Credo quia absurdum, “I believe because it is absurd”-Tertullian
There are many reasons to fear Donald J. Trump’s return to the White House, but one remains especially worrisome. It stems from the former president’s conspicuous ignorance of international law and US foreign policy. Among assorted particulars of this debility, a previously failed Trump posture – “America First” – would likely prove more injurious the second-time around.
Prima facie, its restoration, thoughtless in the most literal sense, would dignify a numbingly vacant US president’s indifference to science, logic, history and law.
Could it get any worse?
Could anything be more absurd?
Here is a basic answer: Following escalating aggressions by Russia in Ukraine and potentially destabilizing aggressions by China and North Korea in Asia, America needs a leader who can read and think meaningfully. The American White House is not a proper place for foreign policy pretenders, especially a former president who already displayed a pernicious fusion of historical indifference and intellectual incompetence.
There are also relevant specifics. Any future presidential retrogressions to “America First” would stem from misapplied US cultural underpinnings. These backward steps, absurd steps, would reflect variously intersecting declensions of “mass-man.” Though Donald Trump remains a celebrated leader of the American “mass,” not just a member, he has never actually risen above the capacities of his chorus. Rather, amid the constant rancor and noisy defilement, he has remained one of mass man’s most fervid exponents.
From time immemorial, international relations have been rooted in Realpolitik or power politics. Though such traditional patterns of thinking are normally accepted as “realistic,” they actually undermine world law and global order. It follows that any sitting US president should finally acknowledge the lethal limitations of our planet’s global threat system, and recognize, as inevitable corollary, that US power ought never be founded upon delusions of national primacy.
“America First” has a pleasing resonance with the Many, with those who like to chant in crowds. But this narrow political resonance does not extend to the Few, to those who would prefer to think as conscious individuals. About the “Few,” German-Swiss philosopher Thomas Mann attributes the downfall of civilizations to gradual absorptions of the educated classes by the Mass, to the “simplification of all functions of political, social, economic and spiritual life.” If nothing else, America’s Trump era was a humiliating period of deliberate and falsifying simplifications. Is it anything less than preposterous to actually seek its return?
Americans require intellect-based answers, not an endless barrage of silly clichés and partisan rancor. In turn, such answers will call for dialectical (mind challenging) thinking. Analytically, in these calculations, the United States should always be considered as one significant part of the larger world system, the world system configuration created by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
Though more or less ignored by global leaders, the “Westphalian” system of international law (a system of institutionalized global anarchy) is destined to fail. Moreover, together with the accelerating spread of nuclear weapons technologies and infrastructures, any such failure would prove remorseless, unprecedented (sui generis would say the logicians) and irremediable. At another level, it would signal the potentially insufferable triumph of anti-reason.
There are also relevant nuances. Grievous world system failure could take place in hard to fathom increments, or with great suddenness, as an unanticipated nuclear “bolt from the blue.” On such bewilderingly unpredictable matters, any US policy resurrection of Donald Trump’s “America First” would prove starkly injurious.
Conceptually, it’s not complicated. In these indispensable calculations, history deserves a much more manifest pride of place. False bravado and belligerent nationalism have never succeeded in any decipherable ways or for longer than brief intervals. Indeed, from an historical standpoint, no observation could be more obvious.
Plausibly, in a Trump-resurrected future, unsteady expressions of national security policy would be exacerbated by multiple system failures. At times, these failures could be mutually reinforcing or “synergistic.” At other times, they could involve “force-multiplying” weapons of mass destruction. In any case, they could be brought about by the defiling restoration of an absurd presidency.
Rejecting the banalities of “America First” and its derivative foreign policy deformations, a capable US president should think along clarifying lines of subject-matter interrelatedness. It is preposterous to deny that “America First” would fail US national security obligations. Moreover, any such failure, even one that did not produce catastrophic war or terror, would be degrading to United States.
“The visionary,” teases Italian film director Federico Fellini, “is the only realist.” But there can be nothing “visionary” about “America First.” Whether in its previous Trump-defined iteration or in a future modified version, this stitched together amalgam of a former president’s clichés would be absurd. Should such a lack of vision find its way back into the American White House in 2024, its multiple and recycled harms could fatally undermine whatever might still remain of American Reason.
At some point, especially if strengthened and expanded by manipulative resurrections of “America First,” world system failures could become both tangibly dire and irreversible. In the final analysis, it will not help the United States or any other country to tinker “thoughtlessly” at the ragged edges of our “Westphalian” world legal order. At that decisive turning point, any US presidential reaffirmations of “America First” could significantly hasten the onset of a regional or worldwide nuclear war.
It’s not complicated. “America First” is just mass-defined shorthand for “America Last.” In the longer term, the only sort of foreign policy realism that could make any sense for the United States is a posture that pointed toward much “higher” awareness of global “oneness.” Whether or not we like the sound of such “intellectual” cosmopolitanism, world system interdependence is not a matter of policy volition. It is an incontrovertible fact.
In its fully optimized expression, such an indispensable awareness – the literal opposite of former US President Donald Trump’s “America First” – would resemble what the ancients called the “city of man.” For the moment, the insightful prophets of any more consciously collaborative world civilization will remain few and far between. But this lamentable absence, one unimproved even by active intellectual interventions by our “great universities,” does not owe to any witting analytic forfeiture. Above all, it reflects an imperiled species’ stubborn unwillingness to take itself seriously. This means an unwillingness to recognize that the only sort of patriotic loyalty still able to rescue a self-destroying planet is one finally willing to embrace humankind as a whole.
Any such embrace would represent a new and re-directed focus of patriotic loyalty. Almost by definition, therefore, it would not be discoverable by American mass.
