A Balanced Vision: Human Singularity, International Law, and American Survival Commentary
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A Balanced Vision: Human Singularity, International Law, and American Survival

In the final analysis, human fragmentation into separate and competitively hostile states is unnatural. Because it is contrary to intellectual understanding and natural law,[1] such fragmentation always makes it impossible to fashion a just and survivable global order. Ipso facto, it also renders impossible any long-term American future.[2]

What should be done? Suitable transformations are needed, but first there must be determinative visions. In world politics and world law, such transformations must always stem from antecedent ideals and ideas. At the core of needed visions must be the individual human being, or “microcosm.” As for the larger political, legal and epiphenomenal universe, or “macrocosm,” it will necessarily be a more-or-less direct reflection of accumulated “little worlds.”

Macrocosm mirrors microcosm. Taken as a totality, the internal balance of individual human beings inevitably shapes the internal balance of world order.  To create a just and durable global civilization, therefore, humankind will first have to create equilibrium within the microcosm.[3] In the best of all possible worlds, the perfect symmetry of Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man” would be replicated by the planet as a whole.[4]

There are variously derivative obligations of this comprehensive vision. American and other world political leaders would be well-advised to acknowledge the inherent survival limitations of a world legal order based on perpetual conflict. The point of such an indispensable acknowledgment would be (1) to improve the time-dishonored global threat system in feasible increments;[5] and (2) to identify more durable configurations of international politics and international law.[6]

There is more. This identification would have to be both systemic (acknowledging human interrelatedness) and systematic (subject to continuously disciplined study). Above all, this means initiating a process informed by creative intellectual imagination and prospectively plausible hypotheses. The appropriate rules for carrying-out this process  should include (3) useful description of relevant analytic models; and (4) subsequent exploration of models by verifiable methods of empirical-scientific inquiry.[7]

History will warrant a prominent pride of place. What might first still seem promising in the “state of nature” (the current global condition of anarchy dating back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648[8]) is still apt to prove injurious for America’s survival prospects.  Related national harms could sometime be experienced not merely as debits in a country’s implicit national security calculus, but as an explosive and irremediable set of intolerable costs.

In the United States, such costs defined the corrosive trajectory of former US President Donald J. Trump’s “America First.”[9] These costs have proven to be cumulative; they continue to undermine American national security and American dignity at every level.

On national security matters, America’s most immediate task must be a far-reaching rejection of such primal thinking. But significantly more will need to be accomplished on these conspicuously urgent matters. It is now high time for American leaders to think meaningfully beyond rancorous power-politics, beyond a self-defiling macrocosm that has always lacked “soul.”

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the essence of both an individual human being and the larger social system. Neither Freud in Vienna nor Jung in Zürich ever provided a precise definition of the term, but it was surely not intended by either in an ordinary religious sense. Rather, it was represented as a critical seat of mind and passion in this life. Interesting, too, in the present American political context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted American decline of America in terms of various express references to “soul.” Freud was admittedly disgusted by a civilization so conspicuously unmoved by any “true consciousness” (e.g., an awareness of intellect, law and literature), and worried that the crude American commitment to a perpetually shallow optimism would spawn sweeping psychological misery.

For selected thinkers and scholars (this is by no means a task for politicos or pundits), it’s best to begin at the beginning. In the fashion of every other country, the United States is part of a larger and interdependent world legal system.  This more comprehensive system now displays steadily diminishing chances for any sustainable success. What is the point, our national decision-makers should promptly inquire, of seeking a qualitative military edge in a system that is inherently poised to self-destruct?

The basic issues here are both broadly philosophic and narrowly scientific. “What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another,” asks Samuel Beckett in Endgame, “of seeking justification always on the same plane?” Thought the celebrated Irish playwright was not thinking specifically about world politics, the generalized query remains perfectly valid. For scholars of world politics and world law,[10] the bottom line is finally recognizing the primacy of intellect or “mind” as  the basic source of any nation’s power.[11]

Truth is exculpatory. Worldwide, whatever political and legal patterns prevail, the pain and “psychological misery” is always “deep.”[12] It cannot be overridden by any visceral chanting of political nonsense or by routine substitution of empty witticisms for unassailable fact. Unsurprisingly,  Realpolitik or balance of power world politics has never succeeded for longer than palpably brief and dreadfully uncertain intervals.[13] In the future, this unsteady politics could be exacerbated by multiple systemic failures, setbacks that would be mutually reinforcing or “synergistic”[14] and that could involve assorted weapons of mass destruction.

