Dr. Michael Brenner: “The West has set itself on a path of collective suicide”

Dr. Michael Brenner. D.R.

Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You wrote an excellent article entitled The West’s Reckoning. Talking about Western leaders, you mention collective suicide. Can you explain this to us?

Dr. Michael Brenner: America – its European vassals train in tow – in committing moral suicide in Palestine. The political consequences will be profound, and as enduring as the complete discrediting of the country’s standing as a positive presence in world affairs. Encouragement of, and participation in the murderous Israel assault on Gazans has been accompanied by a torrent of lies and deceptions which discredit anything we shall do or say. The reference points for this harsh judgment are not the mythic image of “the city on the Hill;” the last, best hope of mankind; the indispensable nation for achieving global peace and stability: the Providential people born in a state of Original Virtue destined to lead the world down the path of Enlightenment. None of those idealistic standards. No, we are debased when measured against the prosaic standards of human decency, of responsible statecraft, of a decent respect for the opinions of humankind.

Western leaders are experiencing two stunning events: defeat in Ukraine, genocide in Palestine. The first is humiliating, the other shameful. Yet, they feel no humiliation or shame. Their actions show vividly that those sentiments are alien to them – unable to penetrate the entrenched barriers of dogma, arrogance and deep-seated insecurities. The last are personal as well as political. Therein lies a puzzle.  For, as a consequence, the West has set itself on a path of collective suicide. Moral suicide in Gaza; diplomatic suicide – the foundations laid in Europe, the Middle East and across Eurasia; economic suicide – the dollar-based global financial system jeopardized, Europe deindustrializing. It is not a pretty picture. Astoundingly, this self-destruction is occurring in the absence of any major trauma – external or internal. Therein lies another, related puzzle.

You specialize in Defence issues. The Secretary General of NATO, the warmonger Jens Stoltenberg, has asked Western governments to deliver long-range missiles such as the Storm Shadow, the Scalp and the Taurus. Furthermore, Israel also bombed the Iranian consulate in Damascus. Could this escalation plunge us into nuclear war?

There is no compelling situational logic that should lead us to the brink of nuclear war. No nuclear power’s core interests are at stake – with the possible exception of Russia confronting by a hostile NATO that aims to push its bases to its borders, including a projected base in Ukrainian Sebastopol. In the Middle East, the risk is that the US would allow itself to be trapped into a war with Iran provoked by Israel whose recent actions clearly have that in mind. Were that to happen, it would have reverberations beyond the Middle East. However, it is unlikely that Russia or China would become directly involved by coming to the military aid of Iran. Both Putin and Xi are too sober and responsible for them to do so – unlike their Western counterparts.

Hasn’t the oligarchic elite that runs the West lost its mind? Are Western leaders not psychiatric cases?

Their behavior is in many respects irrational, unbalanced in terms of any logical cost/benefit/risk calculus. They are not clinically insane, though. What we are witnessing is an odd form of collective hysteria – panic at the prospect of the West losing the position of global dominance which it has enjoyed and profited from for nearly 500 years. That, I believe, is the root cause of what we are observing.

The stunning, frightening truth is that Western societies – American & European – are behaving hysterically. For the Senate in Washington to pass a near unanimous resolution condemning what it called “anti-Israel, pro-Hamas student groups” is a clear sign of abnormality. It is unmistakable from statements by supporters that the label is applied to anyone who protests the onslaught in Gaza or expresses support for the Palestinian people. Widespread denunciations and purges of individuals who voice those sentiments confirm that. Some might question how one can describe as hysterical the actions of private institutions and governments as well as individuals of being part of an irrational mass psychosis – and on a matter that does not concern them directly. After all, these countries are composed of educated, autonomous, diverse members schooled in civic ethics – the majority secular and unattached to any dogmatic creed or movement. We are not speaking of medieval cloisters or theocracies or totalitarian societies. That is exactly the point. The observed phenomenon meets all of the criteria for a diagnosis of mass hysteria – speaking objectively.  Manifest hysteria where you do not expect to see it at once underscores the psychopathology and raises the most profound questions as to what species of social entity we have become. The few, very rough historical analogies are not one we want to contemplate.

How do you explain the barbarity of the Israeli army, which is committing genocide in Gaza and to which we are powerless witnesses, such as, for example, the destruction of the Al-Shifa hospital and the related massacre? Where does Israel’s total impunity come from?

In one of the greatest tragedies in human history, a people who have been brutalized in Christendom for almost two millennia are now in a position where they are themselves inflicting collective punishment amounting to genocide on a vulnerable people.  The sense of impunity comes from a combination of righteousness grounded on past traumas, the corruption of power over the Palestinians and neighbors dating from the Nakba, and – above all – the full, unqualified backing of the United States and its European subordinates who are following it over the moral cliff.

Aren’t the United States as guilty as Israel in the genocide of the Palestinian people?

The United States indeed is an accomplice in legal terms, and in diplomatic terms. European states who supply arms also are accomplices. Those that provide other forms of support are accessories to the crimes in legal terms.

Why does the United States unconditionally support Israel? How strong is the Zionist lobby in the United States today?

The lobby is extremely strong. Its greatest leverage comes from campaign donations. Congress in particular has been bought. The votes of the country’s Jewish community is a less important factor. The states in which it is concentrated all predictably won by the Democratic candidate for President. Florida, hotly contested, is the exception.

