Propaganda is the selective use of certain information in a biased way to encourage a particular reaction or view.
As governments spin up these information operations spreading propaganda, the local populations, and in some cases, entire regions of countries, are fed inaccurate information which supports ideologies that threaten our values and principles.
Although our military and intelligence community possess information operations capabilities, they are not able to accept the necessary risk, commit the required time and effort into embedding into these regions, learning the cultures, and educating the people and leaders.
One entity that identified this shortfall has stepped in to fill that information-gathering and education gap. That entity is the Freedom Research Foundation.
Who is the Freedom Research Foundation
Freedom Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit education foundation. FRF educates the American people in the public and private sectors, including U.S. military on the ground, senators/congressmen, White House staff, Department of State, and MOST importantly, Americans from all walks of life.
That education is approached from a very unique perspective. Freedom Research Foundation was conceived in 1984, at the request of President Reagan, to provide research on the ground in conflict zones, so that the White House could make better policy decisions. Most of that collected information and research went to the National Security Council.
The lens through which Freedom Research Foundation approaches any country it goes into is a historical, anthropological, psychological, and political (local political and geopolitical) framework.
In order to understand why people believe certain things or have certain views, you have to understand the historical origins of those people and how they’ve been treated by other groups in the area.
To understand those origins, they try to answer 3 questions
- How do people see themselves?
- How do they see others?
- How do they see the world?
By answering these 3 questions, FRF can determine if this person or group can or does share American values and principles. Those values and principles are what form American Democracy and our Constitution – the fundamental ideas of local governance, decentralized governance, and people participating in their government.
FRF advocates for social contracts, similar to our Bill of Rights, within these governments, regardless of their ethnic group, religion, or linguistic history. All people must have guaranteed rights within a government framework.
The Mission of the Freedom Research Foundation
The Mission of the Freedom Research Foundation is to send Americans, who understand and believe in the foundational principles that made America the greatest political achievement in human civilization, anywhere in the world an opportunity presents itself. Since 1984, we go where we see our enemies trying to establish power through political, military, economic, or civil society organizations. They find those among the population who share our values, and we look for any way possible to support them to be successful.
Their method for achieving this is Assess, Connect, Engage (ACE). First, they assess the environment, understanding the many dimensions that have created the current reality. Second, they simultaneously either connect or engage individuals and groups in the local population to people outside that can help. Their approach is focused on those who share our values. For those we find who share our values, we first Identify them, we educate them and we allow them to educate us. This is a reciprocal process. Finally, they empower (I, E2) them by either connecting them to key leaders or embedding an engagement team who will continue to understand the operating environment and look for innovative and unique ways they can help them.
The success of FRF is measured by the impact they have on their enemies. They call this critical process Define, Delegitimize, Defeat (D3). Often American Foreign policy professionals don’t define the nature of the threat or the real intentions of our enemies. As a consequence, we allow our enemies to be successful in exploiting our ambiguity and indecisiveness. At Freedom Research Foundation, once they understand the nature, politics, and goals of our adversaries, they have defined them.
For example, China and Russia are NOT competitors. They are enemies advancing their historical empires. Turkey, Iran, and the Salafi Islamic or Shia non-state actors they support, are not terrorists, per se. They are Islamic Fascists or Fascist States using Islam as a tool to control populations, justifying violence in order to solidify their “governance” and control over these populations.
FRF delegitimizes their efforts by empowering those among their populations who stand with us and share our values. Only when this group attains a critical mass of influence and power can we say that we have defeated our adversaries’ designs. Victory is possible only when the number of those who share our values exceeds those who do not. America is more than a fixed piece of geography. It is an idea, and if our ideas are not expanding in the world- we are losing. Freedom Research Foundation has a vital national strategic interest in expanding our ideas in the world, not for imperial goals or ideas of nation-building, but because its security interests depend on expanding freedom and liberty in the world.
One of the primary steps in the method FRF uses is connecting with key leaders. They do that by meeting with local leaders across political, military, business, and civil society.
Leaders who have access to the U.S. or access to people who have connections in the U.S. are not necessarily the legitimate representatives of their people. They are just people with access, and that usually has to do with power and money, which is not an indicator that you have the consent of the governed. FRF defines legitimacy as “The consent of the governed.”
