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JAMS, vol. 12, no. 1

Propagandized Adversary Populations in a War of Ideas

Donald M. Bishop​



 Abstract: Disinformation, the disruptive effects of social media, and the prospect of information warfare increasingly preoccupy national security thinkers. In the twentieth century, years of prewar and wartime propaganda by the Axis powers and the Soviet Union made the World Wars and the Cold War longer and more costly. In this century, China and North Korea represent two nations that have propagandized their populations for 70 years, hardening them against informational initiatives. What are the lessons? How should the United States assemble a strategy to counter propaganda’s effects?

Keywords: propaganda, informational power, operations in the information environment, information operations, influence operations, public diplomacy, information warfare, political warfare, gray zone, hybrid war, war of ideas, indoctrination, active measures, social media, World War I, World War II, Cold War, China, Russia, North Korea


The national security community in the United States is now grappling with informational factors in great power competition, with cyber operations, network defense, defense forward, information warfare, political warfare, operations in the information environment, psychological operations, narratives, messages, influence operations, and the cognitive dimension in the mix.1 Different informational factors bear on all the traditional numbered operational phases and on the gray zone and hybrid war.2 All hope that preparation and deterrence will prevent the outbreak of a shooting, kinetic, or hot war, but there would be informational dimensions to that kind of conflict too.

All this thinking can be sharpened by examining the wars of ideas in the twentieth century, with a particular focus on propaganda and its effects. During the two World Wars and the Cold War, the populations—and the armed forces—of several warring powers were highly propagandized. The internet, social media, and the cell phone have transformed the channels of propaganda, but in the twenty-first century, a few adversaries—China, North Korea, Russia, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela—still draw on the experience of the twentieth century. They control the information that circulates in their societies, and they deploy domestic and international propaganda to strengthen their exercise of national power. What lessons of the past can help us see challenges of the present more clearly?


Contours of Propaganda

Propaganda has many definitions.3 Many people consider ordinary advertising, with its characteristic puffery, as propaganda, along with social opinion campaigns—addressing the dangers of drugs, smoking, and alcohol—or environmental awareness, for instance.4 The hype (exaggeration) and spin (biased interpretations) of political campaigns can be likewise criticized as propa­ganda.5

These forms of salesmanship and persuasion are, however, relatively benign. Communication surely becomes propaganda when falsehoods are included in a speech, argument, narrative, or appeal. These falsehoods include disinformation—lies—and/or the false attribution of sources.

Psychology comes to bear. A small tumor of false information becomes more malignant when it is emotionalized.6 There are many examples of propaganda inflating positive emotions like love, brotherhood, joy, or gratitude for a leader (fuehrer, duce, el caudillo, emperor, dear leader, father of nations) to develop a personality cult.7 Propaganda can transform ordinary, positive patriotism into ultranationalism or hypernationalism. Propaganda can become even more dangerous when it stokes negative emotions like hate, envy, fear, disgust, anger, and even rage toward various “others.”


Figure 1. Commemorative stamp

In 1950, the Soviet Union issued a postage stamp to mark the unveiling of a statue of Pavel Morozov (1918–32). Morozov was praised as an exemplar for Soviet youth after he denounced his father to authorities; he became a Young Pioneer martyr when he was allegedly killed by “kulak” villagers. His grave became a shrine visited by generations of Soviet youth. The story was revealed as false after 1991 and serves as an example of a cult based on falsehoods, indoctrination of youth, use of publications, plays, music, and a postage stamp to spread a legend that served a dictatorship. (Scott #1445)
Source: Soviet Ministry of Communications, adapted by MCUP.


The dictatorships of the last century, of course, used words to influence their populations, and they asserted control and direction of newspapers, magazines, books, and radio. When film and television became the dominant media, they melded control of words and images.8 The regimes also used culture (dramas, dances, songs, and films) to propagate their views. The many posters circulated by the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and North Korea—still admired as art and studied as propaganda—show how art was used to express political and social messages.9

The dictatorships also took measures to insulate their populations from alternative views. State or ruling party officials reviewed articles, essays, and books before publication; only those that conformed to the regime’s propaganda lines were published. Foreign publications were seized by customs inspectors at points of entry. International broadcasts were electronically jammed.10 And arrests and disappearances of dissidents and nonconforming writers spread fear that served the regimes’ censorship goals.

When the Bolsheviks, Nazis, or Chinese Communists took power, crushed independent media, spread their malign views, and purged independent thinkers, it was fear that cowed adults. They swallowed their own opinions before the brute force of the state. Year by year, however, the regimes—using schools, textbooks, and youth groups—increasingly made young people supporters of the regime and then obedient soldiers. In China’s case in the 1960s, less than two decades after the establishment of the PRC in 1949, young Red Guards, animated by Chairman Mao Zedong and his Little Red Book, terrorized their own teachers and sometimes their parents.11


Two Propositions from the Twentieth Century

Although scholars may disagree on exact definitions and boundaries of propaganda, all agree that the warring powers of the twentieth century used propaganda, and the dictatorships, which could use coercion to suppress contrary opinions, developed it to the most extreme degree.12 Two propositions—hypotheses—drawn from the wars of the last century may help us think through today’s challenges.

Proposition 1: Both World Wars were longer and more brutal because of the prewar and wartime mobilization of combatant nation populations.

In the First World War, the growing human costs of the war justified Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia’s increasing use of propaganda on their populations to a degree that could not have been imagined before the war. Governments and high commands used speeches, rallies, print media, posters, music, newsreels, and film to promote their war aims, demonize their enemies, encourage recruitment, and increase production.13 The combatant powers added domestic press controls and legal and police decrees to contain any sentiments or movements for peace. They prevented any discussion of military or diplomatic alternatives.

