Michael Brenner, Ph.D.
Michael Brenner is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a Fellow of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS/Johns Hopkins. He was the Director of the International Relations & Global Studies Program at the University of Texas. Brenner is the author of numerous books, and over 100 articles and published papers on foreign policy and politics. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and other news media.
Read more: http://www.pitt.edu/~mbren
The GHA “UN Harmony” (http://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=769) great project of our century is making a networked world a collaborative enterprise. Awareness of how interdependence creates specific and concrete opportunities as well as challenges is the sine qua non for success.SPHERONS is a valuable instrument for achieving that level of enlightened consciousness and global peace." Michael Brenner
Âåëèêèé ïðîåêò ÃÑÃ “ÎÎÍ Ãàðìîíèè” íàøåãî âåêà ïðåâðàùàåò ñåòåâîé ìèð â ñîâìåñòíîå ïðåäïðèÿòèå. Îñîçíàíèå òîãî, êàê âçàèìîçàâèñèìîñòü ñîçäàåò îñîáûå è êîíêðåòíûå âîçìîæíîñòè, à òàêæå âûçîâû, ÿâëÿåòñÿ íåïðåìåííûì óñëîâèåì óñïåõà. ÑÔÅÐÎÍÛ - ýòî öåííûé èíñòðóìåíò äëÿ äîñòèæåíèÿ òàêîãî óðîâíÿ ïðîñâåùåííîãî ñîçíàíèÿ è ãëîáàëüíîãî ìèðà. Ìàéêë Áðåííåð
Ìàéêë Áðåííåð ÿâëÿåòñÿ ïî÷åòíûì ïðîôåññîðîì ìåæäóíàðîäíûõ îòíîøåíèé â Óíèâåðñèòåòå Ïèòòñáóðãà è ñîòðóäíèêîì Öåíòðà òðàíñàòëàíòè÷åñêèõ îòíîøåíèé â SAIS / Johns Hopkins. Îí áûë äèðåêòîðîì ïðîãðàììû ìåæäóíàðîäíûõ îòíîøåíèé è ãëîáàëüíûõ èññëåäîâàíèé â Òåõàññêîì óíèâåðñèòåòå. Áðåííåð ÿâëÿåòñÿ àâòîðîì ìíîãî÷èñëåííûõ êíèã è áîëåå 100 ñòàòåé è îïóáëèêîâàííûõ ðàáîò ïî âíåøíåé ïîëèòèêå è ïîëèòèêàõ. Îí ÿâëÿåòñÿ ïîñòîÿííûì ó÷àñòíèêîì Huffington Post è äðóãèõ ñðåäñòâ ìàññîâîé èíôîðìàöèè: http://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=775
Michael Brenner's Scientific Articles Archive
on the GHA website "Peace from Harmony" in English:
First page: http://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=775
1.Globalizing Fascism (About the USA Fascism worldwide)
2.On Futility (About ?)
3.Armageddon, Anyone? (About ?)
4.Rumors of Hearsay (About ?)
Second Page: http://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=825
1.The Crisis of Western Humanism (About ?)
2.Finding Karl Rove (About ?)
August 31, 2017
Neo-Fascism (or, crypto-Fascism) is rapidly establishing itself as a serious political force in the world. It has gained power in Poland, in Hungary, in Turkey. It lurks in Ukraine’s corridors of power. It ripples close to the surface in Israel. Parties inspired by it have recorded electoral successes in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Greece. France and Great Britain. Most ominously, it is present in the White House which provides encouragement to its most drastic elements in the United States while emboldening like-minded spirits abroad. Within a decade, crypto-Fascism has moved from being a non-factor to taking shape as a major transnational phenomenon. Moreover, leading crypto-Fascist figures have begun to consult, to connive and to coordinate among themselves.
Before looking for explanations or assessing significance, let us begin by getting a fix on what is happening.First, some definitions are in order. It is imperative not to repeat the error of turning the term into a non-descript, all-purpose phrase as has been done with “populism.” That would void it of quite specific meanings that are a key to understanding crypto-Fascism’s nature and meaning. It is not a synonym for garden variety authoritarianism or autocracy .
Fascism is much more than just a political expletive flung at opponents. It should be understood as a political doctrine, as a pattern of behavior, as a movement, and – above all – as a set of feelings. We have found it too easy to view Fascism as a freak historical phenomenon of the inter-war period that was embodied by Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Salazar and their tin-pot imitators. We then assumed that the end of WW II relegated it to the history books. It ceased to be studied and was barely remembered.
Against the actual historical backdrop, it should not be a complete surprise that due to the troubled state of the West, across Europe and now pronounced in America, we should see recrudescence of the attitudes, the rhetoric and the inspirations that marked Fascism’s rise 80 or 90 years ago.Some ingredients are recognizable: racist hate; scapegoating of the alien “other;” mounting feelings of insecurity – economic, personal status, national; frustration over lost prowess; the scorning of elected democratic leaders condemned at once as “weak” (in not crushing the Islamic terrorists) and overbearing (in not indulging prejudice and bigotry). Its intoxicating effects in America now have given America over to the Tea Party and placed Trump in the White House.
Today’s multifarious phenomena are not exact matches to the Fascism of an earlier era. The comparison does reveal some important similarities, though, that clarify their sources, their dynamic and their possible implications. So, it is worth noting the extraordinary essay by Umberto Eco (recently deceased) who composed a concise disquisition that presents the distilled essence of Fascism. Informed mainly by the Mussolini regime which he experienced personally, it has universal applicability. (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1856)
Eco identifies the several defining features of Fascism. Here are the most central ones.
1.A mythologizing of tradition that glories innate virtues and heroic deeds.
Every people, every country has its gilded myths and legends stored in their collective unconscious. They eternalize exceptionalism, great accomplishments – and, occasionally, martyrdom (as among Poles, Serbs and Israelis) which adds a strong element of righteousness to their cause. In the United States, that obviously is what the slogan “Make America Great Again” is all about. It harks back to some fictional Golden Age when the United States was unanimously declared the world’s No. 1 – forever and anon.When the American Dream of inexorable betterment was a tangible fact; when Horatio Alger was the boy next door; when this truly was the land of the free and the home of the brave; when American soil was inviolate (Pearl Harbor and the British burning of the White House aside); when John Wayne rode high in the saddle.
The dark side conjures threats to those myths by activist blacks, by Mexican “rapists and murders,” by ‘Islamo-Fascists’/Muslims, by overbearing liberal elites, by Russians aka “commies.”
At times of distress and insecurity, when the gratifications of consumer and spectator life ebb, we grasp for imagined past instead of dreaming for the future.
The psychological mechanisms are similar elsewhere – even if the content and context differs. Magyars, Turks, Poles, even Israelis immersed in the Old Testament tales –all have had their place in the sun and moments of glory.
In America, that medley of phantasmagoric images composing the atavistic America was at its heart a White male myth. Others could share in it but the emotional core was well recognized. Somehow the myth lives on as a measure of individual as well as collective power and self-esteem. Its fraying has been unsettling – especially for those whose reliance on it is accentuated by personal insecurities. There were multiple ways in which the current stressed state of the American psyche could be exploited for political ends. The easiest, as always, is that of the bigoted demagogue whose maniacal ego overrides all decorum and restraint to sell a snake oil compounded of fear, scapegoats, and an appeal to our basest instincts. Trump, Bannon et al caught on to the hidden truth of how base those American instincts in fact are.
2.A rejection of Enlightenment ideals with their emphasis on rationality.
The fascist Fuehrer/Duce/Generalissimo takes a cavalier approach to facts, to the most elementary logic, to consistency. There is no objective truth for him. There is only the truth that is rooted in angry emotions – his and his followers’. That is the sole legitimizer. Genuine Fascist movements of yesteryear packed raw emotion into a contrived ideology of some sort. Our crypto-Fascists don’t even bother with that. In the United States, “Americanism” is their sole ideology. A warped Americanism that features every manner of prejudice and subordinates tangible interest to the gratification of joining in mob rowdiness.
The Polish neo-Fascists fall back on the autocratic traditions of more retrograde elements in the Catholic Church ( dedicated to the Syllabus of Errors issued by Pius IX, in the manner of the Spanish Falangists), and model their political design on inter-war precedents. The former rejects modernism in general with specific reference to contemporary abominations like abortion and gay marriage. The latter reminds them how the promise of “stability and order” appeals to the insecurities of a denationalized world while reviving the haunting ghouls of the Russian Bear. The Poles’ national anthem says it all:
Poland Is Not Yet Lost
Hungary’s Orban follows a similar – if milder - tack with Muslim immigrants, as imposed by Brussels, substituting for Russians. The, there is the old reliable: anti-Semitism. There may not be many Jews left in Hungary, but cartoonish posters of George Soros will do. Anyway, the glad-handing visit of Bibi Netanyahu assures that there will be few if any penalties abroad to pay for whipping up his crypto-Fascist supporters at home.
Erdogan offers the comforting lure of Islam as an all-purpose alternative to Ataturk’s secularism which has carried in its train it an array of diffuse anxieties -about identity in the face of Western cultural imperialism, terrorism, and internal saboteurs (e.g. the Gulenists). All wrapped in the alluring packaging of restoring Ottoman grandeur – even while substituting Turkish for Ottoman. In Israel, Netanyahu – in alliance with a mix of ultra-nationalists and Jewish salafists – cynically exploits the ingrained fear that the whole world will turn against the Jews sooner or later and the existential threat of the Palestinians as a blood enemy out for revenge - with the Iranian devil thrown in for good measure. **
3.Exalting of action for action’s sake – especially physical action with a penchant for violence.
Trump’s message is saturated with the words and images of violence. His very manner and gestures convey little more than bellicosity. The meager content is expressed in short, declaratory sentences: I will bomb the Islamic State back to the Stone Age! I will repulse Syrians and other potential terrorist nationalities trying to enter the United States! I will build the barrier Wall to keep out Latino “rapists and murderers!” I will bring down “fire and fury” on North Korea. I will invade Venezuela. Blah, blah, blah. Trump personally is too much of a coward to do any of these things; and most Americans are not ready for anything that smacks of real danger.
What he cannot give them are pledges of grisly violence – war, beatings, lynchings. This is not Germany 1933. Anyway, Trump’s militants don’t want a real war with real casualties. What they crave is a video game war: sanitized, comfortable, decisive – along with graphic pictures of Muslims being crushed under foot a la The Sniper.It’s war porn that they relish. They might get a thrill from Guantanamo but they don’t want to get their own hands dirty.