Most grievously portentous, in this regard, would be nuclear weapons.

There is more. By definition, any failure of nuclear Realpolitik could prove not “only” catastrophic, but also sui generis in the most conceivably negative sense. This would hold true if such failure were judged in the full or cumulative scope of its visibly unprecedented declensions.

Specific remedial steps will need to be taken. Immediately, all states that depend upon some form of nuclear deterrence should think more self-consciously about alternative systems of world politics; that is, about prospectively viable configurations that are reliably war-averse and cooperation-centered. While interest in any such speculative systems will sound utopian or fanciful to “realists,”[15] an opposite interpretation would actually make more sense.

At this fragile point in human evolution, it is more realistic to acknowledge the traditional “every man for himself” ethos in world politics as endlessly degrading and destined to fail. On its face, this universally toxic ethos is fully incapable of offering any credible survival reassurances. “The visionary,” reminds Italian film director Federico Fellini, “is the only realist.”

Episodically, again and again – at some point, irretrievably – “Westphalian” world systemic failures would become tangibly dire. In the final analysis, therefore, it will not be enough to tinker tentatively around the ragged edges of our current world legal order. At some still-indeterminable turning point, continuing to forge assorted ad hoc agreements between refractory states or between these states and certain surrogate or sub-state organizations would become irreversibly lethal.

There is a longer-term issue. During any protracted regional or global crises, the only sort of realism that could make any sense for America and other leading states would be a posture pointed presciently toward (1) a “higher” awareness of global “oneness;”[16] and (2) a higher level of world system interdependence.[17]

In its fully optimized expression, such an indispensable awareness would resemble what the ancients had called “cosmopolitan.” For the moment, let everyone be candid, the prophets of a more collaborative “world city” civilization must remain few and far between.[18]  Nonetheless, this sorely consequential absence would not be due to any intrinsic lack of need or to any witting forfeiture. Rather, it would reflect a progressively imperiled species’ retrograde unwillingness to take itself seriously –  that is, to recognize that the only sort of loyalty that can ultimately rescue all states from impending chaos must first embrace a redirected commitment (both individual and national) to humankind in toto.

At its heart, this is not a bewilderingly complicated idea. To wit, it is hardly a medical or biological secret that the core factors and behaviors common to all human beings greatly outnumber those that differentiate one from another. Unless the leaders of all major states on Planet Earth can finally understand that the survival of any one state must inevitably be contingent upon the survival of all, true national security will continue to elude every nation. This includes even the purportedly “most powerful” states, especially those that fitfully declare themselves “first.”

The bottom line? The most immediate security task for leading states in the global “state of nature” should be to become more collaboratively self-centered. Simultaneously, the leaders of all pertinent countries, especially the United States, should learn to understand that our planet always represents a recognizably organic whole, a fragile but intersecting “unity.”

Westphalian anarchy now exhibits rapidly diminishing options for managing world power[19] or for providing reliable mechanisms of successful war avoidance.[20]

To seize upon the disappearing opportunities for longer-term survival, our leaders must build sensibly upon foundational insights of Francis Bacon, Galileo, Isaac Newton[21] and (more recently) of philosopher Lewis Mumford: “Civilization is the never ending process of creating one world and one humanity.”[22] In all likelihood, these “classical” names would mean  little or nothing to present-day policy planners,   but there will still be capable advisors who could draw properly upon the dignities of serious study and dialectical thought.[23]

Even in present day United States, erudition deserves more evident pride of place.

There are always related matters of law. Jurisprudentially, no particular national leadership has any special or primary obligations in this regard, nor could it reasonably afford to build a nation’s most immediate security policies upon vaguely distant hopes and supplications. The United States remains a key part of the interrelated community of nations, and must do whatever it can to rescue a steadily wavering “state of nations” from the global “state of nature.”

There is more. Any such willful detachment should be expressed as part of a much wider vision for a durable and law-centered world politics.[24] Over the longer term, Washington will have to do its very primary part to preserve the global system as a whole. Immediately, “America Together,” not “America First,” should become a national and international mantra. However silly or impractical this may sound at first, nothing could be more fanciful than continuing indefinitely on a conspicuously-discredited course.

