We are so very pleased to bring you an excerpt from a very crucial book, How the West Brought War to Ukraine, by Benjamin Abelow. To orient readers, we begin by quoting the one-paragraph blurb from the back cover:
According to the Western narrative, Vladimir Putin is an insatiable, Hitler-like expansionist who invaded Ukraine as an unprovoked land grab. That story is incorrect. In reality, the United States and NATO bear significant responsibility for the Ukraine crisis. Through a series of misguided policies, Washington and its European allies placed Russia in an untenable situation for which war seemed, to Mr. Putin and his military staff, the only workable solution. This book lays out the relevant history and explains how the West needlessly created conflict and now labors under an existential threat of its own making.
The book is endorsed by many experts. For example, in the words John J. Mearsheimer: “For anyone interested in understanding the true causes of the disaster in Ukraine, How the West Brought War to Ukraine is required reading.”
Please support the valuable work of Benjamin Abelow and purchase a copy of this book, and spread the word. What follows, copied by permission, is the entire Chapter Seven from this short and readable eight-chapter book.
How Overly Pessimistic Narratives Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
The story of an evil, irrational, intrinsically expansionist Russia with a paranoid leader at its helm, opposed by a virtuous United States and Europe, is a confused and strange confabulation, inconsistent with a whole series of directionally aligned events during the past 30 years—events whose significance and meaning should have been readily apparent. In fact, the predominant Western narrative might itself be viewed as a kind of paranoia.
The provocations that the United State and its allies have directed at Russia are policy blunders so serious that, had the situation been reversed, U.S. leaders would long ago have risked nuclear war with Russia. For U.S. leaders to assert otherwise, as they now are doing, represents a dangerous disregard of reality. In some cases, this disregard surely represents willful demagoguery. But for some policy makers it must be well intentioned, occurring for the simple reason that they continue to interpret new facts in light of the same spent narrative.
Major press outlets also bear responsibility. Rather than seeking to contextualize events properly for their readers, the media have trumpeted the government’s preferred narrative. Whatever its motivations, the mainstream media have implemented, and continue to implement, a regime of propaganda that misinforms the public and can only be perceived by Russia as an affront to the national character of its people. Online providers of information are doing much the same. In fact, as the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and First Amendment lawyer Glenn Greenwald has shown, massive censorship of dissenting views is now occurring at many levels of society in both the United States and Europe.
Although it is difficult to look at the horrific images coming out of Ukraine without revulsion and anger, succumbing to blind emotion and embracing the dominant Western narrative is a dangerous error. It empowers the worst forces in Washington, including the nexus of bureaucratic power and commercial interest that President Eisenhower, a fivestar Army general, termed the military-industrial complex, about which he warned the American public in his final televised address as U.S. president. This narrative also enables the most Russophobic and militaristic of European leaders, as well as those with the least guts to stand up to misguided American policies. The narrative clouds the minds of American and European citizens, leading to jingoism and war-mongering.
My primary goal in this book is to correct a false narrative, and for a very practical reason: because false narratives lead to bad outcomes. Narratives are inevitably reflected in behaviors; they are both descriptive and generative. By functioning as models of reality, narratives serve as guides for action. Then, through the dynamic of action and reaction, push and pushback, they can produce the results they allege are already present. In this way, a narrative that is overly pessimistic about the intentions of a potential opponent—what I term a “narrative of suspicion”—can potentiate the very threats it purports to mitigate.
This description underlies the classic dynamic of an arms race that culminates in escalation and war. It instantiates not the paradigm of World War II, with its associated images of implacable expansionism and Western appeasement, but of World War I, in which Germany, Britain, Western Europe, and ultimately America sleep-walked into catastrophe. Yet now, because of the nature of nuclear weaponry, catastrophe can happen more easily, and with more devastating effect.
As with World War I, each side, fearing the worst from the other, seeks to make itself invulnerable through a military strategy that necessarily also has offensive potential—a double-edged strategic sword that policy analysts term a “security dilemma.” This is precisely what George Kennan predicted with respect to NATO expansion, and in respect to which he has proven correct. That expansion, which was justified in the name of defense, has been perceived by Russia as an offensive threat and led to actions that are, in turn, perceived by the West as expansionist. In 2014, Richard Sakwa offered a pithy retrospect on the situation that Kennan had anticipated:
In the end, NATO’s existence became justified by the need to manage the security threats provoked by its enlargement. The former Warsaw Pact and Baltic states joined NATO to enhance their security, but the very act of doing so created a security dilemma for Russia that undermined the security of all.
And since Sakwa wrote, the situation has only gotten worse, in good measure because the United States and its allies have carried out a parallel set of military expansions outside of NATO.
Mr. Putin, whatever authoritarian tendencies he might possess, was not born on a set path. In the current zeitgeist, it may be considered heretical to state the obvious: that Mr. Putin, like all human beings, is influenced by a combination of what is within—his psychology, beliefs, and values—and what is without, the dynamic external circumstances that confront him. This is simply a truism. It is likewise a truism that chronic exposure to certain patterns of external events can change a person’s inner tendencies, or, at least, selectively magnify some tendencies at the expense of other, sometimes opposite tendencies.
Incrementally, in steps small and large, the West has disregarded Russia’s reasonable security concerns, considering them irrelevant, stoking Russian concerns about encirclement and invasion. At the same time, the United States and its European allies have implied that a rational actor would be assuaged by the West’s statements of benign intention: that the weapons, training, and interoperability exercises, no matter how provocative, powerful, or close to Russia’s borders, are purely defensive and not to be feared. In many instances, Western leaders, especially from the United States, have actively disrespected Mr. Putin, sometimes insulting him to his face.
In doing all this, the West has suggested that Mr. Putin is imagining strategic threats where none in fact exist. This Western framing—which posits a lack of legitimate Russian security concerns coupled with implied and explicit accusations of irrationality—underlies much of the currently dominant narrative. It also underlies the ideological position of the Russia hawks who play such a prominent role in Washington. In personal relationships, the combination of threatening actions and accusations of paranoia would be considered gaslighting. Is the situation really so different in the realm of international politics?
During times of war and military threat, even the leaders of free countries lean toward authoritarianism. Sensing great danger, they may tighten the reins of power, imposing top-down control and expanding the categories of domestic action and speech that are considered treasonous. It is not extreme to suggest that the provocations described in this book created in the mind of Mr. Putin and other members of the Russian political and military class an evolving sense of siege and emergency. My point is that one must contemplate the possibility that Western actions contributed not only to Russia’s foreign policies, but to untoward aspects of Russia’s domestic politics as well. In fact, George Kennan predicted this in 1998. NATO expansion, he said, would “have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy.”
Political actors, both individuals and corporate actors, such as bureaucracies and nations, are not static entities. Rather, the human decisions we call “policies” emerge from a concatenation of conscious intentions; unconscious motivations; accidents of history; and personal, human interactions, including blatantly threatening, humiliating, and disrespectful interactions and words, such as those that have emanated from the mouth of President Biden. And it is quite possible that the actions of the United States and its European allies exerted, and continue to exert, a more profound effect on the policies of Mr. Putin, including his domestic policies, than some are inclined to think.
We are pleased to bring you this fresh interview with Jacques Baud, in which we cover what is now happening in the geopolitical struggle that is the Ukraine-Russia war. As always, Mr. Baud brings deep insight and clear analysis to the conversation.
The Postil (TP): You have just published your latest book on the war in Ukraine—Operation Z, published by Max Milo. Please tell us a little about it—what led you to write this book and what do you wish to convey to readers?
Jacques Baud (JB): The aim of this book is to show how the misinformation propagated by our media has contributed to push Ukraine in the wrong direction. I wrote it under the motto “from the way we understand crises derives the way we solve them.”
By hiding many aspects of this conflict, the Western media has presented us with a caricatural and artificial image of the situation, which has resulted in the polarization of minds. This has led to a widespread mindset that makes any attempt to negotiate virtually impossible.
The one-sided and biased representation provided by mainstream media is not intended to help us solve the problem, but to promote hatred of Russia. Thus, the exclusion of disabled athletes, cats, even Russian trees from competitions, the dismissal of conductors, the de-platforming of Russian artists, such as Dostoyevsky, or even the renaming of paintings aims at excluding the Russian population from society! In France, bank accounts of individuals with Russian-sounding names were even blocked. Social networks Facebook and Twitter have systematically blocked the disclosure of Ukrainian crimes under the pretext of “hate speech” but allow the call for violence against Russians.
None of these actions had any effect on the conflict, except to stimulate hatred and violence against the Russians in our countries. This manipulation is so bad that we would rather see Ukrainians die than to seek a diplomatic solution. As Republican Senator Lindsey Graham recently said, it is a matter of letting the Ukrainians fight to the last man.
It is commonly assumed that journalists work according to standards of quality and ethics to inform us in the most honest way possible. These standards are set by the Munich Charter of 1971. While writing my book I found out that no French-speaking mainstream media in Europe respects this charter as far as Russia and China are concerned. In fact, they shamelessly support an immoral policy towards Ukraine, described by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico, as “We provide the weapons, you provide the corpses!”
To highlight this misinformation, I wanted to show that information allowing to provide a realistic picture of the situation was available as early as February, but that our media did not relay it to the public. My goal was to show this contradiction.
In order to avoid becoming a propagandist myself in favor of one side or the other, I have relied exclusively on Western, Ukrainian (from Kiev) and Russian opposition sources. I have not taken any information from the Russian media.
TP: It is commonly said in the West that this war has “proven” that the Russian army is feeble and that its equipment is useless. Are these assertions true?
JB: No. After more than six months of war, it can be said that the Russian army is effective and efficient, and that the quality of its command & control far exceeds what we see in the West. But our perception is influenced by a reporting that is focused on the Ukrainian side, and by distortions of reality.
Firstly, there is the reality on the ground. It should be remembered that what the media call “Russians” is in fact a Russian-speaking coalition, composed of professional Russian fighters and soldiers of the popular militias of Donbass. The operations in the Donbass are mainly carried out by these militias, who fight on “their” terrain, in towns and villages they know and where they have friends and family. They are therefore advancing cautiously for themselves, but also to avoid civilian casualties. Thus, despite the claims of western propaganda, the coalition enjoys a very good popular support in the areas it occupies.
Then, just looking at a map, you can see that the Donbass is a region with a lot of built-up and inhabited areas, which means an advantage for the defender and a reduced speed of progress for the attacker in all circumstances.
Secondly, there is the way our media portray the evolution of the conflict. Ukraine is a huge country and small-scale maps hardly show the differences from one day to another. Moreover, each side has its own perception of the progress of the enemy. If we take the example of the situation on March 25, 2022, we can see that the map of the French daily newspaper Ouest-France (a) shows almost no advance of Russia, as does the Swiss RTS site (b). The map of the Russian website RIAFAN (c) may be propaganda, but if we compare it with the map of the French Military Intelligence Directorate (DRM) (d), we see that the Russian media is probably closer to the truth. All these maps were published on the same day, but the French newspaper and the Swiss state media did not choose to use the DRM map and preferred to use a Ukrainian map. This illustrates that our media work like propaganda outlets.
Thirdly, our “experts” have themselves determined the objectives of the Russian offensive. By claiming that Russia wanted to take over Ukraine and its resources, to take over Kiev in two days, etc., our experts have literally invented and attributed to the Russians objectives that Putin never mentioned. In May 2022, Claude Wild, the Swiss ambassador in Kiev, declared on RTS that the Russians had “lost the battle for Kiev.” But in reality, there was never a “battle for Kiev.” It is obviously easy to claim that the Russians did not reach their objectives—if they never tried to reach them!
Fourthly, the West and Ukraine have created a misleading picture of their adversary. In France, Switzerland and Belgium, none of the military experts on television have any knowledge of military operations and how the Russians conduct theirs. Their “expertise” comes from the rumours from the war in Afghanistan or Syria, which are often merely Western propaganda. These experts have literally falsified the presentation of Russian operations.
Thus, the objectives announced as early as February 24 by Russia were the “demilitarization” and “denazification” of the threat to the populations of Donbass. These objectives are related to the neutralization of capabilities, not the seizure of land or resources. To put it bluntly, in theory, to achieve their goals the Russians do not need to advance—it would be enough if Ukrainians themselves would come and get killed.
In other words, our politicians and media have pushed Ukraine to defend the terrain like in France during the First World War. They pushed Ukrainian troops to defend every square meter of ground in “last stand” situations. Ironically, the West has only made the Russians’ job easier.
In fact, as with the war on terror, Westerners see the enemy as they would like him to be, not as he is. As Sun Tzu said 2,500 years ago, this is the best recipe for losing a war.
One example is the so-called “hybrid war” that Russia is allegedly waging against the West. In June 2014, as the West tried to explain Russia’s (imaginary) intervention in the Donbass conflict, Russia expert Mark Galeotti “revealed” the existence of a doctrine that would illustrate the Russian concept of hybrid warfare. Known as the “Gerasimov Doctrine,” it has never really been defined by the West as to what it consists of and how it could ensure military success. But it is used to explain how Russia wages war in Donbass without sending troops there and why Ukraine consistently loses its battles against the rebels. In 2018, realizing that he was wrong, Galeotti apologized—courageously and intelligently—in an article titled, “I’m Sorry for Creating the Gerasimov Doctrine” published in Foreign Policy magazine.
Despite this, and without knowing what it meant, our media and politicians continued to pretend that Russia was waging a hybrid war against Ukraine and the West. In other words, we imagined a type of war that does not exist and we prepared Ukraine for it. This is also what explains the challenge for Ukraine to have a coherent strategy to counter Russian operations.
The West does not want to see the situation as it really is. The Russian-speaking coalition has launched its offensive with an overall strength inferior to that of the Ukrainians in a ratio of 1-2:1. To be successful when you are outnumbered, you must create local and temporary superiorities by quickly moving your forces on the battlefield.
This is what the Russians call “operational art” (operativnoe iskoustvo). This notion is poorly understood in the West. The term “operational” used in NATO has two translations in Russian: “operative” (which refers to a command level) and “operational” (which defines a condition). It is the art of maneuvering military formations, much like a chess game, in order to defeat a superior opponent.
For example, the operation around Kiev was not intended to “deceive” the Ukrainians (and the West) about their intentions, but to force the Ukrainian army to keep large forces around the capital and thus “pin them down.” In technical terms, this is what is called a “shaping operation.” Contrary to the analysis of some “experts,” it was not a “deception operation,” which would have been conceived very differently and would have involved much larger forces. The aim was to prevent a reinforcement of the main body of the Ukrainian forces in the Donbass.
The main lesson of this war at this stage confirms what we know since the Second World War: the Russians master the operational art.
TP: Questions about Russia’s military raises the obvious question—how good is Ukraine’s military today? And more importantly, why do we not hear so much about the Ukrainian army?
JB: The Ukrainian servicemen are certainly brave soldiers who perform their duty conscientiously and courageously. But my personal experience shows that in almost every crisis, the problem is at the head. The inability to understand the opponent and his logic and to have a clear picture of the actual situation is the main reason for failures.
Since the beginning of the Russian offensive, we can distinguish two ways of conducting the war. On the Ukrainian side, the war is waged in the political and informational spaces, while on the Russian side the war is waged in the physical and operational space. The two sides are not fighting in the same spaces. This is a situation that I described in 2003 in my book, La guerre asymétrique ou la défaite du vainqueur (Asymmetric War, or the Defeat of the Winner). The trouble is that at the end of the day, the reality of the terrain prevails.
On the Russian side, decisions are made by the military, while on the Ukrainian side, Zelensky is omnipresent and the central element in the conduct of the war. He makes operational decisions, apparently often against the military’s advice. This explains the rising tensions between Zelensky and the military. According to Ukrainian media, Zelensky could dismiss General Valery Zoluzhny by appointing him Minister of Defence.
The Ukrainian army has been extensively trained by American, British and Canadian officers since 2014. The trouble is that for over 20 years, Westerners have been fighting armed groups and scattered adversaries and engaged entire armies against individuals. They fight wars at the tactical level and somehow have lost the ability to fight at the strategic and operative levels. This explains partly why Ukraine is waging its war at this level.
But there is a more conceptual dimension. Zelensky and the West see war as a numerical and technological balance of forces. This is why, since 2014, the Ukrainians have never tried to seduce the rebels and they now think that the solution will come from the weapons supplied by the West. The West provided Ukraine with a few dozen M777 guns and HIMARS and MLRS missile launchers, while Ukraine had several thousand equivalent artillery pieces in February. The Russian concept of “correlation of forces,” takes into account many more factors and is more holistic than the Western approach. That is why the Russians are winning.
To comply with ill-considered policies, our media have constructed a virtual reality that gives Russia the bad role. For those who observe the course of the crisis carefully, we could almost say they presented Russia as a “mirror image” of the situation in Ukraine. Thus, when the talk about Ukrainian losses began, Western communication turned to Russian losses (with figures given by Ukraine).
The so-called “counter-offensives” proclaimed by Ukraine and the West in Kharkov and Kherson in April-May were merely “counter-attacks.” The difference between the two is that counter-offensive is an operational notion, while counter-attack is a tactical notion, which is much more limited in scope. These counterattacks were possible because the density of Russian troops in these sectors was then 1 Battle Group (BTG) per 20 km of front. By comparison, in the Donbass sector, which was the primary focus, the Russian coalition had 1-3 BTG per km. As for the great August offensive on Kherson, which was supposed to take over the south of the country, it seems to have been nothing but a myth to maintain Western support.
Today, we see that the claimed Ukrainian successes were in fact failures. The human and material losses that were attributed to Russia were in fact more in line with those of Ukraine. In mid-June, David Arakhamia, Zelensky’s chief negotiator and close adviser, spoke of 200 to 500 deaths per day, and he mentioned casualties (dead, wounded, captured, deserters) of 1,000 men per day. If we add to this the renewed demands for arms by Zelensky, we can see that the idea of a victory for Ukraine appears quite an illusion.
