Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The U.S. Enabled Turkey to Invade Syria: Absent the U.N.

Turkey invaded Syria on October 9, 2019 “to flush Kurds allied with the US out of northeastern Syria.”[1] Strategically, Turkey wanted to distance the Kurds from Turkey so they could not aid Kurdish separatists in Turkey should the latter rise up in attempting to establish Kurdistan. U.S. President Don Trump, who had just cleared American troops from northeastern Syria, had advanced knowledge from Turkish President Recep Erdogan that he planned to invade the area once the American troops were out. A rare bipartisan unity in Congress criticized the removal of American troops and the president’s acquiescence on Turkey’s plan to attach the Kurds, an American ally—a plan that could possibly give ISIS a toehold in the region. Both the Congress and the president had their respective rationales, yet neither side looked past the apparent dichotomy to arrive at a solution consistent with the points made by both sides.
Backing up the arguments made by the bipartisan critics in Congress, “Pentagon and State Department officials had advised Trump against making the move, arguing a US presence is needed to counter ISIS and keep Iran and Russia, both influential inside Syria, in check.”[2] Rep. Ro Khanna asked why the president would not at least have asked for a concession from Turkey. That the U.S. was turning its back on “allies who [had] died fighting for a US cause” was also objectionable.[3] Certainly some erosion of trust could be expected. Help the Americans on one of their causes and the next administration may turn on you anyway. To put friends in harm’s way and disavow any responsibility that goes with having received help points to a deep character flaw. While less obvious than is the mentality in preemptively invading another state, the U.S. President’s treatment of the Kurds was also culpable (and the U.S. Government had also preemptively invaded another state—Iraq).
President Trump’s rationale stemmed from his opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the long, senseless war that ensued. He pointed, moreover, to the eight trillion dollars spent by the U.S. and all the dead and wounded American soldiers “fighting and policing in the Middle East.”[4] He had campaigned on getting out of such long, senseless wars whose benefits to the U.S. do not justify the costs in lives and money. His solution in gradually pulling out American forces involved leaving a power-void that could be exploited or filled by adversaries. For example, ISIS could establish more of a presence in northeastern Syria under Turkish occupation. The Syrian Democratic Forces wrote that they were suspending military operations against ISIS in northern Syria following the “Turkish aggression.”[5]
I submit that both the concerns of the Congressional critics and President Trump could have been obviated had the U.S., a major financial contributor to the United Nations, sponsored a resolution in the Security Council for U.N. peacekeeping troops to replace the American forces in northeastern Syria. A contingent coalition could have been put together should Turkey have invaded anyway. American geopolitical interests would have favored a peace-keeping force over a force that could enable the spread of ISIS (like Turkey).
In general terms, the more the world organization of countries can step into troubled areas in peace-keeping roles, the less the world will have to rely on self-interested large countries, such as the U.S., to act as a global policeman. A conflict of interest exists in having one of the state-actors to be such a policeman because the temptation will be to put the state-actor’s own strategic interests above peace-keeping. I contend elsewhere that even if the state does not indulge such a temptation, the conflict-of-interest arrangement, which includes such temptation, is inherently unethical because of the existence of the temptation, given human nature.[6] In northeastern Syria, the U.S. was oriented to rooting out (and preventing) ISIS more than keeping the peace. Even if the official American objective had been peace-keeping, the U.S. would have been tempted to attack new ISIS outposts. Especially in political realism (but also in neorealism), to assume that a state would not act in its own strategic interests is naive. 
Had the U.S. pursued the U.N. option, the tension between the Congressional critics and the administration could have been avoided. This type of problem-resolution—a third way—is particularly beneficial in cases in which both sides to a dispute have good points. I suspect the human mind, whether from nature or nurture, goes to either-or dichotomies too readily. The back-and-forth in a debate is supposed to come to the better answer, but what if a third is even better?



[1] Nicole Gaouette, “Republican Anger at Trump Grows as Turkey Launches ‘Sickening’ Attack on US Allies,” CNN.com, October 9, 2019 (accessed same day).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Skip Worden, Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available at Amazon. 