For the moment, there is no further need for detailing analytic or intellectual particulars.  There are bound to be many, but for now, at least, only a more evident and dedicated awareness of this civilizational obligation need be expected.[25]

In The Plague, Albert Camus instructs: “At the beginning of the pestilence and when it ends, there’s always a propensity for rhetoric…It is in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth – in other words – to silence.” As long as the states in world politics continue to operate in narrowly zero-sum terms of engagement – that is, as grim archeologists of ruins-in-the-making – they will be unable to stop the next wave of terror attacks,[26] genocides and/or catastrophic wars.[27]

Until now, for various unsound reasons, the traditional expectations of Realpolitik have managed to appear fundamentally sensible. Accordingly, there are no good reasons for expressing any still-lingering or retrospective regrets. Nevertheless, from the overriding standpoint of improving our longer-term security prospects, both national and global, the American president must substantially expand his/her visionary imagination. By ignoring the complex interrelatedness of all peoples and states, Donald J. Trump’s “America First” represented the opposite of what was most urgently needed.

Nothing could have been more obvious or lamentable.[28]

Now more than ever, affirming the extremity of “everyone for himself” in world politics is a prescription not for realism, but for recurrent conflict and far-reaching despair. Should this perilous prescription be allowed to stay in place, the costs to us all could sometime be nuclear.[29] At that still hard-to-imagine point, it will already be too late to discover that “America First” was a captivating but lethal presidential mantra.

Before America can ever hope to survive as a nation, its citizens and others will first have to survive as a planet-wide civilization. In matters of world politics, this means, among other things, understanding vital differences between the traditional anarchy of “Westphalian” international relations and the more disruptive dynamics associated with an impending “chaos.” When compared to “Westphalian” anarchy, such chaos could be more expressly primal, more starkly primordial, even more “self-propelled” or “lascivious.”

For further clarifications, we may think here of the “state of nature” described in William Golding’s prophetic novel, Lord of the Flies. Before Golding, the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (see Ch. XIII of Leviathan) warned that in any such dissembling conditions, the “life of man” must inevitably be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Looking ahead, such fearsome warnings could become even more plausible in circumstances where expanding threats of a nuclear war would coincide with expanding levels of pandemic or biological plague.

There does remain one potential source of optimism. This is the paradoxical prospect of a beneficent or peace-guided chaos. Whether described in the Old Testament or in certain other sources of Western philosophy, chaos can be as much a source of large-scale human improvement as a source of manifest decline. It is this prospectively positive side of chaos that is intended by Friedrich Nietzsche’s seemingly curious remark in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883): “I tell you, ye have still chaos in you.”

When expressed in correctly neutral tones, chaos is that condition which prepares the world for “all things,” whether sacred or profane. More exactly, it represents that yawning gulf of “emptiness” where nothing is as yet, but where some still-remaining civilizational opportunities could still originate. As the 18th century German poet Friedrich Hölderlin observes: “There is a desert sacred and chaotic, which stands at the roots of the things, and which prepares all things.”

Insightfully, in the ancient pagan world, Greek philosophers thought of this “desert” as logos, as a primal concept which expresses that chaos is anything but starkly random or inherently without merit. Getting meaningfully beyond Trump’s retrograde “America First” and its generic “template –  that is, beyond Realpolitik – will first require “fixing the microcosm.”[30] In other words, before anyone can conceptualize a system of world legal order that rejects the “everyone for himself” mantra, a far-reaching and prior re-conceptualization must take place at the individual human level.[31]

In candor, there is nothing to suggest that American and other leaderships will expect anything more ambitious than transient improvements in the short term. In this connection, the “prize” should not be just another few years of crude planetary survival, but rather a more lastingly durable pattern of global progress and justice. This improved prize would have little or nothing to do with the supposed “genius” of artificial intelligence (AI) or robots.