There is more. Intellectually and historically, “America First” remains misconceived and irrational. Now, more desperately than ever before, we require a logic-based universalization and centralization of international relations. Though challenging, this complex requirement need not express a bewildering or incomprehensible rationale. But there will still be demanding intellectual prerequisites. In the United States especially, such expectations will almost certainly be unrealizable.
Nonetheless, it is hardly a medical or biological secret that core factors and behaviors common to all human beings greatly outnumber those that differentiate one person from another. Unless the leaders of all major states on Planet Earth can finally understand that the survival of any one state must be contingent upon the survival of all, true national security will continue to elude everyone. This includes the “most powerful” states and individuals, even if their explicit policy mantras call foolishly for the subject to be “first.”
What cannot benefit the entire “hive,” warns Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations, can never help the individual “bee.”
The most immediate security tasks in our Westphalian condition of global anarchy remain narrowly self-centered. Simultaneously, national leaders must finally learn to understand that our planet represents a recognizably organic whole, a fragile but intersecting “unity” that exhibits diminishing options for genocide avoidance and war avoidance. This is the indispensable unity of human “oneness.”
It’s finally time for candor. Though clichéd, America is “running out of time.” Quickly, to seize rapidly disappearing opportunities for longer-term survival, our leaders must learn to build upon the critical foundational insights of Francis Bacon, Galileo and Isaac Newton, and on the more contemporarily summarizing observation of philosopher Lewis Mumford: “Civilization is the never ending process of creating one world and one humanity.”
Whenever we speak of civilization we must also speak of law. Jurisprudentially, no particular national leadership can claim any special or primary obligation in this regard. Nor could any such leadership cadre ever afford to build comprehensive security policies upon the vaguely distant hopes of mass. But the United States remains a key part of the community of nations and must do whatever it can to detach an already collapsing “state of nations” from our time-dishonored “state of nature.”
There is more. Any such willful detachment should be expressed as part of a wider vision for a more durable and justice-centered world politics. Over the longer term, an American president will have to do his or her part to safeguard the global system as a whole. Then, “America Together,” not “America First,” would express a markedly more rational and intellect-based security mantra.
However impractical or fanciful this may all sound, nothing could be more perilous than continuing on a long-discredited “Westphalian” course. “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another,” inquires Samuel Beckett in Endgame, “of seeking justification always on the same plane?” It’s a critical question, one that should now be asked of any sitting or aspiring US president, especially an aspirant who has already demonstrated his consummate unfitness.
For the moment, there is no need for detailing any further analytic or intellectual particulars. There are, of course, bound to be many. Always, these will need to be held together by coherent and comprehensive (science-based) theory.
In The Plague, Albert Camus instructs: “At the beginning of the pestilence and when it ends, there’s always a propensity for rhetoric…It is in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth – in other words – to silence.” As long as the nation-states in world politics continue to operate as glib archeologists of ruins-in-the-making – that is, as “political prisoners” of a vastly-corrupted philosophic thought – they will be unable to stop the next series of catastrophic wars.
Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosopher Tertullian. “I believe because it is absurd.”
Until now, certain traditional expectations of balance-of-power world politics may have been more-or-less defensible. Nevertheless, soon, from the essential standpoint of longer-term options and global security survival prospects, an American president should open up this nation’s latent security imagination to more visionary and intellect-based forms of foreign policy understanding. Resurrecting the “everyone for himself” extremity of former president Donald J. Trump’s “America First” would represent a US policy move in the wrong direction. No move could conceivably be more wrong.
It could never make sense for the United States to construct security justifications along the incessantly brittle lines of belligerent nationalism.
“America First” remains a self-defiling national mantra, nothing more. Recently championed by an American president who was proudly detached from historical or analytic understanding, it ought never be allowed to reappear in United States foreign policy. To be sure, there is nothing inherently wrong with any sensible manifestations of American patriotism, but these primacy-oriented (zero-sum) manifestations could never be reconciled with any dignified human survival.
Portending inevitable failure and existential peril, an “America First” redox would be anything but sensible. At the same time, the United States remains a nation shaped and dominated by “mass,” and this ill-fated hegemony must be suitably countered before we could ever expect a sustainable and law-based American foreign policy.
How shall this counter-friction be accomplished? How shall the requisite efforts be undertaken? How shall beleaguered Americans stave off a continuing and no longer tolerable triumph of absurd political choices?
The answer to these interrelated questions is not until Americans begin to value genuine intellectual achievement more highly than continuously demeaning and anesthetizing amusements. For the moment, we remain an amusement society. Such vacant societies can’t last, even during pre-nuclear epochs. Ipso facto, their members become ghosts of any tangible doing, thinking or feeling. Quickly, they must descend to vita minima, human lives emptied of themselves, unstable, visceral, incompetent.
There remains one final clarification. In this elucidated context, “genuine” references an achievement that bestows no monetary rewards, but is still taken as valuable. In this challenging calculation, a purposefully heightened American regard for “mind” will seem impractical or even unimaginable. Nonetheless, it could represent all that still stands between American democracy and naked barbarism.
Then the visionary will emerge as the only realist.
 On his first time around, then president Donald J. Trump sought to pretend that he had solved the North Korean nuclear problem by having the right “attitude” toward Kim Jong un. (“We fell in love”). On such absurd explanations, Americans may consult the early declaration of Sophocles’ Antigone: “I hold despicable and always have, anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.” (See speech of Creon, King of Thebes).
