Managing “Friction” In Ukraine: Russia, The United States And Inadvertent Nuclear War

“Friction is the difference between war on paper and war as it actually is.”-Karl von Clausewitz, On War

The “Friction” of Nuclear Crisis

Amid multiplying perils of Russia’s aggression[1] against Ukraine, one obligation remains primary for all parties. This is the core requirement to discourage elements of nuclear “friction”[2] during this crisis.[3] More specifically, though a US-Russia nuclear clash could result from deliberate national decisions by either party, such an outcome could also be unintentional.

Certain corollary obligations for the United States are worth noting. It is now patently time-urgent for capable American strategic thinkers to consider variously tangible and inter-penetrating prospects of an inadvertent nuclear war. This current subject of existential risk will display significant nuances.

 Such derivative or reflective particulars will warrant immediate and informed study.

 Nuances of an Inadvertent Nuclear War

Prima facie, these are not matters for everyday politicos to solve. Conspicuous definitional clarifications are in order. To begin, although an accidental nuclear war would always be inadvertent, not every inadvertent nuclear war would be the result of accident.

Pertinent examples may be identified. Other conceivable forms of unintentional nuclear conflict could represent the sudden or incremental outcome of human misjudgment and/or technical miscalculation. This is the case whether a bellum atomicum was spawned by singular nation-state error or by both sides to an ongoing nuclear crisis escalation.

Meaningful or even decisive here could be “synergies.” In brief, these factors would represent force-multiplying intersections that may arise between certain decision-maker misjudgments and/or miscalculations. Indeed, amid growing nuclear perils of the Ukraine crisis, synergies – whether foreseen or unforeseen – could prove utterly determinative.

               There is more. In all such densely complicated matters, conceptual understanding must be prior or antecedent to any actual policy. By definition, in specifically synergistic intersections, the cumulative “whole” of any considered combination would be greater than the sum of its component “parts.” Here, inter alia, the quantifiable outcome of two discrete national decisions would likely prove more consequential than any discernible result suggested by arithmetic summation.

This presumptively heightened importance could be tangible, intangible or somewhere in-between.

               What else? Ultimately, in the matter of Russia’s still-escalating aggressions against Ukraine,[4] synergistic outcomes must represent a bewildering complex of intellectual/analytic issues. These important outcomes would not represent merely mundane or trivial political matters. To the point, they would not represent any matters amenable to forms of political resolution.

               Initially, at least, the manifest risks of any deliberate nuclear war and inadvertent nuclear war should be assessed independently.[5] Accordingly, among other things, US President Joe Biden should prepare to deal systematically and dispassionately with predictable manifestations of cyber-attack and cyber-war originating within the present Ukraine crisis. To whatever extent possible, these high-technology threats ought to be considered in careful conjunction with simultaneously expanding activities of “digital mercenaries.”

               These will be largely “new frontiers.”

               Any residual US preparations for a nuclear war by intention (deliberate nuclear war) could have marked effects on the likelihood of inadvertent nuclear war. These preparations could be entirely rational. To wit, they would be designed to ensure US “escalation dominance” whenever intra-crisis hegemony was seemingly required.

                Unequivocally, for the United States, risks of deliberate and inadvertent nuclear war must remain delicately intertwined. To best minimize these grave risks should  always be the responsibility of genuine strategists and scholars, not ill-prepared or delusional politicos[6] who would see their personal success in “attitude, not preparation.”[7]

               There is more. In logic and science, precise language always matters. In the uniquely delicate matters of war and peace, dangerous false warnings could be generated by different types of technical malfunction and/or by third-party hacking interference. Nonetheless, these concocted signals should not be included under the pertinent causes of an inadvertent nuclear war.  For analytic purposes, which are ultimately crucial to any purposeful security policy, false warnings should be taken as cautionary narratives of an accidental nuclear war.

               These are meaningful distinctions. Recognizing the territorial and geopolitical loci of accelerating nuclear threats to the United States, Ukraine-related existential issues should focus in part on Russian, Chinese, and even North Korean interdependencies. Concessions allegedly offered to US President Biden by Russian President Putin might not be plausibly reassuring vis-à-vis the variably unpredictable perils originating from China. Reciprocally, Putin could have determinable reason to be concerned about any US concessions offered on behalf of particular NATO member states.

