an injustice to weaponize the DOJ and FBI investigators to intimidate and arrest parents under the same counterespionage to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Parents may be angry, but they are certainly not domestic terrorists in taking on the powerfully partisan school unions who somehow believe they are justified to influence civilization by indoctrinating their children.        

Garland’s poster boy for his hideous partisan support of the NSBA is a Virginia father who was arrested at a school board meeting when he attempted to raise the alarm over his young daughter being raped in the school washroom. The father became the symbol of angry parents confronting school officials when he was taken down by several police officers and apprehended for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He became vocally upset when school officials denied the attack on his daughter, but he was not physically confrontational.

The father said it is scary that our government will weaponize themselves against parents and they’re using my video across the nation to spread fear; while the school officials did not seem to want to listen to him regarding his daughter being assaulted by a boy wearing a skirt who took advantage of transgender rules to access the girl’s washroom. The boy has now been charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, one count of anal sodomy, and one count of forcible fellatio related to the incident at that school. At a later date, the same boy was charged for a similar attack at neighboring school where he allegedly forced a victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her.  Regardless of the raped daughter, Garland and the NSBA still have their video of the father being wrestled down to support the use of the FBI against parents and send a chilling effect on harmless dissent.  

The Russian collusion narrative against then President Donald Trump may seem dated, however it can never be swept aside or forgotten in what may well have been the biggest political scandal and injustice to a man in American history. The country endured four years investigating Russian collusion into the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 presidential win with senate and congressional impeachment hearings over a Clinton-paid-for fake dossier, the biased Obama hatchet men overseeing the FBI and CIA shirking the law, a frenzied media that never let up on Trump’s guilt, and a special counsel comprised of Clinton partisans that turned over every leaf that eventually found the nearly crucified Trump to be innocent of the false charges. The former president had to withstand an incessant blitzkrieg of injustice through his entire presidency while leading the most powerful country in the world.   

On the hand, there is compelling evidence that President Joe Biden spent years while in government enriching himself through family ties, specifically his son Hunter, to the tune of millions of dollars in foreign money from China, Russia, and Ukraine. The foreign players simply used the unqualified son to leverage access to Biden while satisfying Hunter’s greed and questionable lifestyle. Biden has little to no ability to stand up to China or Russia knowing they are holding damaging transactions over his head. There have been no investigations into Biden’s quid-pro-quo against Ukraine or the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to Biden family members, no impeachments, and the news media buried these stories; including damaging information found on Hunter’s laptop during the 2020 presidential election. Had Trump and his sons engaged in these activities, there would have been a very different level of justice.   

What of this injustice that is making its mark on history? If we take a moment to think through the confusion of the moment and see the morale issue involved, then one may refuse to have this sense of justice distorted to grip power rather than for the good of the country. Those who have sown this unjust wind may eventually reap a whirlwind that provokes reform by convulsion of the people instead of a natural order of business. We must all remember that democracy lies with the people of this land and whether the nation will be stirred to stand for justice and freedom in this hour of distress and go on to finish in a way worthy of its beginning.  

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Biden’s Department of Justice: parents as domestic terrorists

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In recent developments in the United States, US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, and the FBI have put under the FBI radar parents as potential domestic terrorists. You heard it right. This is now a new formal legal policy contained in memos of the Department of Justice trying to reign in parents discussions on Biden’s new school curricula. They are not going after potential outbursts but outright terrorism. 

This is an attack on freedom of speech in the sense that parents have the right to discuss and disagree with the new Biden school curricula. This is where the issue originated: parts of Biden’s new school curricula are not accepted by many parents and if they disagree, the FBI treats them now as potential domestic terrorists as a matter of policy. Apart from a First Amendment case, this is also a case for international human rights law and I reported the development to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech this week hoping to get a statement.

The Department of Justice is referring to some constitutional provision on “intimidation of views” to override and take down one of the most firmly established rights, the right to freedom of speech, in quite frankly a ridiculous interpretation. Those parents that dare to speak up against controversial parts in the new text books could be investigated for domestic terrorism. This is the most incompetent interpretation on limitations of freedom of speech I have seen in awhile. 

Garland and the FBI have totally lost their marbles. The woke discussion is not funny to me anymore. It increasingly looks like a woke tyranny that has nothing to do with rights and equality anymore but simply serves as a vehicle to empower the FBI to run wild against regular people. This lunacy needs to be stopped.

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