 See, by this writer, at JURIST: Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/01/louis-rene-beres-second-trump-impeachment/
 Such aggressions are (and could be) augmented by “crimes against humanity.” These Nuremberg-defined crimes 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….” Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Aug. 8, 1945, Art. 6(c), 59 Stat. 1544, 1547, 82 U.N.T.S. 279, 288.
 The elucidating term “mass man” is taken from Jose Ortega y’Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (1930). In further clarification, Swiss psychologist and philosopher Carl G. Jung says in The Undiscovered Self (1957): “The mass crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible with the individual, and this necessarily leads to doctrinaire and authoritarian tyranny if ever the constitutional State should succumb to a fit of weakness.”
 An earlier book by this author deals with these issues from an expressly American point of view. See: Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington Books, 1984). Throughout history, geopolitics or Realpolitik have often been associated with personal immortality. 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.
 For the political philosophy origins of such core assumptions, see classic comment of Thrasymachus in Bk. 1, Sec. 338 of Plato, The Republic: “Right is the interest of the stronger.”
 In his seventeenth-century classic of political philosophy, Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes points out succinctly that while the anarchic “state of nature” likely never existed between individual human beings, it nonetheless defines the usual structures of world politics, patterns within which nations coexist in “the state and posture of gladiators….” This “posture,” expands Hobbes, is a condition of “war.”
 This brings to mind Hermann Hesse’s “herd” and Soren Kierkegaard’s “crowd.” “The crowd,” observed the Danish philosopher, “is untruth.”
 See Stanley Corngold’s the Mind in Exile: Thomas Mann in Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2022 (ix; Preface).
 Dialectical thinking originated in Fifth Century BCE Athens, as Zeno, author of the Paradoxes, was acknowledged by Aristotle as its inventor. In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerges as the supreme form of philosophic/analytic method. The dialectician, says Plato, is the special one who knows how to ask and then answer vital questions.
 See Peace of Westphalia (1648), which concluded the Thirty Years War and created the now still-existing self-help “state system.” See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.
 Any system of international law is ultimately deducible from Natural Law. According to Blackstone, each state and nation is always 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 represent the original foundation of United States law.
 For scholarly accounts by this author of nuclear war effects, 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). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018).
 See, by this author, Louis René Beres, at The Hill: https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/3571679-resurrecting-trump-reason-and-anti-reason-in-american-politics/
 On the meanings of synergy in strategic calculation see, by this author, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School: Louis René Beres, https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/
 On such reason, by this author, see Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984).
 By “thoughtlessly” is meant the literal absence of thought, not “just” a lack of empathy or consideration. In the language of modern political philosophy, this is the meaning used by Hannah Arendt in her classic works Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil and The Life of the Mind.
 The history of western philosophy and jurisprudence includes variously illustrious advocates of global unity, interrelatedness or “oneness.” Most notable among them are Voltaire and Goethe. We need only recall Voltaire’s biting satire in the early chapters of Candide and Goethe’s oft-repeated comment linking belligerent nationalism to the declining stages of civilization. One may also note Samuel Johnson’s expressed conviction that patriotism “is the last refuge of a scoundrel;” William Lloyd Garrison’s observation that “We cannot acknowledge allegiance to any human government…Our country is the world, our countryman is all mankind;” and Thorsten Veblen’s plain comment that “The patriotic spirit is at cross-purposes with modern life.” Similarly, straightforward sentiments are discoverable in writings of the American Transcendentalists (especially Emerson and Thoreau) and Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human, all too Human. Let scholars also recall Santayana’s coalescing remark in Reason and Society: “A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.” The unifying point of all such cosmopolitan remarks is that narrow-minded patriotism is not “merely” injurious, it is also de facto “unpatriotic.”
 Sigmund Freud notes: “Wars will only be prevented with certainty if mankind unites in setting up a central authority to which the right of giving judgment upon all shall be handed over. There are clearly two separate requirements involved in this: the creation of a supreme agency and its endowment with the necessary power. One without the other would be useless.” (See: Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers, cited in Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis, University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10 (1973-73), p, 27.) Interestingly, Albert Einstein held similar views. See, for example: Otto Nathan et al. eds., Einstein on Peace (New York: 1960).
 The best studies of such modern world order “prophets” are still W. Warren Wagar, The City of Man (1963) and W. Warren Wagar, Building the City of Man (1971).
 See by this author, Professor Louis René Beres, at the Princetonian: https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education
 In authoritative studies of world politics, rationality and irrationality have now taken on certain precise meanings. A state is presumed rational to the extent that its leadership always values national survival more highly than any other conceivable preference or combination of preferences. Conversely, an irrational state is one that does not always display such a specific preference ordering. On expressly pragmatic or operational grounds, ascertaining whether a particular state adversary is rational or irrational must inevitably become a problematic task.
 For pertinent characterization of “genocide-like crimes,” seem by this author, Louis René Beres, “Genocide and Genocide-Like Crimes,” in M. Cherif Bassiouni, ed., INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW: CRIMES (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Transnational Publishers, 1986), pp. 271 – 279.
 Because war and genocide are not mutually exclusive, either strategically or jurisprudentially, taking proper systemic steps toward war avoidance would plausibly also reduce the likelihood of “crimes against humanity.”
 Regarding science in such matters, Niccolo Machiavelli joined Aristotle’s plan for a more scientific study of politics generally with various core assumptions about geopolitics or Realpolitik. His best known conclusion, in this particular suggestion, focuses on the eternally stark dilemma of practicing goodness in a world that is generally evil. “A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything, must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good.” See: The Prince, Chapter XV. Although this argument is largely unassailable, there is also a corresponding need to disavow “naive realism,” and to recognize that, in the longer term, the only outcome of “eye for an eye” conceptions in world politics will be universal blindness.