So, how will the blustering, bellicose Trump satisfy this desire for vicarious violence?
The answer is not evident. A few possibilities do exist, though. There is the grandiose Wall – 50, 60, 70 feet high – beautiful to behold, like a Trump Tower.He could claim that will rival China’s Great Wall as the only earthly structures visible from the moon. However, that’s pretty low-grade thrills. It’s hard to imagine Orangutan Youth in starched uniforms being escorted to the Sonoran Desert to view with awe the WALL and chanting hymns of praise in honor of the big O). Hence, he concentrates on domestic foes – evil spirits all: minorities, liberals, the press, gays, etc. If that means sidling up to the neo-Nazis and the Klan, so be it. He cannot abandon those who stir his base and keep the ethos of apocalyptic combat at a white heat.
The European neo-Fascists don’t confront the same dilemma insofar as war is concerned. They simply are not in a position to attack anyone beyond their borders. Anyway, it’s the domestic aliens ‘sullying’ the homeland whom they dream of brutalizing. As for Erdogan, he strove mightily to carve out slices of Iraq and Syria to create a pale facsimile of the empire – using al-Qaeda and ISIS as his instruments – but has failed miserably. The Israeli powers-that-be, by contrast, have continual opportunities to stir up passions through violent action. Talk of war is omnipresent – be it Hezbullah, Syria, Iran. Then, in a pinch, there is the old-stand-by of “mowing the lawn” in Gaza. Abusing Palestinians on the West Bank provides daily fare while the national blood pressure always can be raised by heated rhetoric about imminent threats from Iran and terrorists.*
4.Intolerance for criticism from any source – domestic or foreign.
A critic is an enemy – an enemy of the movement, an enemy of the leader, an enemy of America. Standard autocratic stuff.Trump uses all the means at his disposal to intimidate, to cajole, to seduce the media into serving as unwitting allies in his campaign to remake the country’s political institutions and culture. All the evidence we have summoned tells us that it will succeed to a considerable degree.
Trump is buttressed not only by the obedient endorsement from his mindless ‘base’ and the powerhouses of the crackpot right. For he also derives impetus from the sympathetic understanding of all those who feel obliged to give him “a fair chance,” those who harbor some of his grievances and ride some of the same hobby-horses, those whose free-floating, simmering anger generates an irrepressible impulse to hit someone, those who are able to project onto a Trump qualities that aren’t there, those who like to go with a winner – together, they suffice. The surprisingly large number of persons in each category explains the Trump phenomenon in the United States.The sobering implication is that variations of national political culture are not as critical as we thought in determining the prospects for ‘soft’ Fascism in today’s environment.
Publicity itself works to the demagogue’s advantage – as was demonstrated during the campaign. It normalizes him as a person, credits his ideas and program, and draws attention among those who otherwise might shrug him off. Every one of the endless front-page stories run by The New York Times about the wacko personalities he has assembled in the White House, about their intrigues, about their mysterious bank-rollers, about Breitbart serves his ends – as inescapably they will in a celebrity culture unless framed in swastikas and KKK hats.
Let us recall that full-time, prime-time media coverage of Tea Party doings in the formative 2009 period contributed mightily to its development. So, too, the over-the-top coverage of Trump throughout 2016. (See this Harvard/MIT report: http://billmoyers.com/story/future-democracy-read-media-bias-report/)
Erdogan in Turkey has cracked down brutally on just about every critical voice – be it media, opposition parties, academics, or other elements of civil society. Banning, imprisoning, exiling. Israel has moved steadily toward stifling not only all Palestinian criticism but now is criminalizing any “insult” to the Jewish state and its leaders.It has gone so far as to ban foreign Jews who do not toe the Zionist line in public from entering the country. Orban and the regime of Beata Szydło/Lech Kaczyński in Poland, too, are imposing censorship, purging and stacking the judiciary, and rigging the electoral system against opposition parties.
Hence, the constitutional façade of democracy stays in place (the institutional hardware) while politics and government practices (the software) become progressively autocratic.
Everything must look the same so that everything can change.
5.A cultivated sense of status denial or threat from combined internal and external sources.
Turning people away from authority figures, established institutions, and their creeds is an essential precondition for cementing their allegiance. The hallmark success of the 2016 campaign was to achieve exactly that, to break the ties that freed voters to follow their emotions and to allow their base instincts to prevail over reason in putting Trump in the White House. Maintaining that estrangement from the pointed-headed intellectuals, from the liberal elite, from a hostile press, from whomever preaches tolerance and generosity will be Trump’s priority. The trick is to spit out the white hot rhetoric while dealing with many of the Establishment elements you need and are your self-interested allies. That requires a delicate balancing act – as witness his estrangement of the business community by his failure to condemn the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville. Even then, some key money men – including those who are Jewish – have stuck with him. The Goldman Sachs contingent led by Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Gary Cohn, in particular, who occupy crucial positions, are staying put in order to perform their higher duty of ensuring that the administration’s plutocracy building project proceeds according to plan. The Wall Street Journal editors, for their part, have stifled anything but stenographic coverage of Trump’s doings and sayings.
For the East Europeans, the ready negative point of reference is the omni-present European Union. Its imposed rules, regulations and financial controls are perfectly suited to be cast in the role of scapegoat. They are felt to be foreign, they are remote, and they control important aspects of their lives. The EU also is recognized as a paper tiger. It does not punish severely or retaliate. So the erosion of democracy goes on.This psychology is even more powerfully at work in Turkey.
6. A doctrine built on the idea that “life is a struggle” whereby only the strong and resolute prevail.
Trump played shamelessly to the macho instincts of the white American male – among the most insecure male cohort in the world. It was a coarse, simple message: “they” have been trying to denature you; they have undermined your natural prowess; they must be put in their place for you to regain your potency. Look at me; Trump personifies the ultimate Alpha male who is surrounded by beautiful, servile women. ”I am the one who can lead you to new heights of manliness. I even can legitimate sexual assault.”
There is no exact counterpart to the rooted insecurities of the American male.Elsewhere, the sense of emasculation is collective and abstract, whether national or sectarian. Israel stands out for inflated feelings of prowess rather than a feebleness exploited by others. That is closer to the mentality of the Fascist regimes of the 1930s and 1940s.
7.Contempt for the weak stigmatized as life’s losers and nature’s failures
This is a natural match to macho posturing. Prowess, and a sense of prowess, always have a relative element. It is rooted in our animal nature. The crudest way of bolstering one’s self-esteem is to belittle those designated as weaker. Indeed, finding persons who are inferior becomes an inner drive for those who crave signs of their superiority. That is why the big Trump can mock a spastic reporter at no cost. That, too, is why his coarseness toward women was not fatal.
For other crypto-Fascists the weak whose abuse becomes compulsive and pays political dividends may be variously: Palestinians, Alevis in Turkey, gypsies, Jews, gays, or ‘effete’ liberals. In addition, it is no coincidence that all of the crypto-Fascism movements and leaders cited disparage the poor, the weak, the infirmed of society and aggressively pursue policies that aggravate their condition.
Indeed, although their strongest appeal is to the less educated-less well-off, they inevitably abandon them for alliance with the oligarchic wielders of economic power. Peron in Argentina is the sole exception; and that is what brought down on him the wrath of the Truman administration which did all it could to undercut him.
This sketch of the crypto-Fascist dynamic underway does not point to precise outcomes. Rather, it aims to highlight the pathology of what we have done to ourselves and some of the implications.
What are the international implications of recrudescent Fascism? First, there will be replay of the 1930s. only two of the countries cited are in a position to use force against external parties: the United States and Israel. The latter can only act regionally – and in concert with America. Over the past 15 years, Israel has managed to turn the American military into an instrument of their warped foreign policy strategy. Arrival of the Trump administration accentuates that trend. Most worrying, it magnifies the pernicious implications. A possible assault on Iran would be the most dangerous manifestation.
Netanyahu and associates have made it startling clear that currying favor with Trump weighs more heavily than any other consideration. Even the rise of neo-Nazis spouting crude anti-Semitic slogans, groups that have been given tacit encouragement by the White House, has not changed that. Netanyahu was silent about Charlottesville. His elder son minced no words in stridently declaring where the family stood. In the face of Nazi symbols and chants of “Jews will not replace us,” he levelled an attack on opposition groups whom de denounced as “thugs.” “Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”
This represents more than cynical realpolitik calculation. Crypto-Fascists have a strong natural affinity for each other. Trump’s victory set off paroxysms of excited joy among his European soul-mates from Nigel Farage to Marine le Pen to Orban to Kaczyński. His victory was their victory. The ultra-right turn of the world’s pre-eminent power lifted spirits while making their wildest dreams feel credible. As for Trump, he’s gone out of his way to bolster anti-liberal persons and movements – embracing Kaczyński in Warsaw and going so far as to congratulate the Philippine’s homicidal maniac Rodrigo Duterte.
Netanyahu, for his part, provided graphic evidence of how powerful is the mutual attraction among crypto-Fascists. on his controversial visit to Budapest, the Israeli bonded with Orban despite the tangible signs of the anti-Semitic theme that the latter has woven into the fabric of his movement. For months,billboards posted nationwide show a grinning George Soros, who was born in Hungary, and the words “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh.” Most, but not all, were taken down in an expedient gesture on the eve of Orban’s tete-a-tete with Netanyahu. The Israelis made no mention of them.
Nor did the self-proclaimed champion of the Jews refer to the further provocation of Orban’s praise for Miklos Horthy, Hungary's wartime leader and Hitler ally until 1944, as an "exceptional statesman."Orban long has sought to rehabilitate Horthy, who oversaw the sending of over a half million Jews to the Nazi death camps, by tacitly encouraging new memorials of Horthy..
Yet, Netanyahu esteems him as a right-wing soul-mate. After all, as Netanyahu poured out his heart to a gathering in Budapest of Visegrad government leaders: the liberal West European governments are "crazy" when they impose conditions regarding human rights on their aid to Israel. They are committing suicide by letting in masses of Muslims. And they don't realize that Israel is their last bulwark against this Muslim invasion. Haven’t we heard claims like this before as the ultimate justification for taking the Fascist path?
This is the new world that Trump’s America is facilitating and encouraging.Liberalism – in all its dimensions – no longer rules unchallenged, even leaving aside China, Russian and the Islamic world.
