Abstract: “Individual man sees in his country,” says Heinrich von Treitschke in Lectures on Politics, “the realization of his earthly immortality.” Though difficult to understand, Realpolitik – an historical shorthand for traditional power politics – draws its most animating force from the microcosm. While inconspicuous, it is this individual human search for immortality that may ultimately drive international relations. Correspondingly, each state’s competitive struggle for the “death” of certain other states may represent a last-ditch defense against both collective and personal annihilation. Among other things, this obscure simultaneity suggests the most genuine rationale of Realpolitik is not (as is usually presumed) the acquisition of territory, wealth or “victory,” This authentic rationale is (however unwitting or “sub-conscious)” the avoidance of personal death. It is not an easy idea for scholars to conceptualize, but ignoring it could severely limit humankind’s remaining chances for survival.
“An immortal person is a contradiction in terms.”-Emmanuel Levinas, God, Death and Time (1993)
Introduction: World Politics as a Primal Struggle
It’s time for resolute candor. To begin, the simple fact of being born augurs badly for immortality. Nonetheless, in their unquenchable desperation to live perpetually, human societies and civilizations have often embraced a broad panoply of faiths that promise life everlasting. The quid pro quo for any such grand promise – and a quid pro quo that makes itself palpable – is some tangible form of “undying” loyalty.
This is, after all, a conspicuously incomparable promise.
There is more. Various pertinent connections in these matters are intersecting and complex; they are not intended for any consideration by the intellectually faint-hearted. In the end, as diligent thinkers may learn from history, overriding human loyalty is easily transferred from Faith to the State, which then battles with other States in what is termed a “struggle for power,” but is actually (and more fundamentally) a metaphysical contest. Often, such competition represents a presumptively “final conflict” between Good and Evil.
The ultimate advantage to being on the side of “Good” in such a primal struggle is nothing less than eternal life.
By definition, of course, this is a compelling and incomparable promise. For proper assessment of any such rudimentary matters, history and philosophy represent an indispensable starting point. More precisely, there are good arguments here for erudition; most plainly, the world can never be saved or understood by technically-trained “experts.” About this core limitation, we may learn gratefully from 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset: “The specialist ‘knows’ very well his own tiny corner of the universe; he is radically ignorant of all the rest.”
In a later work, Man and Crisis (1958), Ortega observes something utterly fundamental and universally overlooked: “History is an illustrious war against death.” Still, though this comment is original and purposeful, and sets the stage for better understanding Realpolitik, it reveals only a partial piece of a far more problematic truth: Power over death represents the greatest conceivable form of power here on earth; but actually acquiring such power in world politics can “demand” the killing of “others.” 
Violence and the Sacred
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.
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.”
There is more. Going forward, scholars and policy-makers must suitably re-examine vital underlying links between microcosm and macrocosm. 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.” 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. Left unmodified, the “all against all” Westphalian Process 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.”
Seeking Victory Over Death
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.
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.”
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 an insufferable diminution of power. Reciprocally, anything that is done to eliminate hated enemies must enhance their collective life and augment their collective power. Ideally, these strategies will fare best when “God is on our side.”
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 moment when he faces a dying person. Here, as we may learn again from Elias Canetti, the living human being comes as close as he or she ever 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 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 sentiments experienced by a belligerent state that is seeking some tangible “victory” over an adversarial state.
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 remain prospectively vital and determinative.
Appearance and Reality
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.”
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.
Genocide and Power over Death
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.
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. 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.
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?
Prima facie, what is required is not a replication of enemy leadership crimes, but policies that finally recognize death-avoidance as the essential starting point for national security and national defense. With such recognition, visceral hostility and existential threat could be rejected altogether, and a new ethos – one based on firm commitments to “remain standing” at all costs – could be implemented.
Reason versus anti-Reason
Basic changes are necessary. All humanity must finally rid itself of the retrograde notion that killing another person can somehow confer immunity from mortality. In 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 sorts of understanding.
Always, our “just wars,” 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 all foreseeable adversaries in the global “state of nature.” Only with this difficult awareness can we humans relieve an otherwise incessant and still-ascending Hobbesian war of “all against all.”
More than ever before, history deserves an evident pride of place. The United States, America’s current leaders 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 in 1787.
