To Make America Great Again, We Need to Win the Ideological War

“We have awakened a sleeping giant.” These words are attributed to Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, the mastermind behind the Pearl Harbor attack. Whoever said them, they accurately describe American policy towards totalitarian regimes. It can be characterized as hibernation during the ideological war that totalitarianism has been waging against us.

That war began immediately after the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia and gave birth to the totalitarian world. That world grew rapidly with the creation of the Soviet Union, then with Nazism coming to power in Germany, and later with communism expanding to Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, and other countries. The ideological war against the free world lasts for more than a century, and most of this time America sleeps, pretending not to see it and hoping that it will dissipate.

However, this war does not dissipate, and this war is not so cold. Totalitarianism not only kills millions of its citizens but also invades other countries. And we sometimes either try to resist its offensive, as in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Berlin and Cuban missile crises, or more often we turn a blind eye and allow the expansion and aggression of totalitarianism to continue with impunity.

Moreover, in our lethargic sleep, we often forget that totalitarian countries are our main existential enemies, and instead of trying to weaken them, we help them become stronger economically and militarily. That was the case with the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, when we helped with its industrialization, which raised its economy from ruins. That was the case with China when we encouraged its transformation from a poor, backward country into our main economic and military adversary.

In those rare moments, however, when America woke up, it truly became a giant that crushed the enemy. That was the case with German Nazism. That was the case with Soviet communism. But those were brief awakenings during the long sleep.

After the collapse of the Soviet communist regime, America fell into deep sleep again. It probably decided that after the end of the Cold War, totalitarianism had disappeared and would not bother us anymore. But the Cold War was only a segment of a broader ideological war, which by no means ended there. It is just that the main headquarters of this war moved from Moscow to Beijing.

The totalitarian alliance rallied and launched a new offensive, manifested by its aggression in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Israel. It is time for the sleeping giant to wake up again and to stand against today’s totalitarian union.

This union is now led by communist China. Its major partners are Russia and Iran. The alliance includes many junior partners: North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, the Taliban, and others, as well as numerous terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

All these countries are united into a single bloc either by mutual agreements between the major partners or by the subordination of junior ones. Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia and China declared mutual unlimited support. Putin welcomed Taliban and Hamas leaders immediately after their attack on America and Israel, and most recently, Russia and Iran reaffirmed their cooperation. But the main factor that makes this alliance strong is its totalitarian ideology, which prescribes to all its members expansion and the war against the free world and identifies America as their main common enemy.

This ideology is the root cause of all hostilities on the part of the totalitarian world, their subversive actions within America, and their wars against our allies. All other factors, be it anti-Semitism, radical Islam, Russian and Chinese nationalism, or imperialism, are secondary and are used for propaganda and for recruiting fighters.

This is a global war. The theater of this war is on all continents: in the territory of the former Soviet empire, in the Middle East, around China, in South America and Africa, and even inside the United States. The current wars in Ukraine or Israel are not local wars caused by some specific problems between the warring countries, as some politicians mistakenly believe. These are proxy wars of one single ideological war, going on different fronts, directed primarily against America. Not daring to attack America itself, our enemies are striking at its most vulnerable allies.

We can allocate resources differently among the fronts, such as our southern border or Ukraine, but we cannot withhold support from one front until we secure proper support for another. Our defeat in any of them means the victory of the entire totalitarian bloc and increases the likelihood of its further aggressions.

The victory of the Taliban stimulated Russian intervention in Ukraine. The delay of aid to Ukraine, which weakened its counteroffensive, fueled the Hamas attack on Israel. The attempt to stop Israel’s retaliatory attack was a sign for Venezuela to announce its annexation of part of Guyana. If we want to stop this domino effect, we must win a quick and decisive victory against Russia and Iran. Otherwise, we can expect attacks by Venezuela on Guyana, China on Taiwan, and even North Korea on South Korea. We can also expect a weakening of our borders and an emboldening of totalitarian forces within our country. On the other hand, our victory on any front will have just the opposite effect. After American victory over Soviet communism, those forces became quiet and cringed.

We also have to confront the totalitarian world as a whole. We cannot split it. We never managed to do that. The split between Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union, or the latter’s brief conflict with China, were rare exceptions to totalitarian unity and occurred entirely on those countries’ own initiative. That we allegedly managed to break away China, Yugoslavia, or Romania from the totalitarian bloc and bring them to our side was an illusion and not at all harmless to us. All these countries have always remained united with other communist states against us.

We can counter the cohesion of totalitarianism only with our victories and the unity of democratic ranks. The latest example that confirms this moment is China. On the eve of the war, China promised unlimited support for Russia. However, after the first Ukrainian victories and almost unanimous support for Ukraine by the West, China behaved cautiously and stepped aside. Contrary to the belief that our military assistance to Ukraine would push China toward Russia, the effect was exactly the opposite. The preservation of unity in the support of Ukraine and Israel is very important, and these two countries will be stronger if they themselves unite against their common enemies, Iran and Russia.

And finally, we cannot end the ideological war with a so-called diplomatic solution. It simply does not exist. Totalitarian regimes are ruled by an ideology that requires the endless continuation of ideological war. Stopping it means betraying the ideology, which means the collapse of the entire regime and political suicide for its leaders. That is why, despite all our overtures toward China, Putin’s Russia, and even Iran, they never stopped their ideological war against us.