In this context, crypto-Fascist movements have an impact in shaping public discourse that exceeds their level of support. Their prominence then radiates beyond their national boundaries. Globalized communications facilitate that process. Social media liberate everyone – not just the reformers. They are a godsend for the demagogies and rabble-rousers – outside or inside government.
*The number of Poles who view the so-called Russian threat as a potential danger for Poland has decreased by half to 40 percent, a poll showed on Thursday. Three years ago the poll, conducted by the IBRiS institution for the Rzeczpospolita newspaper amid crisis in Ukraine and Crimea's reunification with Russia, showed that 83 percent of Polish citizens viewed Russia's policy as a threat. Islamist terrorism is viewed as threat to Poland by 20 percent of respondents, while 11 percent put Germany's domination in Europe as their primary concern among the list of threats, the poll new added.
**See the graphic account of crypto-Fascism in Israel by the Haaretz writer Gideon Levy. He is protected by armed guards on a constant basis.
·The Hebrew neo-Nazis
·Why Israelis are remaining silent about U.S. President Donald Trump's comments about 'many fine people' taking part in the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville
·August 20, 2017
·Israel has no moral right to judge U.S. President Donald Trump over his forgiving remarks about the neo-Nazis in his country. First, Israel wasn’t really shocked by what he said. After all, it is willing to accept anything from anyone who supports the Israeli occupation. That’s axiomatic at this point. Whether it’s a Hungarian fascist or an American neo-Nazi, as long as they support the occupation – even if they secretly hate Jews – they are considered friends of Israel and moral people.
·The best of the “friends of Israel” today are fascists and evangelicals, xenophobes and Islamophobes. What’s most important is that they support the occupation. It’s only opponents of the occupation who are anti-Semites, and we will mount a special effort to combat them. We will forgive everyone else.
·But there is also another reason for Israelis’ silence. It recalls the Yiddish saying about betrayal of one’s own guilt – that the thief thinks his hat is on fire. Neo-Nazis? We have a lot of our own “Made in Israel,” Hebrew equivalents of neo-Nazis, and the opposition to them in Israel is less than to neo-Nazis in the United States. A resolute counter-demonstration was organized by liberals in the face of the march in Charlottesville. What about here?
·The sacred symmetry that Trump tried to create between attacker and attacked, between assailant and defender, between incitement and protest, between justice and evil – that was invented in Israel. Here we have the occupier and the occupied, a violent and at times even murderous right wing and a left wing that has never murdered, but they are deemed comparable.
·Any assault by settlement thugs on Palestinian farmers on their own land is deemed a “clash.” Any Palestinian protest against the violence of the occupier is considered a “disturbance of the peace.” It’s a symmetrical brawl between the two peoples’ shepherds. After all, there are good and bad people among the settlers – just as Trump said with regard to his “alt-right.”
·The Israeli alt-right is not neo-Nazi. But a thousand neo-Nazi flowers bloom on its margins that no one thinks about weeding out. Fascism in Israel has long been accepted. Neo-Nazis haven’t, but the distinction between the two is vague. If the extremist Lehava organization isn’t neo-Nazi, what is? If Beitar Jerusalem’s La Familia fan group isn’t neo-Nazi, what is? If the firebombing of the Dawabsheh family home in the West Bank village of Duma and the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir aren’t neo-Nazi acts, what are? And what about the Arabic-language highway sign near the settlement of Halamish declaring: “This area is under the control of the Jews. The entry of Arabs is forbidden and constitutes a risk to your life!”
·The flag parade by Jews on Jerusalem Day is a state-sponsored neo-Nazi provocation, like the Purim rioting in Hebron. The Jewish community in Hebron is in essence neo-Nazi. Go see, judge for yourself. And the pools and Jewish communities along the way that are closed to Arabs? What will they do to any Arab who breaks the rules and sneaks into the Jewish swimming pool in Kochav Ya’ir – an Israeli community of people from the virtuous center-left, where a majority of voters support the enlightened Yesh Atid and Zionist Union parties? And what will they do in the Galilee community of Nofit if Arabs build houses there after expansion plans? After all, it’s not hard for us to imagine these people on the Zionist left objecting, even using unpleasant means, to Arabs coming into their communities.
·The plan for surrender proposed by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) is neo-Nazi, despite all his protests. Among the three options he would provide to the Palestinians, there isn’t even one that is humane – and the third calls for their expulsion and destruction. What else do we need? And his wife’s objection to giving birth in the same room as a woman of the inferior race is also neo-Nazi.
·Social media is full of frightful neo-Nazi statements – from wishing for the death of every dying Palestinian child, to similar wishes to those who tell the children’s stories. You cannot write this off as just as “a handful of deviants.” That, too, is the spirit of the times.
·We cannot ignore the sentiments in this country, where there is a policy of organized and institutionalized racism against African asylum seekers. Pre-fascist sentiments are taking hold here – with manifestations of state-sponsored neo-Nazism – more than in any other Western country.
·In the West, most contemptuous efforts are directed against foreigners. In Israel, they are directed mostly against the people who are native to the country. Complaining about Trump? That would already be the height of hypocrisy.
Friends & Colleagues
There are contradictory statements in my Nuclear commentary that should be reconciled. In the first section, which affirms learned conclusions and principles, about leaders' consideration of 'first strike' strategies, there is a clear statement that no known head of government has ever contemplated a massive 'first strike' (since the 1950s) or the initiation of using TNWs in a war-fighting mode. Later on, I refer to situations in which some did indeed do so (at least the latter). Nixon in Vietnam and Bush in Iran are the concrete examples noted. The inclusion of both reflects the very recent revelations of those examples which contradict the general understanding expressed in the first section.
There are two ways to deal with such a situation. one is to find a recipient (and reader) who will swear on national television that I never wrote the former - and who will accuse anybody suggesting otherwise of either suffering from glaucoma or harboring a hidden agenda (e.g. promoting an invidious distinction between truth and falsehood).
I opt for the latter: an explanation. The circumstances are noted above. The 'why' is important. Here, we should differentiate among three situations: where the two main protagonists are nuclear armed states; where the target state is non-nuclear but has a defense pact or similar guarantee from a nuclear power; and where the non-nuclear target state has no such defense pact. Of the two examples cited, Iran falls into the last category. Vietnam falls into the second category - sort of. Obviously, the greater the perceived risk by the would-be aggressor that a nuclear state will threaten retaliation on behalf of its dependent, the greater will be the aggressor's hesitation about nuclear first-use. This is the situation/dilemma of extended deterrence.
Vietnam clearly had backing from both China and the Soviet Union. The former demonstrated its nuclear capability in October 1964. However, there apparently was no formal alliance with either that was an exact parallel to the explicit guarantees written into the North Atlantic Pact. Clearly, though, Nixon and Kissinger were fully aware of the dangers associated with any nuclear strike - whatever weight they gave them and to whatever degree they believed that they could deter the Kremlin.
The strategic doctrine being enunciated by the Trump administration does make explicit reference to the use of ultra-low yield TNWs in a nuclear strike against countries that threaten major American interests. (The document as released by the National Security Archives is attached). Those interests are defined broadly, e.g. they include cyber attacks. So, theoretically, were Trump to find his viewing of this year's Miss America Pageant on 3 72 inch screens interrupted by an outage, he could alert NORAD to prepare for a nuclear assault against the usual suspects - pending confirmation from the NSA. Crackpots and nuclear weapons are not a felicitous mix.
December 28 2017
A few people have asked me why I have stopped commenting on American party/electoral politics. The answer is simple: we know what the state of affairs is, we know the elements that have produced it, we know what has to be done – and we know that it manifestly is not being done. There is no mystery about any of this. Nothing has changed over the past year since the Orangutan’s ascendance which, in turn, has cleared the way for the long promised Republican troupe’s rampage against the 20th Century. So, what’s the point of repeating what was written a year or two or three ago? If those of us who share a certain perspective have made not the slightest impression on the American body politic, and if that is due to the overwhelmingly powerful forces that have warped its sense of reality, then another couple of thousand words cannot make a difference.
To do so merely titillates for a few moments – like a Saturday Night Live skit – without changing anything of consequence. Titillation is not to be cast aside in this glum era even though its relief is fleeting. But let’s face it, that experience is just an emotional ant-acid for someone whose social world has gone wildly off the rails.
To underscore the point, let’s pose a few rhetorical questions. Shouldn’t it have been obvious two years ago that Donald Trump was mentally ill? Do we encounter a person in everyday life who speaks, acts and looks like he without quickly reaching that conclusion? Yet, the media and the commentariat almost unanimously accepted the admonition of the psychiatric profession that the “Goldwater rule” should be observed – and with good reason since a clinical assessment would depend on an extensive person-to-person observation. Even today, in the light of massive evidence that Trump is a perfect case of malignant narcissism, the prevailing view holds that asserting this truth does not show proper respect for the Office of the Presidency. The appropriate retort is to affirm that respect for the office can be shown by taking off one’s shoes before entering.
The widespread disposition to treat Trump as just another President with a few odd quirks, is to ascribe logic-reason-a sense of responsibility – and intellectual coherence where none exists. Heavyweight journals refer to his recently promulgated “security doctrine,” for example, as if it weren’t simply a cut-and-paste assemblage of Trump’s emotional ejaculations interspersed with bits of the same dreary boiler-plate that reappears in these overblown declarations year after year. Can anyone provide a plausible statement of our “strategy” vis a vis China, a reckless Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, or Russia? The only place where a logic is discernible is Central America. There, Trump has strengthened our long dishonored practice of backing autocrats who ignore democratic practices for the sake of protecting the privileged position of the ancient feudal oligarchs and American extraction businesses (in Panama it’s financial businesses that extract money from clients who benefit from its tax avoidance services). That strategy, fully backed by Barack Obama in his day, won us Honduras’ vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the Jerusalem resolution – along with Naura, Vanuata and a handful of other great powers.
Context, background and consequence don’t make it into the MSM’s coverage of either the U.N. or Latin America.
Isn’t the near total absence of informed, fair and critical coverage of American misadventures abroad a matter of cardinal importance that helps explain the malady that afflicts the Republic – personified by, but far deeper than Donald Trump? The Washington Post reads like PRAVDA or IZVESTIA in the old days. Nothing but a loud-speaker for the neo-cons and aggressive nationalists who dictate our policies abroad. A couple of weeks ago, the paper ran a long editorial belatedly expressing outrage at the humanitarian tragedy in Yemen – yet, said not a single word as to Washington’s material and political backing for the Saudi-led air campaign that could not operate without that aid. The WP’s falsity reaches new lows in hypocrisy and baseness even by today’s degraded journalistic standards. The New York Times is no better in its relentless campaigning against Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Chinaand whomever else won’t bend the knee to Uncle Sam.