What should this particular history signify for ongoing American foreign policy preparation? This is not an insignificant query, but it does presuppose an American democracy founded upon authentic learning, and not (recalling the Trump presidency) on flippantly corrosive clichés or abundantly empty witticisms. In this connection, individual human death fear does have a place in a better understanding of America’s national security prospects. To the point, only a people who can feel deeply within itself the unalterable fate and suffering of a broader global population will be able to embrace compassion, coexistence and empathy.
In the end, a “triumph of death” in one form or another is both irresistible and inevitable; any attempts to avoid death by killing designated “despised others” must prove futile and inglorious. Going forward, 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 labels “wish fulfillment” in The Future of an Illusion (1927), we must finally acknowledge the obvious, even viewing it as a 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 their immutably common destiny.
The Planetary Survival Task
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; 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.”
“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. 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) 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 repeating, there can be no greater form of presumed power than power over death.
The “Sacred” State and Power over Death
For the most part, it is not for us to choose when we should die. Instead, as individual human beings, our words, our destinies, lie far beyond any considerations of conscious decision or individual selection. Still, and purposefully, 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, a promise that would remain distressingly distant in any dissembling world of unrelieved belligerent nationalism
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. 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.
Across an entire planet, we can care for one another as humans, but only after we have first accepted that the judgment of aresolutely 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, in 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 plainly the greatest form of power discoverable anywhere: power over death.
World Politics as Core Struggle of “Mind over Mind”
Americans and various other residents of our interconnected planet have a right to expect that any president of the United States should attempt to understand such complex linkages. Here, America’s national policies must build incrementally upon more genuinely intellectual sorts of understanding. Always, our “just wars,” counter-terrorism conflicts, and anti-genocide policies must be conducted as intricate contests of mind over mind, not just 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). 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.
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.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 for ever-recurrent instances of war, terror and genocide.
In the end, for all of humankind, the “triumph of death” is inevitable. Always, attempts to avoid death by killing certain despised “others” prove to be feeble, futile and inglorious. Going forward, it is 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 labeled “wish fulfillment” (see The Future of an Illusion, 1927), scholars must acknowledge the obvious, and do so as a long-overlooked blessing. With such an eleventh-hour acknowledgment, all people and all nations on this imperiled planet could finally begin to draw purposefully from their immutably common destiny – that is, from their plainly shared mortality. Among other things, this means using human beings always-overriding “oneness” as the intellectual basis for expanding empathy and for its corresponding pattern of worldwide integration.
To be sure, all this represents a visionary and fanciful prescription, one still unlikely to be grasped “in time.” But there does remain a practical way to begin. This way would require the leaders of major states to recognize that they can never in any meaningful way be “world powers” in a global “state of nature” (all actors here are equally “mortal;” none has any “power over death”) and that any coordinated retreat from Realpolitik would be self-interested and cumulatively indispensable.
Courage and Martin Heidegger’s “The They”
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, 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.”
“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.”
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.
Reinterpreting Hegel’s “March of God”
In part, at least, the arena of world politics (the macrocosm) is endlessly violent because individual human beings (the microcosm) fear death. Though widely unacknowledged and patently ironic, the murderous connections here are both longstanding and difficult to dispute. Already, in the 19th century, Heinrich von Treitschke linked world politics and “earthly immortality.” And even before this author of Lectures on Politics, George F. Hegel identified the state in The Philosophy of Right as the “march of God in the world.”
Could anything ever prove more important? Ultimately, states battle other states amid unreconstructed Westphalian anarchy not for any geopolitical primacy per se, but for individual and collective salvation. While the ironic result of such battles has always been death and mega death, not eternal or longer life, an overriding contra-mythology still endures. This is the manifestly lethal conviction that it is in war, and not in “perpetual peace,” that humans are able to acquire power over death. Sometimes, this incomparable acquisition is intended to be direct – that is, an immediate consequence of killing on the side of God. More generally, however, such presumed power over death devolves indirectly to general populations, communities that are not involved in the actual business of killing.
Bob Dylan could have qualified his famous lyrics. Even “bystanders” can have “God on their side.”
None of this is meant to deny the at least partial validity of more traditionally accepted explanations of Realpolitik or power politics, namely, that these struggles are about tangible goods, geography and/or “national security.” These more conspicuous and common explanations are assuredly not “wrong.” They are, however, more-or-less trivial and epiphenomenal.
In the main, such explanations are generally “correct,” but only as secondary reflections of what is most fundamentally important. At this point, scholars and policy makers must search more diligently for the primary sources of such reflections. The task will be much harder, but the “payoff” will prove more serious and enduring.
In William Goldings’ classic novel, Lord of the Flies, 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” suddenly 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 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.