For example, if somebody says a person is a legitimate representative, FRF needs to ask themselves if that person has the consent of the people as a whole. Do they objectively try to protect all people regardless of ethnicity, religion, or historical identity? They need to satisfy themselves that they are meeting multiple conditions at the same time. To determine if that person is legitimate, they engage and interact with all levels of government, society, political leaders, military leaders, and business leaders. Only time and persistent contact can create a better understanding of the situation and people who are constantly changing.
Business leaders are routinely ignored in conflict areas or developing nations, but ultimately governments have to be paid for by somebody. Those somebody’s are the local people who work for or run those businesses. Business leaders are one of the most important groups with whom we engage and interact.
If a Freedom Research Foundation engagement team finds people that share American values and have business leaders they are associated with or are connected to, then we can introduce those business leaders to business leaders in America so that they can potentially create wealth together. A growing and prosperous country and people can then pay for their own government. This is a model rooted in common sense that benefits both US interests and the interests of the local government and people. It is most decidedly NOT NATION BUILDING, which has come to mean imposing our ideas into a culture that is in no way amenable to Jeffersonian democracy. Rather we attempt to identify those individuals or groups who share our values. FRF leverages common values and support the organic evolution of an indigenous, multi-ethnic, multi-religious form of democracy that is comprehensible to their view of themselves, others, and the world.
FRF understands MEMEtic code and builds solutions within that code. Just like a Genetic Code, they are universal to Humanity. Freedom is the metaphysical blueprint with human consciousness we leverage for success. It will be their democracy, not ours. Not all areas we operate in are ready for this model, and a core competency of FRF is understanding when and where we can and cannot help. Saying no is just as important as saying yes. At any point, when a group or partner no longer demonstrates they share multiple or at least one core common value, we break ties with them. The allegiance of the Freedom Research Foundation is to the United States of America and the American people, who make America what it is. Allowing hostile nations to fill the vacuum created when the US abandons the field- militarily, economically, politically, ideologically- will not preserve the American way of life or protect us from our adversaries.
The United States has a vital strategic interest in not allowing our blood and treasure to be spent in vain once the guns are silent by allowing adversarial interests to fill the void. Iraq is influenced by Iran and politically controlled by the Sadrists. Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban. Russia exerts its influence in its former Czarist colonies and invades the ones it can’t. Iran has a land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean. China has expanded its predatory economic practices across the globe via the “Belt and Road.” There are more terrorists and terrorist groups today than there were on September 11th, 2001, all of which has happened as America has increased its military activities around the globe. Our enemies have exploited our unwillingness and inability to act in accordance with our foundational principles.
When in American history did an outside interest drop a bag of cash on us and say “hey America go build yourselves a country”? It doesn’t mean we can’t help other countries in time of need, but more often than not, we (America) incentivize recipients of our largess to NOT build their own country and just become dependent on us. We spend billions/trillions of American dollars to no effect and then wonder why it doesn’t work. People who do not do something for themselves not only don’t appreciate it but more often than not come to resent it.
Freedom Research Foundation exists to understand and help where they can. They look for shared interests with respect to our principles and values. Their engagement teams try to build relationships that are then open to advise and guide on how to organize society and governance to maximize individual freedom and economic growth. The education process is a mutual, iterative process between the engagement team and the people they meet.
Area of Operations
Freedom Research Foundation, with others, played a critical role in helping the Reagan Administration formulate what became known as the Reagan doctrine. At the time, the focus was on those countries the Soviet Union was supporting as Marxist/Leninist colonies around the world. Then the hot spots were places such as Central America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. That is precisely what is happening in Ukraine today. The leopard does not change his spots, however today there are other leopards as well. This is a battle of ideas. America simply cannot afford to lose. FRF is uniquely qualified and able to play its part in this battle. Democracy must be a behavior before it can be a form of government, and only those who share our values and principles can be trusted to stand with us against our enemies (see Afghanistan). Government plays a vital role militarily, but there is no institution in the U.S. Government whose sole purpose is to learn and understand. It is not able to capture the level of granularity of which FRF Engagement teams are capable.
Ultimately FRF is not the provider, but rather the connector that helps find people who can and will provide what is needed. Military support is a government-to-government operation. Freedom Research Foundation goes to these governments and says “these people need your help. Here is why it is good for America.”