Is there any mystery as to what is happening on the domestic front? The tax bill is nothing other than a looting of the nation for the sake of the 1%. It is thinly disguised pillage. The associated cuts in social programs represent a giant step in the Republican project of the past 40 years to repeal a century of progressive legislation. Their point of reference is not the 1920s, but rather the Gaslight Era of the 1890s before the federal income tax was introduced. For the true Tea Partiers, a related virtue of that period was the subordination of people of color and a much smaller fraction of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe (these days, Latinos serve as the surrogate).
This is historic – a Reactionary revolution without precedent. It is reshaping American society in fundamental ways that will endure. This disconcerting truth is largely invisible to the editors, writers and pundits who determine how we understand the world of public affairs. For the most part, they treat it as a sporting contest. “Trump Triumphs After Earlier Defeats.” “Republicans Exult”“How The Republicans Strategy Was Designed.” “Trump Turned Adversity Into Success: The Inside Story.” “Who Wins And Who Loses From The Tax Reform?” All these headlines appeared on the front page of the NYT. “Who won?” – is that an open question?Would the NYT editors ask it about a big Mafia heist at Kennedy Airport? ‘Reform?” – by whose definition?
Then there is this gem – the ultimate in confused misrepresentation. “For G.O.P., Tax Law Is a Salve, But Hardly a Cure-All for 2018” (December 22). What exactly is the NYT trying to say? That this historic attack on salaried workers, this enriching of the already rich, is an electoral asset? That it conforms to the wishes of the public? That it will win them votes? Or, is the unstated and key factor the unwillingness of the Democrats to contest the confected Republican narrative? Perhaps, they mean to say that it makes the Party’s rich paymasters and anti-government base pleased. If so, is the salve protection in the primaries from militant Tea-Partiers or against the Democrats? A “Cure-All” for what? Are the NYT simply incapable of candid reporting, or have they slipped their traces like so many others in our disoriented society? After all, these are the same people who gave us a lengthy profile of a neo-Nazi that reads like a Michael Phelps promo puff piece.
While the Times’ editors (and the other MSM) play these parlor games, Trump is spending Christmas boasting to his fat-cat friends at Mar-a-Lago how he’s just made them much richer. And they gloat at how the administration is systematically dismantling the entire federal regulatory apparatus. Example: proprietors of nursing homes can now abuse their elderly and sick without concern for penalties imposed by federal monitoring bodies – penalties that themselves had involved nothing more than nominal fines on exceptional occasions.
What we observe is an apparent policy of trying to please everyone: the odd harsh editorial criticizing the tax bill (when its passage is already a near fait accompli) and with no reference to the pathetic Democratic performance) while its news stores cut-and-trim so as to take the sharp edges off what that should be the story of the 21st Century. Showcasing 3 Right-wing columnists fits the pattern
Whatever the reason, this kind of misleading news is read by tens of millions (subscribers and readers of local papers that reprint these stories) whose perceptions and imagery of the world are fixed by the supposedly authoritative source of these distorted news accounts.
This NYT’s off-kilter mindset is a reflection of how our culture has come to view most everything. No good or bad, no judgments, no values. Just a pluralism of egos in a contest of all against all for status, attention, power, and money. This is the mindset of fantasy football applied to grave matters of state. (“GOP Win Comes After Chaotic Start” Dec.25, pg. 1; “Patriots Win Comes After Chaotic Start” – any given Sunday). The latter, though, affects only the mood of fans for a few hours with no other impact on the real world. The former has profound and lasting effects on the lives of everyone. To put it somewhat differently, what counts is not the game aspect, but the content – the consequence of winning or losing the contest. Inability to differentiate the two is juvenile – it’s the way a 6-year old views things.
The effect: the collectivity be damned. We are making a reality of Margaret Thatcher’s breathless discovery that “there is no such thing as society.”
How can we be surprised by Trump’s shenanigans, by Republican mendacity that this is a “middle class” tax cut, by the fecklessness of the media in a country where countless millions spend their lives in close communion with electronic gizmos and watching inane television shows where even their laughter is canned? You pay a price for this type of orchestrated numbing of sensibilities and dumbing of the citizenry. What person who retains a modicum of God-given sense and reasonableness could have expected otherwise? After all, this is a country where daily the latest episode of somebody’s unwanted kiss or embrace displaces entirely attention from the national disgrace and humanitarian disaster that is Puerto Rico. The Republicans don’t give a damn about these far-away people of the wrong color who speak the wrong language. The impotent Democrats take consolation from the resulting mass migration to the mainland which might help them carry Florida or Illinois.
One is fascinated by the strangest interactions between pop culture and politics. Consider this proposition: Kim Kardashian, our celebrity culture’s embodiment, did more to elect Donald Trump than Vladimir Putin and James Comey combined. Outlandish? Outrageous? No - Resurgent racism in America is never divorced from white male insecurities.
As to the assumption that we know what has to be done, a qualification is called for. It probably is too late to reverse the reactionary wave. All we hope for is to stem it. The great political anomaly of our political times is that Republican electoral successes- at local, state, and Congressional levels as well as managing to put a Trump in the White House – occur despite the locus of national opinion on most issues coinciding with the positions of the Democrats. Indeed, on some critical ones (like health care) it is well to the left of the party leadership.
The great corrective in a democratic system is supposed to be the presence of an opposition competing for power. Today, in the United States we don’t have a viable opposition. Let’s face it, the Democrats have been committing political suicide for a couple of generations. True to their nature, it’s been dragged out at an excruciating pace – death by a thousand self-inflicted cuts. Their only salvation has been the Republicans’ own suicidal impulses. That is what gave them a couple of Presidencies. (Remember Sarah Palin?)
The list of what ails the party is a long one – an obvious list of basic flaws. Its dominant corporatist wing is fatally compromised on socio-economic matters; it is corrupt; it is controlled by self-absorbed careerists; it has passively allowed the Republicans to set the terms of discourse on just about every issue except gay marriage; it is intellectually lazy; and – not least – it’s dumb. To be perfectly blunt, its senior figures are, for the most part, second-rate hacks. Given the huge opportunities that they have been given over the past year, they have done little but beat the dead horse of Russian electoral interference. Is “hack” too severe?
Well, who else but a hack would lack such elementary political instincts as to announce as their new motto for a new era: “A Better Deal” – and to announce this DOA creation of a well-paid consultant on a late afternoon during the dog days of summer?
Its leaders can barely drag themselves to a microphone to ensure that the opposition gets on the evening news after the latest outrage. (The intrepid duo of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders being the notable exceptions). They avoid the provocative, riveting comments that command attention. For weeks on end, they are a phantom presence in the media; meanwhile the NYT continues to run a super-script on every page of domestic news in the print edition “THE 45th PRESIDENT.” To let that happen indeed justifies the ‘S’ word.
Consider this cardinal feature of today’s political scene – unremarked by our crack journalists. The Congressional Republicans from coast to coast exhibit a disciplined unity without precedent in our political history. 51 Senators to a man and woman vote for legislation that turns America upside down. Several of its provisions run counter to the views of a large majority of potential voters. Enthusiastic support is limited to around 20-25% of the population. Yet, no one breaks ranks. How is this possible in the politically decentralized American system? This is the key question for understanding current party politics in the United States.
The answer: Republican office-holders are held hostage by the party’s Tea Party wing who are ever ready to challenge the incumbent no matter his impeccable conservative credentials if s/he thwarts their desires. This puts fear in their hearts. Recall the fate of Bob Bennett in Utah. Obedience is the only thing that stands between them and spending one’s golden years selling insurance in Caribou, Maine. What of the risks thereby incurred in the general election? Well, the harsh truth is that their Tea Party minders pose a more credible threat than does the Democratic opposition in the Fall – such is their pathetic state.
It doesn’t take a political genius to see that the Republicans are literally stealing the country, and its political system, out from under them while they go on endlessly about a bunch of sleaze balls (some of them Democrats) meeting in seedy hotel rooms with self-designated Russian operators who know a mark when they see one.
Trump will not be forced to resign. He may abdicate, though. He finds the routine tiresome, he can’t stand the carping criticism, and his misses his former carefree life when he could assault women at his whim. Were the Mueller investigation to dig deeply into Trump’s dealings with various international criminal organizations (wherein he may already have committed several federal felonies), that could set the scene for him to declare victory in turning America around, bellow “Mission Accomplished,” and to ride off into the sunset.
But Mueller seems hesitant to open that can of worms which could implicate foreign leaders (Bibi Netanyahu above all), some financial bigwigs in New York, Amsterdam and Panama, and well-connected power brokers with links to both parties. Were we nonetheless to arrive at that point, Trump would be succeeded by Pence who is as extreme a reactionary on policy as Trump but clinically sane.
The Republicans would hold the Congress. Pence would be 50/50 to win in 2020. Against whom? Joe Biden? Tim Kaine? Andrew Cuomo – Chris Christie’s partner in abuse of public trust, sworn enemy of public school teachers and Wall Street’s dependent? What would be his platform: I know more gay people than Pence does? I guess Monica Lewinsky is a longshot.
Shut the lights – the Party’s over! These 2,000 words notwithstanding.
Friends & Colleagues
An oddity of our times is the cavalier manner by which analysts of public issues ignore acquired understanding and history. Their motto seems to be: the world begins anew when I first take note of it. We have seen this phenomenon in the rolling discussion of responses to the Great Financial Collapse. For many, Keynes might as well never have existed and the experiences of the 1930s juxtaposed to the post-war period never occurred. The dogmatic dedication to austerity has wreaked ruin on economies across Europe, much of the LDC world – most recently, Tunisia. Unrest there stems directly from the dogmatic IMF imposed ‘conditionality’ measures which have an unbroken record of failure but do guarantee wider inequality. Yet, the faith in the tried-and-failed persists. These days, it is nuclear issues reawakened by the Iran question and the North Korean capability that are getting treated as something novel under the sun. At the same time, our most senior commanders are talking publicly about war with Russia or North Korea – emboldened by President Trump, The concentrated examination of the logic and psychology of nuclear strategy produced analysis of remarkable sophistication. It acquired further authority by the experience of the past 70 years. Yet, today self-proclaimed experts and pundits take exceptional liberties that reflect neither focused thought nor history nor any awareness whatsoever that the matters they freely pronounce on have been addressed previously in a thorough-going fashion.