 We may think also of the corresponding Talmudic observation: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.”
 In law, states must judge every use of force twice: once with regard to the underlying right to wage war (jus ad bellum) and once with regard to the means used in actually conducting war (jus in bello). Following the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 and the United Nations Charter, there can be absolutely no right to aggressive war. However, the long-standing customary right of post-attack self-defense remains codified at Article 51 of the UN Charter. Similarly, subject to conformance, inter alia, with jus in bello criteria, certain instances of humanitarian intervention and collective security operations may also be consistent with jus ad bellum. The 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.
 During his presidential tenure, very little attention was directed toward Donald J. Trump’s open loathing of science and intellect. Ironically, the Founding Fathers of the United States were intellectuals. As explained by distinguished 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.
 “Theory is a net. Only those who cast, can catch,” This pertinent metaphor is generally attributed to Novalis, the late 18th-century German poet and scholar. See, for example, introductory citation by Karl R. Popper, in his The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959). Ironically, Novalis’ fellow German poet, Goethe, had declared, in his early Faust fragment (Urfaust): “All theory, dear friend, is grey. But the golden tree of life is green.” (Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grűn des Lebens goldner Baum.)
 For the crime of aggression under international law, see: Resolution on the Definition of Aggression, adopted by the UN General Assembly, Dec. 14, 1974. U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 UN GAOR, Sup (No. 31), 142, UN Doc A/9631 (1975) reprinted in 13 I.L.M., 710 (1974).
 While in office, Donald Trump instructed his Secretary of State and Attorney General to denounce the International Criminal Court’s then-planned investigation of alleged US war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. Inter alia, this directive was a fundamental contradiction of America’s obligations to national and international law. Significantly, these are not ipso facto discrete system alternatives. In the 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.'”).
 See, by this writer, at Oxford University Press: Louis René Beres, https://blog.oup.com/2018/04/american-people-hamilton-trump/
 On the concept of “friction,” see Carl von Clausewitz, On War, and by this author, Louis René Beres, US Department of Defense, US Army War College: https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/friction/
 Americans must finally cease making themselves into what C.G. Jung calls a “quantité négligible,” a creature who is a “conscious, reflective being, gifted with speech, but still lacking all criteria for self-judgment.”
 See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/09/13/american-democracy-and-the-barbarism-of-specialisation/
Air Balloon and U.S.-China Relations
The story of the Chinese Automatic Drifting Balloon (ADB) violating the U.S. airspace in late January–early February 2023 will be a symbolic marker for a new phase of deterioration in the US-China relations.
The relations were rapidly eroding throughout 2022 and early 2023. In some aspects, U.S.-China relations in 2022 evoked obvious associations with U.S.-Russian relations in 2021. While trying to engage in cooperation with Beijing on certain issues (particularly on Ukraine), Washington simultaneously kept imposing increasingly painful sanctions against the country.
Among important steps recently taken in this direction, there have been restrictions on supplies of advanced microchips and equipment for their production to China, effective since October 2022, as well as the pressure exerted on Japan and the Netherlands (key manufacturers of equipment for the microelectronics industry) to join these restrictions. Licenses to supply virtually any components and equipment to China’s Huawei have been terminated, and a significant number of sanctions were imposed on smaller Chinese companies and individuals.
Most of the Chinese measures have been defensive and involved steps to ensure the security of production chains and the national economy. In the meantime, Beijing is also discussing measures to limit certain items of Chinese exports, with potential thermonuclear consequences. Semi-finished products, raw materials and equipment for the production of solar panels can be affected—given China’s monopoly on a number of products, this could be a shock for the renewable energy industry in the West.
The visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in early August 2022 played a disastrous role in the military and political situation in East Asia. That trip, despite repeated warnings from Beijing, triggered a period of rapid increase in Chinese military activity around Taiwan, which still continues.
Chinese activities include numerous live-fire exercises in the waters around the island, large groups of combat aircraft and drones flying along the island’s perimeter, and systematic violations of the median line in the Taiwan Strait by PRC ships and aircraft. For its part, the U.S. is increasing military aid to Taiwan, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so against the backdrop of ongoing hostilities in Ukraine.
The November 2022 meeting of Xi Jinping and Joseph Biden in Bali was similar in content to the Geneva summit of Biden and Vladimir Putin in June 2021. We saw similar attempts to achieve at least partial stabilization of relations, establishing rules of the game, unblocking channels for political communication by creating joint working groups, and the same predictable failure. So far, we can only hope that the final outcome of these efforts will not be so disastrous as the one between Moscow and Washington.
The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit was canceled due to the balloon incident, while it was supposed to restore the ruined channels of dialogue. The U.S.-Chinese relation is still lagging far behind the U.S.-Russian relationship in matters of mutual alerting, preventing dangerous incidents, and maintaining emergency channels of communication, where relevant experience has continuously been accumulated since the 1960s. Given the rapid progress of China’s transformation into a new nuclear superpower, conservation of this situation could be dangerous.
Nothing more was expected from Blinken’s visit – no U-turn in relations, no strategic deals, including those concerning Beijing’s positions on the Ukrainian issue. Now, the visit has been postponed indefinitely and the dialogue has been suspended amid the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Pacific.
The circumstances of the very incident with the Chinese ADB over the United States allow us to take a fresh look at the behavior of China’s leadership in the heating confrontation with the United States. According to U.S. military statements, the ADB shot down on February 4, 2023 was the fourth Chinese apparatus to violate U.S. airspace. The previous three ADBs that visited the U.S. during Donald Trump’s tenure were not detected by U.S. airspace controls in time, and the Americans became aware of their existence belatedly via intelligence channels.
