CHRISTMAS, 1941

Roosevelt addresses the crowd at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony from the White House South Portico on December 24, 1941. Churchill can be seen on the right. (FDR Presidential Library)

It was Christmastime when Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington on December 22, 1941—two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor and eleven days after Hitler audaciously declared war on the United States.

For eighteen months Churchill had wooed Roosevelt, cajoling, charming, and even begging him to bring the United States into the war against Germany. Now Churchill’s prayers were answered:  the United States would certainly enter the war. On learning of the attack, Churchill later wrote, “Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the thankful and the saved.”

Churchill had come to Washington to make sure that earlier agreements of an Anglo-American alliance against Germany (should America enter the war) remained firm in the face of the Pearl Harbor attack. Understandably, the American people had an overwhelming desire to strike back at the Japanese. Churchill needed to turn them from thoughts of revenge to Britain’s view of the realities of the Axis threat. His task was made more difficult by Japan’s stunning victories in the weeks following Pearl Harbor. In the Philippines American troops were trapped on the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula and the Rock of Corregidor. Within a matter of days, Guam, Wake, and Hong Kong had fallen. American territories were being invaded and American lives lost. Americans wanted to throw everything they had against the Japanese.

Yet there was Britain’s precarious position to consider: if the Soviets fell, Hitler would throw his full strength into the temporarily delayed invasion of the United Kingdom. If Britain fell, what would be next for the United States? Germany was the more powerful of the foes. In an Anglo-American alliance, Churchill’s longstanding policy was the defeat of “Germany First.” He needed to make sure that the great power of the American war machine was leveled first against Hitler and second against the Japanese. Fortunately, Roosevelt agreed with him. But his position was not without dissent from some military advisors—and critics in the press and public.

Whatever his motives, Churchill’s presence was a tonic to the shattered Americans. On December 23 he joined FDR in a news conference in the Oval Office. More than two hundred journalists crowded into the room, some using edges of the president’s desk to take notes. “Wearing polka dot bow tie, a short black coat, and striped trousers,” Doris Kearns Goodwin tells us, Churchill

stared imperturbably into space, his long cigar between his compressed lips as Roosevelt spoke. When the time came for the prime minister to speak, reporters in the back called out that they could not see him. Asked to stand, Churchill not only complied, but scrambled atop his chair. “There was a wild burst of applause and then cheering,” The New York Times reported, . . . “as the visitor stood there before them, . . . with confidence and determination written on the countenance so familiar to the world.” (p. 303)

Bernard Baruch was among those invited to the White House that Christmas season. He “believed that Churchill’s visit would ‘galvanize’ American public opinion,” according to Eleanor Roosevelt biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook.

With the Pacific fleet in ruins, Wake Island fallen, Singapore besieged, and the Philippines invaded, Baruch considered Churchill “the best Christmas present” to restore heart and hope to the Allied world. “The pink-cheeked warrior in the air raid suit” was the leading symbol of resistance to the Blitz: “Do your worst, we can stand it,” his presence seemed to say. “We won’t crack up.” (Cook, pp. 409–410).

Wartime blackout regulations and tight security precautions were already in place in Washington; nevertheless, Roosevelt insisted on lighting the national Christmas tree. Various reports describe the event. “Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies,” he declared. Churchill joined Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt on the balcony of the White House before a crowd of 20,000 and in a national radio broadcast that reached millions. “Let the children have their night of fun and laughter,” Churchill said, and then:

Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.

On December 26 Churchill addressed a Joint Session of Congress, declaring himself half-American. “By the way, I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own.” Much to Eleanor Roosevelt’s distress (who had a more internationalist vision), he stressed the unity and implied superiority of the English-speaking world, speaking of the “outrages they have committed upon us at Pearl Harbor, in the Pacific Islands, in the Philippines, in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.”

Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt give a joint press conference in the Oval Office of the White House, December 23, 1941. (FDR Presidential Library)

The White House hosted a steady stream of diplomatic and military dignitaries during Churchill’s two-week visit. Meetings were held every day and long into the night—including Christmas day when a War Council was held from 5:30 to 6:45 pm. The war planners set themselves to the business at hand: North Africa, the Pacific and Southeast Asia, military strategy, war production, tonnage, and the Far East were among the subjects of talks. Ambassador Maxim Litvinov from the USSR, Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada, and the chiefs of the American Republics of South America and the Missions of the Allied Power and Refugee Governments came and went.