This situation has prompted me to attempt a summing up of what we have learned since 1945 and to apply it to present and prospective circumstances. The first section was composed a while back; so some of you may have seen it.
As a necessary assist to consideration of the strategic implications of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and Iran’s possible capabilities, it is worthwhile to review the experience of the nuclear age as it has been analyzed by some very sharp minds since 1946. The acquired wisdom can be distilled into these propositions.
WWhen we speak of an encounter between two nuclear armed states, the weapons’ primary utility is to deter the other. The risk and consequences of nuclear war are so great as to outweigh any possible advantage in trying to use them.
2. This condition of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) is stable when the following conditions are met: both sides have the capacity to withstand a first strike while retaining the means to deliver a nuclear riposte; and when there is the will to do so. No one has ever thought of testing the latter.
3. The absence of an assured second strike capability on one side does introduce an element of instability by both enticing a first strike by the superior and encouraging the inferior to strike preemptively. That condition increases the risk of unintentional nuclear use to some immeasurable degree. The India-Pakistan stand-off confirms the stabilizing effect of nuclear weapons even under imperfect conditions of deterrence. That is to say: relatively small arsenals; no invulnerable delivery systems; contiguous geography; major points of contention; and a history of past combat (1947, 1965, 1971, 1999).
4. There is a further condition for a stable binary nuclear relationship; sophisticated and dependable command and control/fail-safe systems, e.g. permissive action links on nuclear delivery systems. That serves everyone’s interest – with one exception. The exception may be an inferior nuclear state that wishes to foster anxiety that its weapons might be activated accidently at the height of a crisis – thereby deterring a superior (nuclear and conventional) antagonist from pressing its advantage. A similar logic points to cultivating an image of being ‘irrational.’ Would the United States have invaded Iraq if it believed a ‘crazy’ Saddam had 3 or 4 nuclear weapons? Would it consider aggressive action against Iran if it believed the ‘mad Mullahs’ in possession of 3 or 4 nuclear weapons?
5. A nuclear armed state that deploys an effective ballistic defense system (BMD) has a theoretical possibility of neutralizing a nuclear armed antagonist ability to retaliate. That could provide some incentive to launch a disarming first strike. The incentive increases if the BMD endowed state faces only a rudimentary arsenal. The same logic applies to the superior power’s taking risky actions involving conventional forces. The key factor in all these calculations is the level of confidence in one’s BMD’s reliability. ‘Almost’ is not good enough when nuclear weapons are present. No such reliable BMD system that can provide an impenetrable shield currently exists. The Patriot and other systems which the United States has been promoting as protection against some conjectured Iranian threat do not meet the standard.
6. Can the inferior nuclear state deter the superior from launching conventional attacks? We do not have much data on this – especially since there is no case of the superior state trying to do so. Would an Iran with a rudimentary nuclear arsenal be able to deter an American or Israeli-led assault a la Iraq by threatening troop concentrations and/or fleet elements in the Persian Gulf? All we can say is that it will heighten caution.
7. If the inferior state (e.g. N. Korea) has the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon against the superior’s homeland, that cautionary element grows by several factors of magnitude.
8. Can the nuclear state provide a credible deterrent umbrella for an ally that is conventionally inferior to a superior armed enemy? (Western Europe facing the Red Army). The NATO and South Korea experience says ‘yes.’ That is, if the stakes are highly valued by the state providing the “nuclear umbrella”, e.g. the integrity of Western Europe or Japan. Again, the risks of escalating to nuclear exchanges have a conservative effect on everyone
9. What of the nuclear taboo? It didn’t exist at the time of Hiroshima/Nagasaki – for two reasons. The devastating effects of nuclear weapons had not yet been demonstrated; we were in the midst of a total war with Japan. That taboo exists today and will inhibit anyone who is tempted to use nuclear weapons in a compellent mode.
10. This above logic manifestly has been absorbed by everyone who has been in a position to order a nuclear strike. No civilian leader (and nearly all military commanders) with the authority to launch a nuclear attack ever believed that the result would be other than a massive exchange -mutual suicide for those with large arsenals. Certainly, that was true from the early 1960s onwards once the USSR had deployed reliable retaliatory nuclear weapons and the notion of ‘winning’ a nuclear exchange of any kind faded in the Pentagon and among its intellectual auxiliaries. This sobering reality did not encourage risk-taking at lower levels of conflict. Just the opposite.
1a. To the extent that we take seriously the technical and psychological requirements for deterrence (and I'm not at all sure this holds - see '1' above), the logic tells us that the strategy most effective for deterrence is the one that you absolutely do not want in place in the events of hostilities. Example: a tripwire or doomsday mechanism. Works wonderfully as deterrence, but... That's why the development of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) was such a boost to stable deterrence.
2b. Two things deter: certainty (see '3'); and total uncertainty (see '1' above). Certainty can take the form of tripwires: e.g. Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe deployed on the battlefield that almost surely would escalate into strategic, inter-continental exchanges. Certainty could take another form: “launch-on-warning.” That is to say, as soon as incoming missiles are detected – in whatever number, on whatever trajectory – ICBMs and SLBMs are activated and launched. That also obviates the risk that an incoming strike might ‘decapitate’the targeted government’s leadership – leaving it paralyzed to respond. Knowledge that such arrangements are in place should be the ultimate deterrent to an intentionalfirst-strike. However, in the event of an accidental launch or limited launch, you have committed both sides to suicide. The U.S. government never has stated that in has in place any such arrangement to provides a direct link between warning system and ICBMs, bu there are recurrent assertion that in fact they have existed since Jimmy Carter’s day
3c. The best thing to do about nuclear weapons in your possession or in the possession of an enemy is to forget about them.
The point is that we need not depend on formal rationality (awareness of ends, means, probabilities) when it comes to nuclear weapons. The key element is perceptual. Nuclear weapons have been taboo since August 1945 and accepted as such by everyone who has been in charge of them. You get into trouble when you begin to try thinking it through from scratch because some just might skip a logical step or give way to emotion. (Kissinger and others did this in the 1950s and 60s with their far-fetched ideas about limited nuclear war restricted to tactical nuclear weapons, TNWs. See his now forgotten Nuclear Weapons and National Strategy – 1958. That book made his reputation as a strategist).
Here's an analogy. In the entire history of the NYC subway, there is no recorded incident of someone electrocuting himself by crossing the track - and 3rd rail - to reach the opposite platform. This is so even though that route is shorter and quicker than walking up and over. The one way to ensure that someone or other will indeed try, and kill himself in the attempt, is to display big posters everywhere in the system laying out the pros and cons of taking that route rather than going up, over and down via the stairs - EVEN if the conclusion that it made no sense to try is underscored, in bold and in red.
One Conclusion: India and Pakistan should shut down all the think tanks devoted to nuclear strategy.
In nuclear matters, it is dangerous to put together a team of intelligent strategic planners who have plenty of time and a mandate to think out of the box. They likely will generate intricate schemes which have a surface plausibility but in fact only a tenuous connection to reality. The performance of the RAND Corp in service to the Air Force confirms that fear. Here is an example of the extreme proposals that can emanate from this type of blue-sky thinking; one idea that got off the drawing board envisaged a reaction to signals that NORAD had picked up flights of Soviet missiles on a trajectory pointing to our own missile silos synchronized startup of the United States. It called for a synchronized startup of our 1,000 plus liquid-fueled ATLAS rocket engines which would produce such a tremendous reverberation as to stop the rotation of the earth for a micro-second. As a result, the Soviet missiles would miss their targets – winding up in Missouri cornfields, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone Park instead. Physicists possessing a modicum of knowledge realized that it was a ridiculous expectation – and, if such a shock could be produced, the earth itself would split open. (See Ellsberg for a fuller account).
In short, the nuclear doctrine with attendant deployments that is most effective as deterrent is the worst to have in place were actual hostilities to break out.
Unfortunately, there remain a few of these Dr. Strangelove types scattered throughout the vast defense establishment who entertain such looney ideas. one was Dick Cheney who pushed a plan for a massive air assault on Iran that entailed possible use of TNWs. At one point in the 2005-2006 period, it was viewed favorably by George Bush. Its eventual dismissal stemmed in good part from staunch opposition by the Pentagon brass to the nuclear component. As one participant in the policy process later said: ‘Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning …. and the civilian hierarchy feels extraordinarily betrayed by the brass.”
That is by no means the only occasion when the White House seriously considered using nuclear weapons in fighting a non-nuclear foe.1
4a. For a while, concocting nuclear scenarios - strategic (counterforce) and tactical focused on TNWs in Europe - was a sort of intellectual parlor game among defense intellectuals (including some military people). By the mid-70s, it ran its course as everyone came to accept the Bomb even if they didn't come to love it. The role of SLBMs in solidifying MAD was the capstone.
Defense intellectuals are prone to parlor games - as witness the fashionable COIN.
8a. Here is one general thought about extended deterrence as a 'generic' type.Throughout the Cold War years, the United States and its strategically dependent allies wrestled with the question of credibility.Years of mental tergiversations never resolved it.For one intrinsic reason: it is harder to convince an ally than it is to convince a potential enemy of your readiness to use the threat of retaliation to protect them. There are two aspects to this oddity.First, the enemy has to consider the psychology of only one other party; the ally has to consider the psychology of two other parties.Then, the enemy knows the full direct costs of underestimating our credibility and, in a nuclear setting, will always be ultra conservative in its calculations.By contrast, the ally that has not experienced the hard realities of both being a possible target of a nuclear attack and the possible originator of a nuclear attack cannot fully share in this psychology.
8b. Implications for the Gulf.On the downside, if the Europeans, South Koreans and Taiwanese at times doubted the credibility of the nuclear umbrella then the Gulf leaders will - given the greater cultural and historical distance.On the positive side, it would take a hell of a lot less to deter an embryonic Iranian nuclear capability that cannot reach the United States than it did to deter the Soviet Union.