If this is true, China is deliberately and systematically doing what the USSR never afforded during the entire Cold War—flying reconnaissance aircraft directly over U.S. territory. For its part, the U.S. used ADBs on a large scale for flights over the USSR and the PRC in the 1950s and 1980s, and the explanation of their purpose was exactly the same as that used by the Chinese now: border violations due to navigation error or malfunction, meteorological research, observations of airstreams, etc.
China’s contemporary political culture attaches great importance to careful observance of the principle of reciprocity, avoiding situations that could be interpreted as Beijing’s recognition of its unequal position vis-à-vis any major power. This is partly due to the severe historical trauma of the “century of humiliation” in 1840–1945, a time of foreign domination over China.
The current use of the ADB over the United States is by no means a retaliation against historical grievances. Rather, it is a response to some U.S. actions within its “freedom of navigation patrols” in the South China Sea, where U.S. ships and aircraft deliberately violate 12-mile territorial water zones around a number of Chinese-controlled islands. The Americans justify their behavior by saying that these Chinese islands are artificial and do not create rights to territorial waters.
Surely, China believes that the Americans are violating the integrity of its national territorial. From China’s perspective, the U.S., as a power external to the region, should not interfere in any of its territorial disputes with the countries of Southeast Asia. Besides, the high activity of U.S. reconnaissance aircraft along China’s borders—and sometimes over disputed water bodies—has long been a matter of Chinese concern.
From China’s perspective, the use of ADB over U.S. territory may well look like an appropriate response to the U.S. actions. Chinese leaders may have seen this action as a necessary step to confirm China’s status as a great power equal to the United States, even if only a limited number of people knew about these operations for the time being.
The political motivation behind the use of the ADB can also be discerned in the Chinese response to the incident. In a normal situation, if the balloon lost control and inadvertently entered (or risked entering) U.S. airspace, the owner would have contacted the Americans, provided the necessary data and information, and tried to avoid a fallout.
China, for its part, responded to the incident only twelve hours after Pentagon’s statement to that effect. There was a dry statement from the PRC about the loss of control of the weather balloon due to force majeure, for which “regret” was expressed.
Shortly thereafter, China declared that it would not tolerate “hype and speculation” about the balloon and accused the United States of indiscriminate and excessive use of force after it was shot down, threatening some “consequences.”
Under the circumstances, it is difficult to assess this as anything other than China’s deliberate humiliation of the United States as well as demonstration of its own strength and confidence. The Chinese consciously chose this course of action in the run-up to Blinken’s visit—now, as the conflict in Ukraine is escalating, the U.S. is more interested in dialogue than the PRC.
The Americans had to choose between continuing the dialogue in a poorer bargaining position after the humiliation they had endured and abandoning the dialogue altogether. The reaction of American public opinion predetermined the choice for the latter. However, this decision was apparently not easy to make.
The visit has not been canceled, but postponed, and the U.S. will probably look for opportunities to carry out negotiations in the not-too-distant future while saving face. Alongside with Blinken’s visit, there were plans for an even more important visit to China, to be paid by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. On February 9, 2023, Yellen announced that she was still planning a trip to China, although it was not yet possible to give a date.
The incident has shown that the Americans are not overly prepared for a tough confrontation with a comparable superpower as soon as it stops playing at giveaway with them. As it turned out, the few previous Chinese ADBs had not been detected at all, and the last one was shot down only after it had crossed the entire U.S. territory, flying over, among other things, an intercontinental ballistic missile base.
There is nothing surprising or particularly embarrassing about it: the ADB is an extremely difficult aerial target because of its low radar visibility, extremely low speed, and a very high flight altitude. The Soviet Union has been practicing its tactics against ADB for decades. The ability to counter such targets was taken into account in the design of some Soviet air defense interceptors. These include, for example, the MiG-31 still in service in Russia, which has the highest maximum flight altitude among modern fighters and is equipped to fight balloons with a GSh-23-6 cannon.
In the United States, reconnaissance ADBs did not show up during the Cold War, simply because the Soviet Union lacked the necessary technical capabilities in the early decades of the confrontation, and the late-Soviet gerontocracy was later afraid to respond in kind to violations of its airspace. Now, the Americans faced a more active opponent and have yet to learn many new skills.
The traditional U.S. propensity to make up for real-world failures with media victories was not very convincing either. Covering the incident, U.S. propaganda followed two lines. They claimed that, first, the Chinese balloon could not have caused any serious damage to the U.S. compared to China’s existing reconnaissance satellites, and second, that the vehicle was not shot down so as not to pose a threat to civilians on the ground.
The second claim is patently absurd: a significant part of the Chinese ADB route passed over deserted or sparsely populated areas, where the risk of harm to civilians was equal to zero. As for the former, the ADB surely remains a valuable reconnaissance tool that can significantly supplement satellite data. For its part, the U.S. has made extensive use of balloons in the operations against Iraq and Afghanistan.
The reconnaissance satellite operates at altitudes of hundreds of kilometers above the ground, while the balloon does so in the altitude range of 20–30 km. This gives it additional capabilities to conduct electronic reconnaissance and detailed ground surveys. The ADB is capable of monitoring atmospheric chemistry and making other measurements useful for the reconnaissance of nuclear-weapons-related targets. Finally, the balloon is capable of remaining over the same territory for long periods of time, tracking the situation there dynamically, and its flight time over an area is not predictable, unlike that of satellites.
Was the incident with the balloon an intentional attempt to disrupt Blinken’s visit from the very beginning? Hardly. If the Chinese had flown around the U.S. three times in the Trump presidency with their ADBs and got away with it, it would make sense to continue this successful practice. When the “balloon case” became public, the Chinese might have chosen an escalatory course of action based on their view of the situation. It is likely that Beijing concluded that it would not lose with any possible U.S. reaction to the incident, and this is probably true.