               In strategic terms, there is a great deal to assess. Metaphorically, for the United States, there are additional (and more-or-less interdependent) “flies in the ointment.” For both President Biden and President Putin, such irritants will substantially complicate some critical elements of America’s national security decision-making process. Taken together, these irritants should immediately bring to mind Carl von Clausewitz’s classical war-planning hypotheses concerning “friction.”[8]

Nuclear War by Miscalculation, Misinterpretation and “Escalation Dominance”

                Purposeful defense policies will always require variously refined methods. For the United States, conceptual clarity should become a much more plainly apparent sine qua non for resolving Ukraine-based risks. Most worrisome among all potentially credible causes of an inadvertent nuclear war would be errors in calculation committed by one or both sides. Clarifying examples here could involve assorted misjudgments of adversarial intent or capacity that emerge in some calculable tandem or conformance with any ongoing crisis escalation.

               Friction will matter. Such consequential misjudgments could stem from an amplified intra-crisis desire by one or several contending parties to achieve “escalation dominance.”[9] Among other stratagems, relevant “desire” could sometime involve a seeming willingness to tolerate a “limited nuclear war.”[10] In such foreseeable conditions, all rational “contestants” would strive for intra-crisis supremacy, but without risking unacceptable odds[11] of suffering total or near-total destruction.  

               In these inherently ambiguous circumstances, the operative definition of “unacceptable” would necessarily be subjective.

                On strategic matters, intersections and complexities can be expansive and excruciatingly difficult to fathom. As a correlative matter, the variously assorted causes of an inadvertent nuclear war now warrant closer expert study. These additional causes include flawed interpretations of computer-generated nuclear attack warnings; unequal willingness among calculating adversaries to risk catastrophic war; overconfidence in deterrence and/or defense capabilities on one side or the other (or both); adversarial regime changes; outright revolution or coup d’état among variously contending adversaries; and poorly-conceived pre-delegations of nuclear launch authority among more-or-less wary foes.[12]

Rationality and Irrationality

               On such potentially existential crisis matters as present-day Ukraine, US strategic thinking should never be narrowly “cookbook” or formula-based. One potential source of inadvertent nuclear war involving the United States could be as a “backfire” effect from untested strategies of “pretended irrationality.” In principle, a rational Russian enemy that managed to convince Washington of its decisional irrationality could sometime spark an American military preemption. In an utterly worst case scenario, an adversarial leadership in Moscow that had begun to take seriously certain hints of decisional irrationality in Washington could be frightened into striking first. Because such a scenario would be without precedent or sui generis, there could be no purpose to calling it “probable” or “improbable.”

                By definition, neither designation could possibly make any sense.

               Metaphor may also be instructive. Joe Biden must remain wary of “nightmare.” According to the etymologists, the root here is niht mare or niht maere, the demon of the night. Dr. Johnson’s dictionary says this corresponds to Nordic mythology, which regarded nightmares as the product of demons. This would make it a play on, or a translation of, the Greek ephialtes or the Latin incubus. In all such interpretations of nightmare, the inherently non-rational idea of some demonic origin is central.

               For the United States, the Ukraine-based demons of nuclear strategy and nuclear war must take a markedly different form. In essence, the mien of these “demons” is distracted and political. If these demons are now thought to be sinister, it is not because Vladimir Putin actively craves war with the United States, but because he may be seeking personal and national safety amid a self-propelled global chaos.[13]

               Though grotesque, primal and barbarous, that Russian dictator’s search could still be technically “rational.”

               There is more. While the state of nations has always been in the “state of nature”[14] – at least since the seventeenth century and the historic Peace of Westphalia (1648) – current conditions of nuclear capacity and worldwide anarchy portend an expanding cauldron of unprecedented aggressions. The correct explanation for any such dire portents lies in the indispensability of rational decision-making to viable nuclear deterrence[15] and in the coexistent fact that rational decision-making could become subject to suddenly corrosive deteriorations.

 Synergy, “First-Use” and Worldwide Human Rights

Presently, America faces national security risks that remain both immediate and existential. Such formidable risks can be fully understood only in light of the believable or at least conceivable intersections arising between them. On occasion, some of these reinforcing intersections could also prove synergistic. Though contradicting what we first learned in primary school arithmetic, the “whole” of  strategic intersectional risk effects could sometime be greater than the discernible sum of its component “parts.”[16]

 There is more. On matters of US nuclear crisis decision-making, there will be certain applicable matters of jurisprudence or law. Under relevant US Constitutional law[17] (Article l), holding Congressional war-declaring expectations aside, any presidential order to use nuclear weapons, whether issued by an apparently irrational president or by an otherwise incapacitated one, would warrant automatic obedience. To conclude otherwise in such incomparably dire circumstances would be law-violating.