Because Russia’s economy was thought to be comparable to Italy’s, it was assumed that it would be equally vulnerable. Thus, the West—and the Ukrainians—thought that economic sanctions and political isolation of Russia would quickly cause its collapse, without passing through a military defeat. Indeed, this is what we understand from the interview of Oleksei Arestovich, Zelensky’s advisor and spokesman, in March 2019. This also explains why Zelensky did not sound the alarm in early 2022, as he says in his interview with the Washington Post. I think he knew that Russia would respond to the offensive Ukraine was preparing in the Donbass (which is why the bulk of his troops were in that area) and thought that sanctions would quickly lead to Russia’s collapse and defeat. This is what Bruno Le Maire, the French Minister of the Economy, had “predicted.” Clearly, the Westerners have made decisions without knowing their opponent.
As Arestovich said, the idea was that the defeat of Russia would be Ukraine’s entry ticket to NATO. So, the Ukrainians were pushed to prepare an offensive in the Donbass in order to make Russia react, and thus obtain an easy defeat through devastating sanctions. This is cynical and shows how much the West—led by the Americans—has misused Ukraine for its own objectives.
The result is that the Ukrainians did not seek Ukraine’s victory, but Russia’s defeat. This is very different and explains the Western narrative from the first days of the Russian offensive, which prophesied this defeat.
But the reality is that the sanctions did not work as expected, and Ukraine found itself dragged into combats that it had provoked, but for which it was not prepared to fight for so long.
This is why, from the outset, the Western narrative presented a mismatch between media reported and the reality on the ground. This had a perverse effect: it encouraged Ukraine to repeat its mistakes and prevented it from improving its conduct of operations. Under the pretext of fighting Vladimir Putin, we pushed Ukraine to sacrifice thousands of human lives unnecessarily.
From the beginning, it was obvious that the Ukrainians were consistently repeating their mistakes (and even the same mistakes as in 2014-2015), and soldiers were dying on the battlefield. For his part, Volodymyr Zelensky called for more and more sanctions, including the most absurd ones, because he was led to believe that they were decisive.
I am not the only one to have noticed these mistakes, and Western countries could certainly have stopped this disaster. But their leaders, excited by the (fanciful) reports of Russian losses and thinking they were paving the way for regime change, added sanctions to sanctions, turning down any possibility of negotiation. As the French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire said, the objective was to provoke the collapse of the Russian economy and make the Russian people suffer. This is a form of state terrorism: the idea is to make the population suffer in order to push it into revolting against its leaders (here, Putin). I am not making this up. This mechanism is detailed by Richard Nephew, head of sanctions at the State Department under Obama and currently Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, in his book entitled, The Art of Sanctions. Ironically, this is exactly the same logic that the Islamic State invoked to explain its attacks in France in 2015-2016. France probably does not encourage terrorism—but it does practice it.
The mainstream media do not present the war as it is, but as they would like it to be. This is pure wishful thinking. The apparent public support for the Ukrainian authorities, despite huge losses (some mention 70,000-80,000 fatalities), is achieved by banning the opposition, a ruthless hunt for officials who disagree with the government line, and “mirror” propaganda that attributes to the Russians the same failures as the Ukrainians. All this with the conscious support of the West.
TP: What should we make of the explosion at the Saki airbase in the Crimea?
JB: I do not know the details of the current security situation in Crimea. . We know that before February there were cells of volunteer fighters of Praviy Sektor (a neo-Nazi militia) in Crimea, ready to carry out terrorist-type attacks. Have these cells been neutralized? I don’t know; but one can assume so, since there is apparently very little sabotage activity in Crimea. Having said that, let us not forget that Ukrainians and Russians have lived together for many decades and there are certainly pro-Kiev individuals in the areas taken by the Russians. It is therefore realistic to think that there could be sleeper cells in these areas.
More likely it is a campaign conducted by the Ukrainian security service (SBU) in the territories occupied by the Russian-speaking coalition. This is a terrorist campaign targeting pro-Russian Ukrainian personalities and officials. It follows major changes in the leadership of the SBU, in Kiev, and in the regions, including Lvov, Ternopol since July. It is probably in the context of this same campaign that Darya Dugina was assassinated on August 21. The objective of this new campaign could be to convey the illusion that there is an ongoing resistance in the areas taken by the Russians and thus revive Western aid, which is starting to fatigue.
These sabotage activities do not really have an operational impact and seem more related to a psychological operation. It may be that these are actions like the one on Snake Island at the beginning of May, intended to demonstrate to the international public that Ukraine is acting.
What the incidents in Crimea indirectly show is that the popular resistance claimed by the West in February does not exist. It is most likely the action of Ukrainian and Western (probably British) clandestine operatives. Beyond the tactical actions, this shows the inability of the Ukrainians to activate a significant resistance movement in the areas seized by the Russian-speaking coalition.
TP: Zelensky has famously said, “Crimea is Ukrainian and we will never give it up.” Is this rhetoric, or is there a plan to attack Crimea? Are there Ukrainian operatives inside Crimea?
JB: First of all, Zelensky changes his opinion very often. In March 2022, he made a proposal to Russia, stating that he was ready to discuss a recognition of Russian sovereignty over the peninsula. It was upon the intervention of the European Union and Boris Johnson on 2 April and on 9 April that he withdrew his proposal, despite Russia’s favorable interest.
It is necessary to recall some historical facts. The cession of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 was never formally validated by the parliaments of the USSR, Russia and Ukraine during the communist era. Moreover, the Crimean people agreed to be subject to the authority of Moscow and no longer of Kiev as early as January 1991. In other words, Crimea was independent from Kiev even before Ukraine became independent from Moscow in December 1991.
In July, Aleksei Reznikov, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, spoke loudly of a major counter-offensive on Kherson involving one million men to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity. In reality, Ukraine has not managed to gather the troops, armor and air cover needed for this far-fetched offensive. Sabotage actions in Crimea may be a substitute for this “counter-offensive.” They seem to be more of a communication exercise than a real military action. These actions seem to be aimed rather at reassuring Western countries which are questioning the relevance of their unconditional support to Ukraine.
TP: Would you tell us about the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility?
JB: In Energodar, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), has been the target of several attacks by artillery, which Ukrainians and Russians attribute to the opposing side.
What we know is that the Russian coalition forces have occupied the ZNPP site since the beginning of March. The objective at that time was to secure the ZNPP quickly, in order to prevent it from being caught up in the fighting and thus avoid a nuclear incident. The Ukrainian personnel who were in charge of it have remained on site and continue to work under the supervision of the Ukrainian company Energoatom and the Ukrainian nuclear safety agency (SNRIU). There is therefore no fighting around the plant.
It is hard to see why the Russians would shell a nuclear plant that is under their control. This allegation is even more peculiar since the Ukrainians themselves state that there are Russian troops in the premises of the site. According to a French “expert,” the Russians would attack the power plant they control to cut off the electricity flowing to Ukraine. Not only would there be simpler ways to cut off the electricity to Ukraine (a switch, perhaps?), but Russia has not stopped the electricity supply to the Ukrainians since March. Moreover, I remind you that Russia has not stopped the flow of natural gas to Ukraine and has continued to pay Ukraine the transit fees for gas to Europe. It is Zelensky who decided to shut down the Soyuz pipeline in May.
Moreover, it should be remembered that the Russians are in an area where the population is generally favorable to them and it is hard to understand why they would take the risk of a nuclear contamination of the region.
In reality, the Ukrainians have more credible motives than the Russians that may explain such attacks against the ZNPP. , which are not mutually exclusive: an alternative to the big counter-offensive on Kherson, which they are not able to implement, and to prevent the planned referendums in the region. Further, Zelensky’s calls for demilitarizing the area of the power plant and even returning it to Ukraine would be a political and operational success for him. One might even imagine that they seek to deliberately provoke a nuclear incident in order to create a “no man’s land” and thus render the area unusable for the Russians.
By bombing the plant, Ukraine could also be trying to pressure the West to intervene in the conflict, under the pretext that Russia is seeking to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid before the fall. This suicidal behavior—as stated by UN Secretary General António Guterres—would be in line with the war waged by Ukraine since 2014.
There is strong evidence that the attacks on Energodar are Ukrainian. The fragments of projectiles fired at the site from the other side of the Dnieper are of Western origin. It seems that they come from British BRIMSTONE missiles, which are precision missiles, whose use is monitored by the British. Apparently, the West is aware of the Ukrainian attacks on the ZNPP. This might explain why Ukraine is not very supportive of an international commission of inquiry and why Western countries are putting unrealistic conditions for sending investigators from the IAEA, an agency that has not shown much integrity so far.
TP: It is reported that Zelensky is freeing criminals to fight in this war? Does this mean that Ukraine’s army is not as strong as commonly assumed?
JB: Zelensky faces the same problem as the authorities that emerged from Euromaidan in 2014. At that time, the military did not want to fight because they did not want to confront their Russian-speaking compatriots. According to a report by the British Home Office, reservists overwhelmingly refuse to attend recruitment sessions . In October-November 2017, 70% of conscripts do not show up for recall . Suicide has become a problem. According to the chief Ukrainian military prosecutor Anatoly Matios, after four years of war in the Donbass, 615 servicemen had committed suicide. Desertions have increased and reached up to 30% of the forces in certain operational areas, often in favor of the rebels.
For this reason, it became necessary to integrate more motivated, highly politicized, ultra-nationalistic and fanatical fighters into the armed forces to fight in the Donbass. Many of them are neo-Nazis. It is to eliminate these fanatical fighters that Vladimir Putin has mentioned the objective of “denazification.”
Today, the problem is slightly different. The Russians have attacked Ukraine and the Ukrainian soldiers are not a priori opposed to fighting them. But they realize that the orders they receive are not consistent with the situation on the battlefield. They understood that the decisions affecting them are not linked to military factors, but to political considerations. Ukrainian units are mutinying en masse and are increasingly refusing to fight. They say they feel abandoned by their commanders and that they are given missions without the necessary resources to execute them.
That’s why it becomes necessary to send men who are ready for anything. Because they are condemned, they can be kept under pressure. This is the same principle as Marshal Konstantin Rokossovki, who was sentenced to death by Stalin, but was released from prison in 1941 to fight against the Germans. His death sentence was lifted only after Stalin’s death in 1956.
In order to overshadow the use of criminals in the armed forces, the Russians are accused of doing the same thing. The Ukrainians and the Westerners consistently use “mirror” propaganda. As in all recent conflicts, Western influence has not led to a moralization of the conflict.
TP: Everyone speaks of how corrupt Putin is? But what about Zelensky? Is he the “heroic saint” that we are all told to admire?
JB: In October 2021, the Pandora Papers showed that Ukraine and Zelensky were the most corrupt in Europe and practiced tax evasion on a large scale. Interestingly, these documents were apparently published with the help of an American intelligence agency, and Vladimir Putin is not mentioned. More precisely, the documents mention individuals ” associated ” with him, who are said to have links with undisclosed assets, which could belong to a woman, who is believed to have had a child with him.
Yet, when our media are reporting on these documents, they routinely put a picture of Vladimir Putin, but not of Volodymyr Zelensky.
I am not in a position to assess how corrupt Zelensky is. But there is no doubt that the Ukrainian society and its governance are. I contributed modestly to a NATO “Building Integrity” program in Ukraine and discovered that none of the contributing countries had any illusions about its effectiveness, and all saw the program as a kind of “window dressing” to justify Western support.
It is unlikely that the billions paid by the West to Ukraine will reach the Ukrainian people. A recent CBS News report stated that only 30-40% of the weapons supplied by the West make it to the battlefield. The rest enriches mafias and other corrupt people. Apparently, some high-tech Western weapons have been sold to the Russians, such as the French CAESAR system and presumably the American HIMARS. The CBS News report was censored to avoid undermining Western aid, but the fact remains that the US refused to supply MQ-1C drones to Ukraine for this reason.
Ukraine is a rich country, yet today it is the only country in the former USSR with a lower GDP than it had at the collapse of the Soviet Union. The problem is therefore not Zelensky himself, but the whole system, which is deeply corrupted, and which the West maintains for the sole purpose of fighting Russia.
Zelensky was elected in April 2019 on the program of reaching an agreement with Russia. But nobody let him carry out his program. The Germans and the French deliberately prevented him from implementing the Minsk agreements. The transcript of the telephone conversation of 20 February 2022 between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin shows that France deliberately kept Ukraine away from the solution. Moreover, in Ukraine, far right and neo-Nazi political forces have publicly threatened him with death. Dmitry Yarosh, commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, declared in May 2019 that Zelensky would be hanged if he carried out his program. In other words, Zelensky is trapped between his idea of reaching an agreement with Russia and the demands of the West. Moreover, the West realizes that its strategy of war through sanctions has failed. As the economic and social problems increase, the West will find it harder to back down without losing face. A way out for Britain, the US, the EU, or France would be to remove Zelensky. That is why, with the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, I think Zelensky starts to realize that his life is threatened.
At the end of the day, Zelensky is a poor guy, because his best enemies are those on whom he depends: the Western world.
TP: There are many videos (gruesome ones) on social media of Ukrainian soldiers engaging in serious war crimes? Why is there a “blind spot” in the West for such atrocities?
JB: First of all, we must be clear: in every war, every belligerent commit war crimes. Military personnel who deliberately commit such crimes dishonor their uniform and must be punished.
The problem arises when war crimes are part of a plan or result from orders given by the higher command. This was the case when the Netherlands let its military allow the Srebrenica massacre in 1995; the torture in Afghanistan by Canadian and British troops, not to mention the countless violations of international humanitarian law by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and elsewhere with the complicity of Poland, Lithuania or Estonia. If these are Western values, then Ukraine is in the right school.
In Ukraine, political crime has become commonplace, with the complicity of the West. Thus, those who are in favor of a negotiation are eliminated. This is the case of Denis Kireyev, one of the Ukrainian negotiators, assassinated on March 5 by the Ukrainian security service (SBU) because he was considered too favorable to Russia and as a traitor. The same thing happened to Dmitry Demyanenko, an officer of the SBU, who was assassinated on March 10, also because he was too favorable to an agreement with Russia. Remember that this is a country that considers that receiving or giving Russian humanitarian aid is “collaborationism.”
On 16 March 2022, a journalist on TV channel Ukraine 24 referred to the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and called for the massacre of Russian-speaking children. On 21 March, the military doctor Gennadiy Druzenko declared on the same channel that he had ordered his doctors to castrate Russian prisoners of war. On social networks, these statements quickly became propaganda for the Russians and the two Ukrainians apologized for having said so, but not for the substance. Ukrainian crimes were beginning to be revealed on social networks, and on 27 March Zelensky feared that this would jeopardize Western support. This was followed—rather opportunely—by the Bucha massacre on 3 April, the circumstances of which remain unclear.
Britain, which then had the chairmanship of the UN Security Council, refused three times the Russian request to set up an international commission of enquiry into the crimes of Bucha. Ukrainian socialist MP Ilya Kiva revealed on Telegram that the Bucha tragedy was planned by the British MI6 special services and implemented by the SBU.
The fundamental problem is that the Ukrainians have replaced the “operational art” with brutality. Since 2014, in order to fight the autonomists, the Ukrainian government has never tried to apply strategies based on “hearts & minds,” which the British used in the 1950s-1960s in South-East Asia, which were much less brutal but much more effective and long-lasting. Kiev preferred to conduct an Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in the Donbass and to use the same strategies as the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fighting terrorists authorizes all kinds of brutality. It is the lack of a holistic approach to the conflict that led to the failure of the West in Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali.
Counter-Insurgency Operation (COIN) requires a more sophisticated and holistic approach. But NATO is incapable of developing such strategies as I have seen first-hand in Afghanistan. The war in Donbass has been brutal for 8 years and has resulted in the death of 10,000 Ukrainian citizens plus 4,000 Ukrainian military personnel. By comparison, in 30 years, the conflict in Northern Ireland resulted in 3,700 deaths. To justify this brutality, the Ukrainians had to invent the myth of a Russian intervention in Donbass.
The problem is that the philosophy of the new Maidan leaders was to have a racially pure Ukraine. In other words, the unity of the Ukrainian people was not to be achieved through the integration of communities, but through the exclusion of communities of “inferior races.” An idea that would no doubt have pleased the grandfathers of Ursula von der Leyen and Chrystia Freeland! This explains why Ukrainians have little empathy for the country’s Russian, Magyar and Romanian-speaking minorities. This in turn explains why Hungary and Romania do not want their territories to be used for the supply of arms to Ukraine.
This is why shooting at their own citizens to intimidate them is not a problem for the Ukrainians. This explains the spraying of thousands of PFM-1 (“butterfly”) anti-personnel mines, which look like toys, on the Russian-speaking city of Donetsk in July 2022. This type of mine is used by a defender, not an attacker in its main area of operation. Moreover, in this area, the Donbass militias are fighting “at home,” with populations they know personally.
I think that war crimes have been committed on both sides, but that their media coverage has been very different. Our media have reported extensively about crimes (true or false) attributed to Russia. On the other hand, they have been extremely silent about Ukrainian crimes. We do not know the whole truth about the Bucha massacre, but the available evidence supports the hypothesis that Ukraine staged the event to cover up its own crimes. By keeping these crimes quiet, our media have been complicit with them and have created a sense of impunity that has encouraged the Ukrainians to commit further crimes.
TP: Latvia wants the West (America) to designate Russia a “terrorist state.” What do you make of this? Does this mean that the war is actually over, and Russia has won?
JB: The Estonian and Latvian demands are in response to Zelensky’s call to designate Russia as a terrorist state. Interestingly, they come at the same time a Ukrainian terrorist campaign is being unleashed in Crimea, the occupied zone of Ukraine and the rest of Russian territory. It is also interesting that Estonia was apparently complicit in the attack on Darya Dugina in August 2022.
It seems that Ukrainians communicate in a mirror image of the crimes they commit or the problems they have, in order to hide them. For example, in late May 2022, as the Azovstal surrender in Mariupol showed neo-Nazi fighters, they began to allege that there are neo-Nazis in the Russian army. In August 2022, when Kiev was carrying out actions of a terrorist nature against the Energodar power plant in Crimea and on Russian territory, Zelensky called for Russia to be considered a terrorist state.
In fact, Zelensky continues to believe that he can only solve his problem by defeating Russia and that this defeat depends on sanctions against Russia. Declaring Russia a terrorist state would lead to further isolation. That is why he is making this appeal. This shows that the label “terrorist” is more political than operational, and that those who make such proposals do not have a very clear vision of the problem. The problem is that it has implications for international relations. This is why the US State Department is concerned that Zelensky’s request will be implemented by Congress.
