In Our Time

The “Free World”

The Soviet Union and the Soviet Empire have been gone for 26 years, yet American internationalists, Democrats and Republicans alike, persist in speaking of the “Free World,” quite as if Earth continues to be divided between the liberal-democratic-capitalist and the communist camps.  We have been hearing a great deal more of this Free World talk since President Trump’s inauguration, aimed at promoting the belief that the new President is not just letting the Free World down but turning his back on it, careless of whether it survives, languishes, or perishes without American military and financial aid and diplomatic support.  No one, right or left, thinks to ask whether the “Free World” still exists in a sense in which the term has any meaning at all.

From the start, the Free World was an ideological idea, and hence an aggressive one.  Its rhetorical nemesis was the “communist bloc,” a world that was “unfree” in a specific ideological and totalitarian way on the far side of the Iron Curtain.  For champions of the Free World, the Unfree World did not ordinarily include, for ideological and political purposes, countries whose political and social traditions were traditional and pre-democratic—empires, monarchies, even old-fashioned, nonideological dictatorships with which the Free World was willing to make alliances and do business on behalf of its strategy...

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