Manichaeism and ‘An Ideology of Liberal Empire’ – Biden’s Forever Cosmic War Against Russian ‘Evil’
When the U.S. begins its pivot away from Ukraine, and looks fully to Europeanise the war, the political class won’t be seen ‘for the dust’.
“Appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased. They must be opposed. Autocrats only understand one word: “No.” “No.” “No.” (Applause.). “No, you will not take my country.” “No, you will not take my freedom.” “No, you will not take my future … A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never be able to ease [erase] the people’s love of liberty. Brutality will never grind down the will of the free. And Ukraine — Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never”. (Applause.)
“Stand with us. We will stand with you. Let us move forward … with an abiding commitment to be allies not of darkness, but of light. Not of oppression, but of liberation. Not of captivity, but, yes, of freedom”.
Biden’s speech at Warsaw, complete with the lighting effects and dramatic backdrop reminiscent of his Liberty Hall speech in which he sought to portray his own domestic MAGA opposition as a grave security threat to America, again resorts to radical Manicheanism to depict (this time) Russia, (the external counterpoint to the related U.S. MAGA threat), as the foundation for the epic battle between light and the forces of darkness. The eternal struggle that persists – that must be fought endlessly and won crushingly.
Again, as with his Liberty Hall speech, Biden offered no concrete plan. Here in Warsaw, with the sands of time running out on his Ukraine ‘project’, and with U.S. ‘Realists’ and China ‘hawks’ gaining more traction at home, Biden elevated the struggle from the literal to the metaphysical plane.
By so doing, he is trying to cement America’s deep-seated missionary ethos to a ‘forever’ cosmic war against Russian ‘evil’. He hopes to tie the American ruling class to the metaphysical struggle for the ‘light’. Should Biden continue in office, he hopes by this means, both to ‘define’ himself, and to set this overarching global struggle as something binding Americans, for the period ahead.
Simply put, his metaphysical framing is intended to trump those Realists calling for policy change.
Manichaeism is nothing new – it is an ancient cult with deep roots in Latin Christianity (and likely, Biden at least partially subscribes to seeing Putin as the Demiurge, the ‘dark’ anti-God).
So will this work? Well, this is the struggle now playing out in U.S. politics. At the upper level, the elites are more concerned with power and money than metaphysics – so, Biden’s attempt to transcend the latter and assemble an army “not of darkness but of light; not of oppression, but of liberation; not of captivity, but, yes, of freedom”, more likely will be regarded as a reflection of Biden’s derangement syndrome – his detachment from reality; his kookiness, in other words.
If many of the overlap establishments (the ‘Uniparty’) want this war, it will not be for virtuousness, but for the enrichment of the Military Industrial Complex. If the latter élites are veering away, it is because they think the MIC needs time to refurbish –and to restock – so as to take on China.
“Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow, and forever … That’s what Americans are and that’s what Americans do”, Biden said.
But the political landscape is no longer a Team Biden monopoly. Trump responded: “World War III has never been closer”; and he laid the blame on “all the warmongers and ‘America Last’ globalists in the Deep State, the Pentagon, the State Department and the national security industrial complex”. The former president singled out Victoria Nuland in particular who, he said, was “obsessed with pushing Ukraine towards NATO”.
Florida Governor DeSantis too, insists that the Biden administration has “effectively [given Kiev] a blank check with no clear strategic objective identified”. “I don’t think that it’s in our interest to be getting into a proxy war … over things like the [Ukrainian] borderlands or over Crimea,” DeSantis said.
Republican Senator Hawley a week ago gave an reflective address to the Heritage Foundation:
“It’s hard to challenge the ‘Uniparty’: They’ve gotten very good at telling their favourite story. That’s why anyone who questions them gets called “anti-American” or “Vladimir Putin’s puppet” from a hundred different quarters”.
“But today, I want to tell you something else. I want to tell the truth. And the truth is that Americans have been sold a bill of goods. Our current foreign policy isn’t working”. It’s falling apart at the seams, with the ‘Uniparty’ doing its level best to patch it together by cutting blank checks to other countries”. Simply said: “we’re over-committed, caught in the grip of an ideology of liberal empire”.
Is this enough to ‘turn the worm’? Or, to bring a senior Deep State grandee to Biden’s office to whisper: ‘Remember what happened to Nixon?’ ‘Time for you to let go of Zelensky; (such a pity should Hunter end in jail…!)’.
There is however, another aspect to Biden’s resort to metaphysical Manichaeism that brings real, palpable consequence. Again, not new. Rather, a case of old demons re-surfacing. Here was the Estonian PM, Kaja Kallas, at the Munich Security Conference, saying that ‘NATO countries must take control of Moscow and forcibly rewrite the mentality of Russian citizens’: “The entire population of Russia should be re-educated to root out any traces of imperialistic dreams’ – claiming that absent a mandated rehabilitation, “history will repeat itself” and Europe will never be safe.
“Neutrality is not an option, because then you are standing on the side of the aggressor … take a side, a side for peace, a side for Ukraine, a side for the humanitarian international law, and these times this means also delivering ammunition so Ukraine can defend itself”.
Yes, alongside this European Manichaeism, the edging towards a new racism can be espied: an ancient rhizome that has one tendril long burrowed into radical Ukrainian nationalism and with other tendrils coiling through mainstream EU structures, as the Euro-Élites patiently debate whether Russia was insufficiently ‘pacified’ after WW2, or whether more radical ‘rehab’ is required.