Worldwide security and law-based renewals always come back to the microcosm, to the individual human being. Building upon Dante’s De Monarchia (1310)[32] and the later cosmopolitanism of H.G. Wells, Lewis Mumford and J.W. von Goethe, 20th century French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin concludes helpfully in The Phenomenon of Man: “Each element of the cosmos is positively woven from all the others….”  Before an American or other world leader could meaningfully oppose the traditional and crippling dominance of power politics in world affairs, he/she would first have to understand what Chardin calls “the idea of a worldwide totalization of human consciousness.” This is the idea of the world as a single, major organic unity. Whatever its apparent differences and divergences, our world displays an ineradicable and irrepressible “oneness.” Ipso facto, all human beings are cemented to each other not by the nefarious aggregations of belligerent nationalism, but by their immutably basic species likeness and interdependence. When Siddhartha listened attentively to the river, says Herman Hesse in his great novel of the same name, “…he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it is his Self, but heard them all, the Whole, the unity….”

There is a last and necessary observation, one that concerns presumed connections between individual nation states and the “sacred” or “divine.”  Here, the German philosopher Georg F. Hegel commented famously: “The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth….We must therefore worship the State as the manifestation of the Divine on earth, and consider that, if it is a difficult to comprehend Nature, it is harder to grasp the Essence of the State….The State is the march of God through the world….”[33] To date, this idea has been responsible for literally uncountable numbers of individual human deaths and collective human disasters.

This should bring us back to the inter-connected phenomena of individual death fear and belligerent nationalism. In the nineteenth century, as part of his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896), Heinrich von Treitschke looked very intentionally beyond the daily news. Citing to Johan Gottlieb Fichte, the German historian opined prophetically: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.”[34] Fichte understood something of uncommon and incomparable importance: There can be no greater power on earth than presumed power over death.[35] As corollary, we may also be reminded by philosopher Emmanuel Levinas:  “An immortal person is a contradiction in terms.”[36]

There are variously underexplored connections. A starkly illogical search for immortality has long lain at the heart of human wrongdoing, including war, terrorism and genocide. This is because so many diverse civilizations have regarded death-avoidance as a zero-sum commodity, as a goal that can be met only at the correlative expense of certain designated “others.” In such “traditional” calculations, presumed prospects for success have typically been linked to the de facto degree of hatred expressed for despised “others.” Insidious conclusions build illogically upon one another: The greater the hatred, the greater the justifications for killing, the greater the personal chances of living forever.

Though perverse and incoherent, this commonly favored  calculus has been captured by psychologist Ernest Becker’s paraphrase of  author Elias Canetti: “Each organism raises it head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.”[37]  Similarly, we may recall earlier psychologist Otto Rank: “The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the other; through the death of the other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of dying, of being killed.”[38]

What should happen next? Looking ahead, the United States should act together with other states upon more firmly logical foundations than those supplied by myths of warfare, “sacrifice” and anti-reason.[39] By finally discarding the gibberish of Realpolitik or belligerent nationalism, cooperating states could finally affirm what ought to have been obvious from the beginnings of world politics. This is the obligatory replacement of “everyone for himself” justifications with fact-based and law-based affirmations of human “oneness.” The only alternative is a sordid global future of crimes of war, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. [40]

Realpolitik should end, but that will not happen without variously antecedent visions of human singularity and world legal community. Any such establishment will be indispensable; it should begin with the “balanced” microcosm (individual human being) and end with certain extraordinary acts of macrocosmic (systemic) “will.”[41] Though this will not be a task for political leaders, lawyers or pundits, it will represent a task that is deeply analytic, not just  narrowly partisan. Inevitably, in the intellectually beleaguered United States, the coming presidential elections – whatever the outcome – will be unequal to this task. The only persons who could bring dignity and purpose to such a bewildering existential challenge would be a tiny cadre of uniquely gifted thinkers. Such people, however, almost always remain invisible, even to themselves. In essence, they would represent an extraordinary microcosm of the microcosm.

“The visionary,” says Italian film director Federico Fellini, “is the only realist.” Still, any “Vitruvian” depiction of individual and world system balance could at first appear welcome, but would also be implausible. How should such a primal dilemma be resolved?

It is true beyond reasonable doubt that our unbalanced global threat system[42] is unsuited to survive in any conceivable form, especially as (1) world system anarchy is replaced by chaos; and (2) increasingly destructive weapons technologies spread beyond any meaningful hopes for effective world legal order. Just as surely as macrocosm reflects microcosm, (3) American and other world leaders will need to look far beyond traditionally ad hoc reactions to presumptively singular crises, and (4) support the idea that human survival requires law-based architectures rooted in balanced visions of human “oneness.”