The history of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI) led by “propaganda czar” George E. Creel during the First World War (“The Creel Committee”) shows the United States was not immune from this wartime tendency.14 However, American participation in the war lasted only 19 months, and two-thirds of all America’s combat deaths occurred only in the final three months of the war, too short of a time for challenges about the conduct and costs of the war to gain traction.15

Examining propaganda in the Second World War, the late Czech historian Zbyněk Zeman made a salient point that “the fascist one-party states of the twentieth century and their leaders” along with “Lenin and the Bolsheviks all used political propaganda consistently and hard in peace-time as well as in war. The western liberal democracies, on the other hand, employed propaganda in war-time only.”16

In World War II, Germany, Italy, the Soviets, and the Japanese went to war following years of psychological mobilization of their populations.17 The particulars of the indoctrination were different in each of those totalitarian nations, but propaganda included idealizing certain racial groups—Aryans, or descendants of Yamato, for instance—while dehumanizing and persecuting disfavored minorities, the people of occupied areas, and the enemy as racially inferior, mongrels perhaps, or as class enemies.18

Those totalitarian states asserted full control over domestic newspapers, magazines, publishing, radio, drama, and film years before the war began. They sponsored and promoted approved art. They neutered the churches and the universities as independent incubators of ideas. They propagated their views to young people through the education system and youth groups. Again, these were not wartime measures; the regimes’ messaging and narratives were developed long before war came, and they continued for years. After the fighting began, wartime censorship assured that domestic populations had no information that might weaken their allegiance to the regime or move them to question their support for the war.19 Control of information and ideals was woven into the fabric of the warring regimes.

One result of the years of indoctrination was that soldiers and units continued fighting even when they took brutal casualties. Another was suicides among die-hard supporters of the regime. American Marines were horrified in 1944 to witness Japanese soldiers and civilians jumping to their deaths, many with members of their families, from “suicide cliff” on Saipan, and there were more suicides on Okinawa. These unfortunate women and men had been propagandized for many years about the purpose of life (to serve the emperor) and with manufactured stories of American brutality.20

Proposition 2: A major downside of propagandizing a nation’s people is that leaders, step by step, become locked in by their propaganda.

Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, and Japanese militarists had conceived their twisted philosophies in the years following the First World War. When they came to power, they used the informational tools of the state and/or the ruling party to saturate the population with their worldviews.21 They fired, purged, arrested, jailed, sent to camps, or killed those with independent or contrary views.

The supreme leaders surrounded themselves with true believers who had thoroughly absorbed the beliefs the regimes propagated, so the judgments of everyone in the top leadership circle were marred. Decisions in the armed forces, government, education, and the media were likewise warped by the ubiquitous propaganda. As the war turned against the Axis powers, Hitler, the emperor of Japan and his war cabinet, and Mussolini could not face the facts that might allow them to make rational decisions about termination of the war. The last few weeks in the Berlin bunker or in the palace in Tokyo provide case studies of how Germany and Japan’s leaders were completely out of touch with 1945’s political and military realities.22 Their views of the countries in the alliances arrayed against them were often crude stereotypes. These provide case studies of Vaclev Havel’s observation that a “regime is captive to its own lies.”23

Another consequence of propagandizing is that even if leaders come to the realization it is necessary to contain or back down from hostilities, populations, once aroused, may not assent. Japanese historian Sadao Asada noted that even in the summer of 1945, “fanaticism was not restricted to the military; the men and women in the street were thoroughly indoctrinated. Women practiced how to face American tanks with bamboo spears.”24 Imperial Japanese Army officers who learned of the emperor’s decision to surrender after the atomic bombings attempted a coup d’etat. They murdered two general officers and hoped to seize the palace and the emperor.25

Many of the impressionable teenagers drafted by Germany in the last year of the war gave their lives to the ideas of the thousand-year Reich utterly in vain. We may, moreover, attribute the deaths of American, Soviet, British, Canadian, French, and Polish soldiers and airmen in the face of the young German warriors’ Panzerfausts and 88 mm antiaircraft and antitank artillery to propaganda. The sacrifices of the kamikaze pilots and Japan’s soldiers on the islands were likewise wholly useless; American sailors and Marines were killed as much by the twisted propaganda that motivated the Japanese soldier and sailor as by bullets, artillery rounds, and mortars.

Fascism was defeated in 1945. The Soviet party-state—which provided assistance to China, North Korea, and Cuba; supported “national liberation” movements in the Third World; crushed the Hungarian revolution of 1956; and sent its own draftees into Afghanistan—continued to rely on domestic and international propaganda, but it collapsed and ended in 1991.

In the 1990s, then, many imagined that the benign exchange of goods, services, and ideas, along with democratic debate, would help create a new world free of conflicts of the kind that had been aggravated by Axis or Soviet propaganda and falsehood.26


Seventy Years of Propagandizing

If we look at international competition and conflict in the twenty-first century through an informational lens, however, there are disturbing parallels to the past. The use of social media is new, but the basic patterns of propaganda remain the same.

In our century, we see a renewed prominence of large, illiberal idea systems—Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Bolivarismo, Juche, and Putinism among them. Many new forms of racial or religious nationalism and/or supremacy are also in circulation—often promoted by authoritarian leaders. As for “othering,” in China there are worrying features. Han chauvinism lies beneath the surface in China, and Tibetans and Uyghurs are increasingly subject to propaganda and social controls.27 North Korea propagates extreme views of racial purity.28 In a complex world, such ideas simplify, providing a satisfying distinction between a good “us” and a bad “them,” which provides for a motivating groupthink ideology.

States have many means—the media, social media, textbooks, youth leagues, and ruling parties—to support and project these ideas to their own populations. And many states export them. We can look at three.



Thinking through the ideas dimension of great power competition, it is revealing to know that Vladimir Putin’s measures to strengthen Russian patriotism draw on selected achievements of the Soviet Union—especially the victory in 1945. His concepts of how the educational system and domestic propaganda foster patriotism draw on Soviet models.29 Anne Applebaum speaks plainly of Putinism as an ideology, enforced “through legal pressure, public propaganda and, if necessary, carefully targeted violence.”30

Russia’s outward deployment of informational power has been well mapped. Its military doctrines describe “information-technical” and “information-psychological” methods, paralleling cyber and influence in American thinking.31 They are integrated into Russian concepts of hybrid war and gray zone conflict. In Crimea and Ukraine, Russia deployed disinformation on such a scale that scholars labeled it the “firehose of falsehoods.”32