From our partner RIAC
Can Lula walk the tightrope between Washington and Beijing?
As Brazil’s New President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (popularly known as Lula) prepares to visit China later this month, maintaining neutrality would be difficult as the winds of change enwrap Beijing.
Brazil is Back
President Lula’s coming to power has marked a decisive shift in Brazilian foreign policy. With the Pink Tide resurging in South America, the new President has clearly spelled out his foreign policy aims: restoring Brazil’s neutrality and importance in international affairs at par with both the West and East after nearly 4 years of impasse under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who had adopted a Sinophobic, pro-Trump foreign policy.
Brasilia’s 39th President, who previously presided over the office between 2003-2010, will have a lot to talk about as he visits his nation’s largest trading partner that imported $89.4 billion in 2022 mostly in soy and iron ore which added a surplus of $28.7 billion to Brazil’s coffers. Boosting the economic partnership with China will be a priority for Lula, who intends to integrate South America into a closely held economic unit. Another important item on the agenda includes the appointment of former President Dilma Rousseff as the new BRICS Bank president.
Lula and the West
Lula had rattled swords with Washington on several occasions during his previous tenure such as alleging the United States for reducing South America to its “backyard” by intervening in its internal politics as well as by opposing the Iraq War. Even though he recognises the importance of maintaining good relations with the superpower up North; several of Lula’s moves including sending a delegation to Maduro-led Venezuela, refusing to sign a UN Human Rights resolution condemning human rights violations in Nicaragua, allowing Iranian warships to dock at Rio de Janeiro, maintaining an ambiguous approach on the Russia-Ukraine War and refusing to send arms to Kyiv, dubbing the ‘Balloongate’ incident a bilateral issue between the US and China and defining the Taiwan issue as Beijing’s internal matter, have deeply irked the West.
While tensions remain, Lula’s focus on combating climate change and call for saving the Amazon have earned a thumbs up from the Biden administration as the former’s election to power comes as a breath of fresh air after his staunch “Trump of the Tropics” predecessor adopted a not-so-friendly approach towards Biden’s entry in the White House. Lula understands Washington’s support is required and hence it was a top spot on his foreign visits list. Lula and Biden held talks amidst a cordial ambience and vowed to reboot bilateral ties by promising to protect democracy and combating climate change.
Winds of Change in Beijing
However, winds of change in the East have dispersed the clouds of ambiguity and China now stands more vocal, more critical and more confident in dealing with the United States.
The recent session of the National People’s Congress, which won Xi Jinping a never-seen-before third term as the President, saw him voicing his criticism against “Washington-led attempts” to “contain, encircle and suppress” China which pose ” serious challenges to its development” (“以美国为首的西方国家对我实施了全方位的遏制、围堵、打压，给我国发展带来前所未有的严峻挑战。”). Sino-US relations have been in the trough since President Trump’s tenure with the recent point of clash being the ‘Balloon incident’ which made Anthony Blinken call off his visit to Beijing.
Xi recently unveiled his new 24 Character Foreign Policy which, Dr. Hemant Adlakha believes, marks “China’s new foreign policy mantra in the ‘New Era’ ” acting as its “ideological map to attain national rejuvenation by 2049”. The characters “沉着冷静；保持定力；稳中求进；积极作为；团结一致；敢于斗争 ” which translate as “Be calm; Keep determined; Seek progress and stability; Be proactive and go for achievements; Unite under the Communist Party; Dare to fight” are set to replace Deng Xiaoping’s 24 Character Strategy focussed on never seeking leadership and assuming a low profile.
China’s confidence is further boosted by its successful attempt to broker peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have been staunch rivals for the past many years. With the handshake that brought the Sunni Arab Kingdom and the Shiite Persian theocracy together, Beijing has garnered accolades from nations across the region and is all set to play a greater international role by not just pulling American allies such as Riyadh to its side but also through actively putting forth its plans to end wars with Xi all set to pay Putin a visit over the Russia-Ukraine War before he meets Lula at Beijing. Lula too eagerly anticipates what Beijing has to say as he told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “it is time for China to get its hands dirty”.
Neutrality no more?
If the state of Sino-US relations does not improve, things would get hard for many leaders like Lula who seek to balance between the two superpowers. Lula knows neutrality is his best bet but money matters– as his former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim noted “Our surplus with China—and I’m talking just about our surplus—is bigger than all of our exports to the United States. It is impossible not to have good relations with China.” Isolating China, with which Brazil has had a long strategic partnership since the 1990s, at the expense of moving closer to the US might come hard on the purse and exacerbate the many economic challenges he faces. Nor can Washington be isolated– not just because of the economic necessities but also in the face of challenges from far-right forces that both Lula and Biden face.
Lula realises the risks of placing all his eggs in one basket but would he be left with the choice to divide them equally into both? The issue is bound to get stickier but if he successfully manages to escape the quagmire of the unfolding great power rivalry, Lula will set a precedent for not just South America but nations across the globe. The only viable solution would be to strengthen regional alliances in Latin America and boost partnerships with developing nations like India while using the collective strength to push Beijing and Washington to come together.
The Malvinas feud as a Global Constant
As an event gets bigger, it’s more likely that interesting things will happen behind the scenes, that is, in unplanned activities.
The seventh meeting of G20 foreign ministers in India in 2023 confirms this. Bilateral meetings between Qing-Jaishankar, the Blinken-Lavrov dispute, and the meeting between Santiago Cafiero and James Cleverly, during which the former notified the latter of the end of the Foradori-Duncan agreement.