Overcoming a Primal Promiscuity
In the beginning, in that primal promiscuity wherein the lethal swerve toward power politics first arose, forerunners of modern nation-states established a system of perpetual struggle and violent conflict that was destined to fail. Easily captivated by this self-destroying system of international relations, states continue to allow the degrading spirit of Realpolitik to spread everywhere unchecked; it spreads like an ideological gangrene on the already-marred surface of the earth. Rejecting all pertinent standards of logic and correct reasoning, this false consciousness imposes no reasonable standards upon itself. It remains rife despite its incessant and unceasing rebuffs. Oddly, Realpolitik takes its long history of defeat as victory.
Plainly, its enthusiastic historical proponents have never learned any deeper meanings from history.
There is more. The majority of human beings remain unable to accept the biological truth of mortality. Understood in terms of world politics, this suggests that state sovereignty will likely continue to be viewed by many as a suitable or even indispensable antidote to personal death. Though such a view is inherently destructive, the connections are not yet widely apparent. And it remains a corrosive perspective that will not simply fade away on its own.
It is high time for candor. Whatever a particular population’s in-principle preferences, the sheer fact of having been born augurs badly for any pleasing promises of immortality. Nonetheless, the primal human inclination to deny such an unbearable truth will likely continue to generate the same terrors from which so very many seek refuge.
The irony is staggering, but it is also incontestable.
In its obvious desperation to live perpetually, humankind has embraced 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 later during the Reagan Administration. More recently, Donald Trump’s core message of “American First” was not without underlying or implicit references to righteous struggles in world politics with
“God on our Side.” For several million Trump supporters, their leader’s slogan of “America First” was essentially an eschatological code term, one 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.” 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.
The Growing Imperatives of “Planetization”
The world is still full of noise and gratuitous rancor; still, it remains possible to listen for real “music.” But for this to happen, leaders, citizens and subjects will first have to detach themselves from variously 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, but this relieving prospect seems blatantly unreal. It follows conspicuously that 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. 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 finally time for candor. We humans are all mortal; we must all die. The point of any derivative global survival is not to deny such an obviously common fate, but to draw most productively upon its importance for planet-wide reconciliations. Above all, what we need now most on this grievously imperiled planet is not a continuously mistaken focus on simplistic reflections of reality or epiphenomena (think here of America’s obsessive daily focus on transient political personalities and superficial news makers), but durable archetypes of global restructuring.
A fanciful objective? Undoubtedly. Still, it represents a less fanciful goal that continuing to seek safety in the corrosive dynamics of Realpolitik or “Westphalian” international relations.
There remains one last clarification. “Individual man sees in his country,” observed Heinrich von Treitschke, “the realization of his earthly immortality.” (emphasis added). By this observation (actually, a qualification or limitation) suggests something “less” (and hence more plausible) than the classic after-worldly meaning of immortality (i.e., power over death). Here, Treitschke is likely suggesting that something akin to eternal fame, not any tangible life everlasting, can best represent this animating dynamic of world politics. Though there can exist no scientifically valid ways of rank-ordering the two contending meanings of immortality over both time and space, there can also be little doubt that power over death must generally bestow greater satisfactions than any purported power over reputation.
In the end, political searches for collective immortality may signify compelling personal yearnings to avoid death. Though such fervid hopes can be nurtured only by assorted convictions of faith, not of science, the history of humankind reveals no evidence that Reason can reliably trump anti-Reason. Even in our glittering age of advanced technology, various conspicuous claims of non-rational belief continue to drive both states and sub-states (terror organizations) toward an explosively violent geopolitics. Always most evident in such fearful struggles are perpetrators’ associations of sacredness with armed force, associations meant to ensure that war and terror can serve the highest imaginable forms of human power.
These usually favored forms concern power over death.
 Logic here correlates “immortality” of the macrocosm (the state) to immortality of the microcosm (the individual human citizen or subject). Earlier, German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel opined, in his classic Philosophy of Right (1820), the state represents “the march of God in the world.” Ipso facto, all such “correlations” are contrary to any verifiable logic or science.
 The classic statement of Realpolitik in western philosophy is the cynical comment of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic: “Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” (See Plato, The Republic, 29, Benjamin Jowett, tr., World Publishing Company, 1946.) See also: Cicero’s oft-quoted query: “For what can be done against force without force?” Marcus Tullus Cicero, Cicero’s Letters to his Friends, 78 (D.R. Shackleton Baily tr., Scholars Press, 1988). Inter alia, the following essay seeks to clarify that although Cicero’s query makes perfect “common sense,” it is also superficial. In essence, therefore, this query is both obvious (rhetorical) and incomplete.