Russia has made substantial investments in two international broadcasting networks, RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik.33 The corporate mottos of the two networks—“tell the untold” and “question more”—flag their willingness to challenge journalism as it is practiced in Europe and the United States. Adroit use of social media, bots, trolls, inauthentic accounts, and deceptive websites were features of Russian disinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.34 They exploited America’s domestic, internal divisions.35



China’s people have now been subject to more than 70 years of propaganda and mobilization.36 From the time of its origin in the 1920s, the Chinese Communist Party adopted Leninist concepts of propaganda. In his talks at the Yen’an Forum on Literature and Art in 1942, Chairman Mao Zedong stated that their purpose is to support class consciousness and the revolution.37 The party’s propaganda organs laid down approved and disapproved lines of thinking. After the Communists won the Chinese Civil War and established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, they established dual state and party organizations to propagandize the Chinese people and the international community. In China today, there are media outlets owned by the Communist Party (e.g., People’s Daily) and by the state (Xinhua News Agency), but the party also assures that privately owned media companies follow the party’s lead. Removal of editors and shutdown of publications are among possible sanctions.38


Figure 2. Domestic propaganda

Domestic propaganda—Shenzhen, China, 2009, promoting China’s “planned fertility,” meaning population control, policy. The title of the little red book is Regulations to Implement Population and Planned Fertility Work. The smiling faces gloss over the realities of sanctions, penalties, and forced abortions to lower population growth. As a result, China in the twenty-first century has a gender imbalance and too few working-age people to support a graying population.
Source: Courtesy of David and Jessie Cowhig, adapted by MCUP.


China takes extensive measures to block international opinion. Newspapers may not directly quote foreign news sources; the government strictly limits the number of international correspondents in China and often calls them in for “interviews” if their reporting crosses a red line; and the Great Firewall prevents Chinese from accessing many foreign websites (e.g., Google, Facebook Twitter, Wikipedia, and the New York Times). A so-called 50-Cent Army monitors and manages social media.39 In China, no one may see the 1989 photograph of “Tank Man” blocking the movement of PRC armored vehicles in Tiananmen Square.40 Any circulation of the Tiananmen photograph or the facts about the origin of the Korean War will bring down the wrath of the regime. It is instructive that when People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units were deployed to Beijing to clear Tiananmen Square of the students in 1989, the units were paused for last-minute indoctrination.41 And even Winnie the Pooh is banned from China’s domestic internet, due to the bear’s use in memes and his alleged resemblance to Chairman Xi.42

China’s outward projection of soft power includes the Belt and Road Initiative and the waves of Chinese messaging that support it, the Confucius Institutes in the United States, and the increasingly slick China Global Television Network.

As China becomes more prosperous, the size of its domestic box office has grown to nearly U.S. $2 billion, surpassing the North American box office for the first time.43 In the past, Hollywood long hoped to capture more of the revenue by showing more American films in China’s theaters, but Chinese authorities limit the number of foreign films that may circulate in the country, and foreign films must be submitted for review. As Joseph Goebbels barred the 1940 Hollywood film The Mortal Storm from showing in Germany, the PRC blocked such films as Kundun, Seven Years in Tibet, and Red Corner because they “viciously attack China [and] hurt Chinese people’s feelings.”44 The 2016 remake of Ben-Hur only showed in China after “all references to Jesus were removed.”45 Hollywood gained more access through coproduction agreements, and many American stars have appeared in Chinese movies. Hollywood has, however, sold part of its soul to gain the additional revenue. Chinese censors assure that scripts do not in any way show China in an unfavorable light or contravene Communist Party propaganda lines. PEN America reported “the ways in which the Chinese government and its ruling Communist Party successfully influence Hollywood films” and stated that “this type of influence has increasingly become normalized in Hollywood.”46 China uses these arrangements to limit the exposure of its people to foreign values.

Speaking before a Senate subcommittee, the actor Richard Gere testified that there is no doubt that the combination of Chinese government censorship coupled with the desire of American studios to have access to China’s market—soon to be the largest movie market in the world—and vast Chinese financing possibilities, can lead to self-censorship and to not engaging social issues that great American films and American studios once addressed.47


North Korea

Given Soviet and Chinese influence in North Korea since World War II, it is no surprise that North Korea also uses Leninist thought control and propaganda. The Korean Worker’s Party (the public façade of rule by the Kim despots) announces and the state enforces what may or may not be expressed, and the party-state is not reluctant to jail those who dissent in its extensive network of prison camps.48 A U.S. State Department report noted North Korea enforces three generations of punishment; “three generations of a prisoner’s family are . . . sent to . . . camp[s] and may die there without having committed a crime themselves.”49

The Kims’ rule in North Korea is justified by a Paektu bloodline (descendants of Kim Il-Sung) and views of racial purity, and the North Korean party-state has ruthlessly demonized the United States for decades.50 As in China, the North Korean party-state and its propaganda organs continue to assert that it was South Korea that attacked North Korea on 25 June 1950.51


Figure 3. North Korean leadership

North Korea has a robust, all-encompassing system of domestic and international propaganda including a leadership cult; ultranationalist education; youth movements; indoctrination of its conscripts; full control of print, radio, and television broadcasting; radios and televisions pre-tuned to government broadcasts; limits on access to the internet; and museums that extol the revolution and the Kim dynasty and promote brutal caricatures of the United States.
Source: Courtesy of Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, adapted by MCUP.


North Korea follows the Chinese example of media and ideological control; the Committee to Protect Journalists, in its “10 Most Censored Countries” list, judges North Korea in second place (after Eritrea).52 Only a few members of the party political elite have access to the global internet.

The use of propaganda in China, North Korea, and Russia has some specific national characteristics, but there are clear parallels between their uses of domestic and international propaganda.


Assembling a Strategy

If decisions of top leaders, military commanders, and civilians in propagandized states may be warped by their own nationalized, racialized, and propagandized belief systems, an effect of the propaganda could be the escalation of a dispute or conflict into phase 3. Units in the armed forces and the civilian population might offer stiff resistance due to their indoctrination. This suggests that national security community and armed forces commands need more focus on informational factors.53

These anxieties about propagandized adversary populations may seem distant from the many discrete cyber, information operations (IO), and electronic warfare (EW) issues that confront American businesses; civil society; local, state, and federal governments; and the armed forces. They do not directly address cyber defense, cyber offense, defense forward, or all the worrying developments of cyber, disinformation, misinformation, bots and trolls, inauthentic accounts, deepfakes, runaway memes, the proliferation of fake news, intrusion, meddling, and so on. But cyber and informational strategies must recognize how thoroughly the populations of major potential adversaries have been propagandized—and thus hardened against many informational initiatives contemplated by the United States and its allies and partners.