There is much loose talk about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East were the Sunni states truly worried about the prospect of an Iranian “breakout” fifteen or so years from now. This proliferation scenario is fatally flawed. For one thing, a quick move to build a bomb within 90 days (as the Israelis say) or even year is nonsense.There is a lot more to the development of an atomic weapon than accumulating sufficient HEU. You don’t just pile it up in a corner, cover with a layer of dog-eared nuclear engineering manuals, and then come back a few months later to find that you have acquired a weapon by a process of spontaneous generation. The engineering and manufacturing requirements are stringent. A competent, disinterested expert on matters of nuclear engineering and design will tell you that 3 – 5 years is a much more reasonable estimate – if there are no obstacles encountered.(See ADDENDUM)
Second, speculation about a Saudi nuclear program should stress the capabilities factor rather than the factor of will. Building a primitive nuclear bomb has become progressively easier as knowledge and technology are more readily available. Still, a development program requires sophisticated engineering skills and a deep industrial base. Saudi Arabia lacks both and will continue to lack both for the indefinite future. Indeed, it is very thin even by regional standards. The KSA is unable to manufacture all but the most basic mechanical products. That deficit cannot be offset by contracted specialists. So once again we have supposedly responsible people holding responsible positions playing games of make-believe as if their politically driven pronouncements were grounded in reality and logically argued.
A.Nuclear Disarmament & The Zero Option
We never will achieve a nuclear free world.Getting very close to zero is highly dangerous for obvious reasons; and modest reductions in the arsenals of the United States and Russia are strategically meaningless.Yes, it is a talking point in the proliferation context since with have a legal obligation under the NPT to lower the number of warheads in the arsenals of n-weapons states.No would-be weapons state, though, cares a fig about those numbers in making the momentous decision whether or not to go nuclear.
B.Ensuring the security of nuclear stockpiles and of highly radioactive material is, of course, of the utmost importance.In this sphere, the ideas on the table fall into three categories: the vapid; the technical; and the absurd.In the first is some kind of convention containing anodyne language declaring all parties readiness to worry about the problem and vowing earnestly to worry.In the second, there could be of some small utility to agreements on the exchange of practical information on how to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to, or activation of weapons or weapons grade material.The specifics, probably, are better worked out in bilateral or wider ad hoc cooperative projects – as the US has been doing for 50 years.
The third category refers to the headline story about terrorists and nuclear weapons.Obama made this the leitmotif of his arms control vision in declaring repeatedly that terrorism is the most serious nuclear threat we face.That is simply untrue.An accurate statement designed to educate rather than to play on emotions would say that the seizure of nuclear materials by ‘al-Qaeda’ would create a vitally dangerous situation BUT it is not an urgent concern because the likelihood of such an eventuality coming to pass is close to zero.Classic al-Qaeda is a weak, fragmented grouping able to do little more than survive physically.This is the outfit that, over the past 14 years, has been capable of organizing nothing of great consequence.The London and Madrid bombing were essentially local operations; the Christmas bomber incident rank amateurism.Trying to blow a plane out of the sky once every several years is not a laughing matter; but to cite it to stoke fears of nuclear terrorism is rank scare-mongering with no evidential basis.An outfit that cannot manage to get its hands on fire-retardant underwear will not be able to build or steal a nuclear warhead.
C.As to the Nuclear Posture Review issued under the first Obama administration, there was truly little that was new.It simply restated past doctrine with an historical update.The question of “no first use” or not is a Cold War issue.The United States’ strategy for countering the Red Army’s enormous advantage in conventional arms was to deploy thousands of tactical nuclear weapons.If NATO forces were breaking before the onslaught, we theoretically could use small nukes against battlefield and rear echelon targets to stem the tide.Moreover, our capability for doing was intended to deter the Soviets from launching a conventional war in the belief that we would not put our cities at risk to prevent them from occupying Western Europe.Whether any of this reasoning existed anywhere other than in war game rooms is an open question.Today it is all irrelevant.
II. OBAMA/TRUMP EMBRACE THE BOMB
Do the above observations point in favor of developing a more refined first-strike capability? No. In the Middle East, given the disproportion of forces, there is no conceivable gain from the conjectured fine-tuning of the American nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region is very low.
So why are we pushing ahead with a hugely expensive nuclear weapons program that serves no evident strategic purpose? one conceivable answer is that we are just “keeping up with the Joneses.” But there are no Joneses anywhere out there. Greater efficiency? Nuclear weapons are unique in that they serve their purpose when they are not used – just sitting in the garage. Small improvements in potential performance, therefore, offer no benefit to the owner. Another, more realistic explanation is that we want to prove to ourselves that we “can” do it. That is also why we climb mountains. In this case, there is something of a technological imperative involved as well. If advances in science and engineering hold out the prospect of our being able to do something technologically impressive, then we are tempted to demonstrate that we are up to the challenge. Much of innovation in the post-modern era is of this nature, i.e. technological feats of uncertain practical benefit. To nuclear weapons, we should add the macho enhancement effect. That mind-set includes an element of faddism. We cultivate a desire for a product after the fact of its being manufactured. Smart Watches, for an example. Or, self-driving cars.
Post-hoc demand creation likely plays a role in maintaining impetus behind the $1 trillion nuclear arms build-up. once the military people and defense “strategists” fix their minds on ultra-capable, precision-guided and customized nuclear missiles and bombs, they come up with ends to which they might be put. And let’s not forget that for some the idea of being able to launch a smart, nuclear tipped missile down an imagined Iranian tunnel to where critical projects are located is thrilling. Or, just think what might have happened had we such masterful technology when Osama bin-Laden was holed up in a Toro Bora cave in December 2001. I guess that by some abstract thinking it could have compensated for the obtuseness of General Franks in refusing to send up Special Forces (for fear of casualties) or the ineptitude of the CIA/NSA in losing track of him for a decade until a walk-in gave away his location.
The titanosaur sized price for that dubious gain hardly seems worth it when the much cheaper alternative is the promotion of qualified generals and Intelligence officials. The pity is not realizing at the outset that this greatest of all dinosaurs is actually a White Elephant.2
D. That leaves the question of whether Washington has an interest in keeping open the option of making first use of nuclear weapons against Iran or North Korea.It is not at all obvious that these doctrinal nuances have any practical meaning.Preemptive nuclear strikes are highly risky since one never knows with certainty that they will disarm an enemy and prevent them from responding in other highly disagreeable ways.Think of 20,000 North Korean artillery pieces trained on Seoul.Think of Iran’s several opportunities to wreak havoc in the Gulf.That is one.
E. Can an America deter Iran from using biological weapons?Here specific scenarios are crucial.An unprovoked, aggressive use is one theoretical possibility.Frankly, though, I cannot imagine such a situation unless we revert to ‘mad mullah’ fantasies.That’s two.Reaction to an American and/or Israeli massive airstrike is another scenario.This is more realistic in terms of motivation.Israel can protect itself via deterrence as it did vis a vis Iraq during Gulf War I. (See Aziz’s testimony on why Iraq did not resort to placing chemical agents in SCUD warheads at the time).There is no Iranian threat to American territory - for technical reasons.To American bases? Technically speaking, yes.Would the Iranian leaders’ judgment on this be affected by abstruse doctrines promulgated in Washington? Probably not. They would decide whether or not to use unconventional weapons in the awareness that Washington’s response was impossible to predict.That is three.
These last are matters of consequence.We can only hope that they will be addressed with the sobriety they require once the cameras have stopped rolling and the spin machines quiet down.
III.NUCLEAR DOCTRINE REDUX
It is imperative that we restate and absorb the understanding acquired decades ago. For there is a new generation of writers on nuclear strategy that seems bent on either ignoring or rejecting it. one is the revival of “counterforce” doctrine. Simply put, “Counterforce” is apposite to Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) in that it posits the possibility of fighting a winning a nuclear encounter. The postulated ability to destroy the retaliatory capability of the enemy through a first-strike that eliminates its missiles (land or sea-based), strategic bombers and nuclear tipped cruise missiles deployed on ships. Such a disarming blow, as the scenario goes, neutralizes the opponent’s deterrence – making the country hostage to your coercive demands. General speaking, it encourages risk-taking in crisis-management.
‘Counterforce’ concepts defined American nuclear war plans throughout the the 1950s. Kennedy and McNamara forced modifications but the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) designed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff was amended only gradually. Right into the 1970s, the SIOP gave primacy to variations of ‘Counterforce’ doctrine – this despite the Soviet Union’s development of an assured second strike retaliatory capability.They remain an integralpart of the SIOP to this day.
“Counterforce” ideas always have encountered two analytical obstacles: one technical, the other psycho/political. In order to contemplate such a strategy,` one must have at its disposal missiles of extreme accuracy able to destroy hardened missile silos, means to detect and destroy nuclear armed submarines, and wide coastal coverage that ensures the targeting of surface vessels. This conjectured capability, moreover, must possess a degree of reliability and precision that makes success a near certainty. Otherwise, you open your country to destruction by the enemy’s surviving force – a small fraction of which are adequate to wreak intolerable damage on population centers. Any government that perceives even a slight vulnerability to a first-strike would, of course, reject the idea of playing a “counterforce game” and threaten massive retaliation.
New-age “counterforce” revivalists focus on technical advantages which might aid the aggressor. In particular, there is reference to improved missile accuracy aimed at hard targets.3 Reducing the CEP (Circular Error Probability) by a few tens of feet, though, is not the crucial variable. That number already has been extremely low (50 – 100 feet) for decades. Emphasis is also placed on improved tracking technique for detecting submarines. What lacks is assurance that the net effect is to reduce the odds on retaliation by SLBM to near zero. Unless one can do that, unilateral deterrence sets in.
That leads us to the second precondition: the ability to intimidate a nuclear armed opponent by a) demonstrating a first-strike capability or b) launching a comprehensive first-strike and daring the enemy to retaliate to retaliate with the remnant of its own nuclear force and face destruction itself. The counter to the first, as noted above, is to threaten retaliation against high-value targets (cities) and perhaps to deploy and advertise “launch on warning” or trip-wire mechanism. The counter to the second is a matter of will and emotion. Nobody considering a first-strike can know with confidence what the enemy’s state of mind and emotion would be in the hypothetical circumstances.When the stake is your continued existence as an organized society, no reasonably sane person(s) will tempt fate in the hope of guessing right.
The other idea that has surfaced in academic strategic writing concerns nuclear war-fighting. This hardy perennial has risen Phoenix-like from the critical dust several times. The latest iteration is set in the context of a conventional war between China and the United States.4 The analyst postulates that a “losing” China could revert to the use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons. This scenario defies credibility on multiple counts.