Since Churchill’s arrival he and FDR had been working on a Joint Declaration of Unity and Purpose for the Allies. As they laid the groundwork for war, they also began to frame the peace. It was FDR who suggested to Churchill on the morning of December 29th the name that would signify both war power and the promise of peace: the United Nations.

On New Year’s Day Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Maxim Litvinov of the USSR, and T. V. Soong of China signed the Declaration of the United Nations. An exultant Churchill declared, “Four fifths of the human race” has resolved Hitler’s end.

The next day twenty-two additional countries signed: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Poland, Union of South Africa, and Yugoslavia. Subsequently Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Uruguay, and Venezuela signed.

Those countries that signed by March 1945 would become the founding members of the United Nations.

The Declaration read in part:

The Governments signatory hereto,

Having subscribed to a common program of purposes and principles embodied in the Joint Declaration of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dated August 14, 1941 known as the Atlantic Charter.

Being convinced that complete victory over their enemies is essential to defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice in their own lands as well as in other lands, and that they are now engaged in a common struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world,

Declare:

(1) Each Government pledges itself to employ its full resources, military or economic, against those members of the Tripartite Pact and its adherents with which such government is at war.

(2) Each Government pledges itself to cooperate with the Governments signatory hereto and not to make a separate armistice or peace with the enemies.

 

What then was this Atlantic Charter that underpinned the entire agreement?

It was nothing less than a declaration of goals for the postwar world, an instrument for peace forged in the exigencies of war: “after the final destruction of Nazi tyranny, [it envisioned] . . . a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.”

To ensure that world, Roosevelt and Churchill called for permanent disarmament and envisioned a “permanent system of general security.”

All of the nations of the world, for realistic as well spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea, or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten aggression outside of their frontiers, [the signatories] believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential.

Churchill had come to the Atlantic Conference seeking American entry into the war against Hitler to preserve the British Empire. The Atlantic Charter was Franklin Roosevelt’s vision, a reimagining of the lost promise of the League of Nations and Woodrow Wilson’s failed vision for an end to all war. Out of it grew the United Nations—an ambitious idea for a post-war world of peace, disarmament, decolonization, democratic self-determination, respect for human rights, and free trade.

This is the legacy of Christmas 1941—and a reminder of work we have yet to complete.

 

Sources:
Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, Volume 3, 1939–1962. New York: Viking, 2016.
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

 

Taiwan Versus the Beijing Narrative

 

As a European in Taiwan, I came to understand why the conflict of Taiwan is often misunderstood in the West. The knowledge about the civil war between the Kuomintang and Communists, resulting in the retreat of Chiang Kai-shek and his troops to the island, is not widely known. The implications of the term “One China,“ therefore, leaves many Westerners clueless. When Chinese President Xi Jinping deals with the island as if it were a defecting province, as he did at the 19th Communist Party Congress this week, he sounded somewhat legitimate.

 

Surely, Western governments are aware of the complicated situation and the pending threat, but they may feel that their hands are tied. Europe has always looked to the United States of America when it came to supporting Taiwan. Now, with declining support for the values of liberal democracy across the Old World in recent years, as evidenced by the Brexit vote and the rise of far-right xenophobic movements, little compassion is left for a far-away country such as restricted Taiwan. The stance that US President Trump takes on the issue is still unclear.


Prior to the National Day on October 10th, an article was widely shared and discussed on social media. The text claimed that the Chinese military would finally meet the necessities to invade Taiwan by the year 2020. Observers, however, would argue that the Mainland’s military would neither dare nor have the capacity to invade and long-term occupy Taiwan. Alas, that doesn’t mean Taiwan will not see some serious infringement on its liberal democracy. 


For Beijing, Taiwan is a threat because the leader of the Communist Party sells the idea to his followers and the West alike that being Chinese and simultaneously a liberal democrat is impossible: the tradition of Confucianism can only live on in the form of the one-party state. Mr Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption and moral misconduct needs to be seen as him catering to the narrative that he has deployed during his first term as president of the People’s Republic of China: emerging to the very top is only possible by applying the highest ethical standards


In the West, where democracy is typically deliberately limited by the rights of individuals or specific groups such as minorities, leaders do not cease to praise the Chinese president (and leaders before him) as visionary, innovative, and thoughtful. What they mean is that, due to the autocratic one-party rule, Beijing is capable of following through with policy ideas – such as tackling climate change – that would take years in a democratic framework.