The new prominence and scale of informational challenges to U.S. national security suggest that needs are greater than the cyber expertise of Fort Meade in Maryland, more than the information operations prowess centered at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, more than competence of the “-39” staff sections at commands.54 Surely whole-of-government and whole-of-society (Silicon Valley included) efforts are needed. The full scope of these needs and responses are larger than this article, but a focus on propaganda suggests these lines of effort.



The early section of this article offers two propositions derived from the World Wars. They invite scholarship. Question 1: Do modern states indeed have the same domestic propaganda powers? Question 2: What case studies support the propositions? For instance, what role did domestic propaganda play in shaping the actions of people ruled by Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, the Argentine junta, Robert Mugabe, the Kim dynasty, Le Duan, and other dictators and autocrats? Think tanks and war colleges might offer insights based on history.


Systems of Control

Looking at the states that concern us, more knowledge of their systems of control is needed. Surely their command and cyber nodes and networks are a part of systems of control, but here the phrase means something larger. It also means knowing how these states and party-states develop approved lines of thinking and then propagate them. Before a North Korean student in a classroom reads—or a Russian listener hears—an approved narrative of history or international affairs or develops a hostility to the United States or another country, how has that narrative line been developed? What political, ideological, cultural, religious, racial, and historical threads have been woven together? What is the hostility quotient? How is the approved narrative spread over formal and informal networks? How do the carrots and sticks work? Awareness of systems of control in this larger meaning may be suggestive for defensive or offensive responses.


A Deeper Bench

Informational challenges require us to have more depth on the politics, history, languages, and cultures of nations of concern. If China is now the pacing threat, for instance, we need more Americans who read and speak the languages of China and have had firsthand experience in that society, enabling them to sense the cultural, informational, and psychological environments there.55

What is needed is not a new tent city at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, for hundreds of students in uniform to learn the languages of China. According to John Thomson, former director of the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University, more money for Chinese language programs in high schools and universities will likely have less impact than a targeted expansion of funding for Chinese (and Russian and Korean) language education in programs in those countries.56 Different federal programs that support language study need to be aligned, and the government agencies that need China specialists should review their recruiting. Congress and the private sector should provide more money to support the China and Taiwan (and Russia and Korea) programs at U.S. policy institutes. Enlarging our nation’s bank of expertise cannot be achieved even in a few years, so we need to begin yesterday.


Whole-of-Government Approach

If we speak of a war of ideas, even the amazing intellectual resources of the Department of Defense (military and civilian, direct hire and contractor) are insufficient. It is time to redouble whole-of-government initiatives. On the one hand, the Department of State must be a full partner—not just the new Global Engagement Center but also the larger Foreign Service and Civil Service, along with embassies and consulates.57 Department of State personnel must join more wargames, exercises, and simulations. The Department of State’s foreign policy advisors at military commands need to participate in the planning of operations in the information environment and join conversations on political warfare. Relations between State Department officers and the military information support teams sent by Special Operations Command to some embassies needs strengthening.

There is more to this whole-of-government imperative. The Coast Guard has specialized expertise. So do many other federal departments and agencies like the U.S. Treasury and Justice departments. The broadcasting networks under the U.S. Agency for Global Media—the Voice of America is the flagship—work within certain statutory boundaries and firewalls, but they must be part of a comprehensive response.58


A Clearinghouse

Since the Russian cyberattacks on Estonia in 2007, a growing number of policy institutes (first in Europe, then in the United States) have helpfully studied and analyzed Russian information operations.59 Parallel but piecemeal efforts in the Pacific focus on Chinese and North Korean disinformation. Some of the think tanks publish regular disinformation exposés and alerts, but there is no agency or clearinghouse that rapidly disseminates their findings throughout the democracies. This is an unmet need.


Disabling Adversary Propaganda

Unraveling the propaganda that reaches millions of citizens of a state, shaping their worldviews and their hostility, is the work of years and decades, not weeks or months. Part of the effort is technical—how to reach those people when authoritarian regimes are determined to keep other views out. Broadcasting can reach some; virtual private networks (VPNs) can allow individuals access to the open internet; there may be cyber options to increase the penetration of alternatives to the views of a party-state.60 But having the ability to broadcast into North Korea, for instance, would be only part of what is needed. The harder part is to think of what ideas to communicate.

American informational doctrines—for public affairs, for operations in the information environment, for broadcasting, and for public diplomacy—all agree that communication must be truthful.61 Propaganda is not just repeated and shrill messaging; it always includes untruths. Identifying the lies embedded in propaganda is a starting point. Finding skillful and culturally appropriate ways to undermine and eventually discredit them is the next step. Any offensive in the realm of ideas must firmly anchor on truth.62

Declarative messaging of truth versus lies is often, however, too blunt. The creative sectors in the free societies—filmmakers, journalists, novelists, playwrights, artists, songwriters, performers, humorists—have ways to show truths that coax minds away from received ideas. This suggests that the showing of democratic culture has an important role to play.63

Shaping. Operations in the information environment conducted by military commands usually support specific operations, in specific geographic areas, during specific times. Facing populations that have been propagandized for many years, longer and broader efforts are needed, so a longer period of shaping must be part of any strategy. This long-term shaping may best be conducted by the State Department’s public diplomacy and by the U.S. government’s international broadcasting networks. Challenging propaganda and disinformation is already part of their missions, but comprehensive shaping calls for more collaboration with the informational elements of the Department of Defense.

Take encouragement from rivals’ fears. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union spent billions to electronically jam broadcasts from the free world. Maintaining China’s Great Firewall imposes large costs on its internet providers. The first demand recently made by Kim Jong-un’s sister was that South Korean human rights groups cease sending balloons across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).64 The small payloads of the balloons might include thumb drives with South Korean dramas and music, scriptures, and even Choco-Pies. These regimes know no society wants to be propagandized, nor do citizens want their lives bound by one party or autocratic leader.