FRF has brought two sitting U.S. Congressmen to North and East Syria, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense to Ukraine, and the Chairman of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom to Syria and Iraq multiple times. These individuals were traveling in their own capacity as private citizens.
Freedom Research Foundation identifies people who share common values and want to help. We bring them on the ground and introduce them to the leaders in that area, whether they be government, military, political, or business. Having Americans on the ground gives them a perspective they could not otherwise obtain. They come back to the US invigorated and excited with a much deeper understanding of the issues and problems. They are then better able to educate others in the public and private sectors. Knowledge is power. FRF empowers people to be knowledgeable about the regions they visit.
FRF considers itself a “Do Tank” rather than a “Think Tank” because of our hands-on approach. Our engagement teams are comprised mostly of former military personnel due to the skill sets they’ve acquired. They are uniquely qualified to operate in areas that may be volatile.
Once the Soviet Union collapsed, our area of operation shifted to the Islamic Fascist threat. This threat at the time was misunderstood by much of the world. FRF focused on terrorist groups that wanted to rule and govern using Islam to justify the use of violence. This is fascism. Our focus is on understanding how nation-states- primarily China, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, along with Islamic Fascist groups- endeavor to destroy individual freedom, which makes the world much more dangerous for America and the West.
FRF helps educate people living under or influenced by these ideologies, with the goal of delegitimizing and defeating those ideologies.
Most Notable Achievements
FRF helped educate Americans in the public and private sector about the people of Northeast Syria and their military, political and civil society leaders. We arranged critical meetings between U.S. military leaders and the leaders of the Autonomous Administration of Northeast Syria (AANES).
We helped both Americans and the AANES leadership understand why supporting the Deir ez-Zor people was critical to Northeast Syria but also for U.S. Foreign Policy as a counter to the goals of Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey.
Additionally, FRF works with the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Its recommendations to the State Department were a result of the research done by the Freedom Research Foundation. The educational efforts of the FRF engagement team played a major role in keeping the US engaged in Northeast Syria.
FRF’s goal is persistent contact in our areas of operation. We need to be on the ground and engaged until mission success. Mission success against terrorism and insurgency in these regions can only be achieved through good governance.
Success can only be achieved if the local government shares our values in order for us to ensure that a non-state actor or state authoritarian isn’t going to occupy and rule those people and that land.
The amount of time spent on the ground is dependent on the situation. Some deployments are 6 to 8 months while others might be upwards of 18 months. Freedom Research Foundation was first in Syria in 2006. Since 2015, FRF has had a consistent presence.
What is important to understand about the mission of the Freedom Research Foundation is that they are not a military or intelligence entity. They do not represent the U.S. government or work for the U.S. government. This disconnect is critical to their work, as many view U.S foreign policy and the behavior of the U.S. with suspicion.
To combat these narratives, part of FRFs education process is to explain how the American political system works (and doesn’t work). Without that basic understanding, you cannot get other groups to understand why certain things are the way they are, and what can or can not be done about it.
At its core, Freedom Research Foundation is mostly former military veterans who want America to do better. They assess the environment and situation by connecting indigenous people in our Area of Operations (AO) to people in the US private and public sectors. In situations in which they think can have an impact, FRF will deploy an engagement team on the ground and execute a project based fundamentally on education.
That engagement team must define the threat, figure out how to delegitimize it, and then defeat it in the long term.
- Define – define the threat. Who are the people, what do they believe, what do they want to do and how do they want to do it? What have they done, not just said they will or can do. Define the threat in the context of their political ideas.
- Delegitimize – if it’s a threat to our values, we want to delegitimize it. We do that by presenting them with alternative ideas they likely have never heard before. We show them that good governance is in their best interests.
Northeast Syria is an example. It was rife with Marxist Leninist ideology, but now that the government has to run itself, they realize there is no magical money tree the fruit of which they can spread equally among the people. They have to generate wealth in order to pay their employees and create livelihoods for their people. That de-legitimizes communism because that system doesn’t work. FRF spends time on the ground educating leaders, explaining to them why it cannot and does not work.
- Defeat – This is the long game. Over a period of time, by defining and delegitimizing, eventually, the ideology is defeated. (see the collapse of the Soviet Union).
For all who find themselves frustrated and angered at how our institutional bureaucracies fail us when we needed them most, Freedom Research Foundation is the response. We exist for the American people, who can no longer ignore our forget those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.