Above all, the idea that nuclear exchanges could be constrained below a certain (undefined) threshold is unrealistic in the light of what we know about human behavior. The absence of any rules means that confidence margins in the assessment of escalation probabilities are extremely wide. (This is treated in the section above). In addition, it is nearly impossible to imagine a situation whereby the United States military defeats Chinese forces to the point of making the country vulnerable to American occupation or dictation of terms (whatever they may be). A credible enforcement of submission to any specific diktat from Washington would have to entail either occupation or threat to attack cities. The Army that had its hands full pacifying Baghdad is in no position to rule 1.3 billion Chinese. As to the possible attack on high value targets, it could be deterred by the strategic nuclear capabilities that China would retain.
It was the United States that, in fact, actually has envisaged the employment of Tactical Nuclear Weapons to deal a decisive blow to the enemy’s conventional forces or selected high value assets without fear of nuclear retaliation – tactical or strategic. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger gave serious consideration to such uses in Vietnam during the first year of his Presidency. They were shelved when the large anti-war demonstrations of 1969 showed just how unpopular the war had become – potentially jeopardizing Nixon’s re-election.5
For the same logic that cuts the ground from under “counterforce” strategies holds for scenarios wherein TNWs might be employed. There is no logical reason for the other side (the USSR) to accommodate the government thinking of a tactical “first-use” by ruling out countering with TNWs of one’s own either in theatre (Vietnam) or elsewhere – or even a counter-value strike (as the Soviet doctrine publicly proclaimed in Europe in the event NATO reverted to TNWs).
All doctrines and strategies for nuclear war-fighting – whether of the ‘counterforce’ variety or TNW variety – are largely fanciful. Not only is their logic flawed, as demonstrated above, but they predicate a cool-headed rationality of individuals and institutions which is unrealistic. Human beings are not calculating machines, no matter how high their office or how grave the matters they treat. They are susceptible to emotions and impulses that can distort or even override pure rationality. When you place them in settings where multiple other human beings are involved under intense pressure, the possibility of deviating off the track of impeccable logic increases.
In truth, we have no grounds for assuming that government leaders, at multiple levels making decisions and charged with operationalizing them, will collectivity behave as postulated by nuclear war-fighting scenarios. Herman Kahn, the early Henry Kissinger, Thomas Schelling at times, and today’s self-conscious revisionists have fantasized about a world that doesn’t exist.*These days, when the head of the biggest nuclear power is Donald Trump, the purveyors of doctrines that feature intricate nuclear games are as deluded as the President himself.
[Professor William Polk, who participated in high level White House decision-making during the Cuban Missile Crisis and a battery of nuclear war games, recently has recounted his experience in detail.He recounts how sober senior officials, civilians and uniformed, who played in these realistic simulations reached collective decisions at various points in the exercise to “let it rip” – unleash massive nuclear strikes even though rational, games-playing logic indicated otherwise. (See attached – especially Part II)]
Nuclear strategy is a bit like Marxism or Freudian analysis or market fundamentalist economics. A lot of superior minds deploy their talents to concoct ingenious elaborations of received Truth that demonstrate brilliant logic – but their conclusions are completely divorced from reality. Thus, reputations and careers can be made – and much mischievous done.
Addendum: Proliferation In Perspective
Re. proliferation generally and Iran specifically, there is an underlying contradiction in the Non-Proliferation regime that has been in place for close to half a century. Simply put, the conception of proliferation risk that was embodied in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty had a critical flaw. Namely, it assumed a basic technological distinction between the technology required for a nuclear weapons program and the technology associated with a civilian power generating program. The premise was that the fissile materials that are the explosive core of a bomb (uranium or plutonium of certain isotopes) could only be produced through highly sophisticated and prohibitively costly facilities that very few countries could aspire to. Hence, enrichment and the production of plutonium in plants that extracted the needed isotopes from nuclear waste fuel were not proscribed. To reinforce this logic, the United States undertook to supply civilian reactors world-wide with low enriched uranium (LEU) at discount prices.
The system unraveled in the early 1970s for two reasons.The Indian bomb that used plutonium reprocessed from a civilian (Canadian) reactor using Heavy Water as a moderating agent showed how easy and cheap it was and thereby erased the line between civilian and nuclear programs for all practical intents and purposes. The second development was a manufactured crisis in the supply of LEU that stemmed from a Nixon administration scheme to privatize nuclear enrichment – higher prices stemming from the nominal shortage was intended as a lure for private investors. The Europeans reacted by building their own enrichment facilities and started selling them abroad. The manifest proliferation risk led to the formation of a Suppliers’ Club whose technically proficient members agreed to keep enrichment out of commercial markets.BUT the NPT never was amended and signatories retain the legal right to enrich uranium and to reprocess plutonium. The prohibitions placed on enrichment in Iran have no legal standing under the NPT.
That explains why Iran’s enrichment program, among other activities, is not in itself in violation of the NPT. They were caught on a technicality having to do with opening all national facilities to IAEA inspection and surveillance as part of the safeguards regime.In other words, like Al Capone being indicted for tax evasion. The United States, in effect, paints Iran as Capone and therefore has sought punishment that is disproportionate to the crime. Those alleged transgressions have nothing to do with the NPT.Therefore, the IAEA has no authority to consider matters other than those stipulated in its enabling articles which concern fuels and technologies that are part of a military program. Civil nuclear facilities/activities per se are not identified as problematic – quite the opposite. So, too, other security, political and military matters that do not have a specific nuclear association fall outside the IAEA’s legal purview.
1.In 1969-70, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sought to end the Vietnam War – on American terms. In effort to persuade the Soviet leadership through hints and gestures that unless the Kremlin applied its full weight on Hanoi to accept terms of a settlement satisfactory to Washington, Nixon might consider a resort to battlefield nuclear weapons. Nixon and Kissinger went so far as to call in Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to convey the message personally in the hope of scaring him and the Kremlin leadership. The Soviets ignored the menace as a bluff lacking all credibility. (See the account in Nixon's Nuclear Specter: The Secret Alert of 1969, Madman Diplomacy, and the Vietnam War by Jeffrey P. Kimball & William BurrUniversity of Kansas Press 2015).
It also is taken up in detail by Daniel Ellsberg in his recent book. The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner Bloomsbury USA 2017).Ellsberg, referencing what he believes are previously unexamined classified documents, gives greater credence to Nixon’s nuclear threats. He asserts that multiple plans drawn up by the President and Kissinger went further, and were more detailed, that any other nuclear war-fighting contingencies the Pentagon has prepared for under other Presidents. Among the array of actions plotted in their conjectural plans was the bizarre idea of attacking a key point on the Ho Chi Min Trail with ‘small’ nuclear weapons.This is like nuking the I-278 Interchange of the New Jersey Turnpike in an attempt to stem the infiltration of “Saturday night specials” into NYC. Let’s bear in mind that this was the thinking of two certifiably sane men – unlike the present incumbent of the White House.
Ellsberg goes on to claim that the consistent United States refusal to sign a “no-first-use” pledge reflects not just the role of TNWs in NATO doctrine, but also other situations considered by almost all Presidents since 1945 as involving high American stakes.
2.For details see “As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, ‘Smaller’ Leaves Some Uneasy”WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER The New York Times JAN. 11, 2016; also their “Race Escalates For Latest Class Of Nuclear Arms” NYT April 17, 2016
3.Keir A. Lieber et al. “The New Era of Counterforce: Technological Change and the Future of Nuclear Deterrence” International Security Volume: 41, Issue: 4, pp. 9-49
4.Charles L. Glaser, and Steve FetterShould the United States Reject MAD? Damage Limitation and U.S. Nuclear Strategy toward China International Security Summer 2016, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 49–98
5.See Daniel Ellsberg Doomsday Machine
Friends & Colleagues
Washington’s atmosphere is thick with rumor and hearsay. That creates a perpetual misting of the mind that obscures the clean, clear light of truth. It also makes gossip the prime pastime of residents. For most, the sheer entertainment thereby provided eclipses a concern for distinguishing what actually is occurring from what is just fanciful imaginings. The Trump era has given a sharper edge to the issue by the widespread denial that there is anything ‘true’ or ‘false.’ Rather, it is a matter of personal preference what to believe.
For those few who have retained the old-fashioned desire to separate one from other, I have selected some of the juicer items making the rounds on the gossip circuit this holiday season. I will refrain, however, from offering a judgment as to which I believe are right – that is so retro. Rather, it is for you to choose what to believe – as your convenience and comfort dictate. That’s what is meant by keeping up with the times.
RUMORS of HEARSAY
- A team of six distinguished psychiatrists will be publishing in Vanity Fair their report of a study concluding that the Democratic Party is in an ‘induced coma.’ Its leaders’ behavioral pattern since November 2016 conforms exactly to the comatose model. The expert panel believes that the coma was induced when the Party’s vital signs dropped into the ‘mortal danger’ zone on November 8. This life-saving procedure has gone unremarked since the resultant condition of the patient is so little distinguishable from its ‘normal’ behavior over the past 35 years.
A matching group of six distinguished psychiatrists has petitioned the Board of the American Psychiatric Association to censure the former for violation of the ‘Goldwater Rule.’ The appeal was rejected on the grounds that the rule is not applicable to “zombies.”
Oprah Winfrey, two weeks into her shadow Presidential campaign, has been placed under the ‘concussion protocol’ after repeated blows received trying to break through the glass ceiling
Mitt Romney’s first act as Senator from Utah will be to propose a national memorial to Joe Hill in Salt Lake City. It was there that the ‘Wobblie’ martyr was judicially murdered by Utah state authorities at the instigation of the copper bosses. Reportedly, Romney was inspired by a vintage rendition of “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill” sung by Bing Crosby backed by the Lawrence Welk orchestra.
Germany’s SDP definitely will join another Merkel-led coalition government as a junior partner. Final agreement has been delayed, though, by fierce in-fighting over who gets the portfolio with the ultra-luxurious chauffeured limousine and the magisterial office with the Jacuzzi.
Emanuel Macron’s ambition to be the power-broker of a post-American Middle East is being obstructed by the equally large ambition of Tony Blair who claims to have held the position since 2008. The “squatter’s rights” affair as it is known in Paris. A compromise brokered by Brussels has emerged whereby Macron is accorded the position for the Levant and Blair for the Gulf. This Macron/Blair Pact is being contested by Erdogan acting as Ottoman suzerain of the native populations.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry has turned down an invitation from the Norwegian Nobel Committee to be a special guest at the Peace Prize celebration. He confided to friends: “It hurts too much to laugh but I’m too old to cry.”
