Paul Schmutz Schaller for The Saker Blog
From a global point of view, the most important political question is certainly whether you stay on the side of the USA/Western hegemonism or whether you stay on the side of China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, or, in short, of a post-Western world. Once this question is decided, the next problem today is obviously – as I see it in Switzerland – that of your position towards the political situation in the USA. Simply put, are you for Trump or for Biden? Be aware that I discuss this question from outside the USA; I am not interested in something like „who is my president“.
First of all, this concerns a contradiction within the enemy camp. Both sides in the USA are utterly hostile to the development of a post-Western world. Both sides cannot even imagine that the USA should just be a normal country like others, with their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, it would be completely wrong to identify with one side against the other.
This being said, one should not underestimate the contradiction inside the enemy forces. This is not just a show. The US society is really divided and nobody can realistically expect that this will end with the elections in November. So, one can conclude that there are crucial things at stake. It is essential to understand the contradictions in order to better understand the development in the enemy camp. Only with such an understanding, one will be able to possibly decide which side is the lesser evil.
Here is another introductory remark. Presently, the situation is rather confusing and paradox. On the one hand, the political situation inside the USA is quite explosive and one would expect that new ideas emerge. But neither side proposes something innovative, not even something dynamic. Neither side seems to be up to date. Trump intends to continue his program while Biden just proposes old wine in (not even) new bottles. This might be a clear sign that the ruling class in the USA is getting ponderous and unimaginative. On the other hand, it is not excluded that some surprises will happen during the next months; they even may severely change the situation.
The West is Outdated as a Model
The Western model is based on so-called liberal democracy, Western understanding of human rights, worldwide economical power by big Western companies, domination of the banking system – using among other things the dollar, the World Bank, and the IMF – and the military power of the US army and the NATO. A big ideological influence, including Western dominated media and film production, has to be added. Intentionally, I do not speak here of the damages, the Western countries have caused to the world through colonialism, massacres, slavery, imperialist wars, brutal oppression, murders, sanctions.
Obviously, the Western model is declining. „Everybody“ speaks of the 21st century as the Asian century. All trends show that Asia will become – and by far – the continent with the strongest economy. And it is already clear that the Western model does not play – and will not play – a central role in Asia. Therefore, there is not only an economical shift to Asia, the shift is much deeper. All countries will have to adapt to this shift. In my eyes, this is the underlying reason for the contradictions in the ruling class of the USA.
From this point of view, the Trump’s approach is quite logical. Namely, try to strengthen US influence in important Asian countries, for example in India. Base the US politics less on Western Europe, use NATO more as a disciplining instrument, than as a direct military threat. Try to expand the narrow frame of the G7 (in alphabetical order: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, USA) in order to improve the own battle line against China. Incidentally, Trump called – quite correctly – the G7 a „very outdated group of countries“ which does not „properly represents what’s going on in the world“.
As a consequence, Trump is very unpopular in the countries of Western Europe. The latter feel that they are like expelled from paradise by Trump’s approach. Until now, they are not able to admit the shift to Asia and to openly discuss the consequences. Their nostalgic feelings remain too strong. The center-left political parties in particular vehemently defend the – outdated – Western model and keep their pathological idea of the moral superiority of the West. Here is a recent example from Switzerland. The economy minister planed to make his first foreign visit after the pandemic to China, surely a very clever idea; the Social-Democratic Party – of course – criticized this plan. Unfortunately, the plan had to be canceled due to the existing anti-pandemic measures in China.
As I said, the Trump’s approach has objective reasons. However, during his presidency, he was not really successful. His aim to unite other Asian countries against China and Iran is not logical and is a failure. Apparently, there are not many hardliners and warmongers among the Asian countries. While there are of course deep disagreements between Asian countries, their intention to fight wars is not very enthusiastic. Moreover, the existing war against Syria as well as the existing war against Yemen turn out to be shameful defeats for the attacking countries.
North Korea was Trump’s first try to unite Asian countries against a common „enemy“. But it became clear that a war against North Korea had too few support in East Asia. With respect to North Korea, Trump was able to change his politics (but not consequently enough). With respect to China and Iran, he has not showed similar flexibility. This is a crucial weakness of Trump’s approach. His aggressive attitude is not welcomed in most Asian countries.
