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One of the major problems in identifying the existential threat from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is that younger Americans have little conception of the danger the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses to their lives. There are important generational differences among Americans that frame how the threat is understood or how it is not comprehended. This is for three reasons.

First, our youngest generation of Americans has no conscious reality of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Of course, for older Americans, this was an intense shared experience with a formidable military threat that posed a great danger to the nation and its allies. Those Americans born after its end have no experience of the fear that the USSR represented as an existential threat to their very lives. They do not remember “ducking and covering” under their school desks for fear of an incoming Soviet nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack. Instead, today’s youngest generations inherited a world where the U.S. is perceived to have always been, and remains today, the only dominant global power. For younger generations, this “reality” was taken as the natural order of global politics rather than as an aberration in the normal push-and-pull of great power politics. While Millennials—born in the early 1980s to the mid- or late 1990s—comprehension of threats to the U.S. is framed by 9/11 and the threat from Islamic terrorism, Generation Z—born in the mid- to late-1990s to the early 2010s and the first “digital natives”—clearly did not have any such experience, which is now made manifest in their self-loathing attitudes towards America and Americanism.

Second, generations born after the Cold War were educated by a system that did not instruct Americans about the nature of Communist ideology and its threat to the United States, nor did popular culture or other sources of information. This was primarily due to the decline of the American educational system as it transitioned from being an institution based on intellectual integrity oriented toward educating Americans in the tradition of civil nationalism toward one heavily informed, if not dominated, by communist thought. Since the 1990s, the American educational system has not educated Americans about the true nature of communism, its own anti-American bias, or communism’s evils. To the contrary, American educators have touted the benefits of communist ideology while avoiding analysis or discussion of its history and thus the inevitable tyranny and oppression of any communist government. This has not only been among elite universities, but as witnessed today, it has also infected institutions previously thought safe from such propagandizing. This includes our K-12 education as well as the U.S. military’s Joint Professional Military Education (JPME), which educates mid-level and senior officers. Which is why the U.S. military has new generations of officers attending JPME without ever having previously learned about, let alone studied, the communist ideology of the Soviet Union or the PRC.

Third, America’s educational system since the 1980s has also skewed the students’ comprehension of American history, including its great documents like the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the Monroe Doctrine, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. These Marxist educators present a perverted view of American history, portraying it as an irredeemably flawed and pernicious country. Ideas like Manifest Destiny, or the history of the defense of American interests in the past struggles with great powers like Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and, of course, the Soviet Union, are also slanted against an accurate understanding of America’s identity. In that manner, American students did not have the same appreciation as the Baby Boomers or Generation X of the sacrifices made by previous generations of Americans to achieve the American Dream, one that included national security for the homeland but also for a stable world after the Soviet Union’s death in 1991.

The effect of this perverted educational system was compounded and reinforced by the media and popular culture, which echoed the anti-Americanism of the political left—based on Marxist-Leninist ideology. That effect was augmented by the PRC. As such, the CCP labored to ensure that the American educational system, media, business, and national security communities would continue to do what we term “threat deflation.” The result is that generations of Americans have not perceived the PRC as an enemy of the United States. Instead, those Americans who adopted the PRC’s approach were rewarded. As more money flowed into America, there was ever more incentive to support the PRC. As a result, American elites and educators deflated the threat, and as a result, the PRC grew to become the existential threat it is today.

The consequence is that younger Americans today are poorly prepared to adapt to the strategic realities of the 21st century, foremost of which is the existential threat from the PRC. Since the end of the Cold War, the PRC labored to minimize the threat it posed and used its wealth to secure influence in the U.S. government and all aspects of the American media, universities, think tanks, philanthropic foundations, business and investment communities, and Silicon Valley. Older Americans, the Baby Boomer Generation, should never have permitted the PRC to have secured such influence, but they did. The American educational system failed younger generations of Americans, as did the media, universities, and national security community. Yet, however difficult it is to admit, it is bitingly accurate to state that the Baby Boomers and Generation X failed to preserve what had been bequeathed to them by the strategists that designed and executed the victories of World War II and the Cold War. In essence, they did not provide the necessary strategic education to subsequent generations. Likewise, Millennials and Generation Z failed to demand our educational institutions teach our progeny to appreciate the uniqueness of the United States, the beneficial impacts of its power, and its position in global politics. Moreover, these educators failed to train the next generation to acknowledge and even respect the great cost and sacrifice it took to create the world they have come to expect or to appreciate how different the world will be for all that they value if the PRC becomes the dominant power.

American strategic thought and teaching were for too long disconnected from the strategic reality of the last thirty years. It is time for a renaissance in American strategic thought, and that begins by acknowledging and combating the scourge of communism, be it in the PRC or in America.

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