The Atlantic Charter

In the aftermath of WWI, the victors imposed a punitive peace, saddling Germany with impossible debts and deep bitterness and resentment, setting the stage for the horrors and waste of WWII.  In August of 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill met and resolved to avoid those mistakes.

They drafted a document called The Atlantic Charter, which set out in broad principles the structure for the post-war world.  If you’re not familiar with it, I encourage you to Google it and read up on it.  It was an extraordinary document and an extraordinary moment in history.

The key provisions were a generous, non-punitive peace, without territorial appropriation by the victors, self-determination, freedom of the seas, and a new economic order based on free trade and global economic cooperation and development.  Even though it is based on enlightened self-interest, it is still an exceptionally generous and foresighted vision of the future

To a very great extent, the US, Britain, the other western democracies, and their WWII enemies, Germany and Japan, turned vision of the Atlantic Charter into a reality, in spite of the Cold War and numerous small conflicts, simply by demonstrating that freedom, trade, and cooperation produce much higher standards of living for all than any nation can get through physical or economic warfare.

The goal for the US is to figure out how to sustain that level of cooperation and prosperity without paying too high a price for it, in a world that seems happy to let others bear most of the extra burdens.


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