TP: One of the sadder outcomes of this Ukraine-Russia conflict is how the West has shown the worst of itself. Where do you think we will go from here? More of the same, or will there be changes that will have to be made in regards to NATO, neutral countries which are no longer neutral, and the way the West seeks to “govern” the world?
JB: This crisis reveals several things. First, that NATO and the European Union are only instruments of US foreign policy. These institutions no longer act in the interests of their members, but in the interests of the US. The sanctions adopted under American pressure are backfiring on Europe, which is the big loser in this whole crisis: it suffers its own sanctions and has to deal with the tensions resulting from its own decisions.
The decisions taken by Western governments reveal a generation of leaders who are young and inexperienced (such as Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin); ignorant, yet thinking they are smart (such as French President Emmanuel Macron); doctrinaire (such as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen); and fanatical (such as the leaders of the Baltic States). They all share some of the same weaknesses, not least of which is their inability to manage a complex crisis.
When the head is unable to understand the complexity of a crisis, we respond with guts and dogmatism. This is what we see happening in Europe. The Eastern European countries, especially the Baltic States and Poland, have shown themselves to be loyal servants of American policy. They have also shown immature, confrontational, and short-sighted governance. These are countries that have never integrated Western values, that continue to celebrate the forces of the Third Reich and discriminate against their own Russian-speaking population.
I am not even mentioning the European Union, which has been vehemently opposed to any diplomatic solution and has only added fuel to the fire.
The more you are involved in a conflict, the more you are involved in its outcome. If you win, all is well. But if the conflict is a failure, you will bear the burden. This is what has happened to the United States in recent conflicts and what is happening in Ukraine. The defeat of Ukraine is becoming the defeat of the West.
Another big loser in this conflict is clearly Switzerland. Its neutral status has suddenly lost all credibility. Early August, Switzerland and Ukraine concluded an agreement that would allow the Swiss embassy in Moscow to offer protection to Ukrainian citizens in Russia. However, in order to enter into force, it has to be recognized by Russia. Quite logically, Russia refused and declared that “Switzerland had unfortunately lost its status as a neutral state and could not act as an intermediary or representative.”
This is a very serious development because neutrality is not simply a unilateral declaration. It must be accepted and recognized by all to be effective. Yet Switzerland not only aligned itself with the Western countries but was even more extreme than them. It can be said that in a few weeks, Switzerland has ruined a policy that has been recognized for almost 170 years. This is a problem for Switzerland, but it may also be a problem for other countries. A neutral state can offer a way out of a crisis. Today, Western countries are looking for a way out that would allow them to get closer to Russia in the perspective of an energy crisis without losing face. Turkey has taken on this role, but it is limited, as it is part of NATO.
The West has created an Iron Curtain 2.0 that will affect international relations for years to come. The West’s lack of strategic vision is astonishing. While NATO is aligning itself with US foreign policy and reorienting itself towards China, Western strategy has only strengthened the Moscow-Beijing axis.
TP: What do you think this war ultimately means for Europe, the US and China?
JB: In order to answer this question, we first must answer another question: “Why is this conflict more condemnable and sanctionable than previous conflicts started by the West?”
After the disasters of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali, the rest of the world expected the West to help resolve this crisis with common sense. The West responded in exactly the opposite way to these expectations. Not only has no one been able to explain why this conflict was more reprehensible than previous ones, but the difference in treatment between Russia and the United States has shown that more importance is attached to the aggressor than to the victims. Efforts to bring about the collapse of Russia contrast with the total impunity of countries that have lied to the UN Security Council, practiced torture, caused the deaths of over a million people and created 37 million refugees.
This difference in treatment went unnoticed in the West. But the “rest of the world” has understood that we have moved from a “law-based international order” to a “rules-based international order” determined by the West.
On a more material level, the confiscation of Venezuelan gold by the British in 2020, of Afghanistan’s sovereign funds in 2021, and then of Russia’s sovereign funds in 2022 by the US, has raised the mistrust of the West’s allies. This shows that the non-Western world is no longer protected by law and depends on the goodwill of the West.
This conflict is probably the starting point for a new world order. The world is not going to change all at once, but the conflict has raised the attention of the rest of the world. For when we say that the “international community” condemns Russia, we are in fact talking about 18% of the world’s population.
Some actors traditionally close to the West are gradually moving away from it. On 15 July 2022, Joe Biden visited Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) with two objectives: to prevent Saudi Arabia from moving closer to Russia and China, and to ask him to increase its oil production. But four days earlier, MbS made an official request to become a member of the BRICS, and a week later, on 21 July, MbS called Vladimir Putin to confirm that he would stand by the OPEC+ decision. In other words: no oil production increase. It was a slap in the face of the West and of its most powerful representative.
Saudi Arabia has now decided to accept Chinese currency as payment for its oil. This is a major event, which tends to indicate a loss of confidence in the dollar. The consequences are potentially huge. The petrodollar was established by the US in the 1970s to finance its deficit. By forcing other countries to buy dollars, it allows the US to print dollars without being caught in an inflationary loop. Thanks to the petrodollar, the US economy—which is essentially a consumer economy—is supported by the economies of other countries around the world. The demise of the petrodollar could have disastrous consequences for the US economy, as former Republican Senator Ron Paul puts it.
In addition, the sanctions have brought China and Russia, both targeted by the West, closer together. This has accelerated the formation of a Eurasian bloc and strengthened the position of both countries in the world. India, which the US has scorned as a “second-class” partner of the “Quad,” has moved closer to Russia and China, despite disputes with the latter.
Today, China is the main provider of infrastructure in the Third World. In particular, its way of interacting with African countries is more in line with the expectations of these countries. Collaboration with former colonial powers such as France and American imperialist paternalism are no longer welcome. For example, the Central African Republic and Mali have asked France to leave their countries and have turned to Russia.
At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, the US proudly announced a $150 million contribution to “strengthen its position in the broader geopolitical competition with China.” But in November 2021, President Xi Jinping offered $1.5 billion to the same countries to fight the pandemic and promote economic recovery. By using its money to wage war, the US has no money left to forge and consolidate alliances.
The West’s loss of influence stems from the fact that it continues to treat the “rest of the world” like “little children” and neglects the usefulness of good diplomacy.
The war in Ukraine is not the trigger for these phenomena, which started a few years ago, but it is most certainly an eye-opener and accelerator.
TP: The western media has been pushing that Putin may be seriously ill. If Putin suddenly dies, would this make any difference at all to the war?
This is wishful thinking and, on the higher end of the spectrum, it echoes the calls for terrorism and the physical elimination of Vladimir Putin.
The West has personalized Russian politics through Putin, because he is the one who promoted the reconstruction of Russia after the Yeltsin years. Americans like to be champions when there are no competitors and see others as enemies. This is the case with Germany, Europe, Russia and China.
But our “experts” know little about Russian politics. For in reality, Vladimir Putin is more of a “dove” in the Russian political landscape. Given the climate that we have created with Russia, it would not be impossible that his disappearance would lead to the emergence of more aggressive forces. We should not forget that countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland or Georgia have never developed European democratic values. They still have discriminatory policies towards their ethnic Russians that are far from European values, and they behave like immature agents provocateurs. I think that if Putin were to disappear for some reason, the conflicts with these countries would take on a new dimension.
TP: How unified is Russia presently? Has the war created a more serious opposition than what previously existed within Russia?
JB: No, on the contrary. The American and European leaders have a poor understanding of their enemy: the Russian people are very patriotic and cohesive. Western obsession to ” punish ” the Russian people has only brought them closer to their leaders. In fact, by seeking to divide Russian society in an effort to overthrow the government, Western sanctions—including the dumbest ones—have confirmed what the Kremlin has been saying for years: that the West has a profound hatred of Russians. What was once said to be a lie is now confirmed in Russian opinion. The consequence is that the people’s trust in the government has grown stronger.
The approval ratings given by the Levada Centre (considered by the Russian authorities as a “foreign agent”) show that public opinion has tightened around Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. In January 2022, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating was 69% and the government’s was 53%. Today, Putin’s approval rating has been stable at around 83% since March, and the government’s is at 71%. In January, 29% did not approve of Vladimir Putin’s decisions, in July it was only 15%.
According to the Levada Centre, even the Russian operation in Ukraine enjoys a majority of favorable opinions. In March, 81% of Russians were in favor of the operation; this figure dropped to 74%, probably due to the impact of sanctions at the end of March, and then it went back up. In July 2022, the operation had 76% popular support.
The problem is that our journalists have neither culture nor journalistic discipline and they replace them with their own beliefs. It is a form of conspiracy that aims to create a false reality based on what one believes and not on the facts. For example, few know (or want to know) that Aleksey Navalny said he would not return Crimea to Ukraine. The West’s actions have completely wiped out the opposition, not because of “Putin’s repression,” but because in Russia, resistance to foreign interference and the West’s deep contempt for Russians is a bipartisan cause. Exactly like the hatred of Russians in the West. This is why personalities like Aleksey Navalny, who never had a very high popularity, have completely disappeared from the popular media landscape.
Moreover, even if the sanctions have had a negative impact on the Russian economy, the way the government has handled things since 2014 shows a great mastery of economic mechanisms and a great realism in assessing the situation. There is a rise in prices in Russia, but it is much lower than in Europe, and while Western economies are raising their key interest rates, Russia is lowering its own.
The Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova has been exemplified as an expression of the opposition in Russia. Her case is interesting because, as usual, we do not say everything.
On 14 March 2022, she provoked international applause by interrupting the Russian First Channel news program with a poster calling for ending the war in Ukraine. She was arrested and fined $280.
As a result, in June 2022, she left Germany to live in Odessa, her hometown. But instead of being grateful, the Ukrainians put her on the Mirotvorets blacklist where she is accused of treason, “participation in the Kremlin’s special information and propaganda operations” and “complicity with the invaders.”
The Mirotvorets website is a “hit list” for politicians, journalists or personalities who do not share the opinion of the Ukrainian government. Several of the people on the list have been murdered. In October 2019, the UN requested the closure of the site, but this was refused by the Rada. It should be noted that none of our mainstream media has condemned this practice, which is very far from the values they claim to defend. In other words, our media support these practices that used to be attributed to South American regimes.
Ovsyannikova then returned to Russia, where she demonstrated against the war, calling Putin a “killer,” and was arrested by the police and placed under house arrest for three months. At this point, our media protested.
It is worth noting that Russian journalist Darya Dugina, the victim of a bomb attack in Moscow on 21 August 2022, was on the Mirotvorets list and her file was marked “liquidated.” Of course, no Western media mentioned that she was targeted by the Mirotvorets website, which is considered to be linked to the SBU, as this would tend to support Russia’s accusations.
German journalist Alina Lipp, whose revelations about Ukrainian and Western crimes in the Donbass are disturbing, has been placed on the website Mirotvorets. Moreover, Alina Lipp was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison by a German court for claiming that Russian troops had “liberated” areas in Ukraine and thus “glorified criminal activities.” As can be seen, the German authorities are functioning like the neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine. Today’s politicians are a credit to their grandparents!
One can conclude that even if there are some people who oppose the war, Russian public opinion is overwhelmingly behind its government. Western sanctions have only strengthened the credibility of the Russian president.
Ultimately, my point is not to take the same approach as our media and replace the hatred of Russia with that of Ukraine. On the contrary, it is to show that the world is not either black or white and that Western countries have taken the situation too far. Those who are compassionate about Ukraine should have pushed our governments to implement the agreed political solutions in 2014 and 2015. They haven’t done anything and are now pushing Ukraine to fight. But we are no longer in 2021. Today, we have to accept the consequences of our non-decisions and help Ukraine to recover. But this must not be done at the expense of its Russian-speaking population, as we have done until now, but with the Russian-speaking people, in an inclusive manner. If I look at the media in France, Switzerland and Belgium, we are still very far from the goal.
TP: Thank you so very much, Mr. Baud, for this most enlightening discussion.
On the Philosophical Meaning of the Special Military Operation (SMO).
The SMO is inseparably connected with the concept of “the end of history.” And it is not only because Francis Fukuyama (who wrote the famous book, with the same title, The End of History), from the first day of the SMO, actively joined the ideological struggle against Russia and on the side of Ukrainian Nazis and even personally joined the terrorist organization Bellingcat, which tried to hijack a military plane in Russia—though this fact on its own is very telling. The fact is that globalism, which President Putin has openly also said, is an ideology; and “the end of history” plays a fundamental role in its structure.
The fact is that globalism (which is best represented by such international organizations as Klaus Schwab’s Davos Forum with its “Great Reset,” the Trilateral Commission, the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) or George Soros’ Open Society Foundation) insists on a complete unification of humanity under a World Government, with liberal ideology and a system of rules and norms based upon it—including gender politics, LGBT+, extreme individualism and transhumanism—spreading everywhere. And this is the “end of history,” which is clearly premature, but still quite logical and was described back in the early 1990s by Francis Fukuyama. The end of history is the victory of liberalism and the West on a global scale; which implies the abolition of any ideological, geopolitical, economic and socio-cultural alternatives. Fukuyama was writing at a time when the USSR had collapsed and Russia seemed no longer able to rise, and China was obediently following the strategies of Western economic centers as it accelerated into globalization. Fukuyama later admitted, including in a conversation with me, that he had been hasty. But the end of history, no matter what, was and remains, the goal of the globalists.
Russia, under Putin, became an obvious obstacle to the end of history; and after the beginning of the SMO, it challenged this project directly. Hence Fukuyama’s rage—in front of his very eyes the project of the end of history was not only postponed, but had collapsed for good. This also explains the frenzy and the extreme intensity of the rabid Russophobia of Western elites. Putin and the Donbass dealt a blow to the global civilizational plan—the planetary dominance of the liberal West.
However, the concept of the end of history is not the domain of liberals. Moreover, they adopted it quite late.
The philosopher Alexandre Kojève was the first to clearly describe the coming global victory of the liberal West, while Fukuyama only borrowed it from him. But Kojève, for his part, borrowed it from Marx, replacing the triumph of global communism (the Marxist version of the end of history) with global capitalism, a planetary civil society and the ideology of “human rights.” In fact, the entire communist movement, including the USSR, fought for the Marxist understanding of the end of history in the 20th century. In the Cold War, the dispute over the interpretation of the end of history—whether it would be communist or capitalist—unfolded. It is no coincidence that Fukuyama wrote his programmatic-text when the USSR collapsed. It seemed at that time that the question was settled and liberalism had won definitively.
However, Marx himself, for his part, also borrowed this concept from a completely different political ideology—from the deeply conservative monarchist and imperial thinker, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. If we dig even deeper, we will come to Christian and even pre-Christian (first of all, Iranian) eschatology—to the doctrine of the end of times. But this would take us too far. It was Hegel who proposed and substantiated the thesis of the end of history in modern times; and it plays a key role in the system of his philosophy.
According to Hegel, history is the process of the unfolding of the Spirit, which passes through nature, the change of religions and civilizations, until it reaches its climax—the end meets the beginning, the alpha with the omega. Through many trials and dialectical twists and turns, the Spirit that drives humanity will finally incarnate in an Absolute Monarchy, in a world empire that will become the Empire of the Spirit. Its power will be given to a supreme autocrat, an enlightened monarch-philosopher. Capitalism and civil society are only a stage in the unfolding of this process, and scientific materialism will move to an angelic, purely spiritual, science. Hegel believed that this would happen in Germany (the German Empire did not yet exist then) and it would be a triumph of German spiritual culture and philosophy. In the philosophical sense, Hegel was the basis of Bismarck, who created the Second Reich.
So, the authentic interpretation of “the end of history,” by the creator of this concept, is the triumph of the World Spiritual Monarchy. And the Right Hegelians—Russian Slavophiles or followers of Giovanni Gentili in Italy—believed exactly so. The Germans themselves believed in the mission of their Reich. The Slavophiles interpreted it as a prediction of the fate of the Russian Empire, when it would become spiritual and popular. The Italians linked the end of history to the revival of the Roman tradition and the greatness of Italy.
Marx, who turned Hegel’s spiritual dialectic into his historical materialism (significantly perverting the original), agreed that liberal capitalism was only an intermediate stage, but put communism and a materialist worldview in place of the Empire of the Spirit. The eschatology remained—everything the Communists did was directed exactly to the future; that is, to the end of history.
The Soviet victory over the Third Reich in World War II removed the German interpretation of the end of history from the agenda. Left Hegelianism defeated Right Hegelianism. And on another level—the Russian Empire (albeit implicitly) defeated the German Empire.
That’s when Kojève appeared with his liberal interpretation of the end of history. This theory had been waiting in the wings; and after the collapse of the USSR, Fukuyama reminded the West of it; and the globalist centers picked it up and began to put it into practice. The unipolar world order was based on a liberal version of Hegelian eschatology.
And then there was Putin. Putin is a philosophical phenomenon; a turning point in the history of thought, in the complex battle of ideas and worldviews. From his first moment in power, he began to restore Russia’s sovereignty. But this meant postponing the end of history, opposing liberal totalitarianism, globalism and World Government. Putin pursued this line cautiously, often disguising his intentions and plans—as a Chekist and as a staunch realist. Sometimes he seemed ready to meet the globalists; but the next moment it turned out to be just a maneuver once again. Hence the perplexing question, “Who are you, Mr. Putin?”
It wasn’t until February 24, 2022 that the start of the SMO in Ukraine put things in their proper place, with complete clarity. A new era of philosophy had begun. A new phase of world history. Putin challenged the liberal interpretation of the end of history—that is, the main globalist project: World Government. But here begins the most important thing: to refute the liberal reading of the end of history does not mean to reject Hegel. After all, everyone knows that Putin likes to quote Ivan Ilyin, who was a Right Hegelian, a supporter of the Russian Monarchy and the great Empire. The theories of the Slavophiles are also clearly close to Putin. You can’t deny a philosophical idea with reliance on some purely practical, down-to-earth factors, such as purely economic ones. This is not serious. An idea can only be defeated by an idea. And that means….