Everywhere on earth, it is always “the one true faith.”
 See Ortega’s modern classic, The Revolt of the Masses (1930).
In world politics, says philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, any deeply-felt promise of immortality is of “transcendent importance.” Seehis Religion in the Making, 1927.
 While this connection is most obvious in matters concerning Jihadist terrorism, it is also found in certain more 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
 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).
 Still the best scholarly clarification of these connections are René Girard, Violence and the Sacred (1977) and René Girard, The Scapegoat (1986).
See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2013/03/08/iraq-afghanistan-and-the-end-of-winning-wars
 On the various meanings of Realpolitik, see, by this author, Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984).
 See # 1, supra. This references a continuing process of threat, counter-threat and war.
 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”?
 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.
 See Epicurus, The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers (Whitney H. Oates et al., 1940), p. 282.
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.”
 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.
 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).
See Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952).
 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).
 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).
 Under international law, which is also law of the United States, responsibility of national leaders for international 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.
 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.”
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.'”).
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).
 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.”
 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.
 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.
 See by this author, at Oxford University Press, Louis René Beres: https://blog.oup.com/2011/08/philosopher-king/
 See Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952).
 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).
 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.”
 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.”
 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.
 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).
 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….”
 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.
 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.
 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 grand visionary himself, one with whom I had the personal honor to work at Princeton (World Order Models Project) in the late 1960s.
 See, by this author, at Oxford University Press: Louis René Beres, https://blog.oup.com/2011/08/philosopher-king/
 “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 Q Anon should come readily to mind.
 See George Santayana, The Life of Reason or the Phases of Human Progress: Reason in Religion 260 (1905).
 See Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace; examined in Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (1973), University of Denver.
 This brings us back, again, to Plato’s allegory of the cave in The Republic.
 Over fifty years of teaching Political Science at Princeton and Purdue, I chose Lord of the Flies as a teaching text for introductory International Relations courses. It “worked” well.
 “Theory is a net,” says the German poet Novalis in a quotation embraced by Karl Popper (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1968) “only those who cast, can catch.”
 This “truth” is perhaps best explained by the philosopher George Santayana in his Reason in Religion (1905).
 In The Future of an Illusion, Sigmund Freud describes all such promises as “wish fulfillment.”
 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).
 See Norbert Elias, The Loneliness of the Dying 44 (1985).
 Fear of death, we have already seen in world politics, not only degrades normal life, it creates vast fields of premature corpses.
 See Chardin’s the Phenomenon of Man, 1955.
 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.”
 Although he doesn’t ever approach these issues from the standpoint of 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 advised my 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.
 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. See by author Louis René Beres at Horasis (Zurich): https://horasis.org/looking-beyond-shadows-death-time-and-immortality/
 On the meaning of such useful frames of reference, see: Elemire Zolla, Archetypes: The Persistence of Unifying Patterns (1981).
 Friedrich Nietzsche warns famously of “the after worldly” in Zarathustra. (ca. 1885).
The Impact of Cultural and Religious Differences on Ethnic Conflict: A Case Study of Alawites in Syria
Alawites are the ethnic and religious minority in Syria which comprise 12-15 percent about 2 million of the Syrian population. As far as the twentieth century, Alawites consisted of four main tribes in relative confinement mostly. They lived in the mountainous region of Hama, Latakia, and Homs while the Sunni majority lived mostly in the densely populated areas of Damascus and Aleppo. The Alawite community faced subjugation and marginalization based on geographic separation and economic disparities and this extended until the French came into power. Before the French control of Syria in 1920, the Alawaites were known as “Nusayris”. After the French control, they started to be known as Alawite which means the followers of Ali. It was under the French that the Alawites emerged from the rural highlands and enjoyed a certain type of autonomy. The French set up a separate state for the Alawites known as the Latakia state in July 1922. The French also recruited the Alawites into the Troupes Speciales du levant, which later evolved into the Lebanese and Syrian Defense Forces in 1921. Sunnis who were in the majority were against the French as they wanted to create an autonomous Greater Syria which was a term mostly used by the pan-arab nationalists. This further led to a distinct Alawite identity fostering the rifts between the Sunni community and Alawites in Syria.
