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The American security state comes home Biden is cynically weaponising democracy

“You are either with us or against us” (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“You are either with us or against us” (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


and
September 22, 2022   5 mins

President Joe Biden likes to tout the exceptionalism of “our democracy”. It is, he said in his commemorative remarks on the 9/11 attacks, “that which makes us unique in the world”. He also likes to tout the idea that “our democracy” is under threat. “We have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to defend, preserve, and protect our democracy,” he continued. “The very democracy that those terrorists on 9/11 sought to bury in the burning fire and smoke and ash.”

Put to one side the fact that the impetus for al-Qaeda terrorism was not “our democracy” but America’s liberal hegemony and military interventionism abroad — the exaggerations in this dramatic piece of historical revisionism echoed a speech Biden had made in Philadelphia mere days earlier. Speaking in an eerie set-up at Independence Hall, Biden had warned against the threat of a different terror, closer to home — from “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans”, who “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic”. According to him, they promote “political violence” and “undermine democracy itself”.

After 21 years, it appears we have gone full circle: the War on Terror’s “you are either with us or against us” mentality has come home. Where George W. Bush used American exceptionalism as a basis for militarism and political absolutism, Biden has leveraged democratic exceptionalism — weaponising the mythos of democracy for partisan gains.

Seen together, Biden’s speeches highlight the often-overlooked synergy between domestic and foreign policy: his rhetoric depicts his administration’s war against the amorphous spectre of  “MAGA fascism” at home and its stated goal of militarily defeating autocracies abroad as two sides of the same coin. These speeches could ensnare sceptics on all sides of the spectrum, enmeshing them in false equivalencies. Deny the Establishment’s liberal internationalist foreign policy and risk being brandished as one of the “extremists” at home; defend America’s civil liberties and due process toward January 6 rioters, and you are in league with Vladimir Putin. This is troubling for any critic of US policy in Ukraine or Taiwan right now, especially the voices of anti-interventionism on the Left. Such voices are already under pressure to conform to the party line and self-censor their restrained positions for fear of being associated with Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans.

Admittedly, the military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year was a breath of fresh air. But the Biden administration still exhibits decidedly hawkish attitudes, as showcased by the Alaska summit, the rhetoric around toppling Putin, and the recent security pledge to Taiwan. And to justify them, it spins an ideological narrative, centred on the existential clash between democracies and autocracies. What’s more, this invented Manichaeanism can be used to browbeat political opponents at any time. Put simply, in addition to creating a moralistic concept of statecraft to use abroad, this existential framework is used to silence those critical of American military interventionism and liberal hegemony, such as the foreign policy realists and restrainer critics of the Blob in Washington.

This form of language game is designed to coerce critics into feigned obeisance, valorise the liberal hawks as the crux of the Democratic party, and undermine the remnants of the Anti-War Movement on the Left. It is perhaps ironic — if always inevitable — that the global Democracy Crusade would come home to haunt Americans. The abstract and ominous nature of “authoritarianism” is a convenient way to dismiss Trump supporters en masse as sympathisers with global tyranny — and to disingenuously equate realism and restraint with Trumpism.

This is an absurd equation. The Trump administration housed many globalists such as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, who used their tenure to advocate for “maximum pressure” against Iran, call for regime change in Venezuela, and facilitate the bombing of Syria. Moreover, criticism of US liberal imperium, and the “liberal international order” it has masterminded, comes from both sides of the political divide; it is neither partisan nor the exclusive domain of populists. While the logic of democratic exceptionalism has been routinely — if selectively — applied to justify liberal interventionism abroad, this agenda has an atrocious track record. It should remain open to criticism from all quarters, particularly in a democratic republic.

After all, the conventional wisdom underpinning the promotion of democracy as a foreign policy objective has now been seriously challenged. Such policies have routinely failed, especially because they tend to focus on the performative and procedural elements of democracy, rather than strengthening effective governance — an approach that masks profound systemic dysfunction. America’s failed policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti are perhaps the most notable examples, but so too are challenges in West Africa, where the US has been compelled to devise a new approach. The failure to prevent an anti-democratic coup in Myanmar, meanwhile, underscores the limitations of US geopolitical reach.