Monday, September 16, 2019

Israeli Secret Ops Undermining the United States: Political Realism as Undercutting Allies

On September 14, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was “giddy with excitement” after U.S. President Trump had communicated “the possibility of moving forward” with a mutual defense pact.[1] This communication was punctuated, however, by “cautious wording.”[2] Trump had recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s state capital and recognized Netanyahu’s annexation of the occupied Golan Heights. What accounts for the caution regarding a defense pact? Moreover, why had Trump been quiet concerning the Israeli election that was coming up in a week or so? Netanyahu was polling behind his contender, so vocal support from Trump, such as on Netanyahu’s campaign pledge to annex the Jordon Valley, would have been valuable to the sitting prime minister. At least part of the answer may have something to do with Israel’s undercutting military action in Iraq. American allies have their own geo-political agendas that can include undercutting the United States militarily.

There is the public relationship, which is all smiles, and there is what is really going on secretly. Which is real? 

First of all, just two days before Trump conveyed a vague interest in moving forward on a defense pack, Politico had broken the story that U.S. Government had determined over the last two years that Israel had been behind the "StingRay" cellphone surveillance units found around the White House.[3] Those machines could act as cell-phone towers and thus obtain cell-phone calls, texts, and data from people in the White House, as well as coming and going. Although Trump publicly claimed that he didn't believe that Israel had been spying on him, his reaction in secret may have been different, as he was known to be lax with his cellphone security and may have had personal information extracted. In public, the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister denied the story, but in private, their relationship may have been damaged.
Secondly, according to the U.S., Israel had likely been involved in a strike near Baghdad in July, 2019. According to two U.S. officials, the strike complicated America’s relationship with Iraq.[4] It was in Israel’s interest to target militia groups with close ties to Iran. Pentagon spokesman Sean Robertson pointed out that the U.S. military has “repeated spoken out against any potential actions by neighbors that could lead to violence in Iraq.”[5] It is interesting that one of the closest U.S. allies would act so anyway. In an interview, Netanyahu, who also acted at the time as Israel’s defense minister, admitted that he had “given the security forces a free hand and the instruction to do what is needed to thwart” Iran’s plans “in Iran itself, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen.”[6] Whether Netanyahu merely relegated the fallout for the U.S. or had an interest in driving a wedge between the U.S. and Iraq goes beyond my intel. 
Thirdly, Israeli military forces, dressed as Iraqis, had secretly entered Iraq before, using complicit British guns to shoot at American soldiers and thus destabilize the situation in the eyes of the Americans and thus manipulate them to increase their involvement there. Both the British and Israeli states had an interest in keeping the U.S. mired in the Middle East, though I doubt the British interest was principally to weaken the dollar. Israel’s interest is rather obvious in having a powerful ally close by militarily. In any case, special relationships tend to get weakened by undermining actions on the ground.
Perhaps political realism, a theory that maintains that states pursue their respective interests rationally, really does explain how states act in secret. But is such a narrow preoccupation of interest rational? A single-minded privileging of immediate interests is not rational, I submit, because the longer-term benefits from a longer-term interest are discounted or ignored outright. Allies can realize such benefits unless either state puts short-term opportunism (from short-term interests) above the sort of self-restraining motivation that respects as binding the other state's interests. 
In secret, states may indeed be opportunists even in trying to weaken an ally while proffering supportive platitudes in public. After all, the present-value of money, which holds that having money today is worth more than having it tomorrow (hence interest on a savings account is compensation), stems from the importance of instant gratification in human nature. Given this genetic staple, trust simply does not exist between states, even allies. The maxim that a state will only act in concert with an ally when the immediate strategic interests are in line is not rational, I submit, because the benefits from self-constraining immediate interests are given up; such benefits, if allowed, would result in a more optimized state interest being realized. 

Even medium-term benefits may not be realized. Netanyahu, for instance, may find that his desire to be re-elected is not sufficiently supported when a “trusted” ally is more hesitant than usual in offering support. From the American standpoint, it may not even make sense to have a mutual-defense pact with an ally that takes cell-phone data from near the White House and plows ahead militarily at the detriment of the United State's costly work in Iraq. Why would the U.S. agree to spend money and lives to defend Israel unless America were itself attacked? To be in a mutual military pact, both sides must be capable of and willing to recognize and act on obligation even when the immediacy of interest could benefit by acting contrarily even if in secret.