The Alawites gained prominence in Syria and were provided with the chance of upward mobility during the rule of the Assad family who belongs to the Alawite community. In 1970, Hafiz- Al Assad by a military coup came into power establishing a regime that favored the Alawite community in Syria. From 1966 to 1970 more than 65 percent of the entire military of Syria constituted Alawites and even today Alawites hold key positions in the army. Since that moment, the conflicts within Syria have been dominated by religious, cultural, and sectarian divisions. Moreover, the Alawite community fatalities have sparked over the years, either fighting to shield the Assad regime or because they are indicted of supporting or assisting his regime. In the 1970s, A Sunni Organization named Muslim Brotherhood targeted the Alawite community for violence but the regime suppressed the group in a genocide in 1982.
Religious practices and beliefs:
In the modern Syrian context, the Alawites are classified as Muslims but their practices often tend to deviate from Muslim orthodoxy in various arenas. The Alawites are an ethnoreligious group that follows a branch of Shia Islam. They claim that “there is no deity but Ali, no viel but Muhammad, and no Bab but Salman”. The Islam of the Sunni sect under the scholar Ibn Taymiyaa issued several fatwas against Alawites claiming that they are greater disbelievers than Jews and Christians and authorized jihad against them. and The Alawites believe in the idea of the Divine Trinity constituting Muhammad, Ali, and Salman, which is revealed in the seven derivations of the Godhead, each incorporated into three persons. The Alawites believe in reincarnation but the Muslims of other sects oppose this belief saying that it is contrary to Islam.
In addition, other elements such as the acceptability of alcohol, Christmas celebrations, and the new year of Zoroastrians make them highly suspicious in front of the orthodox Muslims. The distinct beliefs and practices of Alawites have played a crucial role in shaping the ethnic conflicts within Syria. Historically, the Alawite community has faced discrimination and marginalization within Syria which has led to the creation of a sense of otherness among them due to their own unique set of rituals, practices, and beliefs that differ from those of the Sunni majority of Syria.
Cultural and Religious Differences as contributing factors of Conflict:
The ethnic conflict in Syria is entrenched in cultural and religious differences between the Sunnis and Alawites. Throughout the 20th century, religion has been rendered as a main source of conflict between the Alawites and Sunni ethnic groups in Syria. It is because Alawites and Sunnis adhere to different branches of Islam having distinct religious practices and beliefs. This further leads to religious tensions and ideological differences between the two groups fueling sectarian violence and discrimination. The cultural and religious differences between the Sunnis and Alawites also develop a sense of different identities. Alawites being a minority feel a threat to their identity from the majority of Sunnis whereas on the other hand, Sunni groups view the dominance of minority Alawites as a threat to their own cultural and religious identity and they seek to resist it. Moreover, stereotyping one another based on hate speech, religious intolerance, and demonization has been instrumental in deepening divisions and fueling conflicts between the different ethnic groups.
If we analyze the impacts of religious and cultural differences throughout the recorded history of Syria, we see that during colonial rule, the manipulation of various sects to entrench French rule through discrimination in the structure of the emerging military and the partition of the state into different sects have resulted in long-standing ethnic conflicts. Moreover from 1961 to 1970 religion was further used to strengthen the Alawite influence in the armed forces. The decades-long repression of the majority population of the Sunni community of Syria by the Alawites-led government based on religious and cultural differences and the elevation of Alawites in the private and government sectors led to the creation of sectarian strife among them. All of this was carried out to solidify the Assad regime based on sectarian bonds of the Alawite minority seizing control of the state and pursuing discriminatory policies towards the Sunni majority.
The struggles between the two groups over the years have fed a civil war in Syria that can transform the map of the Middle East. The Syrian war is considered to be a sectarian conflict between the minority Shite with the support of Alawites and the majority Sunni population on the other. The resistance action of the opposition at the start involved many ethnic and religious groups of Syria against the authoritarian regime of Assad turned into another sectarian war between Shi’ites and Sunnis. This Syrian insurgency started for the same reasons as that of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt but now it has turned into a sectarian civil war which has no resemblance to what happened in those countries.
Assad Regime Utilization of Sectarianism
During the forty years, the authoritarian Assad regime in Syria has created the conditions for the conflict and its sectarian components. Assad regime highlighted the use of the sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict and by doing that it was somehow successful in motivating the shite Alawite minority to support it. Over the years, the Assad regime has portrayed the opposition forces and in particular the Sunni Muslims as a threat to the very existence of the Alawite community in Syria. The regime has intensified the sectarian nature of the conflict between the Alawites and the Sunni majority as this conflict adopted the shape of the struggle for life for the Alawites in Syria. The Alawites had been a major support base for both Hafiz and Bashar al-Assad. Over the years Assad regime has used the sectarian identity of Alawites for their political objectives to consolidate their power by ensuring the support of primary institutions such as military and security forces.