Refreshing American values. During the World Wars and the Cold War, Americans faced rival ideologies with a relative consensus about national ideals. They included democracy, free and fair elections, separation of powers and federalism, the Four Freedoms, and an economy based on markets and enterprise.65

John R. Boyd, called by his biographer “the fighter pilot who changed the art of war,” was the Air Force officer who conceived the energy-maneuverability theory and the OODA (observe–orient–decide–act) loop.66 He prepared his famous “Patterns of Conflict” briefing during this period of relative consensus. His theories integrated the concept of a unifying vision “rooted in human nature so noble, so attractive that it not only attracts the uncommitted and magnifies the spirit and strength of its adherents, but also undermines the dedication and determination of any competitors or adversaries.”67

In the current moment of social division in the United States, many Americans doubt the old American unifying vision, and our adversaries know it. That is why their own disinformation aims to stoke American division, undermine consensus, and erode democratic confidence. That is why our own efforts to counter their propaganda can be so easily countered by pointing out the distance between American ideals and social realities.68 When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked about American support for human rights in Hong Kong, she tweeted three words: “I can’t breathe.”69

This means that Americans who are focused on informational power must follow and join the conversations in our own society. Any new American narrative must now integrate the new findings of scholarship in history and many other disciplines that bear on the character of American society. Thinking through how to best present the United States must be part of a comprehensive informational strategy.

George Kennan, the architect of the containment strategy during the Cold War, concluded his famous “Long Telegram” of 22 February 1946 with these thoughts. In a time of worsening social division in the United States, they seem timely.

Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit—Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies.70


The Propaganda Factor

When policy makers and commanders think about confronting adversary nations, then, it is not enough to think about the military balance; weapons; land, naval and air power; and all the traditional topics. We must think about the propaganda that girds the power of these regimes and understand how their propagandizing affects both populations and members of the armed forces.

Totalitarian rulers still use propaganda and ideology as tools of control, and they still aim for dominance. They now add cyber and informational stratagems to project their brute ideas and power into other societies, including our own, and this adds an extra measure of risk in international relations and national security. The role of propaganda is one more factor to add when thinking about informational power.