The existence of Taiwan, however, reminds Mr. Xi Jinping and the West of the existence of a democracy in a Confucian context. As a matter of fact, Taiwan is not the only liberal democracy of the region. It has potentially powerful allies in South Korea and Japan. All three are allies of the United States, and all three have a similar set of interests when it comes to fighting off a power-hungry China.


Yet, for historic reasons, the three have not elaborated on their common policies. And it is doubtful that they will do so anytime soon. Beijing is anything but sad about the disagreements of its democratic rivals across the Sea. In Taipei, Seoul, and Tokyo observers may already be nervous when they anticipate Donald Trump’s visit to China in a few weeks. The US president seems to have been marveling autocratic rulership.


One can only hope that the result of the meeting between these two power-hungry men of dubious mindset and character when it comes to civil liberties and liberal freedoms will not be frightening the three truly democratic countries in the region. As for Taiwan, the leadership and the people should be eagerly trying to strengthen their ties with Western allies and the liberal democracies in South Korea and Japan. For China may not be able or willing to invade the country, but it will also not tolerate any further development of a free and independent society for this may, in the logic of Beijing, inevitably lead onto the street of independence. 


Alexander Görlach is an affiliate professor with the FDR Foundation’s Defense of Democracy Program. He is also a fellow to the Center for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK. He’s a senior fellow to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and a senior advisor to the Berggruen Institute. Alex holds a PhD in linguistics and a PhD in comparative religion. He is the publisher of the online-magazine www.saveliberaldemocracy.com and an op-ed contributor to the New York Times. This academic year he is a visiting scholar to National Taiwan University and City University of Hong Kong. This article represents his views alone, not those of the FDR Foundation or other institutions.

How the new right-wing party AfD dominates German politics

Now Germany…
After all other European countries, the Federal Republic will also have a right wing party in the midst of its national parliament. The 13 percent, which the party achieved on Election Day, September 24, can be called a landslide victory. Beyond strongholds in the East of the country where they gained nearly thirty percent of their followers, their voter base now also extends to wide parts of the West of the country, where they numbered, in many places, in the double digits. 

The country, however, even 26 years after its reunification, still shows regional electoral preferences. In the nineties and the early ‘aughts the far left party Die Linke attained power in all states in the former East. They have now lost plenty of voters to the new right. In the West, on the other hand, right wing parties have sparked every ten years or so, only to disappear after a short while. Usually, they had a try-out period in state parliaments where they did not convince the electorate. They were not voted for again.

Until now Germans in the West, so it seems, had had enough of this extremism, for it led the country into the catastrophe of the Second World War and the Shoa. Nazism should never return to the country. The notion of a strong leader with claims to have the capacity to solve all the country’s problems was frowned upon. Moreover, today’s right wing extremists, the so called Alternative for Germany, did not fall in with one chairman but with a whole array of front row politicians, some of them using extreme right wing vocabulary. That included praise for the German Wehrmacht and revisionist utterances when it comes to German’s commemoration of the Holocaust. The new right wing populism is a pan-German phenomenon. And that was the real news in the results of this year’s election in Europe’s largest country.

Since the election, both German and international media are trying to wrap their head around the success the AfD had in this years voting. Undoubtedly the refugee crisis of 2015; where up to one million refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia made it into Europe and further on to Germany; has played a role. The Alternative for Germany before the crisis had plummeted in the polls. Created in 2013 as a party mostly opposing the European Union and the European currency, they had initially lost momentum. When the refugees entered into Germany, one of their AfD chairs, Alexander Gauland, cheered: the refugees were a godsend to his party.  With their xenophobic, anti-Muslim voice they indeed quickly re-gathered followers: in the state of Sachsen-Anhalt they gained 24 percent of the votes in the state election, in Baden-Württemberg 15 percent. Mr. Gauland is the one who recently claimed that Germans ought to be proud of the Wehrmacht, the German army, and their doings in both two world wars; this outrageous statement only surpassed in egregiousness by Björn Höcke, who claimed that the Holocaust Memorial Site in Berlin should be considered a monument of shame for the Germans, urging the country to move on and leave any narrative commemorating the Shoa behind. The pundits disagree on whether the AfD receives their support for this sort of rhetoric. They are now in 13 of the countries 16 state parliaments and in the national parliament, the Bundestag.

The Bundestag in the Reichstags-Building is now the international stage for the party. They are in their view on equal terms with other similar movements all across Europe. But, more importantly, they are also on the radar of the international media that usually does not report about the ongoings in state-level German politics. That’s why the former right-wing movements disappeared rather unnoticed. Focusing on a single topic, they fail to govern once confronted in parliament with actual legislative work (“what is your stance on the pension funds, the retirement age or environmental protection?”). As a matter of fact, AfD made it into the Bundestag without having a concise pension model. And this in an aging society such as Germany! 