Moreover, it is also said that the regime has used various sectarian militias dominated by the Alawite community. These militias include the National Defense Forces (NDF) and Shabiha which have been empowered and supported by the Assad regime against the opposition groups such as the rebel fighters comprised of Sunni Muslims. The main strategic objective of such militias was to increase sectarianism in Syria and stop the Alawite community from joining the opposition forces. The regime has portrayed the conflict as a sectarian conflict where the survival of Alawites is at stake while demonizing other ethnic groups, particularly the Sunnis. The result of such utilization of sectarianism that we witness today is that the minority Alawites are entangled in this conflict with the Sunnis due to their historical association with the Assad rule in Syria.
Role of external actors in exacerbating sectarian strife:
The Syrian conflict is a complex one and multiple actors are involved in it with various vested interests. The conflict is often characterized by a multitude of ethnic, ideological, and sectarian divisions with the minority Alawite community in Syria being one of them. Several external actors such as Hizbollah, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Shite fighters from Syria have bolstered their financial and political support to the Assad regime backed by Iran and Russia. Over the years, Iran has remained the steadfast supporter of the Alawite community in Syria, which includes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran has provided relentless aid to the Assad regime and has declared the resistance forces in Syria as extremists or terrorists which are supported by Gulf Arab states, the United States, and Israel. The supreme leader of Iran Ayatullah Khomeini once said that Syria is Iran’s thirty-fifth province, and if we fail Syria we won’t be able to hold Tehran as well. This statement highlights the strategic significance of Syria for Iran as it is critical for providing the geographical thoroughfare to the Lebanese Shia militia group Hizbollah. Another reason for Iran supporting the Assad regime is that Iran is fearful of Syria’s Sunni majority and the fact that it may rule Syria supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States and then it would be hostile towards Shite Iran. Moreover, the use of foreign Shia militias in Syria against Sunni majority groups further exacerbates the sectarian divisions. So, here in this scenario, religion is playing a key role which further classifies into different sects supporting each other fueling ethnic conflict.
Moreover, various other external actors support different factions within the Syrian conflict involving the Alawites based on their vested interests. The opposition to the Syrian regime comprised of Alawites by the Sunni majority groups has gained support over the years from various external actors including the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. However, not all these actors have been supporting the Sunni majority, particularly against the Alawites.
The Gulf countries particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar have long supported the Sunni rebels in Syria both financially and militarily. The main purpose behind this support is to weaken the influence of their regional rival Iran in Syria and support Sunni rebel groups fighting against the Alawite-led Assad regime. Turkey has been a long-standing supporter of the Sunni rebel groups in the Syrian conflict as it assists the Sunni majority groups both militarily and logistically. The purpose of Turkish support is to prevent the emergence of Kurdish forces along its border. In addition, the United States and the Western allies are supporting the Sunni majority groups to weaken the Assad-led Alawite regime and to counter the extremist threats from ISIS in Syria. It is significant to note that all the external actors involved in the Syrian conflict have their agendas and interest in Syria and their involvement has further complicated the dynamics of the ethnic conflict between the minority Alawites and the majority Sunni groups in Syria.
Efforts needed to address the conflict:
The efforts to address the conflict between the Alawites and Sunnis majority will require an inclusive approach that takes into account all the factors such as historical, cultural, religious, social, political, and economic that are contributing to the long-lasting tensions between the two groups. Healing the sectarian divisions of a diverse nation like Syria is not only necessary, but it has become a significant point for a more secure and stable Syria. To address the long-standing conflict in Syria it is essential to foster dialogue and negotiations between the Alawites and other ethnic groups in Syria. It is also necessary to promote inclusive governance and power-sharing structures within Syria that would provide participation and representation for all other ethnic groups as it would help in addressing the deep-rooted tensions between these groups in Syria. Moreover, engaging neighboring states and regional actors to address the concerns and aspirations of all communities including the Alawites and international support for mediation in the conflict is vital for ensuring the peaceful resolution of this conflict between the Alawites and the predominantly Sunni Muslim community in Syria.