1. Oren Liebermann, “Trump May No Longer Be the Gift that Keeps on Giving for Netanyahu,” CNN.com, September 16, 2019 (accessed on the same day).
2. Ibid.
3. Daniel Lippman, "Israel Accused of Planting Mysterious Spy Devices Near the White House," Politico, September 12, 2019.
4. Barbara Starr et al, “Israel Likely Had a Role in Iraq Airstrike that Has Roiled US-Iraqi Relations,” CNN.com, August 23, 2019 (accessed on September 16, 2019)
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

President Obama's Justification for Limited Military Intervention in Libya: Driving a Wedge between the Bushes


In the early evening of March 28, 2011, President Barak Obama addressed the American people and the world to explain his administration’s involvement in the international coalition that had been implementing a no fly zone over Libya while protecting Libyan civilians from their own ruler. He sounded much more like the first President Bush than the second in terms of foreign policy.  Similar to how the elder Bush had restrained himself from going all the way to Baghdad after he had joined an international coalition in removing the Iraqis from Kuwait, Obama said that directing American troops to forcibly remove Colonel Qaddafi from power would be a step too far, and would “splinter” the international coalition that had imposed the no fly zone and protected civilians in rebel areas of Libya. Interestingly, in taking the elder Bush’s route, Obama came out strongly against that of Bush II. Referring to the alternative of extending the U.S. mission to include regime change, Obama stated, “To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq . . . regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”[1] In effect, Obama was exposing a fundamental difference between George H.W. Bush and his son by saying essentially the same thing as the elder Bush had done while excoriating the foreign invasion of his son. Yet Obama did not stop there. He added a theoretical framework that the elder Bush could well have used.
The New York Times put the theory quite well. “The president said he was willing to act unilaterally to defend the nation and its core interests. But in other cases, he said, when the safety of Americans is not directly threatened but where action can be justified — in the case of genocide, humanitarian relief, regional security or economic interests — the United States should not act alone. His statements amounted both to a rationale for multilateralism and another critique of what he has all along characterized as the excessively unilateral tendencies of the George W. Bush administration.”[2] In other words, even in providing a basic framework, Obama was able to distance Bush the father from Bush the son.  Interestingly, Obama had awarded the senior Bush with the Metal of Freedom over a month earlier. I would be very surprised if Obama would award Bush the Son such a prize. In terms of foreign policy, the philosophical line in the sand clearly distinguishes the second Bush from both his own father and Barak Obama.
Of course, the President’s speech left his audience hanging in other respects. For instance, averting a large-scale massacre in Libya is in the U.S. strategic or national interest because of our humanitarian values as well as the proximity of Libya to the nascent upheavals in Tunisia in Egypt. So would not protecting a mass protest in Yemen, which is next to Saudi Arabia, or in Syria, which has particular strategic interest to the U.S. on account of Syria’s connection with Lebanon (and thus relevant for Israel) and Iran, also be in the American national interest?  The President could argue that neither Yemen (or Bahrain) nor Syria had come to the point where the civilians in a major city were at risk—but it could still be asked, what if?  Must there be a baleful hint of genocide in a city commensurate to the Libyan city of Benghazi for protesters to warrant invoking principled leadership with or without allies when a ruler has effectively lost his right to rule by having turned on his own people?
I contend that the President treated the U.S. strategic interest quite broadly by including the protection of large numbers of civilians against their own ruler, particularly when even the portent of carnage could destabilize emergent republics next door. Such interest is broader than questions such as, how the civilians would view the U.S. were they to gain power? and what effect would a new government have on Iran and Israel? Such questions pertain to a narrower conception of national interest—one that is much less of value to a country. Viewing the good will of protesters as an opportunity—essentially taking on the wider, humanitarian-inclusive, notion of national interest—Syria, Bahrain and Yemen become like Libya as soon as their respective protests and prospect of government brutality reach a certain threshold that Libya had surpassed. What that threshold is—meaning in terms of scale as well as brutality—is something the American Congress and President needed to decide. For had that been set, attention could have turned to the mechanism involved in forming an international coalition should a country cross the line.
Differing from Obama, I submit that the establishment of a threshold can be relied up such that principled leadership could be invoked by the U.S. even in the absence of partners at the outset. Such unilateralism would differ appreciably from that of Bush the Younger, whose invasion of Iraq was based on a criterion used for that one case alone (WMD).  In other words, unilateralism need not mean capriciousness or impulsiveness. A humanitarian threshold undergirded by a strategic interest in there being a world wherein rulers serve rather than violently turn on their own people can justify not only international coalitions, but also instances of principled leadership.