In the weeks before the Election Day, the AfD had sunk to seven percent in the polls, as one could expect given the prior experience of right-wingers. But all of a sudden – and there is lots of guesswork why this has happened – it went up again to 12, 13 percent, a figure very close to their final result. As a result of the success of the right wing populists the political spectrum in Germany has shifted to the right. It is a dangerous approach: the hope that people will return to traditional parties simply because they may use sharper rhetoric against the AfD is delusional. In Bavaria the conservative CSU (Christian Social Union), sister party to the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) that governed the country for almost seventy years, lost 11 percent in the federal election. They tried to mimic the new appeal and rhetoric of the AfD. But when people have the choice between an original and the copy, they go for the original. Very sadly so in this case.

Alexander Görlach is an affiliate professor with the FDR Foundation’s Defense of Democracy Program. He is also a fellow to the Center for Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a senior fellow to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Alex holds a PhD in linguistics and a PhD in comparative religion. He is the publisher of the online-magazine www.saveliberaldemocracy.com and an op-ed contributor to the New York Times. This article represents his views alone, rather than those of the FDR Foundation.

What the Houston Floods Should Teach Us

What a horrific mess. At least 30 people are dead and 100,000 homes have been damaged by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.  Aside from the humanitarian disaster, which will be intense and on-going for months, the damage to the environment is almost incalculable. Billions of gallons of water, mixed with practically every poison man can produce, is flushing its way across Houston and into the Gulf — so toxic, in fact, the authorities are advising people to throw away any clothes that have come in contact with the water. Then, when the floods recede, the polluted debris from 100,000 houses will probably be land-filled, and afterwards the immense carbon-cost of rebuilding.

Could this tragedy have been avoided? The answer is categorically yes, as much of the disastrous flood damage in Houston is man-made.  Let’s start with the egregious fact that our 4th largest city has no zoning laws. Anyone can build anything anywhere, say for instance, a toxic chemical plant in the middle of a flood-prone residential zone. Worse, unbridled construction has caused former green areas that could have absorbed critical quantities of rainwater water to be paved over. According to a report at CNBC, between 1995 and 2011 Houston has increased its paved surface by 25%, meaning that any rain that falls on a city already built on clay soil will run off to increase flooding somewhere else, translating into roughly $4,000 of extra flood damage per square meter of pavement. Add to this a population that has been growing by 90,000 people a month, with an expected increase of 4 million in thirty years, and you have one huge and growing environmental nightmare.

Aside for the urgent need for zoning laws, there are other remedies that would help in future crises, but it would take foresight and forceful leadership on the federal level to bring them about, two qualities notably absent in Washington these days. In fact, just a few days before the arrival of Harvey, Bumpkin-in-Chief used an Executive Order to roll back the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard put in place by President Obama, which mandated that infrastructure in areas prone to flooding be designed to withstand the increased impact of climate change. Trump’s rationale for this seemingly irrational act was that flood rules “slow down” infrastructure creation, apparently believing that the federal government should simply rush projects to completion in order to create jobs, and if they wash away, all the better, because that translates to more jobs to put them back again. It’s a simpleton’s thinking, which risks lives and squanders our tax dollars.

Perhaps the most potent tool in the arsenal of change would be for Congress to get serious about fixing the National Flood Insurance Program. Currently 24 billion dollars in debt and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, this 50-year-old program dates from a time when few private insurers were interested in providing flood insurance, due to the actuarial uncertainties in predicting where and how often an area might flood. Since then however, owing to satellite imaging and other advanced technologies, the Federal Government has developed highly accurate flood maps that allow for precise predictions of risk,  opening the market for private insurers. Yet despite being at the point of insolvency, the National Flood Insurance Program continues to provide flood coverage well below market rates, essentially encouraging building and development in known areas of flooding. Worse, the program allows for repeat rebuilding on a site. If a structure washes away, federal dollars rebuild it. If it washes away again, it is rebuilt again, with your tax dollars. Only after the fourth flood is some type of mitigation required, usually in the form of raising the structure, which is again re-insured by the federal government. Obviously, this is ludicrous, especially in an era of increasingly intense storms due to climate change. As the Flood Insurance Program is set to expire on September 30, now would be the ideal time for Congress to act in a bipartisan fashion and change the law, along the lines of the Biggert–Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which was unfortunately diluted in 2014 by subsequent legislation. First of all, premiums should rise to full market rates, with discount provisions for low income residents. Secondly, vacation homes should be entirely excluded from federal coverage, and most importantly, pay-outs should only be allowed once per property, and be made portable, meaning that the owner is not obligated to rebuild on the same site. If a home or business is flooded, the owner would receive a payout and be encouraged to build on higher ground. If the owner disregards this advice, then he or she will need to find insurance on the private market.