This means that the SMO as a philosophical phenomenon marks the return of the Empire. The return of Russia to the Empire, the full restoration of our messianic, futuristic destiny. Germany in its present state is no longer a competitor. The German version of the World Reich is irreversibly off the table. The communist project of the end of history has also been abandoned, and in its best aspects could easily be incorporated into a new imperial synthesis (like “right-wing Stalinism”). We are opposed only by Kojève and Fukuyama, who are based on the same sources, which are much closer to us. We are the Orthodox bearers of the Eurasian Empire of the End; they are the usurpers. And if we remember the Third Rome and the role of the Russian Tsars as bearers of the mission of Katechon, the Restrainer, everything becomes even more fundamental than the most orthodox, than Hegelianism read in a Russian (Slavophile, monarchist) context.
This is precisely how the “Solntepec” [flame=thrower] philosophizes.
The SMO is a battle for the meaning of the end of history. A great philosophical battle. It is time to close the page on exclusively materialistic, energetic and economic interpretations—it is not just vulgar, it is fallacious. History is the history of ideas.
People will ask, what does Ukraine have to do with it? It has nothing to do with Ukraine. It does not exist. But it will be part of our new empire. Only there, in the philosophical kingdom of the unfolding of the Spirit, in the empire of meanings, will it revive and flourish. In the meantime, what do we want from a terrorist regime, led by a comedian? But Ukraine itself is destined to become the theater of a fundamental metaphysical struggle. I think it’s all about geography. We are fighting for the return of our historical cradle of Kiev—from under the power of the globalists to the power of the Empire of the Spirit. Kiev is the beginning of our history. And hence the end of it.
Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geoolitica.
Featured: “The Fall of the Titans,” drawing by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, ca. 1540-1544 (retouched by Pieter Paul Rubens).
It is said that there is something about the revolutionary spirit that effects the eyes and produces a certain blank darkness that seems to be a conduit to the abyss of anarchy. I have heard of this phenomenon from riot police and have read of it in accounts of convulsive historical episodes. Whenever a seething mob in this or that epoch had its turn at wreaking wanton destruction, those eyes appear amidst the howling throng.
A sort of collective madness can grip and coalesce a disparity of individuals and thrust them into unified action. One thinks of thousands of bees uniting to swarm and sting a victim to death. Each tiny and relatively harmless unit of the frantic whole takes its turn at injecting a bit of rage drenched poison until the victim, who is himself stronger than any single one of the revolutionary units, is lain paralyzed and ready to be devoured.
Hilaire Belloc, with his famously keen ability to see most deeply into the interwoven strands of human motives that move history, described in such terms the almost impossible knit pattern that convulsed Paris during the Reign of Terror.
Grotesque and demonic in its coordination, it was an eruption that was immortalized by the bloody blade at the open-air horror chamber called the Place de la Nation. The dead-eyed Thing sated itself when it ritually sacrificed a Catholic King and his Catholic Queen at the hideous altar and divided France forevermore into avant et après.
I believe I caught scent of that rancid fume in the Spring of 2020 in the City of Richmond, Virginia. Similar to the Paris of 1792, the stars aligned to set all the pieces in place for a series of enraged, anarchic acts of mob terrorism that set America’s cities afire and tore its symbols to the Earth in a frothy insanity.
After suffering a year of medical tyranny disguised as concern for the public health in the face of the Wuhan virus, Americans were well primed for a cathartic paroxysm. The lockdowns, more a psychological compliance test than a shield against disease, were to be thrown off in a torrent of rage. The defining moment that Spring was the viral footage of a disturbing scene from the streets of Minneapolis whose optics provided a crisis for the opportunists that was too perfect to be forgone.
Deft hands lit and seized the torch of revolt. Neo-Marxist action cells camouflaged as a civil rights movement materialized, organized and masterfully funded the hatred.
An “anti-facist” Fascist cult emerged from the shadows to rage at our fellow countrymen, our land and our mores. America must burn. The fires were lit in city after city. More! America must be culturally purged, torn down, expurgated, remade in a new image and likeness.
This was no mere spontaneous congeries of lawful protests against injustice. It was a call to eradicate an historically revised, wicked and irredeemable national past. Along with it came the furious demand that all must conform even in thought. Those who dared resist were branded as not “woke.” Those who conformed were sentenced to the perpetual self-flagellation of victim or oppressor. No one was to truly uplifted.
The ancient, venomous serpent was stealthily slithering through America’s streets and institutions, inciting unbridled passion, chaos, mischief and hatred. The fabric of society was tearing at the seams.
Somehow it was the same spirit that raged against the Cross in 1920s Masonic Mexico; that extinguished the lives of 5,000 priests, monks and nuns in 1930s Socialist Spain; and that crushed the venerable traditions of China in Chairman Mao’s Communist cultural revolution.
And it was on display before me as I walked one twilit Spring evening along Virginia’s arguably most elegant of promenades: Monument Avenue.
Thinking that the fury of the previous nights’ riots had ebbed away, and accompanied by two confreres in the priesthood, my walk led me to the epicenter of the Avenue. This is a grassy, rotund park bounded by a normally slow-moving traffic circle. In the center stood the equestrian statue of General Robert E. Lee, high and noble atop a classical pedestal.
But the lawn about was strewn with detritus and the pedestal was absolutely covered in wrathful graffiti: “ACAB! All Cops Are Bad,” “F- the Cops.” Some revealed a deeper animus, “Kill the Honkies!” And ubiquitous was that which exposed another but apparently related disorder: “Black Trans Lives Matter!” “LGBTQ rights!”
That evening after the attack, people were circling about as if they were inspecting the fallen body of a victim whose corpse yet awaited mutilation. I wore a black soutane as we walked amidst a tense and gathering crowd that we had not anticipated encountering. For this was to be another night of riots, in which the statues were begun to be torn down.
The Virus had given convenient cover for the donning of face masks, which under ordinary legal conditions were not permitted in public, for obvious and sage reasons. We noticed the steady arrival of young adults hidden behind bandannas, sporting suspect backpacks and riding in on skateboards that seemed to have become the official steed of the new revolt.
Everyone could feel the impending outbreak of some new violence. It seemed as if the swarm was ready to descend upon its prey at the first attempt of Order to reimpose itself.
We were met with several tentative, almost guilty greetings of, “Good evening, Fathers.” But for the most part there was a studied suspicion coupled with furtive glances cast at one another. As we were readying to extract ourselves from the foreboding gathering, a young blonde woman with her little dog Toto, apparently stationed at our parked vehicle, hissed menacingly, “Where are you from?” I had never seen her before, yet there was instant mutual recognition as our eyes locked. We made our exit, only to find a nail in one of the car tires, which fortunately did not halt us until we were safely distant from the maelstrom of malevolence.
I was a young boy when I first saw the film “Doctor Zhivago.” And one unforgettable scene was loosed from my memory that night in Richmond. It was when Zhivago returned to his Moscow town home after it had become occupied by hostile, triumphant Bolsheviks. He was allowed one room of his former abode. A new order had been emplaced. His bourgeois presence was being tolerated, but the scene well conveyed that he was in mortal danger.
This in turn was reminiscent of the captivity of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in their own Palace of the Tuileries—tolerated until the anarchy could remake the rules that would give cheap legal cover for the planned regicide they lusted after. Richmond’s Lee Circle had evidently become an associated occupied territory. And our presence, as representatives of a sort of anachronistic “First Estate,” palpably fit ill in this new order of things.
That riotous night the statues gracing Monument Avenue began to succumb to the grasping mob: President Davis first, then Stonewall Jackson and General JEB Stuart a few days later. Yet beyond those three, Lee in statuary still stood, as if in historical witness to his renowned military and moral intractability.
In fact, the ensuing year would prove that it was found impossible to topple him by brute mob force. There was uncovered a law which took the matter out of the Richmond Commune’s hands. Higher authorities and yet more force were being called out. Lee in monument, as in life, proved too great for easy defeat. Lincoln had required five successive Yankee generals and a change in strategy to conquer Lee. So too with his mere statue. For the ochlocracy ironically yet pathetically needed organized authority to achieve its goal.
In the final phase of the siege, the revolutionary Earl of Richmond, together with some occult combination of socio-political powers, moved the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Virginia to vote against the monument’s more than centenary presence. But that was to take time to accomplish; just as it took ten months to dislodge Lee from the vast network of trenches that defended Richmond and Petersburg from 1864 to 1865.
Months later, on a sunny, calmer Autumn morning, we returned to Lee Circle to behold his monument still towering defiantly over the commune.
An ominous man sat high upon the pedestal’s ledge as if he were a sentinel, ready to summon the revolutionary guards at a moment’s notice. Others walked about or lounged on the pedestal steps. A basketball court had been set up, a tenacious community garden had been planted and memorials to victims of police-inflicted “extra-judicial executions” ringed the circle.
By then fully seven layers of graffiti encrusted the pedestal. It was diabolical graffiti. Nothing spoke of harmony, there was no citation of Holy Writ. This clearly was not the Civil Rights Movement revisited. It was red Hegelianism synthesized for a weary and vulnerable America. Still, there stood Lee, tall and miraculously untouched.
We cautiously strolled around the circle when we were approached and invited into the fortifications’ sanctum. There we spent a part of the morning conversing with activists who told us their version of events. It was an undramatic but valuable exchange of views. We learned their names, their stories and their hopes. I sat on the monument steps and met an elderly, black gentlemen who was apparently born again, a younger black gentleman who was a zealous activist and a third who served to fill the ranks and give tours.
I asked about the graffiti. Why was it tolerated that someone had scrawled a slogan calling for the killing of all white people? They protested that they did not advocate such measures.
Did unborn black lives matter? If so, why was it nowhere indicated? A young man took up can of spray paint to scrawl his agreement with me. But the can had been spent, almost as a sign that the sloganeering spirit would neither address nor tolerate the deeper matter of the inherent dignity of all innocent human life.
Why was there a preponderance of LGBT graffiti? Because they “supported us.” “Who is supporting whom?” I wondered. The elderly man, when queried, actually had no idea what LGBT even stood for. But he told me that “God Himself” had visited this place and laid it waste. I thought to myself, “Sir, to which god do you refer?”
I sat between them as they smoked marijuana, passing it back and forth under my nose, oblivious of basic etiquette. They dutifully wore the Covidian compliance masks, albeit beneath their chins. Carelessly, and in violation of all the pandemic fatwas, they shared the same unsanitary joint. It was in a sense a refreshingly frank acknowledgement of the absurdity of the mask mandates. If only we knew in 2019 that weed kills the Virus.
In the end, we parted amicably enough, and I was grateful for having had a chance to converse without shouting or the throwing of bricks, albeit in such a place of disorder and impending doom.
My next visit to Monument Avenue was on September 7, 2021. The revolutionary authorities had decreed that the statue of Lee was to be taken down the very next day by Uruk-hai-esque machinery. Lee’s term of tense house arrest had come to its conclusion and the gallows awaited.
It was a clear, sunny day when we beheld the monument for the last time. A huge black fence had been erected around Lee Circle. The police were at last ubiquitous. This made me think of how the Jacobins arrayed conscripted soldiers about Madame Guillotine to protect their state sponsored terrorism. A new kind of order had emerged.
A comrade, clearly of leftist sympathies, stood just outside the Circle with a semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder and sidearms strapped to his body in a twisted display of Virginia’s legal open carry laws. He was exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms in a most threatening way—an added irony to the Left’s obsession with disarming law-abiding citizens.
Suddenly, a pickup truck with Tennessee plates and flying the emblematic Battle Flag circled the statue, paused, and laid a strip of rubber on the pavement in front of the statue as if by way of proffering a virile final salute to “Ol’ Marse Robert.” Immediately a city police cruiser with lights flashing appeared from a hidden vantage point and chased the young recusant down.
This had a patent absurdity about it. In a place where the authorities had not only tolerated but even protected a sustained months-long vandalism of public property, the Law was suddenly and hypocritically to be applied in exacting detail. That sole pick-up truck driver dared raise a voice of objection to the next day’s execution. But no dissent would be brooked. The “voice of democracy” apparently had its limits. The First Amendment be damned.
We walked about the perimeter, declined an interview with a reporter and cameraman, but soon enough were engaged in sundry private conversations.
We met a community organizer/student of social work, who told us of how nicely the plan was unfolding and of the excitement over the next day’s “festivities.” She voluntarily and dutifully informed us of her vaccination status and pointed out that she was also observing the Center for Disease Control’s six-foot social distancing rule. It all dovetailed in a neatly pathological fashion.
An elderly black woman then approached us, and looking furtively to right and left, said in an almost whispered voice, “I had no problem with these statues. We all know the history. This was a beautiful avenue for our City before they wrecked it. And I do not think for one minute that what is happening is about helping black people.” She lived in the neighborhood but said she had to be careful expressing her views for fear of being beaten up by one of the peaceful protesters.
The scene was tragic for so many reasons. Beyond the obvious ugliness left in the riots’ wake, it was based on bald untruths about General Robert E. Lee.
Here was a grand monument to an American of genuine and unusual character. A member of one of Virginia’s founding families, Lee was a West Point graduate who had at first disfavored secession. After the Deep South had seceded, and during the brief interval when Virginia still clung to the Union, Lee had been offered the command of the Federal Army. Yet in a decision steeped in the virtue of patriotism, he decided in favor of his family and his more fundamental “country” which was the Old Dominion State.
His decision was pregnant with political and moral depth, for it perfectly represented the ethos of the Old Union whereby the several States understood themselves as having freely entered into a federal compact and maintained their right freely to depart therefrom. His refusal to lead a military force into Virginia and against his fellow Americans and family is an essential element of his enduring legacy to both North and South. And it is this legacy which both then and now posed such a threat to the bloated centralizing Leviathan which can quarantine the healthy and tax the pennies on a dead man’s eyes.
Lee had effectuated the emancipation of his family’s slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation farcically only freed those held in bondage in territories not held by the North. In other words, the Emancipation Proclamation effectively freed no one.
It was even excoriated by the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano for its implicit incitement to insurrection and murder of defenseless women and children in the South (which, to the everlasting honor of the blacks, did not transpire). Frederick Douglass himself is said to have criticized the Proclamation for its duplicity and trickery. Rather, to the Thirteenth Amendment goes the credit of freeing the slaves. And even then, a special Act of Congress in 1866 was required to liberate the blacks held in servitude by the Native Americans in the Indian Territory. There was ample hypocrisy to go around.
Yet Lee, it might fairly be argued, was the South’s leading moral voice advocating the arming of the slaves leading to their gradual and eventual total emancipation. His position so disconcerted the editors of the Charleston Mercury that they dared to question whether he was a true Southerner at all. In so doing they themselves reinforced a monolithic but ultimately questionable attribution of the roots of secession.
Some Confederate apologists argue that economics and power were the true underlying causes. The banking and mercantile North needed the agrarian South with its vast and exploitable produce. For example, the North wanted a high tariff and the South was disadvantaged by it.
And while there was rightly genuine concern over the moral issue of slavery, there were also Northern States that would not allow blacks to settle on their turf, even as four other Union States were themselves slaveholding (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Tennessee). Many Northerners did not want to compete with a slave labor system, for purely economic reasons.
There was even a brief and failed attempt in 1804 by New England to form its own Confederacy and secede for purposes having nothing to do with slavery, but rather for money and the balance of power.
After the Constitution was ratified, legend has it that Benjamin Franklin referred to the new nation as “a Republic, if you can keep it.” This would not have been a reference to the contradiction of slavery in a government of the people, but rather referred to the nature of republican government in a territory so large and diverse. Franklin knew that, historically, republics tended to turn into monarchies or empires over the matter of conflicting power interests.
It seems fair to wonder whether those deeper roots of secession go back to the fact that the English Colonies were settled by disparate cultural and religious emigrant tribes from the British Isles that harbored a mutual animosity going back at least to the English Civil War.
The deadly serious Puritans of New England, the colorless Quakers of the Delaware Valley, the aristocratic Cavaliers of the Chesapeake and the hardened Scots-Irish of the mountain Backcountry were historically ill disposed to submit one to another, constitutional conventions notwithstanding
Could the matter of slavery have been a confusing decoy rather than the root cause of the conflict? Its presence in the new nation “conceived in liberty” surely disoriented both North and South. But if the United States of America were one indivisible Union, then that Union perforce was itself slaveholding, and both sections profited from it and were guilty of it in one form or another.
The development of pro-slavery thought in the English colonies progressed and hardened alongside a parallel movement of increasing discomfort. Thomas Jefferson said slavery was like “holding a wolf by the ears.” In the grievances he listed against Great Britain, one was that they had saddled the colonies with the awful institution.
The thing had to go. But the question of whether or not the Northern invasion constituted a just war or a crusade to free the slaves needs to be thoughtfully challenged.
Another question is whether a secession movement is accurately termed a “civil war.” The South was neither seeking to impose its control over the whole nation nor trying to conquer the North. It just wanted political separation under the most amicable terms possible. After his defeat, Jefferson Davis longed for his case for secession to be brought before the Supreme Court, but Chief Justice Salmon Chase quashed it because he knew the North could not win the case.
Now reflect for a moment on how the pub-dwelling revolutionaries of Boston provoked a fight with the mighty British Empire that they were doomed to lose without Virginia’s help. The Puritan Yankees fired the shot that was heard around the world at Lexington. But it was at Yorktown in Virginia where their skin was saved by the Southern slaveholding aristocrat George Washington (and King Louis XVI’s armada).
Given all these considerations, pace the Charleston Mercury’s insult, Robert E. Lee should be held up as a true Southerner in the most noble sense, as well as a genuine American patriot in the broadest sense. He is said to have looked with astonishment as Americans broke taboo and actually bombarded the American city of Fredericksburg, referring to them with dismay as “those people.”
This nobility of character and righteousness of cause was, I maintain, somehow intuited by Lincoln and Grant when they came to the realization that in order to defeat the South the toppling of Lee had to be the essential strategic goal. Conquering Richmond or mere territory would never suffice. For as long as Lee remained on the field of battle the hope of Southern independence would survive.
When the more realistic Southern politicians put aside their peanuts and admitted the impending demise of the Confederacy, Lee was even approached with the suggestion that he take the Cromwellian option and seize military control over the civil government that endlessly debated to the detriment of the dire exigencies of war. He refused. His honor and dignity were above such a measure. Either the South would win by constitutional authority and civilized warfare or it was not worthy of the victory.