  1. “We will defend forward to disrupt or halt malicious cyber activity at its source, including activity that falls below the level of armed conflict.” Summary: Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, 2018 (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2018); “Influence operations are the coordinated, integrated, and synchronized application of national diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and other capabilities in peacetime, crisis, conflict, and postconflict to foster attitudes, behaviors, or decisions by foreign target audiences that further U.S. interests and objectives.” Eric V. Larson et al., Foundations of Effective Influence Operations: A Framework for Enhancing Army Capabilities (Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2009), 2; Information Operations, Joint Publication (JP) 3-13, incorporating change 1 (Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2014), said, “The cognitive dimension encompasses the minds of those who transmit, receive, and respond to or act on information. It refers to individuals’ or groups’ information processing, perception, judgment, and decision making.”; Information Operations, I-2. See also Blagovest Tashev and Eric Gauldin, Cognitive Dimension: A Culture General Framework (Quantico, VA: Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning, Marine Corps University, 2020), 1–3.
  2. “Gray zone conflict is best understood as activity that is coercive and aggressive in nature, but that is deliberately designed to remain below the threshold of conventional military conflict and open interstate war. . . . They feature unconventional tactics, from cyberattacks, to propaganda and political warfare, to economic coercion and sabotage, to sponsorship of armed proxy fighters, to creeping military expansionism.” Hal Brands, “Paradoxes of the Gray Zone,” Foreign Policy Research Institute, 5 February 2016. One thorough study is Lyle J. Morris et al., Gaining Competitive Advantage in the Gray Zone: Response Options for Coercive Aggression Below the Threshold of Major War (Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2018), 172–76, The six phases are 0-shape, 1-deter, 2-seize initiative, 3-dominate, 4-stabilize, 5-enable civil authority. The phases are defined in Joint Operations, JP 3-0, incorporating change 1 (Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2018), V-8–V-10. A large professional military debate challenging the construct is ongoing; see, for instance, Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.’s comments on Phase 2 1/2 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Gen. Dunford’s Remarks and Q&A at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,” Joint Chiefs of Staff, 29 March 2016; and Gustav A. Otto, “The End of Operational Phases at Last,” InterAgency Journal 8, no. 3 (2017). “Hybrid threats combine military and non-military as well as covert and overt means, including disinformation, cyber attacks, economic pressure, deployment of irregular armed groups and use of regular forces. Hybrid methods are used to blur the lines between war and peace, and attempt to sow doubt in the minds of target populations. They aim to destabilise and undermine societies.” “NATO’s Response to Hybrid Threats,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 16 March 2021. See also MCDC: Understanding Hybrid Warfare (Norfolk, VA: Multinational Capability Development Campaign, 2017); and Maria Snegovaya, Putin’s Information Warfare in Ukraine: Soviet Origins of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare (Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of War, 2015).
  3. Propaganda is the subject of an enormous literature. Short discussions include Bruce Lannes Smith, “Propaganda,” Britannica, accessed 5 March 2021. “Propaganda, dissemination of information—facts, arguments, rumours, half-truths, or lies—to influence public opinion.” See also “Issue Brief: Distinguishing Disinformation from Propaganda, Misinformation, and ‘Fake News’,” National Endowment for Democracy, 17 October 2017; and the excellent website.
  4. “Puffery Laws,” Legal Match, accessed 17 March 2021.
  5. Issue 47 (2017) of Foam: International Photography Magazine forthrightly embraced and illustrated these broader definitions. The issue’s theme was “Propaganda: No Power without Image Control,” ed. Marloes Krijnen. See also Donald M. Bishop, “Photographers and ‘Propaganda,’ Friends and Enemies,” Public Diplomacy Council, 26 March 2018.
  6. V Renée, “Watch: How Filmmakers Make Emotions Visual,” No Film School, describes using “an overly dramatic song, shooting something in slow motion, or having an actor explicitly express an extreme emotion by crying, screaming, etc.”
  7. A lengthy discussion of personality cults, with an extensive list of sources, comes from Anita Pisch, The Personality Cult of Stalin in Soviet Posters, 1929–1953: Archetypes, Inventions and Fabrications (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2016), 50–54,
  8. A retrospective on Soviet propaganda on the White Sea-Baltic Canal in 1933 shows the use of photographs in the service of narrative, illustrating the concept of “no power without image control”; and see David Campany, “USSR in Construction,” Foam International Photography Magazine, no. 47 (2007): 91–110.
  9. Dozens of websites show Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean posters. One masterwork is Stefan R. Landsberger, Anchee Min, and Duo Duo, Chinese Propaganda Posters (Cologne, Germany: Taschen Bibliotheca Universalis, 2015). For the World Wars, Axis posters may be compared to British, French, Russian, and American posters, also found online. For thematic samples, see Zbynek Zeman, Selling the War: Art and Propaganda in World War II (New York: Exeter Books, 1982).
  10. Will Bohr, “Russian Jamming: The Electronic Iron Curtain,” Popular Electronics, April 1959; and Rochelle B. Price, “Jamming and the Law of International Communications,” Michigan Journal of International Law 5, no. 1 (1984): 400n6.
  11. Dramatic photographs of the period, hidden for many years, tell the story in Li Zhensheng, Red-Color News Soldier (New York: Phaidon Press, 2003).
  12. Zeman, Selling the War.
  13. Zeman’s Selling the War helpfully outlined different themes of propaganda—patriotism, vigilance for spies and saboteurs, war production, “the international crusade,” and the identification of foes as barbarians. Robert D. Leigh, the head of the U.S. Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service during World War II, noted: “Around the world at this hour and every hour of the 24 there is a constant battle on the ether waves for the possession of man’s thoughts, emotions, and attitudes—influencing his will to fight, to stop fighting, to work hard, to stop working, to resist and sabotage, to doubt, to grumble, to stand fast in faith and loyalty.” See Donald M. Bishop, “World War II and the Aims of Broadcasting,” Public Diplomacy Council, 22 March 2019.
  14. Complete Report of the Committee on Public Information: 1917: 1918: 1919 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1920). George Creel, How We Advertised America: The First Telling of the Amazing Story of the Committee on Public Information That Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1920). The work of the Committee on Public Information (CPI) was effectively summarized by Nicholas J. Cull, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 19451989 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 6–9, The most recent work is John Maxwell Hamilton, Manipulating the Masses: Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of American Propaganda (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2020). One CPI initiative was to organize thousands of “four-minute men” who would speak on the war during the four minutes that lapsed between the showing of each reel of a movie. For a pungent comment on the speakers, see Samuel Taylor Moore, America and the World War (New York: Greenberg Publishers, 1937), 76.
  15. Michael Kazin, “ ‘War against War’: Americans for Peace in World War I,” Constitution Daily (blog), 6 April 2017. That “many Americans felt that criticism of the government was unpatriotic and even treasonous” provided one more reason for pressure against the campaign to gain votes for women; the incarceration of the “Silent Sentinels” is a chilling story; Ella Wagner, “Occoquan Workhouse,” National Park Service, accessed 8 March 2021.
  16. Zeman, Selling the War, 8.