Already, for both microcosm and macrocosm, apocalypse has become more than a religious culmination. Now, it represents a tangibly realistic secular expectation. Though this growing prospect will be regarded as tantalizingly “beautiful” by vast numbers of people,[43] allowing it to materialize would express humankind’s most utterly unpardonable “sin.”


[1] Natural Law is based upon the acceptance of certain principles of right and justice that prevail because of their own intrinsic merit.  Eternal and immutable, they are external to all acts of human will and interpenetrate all human reason. It is a dynamic idea, and, together with its attendant tradition of human civility runs continuously from Mosaic Law and the ancient Greeks and Romans to the present day.  For a comprehensive and far-reaching assessment of the Natural Law origins of international law, see Louis René Beres, “Justice and Realpolitik:  International Law and the Prevention of Genocide,” The American Journal of Jurisprudence, Vol. 33, 1988, pp. 123-159.  This article was adapted from Professor Beres’ earlier presentation at the International Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide, Tel-Aviv, Israel, June 1982.

[2] For early assessment of this obstacle, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984).

[3] Says Alexander Pope: “God loves from Whole to Part, but human soul Must rise from Individual to the Whole.”  (See an Essay on Man).

[4] Leonardo sought, with his Vitruvian Man drawing, to underscore that “everything is connected to everything else.”

[5] In his seventeenth-century classic of political philosophy, Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes points out interestingly that while the anarchic “state of nature” has likely never actually existed between individual human beings, it nonetheless defines the historic structures of world politics, patterns within which nations must coexist in “the state and posture of gladiators….” This uneasy “posture,” expands Hobbes, is a condition of “war.

[6] In the words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)). The specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[7] Among the earliest books laying out such rules, see, by this author, Louis René Beres, Reordering the Planet: Constructing Alternative World Futures (1974); Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (1973); Louis René Beres, Transforming World Politics: The National Roots of World Peace (1975); Louis René Beres, Planning Alternative World Futures: Values, Methods and Models (1975); and Louis René Beres, People, States and World Order (1981).

[8] See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119. Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.

[9] The belligerent nationalism of Donald Trump stood in marked contrast to authoritative legal assumptions concerning solidarity between nation-states. These jurisprudential assumptions concern a presumptively common legal struggle against aggression, terrorism and genocide. Such a “peremptory” expectation, known formally in law as a jus cogens assumption, was already mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 CE); in Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey., tr, Clarendon Press, 1925) (1690); and in Emmerich de Vattel, 1 Le Droit Des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758). The Founding Fathers of the United States were most likely made aware of these expectations by Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England (1765), a comprehensive classic work which quickly became the conceptual basis of all subsequent United States law.

[10] According to William Blackstone’s Commentaries (Book IV, “Of Pubic Wrongs,” Chapter V): “All law results from those principles of natural justice in which all the learned of every nation agree….” In legal philosophy, the classic definition of Natural Law is given by Cicero in The Republic: “True law is right reason, harmonious with nature, diffused among all, constant, eternal….”

[11] Consider here the observation of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.” See: “The New Spirit and the Poets” (1917).

[12] In “The drunkard’s song,” a passage in Zarathustra, Nietzsche sums up such pain with unparalleled simplicity: “Tief ist ihr Weh” (“Deep is its pain”) says the philosopher about the world. This “lied” was put to music by Gustav Mahler in his Third Symphony, 4th Movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aM9hezKudY&list=RDuPQSokfeQN8&index=2

[13] The concept of a balance of power – an idea of which the nuclear-age balance of terror is a more recent variant – has never been more than a facile metaphor. Further, it has never had anything to do with any calculable equilibrium. As such a balance is always a matter of individual and more-or-less subjective perceptions, adversary states may never be sufficiently confident that strategic circumstances are “balanced” in their favor. In consequence, as each side must perpetually fear that it will be “left behind,” the search for balance continually produces only widening insecurity and perpetual disequilibrium.

[14] Such synergies could shed light upon the entire world system’s state of disorder, a view that would reflect what the physicists call “entropic” conditions – and could become more-or-less dependent upon each pertinent decision-maker’s subjective metaphysics of time. For an early article by this author dealing with linkages obtaining between such a metaphysics and national decision-making, see: Louis René Beres, “Time, Consciousness and Decision-Making in Theories of International Relations,” The Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. VIII, No.3., Fall 1974, pp. 175-186.