It’s high time the Federal Government got proactive about protecting its citizens from the ravages of flooding. In FDR’s era, the Flood Control Act of 1936 tried to build its way out of the problem with dikes, levees and spillways, which we know now isn’t the answer.  Instead, it’s time for enlightened federal policy to promote ecologically sensitive rebuilding and buyout programs, programs that demand a change in human nature, not mother nature.

Because in the end, we know who always wins…

 

 

Developing Western Countermeasures to Disinformation

Delivered at “The Riga StratCom Dialogue 2017,” NATO STRATCOM CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE, Latvia, 5 July 2017

[Opening remarks, thanks, and prognostication comments]

Western counter-measures will develop along two metrics, one macro and one micro.

At the macro level we must broaden our understanding of what’s going on here, and come to a general agreement about what’s at stake.

We are in a period of quick and dramatic societal change that’s not just technological, but more importantly socio-economic and structural, on a global scale.

This is a period when the way humans organize and govern themselves will shift, and the direction of that shift is what we are contesting.

And at the micro level we need to learn how to apply the lessons from social science, campaign management, and big data to information and influence campaigns.

These lessons are more immediately applicable to the problem and perhaps therefore more exciting, but in all honesty I do not believe they are nearly as important in the long run as the macro understanding.

So… what kinds of cooperation and actions will enable Western countries and alliances to triumph at the macro level?

We will learn to be clear about our ideology, the narratives we use to communicate and support that ideology, and our identities.

I say “identities,” plural, both because multiple identities build resilience in our populations, and because we’re going to learn that there is power in considering oneself not just a good Latvian, but also a good Balt. And also a good European. And simultaneously a good Transatlanticist, and also a worthy child of the Enlightenment.

Cultivating multiple identities will enable us to more effectively coordinate Western voices across boundaries without sacrificing authenticity.

We will increasingly understand that effectively responding to foreign influence requires standing up for who we are and what we believe. And that to do so requires a whole-of-government, and indeed whole-of-society response.

If this sounds challenging, it is. It will require strong and honest leadership, and a willingness to clarify the difference between real threats to our societies – and there are real threats to our societies, from automation to climate change – and conspiracy theories.

Honestly, though, I think many of our leaders are already there. Here’s a quote from Canada’s Foreign Minister Freeland a month ago, discussing the liberal international order:

“Since before the end of the Second World War, beginning with the international conference at Bretton Woods in 1944, Canada has been deeply engaged in, and greatly enjoyed the benefits of, a global order based on rules…. These institutions may seem commonplace now…. We may take them for granted. We should not. Seventy years ago they were revolutionary. And they set the stage for the longest period of peace and prosperity in our history…. Seventy years ago Canada played a pivotal role in forming the postwar international order. We are now called—by virtue of our unique experience, expertise, geography, diversity and values—to do this again, for a new century.”

And here, speaking the same day, and also in Canada, is President Obama:

“We’re in an environment where we are only accepting information that fits our opinions rather than basing our opinions on the facts that we receive — and evidence and reason and logic…. By the way, that’s been part of our prosperity — the Enlightenment — and we should continue to promote those values.

“[The liberal international order] based not just on military power or national affiliations, but on principle, on rule of law, on human rights, on individual freedoms, on empathy, on understanding across cultures — that’s our only choice. Those of us who believe in those values and believe in democracy have to speak out with conviction. We have to listen, we have to acknowledge imperfect information. We don’t have a monopoly on wisdom, but we have to speak on behalf of those things that we know are true and are right because both the facts and history are on our side.”

As the former president urges, the West will learn to embrace the challenge and have the argument: we will eagerly pit our system of governance against the alternatives. We will openly argue that the Rule of Law, Independent Judiciaries, Electoral Integrity, Representative Government, and Freedom from Corruption are good things, that Liberal Democracy works well and that we like our systems, both domestically and internationally.