  17. Steven Luckert and Susan Bachrach, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda (Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2009) is a well-illustrated masterwork. Studies of propaganda in World War II usually only glance at the propaganda of Italian fascism, but “How Mussolini Won the Propaganda War: 1922–1943,” Flashbak, accessed 8 March 2021, can open the door to the larger literature. Italian fascist art incorporated modernism in ways that German propaganda did not. In the foreword to a recent title on Soviet World War II propaganda, M. J. Trow opens boldly: “Twentieth century Russia was built on propaganda.” The Art of War, vol. 3, The Soviets (London: BLKDOG Publishing, 2020).
  18. A Beloit College historian notes, “The term has been used both as a kind of self-identification for in-group as well as a sometimes fierce expression of disdain for those who were not its members. This negative strain has been shown in Japanese perceptions of Koreans and Taiwanese during Japan’s imperial period (1895–1945) and can be seen today with regard to treatment of Burakumin and other minority groups in Japan.” See Robert Lafleur, “Asian Ethnicities (2a)—Japan (‘Yamato’),” Round and Square (blog), 11 July 2007. “Adolf Hitler had his own version of that view: Americans would never be able to defeat the Thousand-Year Reich, he assured his aides, because they were a mongrel people.” Geoffrey C. Ward, “Mongrel Nation,” Smithsonian Magazine, November 2001. See also Gerhard L. Weinberg, “Hitler’s Image of the United States,” American Historical Review 69, no. 4 (July 1964): 1010,
  19. For the step-by-step process by which the Japanese media printed “little more than propaganda about war, virtually all of it false,” see Eric Johnston, “Truth Hurts: Censorship in the Media,” Japan Times, 8 August 2015.
  20. Derek Faraoi, “The Horrifying Suicides of Saipan,” 13th Floor, 24 August 2016. A few were caught on film: “Japanese Women Jump Over a Cliff in Saipan, Mariana Islands during World War II. HD Stock Footage,” YouTube, posted 9 May 2014, 1:13 min., from 0:41 in the clip. See, for instance, Ota Mashide et al., “Descent into Hell: The Battle of Okinawa,” Asia-Pacific Journal 12, no. 48, no. 4 (November 2014). The mix of motivations among Japanese and Okinawans is still being explored by historians; see “Japanese Mass Suicides,” Atomic Heritage Foundation, 28 July 2016; and Linda Sieg, “Historians Battle Over Okinawa WW2 Mass Suicides,” Reuters, 6 April 2007.
  21. Zeman, Selling the War, 12–28, discusses propaganda themes and organizations.
  22. The best general accounts are John Toland, The Last 100 Days (New York: Random House, 1966), 451, 480; and Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (New York: Random House, 1999), 288–330. The state of mind of Hitler and his ardent supporters in the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin in late April 1945 is well portrayed in Der Untergang [Downfall], the 2004 German film produced by Bernd Eichinger, 156 min. The film is based on Joachim Fest, Der Untergang: Hitler und das Ende des Dritten Reiches (Berlin: Alexander Fest Verlag, 2002); Joachim Fest, Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich, trans. Margot Dembo (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004); Trudi Junge, Bis zur letzten Stunde: Hitlers Sekretarin erzahit ihr Leben (Munich: Claassen, 2002); and Trudi Junge, Until the Final Hour: Hitler’s Last Secretary, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2004).
  23. It is worth reading the whole passage: “Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.” Vaclev Havel, “The Power of the Powerless,” Amor Mundi, 23 December 2011, originally published October 1978.
  24. Sadao Asada, “The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender: A Reconsideration,” Pacific Historical Review 67, no. 4 (November 1998): 511. This article does not directly examine the factor of a propagandized Japanese population but the effect of ultranationalism on the army leadership, especially, is more than implicit.
  25. For a journalist’s treatment of the “Kyujo Incident,” see Ian W. Toll, “An Attempted Coup Tried to Stop Japan’s Surrender in World War II. Here’s How It Failed,” Time, 11 August 2020.
  26. A much-noted essay said “ideological violence” was to be replaced by “an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism”; and Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?,” National Interest, Summer 1989, 1.
  27. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, 2020 Annual Report (Washington, DC: Congressional-Executive Commission on China, 2020), 295–331; Kelsang Dolma, “Tibet Was China’s First Laboratory of Repression,” Foreign Policy, 31 August 2020; “China: Tibet Propaganda Masks Repression,” Human Rights Watch, 19 June 2017; John Sudworth, “China’s Pressure and Propaganda—The Reality of Reporting Xinjiang,” BBC News, 15 January 2021; and Clarissa Sebag Montefiore, “How China Distorts Its Minorities through Propaganda,” BBC, 15 December 2013.
  28. B. R. Myers, “North Korea’s Race Problem,” Foreign Policy, 11 February 2010.
  29. To know more about the indoctrination of Russian soldiers, see Ray C. Finch, USA (Ret), “Ensuring the Political Loyalty of the Russian Soldier,” Military Review, July–August 2020, 52–67.
  30. Anne Applebaum, Putinism: The Ideology (London: London School of Economics and Political Science, 2013). For the difficulties and contradictions of “patriotism,” see Masha Lipman, “Putin’s Patriotism Lessons,” New Yorker, 24 September 2012.
  31. Keir Giles and Anthony Seaboyer, The Russian Information Warfare Construct (Kingston, ON: Royal Military College of Canada, 2019), 9.
  32. Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews, The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model (Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2016),
  33. Gordon Ramsay and Sam Robertshaw, Weaponizing News: RT, Sputnik and Targeted Disinformation (London: Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power, King’s College London, 2019).
  34. Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate, on Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election, vol. 2, Russia’s Use of Social Media with Additional Views, 116th Cong., 1st sess. (1 November 2020).
  35. Donie O’Sullivan and Dylan Byers, “Exclusive: Fake Black Activist Accounts Linked to Russian Government,” CNN Business, 28 September 2017.
  36. For the use of propaganda and indoctrination in the early years of the PRC, see Franklin W. Houn, To Change a Nation: Propaganda and Indoctrination in Communist China (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1961), esp. 1–9. A more recent study that examines both domestic and international Chinese propaganda is Kingsley Edney, The Globalization of Chinese Propaganda: International Power and Domestic Political Cohesion (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
  37. Donald M. Bishop, “Xi Jinping on Art and Culture,” Public Diplomacy Council, 1 July 2019.
  38. Jin Ding, “Telling Real News from Propaganda: A Reader’s Guide to Chinese Media,” Global Investigative Journalism Network, 12 May 2020; Tom Phillips, “Chinese Newspaper Editor Sacked for Critcising Beijing’s ‘War on Terror’,” Guardian, 2 November 2015; and “Newspaper Suspended in China in Alleged Retaliation for Investigation of Beijing Storm Death Toll,” IFEX, 9 August 2012.
  39. Han Rongbin, “Manufacturing Consent in Cyberspace: China’s ‘Fifty-Cent Army’,” Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 44, no. 2 (2015): 105–34,
  40. Kelsey Ables, “The Forbidden Images of the Chinese Internet,” Artsy, 16 July 2019.
  41. “[S]everal former soldiers said they were fed a confusing diet of indoctrination at their encampments on the outskirts of Beijing. They studied the speeches of Mr. Deng [Xiaoping] and were told that the demonstrations were the work of a subversive minority bent on toppling the Communist Party.” Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley, “Tales of Army Discord Show Tiananmen Square in a New Light,” New York Times, 2 June 2014.
  42. Stephen McDonell, “Why China Censors Banned Winnie the Pooh,” BBC News, 17 July 2017. The China Digital Times tracks “sensitive words”; see “Sensitive Word Series,” China Digital Times, accessed 8 April 2021.
  43. Patrick Brzeski, “It’s Official: China Overtakes North America as World’s Biggest Box Office in 2020,” Hollywood Reporter, 18 October 2020.
  44. Alexis Pogorelskin, “Phyllis Bottome’s The Mortal Storm: Film and Controversy,” Space Between 6, no. 1 (2010): 39–58; and Sharon Waxman, “China Bans Work with Film Studios,” Washington Post, 1 November 1997. For Red Corner, starring Richard Gere, see “Can You Go Home Again?,” Newsweek, 9 November 1997.