In a different era — at the height of the Cold War, perhaps — Biden’s Manichaean rhetoric might have been a rallying cry for many nations in the developed and developing world. But today’s era is multipolar. Nations, especially in the Global South, are unshackled from the ideological straitjacket of the Cold War and its perception of shared global threats; they are driven instead by the pursuit of economic prosperity and recovering their regional and civilisational strength. America’s democracy agenda rings hollow.

The same is true at home. American public opinion has grown weary of the activist and internationalist posture of US foreign policy, embodied by decades of endless wars. Democracy promotion is no longer seen as an effective way to advance core US geopolitical interests. The US ruling class has therefore sought to adapt and reframe America’s global adventures and interventionism in terms of a domestic threat that would presumably be more easily marketable to the American public.

This logic has now become the operating principle behind what may be called the Biden Doctrine, which is expected to be unveiled in the administration’s forthcoming National Security Strategy. It holds that the fight for democracy is incessant, totalising, and all-encompassing. That neutralising the alleged threat of fascism at home, personified by MAGA and former president Trump, is part of a larger apocalyptic struggle to defend the liberal international order abroad.

The Biden Doctrine elevates “democratic exceptionalism” as the ideal trope with which to advance its foreign and domestic agenda, while using it as political mallet to normalise any efforts to silence, cancel, and discredit dissent. The latter has long historical precedents with the US ruling class in the 20th century: it echoes the US. establishment’s support for anti-German hysteria in the First World War, the internment of Japanese Americans in the Second World War, and the persecution of American socialists during the McCarthy era.

The underlying conviction is that in the increasingly polarised America, securitisation and weaponisation of threat, through its identification with domestic enemies, is a viable galvanising force — one that justifies and maintains the imperial controls of the state. In this neo-Jacobin milieu, democratism offers a crucible with which to meld and cohere domestic preferences with foreign ambitions.

During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden stressed the importance of building an “alliance of values” based on democratic principles. After two years on the job, his goal of democratic resurgence has become double-edged: to defeat political opponents at home and confront hegemonic challengers abroad. Biden might consider this double-edged agenda “a battle for the soul” of the United States and the “challenge of our time”. But this existential, ideologically-charged language only underscores the need for a sober assessment of this worldview — particularly at a time when America’s credibility as a model democracy is in doubt and its ability to lead remains uncertain.


Arta Moeini is the Director of Research at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy and founding editor of AGON.

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JP Edwards
JP Edwards
1 year ago

The hegemony of big tech, with the connivance of the Democrats and the mainstream msm, in suppressing any story that may keep the Democrats from office is the modern tyranny against democracy. Not a bunch of hill billies that the police allowed to stroll around the Whitehouse. If the Hunter Biden story had not been suppressed and it persuaded 2 people in a hundred to switch from Democrat to Republican Trump would be in the Whitehouse.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago
Reply to  JP Edwards

According to Dr Malone, the scientist who patented mRNA vaccine tech in 1989 – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office developed first the internet, then Facebook, Twitter, and google to spy on USA and the world. (CIA basically – but on steroids.) Here you can hear him say that beginning about minute 30 – and he spent his 30 years as a Bio scientist working with the USA CIA and DOD – so is the man who knows All the secrets.

https://rumble.com/v1kulc1-dr.-malone-on-the-importance-of-christian-community-moving-forward-cias-inv.html

Last edited 1 year ago by Aaron James
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

While I respect Malone, the DARPA project was developed as a way to create an unbreakable network to survive war. The social networks and search were created as independent entities, upgraded from previous failed attempts by private companies. They can be used to collect information by the government but were not constructed for the purpose. I helped elements of developing the internet via the standards effort. The CIA AFIK had nothing to do with it. DARPA’s great success has been keeping it’s hands away from developers in micromanaging things.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  JP Edwards

We all know the game plan, which has been in effect for about 4 years now. If anyone disagrees with the totalitarianism of today’s left, they are a threat to democracy.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

If you weaponise democracy in your favour you will find it works equally well when your political opponents take their turn.
Another example of unintended consequences.

Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

If your political opponents are in fact able to take their turn. Unfortunately American politics are beginning to look more like that of a Banana Republic than a functioning democracy.

Addie Shog
Addie Shog
1 year ago

“The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a breath of fresh air”
Oh yes, simply magnificent.

I don’t know what these authors are inhaling but it isn’t fresh air.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Addie Shog

Afghanistan had a chance at a new freedom, now gone. Whether it was ever possible depended on their efforts now made much more difficult.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Being an Islamic nation it never had a chance at freedom. An ideology akin to Naziism will not lead anyone to freedom.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Addie Shog

Thanks for pointing out THIS absurdity (there were several in this article). One thing I love about Unheard (apart from Mary Harrington and occasionally a few others) is that the readers NEVER in their comments fail to hold to account the authors of these fuzzy (yet somehow left-wing) articles that mix and match sneaky baloney with a few “facts”.

The Afghanistan statement that you quote is exhibit A – the author’s agenda suddenly becomes clear: softly refute Biden’s claims about “MAGA Republicans” being evil fascists, and then switch to strongly explaining to us how good Biden (who is a moron as well as evil) is at foreign policy.

No mention of his Iran “negotiations” that acted as cover while Biden (or his puppeteers if you prefer – somebody) gave the green light for Russia tô build $10BB of nuclear reactors in Iran (just before the invasion in late February) and sits by while knowing that Iran has agreed to ship Russian oil for it, to places where Russia is prohibited. Clearly these guys are aces.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago

I think Unherd should assign one of the more sober writers to put this into some kind of understandable order, then run it thought the bias meter to see if it is as agenda favoring as it seems.

Biden has set his Cerberus creature Merric Garland loose on all which is Decent, Patriotic, Moral, Just, and American – wile opening the border to every kind of Cartel criminal, trafficker, and unskilled laborour to take the work from all the American unskilled workers to create poverty in minority communities, and for another summer of rioting, wile also costing a Trillion in social spending on them wile they flood the schools in non-English speakers… Biden is amazing, I think he will single handed bring about the Great Reset, when you throw in his Recession by stopping energy production, Inflation by mad money printing, and a world famine and depression by his Russian war and sanctions……But then the FBI put him in office, so this is a big problem…

Biden is really doing a job on America and the world – maybe the writer can try writing the article again.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aaron James
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

You are mostly correct, except it’s not Biden who is making these decisions. He is merely the sock puppet.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

I agree a re-work would be helpful. The intermix of internal vs external efforts with claims of democracy are a bit confusing. Internally Biden is about as anti-democratic as a President could be but the public is quite aware of the hypocrisy. Externally, the US might make noises about democracy but seems realistic about possibilities. There was an effort in nation building, thinking that would be welcomed. Such efforts assume cultures can be changed, an impossible task. The public is a bit tired of trying to be the world’s policeman. Still, one seems needed and the UN hasn’t the capability.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Sadly, “the world’s policeman” is a dangerous concept, flawed at its inception. Do you remember Gene Hackwood’s Sheriff in Eastwood’s The Unforgiven?

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
1 year ago

I liked the headline and the drop head; agree completely.
The rest of the piece is nothing more than word salad.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  Buena Vista

This I why I find outlines to be useful writing tools.

Mark Chadwick
Mark Chadwick
1 year ago

The fact is that we in the West have leaders who range from delusional and incompetent through to outright stupid, and more often than not a combination of two or three of those things. Our own leaders are more of a danger to us than they are to those who would seek to harm us.

Paul Reynolds
Paul Reynolds
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Chadwick

Team Biden is very dangerous! Team all about winning the election. Then Team will try to see if Team can mobilize conscripts for the war in Europe to “save democracy and save the world”. “Do the right thing, fight for your country”. Fighting for his country led Beau Biden into trauma, sadness and illness he never recovered from.

