I thought I was winning, landing punch after punch, but then I was hit by a surprise left hook, and hit the canvas… intellectually speaking. In a debate segment a little while back I was arguing with a gent who was sure that the only way for smaller countries like Iran, North Korea and Pakistan to stand up to U.S. pressure was to use international “justice”. For him this was something to the effect of going to the UN and trying to punish Washington with lawyers, courts and bureaucracy for its international bullying. The natural response to such flagrant naivete were my arguments like…
“Just who put together these ‘international’ organizations?”
“Has America ever been sanctioned/punished by the UN and if not, then why?”
“If America’s government is so inherently (as my opponent stated) corrupt why would an international government be just?”
“By what means is some armyless ‘organization’ going to ‘punish’ the world’s only hyperpower?”
Those statements were the jabs that were winning me the fight through the first few rounds, I felt very good in my position, until I let my guard down and exposed my pessimistic glass jaw. He saw his opening and said something like “well if using international courts won’t work, how can smaller countries fight Washington? What’s the winning strategy Mr. Know-it-all?”. This was the hook that got me. In hindsight I should have been prepared with some talking points to answer this type of question, but I stood there for the longest two seconds of my life and deflected to another issue acknowledging that little can be done. To be honest I am not sure if I lost that debate, but it sure felt like I was crushed in that one moment. That is why I want to take the time to correct my mistakes and speak about what smaller countries can actually do to fight “the Global Hegemon” that the Alternative Media is so very sick of.
First, one big condition…
The following arguments assume that the government of some nation/territory actually have the power, will, and a quorum of loyal manpower to actually take action. This means that arguments like “Well Washington has half the Indian government on its payroll” do not apply as we assume that the vast majority of the governing bodies are working for the interest of their state.
This also excludes military options like using Iran’s strategy of having a navy of small cheap boats that hit hard but are expendable. Ultimately, the best small countries can hope for against the U.S. militarily is to just hold out until they get tired and go home, i.e. Vietnam.
This article also assumes that smaller nations want to resist, many of them do not.
Cameras are cheaper than guns
Although making high quality media content is certainly not cheap from the standpoint of the average citizen’s wallet, on a governmental scale it is vastly cheaper than maintaining a powerful 21st century military. Furthermore, the relative costs of making said media have drastically gone down as we have entered the digital age. For about the cost of an American car, one get can the cameras, lighting and a good computer to put together very clean almost pro Youtube news content. At best, the value of a car could equip one and a half U.S. soldiers. What could a small nation use better, one fully equipped and one partially equipped infantryman or the means to produce media content on a daily basis?
If you look at a breakdown of the cost of news media, state or privately funded, in a nation vs. the cost of their military you can see that making big time news isn’t exactly cheap but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of running a real military.
If you will forgive my bias, it must be pointed out that spending wise RT is completely overwhelmed by the combined budgets of NATO’s news media outlets and yet it has achieved massive success on Youtube with over 10 billion views and is able, at times, to even shift the media narrative abroad. This is a massive achievement for Russia. The fact that Russia sent Coronavirus aid to America would have never made news headlines 15 years ago, that would have been kept quiet. Now, CNN, Fox and the others had no choice but to acknowledge it and try to at least spin it in a negative way.Weak nations have the advantage that with the right ideas, hard work, and especially promotion, they can afford to compete with the big boys. On a military front the battle is simply hopeless. However, if managed correctly a few million dollars per year is all it takes for a smaller government to create its own source of Soft Power, that could compete with the West. Media costs millions, militaries cost billions, the choice is obvious for poorer countries.
In a world of nuclear standoff Soft Power is king and thankfully for smaller countries News Media has become very affordable and with the right talent\strategy it can have a real effect even against vastly “superior” opponents.
You cannot be an empire without a hit movie
Although this is very similar to the previous point, outside of the West very few are willing to acknowledge just how critical Entertainment Media is in relation to Soft Power. News Media sends a more conscious blunt message, but it is the video games and films that really impact the subconscious of the audience and are probably more influential in the long run. The fantasy worlds that the Entertainment Media builds skew our perspective of our own real world towards the creator’s liking.