Any chain-of-command disobedience in such time-urgent circumstances would be impermissible on its face. Further, an American president could order the first use of American nuclear weapons even if this country were not under any actual nuclear attack. In this connection, further strategic and legal distinctions will need to be made between a nuclear “first use” and a nuclear “first strike.” While there does exist an elementary but still-substantive difference between these two nuclear options, it is a distinction that former President Donald Trump absolutely failed to understand. This nation managed to survive that experience under a president starkly unfamiliar with nuclear strategy, but such previous episodes of good luck need never be repeatable.

               In the United States, substantial decisional risks still obtain.[18] Where should President Joe Biden go from here in the imperative management of such urgent security issues? Inter alia, a coherent and comprehensive answer will need to be prepared in response to the following basic question: If faced with a presidential order to use nuclear weapons, and if not offered sufficiently appropriate corroborative evidence of any actually impending existential threat, would the National Command Authority be: (1) willing to disobey, and (2) capable of enforcing such variable expressions of official disobedience?

               In all such unprecedented crisis-decision circumstances, authoritative decisions could have to be made in compressively time-urgent segments of minutes, not hours or days. Here, as far as any useful policy guidance from the past might be concerned, there could be no scientifically valid way to assess the true probabilities of possible outcomes. This is because all scientific judgments of probability – whatever the salient issue or subject – must always be based upon the discernible frequency of pertinent past events.

Any other bases could provide American nuclear strategists with only an intelligent guess.

               In prospectively relevant matters of nuclear war, there could be nopertinent past events. Though this represents a fortunate absence, it would still stand in the way of rendering fully reliable decision-making predictions. Prima facie, whatever the scientific obstacles,[19] the optimal time to prepare for any such incomparably vital US national security difficulties is now.

In the currently urgent security matter of Ukraine, President Biden, faced with dramatic uncertainties about Vladimir Putin ‘s willingness to “push the nuclear envelope,” could sometime find himself confronted with a bewilderingly stark choice. This choice would be deciding between outright capitulation to Russian war crimes[20]/crimes against humanity[21] and risking a nuclear war. In this regard, Biden would need to continuously bear in mind America’s law-based responsibility to uphold  basic justice[22] in other countries, especially where human rights were under conspicuous and egregious assault by another super-power.[23]

Within the broad parameters of Realpolitik[24] or geopolitics, the field of nuclear policy decision-making remains largely without any tangible precedent. While the search for “escalation dominance” may be common to all imaginable sorts of military deal-making, the plausible costs of nuclear bargaining losses could prove incomparable. No other military losses could reasonably be compared to ones in a nuclear war, whether intentional, inadvertent or accidental.

               There is more. In such a war, whether occasioned by miscalculation, human error or hacking-type interference, there could be no identifiable “winner.” Still, a number of significant and generic risks continue to obtain. Looking ahead, the very best way for America to forestall being placed in extremis atomicum is for President Joe Biden to stay focused on intellectual[25] and analytic explanatory factors. In all such complex policy matters, narrowly political judgments should always be deemed unworthy and extraneous.

Sometimes the poet may see more clearly than the policy-maker.[26] America should never allow itself to be caught unaware.[27] In playing such high-stakes “games” as nuclear strategy and escalation dominance, there would be no comforting “do overs.” At any late stage of bargaining and brinksmanship, even a single and seemingly minor “loss” could prove grievously lethal and irreversible.

Most important of all will be the calculated prevention of an inadvertent nuclear war. Even in the absence of a nuclear adversary that would wittingly brandish apocalyptic threats, America is imperiled by such a nuclear adversary through the multiple and synergistic dangers of national policy inadvertence. Even in a strategic world wherein Russian and American leaders remain reliably rational, these dangers must remain prospectively existential. They can, however, be limited and managed if they are first suitably delineated, clarified and investigated.

In the final analysis, the security task in Ukraine must be conceptualized as a fundamentally intellectual one, a titanic struggle to narrow the gap between “war on paper” and “war as it actually is.”[28] Because the only reasonable use for nuclear weapons in  this escalating struggle will be deterrence ex ante, not victory ex post, the American president and his senior advisors must somehow meet the perplexing expectations of “escalation dominance” without simultaneously triggering a nuclear exchange. In large measure, this task will require the decision-making principals to manage an existential crisis without any historical precedent, and to somehow do so with the more-or-less active cooperation of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Going forward on Ukraine, American strategic failure could not possibly represent an acceptable option. Still, success in any of its conceivable forms will remain sorely problematic. Joe Biden’s de facto recognition of Clausewitzian “friction” (i.e., his avoiding a “no-fly-zone” over Ukraine) is both understandable and indispensable. To be sure, we may all wish it were different for plainly credible humanitarian reasons, but, in the end, meeting the obligations of nuclear war avoidance should prove overriding.