The backdrop is important. The strongly pro-Israel sentiment that has crystallized over the past 75 years owes to more than the guilt felt by Europeans.

The internal dynamics of the United States are very similar to those of Europe – with three exceptions. One, guilt regarding historical mistreatment of Jews is largely absent. Yes, individuals may feel something about the Christian scapegoating of ‘Christ-killers,’ but generally speaking it is far more abstract. The empathy for Israel has arisen, and intensified, mainly from an instinctive sympathy for the underdog threatened by people you view negatively (1956, 1967) – a heart-wrenching narrative that has been vastly strengthened by vivid accounts, cinematic and written, of the tragic 20th Century Jewish saga. Moreover, there is the exceptional influence exerted by the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

Two, the dramatic growth in the influence of a politicized Evangelical movement has added a significant factor to the equation. The Book of Revelation is their guide and inspiration. Therein, they are told that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and Armageddon will be signaled by the restoration of the Jews in their Hebrew homeland. What happens next, of course, is blurred by both Israelis and the Evangelicals.

Three, the United States’ rededicated project to entrench its global dominance has spurred American assertiveness around the world. Its long-time focus on the Middle East for multiple reasons inclines Washington to secure what it sees as prized assets. That strong impulse is accentuated by its declining influence elsewhere in the region – especially the Gulf. With creeping doubts as to its prowess, and of its presumed calling to be the prophet of progress for all the world’s peoples, America compulsively grasps every occasion in order to confirm that it is Destiny’s child and to be reassured that its national mythology is inscribed in the heavens.

My country, Algeria, which is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, has presented a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. What is the point of the UN if Israel does not comply with any resolution? Isn’t there an urgent need to reform the UN or replace it with another more reliable organisation that will treat all peoples equally?

I don’t believe that tinkering with the architecture of the UN or its rules will change matters drastically. It is more a matter of sheer power and influence. The significant change, already underway, is that the global ‘South’ is beginning to break free of Western domination. This historic process is accelerated by the formation and growth of the BRICS bloc.

Algeria is fighting at the UN for Palestine to be granted full membership. In your opinion, don’t the Palestinian people have the right to finally have an independent state?

Of course. That principle was embedded in the UN Resolution of 1948.

When we used not long ago to talk about Israel’s crimes, we were called anti-Semitic. Hasn’t Israel lost everything with its policy of scorched earth in Gaza?

Not yet, but it may. If Israel attacks Hezbullah that would lead to the physical destruction of much of Israel – even if the war does not engage Iran and the US. It is banking on America coming to its assistance. However, whether it does or not, it cannot save the country from suffering massive material and human losses. In effect, Israel has set itself on a course of self-destruction by betting all on achieving the ultimate end of the Zionist project: a wholly Jewish state from the river to the sea.

Short of that, Israel still will suffer severely as a pariah state in the eyes of most of the world. Yes, it will continue to be coddled by Western governments and protected from the full consequences of its crimes- but things cannot return to the status quo ante. Sadly, opposition to Israel’s crimes is being conflated with anti-Semitism. That, of course, has been a major goal of Israeli governments for decades. They assumed that the conflation would work to Israel’s advantage. It indeed has during this crisis. An enormous price will be paid, though, as rejection of a differentiation between explicit anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism will in fact stir up some old-fashioned anti-Semitism and foster negative images of Jews generally among Western populations.

In your opinion, isn’t it time to get rid of US hegemony and move towards a multipolar world?

Yes – realism dictates that Washington accept that inevitable condition. But it won’t.

The American presidential election is fast approaching. What are the real issues at stake?

Whether the United States will break from its constitutional democracy and come under a neo-Fascist regime with peculiar American characteristics.

Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen

Who is Michael Brenner?

Dr. Michael Brenner is a recognized American authority on risk assessment and management, American foreign policy, and geopolitics. He is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS/Johns Hopkins. He was Director of the International Relations and Global Studies Program at the University of Texas until 2012. Dr. Brenner is the author of numerous books and over 80 articles and papers on a wide range of topics. These include books published with Cambridge University Press (Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation) the Harvard University Center for International Affairs (The Politics of International Monetary Reform), the Brookings Institution (Reconcilable Differences, US-French Relations In The New Era) and publications in leading journals in the U.S. and Europe, such as World Politics, Comparative Politics, Foreign Policy, International Studies Quarterly, International Affairs, Survival, Politique Etrangère, and International Politik. His most recent works include: Democracy Promotion and IslamFear and Dread In The Middle EastToward A More Independent EuropeNarcissistic Public Personalities & Our Times.

He has carried out funded research projects with colleagues at leading universities and institutes in Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, including the Sorbonne, the University of Bonn, King’s College London and the Universita di Firenze.

He is guest lecturer at leading universities and institutions in the U.S. and abroad, including Georgetown University, UCLA, the National Defense University, the State Department, Sorbonne, the École des Sciences Politiques, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the University of London, the German Council on Foreign Relations, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the Universita di Milano.

Consultant to the U.S. Departments of Defense and State, Foreign Service Institute and Mellon Bank on multilateral diplomacy, peacekeeping by multinational organizations, and political risk assessment.

He is the recipient of grants from the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, U.S. Information Service, Commission of the European Union, NATO and the Exxon Education Foundation.

He has held teaching and research positions at Cornell, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Brookings Institution, University of California – San Diego, and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the National Defense University.

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