We will learn not to debate about which Western actors are Nazis; not to repeat lies about child abductions, or gay mafia plots, or genocidal plans; not to waste any more energy than absolutely necessary in refuting blatant lies about nonexistent bombing errors, or arms deals, or anti-male or anti-white agendas. Instead we’ll learn to re-frame questions – like any good politician – and consistently promote our own, positive, Western narrative.

Which brings me to part two: what does this look like at the micro level?

At the micro level, Western countries and alliances will learn to run information campaigns like political campaigns. We will tap into the rich traditions of research in neuroscience, psychology, social psychology, anthropology, history, economics, political science, and other sciences to help us formulate the most effective methods of promoting our own values, and reframing adversarial campaigns.

We are already pretty good at tracking adversarial narratives. We will next learn to reframe those narratives and replace them with our own.

We will make the truth louder. Not so much with bots as with consistency of messages shared across ministries, governments, and civil society actors; the building of networks, and the identification of credible messengers; and with effective audience analysis to make sure our themes are well adapted to existing preconceptions.

We will learn to be proactive with those audiences, reaching out to them before they encounter disinformation.

We will become better mapping the networks of so-called experts utilized by our adversaries – and better at building networks of our own, replete with messengers credible to our target audiences.

We will prepare memes supporting our narrative and nullifying our adversaries’. Memes designed to break apart unnatural alliances between far left and far right, between loyal domestic opposition and foreign interventionists. Wedge memes, if you will.

We will learn the importance of repetition, repetition, and repetition when it comes to telling our own stories. And of not repeating adversarial or false narratives. We will make the truth louder.

We will not be trapped by our adversaries’ framing of persons or events. Here I quote MacLeans’ Kerry Glavin, describing how the Canadian media handled accusations that their new foreign minister was from a family of Nazis:

“Unfortunately, we’ve all spent a great deal of effort being clever in our elucidations upon how to properly distinguish between a Ukrainian patriot and a Nazi collaborator in the terror time of the 1940s, and about where one might situate the boundaries of Soviet-occupied Eastern Galicia on contemporary maps of the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands, and other such boring ephemera. This is what Moscow wanted, and it also wanted the not-especially-bright among us to be wondering out loud and often about whether it might be true that Freeland is a Russophobic Nazi sympathizer who can’t be trusted with the Foreign Affairs portfolio.”

Don’t get trapped in their frame. Discredit it, instead.

In short, we will realize that this is an ideological conflict, a contest of narratives with strategic outcomes.

We’re going to learn to take the fight to the level of meta-narrative, and there we’ll have the argument about which systems of governance are best for the governed.

And we’ll win the argument, because for all our challenges – and the challenges are real – liberal democracy, the post-war international order, and democratic governance are responsive and effective.

Especially compared to corrupt, dysfunctional, kleptocratic, patriarchal autocracies.

[If necessary / time permitting]

Finally, to the question of information activities having a higher profile in Western defense policies and doctrines.

They may not become as predominant in United States defense policy so long as we have by far the largest military and therefore the tendency to view problems and solutions through a steel lens.

Then again, that could change if the military successfully pivots toward a strategic doctrine that emphasizes the non-kinetic phases of “combat,” a process that I’m told is underway – but that I’ve been told “is underway” for probably ten years now.

I’d be interested in hearing from the Americans in this room as to progress around doctrine coping with “human terrain,” “target audience analysis,” “phase zero,” etc.

There’s also the chance that the United States could begin to re-emphasize information activities in civilian agencies, along the lines of our investments during WWII and the Cold War. I really don’t see this happening in the next two years, though. Quite the opposite, in fact.

But… outside of my country I believe we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the understanding of information activities. Especially in Northern Europe, from here in the Baltics straight over to Britain.

This is not surprising since (1) other democracies lack the burden of possessing history’s largest kinetic force and (2) they invented this stuff – some of the most compelling examples of information activities date back to WWI and the interwar period, when France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union pioneered the use of modern technology to fight non-kinetic battles worldwide.

When you look at the current speed of technological change today, and the corresponding empowerment of individuals and non-traditional groupings of individuals, I see tremendous parallels with the interwar period.

I also see a greater clarity back then around the nature of the conflict. The people and organizations working to promote fascism, communism, and liberal democracy were consciously battling to define human destiny. And all sides were convinced they were right.

And this gets me back to my initial point: Western democracies will be well placed to cope with disinformation campaigns when we’re confident enough to reframe them.

I’m confident enough in the the post-war international order broadly, the European experiment specifically, and the Enlightenment tradition ideologically to believe that the West can win the narrative argument… once we learn not to play by our adversaries’ rules.