[1] On the crime of aggression under international law, see: RESOLUTION ON THE DEFINITION OF AGGRESSION, Dec. 14, 1974, U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 U.N. GAOR, Supp. (No. 31) 142, U.N. Doc. A/9631, 1975, reprinted in 13 I.L.M. 710, 1974; and CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS, Art. 51. Done at San Francisco, June 26, 1945. Entered into force for the United States, Oct. 24, 1945, 59 Stat. 1031, T.S. No. 993, Bevans 1153, 1976, Y.B.U.N. 1043.

[2] In effect, though never made explicit by the White House, it is to acknowledge this element of “friction” that President Biden has steered away from establishing a “no-fly-zone” over Ukraine.

[3] As this crisis in Ukraine is essentially sui generis – there have been no plausibly equivalent nuclear threat events to draw upon –  nothing scientific can yet be said about nuclear war probabilities. Always, in both logic and mathematics, scientifically-valid probabilities must be based upon the determinable frequency of pertinent past events.

[4] These aggressions include a variety of related crimes under international law, all of them “egregious” in the Nuremberg sense. The principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the judgment of the Tribunal were affirmed by the U.N. General Assembly as AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, Dec. 11, 1946.  U.N.G.A. Res. 95 (I), U.N. Doc. A/236 (1946), at 1144.  This AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL (1946) was followed by General Assembly Resolution 177 (II), adopted November 21, 1947, directing the U.N. International Law Commission to “(a) Formulate the principles of international law recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal, and (b) Prepare a draft code of offenses against the peace and security of mankind….” (See U.N. Doc. A/519, p. 112).  The principles formulated are known as the PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED IN THE CHARTER AND JUDGMENT OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Report of the International Law Commission, 2nd session, 1950, U.N. G.A.O.R. 5th session, Supp. No. 12, A/1316, p. 11.

[5] The respective physical harms would be the same. For earlier looks at the expected consequences of  nuclear war effects by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1986). 

[6] In his relatively ignored book on Woodrow Wilson, Sigmund Freud observes: “Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great roles at all times in the history of mankind. Usually, they have wreaked havoc.”

[7] This was the view of former US President Donald J. Trump, who claimed to have halted North Korea’s nuclearization by mutually “falling in love” with Kim Jung On. This bizarre Trump statement should remind readers of a timeless comment by poet Berthold Brecht (then thinking of the murderous German Chancellor Hitler): “The man who laughs has simply not yet heard the terrible news.”

[8] In essence, the Clausewitzian concept of “friction” refers to variously unpredictable effects of inevitable strategic uncertainties; e.g., on under-estimations or over-estimations of relative power position and the unalterably vast differences between abstract theories of war and war “as it actually is.” See: Carl von Clausewitz, “Uber das Leben und den Charakter von Scharnhorst,” Historisch-politische Zeitschrift, 1 (1832); cited in Barry D. Watts, Clausewitzian Friction and Future War, McNair Paper No. 52, October, 1996, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Washington, D.C. p. 9.

[9] See, by this writer, Louis René Beres (Pentagon):

[10] US strategic thinkers must soon inquire whether accepting a visible posture of limited nuclear war would merely exacerbate enemy nuclear intentions, or whether it would actually enhance this country’s overall nuclear deterrence. 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).

[11]The measurable criteria of “severe risk” here would remain subjective. This is because the issues under examination would of necessity be unique or sui generis.

[12] The problem of such pre-delegations was examined by this author much earlier in his Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (The University of Chicago Press, 1980) and in articles co-authored with General John T. Chain, a former Commander-in-Chief, US Strategic Air Command: See Professor Beres and General Chain:  See also Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely deter a Nuclear Iran? The Atlantic, August 2012; and Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Israel; and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012. Though dealing with Israeli rather than American nuclear deterrence, these articles are fundamentally conceptual and clarify variously common analytic policy elements.