Paul Reynolds
Paul Reynolds
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Chadwick

Team also doesn’t give a damn about rail workers who live and work as slaves, basically. Team claimed a “win” in support of these workers when nothing has been done or voted on to actually improve their working conditions. Something is going to break, whether Team likes it or not.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Chadwick

In the last few years we should have learned that sometimes the old adage needs to be reversed.

Do not ascribe to incompetence that which is better explained by malice.

That are not stupid or incompetent. Their goals are much different than you think.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Johnson
R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

This article treats Bidsn like he isn’t a senile quasi-vegetable lacking mental capacity. He barely knows where he is at any given moment, let alone capable of promoting a geopolitical doctrine.

Paul Reynolds
Paul Reynolds
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Biden sometimes sounds halfway good with a solid and basic boilerplate speech in front of him, like at the UN yesterday. It led to widespread praise, read youtube comments. They believe in Team Biden! My father at the same stage of advancing dementia could also sound solid if you gave him something to read in large print, that wasn’t too fancy.
The big problem with Biden is – he’s a man of poor character. Dishonest. He just is, factually, a dishonest man – fundamentally corrupt. Simple truth about a man so complicated and contradictory – for example, a Catholic who has to support the LGBTQ+ agenda for politics sake – I sense that his own soul will never let him rest and find God and peace of mind. So you get the very short temper. He lashes out stupidly and coldly. “you’re a lying, dog faced pony soldier” (oh, it was a joke! no, it was just cruel, stupid mental garbage coming out of his aging brain)

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Reynolds

Very True!

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Reynolds

He also appears to be deeply immoral, and quite happy to cover up the disgraceful behaviour of others when it suits.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Apparently Biden was most disappointed not to hear ” Bohemian Rhapsody” at the funeral as it was his favourite Queen song…

Mark Chadwick
Mark Chadwick
1 year ago

He probably thought Helen Mirren had died.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Chadwick

If they had played “How Great Thou Art,” Biden would have thought the song was about himself.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

Slightly off-topic, but anyone with a Linked-In account should message Vincent Belloc, UK Paypal boss and let him know what you think of his attack on the FSU.

rob clark
rob clark
1 year ago

Excellent piece. I am so sick of all the battle cries to save “our democracy” from the Washington establishment.

Will Cummings
Will Cummings
1 year ago

I saw a big guy standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. There was something disturbing about him. He was wearing a red MAGA hat and a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt. He stood patiently in line with a beatific expression. The anxiety and confusion emanating from the rest of the us in line was palpable. I wanted to ask him what it meant; why did he flaunt such heresy? …but the truth is that I was afraid to ask, lest he was mocking us. We all stood and watched in hushed silence while he paid for his food and toiletries and strode out of the store into the autumnal light of the vanishing day, the last true extremist, the Messiah of contradictory truth.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Cummings

My reading of that situation would be: he stole someone’s cap.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Cummings

I think he was trolling. But no where does MAGA incite hatred against black Americans.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Cummings

My take would have been that he was just taking the mickey on virtue-signalers. Cognitive dissonance can be constructive humor.
I do know my best smile of the week was to drive by a festering Bidenville of the “unhoused” and see that not one, but a few, of the unfortunates had repurposed suburban virtue-signaling Ukrainian flags as shelters.

Last edited 1 year ago by E. L. Herndon
David Yetter
David Yetter
1 year ago

As I have cynically and repeatedly noted in many online forums, when an American Democrat says “democracy”, esp. preceded by “our”, he or she does not mean rule by the δῆμος. He or she means rule by Democrats.
Thus, definitionally any faction of the Republican party likely to win elections is “a threat to our democracy”. Likewise the decision in Dobbs, which returned abortion policy to democratically elected state legislatures was “anti-democratic”, an absurd notion if the word has its standard English meaning, but perfectly sensible if one accepts my cynical observation: more state legislatures are controlled by the Republicans than by the Democrats. The FBI cajoling social media companies to censor the news story about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the run-up to the 2020 election is no “threat to democracy”, but allowing abrasive Republican politicians to post on social media is “a threat to our democracy”. I trust the reader can find many other examples where the Democrats and American media (but I repeat myself) use the word “democracy” in ways which would be absurd if it were used with its standard English meaning, but make sense if it means control of government by the American Democratic Party.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Yetter
Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago

The existential clash between democracy and autocracy is not an ideological narrative and is not just coming from the US. This is a propaganda piece.

