THE SCOURGE OF ANTI-AMERICAN PROPAGANDA
C.S. Lewis famously observed that “one of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is shut their eyes to facts.”
The land of the free and home of the brave is the first and only country founded not on a shared identity or common history, but on an idea: freedom. America saved Europe from tyranny, gave the world Hollywood, the United Nations and the Internet. It put mobile phones in our pockets, personal computers on our desks and human beings on the moon. The international arena is a merciless place that needs more America — not less of it.
Anti-Americanism is a scourge that undermines global democracy and benefits dictators, autocrats, kleptocrats and terrorist groups at the expense of the citizens they “govern.”
In free and allied countries like Canada, anti-Americanism materializes through targeted marketing campaigns aimed at sowing doubt and division. Truth be told, Canada benefits more from trade with the United States and American hard power than any other country on earth. By mindlessly regurgitating half-truths and misinformation aimed at discrediting America, Canadians unknowingly amplify the messaging and advance the interests of dictators, autocrats, kleptocrats and terrorist groups.
In hostile regimes like Iran, Russia and North Korea, state affiliated media exploit anti-Americanism to unite the populace against a common but distant external enemy. Scapegoating the U.S. enables a small circle of elites to maintain the kleptocratic and corrupt institutions that sustain their monopolies on power and wealth. Pointing the finger at America also serves as the perfect way to distract from their endless list of policy failures.
For the sake of simplicity, American ideology is defined by two characteristics: capitalism and liberal democracy.
Capitalism is far from perfect, but it remains the most effective economic system in the world. At its best, capitalism preserves private property rights, promotes healthy competition, champions creativity and rewards individual initiative while providing a social safety net to the most vulnerable people in society. It may favor children born to wealthier parents, but capitalism still offers the meritocratic promise of upward socioeconomic mobility to those who work hard and persevere. That is not true for more closed, state-managed command economies.
With few exceptions, the most free, prosperous and innovative societies in the world are capitalist liberal democracies. Power is shared across different branches of government, the armed forces and intelligence services are subject to civilian control, state overreach is limited by law and individual rights are safeguarded in ways that are unimaginable under authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.
The creativity championed by capitalism thrives in this more transparent and less corrupt political environment. While public debate enables citizens to share ideas without fear of retribution from the state, elected representatives are also able to correct course without the threat of military coups or other non-peaceful transfers of power.
To be clear: The marriage between capitalism and liberal democracy led to historically unparalleled advances in science and technology, and exponential improvements in life expectancy and living standards over the last century.
Consider the following examples.
First, the Republic of Korea. The initial challenge to the post-Second World War international order came from Beijing and Pyongyang. An estimated two million civilians were killed in the Korean War. The U.S., South Korea and their United Nations allies suffered more than half a million military casualties. For a long time, communists and other anti-Americans mistakenly believed that Soviet and China-allied North Korea would prevail given its perceived military advantage against the South. Nevertheless, the Republic of Korea’s unwavering commitment to capitalism and inevitable transition to liberal democracy succeeded over time.
Today, the so-called “Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea” force-feeds its citizens anti-American propaganda while starving them of food. Even worse, it sells them off as slaves to Russia and China. Instead of taking care of Koreans, Pyongyang diverts its limited resources to nuclear weapons development. It aims to secure the Kim Dynasty for eternity by blackmailing the peace-loving people of the world.
Meanwhile, U.S.-allied South Korea has grown into the 13th-largest economy on earth. A champion of creativity, South Korea is home to world class technology companies like Samsung, LG, Hyundai and Coupang. This free and prosperous country also brings joy to millions of people around the globe through K-Pop and K-Dramas.
Second, Eastern Europe. Before the USSR collapsed, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine were all subject to direct Soviet control. Warsaw Pact states were also ruled by communist dictatorships with allegiances to Moscow. The living standards and freedoms enjoyed by Germans in U.S.-allied West Germany and West Berlin eclipsed what their friends and family members experienced on the other side of the Soviet Union’s iron curtain. Today, practically every Eastern Bloc state that has joined both NATO and the European Union has a higher nominal GDP per capita than Russia.
While colossal challenges remain, there is no shortage of success stories. Romania transitioned from a communist dystopia to the largest economy in southeastern Europe in less than three decades. Despite angst related to its “democratic backsliding,” Poland is on track to become wealthier than Britain by 2030. Whereas Tallinn was rationing bread, butter and cheese 30 years ago, Estonia is now home to the most unicorns (startups with $1 billion valuations) per capita in Europe — 7.7 for every one million people. The list goes on and on, but the contrast in freedoms enjoyed and living standards experienced by people in both Russia, and the Russian satellite state of Belarus, is striking.
Third, Israel. The Jewish state has faced existential threats since its inception in 1948. In the face of insurmountable challenges, Israel prevailed against all odds. Arguably the most successful state-building project of the 20th century, Israel today is a pluralistic democracy with a thriving economy.
A free and prosperous country, the Start-Up Nation is America’s indispensable ally in the Middle East. Whether innovating in medicine, agriculture, security or technology, Israel’s many creative contributions to the international community — including the first global instant messaging application, the USB key and the Firewall — speak for themselves. To say freedom and creativity are thriving in the Jewish State is an understatement.
Despite its unpredictable security environment, the freedoms and living standards enjoyed by Israelis pale in comparison to the misery and political instability brought to Israel’s neighbours by so-called “enemies” of America. Iranian proxy Hezbollah played a major role in turning Lebanon into a failed state. Today, Lebanon’s instability is characterized by a liquidity crisis, skyrocketing inflation and political deadlock that prevents Lebanese lawmakers from forming a government to secure a bailout from the IMF.
In Syria, another failed state, the Iran and Russia-backed Assad regime spent more than a decade carpet bombing, torturing and displacing the Syrian people to remain in power. If destroying Syria wasn’t enough, they also got the Middle East addicted to an amphetamine known as Captagon. While other Iran-allied terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad are thriving in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority-administered areas of the West Bank, freedom unfortunately isn’t.
America is not innocent, nor is it perfect. No country is. Nevertheless, its vision for the world — based on capitalism and liberal democracy — are preferable to communism, dictatorship, autocracy, kleptocracy, theocracy and failed statehood. With a $23 trillion economy and the most extensive diplomatic and military alliance structure in the history of the international system, the U.S. remains the world’s only superpower.
History demonstrates that the citizens of states who align with America, and especially countries that adopt variations of capitalism and liberal democracy, are better off because of it.
The same can’t be said for the people who suffer on behalf of the small circle of dictators, autocrats, kleptocrats and terrorist groups who call America their “enemy.” After all, the ultimate measure of a policy is its outcome.
Originally published by National Post on August 9, 2023.