Political-Ideological Warfare in Integrated Strategy, and its Basis in an Assessment of Soviet Reality

Political-Ideological Warfare in Integrated Strategy, and its Basis in an Assessment of Soviet Reality
(John Lenczowski, May 25, 2011)

Transcript available below

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About the speaker

John Lenczowski is founder and president of The Institute of World Politics, an independent graduate school of national security and international affairs in Washington, D.C. IWP is dedicated to developing leaders with a sound understanding of international realities and the ethical conduct of statecraft, based on knowledge and appreciation of American founding principles and the Western moral tradition. Offering a doctoral program, five Master’s degrees and eighteen certificate programs, IWP is the only academic institution dedicated to teaching all the arts of statecraft, including: military strategy, the art of diplomacy; public diplomacy, opinion formation, political warfare; intelligence, counterintelligence, economic strategy, and moral leadership, and how these arts are integrated into national strategy. 

From 1981 to 1983, Dr. Lenczowski served in the State Department in the Bureau of European Affairs and as Special Advisor to Under Secretary for Political Affairs Lawrence Eagleburger. From 1983 to 1987, he was Director of European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council. In that capacity, he was principal Soviet affairs adviser to President Reagan. 

He has been associated with several academic and research institutions in the Washington area, including Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, the American Enterprise Institute, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Council for Inter-American Security, and the International Freedom Foundation. He has also served on the staff of Congressman James Courter. 

Dr. Lenczowski attended the Thacher School, earned his B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley, and received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

He is the author of Soviet Perceptions of U.S. Foreign Policy (1982); The Sources of Soviet Perestroika (1990), Cultural Diplomacy: A Multi-faceted Strategic Asset of Soviet Power (1991); Full-Spectrum Diplomacy and Grand Strategy(2011) and numerous other writings and addresses on U.S. foreign policy, public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, counter-propaganda, political warfare, Soviet/Russian affairs, comparative ideologies, intelligence, strategic deception, counterintelligence, and integrated strategy.

For more on the nature of the Soviet Union and Russian communism, see Diana West’s Westminster talk, Countering Subversion: Lessons from History, and Robert Reilly’s Westminster talk, Diplomacy in the Modern Era.


John Lenczowski:

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege to join you here for what I think is one of the most important conferences of its type that I think that has been put on by anybody. And I want to congratulate Katie and her colleagues for for making this happen. And I can only wish that this could be multiplied many times over.

I would like to share with you today a few thoughts about my experience in- as is really an eyewitness and participant in the war of ideas during the Cold War, particularly in the administration, in the Reagan Administration, where I served in the State Department and the National Security Council.

Let me just begin that the- Ronald Reagan’s and the administration’s policy towards Soviet Communism was something that actually, having been rooted in in the president’s long-standing study of Communism, his experience of dealing with Communists in the trade union movement, and so on and so forth, it had all of those roots.

But ultimately, the way policy was made derived from a very coherent strategic understanding of what had to be done about the problem. And a very large part of strategy in the first place is the whole question of identifying the weaknesses of the enemy and let me just now- I do not want to say that everybody in the Reagan administration was thinking this way.

As a matter of fact, the number of people who were thinking this way was rather small, but nevertheless that small group had an extraordinary influence in the development of policy precisely because their views comported with the president’s and the first, the fundamental weakness that was identified in the administration concerning the, you know, Soviet Communism was the lack of legitimacy of the Soviet regime.

The Soviets came to power by conspiracy, force, and ruthlessness, and deception. They did not give a full accounting of what their political program was. They did not rule by the consent of the governed and so they needed their ideology fundamentally to to justify why they deserved to be in power. Marxism-Leninism was used for this purpose.

I can explain in some detail why, how they use the ideology to justify themselves in power in very short order. Basically, the argument was, ‘We, the Communist Party, understand the laws of history better than you do and therefore we deserve to be in power’. That is the very short and highly simplistic explanation of how they legitimize themselves. It derives from a more complex idea called ‘freedom is comprehended necessity’, which has very much to do with understanding the inevitable laws of history and so on and so forth.

Now, they used this ideology not only to legitimize themselves, but to serve their internal security interests, precisely because they were illegitimate. They had a huge internal security problem. They were afraid of their own people. That was the central fact of political life of the Soviet system, which is why they had such a vast internal security apparatus from the KGB, the block- the block informants, the jamming of foreign broadcasts, the hermetically sealing of the- of the border, the control of the economy, the control of communications, education entertainment, internal travel, and etc. etc. etc.

The ideology however, because it had this whole aura of inevitability of the inexorable laws of history, was something, which essentially was designed to induce first of all, a kind of a state of acceptance of the regime in power, but at a much deeper level.

Namely, that if history is unstoppable, and because the party is writing the wave of history, therefore, one cannot resist the, you know, human will, a human effort cannot resist these inexorable forces and therefore, that this ideology was designed to induce a kind of a psychological state of acceptance if not futile resignation. It is futile to resist the forces of history.

Now, the ideology played a huge role in the internal security system not only in this psychological- political-psychological sense, but also in so far is it established an entire system of thought- oh, based on an internally logically consistent system of falsehoods, otherwise known in short as the lie, which enforced conformity within the system.

The basic principle here was the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everybody in the court had to say that the naked emperor was wearing beautiful clothes and if anybody said otherwise, and said that he was naked, then he could- that person could easily be identified by the thought police as a threat to the regime, as a nonconformist, and- and therefore, somebody who had to be removed to the gulag or other assorted punishments.

And so, this was a system, which- which was designed to get everybody to repeat the official falsehoods whether they, you know, and there the repetition… You would say the falsehood either as a sign of loyalty to the regime or as a sign of submission.

The- this system combined with the- the coercive aspects of the internal security system created an atomization in society about which we heard a little earlier and- and- which is a key feature of- of totalitarian systems whereby the individual is separated from all other individuals because nobody can trust anybody else and- and the absence of trust is bolstered by the fundamental aura of falsehood that surrounds the entire political culture.

The lie lay at the root of Soviet socialism and it had a number of different dimensions. At perhaps its most profound dimension, the lie basically said that there is no transcendent, objective, universal, moral order in the world, but rather, all moral standards are determined by man.

Of course, the ideology does not formally say this. The ideology says that history makes right and that it is the laws of history that determine what is right and wrong.

As Lenin described it in his famous speech to the youth leagues in 1921 in his classic statement of communist morality, ‘there is no such thing as objective moral standards. This is a bunch of bourgeois prejudice.’ Instead, any morality that is good is that which assists the revolution and accelerates the revolution. That which is bad is that which hinders the revolution, entirely a contingent morality.

But ultimately, despite the fact that all of this depends upon the revolutionary tides, at root, what is history? History is the past tense of politics, politics is in control of man, and man is the one, ultimately, who determines whether something is moving in the direction of the revolution or not and therefore, what you have here, is that all moral standards are established by man and not by any other transcendent source whether from nature or from God.

And so therefore, when man establishes moral standards, that means it is established by political power. Whoever has the biggest number of votes or the biggest guns and the greatest will to use them and so therefore, it is the doctrine of might makes right. That is what Soviet morality was, communist morality was and is. It is the doctrine of might makes right and therefore, there is no independent basis upon which to claim that a law, a human law, might even by unjust because there is no natural justice.

See the rest of his Westminster talk here…