On March 2, 2023, by rescinding the Foradori-Duncan agreement, the Argentine government de facto reopened one of the most important territorial disputes in the Western Hemisphere, perhaps the most important, and did so in the most theatrical way possible: at the G20, the main North-South dialogue platform.
What was the purpose of the Foradori-Duncan agreement?
The idea behind the agreement was for the Argentine government to renounce its claims and any serious discussion regarding the territorial dispute over the sovereignty of the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands and the adjacent territories in the South Atlantic. Instead, the Argentine government would adopt a position of claiming “light sovereignty” in order to obtain benefits, mainly economic ones, through joint exploitation of the natural resources of the islands and adjacent territories in the South Atlantic with the United Kingdom (UK), as well as through British investments in the country.
In practice, this agreement implied the Argentine government’s resignation to discuss sovereign rights over the Falkland Islands and their adjacent territories in the South Atlantic. It can be inferred that this was a disguised surrender clause by the government of Mauricio Macri to continue with Argentina’s sovereign claim over the Malvinas Islands.
The purpose of the Foradori-Duncan agreement was in line with the foreign policy stance of the Macri administration (2015-2019), which had a marked pro-Western (and more Atlanticist) position than previous governments (Kirchnerism 2003-2015).
This geopolitical code (if we can speak of the existence of a “Macrista geopolitical code” coming from the geopolitical code of the traditional Argentine ruling class) consisted of a series of agreements (tacit and official) of Argentine resignation and subordination to traditional Western powers (of which the Foradori-Duncan agreement was one of its greatest exponents) which aimed –in theory– to obtain greater economic benefits and a renewal of the country’s public image in the supposed “international community.”
These types of foreign policy positions would be a constant of the Macri government. Even the Argentine scholar Juan Gabriel Tokatlian has conceptualized such a stance as “Concessive Peripheral Unilateralism” to define the foreign policy of the Macri government .
In practice, these ideas and plans, were shown to be totally ineffective and unproductive. Argentina practically did not receive economic benefits from such positions, nor did its public image have a significant and positive international projection. And the Foradori-Duncan agreement is the most scandalous example of this reality.
Why did the Argentine government of Alberto Fernández decide to end such an agreement?
The first explanation is the internal conformation and political identity of the government of Alberto Fernández, which logically demanded a change in the previous government’s (Macri) stance on the Malvinas agreements, his predecessor and opponent. But this inference raises another question: Why were such measures not taken before? The answers to this question are only conjectures.
Since the end of the Malvinas War (1982) until today, except for the years of the Menem governments (1989-1999), Argentina’s bilateral relationship with Great Britain has always been marked by a strong “Malvinense”  component on the agenda of their interaction, which has often led to high-pitched disputes between both parties. The “agenda” of the Malvinas cause was a constant trend of the Kirchnerist governments (2003-2015), such claims were made, denouncing British illegal occupation of the Falkland Islands on numerous occasions in various international forums, bilateral meetings, and multilateral forums.
But as mentioned earlier, the Macri government would have a diametrically opposed position to its Kirchnerist predecessors regarding the Malvinas question. However, the reality of the country and its foreign policy changed again when Argentina “presented” a new government in 2019, with Alberto Fernández as the head of the presidency.
The government of A. Fernández has an eclectic political character , as a result of a coalition between several political sectors, so the foreign policy of his government also reflects the heterogeneous internal conformation of the government coalition sectors.
In such conformation, sectors such as Kirchnerism, as well as more orthodox Peronist sectors, are present, both of which have traditionally had a more “Post-Western” stance, aiming to “rewrite the Argentine geopolitical code” and the vectors of Argentine foreign policy, projecting an alternative foreign policy, in first place towards their own region: South America, Ibero-America, the Caribbean, and in more modern times, especially towards the Global South, the BRICS, and Asia. In such guidelines, the action of rescinding the Foradori-Duncan agreement was logical. But logic also makes us wonder, why were such measures not taken before? Such questions enter the realm of speculation.
Another analysis could be given in an electoral key reading, this year 2023, presidential elections will be held in Argentina, and Alberto Fernández has expressed on several occasions through words and gestures , that he is willing and interested in being re-elected as the head of the Argentine executive branch.
Facing a public image tarnished by the covid-19 pandemic, and mainly a negative macroeconomic situation, the electoral nature of this foreign policy measure cannot be ruled out: the Malvinas cause is a cause that mobilizes emotions in Argentine society and remains a deep wound to national pride, and is a valid rhetorical and practical tool to antagonize the Argentine opposition (liberals and conservatives), which has never had (and perhaps never will have) a firm geopolitical stance nor interest in the Malvinas question.
Also, the reading of tensions within the coalition of the current Argentine government can’t be ruled out, in this last aspect, this measure could be read as a gesture of balance from the “Albertismo” towards Kirchnerism, a sector of the government in which many leaders believe that the sector identified with the president has geopolitically leaned too much towards Washington and the West since the 2022 debt agreement with the IMF and the war in Ukraine.
Argentina informed the British of its decision during the G20 foreign ministers’ summit, which was dominated by the BRICS. Is it a coincidence that such a measure was taken at one of the most representative events of the Global South?
it clearly cannot be considered a coincidence.
The symbolic weight of such an action, in such a context, must be clearly considered. The G20 has a dual character as the main forum in which traditional (Western) powers dialogue but also reflects their tensions and antagonisms with emerging powers and peoples, including those of the so-called Global South.
