Raison d’état is the doctrine that certain acts that are immoral or sinful when committed in private life (e.g., lies, theft, murder) are acceptable when done by political leaders (kings, presidents, prime ministers) to protect or advance important state interests. The doctrine might also be called Machiavellianism, for it was Machiavelli in The Prince who gave the classic defense of this doctrine.
This was a justification of what might be called small-scale or limited or finite political wickedness.
But in the 20th century, perhaps the most wicked century in the history of the human race, a variant of this doctrine emerged, a monstrous variant. Let us call it raison de révolution. According to this new doctrine, enormous or gigantic wickedness is justified in order to protect or advance a great Revolution. This doctrine was on full display in the Russian Bolshevik Revolution and in the German Nazi Revolution.
Unlike Machiavelli, however, who conceded that wickedness is still wickedness even though it may sometimes be necessary, our 20th century revolution-makers held that wickedness (e.g., propaganda lies, mass murder) is not wicked if it contributes to the success of the revolution. On the contrary, it is virtuous. On at least one occasion Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS, praised his men for retaining their decency even though they had to perform the rather disagreeable duty of murdering Jews – a duty all decent men would naturally prefer not doing were it not for their commitment to the high ideals of Nazism.
In the USA we have many people with revolutionary hearts and minds – mostly young people who are radically dissatisfied with the old America, the America that they believe (simply, as if the history of America were nothing else):
- stole the continent from its Indigenous Peoples;
- kept Africans and their descendants enslaved for hundreds of years (beating them and raping them);
- imposed a Jim Crow system on “free” blacks after the Civil War;
- never raised serious objection, despite the “created equal” words of the Declaration of Independence, to the persistence of enormous social and economic inequalities;
- allowed capitalists to exploit workers and condemn them to lives of misery;
- allowed capitalists to rape the environment in order to increase their billions;
- created a moral culture marked by racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia;
- used its immense military and economic power to oppress the Third World;
- refuses to allow refugees from Third World tyranny and cruelty to enter the USA;
- imposed (until recently) a puritanical sex morality on young and old;
- refused (until just the other day) to allow LGBTQ+ people to “be themselves;
- falsified the benign religion of love and tolerance created by that gentle first-century rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth.
Now, if we have revolutionaries in the USA, shouldn’t we expect them to adopt the theory of raison de révolution? Shouldn’t we expect them to justify enormous crimes? And shouldn’t we expect them to tell enormous lies?
“But they are not doing this,” you may say.
“Yes, they are,” I reply.
For one, they are justifying, and have been justifying for decades now, the mass murder of unborn babies – which they, being linguistically delicate persons, call “terminating a pregnancy.” As they see it, the right to abortion is a great step forward on our long march toward an ideal American society. In this ideal society everybody will be free; and if we are to be free we must be sexually free; and for men and women to be sexually free, women must have a right to abortion.
For another, they tell enormous lies, the kind of lies that a statesman operating under the old raison d’état rubric (let’s say Bismarck or Putin) would be ashamed to tell. They say, for instance, that an unborn human is not human, that same-sex marriage is natural, that a boy/man may become a girl/woman, and vice versa, simply by declaring himself/herself to be such.
We Americans, I contend, are in the middle of a great revolution, comparable in many ways to the Communist Revolution in Russia and the Nazi Revolution in Germany. One of the great differences between earlier European revolutionists and our present-day American revolutionists is that our Americans, having profited from the mistakes made by Communists and Nazis, proceed gradually, not suddenly. If, for example, you shoot priests and nuns and ordained ministers, you may wake the Christians up, and they may fight back.
And so, if you wish to get rid of Christianity (which is of course precisely what our revolutionists wish to do), please don’t be overly aggressive; above all, don’t be violent. Instead, destroy it with a slow squeeze. As the religion dies, its adherents, most of them little more than nominal adherents in any case, will hardly notice what’s happening.
And if these proponents of gradual revolution are lucky, Christians will cooperate with them, mistaking the goals of the revolution for the values of Christianity. The revolutionists, if they play their cards correctly, may even be so lucky as to win the cooperation of the Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington DC. This Prince of the Church may announce to the world that he has no intention of denying the Eucharist to our Catholic President, Mr. Biden, even though Mr. Biden not only approves of abortion (not to mention same-sex marriage) but proposes to compel taxpayers, including those taxpayers who consider abortion to be homicide, to pay for it.
How much wiser this is than shooting priests and nuns. It takes a little longer, but it’s so much smoother to get rid of Christianity this way, by allowing the Christians, or at least the Catholics, to say: “Please allow us to make our religion commit suicide.” And when, years from now, Cardinal Gregory goes to meet his Maker, we will praise him not only for being the first African-American cardinal but for being a Church leader who, by not “obsessing” about abortion, made a vital contribution to the post-Trump restoration of American unity.