The rise of this class who regard themselves as credentialled to decide whether Russian culture must be cancelled – and ‘re-wired’ – is a particularly pernicious dynamic in global politics. It has been getting worse both in the U.S. and Europe, as its culture-war leaches out into geo-politics. This sense of superiority and impunity, in itself, provokes increased tensions and the risk of war.
Wolfgang Streeck, Emeritus Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany, was asked for the meaning of Chancellor Scholtz’s ‘German Zeitenwende’ (turning point). He responded:
“The Zeitenwende speech was a response to intensified pressure … for Germany to fall in line with the foreign policy of the U.S. – and, in particular, with that of the Biden administration. What is clear is that Scholz’s Zeitenwende entails a promise, above all to the United States, that Germany will from now on, unlike in the past, act in line with a view of the world as divided between the West – and an evil empire, or better: several evil empires, from Russia to China to Iran…”.
(Nota Bene: This is pure Leo Strauss, channelling Carl Schmitt’s earlier explicit German Manichaeism.)
“Between [Germany and the U.S.] – and the various evil empires: Peace is possible, only temporarily and intermittently, and only as long as we enjoy military superiority. In principle, we and they are always at each other’s throats. Real peace will require regime change making an evil empire part of our virtuous one – as a result of its conversion to ‘our values’. It is legitimate to use all its political, economic, and military means to bring such conversion about.
“After the Zeitenwende, wars will always be around the corner and we must be prepared for them. What should help is that a virtuous empire’s “value-driven” or “feminist foreign policy” (Baerbock) fights only just wars – as wars against evil cannot be unjust. The underlying world view here is not social-Darwinist, history being a battle for the “survival of the fittest“, but Manichaean, in which history is a relentless struggle between good and bad, in which the forces of virtue must do their utmost to prevail over those of evil. Before they have won, there can be no real peace, only cease-fires for tactical reasons. For real peace we, the forces of virtue, must prepare for war.
“There is a strong and a weak version of Zeitenwende rhetoric. The strong version implies that the world was always like this: ontologically Manichaean. Those who in the past had a different view were either feeble-minded fools, cowards who all-too-willingly let themselves be deceived by enemy propaganda, or traitors. This essentially coincides with the world view of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party in the United States.
“The weak version, the one Scholtz obviously prefers, is that the world has recently changed: while in the past it allowed for peaceful coexistence between regimes and countries with different interests or ‘identities’ – so that life in peace could be preferred over victory in war – now the enemy has become so evil that there is no moral alternative to defeating him, cost it what it may.
“Today, American messianism seems to have migrated to Europe. At the same time, Bob Dylan is right. And times continue to be a’changing. How long the German government can remain as subservient to the United States as it has now promised to be is an open question – considering the risks that come with Germany’s territorial closeness to the Ukrainian battlefield – a risk not shared by the U.S.. There is also pressure from France for Germany to become more European and less transatlantic in outlook, and this may, with time, have an impact. Furthermore, it is likely that the U.S. at some point, will try to “Europeanise” the war and bow out, as they tried to “Vietnamise” the Vietnam war in the 1970s – hoping that post-Zeitenwende Germany can take the burden of sponsoring their proxy war from them.
“As for Europe, the United States may not object to Germany, Poland, and others continuing to help the Ukrainian government pursue its dream of a final victory over Russia, at their own cost and risk. With Germany and the EU having turned their political judgment over to Zelenskiy and Biden, and all serious discussion of the aims of the war – the terms of a settlement – being de facto precluded, this is quite a frightening prospect”.
If Streeck’s analysis is correct, the Bidenesque ideology now gripping the upper reaches of Europe suggests that the EU’s conversion to Zeitenwende makes any future relationship with Russia nigh impossible. The conviction this class has of itself as the global future, and of being on the ‘right side of history’, whereas ‘others’ (Russia and the ‘autocrats’) represent only that dark side to history, effective forecloses on mediation. Mediation with ‘evil’ is a tautology.
The reality is that the EU is gripped by the attempt to impose a ‘cultural revolution’ – in the sense that broad citizen conformity to its cultural norms and ‘emergencies’ is not enough. But rather, it is its’ thought-processes that have to be fully reflected in modes of thinking such that every citizen’s acts and thoughts reflect EU ‘right thinking’.
We see this with the war party’s poster girl, Annalena Baerbock’s, lecturing non-aligned countries that there is no space for neutrality when it comes to Ukraine: ‘You are ‘either with us or against us’; and if the former, then GIVE U.S. AMMO!’.
Well, the cultural revolution already is reversing. Today, the Civilisational States (Russia, China, Iran, etc. and link) see the future as theirs and view the woke globalists – and their financialised economic structures – as passé. This reversal increasingly is evident in the popular war in the U.S., but not in Europe.
But can the EU change? – since all the bridges by which it might reconnect to the future have long since been burned down. In essence, the EU is a steam-roller ‘offensive’ ever incrementally moving towards ‘more Europe’.
Change ultimately will come to the EU as a result of a clash of interests, factiousness, and possibly a big political implosion or two – but above all by events on the ground in Ukraine as the Russian offensive proceeds.
Reality has been so far exorcised from the Credentialled Class ‘bubble’. It is not clear how the latter will react to having their ‘Balloon’ popped. Already, we see signs of incipient hysteria.
But the bottom line is this: When the U.S. begins its pivot away from Ukraine, and looks fully to Europeanise the war, the political class won’t be seen ‘for the dust’. The latter will soon find that for all its florid language of fighting on behalf of the ‘light’, the number of Europeans willing to die so that Sevastopol can become Ukrainian will be few indeed. Baerbock will find herself alone, as the rest of world already has shifted across to Russia (see here), ignoring her taunts.