Liberty is both the greatest strength and greatest weakness of the Western World. On one hand, it’s one of the primary reasons the West, and the United States in particular, has dominated the world culturally, economically, politically, and scientifically for centuries. One the other hand, it hinders us by limiting the actions we can take to defend ourselves, lest we undermine the very values that make us strong. Because of this, it often feels like we have to choose between protecting ourselves and upholding our values, but I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it. The way I see it, the latter will always achieve the former.
I know it sounds a bit like a platitude to say that liberty will always be stronger than tyranny but it’s demonstrably true. While the power and prosperity of nations like China and Russia shows that there’s strength in tyranny, you need to consider the position of those nations in the world. As powerful as they are, they still stand in opposition to a world order that’s been modeled after Western systems, is guided by Western values, and is ruled by liberal democracies. Even dictators like Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have to pretend to support democracy and liberty because those are the rules in our world. That’s why both China and Russia are trying so hard to alter the world order; they’re tired of having to follow (or pretend to follow) our rules.
The alteration won’t be easy for them, however, and should they succeed, the new world order won’t be nearly as stable as the current one. Tyranny rarely breeds stability because humans are naturally inclined to oppose it, which is also why tyranny will always be weaker than liberty. We desire freedom and will fight to have it. If you look at the 2018 Fragile States Index, you’ll notice that very few of the stable nations on there are controlled by an authoritarian government, and neither China nor Russia are among them. So how can the two nations hope to defeat the liberal world order when they’re outmatched and outnumbered?
Well, I mentioned before that the greatest weakness of liberty is that it limits the actions we can take to defend ourselves, and our enemies have learned how to exploit this. Russia has become especially adept in this regard, using fake news to foment civil unrest, influence public opinion, and widen the divides between different groups with relative ease. It’s genuinely terrifying how effective this propaganda is at stirring up people’s emotions and turning them against one another. It makes civil discourse and compromise, both of which are essential for our democracy to function properly, almost impossible. What’s worse is that there’s not much we can do to combat it without undermining our own values, which more or less leaves us at the mercy of Russian propaganda.
As Yuzi Bezmenov, a former KGB informant who defected to Canada, explains in this video from 1983, this has been going on since well before the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s all part of a decades-long operation which uses social engineering to create multiple generations of Americans that will unwittingly destroy the nation from within. In the video, he describes how the Soviet Union was using left-wing movements to influence young Americans in an effort to create an army of “progressives” who will seek to undermine capitalism and democracy in the guise of fighting for social justice. I strongly recommend you watch the video yourself; it’s incredible how prescient his predictions for what the United States would look like in the 2010s were.
Obviously, the Russian Federation picked up where the Soviet Union left off, the only difference being that it’s not limiting itself to just left-wing movements. The rise of various alt-right groups throughout the United States can be attributed, at least to some extent, to Russian propaganda. What’s funny is that many leftists will use this as evidence that the movement is bad, not knowing that their movements may very well be a product of Russian propaganda as well. This hypocritical blaming is exactly what Russia wants. It wants us all to attack each other, blame each other, condemn each other, and just generally refuse to engage in the kind of rational conversations needed to actually solve anything. It wants to weaken our democracy by corrupting the most important part of a democracy: the people.
That’s how our enemies will destroy us, if we allow them. Not by destroying us directly, but by manipulating us into destroying ourselves by abandoning the systems and values that define us and make us strong. As for how we can combat this, you’ll have to check out my followup article.