Little is written about the Southern debate over emancipation. But it is a disservice to historical truth to be unaware of the phenomenon. For there was indeed a movement away from the institution of slavery which involved the military, the press and a segment of Southern politics.
In 1862 a Catholic Confederate Congressman from Louisiana named Duncan Kenner, purported to be its largest single slaveholder, urged President Jefferson Davis that emancipation was necessary to win European recognition and Southern independence. Davis demurred, not seeing, similarly to the original Lincoln, how anything but Congress could bring about such a change.
By 1864 there were increasing calls for the arming and freeing of the slaves issuing forth from Southern military commanders, most notably from General Patrick Cleburne who proposed the immediate enlistment of a quarter million slaves, who would subsequently be freed, and who undoubtedly would fight for what was their Southern homeland as well.
Davis made his first cautious political move via his Autumn Address to Congress. This set off a vigorous editorial debate in the press of both warring sections, and even from far off London. On either side the more astute understood Davis’ courageous epiphany as a tectonic shift vis-à-vis slavery which was so longed for by the better consciences both North and South.
Another Louisianan, Judah Benjamin, risen to the status of Confederate Secretary of State (and the first Jew in any administration), was a key proponent of the arming of the slaves cum emancipation. What coalesced was a crucial and complex meeting of the minds between Davis, Benjamin and Lee.
President Lincoln had clearly stated that the ultimate goal of the invasion was not emancipation but the preservation of the Union. He would save the Union if it meant freeing all the slaves, leaving them all in bondage or freeing only a portion of them. He apparently held political union as more indissoluble and sacrosanct than the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony itself. You can check out any time you want but you can never leave the Union. But he didn’t always hold that view because he had previously defended the right to secede.
Didn’t the Thirteen Colonies secede from the British Empire? In our modern age it seems almost a dictum of Western political etiquette that when a region holds a referendum on secession, it should politely fail by less than one percentage point. If Quebec ever successively votes for secession from Canada, will Ottawa crush it with military force?
In contrast, the South, despite its lofty manners, voted absolutely and overwhelmingly in countless referenda and via their legitimate elected representatives to secede. When the Appalachian counties demurred, Lincoln recognized their secession from Virginia, even though the Constitution forbids any State from having its territory reduced without its consent. Is West Virginia a legitimate State? Maybe one shouldn’t even talk about the right but rather the power to secede. Afterwards one can justify the results with high-principled language.
Be that as it may, in a twist of irony, the Federal and Confederate chief executives actually ended up on the same page regarding this key issue. For in those final months Davis was arguing the point that the South was not ultimately fighting for slavery, but for Southern independence. And he was willing to assert this despite his own status as a major slaveholder, the language of the secession decrees and the apoplexy of the slavocracy.
In another twist, Lincoln reportedly enjoyed reading Karl Marx’s columns in Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune. Lincoln even received laudatory correspondence from that hirsute dialectical materialist and Father of Socialist Slavery.
An American capitalist tourist can with astonishment gaze upon a statue of the Great Emancipator in communist Havana’s Museo de la Revolución. The reader may ponder how Lincoln has taken a place in that island plantation’s Pantheon of heroes. There the devotees of San Fidel, Guevara and Cienfuegos (la asi dicho verdadera hermandad), looking up from their food ration cards with Stockholm Syndrome stares, will tell you: “At least we there is no more Mafia in Cuba.” All that is left is Meyer Lansky’s photo in the bar of the Hotel Nacional. And of course, Don Raúl.
The vilified Jefferson Davis, on the other hand, corresponded with Ven. Pope Pius IX and, despite being an Episcopalian, called the Catholic Faith “mon premier amour.” That correspondence can be seen behind glass in Richmond’s formerly named Museum of the Confederacy. The Roman Pontiff was not in favor of slavery. But we have on record in the memoirs of Odo Russell, the British Minister to the Papal States, that Pius IX “favored the Confederacy” and urged gradual emancipation with due care for the newly freed slaves.
Mr. Lincoln’s War was a watershed event which helped to transform the Republic into an Empire wherein the States were at last definitively subordinated to Washington. Meanwhile, Davis’ adherence to the original constitutional principles could not prevent the disappearance of that Old Republic of the “several sovereign States,” not to mention the emasculation of the 10th Amendment. Now we have the delights of the Administrative State, FBI raids, an army of IRS agents on the prowl and an Empire going the way of all empires, i.e., into the trash bin of history.
Few even know that the Confederate Constitution was virtually identical to the Federal, yet with one term of six years for the President, the prohibition of the use of Federal Treasury funds for special interests and, interestingly, a ban on the importation of slaves.
In any event, in December of 1864, Davis summoned Kenner to Richmond and tasked him with a top-secret mission to go as Confederate emissary to France and England seeking recognition in exchange for emancipation. How or whether he could have pulled that off is up for speculation, but it demonstrates an intriguing point about slavery vs. independence as the fundamental motive for secession. Maybe it was the occasion, but not the final cause.
France would have consented to this proposition but not without England. In turn, Lord Palmerston killed the plan as being too late in the conflict, and dashed the last hope of the South for European recognition and support.
Duncan Kenner, meanwhile, molders in his grave at Assumption Cemetery in New Orleans, awaiting the Last Day when we will all be truly liberated from this world of slaveries and contradictions.
In the broad ranging conversation about the War, one can cherry pick quotations from friends and foes, North and South. The damnable drama that left 600,000 soldiers in Southern dust is just too complex to summarize on an index card. But these discomfiting points of history need to be made known and understood if we are to regard ourselves as truth-seekers and not ventriloquist dummies sitting on the laps of critical race theory ideologues.
Again, one ought not to read too much nor too little into the historical record. Certainly, one must not paint all Southerners with the same broad uncritical brush. Chattel slavery was undeniably being upheld as a positive good by many powerbrokers. But not by all of them and not by the best of them. And the vast majority of Southerners did not even own slaves.
Neither must one naively embrace the fairy tale of gallant Yankee farm boys in shining armor kissing their sweet-hearts goodbye to march off on some romantic moral crusade to free the slaves as they hummed along to the strains of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
This is not to deny the very real and potent fact of political abolitionism nor the evil of slavery itself. But that is only a piece of the puzzle.
The first grand Union commander, Gen. George McLellan, explicitly stated that the Union soldiers would not fight for the slaves. Lee humbled the “Young Napoleon” on the Virginia Peninsula, even as a black Confederate sniper picked off Yankee soldiers for good measure.
Going backwards in time, after the United States banned the importation of slaves in 1808, illegal but tolerated Yankee slave ships that were operating out of ports in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. After 1865, Yankee merchants carried on a lucrative trade with the Sultan of Zanzibar. This unsavory despot was supplying New England and New York with ivory extracted from Africa by slaves that were literally worked to death. The reader might enjoy tapping his fingers on such ill-gotten loot as he plays Mozart on his grandfather’s piano in some luxurious maritime mansion in Newport.
Confederates can say with honesty that the Stars and Bars never flew over a slave ship. But the same cannot be said of the Stars and Stripes.
The brutal reality is that the North fought and won a war of conquest over the South. There was no way that the Northern powers would accept the loss of more than half the national territory. One section conquered and subjugated the other. Both sections were caught in the web of slavery. And the North still had to finish off the Plains Indians.
In the beginning of the conflict New York City even threatened to join the Confederacy to keep the cotton flowing. And towards the end Georgia threatened to secede from the Confederacy over conscription.
As a means to an end the North weaponized the slavery issue. And it traded the tenets of civilized warfare for those of total war. Northern soldiers raped, burned and pillaged their way through what they hypocritically regarded as their own nation. They even killed cows. Read a little bit about Sherman or the beady-eyed Sheridan to learn more, but not right before you go to sleep.
In contrast to the intellectually lazy “The Confederacy Equals Slavery” narrative, there is an exceedingly complex matrix of facts and attitudes which cannot but fascinate even as they perplex.
For example, not just whites, but also free blacks were slaveholders of blacks in America, all the way to 1865. And to keep the debate as confusing as possible, in the 1850s Virginian George Fitzhugh even argued for white chattel slavery.
Today’s schoolchildren should already know well that in the Northern mines the laborers were politically free yet economically enslaved. In our own day the creepy globalists spawning in the ideological creeks of Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum sloganeer about the coming socialist Great Reset in which, “You will own nothing but will be happy.” Like good slaves?
Homo homini lupus.
The historical nugget which is the thrust of this meandering essay is that, in the midst of all this fog, it is eminently defensible to maintain that our particular person of interest, Robert E. Lee, simply and categorically was not fighting for the perpetuation of the dreadful institution. He is not to be counted amongst the knaves.
In fact, by siding with the local authority of the States over a constantly self-aggrandizing central power it could be argued that Lee, wittingly or unwittingly, was partaking in an experimental end-run around the slavocrats contradictorily bellowing about their own liberty while ignoring their glaring moral flaws. Had the great Confederate chieftain Lee gotten his way, the slaves would have been well on the road to emancipation. And the slaveholders would have gotten the overdue constitutional chiropractic adjustment to realign their own notions of authentic freedom.
But when the central government utterly vanquished the concept of local State authority it set the stage for an insatiable thirst for power and control. Currently, it certainly appears to be attempting a more total and far-reaching kind of modern slavery under the banner of “Equality (or Equity) for all slaves,” or something like that.
Is this viewpoint an admixture of history with hagiography? Let the reader decide.
But knowing the essential fact of Lee’s attitude toward freeing the slaves certainly helps one to put into perspective the wrongheaded, benighted outrage that precipitated the attack on his Richmond monument. Lee was, forsooth, that City’s tragically misunderstood icon of freedom. And the fools tore him down! But let us not be naïve, for the children of Marx are expert at mobilizing the impetuous.
That is what this writer contends as having transpired in Richmond City from 2020 to 2021, viz., a neo-Marxist cultural revolution took place which was designed to destroy the natural order of society, and the human person in consequence. The orchestrators of the attack on America managed to commingle social justice for blacks with the gender ideology. And it was morally repulsive to witness. The Yankee abolitionists of the 19 th Century themselves would have recoiled at the notion that their movement had anything to do with something as diabolical as puberty blocking hormones. But the graffiti about the Lee monument boldly proclaimed the warped anthropological heresy.
In any event, at Appomattox Courthouse the world was presented with the ironic spectacle of the Confederate General Lee (who was not a slaveholder) surrendering to the Federal General Grant (whose own wife at that precise moment owned a slave named Julia).
Even after the surrender, the North begrudgingly respected and the South weepingly venerated Lee so much that the Radical Republicans were fearful of his possible accession to the presidency of the re-United States in 1868, and they dragged the man before Senate hearings to further his ruination. Yet Grant, to his credit, would brook no talk of Lee’s arrest or dishonoring.
But to the mob gathered about Lee’s statue on September 7, 2021, waiting with bated breath for the final act of the tragedy, the historical record apparently mattered little. Cruelly, as it was opposing even the perceived and threatening memory of Lee, American Marxism repackaged for the 21st Century had duped its thralls into absorbing a highly metastasized form of an even more absolute slavery that is menacing the entirety of America.
I sought, on that bright sunny September day, to find some redemptive value to the quite disturbing spectacle before my eyes. It suddenly came to me in a flash as I gazed upon the image atop its pedestal. The vile, caked layers of venom that defiled the massive pedestal, which climbed up like a poisonous vine from the depths, were halted just below the portion from which Lee’s image arose to the skies.
The symbolism was inescapable. Lee’s statue was besieged. The entrenchments were dug close and encircled him. But the figure of the man himself stood gleaming in the sunlight, noble, unsullied and dignified to the end. The vigilantism of the frustrated mob had not even touched Lee in his symbolic, statuesque grandeur.
The tearing down of his iconic monument the next day, on September 8, 2021, was only brought about, as was his surrender of April 9, 1865, by “overwhelming numerical and material forces.” But this cultural and historical violation did not lessen the superiority of the principles of political subsidiarity, limited central government and personal honor for which Lee essentially stood in life as in death.
In this deeper, more timeless sense, Robert E. Lee might be regarded as the true victor of the latter-day Battle of Richmond.
Don Antonio San Pasquale is a Catholic priest who witnessed the Richmond events in 2020 and 2021.
Featured: “Robert Edward Lee,” nu John Adams Elder; painted in 1876.
The purpose of my address is to retrieve and to make explicit the moral foundations of Anglo-American culture.
What is Anglo-American culture? By Anglo-American culture, we understand the kind of culture that emerged in North-Western Europe, especially England, in the post-Renaissance and post-Reformation period and eventually spread to the United States. The most distinctive institutions of Anglo-American culture are individual autonomy, the rule of law, a republican form of government, and a market economy.
Why ought we to engage in this task of retrieving the moral foundations of Anglo-American culture?To be begin with, Anglo-American culture is the greatest force in the modern world; it has transformed and continues to transform the moral landscape by improving the material conditions of life and by institutionalizing individual freedom. One would think, therefore, that such a phenomenon deserves special attention.
The second reason is that Anglo-American culture is not understood even by those of us who are surrounded by it, and that is why we are engaged in an act of retrieval. One explanation for why Anglo-American culture is not understood is, ironically, that it has been defined largely by its critics; so much so that even the defenders of Anglo-American culture have unwittingly adopted the framework of their critics. At present, there exists no positive, internal, comprehensive framework for understanding Anglo-American culture as a whole.
The third reason is that Anglo-American moral culture is under attack even by its ignorant beneficiaries.
The institutions and practices of Anglo-American culture do not exist in a vacuum. Little attention has been given to understanding the relation between Anglo-Americanism and the totality of our culture. What is not usually made clear even in very illuminating discussions of specific institutions is that Anglo-American culture depends upon and presupposes a framework of moral presuppositions. Conflicts within our own culture often reflect ignorance, misunderstanding, or deep disagreement over what those moral presuppositions are. To provide a comprehensive framework that would identify the moral presuppositions of Anglo-American culture would be to fill a great lacuna in the contemporary intellectual environment.
The final reason for embarking upon this explication is that given the attempts on the part of others around the world to emulate Anglo-American culture we are concerned that they often fail by copying the form without the spirit.
In what follows, we identify three key moral presuppositions:
a claim to universality
the assertion of the fundamental moral worth of the free and responsible individual, and
the recognition of the role of the nuclear family as the key institution in nurturing free and responsible individuals.
We shall then proceed to explain how those three moral presuppositions, namely, universality, individuality, and family, inform the major institutions of Anglo-American culture, specifically:
a market economy,
a limited/or republican government,
a conception of world order,
a modern form of civic virtue
We turn now to the moral presuppositions. The claim to universality is the claim that Anglo-American culture embodies “a” or “the” fundamental moral truth that is universally applicable to all human beings in every culture. This claim to universality has two components: one formal and the other substantive.
The formal component consists in the recognition that if there were no universal truth there would be no rational basis for resolving disagreements or even for discussing them. Without a universal truth, neither the validity nor the invalidity of a particular cultural matrix could be an issue. The recognition of this formal or logical component of universality allows both for self-criticism and for cross-cultural criticism. To fail to recognize this logical or formal component is to exclude oneself and one’s culture from consideration within the substantive debate. To be a legitimate contender requires recognition of the formal component.
Historically, the formal component is articulated only within Western Civilization; it originated in those eastern Mediterranean societies that saw themselves as instantiating a cosmic order, most specifically in the Judaic monotheism of the Old Testament, in classical Greek drama, and most clearly in Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
It is, however, not enough to recognize the formal component. Recognizing the need for a universal moral truth is not the same thing as having identified in any substantive way the actual universal moral truths. Logic can take us only so far.
The substantive moral truth that is embodied in Anglo-American culture is the inherent worth and dignity of the free and responsible individual. This is a substantive claim inherent in all of Western Civilization.
Let me spell out the content of this concept before discussing its history.
a. that human beings possess the rational capacity to recognize the universal moral truth; There is a difference between an argument in the sense of what the ancient Greeks called an “eristic,” the point of which is to vanquish/embarrass one’s opponent (e.g., accusing them of a micro-aggression), not to find the truth. A rational argument is oriented solely towards discovering the truth. The ancient Greeks saw eristic as an “agon” (the root is the same as that of the English word “agony”).
In his dialogue titled “Euthydemus” Plato holds an eristic agon, the standard practice of the ancient Greek Sophists, up to ridicule. The Sophists were, roughly, a band of pseudo-philosophers, “mouths for hire” that used deceptive techniques to win arguments and make money, not to find the truth. Plato was, in this dialogue and others, attempting for the first time in human history to create the sort of refined conceptual apparatus needed to distinguish between a mere eristic contest (agon) and a rational argument governed by the sort of rules designed to lead to the truth.
b. that human beings have the internal capacity to be unconstrained or self-disciplined in their decision to act in accordance with the universal truth, i.e., free will;
c. that true freedom and dignity consist in the inner or self-discipline that comes with the exercise of these capacities; and
d. that these capacities can only be discovered retrospectively by their exercise.
The upshot of this conception of individuality is that the freedom and dignity of individuality cannot be understood except by those who exercise it, that the self-discipline to exercise it cannot be mechanically induced from the outside and that even the exercise of our rational capacity is a matter of self-discipline. The choice to use one’s reason and to use it to the fullest extent, to pursue the argument to its logical conclusion and not merely to the convenient conclusion is not made by reason but by an inner act of self-discipline. Intellectual virtue presupposes moral virtue.
This conception of individuality has evolved throughout the history of Western Civilization from the Greek philosophers through the Stoics, Cicero, and Christianity. What I want to call attention to is the specifically Christian component.
What Christianity added to our conception of individuality is the recognition that human beings have self-destructive impulses as well as wholesome ones, that the self-destructive impulses can only be overcome by conscious self-discipline, and that we are not fit to assume responsibility for ourselves or others unless we have developed the inner discipline of self-restraint. It is this moral dimension that is needed to supplement the rational insights of classical philosophy. Integrally related to Western Civilization, therefore, is some conception of the human person and its spiritual dimension.
The essence of the Christian insight is that the locus of freedom is within the individual. Self-discipline is not a matter of conformity to some external social or political structure; rather it is conformity to an inner vision. Salvation exists only within the individual conscience; and no moral, social, or political theory is to be taken seriously if it fails to recognize this insight.