As someone who works in the Russian media I can say that virtually no one in power understands this here. Their perspective of how to influence other countries remains a matter of men in suits, either reading the news off a teleprompter or speaking to selected dignitaries in broken English at very official sounding elite forums. Every Russian child is still raised from the cradle to the grave on Hollywood movies and AAA video games so if someone is winning the information war in the human subconscious, they are winning from somewhere in California not behind the walls of the Kremlin.
I have enraged many Russians personally by pointing out the fact that Russia will never be made “Great Again” until it is able to produce a major motion picture with international success. The world is connected to American culture via Hollywood and thanks to its influence a certain percent of young people in every country on Earth see themselves as more American than anything else, and are willing to act politically on this belief. Hollywood movies project an American message the world over that is heard loud and clear in the subconscious, where as Russians are still relying on a few college students to read Dostoyevsky and convert to Orthodoxy.
Powerful nations produce powerful media, although movies and AAA video games are vastly more expensive than news (but still way cheaper than militaries), smaller nations could fund these type of projects to present their own message. Smash hit videogames have come from countries that are politically impotent. This is an important Soft Power front that is winnable for any nation with the willpower to try.
Loyalty is bought, so buy it
One of the main reasons the USSR lost the Cold War is that the Soviets were wooed by the Materialism of Hollywood movies. The idea of forcing an ascetic lifestyle onto the elite and entire nation didn’t work out very well. Moscow was unwilling to pay its elite, so Washington took their place and this applies to every country on Earth. If you do not pay your men, be they soldiers, police, journalists, big businessmen, ministers etc., the the Global Hegemon is happy to buy them out from under you.
Most people like the culture they are raised in, most people want to be good, but when given the choice between a lifetime of poverty to serve the nation and an upper middle class salary you know what many of them are going to pick.
Washington better than anyone understands this. If you serve DC you live very well. Smaller nations need to get it through their heads that if they want to “resist” then they are going to have to pay their people to do it.
The people working in the previous examples of News and Entertainment Media are exactly the type that needs to be paid well, because their treason could completely crush any attempts of the nation to achieve anything Soft Power wise.
Paying your men well is a key means of fighting a greater power. If you allow others to buy influence in your country, that is your fault, not theirs.
The Big “Why”
The basis of philosophy, at least from a Western perspective, is asking the question “why?” and it is very important for governments, especially the smaller poorer ones, to have answers to this eternal question.
Small African nations with many nationalities and tribes with borders drawn by colonizers need to answer the question of why they are the legitimate rulers and why a member of the populace should see himself as Nigerian and not Yoruba tribesman.
South American countries like Venezuela need to explain to the population why they should continue to resist America even under sanctions and other punishments. Wouldn’t submitting to the Hegemon make life easier, why suffer? Suffering demands justification for itself.
Countries with growing new ideological movements like Hungary and Russia need to justify it is worth fighting over putting the prefix “Il” in front of “Liberal Democracy”.
A smaller weaker nation MUST explain itself itself to the population. If the logic is tight and the public understands and agrees with it than the nation will stay on its feet even under hard times, sanctions or Color Revolution attempts.
Trolling costs you nothing
Did anyone at all know who the President of the Philippines was until Duterte came around? Of course not. Because they were not provocative trolls like Duterte is. He swears, uses violent threats and issued a shoot-to-kill anti-drug dealing policy. Love him or hate him, he gets attention and the main thing we can see is that trolling comes cheap. Duterte has built a cult of personality for himself by saying what a lot of people are thinking and shocking those who don’t agree with his worldview.
Popular charismatic leaders are much harder to overthrow by the Hegemon. Public stunts, trolling and other forms of shenanigans don’t cost much but can export messages and images that work in foreign countries and build the internal strength needed for the leader to bear the brunt of Color Revolution tactics. Sure, you may hate Duterte or find him a monster, but you know who he is and you now know what the biggest problem in the Philippines is officially. That’s not too bad of a PR campaign for a shockingly poor nation.
David can only fight Goliath with soft power
The sling that is needed to deal with the global Goliath is Soft Power, it is simply cheaper and more manageable by smaller nations and their leadership. If one is going to side against the U.S. on certain issues they need to be prepared to fight… from a distance… and on the cheap.
Header: David with the Head of Goliath – Caravaggio – Kunsthistorisches Museum Gemäldegalerie, Vienna, c. 1607
Original: Tim Kirby – Strategic Culture Foundation