Last edited 1 year ago by Max Price
Mark Chadwick
Mark Chadwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

Agreed. Here in the UK I see Liz Truss as the biggest threat to us. Is she in the UN right now to speak on behalf of the British people? No. She’s there to ramp up the war in Ukraine and send billions of pounds which our poor need here.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago

Admittedly, the military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year was a breath of fresh air. 
This is a good article, and I’ll be excerpting it to Twitter. But the above quote needs unpacking. Leaving a Taliban with massive armament at their disposal is not my idea of fresh air.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Well done America! Not satisfied with one toe- curlingly embarrasing joke in Trump, you get a second Larry David ” Keeping Up Appearances” character in Biden… When he was over, I had heard that King Charles was going to knight him with the title ” Sir Niall de Mentia”, but the idea was binned as he got all excited at Lady GaGa being his wife!

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

Isn’t Biden’s lurch into authoritarianism mostly driven by the sure knowledge that if the republicans win in November he’ll be impeached, probably successfully, and Hunter will almost certainly go to jail? They have to be stopped at any cost, even if it takes much more of the widespread electoral fraud at which the democrats have always been so adept.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago

What a brilliant essay. This journal is the real exemplar of democracy. How important that is just now.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago

“You’re either for us or against us” is the principle on which the USA was born. No nuance permitted. Why would it change now?

John 0
John 0
1 year ago

Biden is just trying to turn up the energy with voters. No one takes him seriously, and that is not really new.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

It does become harder to reject talk about ‘US Democracy being under threat’ when one of the main parties systematically refuses to accept the outcome of votes.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Yes, I’m also sick of hearing about Russian collusion for the last four years.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Not exactly the same, is it? Democrats may claim that Trump only won because of various dirty tactics, but they have never denied that they actually lost. Hilary Clinton conceded, as did Gore in an earlier election. Orange Man says the election was stolen and still claims he won it. And I read recently that a number of Republicans lower down the ticket refuse to say in advance they will abide by the next election result.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances, because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch, and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is . . . We’ve got to have a massive legal operation, I know the Biden campaign is working on that” – Hillary Clinton, 3 months before 2020 election. Both sides had pretty much the same strategy lined up if they lost. The hypocrisy is getting so tiresome.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Link, please?
OK, I found it. What she did say is that Biden should not concede *on the night*, and that the Democrats should be ready to fight the long-drawn-out legal battle over the election that she – correctly – expected the Republicans would mount. Not a good thing to say, but not the same as refusing to accept the election result

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

There was something fishy about the election. The minute it looked like Trump was going to win, there was a voting count blackout. Everything just stopped. As soon as it resumed Biden had all of a sudden sprung ahead. It may indeed have just been a glitch in the system, it may not have been. I guess we’ll never fully know…

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Already before the election the prediction was that democrat votes would surge late in the count, because postal votes are counted later and postal votes were more democrat, and people were wondering whether republicans would go in tilt over that. All this duly happened.

‘We may never fully know’, but, then, you never fully know anything. In a democracy you either come up with the evidence and follow the complaints procedures, or you accept that you lost. Gore, in his concession speech said that he disagreed with the Supreme Court decision, but that the procedures had been followed and he conceded he had lost and accepted that Bush was the rightful president. Compare Trump …

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I prefer elections without shenanigans. One of the main parties seems to be quite adept at them.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Buena Vista

Which one do you mean? I honestly do not know.