President Macron told French journalists that he is averse to news conferences because “my thought processes are too complex for you to understand”
On the occasion of Trump’s audience with Pope Francis when climate change was brought up, the Pontiff referred to him using the Italian expression “Più Tondo della l’O di Giotto.” His Secretary translated it into English as “You are fatter than Sal Giotto, the left tackle for the New York Jets.” (Actual – if loose - translation: you may be “a genius but you are too dense to plumb these depths”)
Boris Johnson has been revealed by the “THE MAIL” as the love child of Donald Trump and a promiscuous Sumatran orangutan.
Barack Obama is in the market for a South Seas paradise along the lines of Marlon Brando’s island. He already has rejected an offer from the Chilean government of Easter Island which he declared “TOO TOURISTY.” Santiago had made the generous offer on the sole condition that the former President give one lecture a year to the national legislature at a concessionary rate. It is not known whether this request for a discount on his standard $400,0OO fee for opening his mouth figured in Obama’s decision
The fire in Bill & Hillary’s Chappaqua mansion was caused by the inflammable material left on the hard-drive secreted in the coal cellar
Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski have told the Harvard Crimson that receipt of the invitation to join the prestigious JFK School as Fellows was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them – but for the daily lashing they received from Donald Trump. JFK Dean Douglas Elmendorfconfided to the Crimson that the resulting furor was the most fun he’d had since being a pledge for a Princeton fraternity as an undergraduate
The Kennedy School’s Trustees reportedly are considering a modification of the school’s motto to say: “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You – Just Take It!”
The IMF has received an exceptional Lifetime Achievement award from the Ayn Rand Society for its unblemished record of failure to generate economic growth in loan recipient countries on which it imposes strict austerity conditions - while generating to produce wider inequality.
Evidence has surfaced that Jim Comey breached the boundaries of his mandate as Director of the FBI both in initiating an investigation of the Trump campaign on flimsy evidence and in announcing fictitious new developments in the Hillary e-mail/server case. That bipartisan approach to abuse of office has won him acclaim as a “fair & balanced” public servant – and an embryonic movement has started to promote a run for the Presidency as an Independent in 2020.
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is so bored by the juvenile behavior of all those he is charged with investigating, and the inconsequence of what they were trying to do, that he is thinking of resigning to accept an offer to investigate the Macron/Blair Pact instead
Senior officials at INTERPOL are safeguarding the explosive results of a forensic examination, using newly unearthed DNA evidence, which exonerates Cain for the killing of Abel. Investigators are now exploring other avenues, including suicide, accident, death by natural causes as well as other possible killer or killers. We are told that prime suspects are Persians or Russians. Although the Russians weren’t around 7,000 years ago, their subsequent behavior strongly suggests an inborn disposition toward violence and meddling in other people’s affairs
The White House is urging Republican Congressional leaders to legislate the requirement that future Presidents swear their oath of office on an autographed copy of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House Chief of Staff (General) Michael Kelly have been at dagger points over their differing characteristics of their boss. According to Tillerson, Trump is a “fucking moron.” According to Kelly, he is “an idiot with the mind of a kindergartener.” Last week, they agreed to arbitrate their dispute. They called on the person best suited to assess the competing characterizations: son-in-law Eldon Kushner. In addition to his proximity to the subject, he has a wealth of experience as the lead man in the delicate Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Reports signal that a Kushner has come up with a formulation acceptable to both parties. Henceforth, Trump will be referred to simply as “the imbecile” – without the “fucking” adjective.
The Pentagon, concerned by prospects of China projecting its naval power into the Eastern Pacific, is deepening cooperation with littoral South American countries; Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. A series of major joint exercises are planned for later this year. In a surprise announcement, a spokesman for Pacific Command – Rear Admiral John Paul Farragut – stated that Bolivia and Paraguay have been added to the list of participating navies. When queried about the appropriateness of including these two land-locked countries, Farragut described it as “long-term contingency planning.” In the event that global warming accelerates, he explained, having these two aboard is a hedge against an uncertain future. White House Press Spokesperson Huckerbee praised the Pentagon initiative as “advancing the President’s Pivot Toward the Andes grand strategy.”
A former member of the Soviet Politburo responsible for Communist Party internal affairs reportedly has been serving as a consultant to the Republican Congressional leadership. His brief covers enforcing legislative discipline. McConnell and Ryan are so elated by the success of his proposed strategies that they have contacted Paul Manafort to see if they could sell it to Vladimir Putin for several times more than they paid the ex-Bolshie.
Steve Bannon has begun negotiations with the newly minted editor of GLAMOUR, to write on a column on “Etiquette” directed at high-flying women who have cracked the glass ceiling to join the High & Mighty. It will provide tips on how to conduct oneself in the corridors of power. He already has lined up several guest contributors: inter alia Nikki Haley, Samantha Powers, Susan Rice, Marine Whitman, and Michelle Bachmann..
Famed Hollywood columnist Sherry Taletelli is about to publish a blockbuster story in Vanity Fair that links Elizabeth Taylor to today’s #MeToo movement. Drawing on ‘til now unknown correspondence with friends, Taletelli reveals that the star had been deeply upset by Richard Burton behavior on the set of CLEOPATRA. She complains of Burton’s persistent and offensive sexual harassment. Taylor, deeply shaken, thought of going public with her charges. At the end, she decided against it out of fear that the publicity could jeopardize her future marriage prospects.
Trump has initialed a contract for a post-Presidency autobiography with the title: “Steroids, Spitballs & Hanging Curves – My Hall of Fame Career” Preface by Roger Clemens. Reportedly, the ghost writer will be Bill Ayres who performed a similar service for Barack Obama in “heavy editing” his two best-sellers.
Presidents Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras and James Ernesto Morales Cabrera of Guatemala have been richly rewarded for the act of faith in backing Washington at the UNSC on the Jerusalem Resolution. Not only have they received an open-ended commitment from the Oval Office to assist in election rigging in perpetuity, but Bibi Netanyahu has endowed a foundation (with financial help from Sheldon Adelson) that will supply them and their families with a lifetime’s supply of Hebrew National salami
Donald Trump’s notorious “big button” actually is 2 buttons: one green and one red. The former signals the grounds maintenance officer at Mar-a-Largo to water the greens in preparation for a Presidential visit. The latter signals President Putin and President Xi to ignore all White House communications for the next 48 hours.
A PEW survey of Americans’ opinion about a possible nuclear assault on Iran shows strongest support in trailer parks whose Evangelical residents are desperate to bring forward the Rapture before the banks foreclose on their mobile homes
Thomas Friedman has installed in his home office a team of Macaque monkeys from the Celebes to replace the team of “howler” monkeys from Venezuela who have been writing his columns since 2010. The aim is to offer a fresh, Asian perspective on the affairs of the world. Friedman reportedly spurned an offer from Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman of six Saudi baboons from the Hejaz highlands – on the grounds that acceptance of the gift could impair his hard-earned reputation for impartiality on all issues Middle Eastern
Prime Minister Modi of India and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of Pakistan were admonished by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to compose their differences in “the spirit of Christian Brotherhood”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman of Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini have agreed to accept an invitation from the Oxford Union to debate the proposition: “American Policy-makers Understand Less About My Country Than Yours.”
(1 of the above ragot items is true)
This one’s real, too
The American Psychiatric Association has issued a fatwa that prohibits certified psychiatrists from commenting on “the affect, behavior, speech or presentation” of public figure because doing so, by its very nature, draws on their professional skills and thereby places them in violation of APA’s formal “Goldwater rule” Section 703 of The Principles of Medical Ethics. Observance of the new rule (March 2017) would deny any psychiatrist the right to comment on the mental state or behavioral abnormalities of President Donald Trump. However, penning articles for popular journals that pronounce the conclusion that we have no biographical evidence of Trump being anything but emotionally stable are permitted – if the author is influential enough in professional circles. (E.G. Jeffrey Lieberman, the chair of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and former President of the American Psychiatric Association publishing in VICE September 8, 2017). To drive home the point that he is exceptionally privileged, Lieberman wrote an op. ed. For The New York Times (“Maybe He Is Just A Jerk” January 15) where he once again argues that to claim that Trump is anything more than “a jerk” is unjustifiable and inappropriate absent a full-blown evaluation on a Lieberman couch. It is just “an opinion.”
This strikes me as a flight from civic and professional responsibility camouflaged as a defense of professional ethics. Surely, someone with specialized training and experience is capable of discerning from observed behavior, and testimony of others, evidence of an abnormal psychological condition better than can the “man in the street.”(If Lieberman himself is truly unable to do that, then anyone seeking counselling would be well advised to look elsewhere). It follows that it is proper and necessary that they offer their assessment when the stakes are so high. Such a tentative diagnosis may be insufficient for making a legal or medical determination, but is a public service. A psychiatrist, too, can be ‘just a jerk.’
(The APA never has taken a position on their companion American Psychological Association’s formal and extensive program of collaboration with the CIA and the Pentagon to refine torture techniques applied at Guantanamo and ‘black sites.’)
P.S. The question of Trump's mental/emotional health hit the headlines again this Wednesday when the President's doctor, Rear Admiral Rodney Jackson, pronounced him of excellent health - physical and mental. The media dutifully gave front page, multi-column space to the story under the banner: "President Is Found To Be Of Sound Mind and Body." In fact, the test administered did no such thing. The loyal Jackson had Trump answer a handful of questions, forming something called the MOCA), which is suited to test whether a dull 5 year-old child has normal cognitive function. Here is a copy of the 'test.' http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/16/health/montreal-cognitive-assessment-mental-health-trump/index.html. Can you identify a tiger? If so, you are fit to be President of the USA.
Breaking down the results of Trump's physical
Before President Donald Trump's physical on Friday, Dr. Ronny Jackson had decided a cognitive assessment test wasn't necessary, but performed one at the president's ...
As the creator of the test, Dr Ziad Nasreddine, who devised the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA), told Canada’s CTV it does not examine “problems in judgment and the person’s ability to judge or to take decisions”.
He added: “It’s a cognitive test meaning that it assesses memory, executive function, spatial skills, calculation - so it’s mostly cognition that is assessed, not the rest of the mental abilities.
“It’s not a psychiatric assessment - if you’re worried about mental illness then [any test] has to be a psychiatric exam with a psychiatrist.”
Neither The New York Times' editors nor most other MMS media saw fit to publicize his remarks and to amend their reporting. That's the state of professional ethics in medicine. media, academia, politics and elsewhere in today's America.