Harry Truman: Affirming the Political
Here is what President Truman said about the need to defend the countries in Southeast Asia, after WW II: If these countries were to be “lost,” it would be “a terrible defeat for the ideals of freedom – with grave spiritual consequences for men everywhere who share our faith in freedom.” [Cited in The Brothers]
Take note that for Truman a political loss is a spiritual loss, meaning conversely that a political win is a spiritual win. Political health is spiritual health. So, if one embraces the proper politics, one is spiritually healthy. And your enemies threaten not only your military security or your economic health; they also threaten your spirituality, your soul. Enemies like that should not only be defeated but annihilated or eradicated so as to protect your spirituality, your humanness, your virtues, your soul. Or, in Cold War terms, such enemies should be contained as a prelude to being eradicated.
By affirming the political as Truman does, it’s through politics that humans are saved, redeemed, spiritualized, made virtuous, or sanctified. So, political life should be totalitarian, needs to be totalitarian in order to achieve its goals. Nothing less than a total effort politically is desirable. After all, our humanity and the humanity of others is at stake.
However, if political life is in fact characterized by different and competing regimes, all of them being both just and unjust, then the affirmation of the political is, at the very least, controversial. In fact, the affirmation of the political seems to lead to tyranny, even to look like madness.
And referring to the Cold War that Truman was overseeing, while anti-communism was important, once the political is affirmed anti-communism is no longer essential in determining the character of American politics. US politics would have been imperialistic even without the presence of communists and communism. So, it shouldn’t have been surprising that US politics changed very little even after the demise of the Soviet Union and its communistic regime. The same may be said of 9/11 as well, that US politics changed very little after those attacks. Bill Kristol’s wish, prior to those attacks, for a “Pearl Harbor type event” merely illustrated that like Carl Schmitt, Kristol had affirmed the political and wanted others to do so as well. [Kristol: a “Straussian?” Not so much.]