There is an enormous difference between cultures of conscience and cultures of shame
How significant is this point? Let me answer with an example. When you have a chance take two identical maps of Eur-Asia; draw a line on one of the maps. On one side of that line are all of the communities that have been defined historically by Western Christianity; on the other side are all of the others even including some non-Western versions of Christianity and Islam. Then take the second map of Eur-Asia and draw a line through it. On one side of that line are all of the communities that easily embrace market economies, republican government, and the practice of toleration; on the other side are all those who define themselves by hatred and intolerance of others. You won’t have to look very far, for such maps appear every day in the newspapers telling us of new ethnic conflict. What may surprise some of you is that the two lines I have asked you to draw neatly coincide.
The point of my example is that respect for the individual, market economies, and limited/or republican government exist as a integrated trio only in communities historically defined by Western Christianity. Christianity has encouraged the development of the inner-directed individual; such individuals thrive in market economies; and republican government maximizes respect for the inner spiritual domain.
The road to the modern conception of individuality has not been a short and smooth one. It has taken at least two to three millennia. That is why it is important to tell the story. We remind ourselves of how we got to where we are in order to understand where and who we are. It is, therefore, not surprising to observe the struggles of other societies some of whose leaders and critics promise or demand or expect the same results in two weeks of demonstrations or who suppose you can have a plan to implement this sort of individuality.
I want to stress that Anglo-American culture is not simply the product of Athens and Jerusalem. A more nuanced history (subject of another essay) will show that individual autonomy, the nuclear family, etc. were peculiar features of Germanic tribes (recognized by Tacitus) and ultimately Indo-Europeans who migrated from the Steppes (even into Greece and Rome), that certain peculiarities of the market economy, limited government (Magna Carta has no analogue in the rest of Europe) and especially the ‘rule of law’ were unique to England and to the Anglo-American world. Terms like “Western” or “Occidental” or “Nationalism” do not fully capture this uniqueness. Nor can this phenomenon be explained and understood in terms of some theory like ‘liberalism’ or ‘conservatism’.
What is also crucial for us to remember is that even within our own Anglo-American culture going back as far as the Renaissance and the Reformation many people have not made the transition to individuality. There is a whole complicated history behind this, but what is important is to recognize that the most serious problem within modern Anglo-American societies is the presence of the failed or incomplete individual. Being an incomplete individual is a state of mind. It is not directly correlated with income, intelligence, or how articulate you are. Some incomplete individuals are highly intelligent. Either unaware of or lacking faith in their ability to exercise self-discipline, the incomplete individual seeks escape into the collective identity of communities insulated from the challenge of opportunity. These are people focused on avoiding failure rather than on achieving success. Phenomenologically speaking, the incomplete individual can identify himself/herself by feelings of envy, resentment, self-distrust, victimization, and self-pity; in short, an inferiority complex.
What really inhibits these people is not a lack of opportunity, not a lack of political rights, and not a lack of resources but a character defect, a moral inadequacy. Having little or no sense of individuality they are incapable of loving what is best in themselves; unable to love themselves, they are incapable of loving others; incapable of loving others, they cannot sustain life within the family; in fact, they find family life stultifying. What they substitute for love of self, others, and family is loyalty to a mythical community. Instead of an umpire they want a leader, and they conceive of such leaders as protectors who relieve them of all responsibility. This is what makes their sense of community pathological. What they end up with are leaders who are their mirror image: leaders who are themselves incomplete individuals and who seek to control others because they cannot control themselves, who seek the emasculation of autonomous individuals, who prize equality and not competition. In place of a market economy and limited government, we get collectivity as well as economic and political tyranny.
D. Market Economy
The single most important event that has made modern Anglo-American culture possible is the rise of the market economy. While market economies existed in embryonic form in the Middle Ages, it was in the sixteenth century that the market economy began to transform the world. That transformation was aided and abetted by the appearance of the modern individual. What happens when a market economy is understood as the expression of an individualist moral culture? To answer this question, let us look at two things, the concept of wealth and the role of the family.
1. There are two ways of defending a market economy, one instrumental and one moral. Some will defend the market economy on the basis of its greater productivity and power. We choose, however, to defend a market economy on moral grounds. Wealth is a good thing because:
(a) it enhances the human condition. Income is not merely a means to consumer satisfaction, nor merely an incentive. Rather, income is a means to accomplishment. Participation in a market economy informed by an individualist moral culture actually promotes a variety of forms of virtuous behavior. This is a point that is lost on those, especially intellectuals, whose hostility to the market leads to a pervasive ignorance and misrepresentation of the operations of the market economy.
(b) Wealth liberates us from the culture of poverty. Whereas in the medieval world it was wealth that created a scandal, the scandal of the modern world is the existence of poverty.
(c) Private wealth provides a check on the power of the government, and leads to the expansion of individual liberties.
(d) Finally, wealth provides the dynamic of social reform.
(e) The family is a private social security system.
2. We turn now to the family. The nuclear family is the key institution in a market economy understood as the expression of an individualist moral culture. It is the family that provides the cultural context of individuality. It has performed this function in a number of ways:
(f) The family provides support for mobility, a common pattern being that the first established member creates a base to which other family members can come later and thus ease the burden of transition; in poorer families the pattern is one of concentrating savings on giving a special advantage, such as education, to one member; and surely the most common pattern is seen in the sacrifices parents make for the education of their children.
(g) One of the greatest motivations that energetic and creative people bring to the marketplace is not only the desire to found a fortune but the desire to have a durable and substantial legacy to pass on to their children.
(h) Individuality is grossly misrepresented when it is pictured as greed, as lack of community, and as failing to provide binding moral standards. It is from the family that our individual imbibes his emotional support and it is the improvement of the material and moral prospects of one’s family that sustains him/her. Individuality is not a private matter, it is a family affair.
(i) I do not speak of the family in a timeless context, but rather as family life has emerged in modern Anglo-American culture. For most of history and in most cultures the human being has had a collective identification, but in modern Anglo-American cultures the attitude of the family to its members is remarkably different. For example, one looks very differently on a child perceived as a subject of cultivation as opposed to a child perceived as the inadvertent product of a biological process or as an object of utility.
E. Limited Government
The second most important event in the development of Anglo-American culture has been the concept of limited government. By limited government or republican government is meant a government where all power is checked, balanced, or limited in some way. Our founding fathers created such a Republic and not a democracy. The difference is significant, and they knew what they were doing.
Limited government is a good thing. It is a good thing because it maximizes respect for the inner spiritual domain. One of the great and lasting contributions of Christianity is that it has de-divinized the state, that is, it has transferred the locus of the ultimate good from the state to the spiritual domain of the individual.
What modern individuality stands opposed to is the idea of a communal or collective good over and above the good of the free and responsible individuals who make up the society. Some have seen in this the loss of a common purpose and moral foundations. May I suggest that what has been missed is the different sense of what is common and what is moral. What we share in common is not an interest but the need to realize our individuality. A great threat to modern Anglo-American culture is the use of the rhetoric of communal interest to mask private agendas.
The consequence of allowing individuals to pursue their individuality in their own way is a society consisting of diverse and contending interests. The function of political activity is to defend and advance particular contending interests. It is a form of advocacy and negotiation.
The function of government in modern Anglo-American culture is to facilitate political negotiation within the confines of the inherited moral framework. It requires statesmen not leaders.
As we have already argued, the cultivation of individuality is not within the province of political or governmental agencies. Good governments do not create great societies or even try to; it is the mark of a great society that it demands good government. A government is good not when it tries to pursue the mythical collective good but when it focuses on removing evil. Thus, while the function of politics is to protect and to advance interests, the function of government is to control corruption. Controlling corruption cannot be done when government serves one interest (mythical, grandiose, or otherwise) or itself becomes an interest group (deep-state bureaucracies).
How do we deal with corruption? We deal with corruption in two ways:
(a) First, we adhere to the principle of checks and balances not just as a political principle but as an economic and social one.
(b) Second, we separate the intellectual elite from the political elite; this allows intellectual elites to check political elites as well as each other; as a rule, the brightest and the best do not go into government, and that is all to the good; if we find members of the intellectual elite who have well developed political skills we make them deans, provosts, and college presidents, but nothing more.
Specifically, what the intellectual elite can contribute to this process is the on-going explication of the inherited framework of principles. Neither managerial nor public relations skills, neither legal nor economic expertise, neither social science nor technical thinking of any kind is a substitute for common-sense moral intuitions about our intersubjectively held principles.
F. World Order
What we have discovered so far is that the major moral concept of Anglo-American culture is individual autonomy. We have also seen that the economic system most compatible with an individualist moral culture is a market economy, and that the political system most compatible with it is a republican form of government. What would happen if every society in the world were to adopt a market economy and a republican form of government based upon an individualist moral culture? Immanuel Kant asked this question at the end of the 18th century, 200 years ago. His answer, which is our answer, is that there would be world peace. Rather than present a detailed argument for this thesis, I shall ask one simple question: how many of the major international conflicts in the last 200 years have occurred between two sides both of which had market economies and republican forms of government based upon an individualist moral culture? The answer is none! Societies with market economies, republican forms of government, where both are based upon an individualist moral culture do not go to war with each other. What they do is negotiate trade pacts.
You may be tempted to ask at this point, what right do we have to proffer our views as a model for others? That is a good question. How do we know that our ideas of freedom are the right ones? Shouldn’t we allow others to decide for themselves how they want to understand freedom?
Merely stating this objection shows that the objector already accepts our notion of freedom as individual autonomy. To let others decide for themselves is precisely to treat them as ends and not as means. When we talk about others deciding for themselves we most certainly do not mean letting a self-appointed elite decide for all. Is there anyone who believes that when one person, one economic interest group, one gender, one religion, one race, one ethnic group does the deciding for others that it makes sense to call this letting “them” decide for themselves? “Deciding for themselves” means, if it means anything at all, allowing each autonomous individual to decide for himself/herself, and when applied to a state this has to mean a public, unrigged and free election with universal suffrage and without reprisals. That is, it means a republican form of government.
The issue we face today is not whether there should be some kind of global culture. Events are already pushing us in that direction. The issue is not whether but what kind of global culture, what kind of unity, and what will be the parameters of diversity within that unity. I know of no serious alternative to Anglo-American culture as the model; Anglo-American culture is self-critical, characterized by its striving for universality, has as its great strength the power of assimilation, and it is a fertile source of adaptation of what has been and still can be absorbed from other historical cultures. Hence, this is all the more reason that we understand it, deal with its problems intelligently, and that we not experience a failure of nerve lest the world lapse back into barbarism as a result of our negligence.
The most obvious feature of Anglo-American culture is its tolerance. The most obvious feature of non-Anglo-American culture is the lack of toleration, usually seen as strife between or rejection of what is different. It is not freedom that unleashes hate; it is tyranny that has prevented the growth of that individuality which overcomes the pathology of communalism.
What we tend to forget is that tolerance is not neutrality, and it is not nihilism. It is not the case that every view is as true as every other; it is not the case that every way of life is just as legitimate as every other. We tolerate precisely that with which we disagree, otherwise we misunderstand the word. To tolerate is not to legitimate. Nor does tolerance mean that we cannot speak out against what we take to be wrong. We hear so much about listening to the other side that we tend to forget that we also have an obligation to speak out and to challenge that with which we disagree.
Tolerance is itself based upon a principle deeply embedded within Christianity, namely, that the only way to truth is through individual inner conviction, and inner conviction cannot be coerced from the outside. Tolerance is thus based upon moral principles, principles that stress the centrality of individual autonomy. Given its origins in Western Christianity, again it is no accident that tolerance is found only on one side of the map that I earlier called to your attention.
Moral conflicts are best handled through persuasion and civility rather than coercion. But one thing we must not do is to confuse patience and civility with self-doubt or tacit consent.
There is only one thing that cannot be tolerated: we cannot tolerate those who do not subscribe to the principle of toleration, and we cannot tolerate those whose practices or policies frustrate or undermine the capacity of others to become autonomous and responsible. We cannot tolerate those who fail to discern the difference between the art of persuasion and coercion, and we most especially cannot tolerate those who would seek to undermine the major institution where the arts of persuasion are honed, namely the university.
H. Civic Virtue in an Anglo-American Culture
The most serious complaint of those who feel uncomfortable with modern Anglo-American culture is that we have lost a sense of civic virtue. What is usually meant is that individuals are focused upon private matters concerning themselves, or their families at best, instead of getting involved in public business. In short, Anglo-American culture is frequently accused of having surrendered its soul to self-interest.
I want to answer this serious complaint in the following ways.
First, the only public business worthy of the name is the business of providing the context within which individuals can have greater and greater control over their own lives. It is a contradiction in terms to think that giving greater and greater control to public agencies increases individual freedom. While relief is an unquestionable social obligation which the demise of traditional communities, responsible aristocracies, and Church wealth has devolved onto the state for want of any other agency, it is open to discussion whether redistribution policies can be effective, whether they are the best means of dealing with the problem, and whether policies of redistribution conflict with other legitimate social objectives.
Second, it is a misunderstanding of individuality to see it as opposed to the notion of a cultural whole. You cannot be an autonomous individual on your own, rather individuality requires the support of a Anglo-American culture in general, and family life in particular. In seeking this context for myself, I seek it necessarily for others. To the extent that others do not share it, my own is less secure.
There is yet another reason. A truly autonomous individual is one who defines himself or herself. The perception we have of ourselves as self-defining cannot be sustained if we are constantly dealing with those whom we think of or have to treat as inferiors. The double standards that prevail in many institutions, standards that demand less of some than of others invariably reconfirm the perception that we are dealing with inferiors. It takes an enormous act of bad faith to ignore this.
A true individual can maintain his autonomy only by interacting with other autonomous beings, that is by interacting with equals. It follow from this that civic virtue in a modern Anglo-American culture requires us to help others, and we help others primarily by helping them to achieve autonomy. Equality has to be understood as the moral capacity for being autonomous not as an equal division of the spoils or redistribution of social badges of prestige. To feel slighted in the recognition of others, to be obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses instead of maintaining your own internal standards of integrity, is to reveal oneself as lacking in personal autonomy.
Those who feel alienated are precisely those who are incomplete individuals. We cannot help them to achieve autonomy by reinforcing the misperception they have of themselves as victims. This is a cop-out, and a symptom of the pathology of communalism. We cannot help others by discouraging them from helping themselves.
The great internal challenge that we face is to help these incomplete individuals to mature into truly autonomous individuals. The only way to become an individual is to become conscious of one’s own power for self-discipline. This is a moral task, not a technological one. Hence it cannot be mechanically induced from the outside. That is why nation-building always fails! All we can provide in the way of policy are opportunities to learn autonomy. But opportunities are not opportunities if there is no risk of failure, no standard of success.
On the level of public policy this means expanding the market economy, for it is the market economy that drives social reform; it is the market economy that empowers individuals. But we all know that this is not enough, especially if incomplete individuals cannot be brought to test themselves within that context. How do we help them to get that far? There is only one social institution within which it seems possible to learn self-respect and the glory of self-discipline, and that institution is the family. Those who mourn the loss of traditional communities ignore the most important and original community, the family, and they ignore as well the prolific growth of voluntary communities.
Even here we must be observant of the flawed character of so much of modern family life. There are no positive formulas here, but there is one negative formula: anything which weakens family life undermines the only institution we know of that encourages development of free and responsible individuals. It is only within the nuclear family that an individual can be valued in and for himself/herself. And it is only within the nuclear family that an individual is encouraged to make the kind of self-disclosures and self-examination that will enable him or her to recognize the need for change and develop the self-discipline to do so. The increasing threat to the family is its loss of function as more and more is taken over by public agencies who thus compete for the attention and esteem of children.
You cannot help others achieve autonomy by creating public institutions which wield greater and greater power over individuals. All of our attempts to do this so far have resulted in economically undermining the rich and middle income citizens without improving the lot of the poor; instead of transferring income from the richer to the poorer we have transferred power from the individual to the state; instead of helping fragile families we have encouraged them to abdicate a fundamental social responsibility, that of contributing in their private capacity to the advancement of their dependents and surroundings; and most especially we have impoverished the spirit of our commonwealth. In short, I would suggest that most if not all of the programs designed to redistribute income have had as an inadvertent consequence the undermining of the family. In undermining the nuclear family we undermine the one institution needed to sustain the individuality which is the heart of Anglo-American culture. Those who are concerned with the flawed character of American family life have missed and continue to ignore this dimension of the problem.
In order to help others to achieve individuality we must begin by treating them as beings capable of being rational and responsible. We treat them as rational equals by telling them, when we think appropriate, just how silly, how dead wrong, and how dangerously irresponsible their perception of Anglo-American culture is. An equal is someone who does not have to be patronized but to whom we can say “your argument sucks!” And we treat them as responsible equals by insisting that they be held responsible for both their silly arguments and their destructive behavior
A free and equal citizen is one who lays no obligation upon fellow citizens that he (or she) does not himself (or herself) assume. It is thus only in Anglo-American culture that the false dichotomy of self and others is overcome. There is no serious moral alternative to Anglo-American culture in the modern world; and I do not believe that there are fundamental moral flaws in Anglo-American culture; there are only pockets of people still unwilling to accept the challengeand the burdens of being both free and responsible. Are we up to that challenge?
If we succeed in encouraging incomplete individuals to become autonomous ones in our own culture, then we can serve as mentors to other cultures.
Let me conclude by saying that: just as ancient Athens strove to be the school of Hellas so America can strive to be the mentor—not the ruler—of the modern world.
Nicholas Capaldi is Professor Emeritus at Loyola University, New Orleans.
Featured: “The Great Rapprochement,” a poster for the United States and Great Britain Industrial Exposition, ca. 1899-1900.
President Joe Biden and the puppeteers who control his teleprompter are trying to weaken the country in order to gain more power and re-structure the country based on classical Marxism (government ownership of the means of production) as well as woke cultural Marxist lines—destruction of the family, depreciation of male vigor and determination, and demonic sexual perversion throughout all classes and segments of society.