  45. Martin Samoylov, “4 Hollywood Movies Banned by China,”, 24 August 2018.
  46. Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing: The U.S. Film Industry and Chinese Government Influence (New York: PEN America, 2020). Compare the findings of this report with Benjamin Alexander Urwand, “Hitler and Hollywood: The Collaboration of American Movie Studios with Nazi Germany” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2011).
  47. Richard Gere, Testimony before the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, 116th Cong. (30 June 2020). Other witnesses at the same hearing provided additional perspectives; see the testimonies of Beth Baltzan, Nigel Cory, and Clete R. Willems. See also “How China Is Taking Control of Hollywood,” Heritage Foundation, 13 December 2018.
  48. “Basic Facts about the Prison Camps,” NK Hidden Gulag, accessed 9 March 2021.
  49. “Prisons of North Korea,” U.S. Department of State, 25 August 2017.
  50. “North Korea Rewrites Rules to Legitimize Kim Family Succession,” South China Morning Post, accessed 9 March 2021. See Preamble 10 of the “Ten Great Principles of the Establishment of the Unitary Ideology System,” translation provided by the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, Bedford Row International, accessed 17 March 2021; Myers, “North Korea’s Race Problem”; and “Lessons in Loathing at North Korea’s Museum on ‘US atrocities’,” Straits Times, 7 June 2018. Art from the museum is prominent in the compilation of images by Gabe Paoletti, “21 North Korean Propaganda Depictions of Americans,”, updated 8 June 2018.
  51. For the mix of past and present propaganda in China and North Korea, see Tania Branigan, “Korean War: ‘There’s Still the Evidence to Show It Was American Imperialism’,” Guardian, 24 June 2010. North Korea’s line is stated in Ho Jong Ho, Kang Sok Hui, and Pak Thae Ho, The U.S. Imperialists Started the Korean War (Pyongyang, North Korea: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1993 reprint of 1977 edition).
  52. “10 Most Censored Countries,” Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 November 2019.
  53. For a disturbing excursion into the dynamics that would follow a decision to use tactical nuclear weapons, see Col Thomas C. Greenwood, USMC (Ret), “Winning Battles Will Not Be Enough in a Great Power Conflict,” Marine Corps Gazette 104, no. 11 (November 2020): 53–59. He noted, however, “China would likely hesitate to start a shooting war with the United States given that its adroit use of political, economic, and informational power (and coercion) has enabled it to achieve many of its policy goals at a fairly low cost.”
  54. In the general template of armed forces headquarters, the “3” (G-3 for the Army, A-3 for the Air Force, N-3 for the Navy, and J-3 for the Joint Staff and Combatant Commands) directs operations. Under the “3,” the section responsible for information operations is the “39.”
  55. Peter Loftus, Jon Nesselhuf, and Howard Ward, “A War by Words: Language and Cultural Understanding in the Age of Information Warfare,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs (November 2020). For more views, see Ben Harburg, “Americans Don’t Know China—and That’s a Huge Problem,” Fortune, 15 August 2018; and Chi Wang, “China ‘Experts’ and US-China Relations,” Diplomat, 29 May 2018. The congressionally mandated assessment by the Center for a New American Security, Rising to the China Challenge: Renewing American Competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, 2020), included a number of proposals to increase language capabilities.
  56. John Thomson, email to author, 2021.
  57. “Global Engagement Center,” Department of State, accessed 22 March 2021.
  58. “Networks,” U.S. Agency for Global Media, accessed 9 March 2021. The “Voice of America Charter” is in section 206 of Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Pub.L. No. 94-350. 22 CFR § 5313 codified a “firewall” to “protect” the “professional independence and integrity” of the VOA.
  59. Countering Russian Disinformation (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2020). The work of the European External Action Service’s East Stratcom Task Force is one of the best efforts; see “About,” EUvsDisInfo, accessed 8 April 2021.
  60. See, for instance, the website of Radio Free Asia’s Open Technology Fund.
  61. Policy documents that commit U.S. government organizations engaged in public affairs, public diplomacy, international broadcasting, and operations in the information environment to truthful and accurate communication are too numerous to list. The former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, D. Bruce Wharton, addressed truth decay in his section, “Public Diplomacy in an Era of Truth Decay,” 2018 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy & International Broadcasting (Washington, DC: United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, 2019), 25–29.
  62. Havel, “The Power of the Powerless”; Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “Live Not by Lies,” Index on Censorship, no. 2 (2004): 203–7; and John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor [The splendor of truth] (Vatican City: Vatican, 1993).
  63. For how the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party smothers creativity—less by censorship than by inducing self-censorship—see Ha Jin, “The Censor in the Mirror,” American Scholar, 1 September 2008. Thus, “most Chinese movies lack depth and complexity—they’re hamstrung at the outset by directors and producers having to worry about whether the final product will pass the censors.”
  64. “South Korean Balloons: Plans to Stop People Sending Cross-Border Messages,” BBC News, 4 June 2020.
  65. The “Four Freedoms” mentioned in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address in 1941 were freedom of speech, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom to worship. They became shorthand for the aims of the democracies in the Second World War. See Stephanie Haboush Plunkett and James J. Kimble, Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms (New York: Abbeville Press, 2018); and Donald M. Bishop, “Revisiting the Four Freedoms,” Foundation: Marine Corps University Foundation Magazine, Summer 2019, 3–7.
  66. Robert Coram, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 2002). See also Ian T. Brown, A New Conception of War: John Boyd, the U.S. Marines, and Maneuver Warfare (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps University Press, 2018).
  67. Chet Richards and Chuck Spinney, eds., “Patterns of Conflict, John R. Boyd” (presentation, Defense and the National Interest, January 2007), slides 143–44.
  68. Faiza Patel and Raya Koreh, “New Method, Same Strategy: Russia Has Long Exploited U.S. Racial Divisions,” Brennan Center for Justice, 23 October 2018. In his civil rights address on 11 June 1963, President John F. Kennedy obliquely acknowledged the power of this challenge when he said, “We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?” See John F. Kennedy, “Civil Rights Address” (speech, White House, Washington, DC, 11 June 1963).
  69. Adela Suliman, Ed Flanagan, and Justin Solomon, “China Jeers as George Floyd Protests Sweep U.S.,” NBC News, 1 June 2020.
  70. “George Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’,” 22 February 1946, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, National Archives and Records Administration, Department of State Records, Record Group 59, Central Decimal File, 1945–49, 861.00/2-2246; reprinted in U.S. Department of State, ed., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, vol. VI, Eastern Europe; The Soviet Union (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1969), 696–709.

About the Author

Donald M. Bishop is the Donald Bren Chair of Strategic Communications in the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University, Quantico, VA. After serving in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, Korea, and on the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy, he was a public diplomacy officer in the Foreign Service for 31 years. He led U.S. public diplomacy in Bangladesh, Nigeria, China, and Afghanistan, and he was detailed to the Pentagon as the foreign policy advisor to the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen James T. Conway. The author thanks John Thomson and Dr. William Morgan for their reviews of drafts.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Marine Corps University, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy, or the U.S. government.

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