[13] Whether it is described in the Old Testament or any other major sources of ancient Western thought, chaos can be viewed as something positive, even a source of human betterment. Here, chaos is taken as that which prepares the world for all things, both sacred and profane. As its conspicuous etymology reveals, chaos further represents the yawning gulf or gap wherein nothing is as yet, but where all civilizational opportunity must inevitably originate. Appropriately, the classical German poet Friedrich Hölderlin observed: “There is a desert sacred and chaotic which stands at the roots of the things and which prepares all things.” Even in the pagan ancient world, the Greeks thought of such a desert as logos, which should indicate to us today that it was never presumed to be starkly random or without evident merit.

[14] Says Thomas Hobbes: “But though there had never been any time wherein particular men were in a condition of war one against another, yet in all times, Kings and Persons of Sovereign Authority, because of their Independency, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of Gladiators, having their weapons pointing and their eyes fixed on one another…(Leviathan).

[15] In studies of world politics, rationality and irrationality have now taken on very specific meanings. More precisely, an actor (state or sub-state) is presumed determinedly rational to the extent that its leadership always values national survival more highly than any other conceivable preference or combination of conceivable preferences. Conversely, an irrational actor might not always display such a determinable preference ordering.

[16] See earlier, by this author, Louis René Beres, at Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School):

[17] More generally, international law is a 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.'”).

[18] See by this author, Louis René Beres, at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:; and Louis René Beres,  at US Army War College, The War Room:

[19] Observes 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.”

[20]  The law of war, the rules of jus in bello, comprise: (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules. Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions, these rules attempt to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into all belligerent calculations. Evidence for the rule of proportionality can also be found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) at Art. 4. Similarly, the American Convention on Human Rights allows at Art. 27(1) such derogations “in time of war, public danger or other emergency which threaten the independence or security of a party” on “condition of proportionality.” In essence, the military principle of proportionality requires that the amount of destruction permitted must be proportionate to the importance of the objective. In contrast, the political principle of proportionality states “a war cannot be just unless the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensure from the war is less than the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensue if the war is not fought.” See Douglas P. Lackey, THE ETHICS OF WAR AND PEACE, 40 (1989). modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.” See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969), 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M.  679 (1969).

[21]Under authoritative international law, crimes against humanity are defined as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or during a war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated….”  See Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Aug. 8, 1945, Art. 6(c), 59 Stat.  1544, 1547, 82 U.N.T.S.  279, 288

[22] Says Plato: “Justice is a contract neither to do nor to suffer wrong.”  (Republic)

[23] Neither international law nor US law specifically advises any particular penalties or sanctions for states that choose not to prevent or punish egregious crimes committed by others. Nonetheless, all states, most notably the “major powers” belonging to the UN Security Council, are bound, among other things, by the peremptory obligation (defined at Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties) known as pacta sunt servanda, to act in continuous “good faith.” In turn, this pacta sunt servanda obligation is itself derived from an even more basic norm of world law. Commonly known as “mutual assistance,” this civilizing norm was most famously identified within the classical interstices of international jurisprudence, most notably by the eighteenth-century legal scholar, Emmerich de Vattel in The Law of Nations (1758).

[24]  The classic statement of Realpolitik or power politics in western philosophy is the 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).

[25] The Founding Fathers of the United States, including early presidents, were intellectuals. More precisely, 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 classic, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 145.

[26] Before “Beat” poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, there was the avant-garde of Zürich Dada, most notably Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara. Like “Beat,” Dada urged an expanding relationship between life and art, one where art can not only enrich life, but help to better understand and elucidate it.

[27] Underlying the technical issues here are individual citizen identifications with sentiments of belligerent nationalism, identifications that were strongly encouraged by former US President Donald J. Trump. In the nineteenth century, in his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observed: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.” Earlier, German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel opined, in his Philosophy of Right (1820), that the state represents “the march of God in the world.” The “deification” of Realpolitik, a transformation from mere principle of action to a sacred end in itself, drew its originating strength from the doctrine of sovereignty advanced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially conceived as a principle of internal order, this doctrine underwent a specific metamorphosis, whence it became the formal or justifying rationale for international anarchy –  that is, for the global “state of nature.” First established by Jean Bodin as a juristic concept in De Republica (1576), sovereignty came to be regarded as a power absolute and above the law. Understood in terms of modern international relations, this doctrine encouraged the notion that states lie above and beyond any form of legal regulation in their interactions with each other.

[28] The ancient Greeks and Macedonians always thought of war as a struggle of “mind over mind,” not just “mind over matter.” See F. E. Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War (1957).

Prof. Louis René Beres
Prof. Louis René Beres
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) 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.