The motto of the interloper now serving in the White House is “Build Back Better” (BBB), The trillions to “build back” is an updated version of the New Deal on steroids as the Dems take spending to a new level of excess which, for them, is ecstasy. In fact, a better name for their spend, spend, and spend programs should be “Excess Ecstasy Exhilarates.” The New Deal believed in the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes was a British economist who came up with a theory of deficit spending, namely that the government going into debt would jump start the depressed economy which, then, by being reinvigorated, would have more employed, income tax paying citizens as well as corporate profits which would, in turn, restore the needed balance to the federal books. The deficit spending would restore a greater solvency that had been lost because of the great depression.
In practice this did not work out (unemployment was still in double digits throughout the 1930’s), but because of the passage of the Wagner Act which made it easier for workers to organize into unions, because of the use of the radio for “Fireside Chats” with the public by the President—a real novelty in American politics which intensified public support for FDR—and because of continuing anger towards the Republicans who had been in power throughout the 1920’s and were thus assumed to somehow be the ones who had caused the depression, Keynesian economics became the go-to model for economic policy in the United States for all decades since that time.
However, that Keynesian model has been weaponized under BBB in a most sinister way. The present shift is to make us more amenable to the globalist fantasies that have become so popular in recent decades to assure a revamping towards world governance and a cooperative world economy (rather than a competitive one) under the rubrics of “meeting needs” and “sustainability.” These two concepts are the key concepts in the document written and published by the United Nations called Agenda 2030. Although the original United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 stressed the need for individual rights after WWII and promoted those rights in nearly every sentence of that document, the present document—Agenda 2030—only refers to rights in one section, Section 19, out of 91 sections.
Instead of rights, needs are emphasized. This is consistent with the Communist Manifesto authored by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848. A key principle in that document is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Actual needs of people would be the uppermost goal of envisioned communist society rather than ideas like rights, freedom, responsibility, property ownership, pursuit of happiness, or even security. The new communistic premise is that if needs are met then people will automatically experience security and happiness and will not need the abstract fluff of such bourgeois, outdated, and elitist ideas as rights, freedom, or ownership. Further, meeting of communist needs must be based on sustainability. If we run out of energy, clean air, or water at some point in the future, we would then not be able to meet peoples’ needs. Therefore, there must be plans and actions taken to sustain all the materials and planetary conditions that will keep us from running out of the natural resources and environmental conditions that allow us to meet those needs. Sustainability works hand-in-glove or in tandem with the meeting of needs as a combo that is a cornerstone for a new world governance policy.
The BBB plan thus superficially appears to be an updated and extravagant Keynesian or New Deal style spending program, but the endgame is not economic recovery that forever establishes federal government dominance over the states in the socio-political realm. Rather, BBB is the connecting of that enlarged federal government and authority with a depreciation or elimination of U.S. sovereignty in favor of world, communist-style governance. But as if the endgame were not sinister enough, we see that this updated Keynesian expansion of expenditures has not been brought on as a result of economic collapse as a result of a depression as was the justification in the 1930’s.
Rather, simultaneously with expanded spending, the BBB plotters are trying to weaken the economy and bring about economic and socio-political chaos and mayhem. The southern border hands off policy is literally facilitating the entrance of millions of persons who have not been vetted. By limiting or eliminating natural gas and oil production in the territorial USA under the guise of protecting the environment, the feds are incentivizing other countries to expand their production of these energy sources. That production, which would still mean higher energy prices here in the U.S., has just as bad an effect on the world climate as would the same production in our land. But the brooding minds behind BBB want to see inflated prices. They want to see shortages. They want to see racial unrest. They want to see upsurges in crime as new theories of law inform the release of repeat offenders and shorter sentences which de-stabilizes society. The BBB autocrats want to see a society that increasingly identifies as LGBTQ because this radical individualism weakens the social fabric. They want to see fentanyl from China imported as a deadly scourge to kill our citizens who are weak-minded and susceptible to taking this drug.
Thus, despite resemblance to the New Deal, the BBB so-called governance (properly called betrayal) is at the front end linked to global health, green initiatives, and “interdependence” as an excuse for diminishing U.S. sovereignty. Since these policies were not initiated to combat depression conditions, we see that simultaneously with BBB are policies designed to undermine the freedoms and economic viability of the USA. This might be likened to applying chemo treatments to a patient who did not have cancer, and then, in order to justify the perverse treatment plan, injecting the patient with cancer cells in order to justify that plan. The goal of the sinister and aberrated “plan” would not be the recovery of the patient and return to normal living, but to place the “cured” individual into custodial care rather than independent living. That would be the equivalent of a United States with diminished sovereignty in a world governance system.
“To be woke,” in the vernacular of the predominantly youthful members of this group, means to be aware of or awake to the central parameters of Wokeism, especially concerning the virulence of racism and its effects, and of the myriad ways in which all contemporary societies endeavor to champion whites and oppress non-whites.
It is now frequently noted that the brand of contemporary elite leftist identity politics that is dominant in much of American academia, mass media, and tech industry corporate culture—a phenomenon some have named “Wokeism” –bears some of the characteristics of a religion. Wokeism is certainly on the ascendant in the US and in some other Western countries at present, and in its emotive and moralistic mode of action the comparison to religious life seems at least superficially viable. For the Wokeist, virtually everything in the seemingly complex modern and multicultural societies in which we find ourselves is reducible to one fundamental fact that shapes virtually everything: whites as a group, and whiteness as their social identity and in the forms taken by a connected set of cultural symbols extending from that identity, are unjustly privileged and dominating, and non-whites—especially blacks–are systematically and vigorously excluded from full participation in the life of their societies by virtue of their lack of whiteness. Every institutional and social space in modern society—from schools to the realm of employment to the criminal justice system to medical institutions—is fundamentally warped by white supremacy and antiblackness, and the properly moral response to this is expressive outrage at this fact and a concentrated effort to achieve social change that would demolish white privilege and produce utopian racial equality. The symbolic power of these sacred entities of Wokeism works at a level of emotional intensity that approaches the fervor found in religion.
Some have endeavored to hone this classificatory idea still further, describing Wokeism as a New Puritanism, though typically with little in the way of sustained comparative analysis. There is significant viability in this classification, and elaboration on it can perhaps help us to further understand where Wokeism fits in the broader history and evolution of religious culture in the West.
Let us start with differences. Puritanism was deeply concerned about spiritual matters, specifically, with the nature of God, the eternal nature and fate of the human soul, the existence of Heaven and Hell. Any supernatural element in Wokeism’s religious practice is at best occluded, and much evidence suggests that it simply has no concern for matters outside the social and political spheres. Whereas the Wokeists orient themselves entirely to a worldly politics of progressive transformation, Puritanism had no vision of earthly progress and had no hope for humankind outside of the imminent return of the Christ. American Puritans believed that God would bring them back to England in victory, and this would be followed by the Apocalypse, probably sometime in the mid-1600s. And though the Puritans embraced a variety of individualism, as does Wokeism (though not at all the same variety), they nonetheless adhered to embodied collective worship and rite, which seems absent in Wokeism outside of the ephemeral virtual rituals of social media.
But Wokeism does share a good deal with Puritanism, or perhaps more accurately we should say that it can be readily understood as a phenomenon situated in the same religious evolutionary trajectory that swept along the Puritans. Wokeism is a development that is in fact broadly consonant with the overall drift of Christianity in the West over roughly the past 500 years, or since the Protestant Reformation produced fundamental shifts in the nature of Christian belief and practice. The Reformation signaled an all-out assault on ritual and on the pre-existing Christian recognition that sacredness was located not only outside the world in God’s majesty but also in the world humans inhabited. The Church the Reformation challenged understood that sacredness manifests on something of a continuum, God himself occupying the polar, pure absolute of sacrality while angels, saints, and holy relics, all sacred entities, are nonetheless located at some distance from that pure sacredness, somewhere closer to the profane pole at which humans uncleansed by ritual reside. The Protestants established a stark, total, and unalterable distance between God and man, the sacred and the profane. While it is arguably true that all religion recognizes the magnetic repulsion of sacred and profane, in much primitive religion, as well as in the Christianity dominant in Europe before the Reformation, entities can move and be moved, through ritual, from one category to the other, and sacred things do indeed inhabit the profane world without catastrophe or contradiction.
For the most radical among the Reformers, this was a central blasphemy of the existing Church. God and the sacred are unchanging and ever-lasting, forever beyond the ken and the approach of man, and mysteries by which miracles such as e.g., transubstantiation can be made to systematically occur on command, with prescribed rites and prayers, or mortal humans can become saints by actions of the Church, were anathema to them. Historically, the Roman Catholic Church has been tremendously effective at incorporating elements of indigenous faiths that were based in animistic principles into Christian practice, and the pantheon of the saints has been one of the most effective mechanisms for doing this. Thus, the Marian cult has proven a very efficacious means of bringing populations with local indigenous beliefs concerning sacred mother figures, real and mythical, into the Church.
Protestantism rejected all this categorically, and Wokeism embraces the same exaggerated, exclusivist binary system established by the radical Protestants, though it has been moved into the secular sphere of cultural politics. The thrust of Protestantism, especially in what became known as the mainline denominations in the US, has been toward individualism and the desacralization of the world. Sociologists such as Peter Berger have long recognized that an evolution of religious practice in a direction that deemphasizes collective ritual and the mystical properties of sacred things is essentially a guarantee that the religious body in question will decline in its ability to attract members. Some of the Protestant denominations unabashedly embraced the secularizing momentum and turned the evangelizing, otherworldly project of traditional Christianity into a this-worldly political project of the progressive left. These mainline Protestant groups in many cases have explicitly built the notion of social justice into their church doctrines. They have been shrinking in membership for decades now, as is well documented, and some are next to extinct. Their existing membership skews heavily toward the social elite of American society as defined by education and income, the same groups that are heavily overrepresented among the ranks of Wokeists. The processes of rationalization corrosively melted the glue of their former religious denominations, but these social classes still had and have the same innate need for a symbolically meaningful universe that is a deep aspect of human nature. So, they left their old churches and they transferred the symbolic categories of their former Protestant faiths into the new schema of Wokeism, its sacred object of the suffering black victim of racism, and the opposed anti-sacred symbol of whiteness.
Although they outwardly claim tolerance as a primary value, Wokeists share with Puritanism a practical intolerance that is unflinching and all the more rigid for the fact that those at which it is directed are defined, in a kind of collective psychological projection, as hostilely intolerant. This necessarily means that there is an unavoidable self-contradiction at the heart of Wokeist doctrine: it champions tolerance while acting systematically with violent intolerance. It also shares with Puritanism a belief that childhood is a corrupt state, at least as infected by sin (or in the case of Wokeism, racism) as adulthood. The Puritans preached incessantly to the very young about the terror of death and damnation and the need for full-blooded spiritual fervor in even the youngest. They built frank discussions of the grave into elementary school grammar primers. For their part, Wokeists cheerlead for psychological tests that purport to show “implicit racism” in even the very young and enthusiastically advocate for educational measures at the earliest level to combat “white privilege” and force those in whom the energy of the anti-totem inheres to repent and be reeducated.
The most profound similarity between Puritanism and Wokeism has to do with the doctrine of predestination. For the Puritans, this was a ferocious doctrine that threw the believer into a radical inner loneliness, unprotected by any Church hierarchy or ritual, where the most profound decision in his life had already been settled before his birth. In Weber’s famous formulation, the withering psychological burden of understanding that the single most important question of one’s fate was entirely out of one’s hands is the pressure that drove the emergence of the Protestant work ethic. Though Puritans did not believe that one could demonstrate convincingly one’s elect status by adhering to the tenets of this notion of work in a calling, one could at least assuage to some degree the ultimately unlivable tension of total ignorance of one’s fate by acting in a way that would be understood by self and others as most consonant with the actions of a member of the elect rather than one of the damned. These measures might decrease the unbearable uncertainty and anxiety to some degree, though accounts of Puritan founders in America on their death beds still tortured by the agony of not knowing their status demonstrate its limits. For the Puritan, the best, though still not foolproof, way of knowing one was elect was precisely the gnawing anxiety and uncertainty about one’s fate, and conversely the most powerful evidence someone was not among the elect was his convinced belief that he was.
Wokeism has its own version of this dogma and its convolutions, though to date it has not worked out an equivalent of the Protestant work ethic as a tool to decrease the psychological burden of the harsh belief. The inconclusive efforts of white Wokeists to manage this dilemma can take on an extremity that makes the self-abnegation of Puritanism pale by comparison. Ali Michael, who directs a center for race equity in education at the University of Pennsylvania, expressed this effort in neatly condensed form in the title of an article in which she reflected on the story of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who identified as black: “I Sometimes Don’t Want to Be White, Either.” Michael explains that her realization of the fact that Wokeism is based on a symbolic binary so uncompromising that all whiteness necessarily must be classed as directly antagonistic to the sacred her to reject the very idea of having her own children, as “everything I learned about the history of racism made me hate myself, my Whiteness, my ancestors… and my descendants…[and] I remember deciding that I couldn’t have biological children because I didn’t want to propagate my privilege biologically.” The full acceptance of the totemic opposition of Wokeism is this: “[T]he lesson for me is remembering how deep the pain is, the pain of realizing I’m White, and that I and my ancestors are responsible for the incredible racialized mess we find ourselves in today.” Total self-effacement is perhaps the only way forward from such a realization, though Michael would seem not to have arrived at this position yet, as she continues to make a living as a widely sought-after white antiracist speaker and activist.
For Wokeists, all whites are, by the very nature of their state, guilty of racism and “white privilege,” which cannot be undone by any action that person takes. The white Wokeist’s position can only be acknowledged, not changed. Adoration of the non-white virtuous victim and disgust at one’s own racist white nature are the existential result of this doctrine. For the Puritan, faith and its manifestation in work in a calling might lighten the psychological burden, even if it could not modify the decision already made by God. The white Wokeist does not even have this limited mechanism for addressing his suffering. His faith in the purity of the non-white victims of white racism and in the impurity of racists and the systemically racist system they have created does nothing to alleviate his mental state, and it certainly cannot change the determination of his state as a racist oppressor.
Sacrifice as alimentary communion between the god and the members of the cult was still recognized in Puritanism as an essential rite, but it was here already diluted to the form of a sign of the bond between god and cult member, rather than a substantial meal in which the god is literally consumed to replenish sacred power in the bodies of followers. However, this rite, attenuated as it was, undoubtedly provided some significant integrative power for Puritans. It might be argued that a symbolic sacrificial rite is present in Wokeism in the form we saw in the US in the wake of the George Floyd protests/riots in the spring and summer of 2020, when white Wokeists were seen performing oblations to virtuous victim blacks in the form of prostrating themselves before them, sometimes washing their feet or cleaning their shoes.
Another core of difference between these two doctrines—and perhaps the most significant—resides in the fact that, for the Puritan, the resolution of the mystery does take place, finally, if in a supernatural world outside this one, and so it can at least be pointed to with anticipation and, provided faith is strong, confidence. Wokeism, as a fundamentally corrupted trajectory in the history of religion, has rejected the supernatural entirely in its theology, and given that this world is the only one, ultimate racial justice cannot be deferred to the next. It demands endless repentance and self-flagellation on the part of the white Wokeist who understands his inescapable position as oppressor of the sacred victims of racism, indeed, as the incarnation of the anti-sacred. Whiteness as symbol is despised with such ferocity precisely because the despisers recognize in it their own inevitable natures and are predictably unable to fathom that in a way amenable to the reins of reasoned dispassion.
Freudianism has been effectively decimated as an explanatory system for human behavior by scientific research into the brain, but one is almost tempted here to invoke the Freudian doctrine of trauma, the unconscious, and neurosis. Unbearable, awful knowledge (one’s own racist whiteness) proves too painful to keep in the conscious mind, so it is stored away in the unconscious, where it nonetheless still acts on the conscious self in occluded ways in the form of neurotic behaviors (the sheer violence and irrationality of antagonism to the anti-sacred). But there is no need for outmoded Freudian categories to understand the seriousness of the problem here. In psychological terms, fervent adherence to an uncompromising moralistic set of beliefs about the world that frame self as irrevocably on the side of unmitigated evil cannot indefinitely be maintained. Escape from the Wokeist system is one possible resolution for white Wokeists. I see no others that do not in the end lead, as self-hatred almost inevitably does, in the direction of unsustainable psychological anxiety.
It is not clear how Wokeism will ultimately make this workable for its troubled white members, or indeed if it can. We have historical models for some of the ways mercilessly moralistic, self-contradictory, self-despising political religions work themselves out, e.g., in the late 1960s and 1970s in the form of the homicidal and suicidal Weather Underground. Whether Wokeism, or some significant number within its ranks, will take up this path is yet to be determined. Wokeism’s white members cling fervently to the chiliasm of the results of the “Browning of America” they endlessly reiterate, but they can derive no obvious comfort from this anticipated End Time, as they seem to recognize, in their heart of hearts, that there is no squaring this circle and their status cannot be changed even by that millennialist conclusion.
There is in the end no making amends for white Wokeists. They stand condemned, by their own beliefs, with no hope of redemption. Here, religion in the history of the evolution of the Christian West has become a merciless moralizing enterprise for self-punishment (and punishment of others) and status pursuit on a hierarchy in which victimization according to a rigorously identitarian calculus is the coin of the realm. This may be one of the future, corrupted paths of religion in the West, and we would do well to learn more about its inner workings.
Alexander Riley is a Senior Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. He writes at Substack.
Featured: “The Fallen Woman,” by Henri de Caisne; painted in 1852.
The urgency of the moment has finally dawned on many Americans as our 45th President recently called for the 2020 elections to be thrown out and redone. Waiting until Jan 20, 2025 is unfathomable, given how quickly Biden’s usurpers are torching America’s capital—financial, spiritual, military and otherwise.
What, then, is to be done? The impeachment of Joe Biden in the House of Representatives is a foregone conclusion. A republican majority will have no end of reasons to do so—whether on the grounds of the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, any number of federally-imposed pandemic-related nonsense or even the failure to enforce border security. The precedent supplied by the second “skinny” impeachment provides a highway to our end-goal: Trump’s restoration.
The problem with these secondary issues has a name and surname: Kamala Harris. While the temptation to judicialize bad policy is extant—say, selling the strategic petroleum reserve to China or the lease freeze for hydrocarbon drilling from federal land—the principal reason to focus on the 2020 election is that both occupants of the White House would be on the chopping block. Believe me, not even the Democrats want to replace Biden with Harris.