[15] Whenever the new Muses present themselves,” warned 20th century Spanish existentialist philosopher, José Ortega y’ Gasset, “the masses bristle.” See Ortega y’ Gasset, The Dehumanization of Art (1925) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1948, 1968), p.7.

[16] In medieval western civilization, the world was conceived as a hierarchical order, extending from lowest to highest, and the earthly divisions of authority (always artificial or contrived) were always reunited at the level of God. Below this divine stratum, the realm of humanity was to be considered as one, especially because all the world had been created solely for the purpose of backdrop for humankind’s sought-after salvation. Only in its relation to the universe itself was the world to be considered as part rather than whole. In the clarifying words of Dante’s De Monarchia (1312-1313): “The whole human race is a whole with reference to certain parts, and with reference to another whole, it is a part. Fir it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, as is manifest without argument.” To sum up the background of this “oneness” assumption (not a hypothesis), the conceptualized medieval universe was tidy, ordered and neatly arranged. Imagined in metaphoric fashion as an immense cathedral, it was so simply conceived that it was frequently represented in art by great painted clocks . At its center lay the earth, at once a mere part of God’s larger creation, but at the same time a single unified whole unto itself. For this fascinating history, literary as well as philosophic, see Anatole France, The Garden of Epicurus (1923).

[17] “Civilization,” writes Lewis Mumford correctly, “is the never-ending process of creating one world and one humanity.”

[18] The best studies of such modern world order “prophets” are still W. Warren Wagar, The City of Man (1963) and W. Warren Wagar, Building the City of Man (1971).

[19] See Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power (1973), op cit.

[20] Because war and genocide are not mutually exclusive, either strategically or jurisprudentially, taking proper systemic steps toward war avoidance would plausibly also reduce the likelihood of always-egregious “crimes against humanity.” Under international law, crimes against humanity are defined as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or during a war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated….”  See Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Aug. 8, 1945, Art. 6(c), 59 Stat.  1544, 1547, 82 U.N.T.S.  279, 288

[21] Regarding science in such matters, Niccolo Machiavelli joined Aristotle’s plan for a more scientific study of politics generally with various core assumptions about geopolitics or Realpolitik. His best known conclusion, in this particular suggestion, focuses on the eternally stark dilemma of practicing goodness in a world that is generally evil. “A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything, must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good.”  See: The Prince, Chapter XV. Although this argument is largely unassailable, there exists a corresponding need to disavow “naive realism,” and to recognize that in the longer term, the only outcome of “eye for an eye” conceptions in world politics will be universal “blindness.”

[22] We may think also of the corresponding Talmudic observation: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.”

[23] Dialectic formally originated in the fifth century BCE, as Zeno, author of the Paradoxes, had been acknowledged by Aristotle as its inventor. In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic, with its conceptual root in the Greek verb meaning “to converse,” emerges as the supreme form of philosophical/analytic method. Plato describes the dialectician as one who knows best how to ask and answer questions. This particular knowledge – how to ask, and to answer questions, sequentially – should now be usefully transposed to the improved study of American national security issues.

[24]Because all US law is founded upon “the law of nature” (see US Declaration of Independence and US Constitution), this Trump-era opposition to human rights and freedom was in  ipso facto opposition to Natural Law.

[25] International law, which is an integral part of the legal system of all states in world politics, assumes a reciprocally common general obligation of states to supply benefits to one another, and to avoid war at all costs. This core assumption of jurisprudential solidarity is known formally as a “peremptory” or jus cogens expectation, that is, one that is never subject to question. It can be found in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis, Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace (1625) and Emmerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations or Principles of Natural Law (1758).

[26] Under international law, terrorist movements are always Hostes humani generis, or “Common enemies of mankind.” See: Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM J. INT’L L. (Supp 1935) 435, 566 (quoting King v. Marsh (1615), 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 Eng. Rep 23 (1615) (“a pirate est Hostes humani generis”)).

[27] In broad legal terms, stopping such “waves” could be properly described as a “peremptory” obligation of states. According to Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: “…a peremptory norm of general international law is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of states as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.” See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969), 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M.  679 (1969).