[1] Helene Cooper, “Obama Cites Limits of U.S. Role in Libya,” The New York Times, March 28, 2011.
[2] Ibid.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Israel and the United States on Palestinian Democracy

I contend that the furtherance of democracy in general and more specifically in the Middle East can be regarded as a strategic pathway toward regional peace. The philosopher Kant wrote a treatise on a global federation as a means toward achieving world peace. The founders of the United States reckoned that all the republics within that regional federation must be democratic for the Union itself to be sustained. A United States of the Middle East would also stand a better chance were it's states republics in form. It follows that especially when democratic bystanders put short-term tactical and strategic advantage above furthering or just permitting the development of a young, unstable democracy, the hypocrisy puts off rather than furthers peace. The reactions of Israel and the United States to a Palestinian achievement in 2011 are a case in point. 
The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, announced on April 27, 2011 “that they were putting aside years of bitter rivalry to create an interim unity government and hold elections within a year, a surprise move that promised to reshape the diplomatic landscape of the Middle East. The deal, brokered in secret talks by the caretaker Egyptian government, was announced at a news conference in Cairo where the two negotiators referred to each side as brothers and declared a new chapter in the Palestinian struggle for independence, hobbled in recent years by the split between the Fatah-run West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza. It was the first tangible sign that the upheaval across the Arab world, especially the Egyptian revolution, was having an impact on the Palestinians . . . Israel, feeling increasingly surrounded by unfriendly forces, denounced the unity deal as dooming future peace talks since Hamas seeks [Israel's] destruction. ‘The Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas,’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in a televised statement. The Obama administration warned that Hamas was a terrorist organization unfit for peacemaking.”[1]
An agreement that puts aside years of bitter rivalry is in itself morally praiseworthy not only because of the heightened possibility for peace, but also because just achieving such an agreement is not easy; rather, this is the road less traveled. As reported at the time, “A desire for unity has been one goal that ordinary Palestinians in both areas have consistently said they sought. Until now it has proved elusive and leaders of the two factions have spoken of each other in vicious terms and jailed each other’s activists.”[2] Tit for tat much more conformable to human nature than putting faith in trust where none has existed.
More specifically, an agreement by rival parties in a young democracy to have common elections furthers the ideal of representative self-government. Putting an ideal before partisan advantage is also morally (and politically) laudable because such a priority is not easy given human nature (nature and nurture). 
This is not to say that the results of an election agreed to by rivals (assuming a fair and transparent one) are pleasing to interested bystanders nearby or halfway around the world who gave their own agendas. If such bystanders brandish themselves as beacons of democracy to the world and yet act on their own agendas, the charge of self-serving hypocrisy can stick. 
To be sure, both Israel and the United States had at the time a long-term interest in the furtherance of the democratic form of government, so assuming a stance of enlightened self-interest would have avoided the noxious cloud of hypocrisy. Unfortunately, the two bystanders, who still claimed to value representative democracy, held the furtherance of the form hostage to their hostility to an enemy. It can be said, in fact, that democratic governments that refuse an opportunity to permit a young and not yet stable democracy to strengthen are not themselves worthy of self-government, for they are not sufficiently mature, politically, in putting their respective partisan agendas first. 
Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams agreed in retirement after the American Revolution that a self-governing citizenry must be educated and virtuous to sustain a viable republic. I submit that both formal education and virtue require and strengthen self-discipline, as well as foster maturity. To skip class and not study for tests, for example, flaunt self-discipline, whereas to follow the rigors of a course of study requires (and builds) self-discipline and thus maturity. The relationship between self-discipline and virtue is more widely understood. 
To the Israeli government, the sheer possibility of unity among the Palestinians translated into having a more formidable opponent in bargaining. Surely, however, more was at stake than jostling for strategic advantage. As it turned out, such a concern dominated at the expense of peace. Even the increasing dominance of Israel itself over the Palestinian Authority did not bring peace any closer.  

1. Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner, “Fatah and Hamas Announce Outline of Deal,” The New York Times, April 28, 2011, p. A1.
2. Ibid.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Russian Meddling in the U.S. Election of 2016: Intrusiveness as Disrespect

Russian hackers compromised the voter databases in two counties in Florida. According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, “Two Florida counties experienced intrusion into the supervisor of election networks. . . . There was no manipulation . . . it did not affect voting or anything like that.”[1] I submit that intrusion is the operative word here, for even if voting tallies were not affected, the mentality behind intruding is itself sordid. In other words, the source of the unethical conduct does not just lie in the consequences, though they could admittedly be significant in the future.
The FBI “believed the intrusion into ‘at least one Florida county government’ was carried out by Russia’s military-intelligence service, which also hacked and dumped Democratic Party emails during the [2016] election.”[2] In other words, one government was intruding into rather than merely spying on another government. Had the Russian government intruded further by changing votes (or the number thereof), the result could have very significant, for Donald Trump won Florida’s 29 electoral votes for the U.S. presidency by edging out Hilary Clinton in the popular vote by a mere 100,000 votes, or about 1.2 percent.[3] Moreover, the credibility of reported election results could then have worsened due to the ongoing possibility that the work of Russian hackers might not be discoverable. In such event, it would not be in the interest of the U.S. Government to make such information (and even the possibility thereof) public.
Bad results or not, intruding into the inner workings of another government demonstrates a marked lack of respect for the latter and its people, including the form of government—in this case, democracy. Even if no sabotage has been incurred, the intrusion itself is a matter worthy of affecting the governments’ bilateral relations. In interpersonal relations, for instance, if one person does not respect another, the relationship itself is naturally affected. For one thing, the disrespect can turn mutual, and at the very least, mutual distrust can become salient. I contend that the disrespected person is ethically able to recalibrate the relationship itself to reflect the now-mutual disrespect and mistrust (for trust cannot exist among disrespect). Once the underlying reality of the relation is laid bare between the parties, the bargaining can explicitly reflect the extant condition of disrespect (and distrust). For example, the party that is more disrespected can legitimately give less as a cost of the unwarranted disrespect. Respect itself becomes a currency that has value because it can be tied to other things of value. Essentially, the more disrespected party can hold the disrespect up to the other party, in effect forcing that party to the realization that disrespect has negative consequences. There being negative consequences to the disrespect itself can itself be a respect-earning strategy. Fundamentally, a relationship can reach a more stable equilibrium only once the tilt in the relationship’s “game board” is made explicit and dealt with even in the making of particular deals. The tilt itself should not be allowed to become part of the status quo, which would happen if the intruded government does not make the intrusion itself a constant matter recalibrating the relationship.



[1] Dustin Votz, “Russians Breached Voter Data in Two Florida Counties in 2016,” The Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2019.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Before Infiltrating American Democracy, the Kremlin Had Curtailed Democracy (and Federalism) in Russia

Officials in the Russian government may have ordered computer hackers to infiltrate the U.S. presidential election in 2016 not only in order to influence the outcome to be more favorable to Russia, but also because those officials did not respect federalism and democracy, which, after all, had been so weak in Russia.   
For instance, when it looked like Igor Morozov, an insurgent candidate from within the local nomenklatura in Ryazan, might beat the Kremlin-appointed incumbent governor in 2012, the Kremlin summoned Morozov and the next day he announced that he was dropping out of the race. He would be appointed a senator instead. His campaign, he explained, had created the “threat of a split in society.”[1] In actuality, the success of his candidacy was undermining the federal government’s control of the governorship races and Putin's United Russia Party. Federalism, it would seem, was a facade, and thus easy to disrespect.

 Igor Morozov, campaigning before the Kremlin intervened.  Kommersant.