With tensions between former metropolis countries and former colonies that make up the G20, and which are now emerging in material capabilities, a post-colonial and decolonial reading cannot be ruled out, and therefore a strong message from Argentina to the world’s emerging powers and the Global South.
Did China have any influence on the finalization of the pact?
No, there is no such “Chinese hand” that has driven such a measure by the Argentine government. These are paranoid arguments with a stubborn anti-Chinese bias that also ignores Argentina’s own reality. To put it plainly, if we use common sense, the decision was not elaborated nor driven from Beijing.
As mentioned earlier, the issue of the Malvinas is a deeply rooted national cause in Argentine society, and a constant in the foreign policy of Kirchnerism, which today is part of the coalition that compose the current Argentine government, which with such measures such as revoking the Foradori-Duncan agreement seeks to “retake the ownership of the Malvinas and South Atlantic issue in its agenda,” marking a clear differentiated stance from the current political opposition (Juntos por el Cambio) that made such a pact in the previous presidential term.
The decision was not elaborated nor driven by Beijing, and in any case, recent and clear positions of support for Argentina’s sovereign claim in the Malvinas Islands by powers such as China  and Russia  were considered within the decision-making process to take such measures. Therefore, the positions of Beijing and Moscow influenced, but did not condition or generate, Buenos Aires’ decision.
The future of the Malvinas Question
It’s very difficult to envision a future scenario for such a specific and complex issue, especially in the long term. But a prospective scenario can be envisioned in the short term, which is basically and probably that the situation will not change significantly under current conditions. Unless the world is altered by seismic events.
It’s highly unlikely that we will see a dialoguing UK government in the short and medium term that is willing to negotiate the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. And it is similarly unlikely to see a future Argentine government, especially if it has the characteristics of a Peronist, Kirchnerist, or progressive government, openly giving up its claims to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.
Such a proposition would surely change if there were a liberal-oriented government in Argentina, such as Mauricio Macri’s.
The problem with the current Argentine government, as well as future ones, regarding the Malvinas dispute, is that the country does not have, and will not have in the short and medium term, the set of soft and hard capabilities (economic, diplomatic, military, ideological influence) to press and force the UK hard enough to revise its traditional stance on the occupation of the islands. At least until the current balance of power and the position of emerging powers, such as China, would consolidate even further in the world order.
But in any case, such changes and opportunities will depend on the international context and the agency of third parties, which are independent variables for the positions that future Argentine governments may take.
Most experts in international relations and geopolitics agree that the territorial dispute over the Falkland-Malvinas Islands between Britain and Argentina will not have an easy or predictable resolution in the short term.
Some experts point out that the strategic geographical position of the Malvinas Islands and the presence of significant natural resources in the area, such as fishing and hydrocarbons, make the dispute even more complicated.
Moreover, many experts believe that Britain’s position has been strengthened in recent years thanks to the exploitation of the area’s natural resources and the lack of a clear strategy on the part of Argentina to resolve the dispute.
A hypothetical Chinese presence in the region, through the southern Argentine city of Ushuaia, through the construction of a logistics hub, has added an intervening element that makes it even more complex to envision a prospective scenario .
However, some experts believe that the issue of the territorial dispute over the Falkland Islands, Argentina’s position is legitimate, which has won it great support and sympathy among peoples and emerging powers, most of them with a colonial past .
 Tokatlian, J. G. (2018, 2 de febrero). Relaciones con EEUU: ¿nueva etapa? (Relations with the US: a new phase?) Clarín.
 Porto, J. M. (26/03/2022). Despite diplomatic ups and downs, the Malvinas claim became a state policy. Telam. https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202203/587606-diplomacia-soberania-argentina-islas-malvinas.html
 In its composition as a coalition, including important elements of what might be called “Centre-Right” sectors that have Western – especially Washington – affinities.
 Its relevant to remember that on 22 February Alberto Fernandez led a public act in situ celebrating 119 years of Argentine presence in Antarctica. “Alberto Fernández visits Antarctica“. Sputnik. (23/02/2023). https://sputniknews.lat/20230223/alberto-fernandez-visita-la-antartida-1136141105.html
 Joint Statement between the Argentine Republic and the People’s Republic of China on Deepening the Argentina-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. (06/02/2023). https://cancilleria.gob.ar/es/actualidad/noticias/declaracion-conjunta-entre-la-republica-argentina-y-la-republica-popular-china
China’s support for the Malvinas deepens a relationship with many agreements. Telam. (03/07/2021). https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202107/560027-apoyo-china-malvinas-cada-vez-mas-explicito-profundiza-relacion-muchos-acuerdos.html
 United Russia leader Medvedev celebrates Argentina’s termination of Foradori-Duncan agreement. Sputnik. (2023, March 6). https://sputniknews.lat/20230306/el-lider-de-rusia-unida-celebra-que-argentina-haya-terminado-el-acuerdo-foradori-duncan-1136503626.html
Putin defended Argentina’s sovereignty over Malvinas and took aim at Boris Johnson and Margaret Thatcher. Política Argentina. (2022, May 30). https://www.politicargentina.com/notas/202206/44954-putin-defendio-la-soberania-argentina-sobre-malvinas-y-le-tiro-a-boris-johnson-con-margaret-thatcher.html
 The details of the Ushuaia Logistics Hub to supply Antarctica. El Cronista. (24/12/2021).
An Antarctic logistics hub: official plan opens the door to strategic partners. El Cronista. (11/10/2021).
 The Group of 77+China gave strong backing to Argentina’s position on the Malvinas Islands question. Telam. (2022, November 12). https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202011/534875-el-g77china-dio-un-fuerte-respaldo-a-la-posicion-argentina-en-la-cuestion-malvinas.html
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