[28] An irony of Trump-Era US-Russia relations is that although they seemingly remained adversarial in ideological terms, the US president was generally willing to be led by his Russian counterpart. In the presumptively worst case narrative, US President Donald Trump acted as Vladimir Putin’s marionette, a sort of “Manchurian Candidate.”

[29] The cumulative costs could also be overwhelming and more-or-less unbearable. This assessment references security costs, economic costs and broadly “human” costs.

[30] This idea of “man as microcosm” was already developed in Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning as a model that took individual man as an accurate representation of
the entire world—that is, “….as if there were to be found in man’s body certain
correspondences and parallels which should have respect to all varieties of things….
which are extant in the greater world.”

[31] A properly antecedent question was raised earlier by Jose Ortega y’ Gasset in 1925: “Where,” the Spanish philosopher queried, “shall we find the material to reconstruct the world?” See Ortega’s The Dehumanization of Art (1925) (1968) by Princeton University Press, p. 129.

[32] Says Dante: “…the whole human race is a whole with reference to certain parts, and, with reference to another whole, it is a part. For it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, as we have shown and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, as is manifest without argument.”

[33]  See: See: Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, as quoted by Karl R Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 4th ed., 2 vols. (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963), vol. 2, p. 31.

[34] One should consider the contra view of Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses (1932). Here, Ortega identifies the state not as a convenient source of immortality, but instead as the very opposite. For him, the state is “the greatest danger,” mustering its immense and irresistible resources “to crush beneath it any creative minority that disturbs it….” Earlier, in his chapter “On the New Idol” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote similarly: “State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters…. All-too-many are born – for the superfluous the state was invented.” Later, in the same chapter: “A hellish artifice was invented there (the state), a horse of death…. Indeed, a dying for many was invented there; verily, a great service to all preachers of death!” “The State,” says Nietzsche, “lies in all the tongues of good and evil; and whatever it says it lies – and whatever it has it has stolen. Everything about it is false…. All-too-many are born: for the superfluous, the State was invented.” (See: Friedrich Nietzsche, THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA: ON THE NEW IDOL, in The Portable Nietzsche, 161 (Walter A. Kaufman, trans., 1954).

[35]How does killing in world politics hold out a promise of immortality for the perpetrator? According to Eugene Ionesco, “I must kill my visible enemy, the one who is determined to take my life, to prevent him from killing me. Killing gives me a feeling of relief, because I am dimly aware that in killing him, I have killed death. Killing is a way of relieving one’s feelings, of warding off one’s own death.” This comment from Ionesco’s JOURNAL appeared in the British magazine, ENCOUNTER, May 1966. See also: Eugene Ionesco, FRAGMENTS OF A JOURNAL (Grove Press, 1968).

[36] See God, Death and Time; originally Dieu, la mort et le temps (1993). See also, by Professor Louis René Beres, at Horasis (Switzerland): https://horasis.org/soaring-above-politics-death-time-and-immortality/

[37] See Ernest Becker, Escape from Evil, 2 (1975).

[38] See Otto Rank, Will Therapy and Reality 130 (1936; 1945).

[39] This is the key message of 20th century German philosopher Karl Jaspers’ Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952). Jaspers writes, inter alia, of the overriding human obligation to rise above “the fog of the irrational.”

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

[41] Modern philosophic origins of “will” are best discovered in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration, Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely and perhaps more importantly upon Schopenhauer. Goethe was also a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’Gasset, author of the singularly prophetic twentieth-century work, The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas;1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very grand essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948) and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[42] To remind, this disequilibrium has its origins in our manifestly unbalanced human species.

[43] Recall French dramatist Jean Giraudoux: “C’est beau, n’est-ce pas, la fin du monde?” (“It is beautiful, is it not, the end of the world?”) (Sodome et Gomorrhe).

Louis René Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of twelve major books and several hundred articles dealing with world politics and international law. Professor Beres was an original member of the World Order Models Project at Princeton and Yale during the 1960s. Some of his pertinent writings can be found at The New York Times; The Atlantic; The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; The American Political Science Review; The Hudson Review; Yale Global Online (Yale); Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); JURIST; World Politics (Princeton); International Security (Harvard); The Hill; Horasis (Switzerland); Oxford University Press Yearbook of International Law; and the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Dr. Beres was born in Zürich at the end of World War II.


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