To conclude, we can say that the Alawite-Sunni conflict in Syria is a complex and multi-faceted one. This conflict is a vicious cycle of violence with both sides committing violence against each other. The conflict involves ethnic dimensions with the Alawite minority supporting the Assad regime, while Sunnis oppose it as they see Alawites as an illegitimate ruling class. The Assad regime portrays itself as the protector of the Alawite community against Sunni extremism. Moreover, the conflict has attracted fighters from both sides who are motivated by religious and sectarian considerations. This further polarizes the conflict along the cultural and religious lines making it more difficult to find a peaceful solution. In addition, the external actors’ involvement based on their vested interests has further fueled the conflict along the cultural and religious lines making it more difficult to find a peaceful solution deepening the divisions and prolonging the conflict. However, by addressing the root causes of conflict and engaging in peacebuilding initiatives there is still hope for a more peaceful, inclusive, and prosperous Syria.
Democracy at Risk: The Global Challenge of Rising Populism and Nationalism
Authors: Meherab Hossain and Md. Obaidullah*
Populism and nationalism represent two discrete political ideologies; however, they may pose potential threats to democracy. Populism is a political ideology and approach characterized by the emphasis on the interests and concerns of ordinary people against established elites or perceived sources of power and privilege. Populist leaders often portray themselves as champions of the “common people” and claim to represent their grievances and desires. It is a political stance that emphasizes the idea of “the people” and often contrasts this group against “the elite”.
Nationalism, on the other hand, is an ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests. It represents a political principal positing that there should be congruence between the political entity and the nation-state. While populism emphasizes the idea of “the people,” nationalism emphasizes the idea of the nation-state.
In what ways can populism pose a threat to democracy?
While some argue that populism is not a threat to democracy per se, others contend that it poses a serious risk to democratic institutions. Populism can become a threat to democracy by undermining formal institutions and functions, discrediting the media, and targeting specific social groups, such as immigrants or minorities. This threat arises from its potential to confer a moral legitimacy upon the state that it might otherwise lack. Consequently, it can jeopardize the defense mechanisms established to safeguard against tyranny, including freedoms, checks and balances, the rule of law, tolerance, autonomous social institutions, individual and group rights, as well as pluralism. Populism imposes an assumption of uniformity onto the diverse fabric of reality, distorting not only factual representations but also elevating the attributes of certain social groups above those of others.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s populist rhetoric and policies have led to the erosion of democratic institutions, including the judiciary and the media. Populism in Turkey can be traced back to the era of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s regime, during which Atatürk’s elites, who had limited commonality with the broader society, assumed the responsibility of educating and guiding the masses. This phenomenon, often referred to as ‘regime elitism,’ has rendered Turkey susceptible to populism, which fundamentally revolves around the conflict between the elites and the general populace.
In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s populist government has been accused of undermining the rule of law, limiting press freedom, and targeting civil society groups. He has established a repressive and progressively authoritarian state that operates under the guise of democracy.
In media discourse, he has been designated as a populist leader. Empirical analysis reveals that Hungary is currently governed by a form of political populism, characterized as conservative right-wing populism. The salient features of Hungarian political dynamics encompass the government’s claim of challenging established elites, a lack of a clearly defined political agenda, the utilization of propaganda as a prominent tool in its political communications, advocacy for the preservation of a Christian Hungary, intervention in areas traditionally considered independent from state interference such as education and jurisdiction, the implementation of mass clientelism to reward its supporters while exerting pressure on critics, and overt criticism of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Consequently, this trajectory underscores the ascendance of authoritarianism within Hungary.
How Nationalism can be threat to Democracy?
Nationalism can pose a potential threat to both democracy and international relations when it manifests in forms of discrimination, violence, and the exclusion of specific groups. The ascension of nationalism may jeopardize the established efficacy of multilateralism, which has historically been instrumental in preserving lives and averting conflicts. This can result in unilateral actions by certain nations, thereby undermining the collaborative approach to the peaceful resolution of disputes.
Nationalism can serve as a catalyst for conflict and division, fostering tendencies toward exclusivity and competition that impede the resolution of common global challenges. The ascent of economic nationalism has the potential to undermine global collaboration and policy alignment, resulting in a resurgence of nationalist economic strategies in many regions worldwide. Such strategies often prioritize individual national objectives over the collective global interest. Unrestrained nationalism can pose a threat to stability by inflaming ethnic tensions, thereby increasing the likelihood of violence and conflict.