The effort to decertify the electors remains ongoing and may well take longer (on its own) than the two years until the next presidential election. Even then, it isn’t clear what the remedy would be, nor would it save America from the usurpers on time. Supercharging that process with the political capital from a freshly won election, empowering the impeachment procedures’ power to insert into the Official Record the evidence from the 2020 steal is the proper constitutional remedy for the situation before us.
As a matter of strategy, there may well be a case for impeaching individual cabinet members ahead of Biden/Harris, if only to warm up the Senate for removal votes. Deb Haaland and Alejandro Mayorkas don’t stand a chance, to say nothing of one Merrick Garland. Once the cabinet (and why not, maybe a few ambassadorships) have non-Biden confirmees replace impeachees, the 3/5ths of Senators may well find themselves before the inevitable conclusion that Joe has to go, too.
Why must it be Trump, some will ask? Firstly, it was him who was vetoed by subterfuge. While any number of republican figures could fit into the speaker’s chair (any US citizen is eligible), only he has remained steadfast in the face of unlawful persecution from the security apparatus. His baptism of fire uniquely qualifies him for the task at hand, and remedying his removal by installing a different republican in the White House would be cold comfort for the many millions of us who do not consider him interchangeable.
An American Cæsarism had previously been spoken of during the Reagan years—this same strategy of merging the Presidency’s Head of State role with the (limited and secondary) Head of Government powers the House Speakership holds. Indeed, it would be a step toward something more like Britain’s parliamentary cabinet government, though only for the top spots of America’s thrice-divided government. Trump would be fantastic at this job—the agenda-setting and cat-herding roles were always his superpower.
The “cohabitation” imposed by a Trump speakership would at very least limit the damage Biden’s usurpers could do over the next two and a half years. There is a comforting thought to bringing the intense sunlight of attention to, say, the budgeting process (long since decayed into mush). Something must also be said for many of the agenda items Trump has brought to bear, from civil service reform (schedule F) or even (for the brave) a second Church committee for reining in the abuses of the intelligence agencies.
The imperative to remove the current crop of executive branch officeholders, however, is and will remain the most impactful bit of legislating any member of the 118th congress could hope to achieve. Indeed, the establishment GOP has made some attempt at formalizing a governing agenda. They should be comforted, too, by this strategy, as the question of term limits would become extant once the restoration expunged the illegitimate 46th presidency.
MAGA Republican congressional candidates for the 2022 cycle should take a page out of the 2018 Democratic intake: run on impeaching the usurpers Biden & Harris, and proudly put the tagline “Trump for Speaker” on their all their banners and campaign comms. Far from tanking the GOP’s chances in the general, candidates will be surprised at how much energy they unleash.
Certainly a lot more so than some Romneyite tax credits. Donald J. Trump for Speaker of the House!
Felipe Cuello is Professor of Public Policy at the Pontifical university in Santo Domingo. He currently holds an administrative management position in the upper house of the national legislature of the Dominican Republic and remains an operative of the Republican Party in the United States, where he served in both the Trump campaigns as well as the transition team of 2016/17 in a substantive foreign policy role. His past service includes the United Nations’ internal think tank, the International Maritime Organization, The European Union’s development-aid arm, and the office of a Brexiteer Member of the European Parliament previous to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. He is also the co-author and voice of the audiobook of Trump’s World: Geo Deus released in January 2020, back when discussing substance and principles were the order of the day.
“He who knows how to wage war conquers another’s army without fighting; takes another’s fortresses without laying siege; crushes another’s state without keeping his army out long,” says the famous ancient Chinese treatise The Art of War, whose authorship is traditionally attributed to the military commander and strategist Sun Tzu (6th-5th centuries B.C.).
Surprisingly, this statement is still very relevant. Moreover, Sun Tzu can be called one of the first theorists in the field of hybrid warfare, which seems to be a modern phenomenon. The treatise of the ancient Chinese philosopher still serves as the basis for theoretical approaches in the activities of the intelligence services of many countries, including the United States.
Speaking of the role of the United States in the formation of the concept of hybrid warfare, it is worth noting that this country was the first to develop and apply the term. Over time, the American (and generally Western) concept of hybrid warfare has been constantly changing, causing a lot of controversy among many researchers and analysts studying hybrid warfare. One such analyst is Leonid V. Savin, who in his book Hybrid War and the Gray Zone examines in detail the genesis of the concept of hybrid warfare, the scholarly developments of Western authors and the further transformation of the term. From the title of the book, it is easy to understand that in addition to hybrid warfare, the work examines another no less remarkable phenomenon, namely, the “gray zone. Thus, in his book Savin examines in detail the evolution of the Western concept of hybrid warfare and the gray zone, and analyzes the changes that have occurred in the approaches to the study of these phenomena in the context of the changing geopolitical picture of the world.
Before turning to the content of the book, I would like to say a few words about the author. Savin is a political scientist, the author of many books on geopolitics and contemporary conflicts, including such works as Towards Geopolitics, Network-centric and Network Warfare: An Introduction to the Concept, Ethnopsychology: Peoples and Geopolitical Thinking, New Ways of Warfare: How America Builds its Empire, and many others. He is the editor-in-chief of the information and analytical portal Geopolitika.ru, following the Eurasian approach. In this regard, even before reading the book, one might assume that Savin in his work will speak in the spirit of Eurasianism, criticizing the unipolar globalist model of the world, promoted by the United States. As it turns out, these assumptions are not mistaken.
Hybrid War and the Gray Zone consists of three parts, which, in turn, are divided into smaller sections. However, before proceeding directly to the consideration of the concepts of “hybrid warfare” and “gray zone,” L.V. Savin highlights some of the changes that have occurred in modern conflicts in recent years. In addition, the author discusses new trends in international relations, in the context of the current geopolitical reality. According to the political scientist, in our complex and contradictory world, the problems of new forms of conflicts should be approached as objectively and cautiously as possible, because a common understanding of any modern problem is not so easy to find.
The first part of the book is devoted to the evolution of the term “hybrid warfare,” from its first mention in 1998 to the present day. Savin examines various interpretations of the concept developed by the Western military-scientific community. Thus, the author studies and analyzes the works of R. Walker, J. Pinder, B. Nemeth, J. Mattis and F. Hoffman, C. Gray, M. Booth, J. McQueen, N. Freyer R.W. Glenn, B. Fleming, as well as US doctrinal documents on hybrid warfare, including the US understanding of Hybrid Warfare (2010), Guide to Organizing a Force Structure to Counter Hybrid Threats (2015), the Military Strategy Analysis of the US (2015), TRADOC G-2, Joint Operating Environment 2035, and the Joint Force in a Contested and Disordered World (2016). In addition, Savin examines the approaches of NATO and the EU, which have developed their own concept of hybrid warfare.
It is worth noting that a separate place in all theoretical developments of Western countries on the problems of hybrid warfare is given to Russia. The author of the book devotes a separate chapter to this phenomenon. In particular, Savin describes in detail the approach of U.S. Army Major Amos Fox, who assesses Russia’s actions in the context of hybrid warfare.
After reading this chapter, it is clear why the term “hybrid warfare” is so difficult to understand. The answer is simple: there is no single definition of “hybrid warfare” because, first, each researcher interprets the concept differently, and second, it is constantly changing and evolving depending on the geopolitical context.
In addition, the term is very ambiguous and is interpreted by all sides in their own interests. As for Western interpretations of the concept of hybrid warfare, most of them state that hybrid warfare is waged primarily by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Obviously, labeling these countries as “hybrid actors” is largely meaningless, since there are hardly any countries (much less major powers) that are not currently engaged in hybrid warfare. Hybrid warfare is the new reality (is it new?) in which modern society exists. Moreover, the label of “hybrid actor” is itself part of the hybrid warfare waged by Western countries, among others.
The second part of the book, as one might guess, is devoted to the study of another concept—the “gray zone.” This part again begins with how Russia is labeled. This time Savin cites the example of a statement by Brian Clark of the Hudson Institute, who noted that “Russia is waging an aggressive war in the gray zone against Japan.” Thus, the author begins the topic for a new discussion—about the interpretations of the concept of the “gray zone.”
The second part also examines the evolution of the concept, giving interpretations by the U.S. State Department and Congress, as well as by major think-tanks such as RAND and CSIS. It is worth noting that many approaches are accompanied by illustrations in the form of diagrams, which makes it much easier to understand one or another interpretation of the “gray zone” concept. Savin considers two interpretations of the “gray zone”—as a disputed geographical area, and as an instrument of political struggle. The author presents the cases of China, which has disputed territories in the South China Sea, and Israel with its long-standing activity in the gray zone.
The concept of the “gray zone” is no less ambiguous than the previously considered concept. As in the case of hybrid war, Savin also believes that the “gray zone” in the coming years will serve as a special label for any actions of certain states, primarily Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. After reading this section, one can draw a conclusion similar to the one given earlier on hybrid warfare; and this is no accident: the concepts of “hybrid war” and “gray zone” are indeed very similar and interchangeable in many ways; it is not immediately clear what their difference is, and whether there is one at all. This is what the author devotes the third part of the book to.
Thus, in the third part, the political scientist combines the two concepts under study by analyzing various documents and studies in which “gray zone” and “hybrid warfare” act as synonyms. This part of the book definitively answers the question of whether a war can still be fought without direct combat operations. In addition, the last case study examined by the author, the Russian special operation in Ukraine, once again proves that the actors of hybrid warfare and actions in the “gray zones” are not only Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, but also the “collective” West. New instruments and methods of confrontation are indeed regularly introduced and tested in hot spots by different countries, including both Russia and NATO member states and other international actors.
As for the differences between the two terms, they are indeed difficult to define, and the third part of the book confirms this. As many of the studies examined by Savin show, mixing the concept of “gray zone” and “hybrid warfare” is indeed possible. This phenomenon is most clearly explained by Arsalan Bilal, a member of the Arctic University research group: “The hybrid war itself can take place in the gray zone, and the gray zone, respectively, creates conditions for the hybrid war.”
In summarizing, Savin repeats the thesis that the West will continue to label Russia a “hybrid actor” and accuse it of malicious actions in the gray zone, using political rhetoric and fabricated data to do so. In addition, Savin explains why it is important and necessary to study Western approaches and experience in hybrid warfare.
Speaking about the overall impression of the book, we can say without a doubt that it greatly adds to the body of knowledge on the topic of hybrid warfare, which is currently more relevant than ever. The book will be especially useful for those readers who study new forms of conflicts—information confrontation, cyber warfare, economic wars, etc.
It is also worth noting some nuances. First, despite the small size of the book, one cannot say that it is easy to read. It contains a lot of complex terminology, which is not suitable for the unprepared reader. But we should not forget that this work is intended for a specialist audience—researchers and theorists in the field of conflictology, international relations and military strategy; people who make political decisions and are engaged in the development of information content. In effect, to read this monograph, one must have a certain knowledge base, at least in the field of international relations.
Second, for the most part, the work describes Western research on the topic at hand. Although the author’s point of view and sentiment can be felt “between the lines” while reading the book, I would have liked to see more commentary and explicit discussion by Savin in the work. This would have helped to delve even deeper into the topic of hybrid wars and “gray zones,” as well as to better understand what Western experts are trying to convey to the readers of their works. An expert’s comments are never superfluous.
After reading this book, two important conclusions can be drawn. First, hybrid wars are a reality in which we will always have to exist. We ourselves are part of hybrid warfare; and, in many ways, we are its object. In the age of information society and technology, there is no other way—we have become part of this geopolitical reality whenever we access social networks, read the news, turn on the television, etc. We are all objects of pervasive influence, objects of an endless flow of information that serves the interests of one side or another of the hybrid warfare. The second conclusion, which follows from the first, is the need to be able to perceive critically any information. Even if the source is authoritative (and the sources given in the monograph are very authoritative), all of them also serve someone’s interests and are always biased, as Savin’s book readily proves.
Anastasia Tolokonina is a graduate student, Department of Journalism Theory and History, at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia. [This review comes to us at the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.]
Featured: “Die Schachpartie” (The Chess Game), by Lucas van Leyden; painted ca. 1508.
Hardly a day passes by without Europeans and Americans hearing about new statements coming from Ukrainian politicians. “We will win, we will stop Putin!” they say, and then ask for more arms. Ukraine has already received thousands of man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, along with hundreds of armored vehicles and howitzers. But it keeps asking for more. The Ukrainian military loses these weapons on the battlefield, where they fall into the hands of the Russians, who recently put seized Ukrainian weapons on display in the recently captured Lisichansk.
But many tons of military ammunition and hundreds of weapons never reach the frontlines, because they end up in the hands of numerous resellers, who sell them on the “black Internet.” These days, in Kyiv, you can get everything at a reasonable price, from a pistol all the way to a self-propelled howitzer.
The protracted conflict in Donbass has long been one of the main sources of weapons for numerous European extremists and Islamic terrorists, but now the sale of arms has become completely uncontrolled. On the very first day of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian authorities were already offering machineguns and rifles to just about everyone. Some of these weapons immediately ended up on the black market. Then followed offers for the sale of body armor, night vision devices, grenade launchers and MANPADS.
Such total corruption Europe has not been able to defeat, despite all its efforts to bring Ukraine into the EU. Ukrainian military supply officers are selling everything. The Russians recently announced that several new French and German self-propelled howitzers, delivered in perfect condition to Russian design bureaus for study, were not seized in battle, but bought at a big discount on the frontlines. But then this is not new, as some of the volunteer units of the Donbass separatists have long been actively buying loads of weapons and equipment from across the frontline.
The Europeans don’t really care much about who will be firing the Javelins, Zelensky’s soldiers or Donetsk separatists, as long as such weapons stay on the battlefield. European- and US-supplied weapons are up for grabs by anyone. “Stingers” can be had for a price ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, paid in cryptocurrency. With some patience, you can find reliable suppliers.
MANPADS are an ideal weapon for a terrorist attack—not a single civilian aircraft taking off or landing can be safe. Each rocket-launcher delivered to Ukraine comes with instructions in Ukrainian and English, in case it falls into the hands of an inexperienced soldier.
Bringing such weapons from Ukraine to elsewhere is a breeze, since with a good kickback the corrupt Ukrainian border officials will not only fail to inspect a particular car, but will also secure their Polish or Slovak colleagues’ agreement to let it through unhindered. So, perhaps at this very moment, somewhere outside the airports of Paris or Berlin, some ISIS radicals or militants of half-forgotten anarchist groups, or both, are taking up position. How many MANPADS sold in Ukraine will be enough to bring all air traffic across Europe to a standstill? Two, three, maybe five?
And how many weapons will the Islamists in Syria and Iraq get from Ukraine—including the very types capable of taking out NATO aircraft and armored vehicles of the renascent Iraqi army, which the US has been trying hard to prevent from falling into extremists’ hands? These are very uncomfortable questions for Europe and the US. In Western media, Ukrainians are portrayed as warriors of light, and few people in the US, Canada and Europe are really aware of the scope of corruption and theft that exists in Ukraine.
It would make a lot of sense to have the strictest possible electronic control over each potentially dangerous weapon, and sending EU representatives to Ukraine to oversee its use. But how many people will volunteer for this job? It would be more realistic to tighten controls along the entire length of Ukraine’s border with European countries, all the way to sending European representatives to Ukrainian customs. Even better would be to cancel Lend-Lease and other arms deliveries to Ukraine and leave the country (which is selling weapons it desperately needs to maintain its independent status) to its own devices.
Arms Transfer System
The Ukrainian army started total mobilization at the beginning of the Russian special operation. However, Russian-speaking residents of the East do not want to die for the Kiev elites. Many of them do not care who controls the regions in which they live. In Russia, salaries are significantly higher than in Ukraine and there is no language harassment.
The Russians have created a very profitable loophole for those who do not want to fight for anyone. It is even strange that they have not yet posted banners in the Ukrainian segment of the Internet—”Get Russian citizenship and an apartment in the Moscow region, in exchange for a Western self-propelled gun.”
How the Loophole Works
On the radio wave of the Ukrainian units, Russian negotiators persuade the artillerymen and tankers to advance to the indicated points and surrender with their equipment. In exchange—Russian documents, freedom and some money. The “Caesar,” “HIMARS” or PzH 2000 brought over is considered sufficient proof of loyalty that the military personnel who surrendered with such equipment would avoid internet and prison camps. With new documents, such Ukrainians start a new life somewhere in a cozy Ural city, far from the front line, and even send money in Bitcoin to their families so that they can come out to them.
Prices vary and are negotiated. For 2 “Caesars” the Russians gave $120,000, although their Ukrainian “partners” desperately bargained and asked for 2 million. However, freedom and Russian passports are also a significant part of the price paid. But one PzH 2000 self-propelled gun, according to various sources, cost the Russians more than $100,000. With this money (although the dollar has fallen significantly in value), you can buy a one-room apartment in the Moscow region. True, there is a significant problem—Russia cannot use the most interesting samples immediately after their purchase, as this poses a threat to the families of the military, who transferred such weapons.
Ukraine’s Western allies are well aware of such facts. In Kyiv, they are trying to fight defectors by creating detachments and even forming political commissars. However, a few days under Russian shelling greatly change the worldview of both local nationalists and regular officers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The result is a paradoxical situation. Part of the American Lend-Lease is being bought up cheaply by the Russians. Will Kyiv and its allies be able to find other ways to protect Western weapons from resale at the front? So far, it seems unlikely.
However, in addition to the Russians, Ukrainians also sell weapons to interested groups from the Middle East.
This is precisely why Ukrainian nationalists are firmly holding Odessa, forming their camps near it. These are fighters of Nazi battalions who work closely with foreign mercenaries who know quick ways to sell weapons.
Second: the weapons’ route passes through those territories that largely ignore such traffic. This is only natural, as they get a significant percentage for transit.
Third: Albania is the most suitable starting point both in logistics and in terms of the presence of serious criminal structures. Also, according to operational data, the smugglers have the logistical support of the Albanian intelligence service.
Slavisha Batko Milacic is a historian and independent analyst, and writes about the situation in the Balkans and Europe.