Biden’s ideas about these subjects are not very clear. As a tendency, he is closer to the nostalgic feelings of Western Europe. He seems to see it as a virtue to be more anti-Chinese and anti-Russian than Trump. But Biden’s ideas about Asia remain very foggy. He probably thinks that it is sufficient to be noticed as anti-Trump.
As a conclusion, I would say that Trump’s general approach to world politics is more rational than Biden’s. But Trump’s approach cannot be a success as long as he tries to rush Asian countries against each other.
The Western Model Inside the USA
While the worldwide decline of the Western model can be observed for quite a while now, it is relatively new that this model is also more and more outdated in the USA. Objectively speaking, the US society is much more an oligarchy than a liberal democracy. The direct influence of money on politics is much bigger in the USA than in Western Europe. This is quite well known. But what is a rather new development, is the fact that the losing side – in 2016 – did never accept the defeat. This does not correspond to the model of liberal democracy. The probability is very high that this trend will continue after the elections in November.
With his rhetoric against the Washington’s political establishment, Trump is nearer to the reality than the other side. But what he concretely wants, remains quite unclear. We can see a similar picture as with world politics. Again, the Trump’s approach is more rational, but is not really convincing in its execution. Biden’s approach is more based on illusions and is not helpful for the understanding of the changing US society.
The evolutions of the last months have accentuated the problems of the US society. The ultra individualism and the broad missing of social security have proved to be huge obstacles for a successful fight against the pandemic. The image of the USA has suffered a big blow in Western Europe during this crisis.
An important economic recession is the consequence of the pandemic. Moreover, there are these social unrests which usually – but very imprecisely – are described as the „Black lives matter“ movement. How will the US society – as a divided society – be able to manage these challenges? This question will certainly dominate the political discussion in the USA during the coming months. A satisfactory solution will be far from easy, also since somebody like F.D. Roosevelt is not available. What will be the result? We can only speculate. I would say that probably, the inner conflicts in the US society will escalate further. It is even possible that the Western model will be formally changed, at least in some points.
In this context, I would like to add some comments concerning the question of a coming collapse of the USA. By the way, I doubt that an empire can collapse. The examples which come to my mind, are not in this sense. Rome was invaded by foreign troops. Napoleon was beaten by other European powers. The Nazis were defeated by the troops of the USSR and allied countries. The British empire was overpowered by anti-colonial struggles and by the fact that – after World War II – USA and USSR were stronger. The USSR was superseded by a number of independent states as a result of political decisions. This seems to indicate that empires may well lose power, but are replaced by other, already existing, forces.
When I hear of a coming collapse of the USA, the replacing forces are never mentioned, as far as I know. It gives me the impression that the USA can just break apart like porcelain dishes. There might be some examples for this in human history, but it is certainly not the rule. In my eyes, concentrating on a coming collapse is dangerous. One should always ask who will follow. At the moment, I cannot see positive forces who could succeed in the USA to the US empire. However, generally speaking, things can always get worse. If there is more and more chaos in the USA, the danger that worse groups come to power is much bigger than the contrary. So, this discussion about a coming collapse of the USA is quite careless. In some sense, it reminds me of an attitude some 50 years ago when there were people in Western Europe saying that more bombs on Vietnam is a good thing since as a result, the resistance will get stronger.
Back to the Question: Who is the Lesser Evil?
We should be aware that these elections in the USA have two aspects. On the one hand, the question is who is the better candidate. On the other hand, the question is also whether Trump has well done his job. Obviously, it is the strategy of Biden to focus on the second question. That is his right. He would appreciate that „Trump or not Trump“ is the central issue. However, this also shows his weaknesses. I do not see any point where Biden is better than Trump, quite the contrary. So, it would be absurd to support Biden against Trump. On the other hand, Trump has had his chance and he was not really convincing. His anti-Iranian, anti-Chinese, and anti-Venezuelan politics are thoroughly wrong. His murder of Soleimani, his hostility against Syria and Hezbollah, and his veneration of Israel are abominable. A support of Trump against Biden is wholly impossible for me, morally speaking, even if I see him as the better candidate. This is why I cannot give a clear answer to the question of the lesser evil, at least not for now.