In Europe, nationalism has historically been a significant catalyst for conflict and division, spanning from the emergence of Nazi Germany in the 1930s to more recent upsurges of nationalist movements in various countries. Nationalism tends to foster exclusivity and competition, thereby complicating efforts to address common global challenges. Under nationalist ideology, exemplified by Hitler, instances of extreme cruelty and inhumanity have been documented.
Another instance of nationalism, which presents a significant challenge to democracy, is the ascendance of Hindu extremism and nationalism in India, resulting in communal tensions. Since the Hindu nationalist BJP came into power, there has been a heightened sense of insecurity among Muslims in India, with the situation reaching unprecedented levels of concern. The government has actively employed media, television, and the film industry to propagate Islamophobia among the Hindu majority. In 2018, the Indian High Court rendered a judgment advocating for India to be declared a Hindu state, citing the country’s historical religious divisions. Nonetheless, it is crucial to emphasize that, in accordance with its constitution, India is mandated to maintain a secular state. Needless to say, the rise of Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of fueling sectarian tensions and undermining the country’s secular democracy.
Indeed, while populism and nationalism are distinct concepts, their simultaneous global rise poses a considerable threat to democracy. These ideologies frequently favor specific groups over the broader population and can corrode democratic principles. They tend to exacerbate polarization and undermine vital democratic institutions. Hence, many countries are grappling with substantial challenges to their democratic systems, which puts their stability and effectiveness at risk.
*Md. Obaidullah holds both a BSS and an MSS degree in Public Administration from the University of Barishal. He is currently employed as a Research Assistant at the Centre for Advanced Social Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His writing expertise spans various subjects, including Public Policy, Politics, Governance, Climate Change, and Diplomacy, on which he frequently contributes
Principles of International Relations as Homo Sapiens
After listening to Hariri’s Home Sapiens, I grasped, with a new perspective, the state of our humanity. I deeply realized that indeed we are the last human species. Our closest relative and competitor, the Neanderthals, were long gone. So how do we, as homo sapiens (“wise men”), wisely ensure the well-being and future of our species? The question seems too general or even irrelevant to many considering that everyday life on Earth continues despite the horrors of war, the devastation of calamities, and the forebodings of apocalypticism. But let’s not toy around with the destructive propensity and capability of our species which could have played a significant role in the demise of the Neanderthals and could also threaten our very own existence.
Life on Earth now is multifaceted and more complex than when we were still cohabiting our planet with other human species. The ancient “us and them” have become the modern and ironically complicated “among us,” and consequentially “us versus us.” We have become the only remaining human species—but the only remaining species that wants to destroy itself for self-interest.
Reflecting on the implications of our being the only human species left on Earth, I deduce the following principles for our international relations.
As one human species living on one planet:
The principle of cohabitation
We all have the rights to peacefully and productively cohabit on planet Earth without the sequestration of others due to superficialdiversity such as geographical locations, skin color, social ideology, and culture; or because of national or corporate resource exploitation.
The principle of mutual survival
We cannot survive without the human ecosystem. Human life is a multidimensional ecosystem. It cannot survive and thrive with only one feature or characteristic in one locality. It necessitates global diversity and mutuality. For our species to survive, our relations need to be based on mutual universal survival.
The principle of co-thriving
We cannot thrive secluded from the universal life system. Regression and destruction of one geographical locus, one ethnicity, or one natural feature impacts the whole bio-societal system. Inversely, the flourishing of one locus, one ethnicity, or one natural feature in conjunction with others, furnishes the whole human system to thrive.
The principle of developmental competition
We have both the latent propensity for destructive bouts and a penchant for developmental competition. International relations based on destructive bouts eventually inflect global crises. Global relations based on developmental competition advance our civilization. Each progress in a varied sphere, though will not be the same, complements the whole progression.
The principle of common home protection
We only have one home, one present habitat for our species to live and thrive, and one human family. Allowing these to decay will not only result in our degeneration but also the eventual risk of our survival.
As homo sapiens, we are at the top of the food chain and intolerant. We want to devour everything we can see and irrationally have the delusion of grandeur of being the only predator left. But the prey and the predator are one and the same. It’s not so naïve to outline what can be tagged as an idealistic theoretical construct. But let’s also accept the fact that the most influencing factors in our international relations are either commercially exploitive or ideologically invasive. And these are not sustainable and globally beneficial—for they are calculated goodness intended for the temporal benefits of the very few. The principle of the common good will enable us to see more beyond our present state and ensure the well-being and future of our species.
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