To sum it up, we cannot persuade our enemies to stop this war or win them over to our side; we cannot choose only those battles that we wish to fight and leave others unattended; we cannot wait out this war. This is the way to continue losing it and giving away part of our freedom. Our only choice is a complete victory in this war, a victory on all fronts. And this victory, and the end of this war, can only be achieved with the collapse of totalitarian regimes, as was the case with German Nazism and Soviet communism.

Of course, confronting the enemy on all fronts is not easy. This requires a lot of resources and comes with serious risks, so this is, as they say, bad news. But there is good news—and more than one.

The first is that the totalitarian world is doomed and is already approaching its end unless we help prolong its existence. The internal contradictions of totalitarian ideologies leave their regimes a limited time to exist, which is already running out for most of them. China entered a period of Brezhnev’s stagnation. The Russian regime lives only on time borrowed from fallen communism. The Iranian economy, after the imposition of sanctions, quickly found itself on the verge of bankruptcy. In addition to that, the leaders of those countries, by further centralizing and militarizing their economies, are only aggravating the situation. No less important is that ideology, which in totalitarian countries holds together regimes and their power over people, withers out and loses its power.

The second factor weakening the totalitarian regimes is the senseless and hardly winnable wars such as the Russian war against Ukraine or the Iranian war against Israel. A similar war by the Soviets in Afghanistan was an important factor that accelerated the fall of their regime.

The third key factor leading to the fall of totalitarian regimes is the internal forces of resistance. There are dissidents in China, Iran, and Cuba, and the political opposition in Russia and Venezuela. From the Soviet experience, we know that the effect of dissidents on the people and leaders of their country and on the world and public opinion should not be underestimated.

These are three of the four main factors that led to the collapse of the Soviet communist regime. The fourth decisive factor was the clear and strong position of the West, personified by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. These people had both a deep understanding of totalitarianism and a strong will to stand against it. Unfortunately, this combination is in short supply among current political leaders, and this critical factor is still greatly lacking. To implement Reagan’s policies, it is necessary to understand that all totalitarian states, without exception, are our enemies, and we cannot, at our will, sanction one to death and treat another simply as our competitor, if not our partner.

Why is Reagan’s policy, applied decades ago to a country that no longer exists, still relevant now for today’s totalitarian states? Because of the almost identical and rigid ideologies that define their regimes, there are great similarities between the Soviet Union and other totalitarian states, and our actions will have a similar impact on them. Therefore, if Reagan’s policy was highly successful in relation to the Soviet Union, we should expect the same result now. Specific adjustments must be made for each country, but the basic principles for handling them should be the same.

To determine this policy, it is necessary to understand what it is based on, what its goals are, what the strategy is for achieving these goals, and how this strategy should be implemented.

The starting point of this policy was the distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian countries. That it is totalitarianism, not authoritarianism, that poses the existential threat to the free world, is our main enemy, and we must focus our efforts on fighting it. It is noteworthy that although Reagan’s policies were aimed at overthrowing Soviet communism, their success also led to the democratization of many authoritarian countries, such as Argentina, the Philippines, and others.

No less important was the understanding that a totalitarian regime cannot become more humane or less aggressive, that communism with a human face is an oxymoron and is fundamentally impossible, and that victory in this ideological war can only come with the end of totalitarianism. Reagan said that communism’s place was on the ash heap of history and thus determined that the goal of his policy was to change that regime.

To achieve this goal, the strategy of a peaceful offensive was chosen. Defense does not work in an ideological war. The only winning strategy is offensive. Peaceful escalation is the best way to prevent military escalation by our enemies and help the bloodless fall of their regimes.

Such a strategy is conducted using the following basic rules and programs:

  • First, do not help totalitarian regimes survive. Do not save them from themselves. Let them be buried under the weight of their own ideology.
  • Accelerate this process through sanctions, primarily in the field of national security.
  • Decisively win the arms race through superiority in resources and innovation. The mere announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative demoralized Soviet politicians and military brass.
  • Openly challenge the legitimacy of these regimes, as Reagan did when he called the Soviet Union an evil empire. It is important to keep the American public informed of the crimes and atrocities committed by these regimes.
  • Human rights must remain at the center of our foreign policy. Compliance with human rights is not an internal affair of each state but mandated for all by international law, violators of which must be held accountable.
  • Provide all necessary support to the countries against which totalitarianism is waging war, which now are Ukraine and Israel, and achieve our victory in these wars
  • Provide the maximum possible support to dissidents and political opposition in totalitarian countries. Make their heroic struggle widely known in the West. Make certain that the sanctions imposed against totalitarian countries do not limit the ability of dissidents to exchange information, receive material assistance, and obtain political asylum. Unfortunately, after the strong support of the Soviet dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s by the free world, which not only saved many of us but also made our struggle against the communist regime more effective, the dissidents around the world were forgotten. We must bring this support back.
  • Expand public diplomacy. Address the people of these countries over the heads of their governments. Use for this purpose the achievements of modern communication technologies. Public diplomacy is effective for totalitarian countries; government diplomacy is not.
  • Promote the openness of totalitarian societies. Our policies should facilitate free access and exchange of information in these countries and free exit from them.
  • Challenge totalitarian trends inside America, which not only curtail our freedoms but impede our ability to fight totalitarianism around the world.

Reagan’s policy was based on the principle of peace through strength. To win the ideological war and conduct a victorious strategy, America must be strong.

Strong economically. Strong militarily. Strong morally.

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