The Free World is a politically-charged term originally used positively to refer to the United States and its allies (the Western Bloc) during the Cold War. The concept included countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Canada, West Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and countries belonging to organisations such as the European Union and NATO. Even more broadly, it was taken as referring to all non-communist countries. Today, it is occasionally still used to refer to the United States and its allies, primarily in contrast to countries seen as being against the U.S. and the West.
During World War II, the Allied powers viewed themselves as opposing the oppression and fascism of the Axis powers, thus making them "free". Following the end of World War II, the Cold War conception of the "Free World" included only anti-communist states as being "free", particularly capitalist states which were said to have free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.
In World War II, the term free world was used to refer to the nations fighting against the Axis Powers. During World War II the term free countries was used to identify the western allies. During the Cold War, the term referred to the allies of the United States. In both cases, the term was used for propaganda purposes.
During the Cold War, many neutral countries, namely those in what is considered the Third World, or those having no formal alliance with either the United States or the Soviet Union, viewed the claim of "Free World" leadership by the United States as grandiose and illegitimate. The phrase has also been used in an ironically negative manner, usually in an anti-U.S. context, by those who do not approve of either United States foreign policy or despise the United States as a whole.
One of the earliest uses of the term Free World as a politically significant term occurs in Frank Capra's World War II propaganda film series Why We Fight. In Prelude to War, the first film of that series, the "free world" is portrayed as a white planet, directly contrasted with the black planet called the "slave world". The film depicts the free world as the Western Hemisphere, led by the United States and Western Europe, and the slave world as the Eastern Hemisphere, dominated by Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire.
Leader of the Free World
The "Leader of the Free World" is a colloquialism, first used during the Cold War, to describe either the United States or, more commonly, the President of the United States. The term when used in this context suggests that the United States is the principal democratic superpower, and the U.S. President is by extension the leader of the world's democratic states, i.e. the "Free World".
The phrase has its origin in the 1940s during the Second World War, especially through the anti-fascist Free World magazine and the U.S. propaganda film series Why We Fight. At this time, the term was criticized for including the Soviet Union (USSR), which critics saw as a totalitarian dictatorship. However, the term became more widely used against the USSR and its allies during the 1950s in the Cold War era, when the U.S. depicted a foreign policy based on a struggle between "a democratic alliance and a communist realm set on world domination", according to The Atlantic. The term here was criticised again for including right-wing dictatorships such as Francoist Spain, and Nikita Khrushchev said in the 21st Congress of the Soviet Communist Party that "the so-called free world constitutes the kingdom of the dollar".
Although in decline after the mid-1970s, the term was heavily referenced in U.S. foreign policy up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, and has since fallen out of use, in part due to its usage in rhetoric critical of U.S. policy.
The use of the phrase is not entirely exclusive to U.S. leaders. Upon her being declared the 2015 Time Person of the Year, Time proclaimed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be the "Chancellor of the Free World." Since the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, more North American and European media outlets and commentators have ascribed the title "leader of the free world" to Merkel. Donald Trump's failure to affirm Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement sparked a new round of media pronouncements of Angela Merkel as the Leader of the Free World. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Merkel in 2017 as "the most important leader in the free world."
In 2010, upon an address to the plenary chamber of the European Parliament, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, stated that Brussels had a "legitimate claim" to the title of "capital of the free world", normally a title reserved for Washington. He added that Brussels is a "great city which boasts 1,000 years of history and serves as capital of Belgium, the home of the European Union and the headquarters of NATO."
21st century usage
Although the "Free World" had its origins in the Cold War, the phrase is still occasionally used after the end of the Cold War and during the Global War on Terrorism. Samuel P. Huntington says the term has been replaced by the concept of the international community, which, he argues, "has become the euphemistic collective noun (replacing "the Free World") to give global legitimacy to actions reflecting the interests of the United States and other Western powers."
- Masur, Salim (29 May 2010). "Churchill's lessons for a modern world". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
- Wills, Garry (March–April 1999). "Bully of the Free World". Foreign Affairs. 78 (2): 50–59. doi:10.2307/20049208.
- Tierney, Dominic (January 24, 2017). "What Does It Mean That Trump Is 'Leader of the Free World'?". The Atlantic.
- William Safire. Safire's Political Dictionary. Oxford University Press; 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-534334-2. p. 265.
- John Fousek (2000). To Lead the Free World. UNC Press Books. p. 130. ISBN 0-8078-2525-5.
- Gibbs, Nancy (9 December 2015). "Why Angela Merkel is TIME's Person of the Year". Retrieved 9 December 2015.
- "The Leader of the Free World Meets Donald Trump". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
- "Analysis: How Angela Merkel, a conservative, became the ‘leader of the free world’". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
- "Angela Merkel is now the leader of the free world, not Donald Trump". The Independent. 2017-02-01. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
- "Matthew Fisher: Merkel's moment to lead? Trump's exit from Paris accord further riles Europe". National Post. Retrieved 2017-06-02.
- Vennochi, Joan (31 May 2017). "Merkel, not Trump, rules on the world stage". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
- "Pundit: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now the 'leader of the free world’". AOL News. 30 May 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
- Smith, Nathan (31 May 2017). "German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now the 'leader of the free world'". USA Today. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
- Moore, Suzanne (31 May 2017). "Angela Merkel: this is what the leader of the free world should act like". Gulf News. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
- Politi, Daniel (27 May 2017). "The Most Cringe-Worthy Moments From Trump’s First International Trip". Slate. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
- Shalev, Chemi (1 June 2017). "After Torching Paris Agreement, Trump Is Bogeyman of the World". Haaretz. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
- Clinton Says Angela Merkel Is The Most Important Leader In The Free World
- "Biden sweet-talks MEPs on anti-terrorism deal". Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- "2010 News from Washington". sarajevo.usembassy.gov. Embassy of the United States Bosnia & Herzegovina. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- "Left Alone by Its Owner, Reddit Soars". The New York Times. 2012-09-02. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
If the leader of the free world stops by to answer questions from your users, you're probably doing O.K.
- Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations, 72 Foreign Aff. 22 (1992–1993)