Sergei Salnikov, the deputy secretary of the United Russia Party in Ryazan, had crossed party lines to back Morozov. Salnikov pointed to weakening of democracy should the Kremlin be able to install the next governor. It’s “as if you have simply been raped,” he said.[2] Democracy was being raped, and it was so weak all it could do was take it. How can such a thing be worthy of respect in a one-party dictatorship? 
To be sure, Putin would not have likened his “presidential filter” of candidates to raping. The filter itself contained a structural conflict of interest because a candidate for governor had to secure the endorsement of 10 percent of the republic’s lawmakers, who were heavily dependent on the sitting governors. Incumbents could thus see to it that “paper tigers” were put up as the opposing candidate such that in actuality no real competition existed. 
From the stand point of federalism, a conflict of interest existed in the Kremlin’s “filter” for “criminality.” For the Kremlin to filter candidates for the highest office in a republic's election has rendered the “state level” as subordinate to the federal government. A trajectory can thus be drawn toward political consolidation and away from federalism, including its checks and balances.
Therefore, the Russian political elite has been able not only to enrich, but also ensconce, itself at the expense of democracy and federalism. The latter, in fact, is ideally suited to the inherent diversity between republics in an empire. Neither democracy nor federalism has been strong enough, even in terms of being popularly valued, for the dictatorial tradition of the Czars and Soviets to collapse along with the U.S.S.R. Similarly, the Arab Spring showed the world, and Russia, that even when popular passion lies with democracy, an authoritarian tradition can still be stronger. 
Viewing democracy (and federalism, which is also relevant in U.S. presidential elections) as weak, as well as inherently inferior in terms of power to one-party rule, the Russian officials who ordered the manipulation of the American electorate likely saw themselves as tinkering with an inferior breed, or at least political system. As much as democracy is valued at least in principle in the United States, the form of government can be disvalued elsewhere, particularly where dictatorship has been the norm. Even Plato and Aristotle theorize strong (demos) and weak (mob rule) manifestations of democracy, yet those philosophers also wrote of a weak form of dictatorship: the tyrant, who can be expected to disrespect democracy for its (ideally) decentralization of power. A tyrant would naturally view himself as a bird of prey seizing on disbursed individuals who together form a people, the popular sovereign, in a democracy. Yet as Nietzsche theorized, a bird of prey who resorts to manipulation and other forms of domination is actually weak rather than strong, for were such a creature strong, it would have no need of subterranean means of increasing its power over others. 

1. Ellen Barry, “Not in Script For Kremlin: A RealRace For Governor,” The New York Times, September 28, 2012.
2. Ibid.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Savage Beatings in a Government's Toolkit: A Case of Pathology Writ Large

The psychology of someone acting on behalf of or in line with a government in beating another person who has not done or said anything personally against the beater is perplexing. The transmission of anger towards what a group stands for onto a particular human being who may be just walking has not been uncommon in human rights lore; even so, the component of strong emotion in the beating itself is bizarre; it may evince a pathology affecting some people when they think about, or engage in, the political domain. So considering violence against the nonviolent as a government tool that depends on the pathology is also problematic.


To attend the funeral in December, 2009 of Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was the 87 year-old spiritual leader of the Iranian reformist movement, and therefore a dissident leader to the Iranian Government, mourners poured out in thousands into the streets leading to the mosque. However, anti-riot police and plainclothes pro-government Basij militiamen had blocked the area. Parlemannews reported at the time that the Basij beat people, including women, and used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. One witness told a reporter,  ”Tens of thousands gathered outside for the memorial but were savagely attacked by security forces and the Basijis.” That witness also said baton-wielding riot police clubbed people on the head and shoulders, and kicked men and women alike, injuring dozens.  “I saw at least two people with blood pouring down their face after being beaten by the Basijis,” he said.[1]
Attending a rally by U.S. presidential candidate Don Trump in 2016, I was stunned while watching a muscular military man stomp on a protester even though she had done nothing to that man in particular, such as shout or spit at him. Why such anger in the stomping, I wondered at the time. It was as if the man's trigger had malfunctioned. To be mad at a message of protest is not in itself to be angry at other persons at an interpersonal level.  
While a government could be justified in responding to violence with violence, to use violence where there is none in opposition suggests that violence is a tool in the government’s toolkit for changing behavior or political positions. This tool depends on the existence of the pathology at an interpersonal level.  It depends on people who view other people as being less than human—even as a kin to dogs—on account of having different opinions and even principles.  
The philosopher Kant wrote in the eighteenth century that the rational nature is of such value that anyone (or anything) having it should not be treated as merely a means, but also as an end in itself. To reduce a rational nature to an object to be savagely attacked is therefore unethical. This applies both to governments (and the officials thereof) and to the individuals who attack other individuals on behalf of governments. 
Besides this Kantian ethical analysis, it strikes me as odd to classify “savage beating” at a governmental tool alongside fiscal policy, treaties, and monetary policy. This represents a category mistake concerning just what it is to be a government tool.  To be sure, any government is ultimately founded on the lethal use of force applied to individuals. Even so, the assumption that violence against nonviolent individuals or groups is a government tool can be questioned as faulty. Alternatively, it could be assumed that violence only fits against violence. 

1. Associated Press, "Iran Police in Fierce Clashes with Cleric Mourners," Foxnews.com, December 23, 2009.