Monday, March 6, 2017

Behind the Russia hysteria: a major dispute over foreign policy

Democratic politicians and major media have fallen into a feverish McCarthyite Cold War hysteria about supposed Trump campaign contacts with the Russians.

Even though no evidence has been presented, it is now an article of faith that the Russians hacked the 2016 presidential election. But the supposed hack was no hack, if it consisted of making known how Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee insiders were manipulating the political process, as has been claimed.

No hack because that is all about the public's business and the public has a right to information about how it is being manipulated.

That supposedly it was a nasty Moscow Centre hood instead of another Ellsberg, Snowden or Manning is irrelevant. But as I explain in this post, the circumstances point to an individual insider as the leaker, just as in those other cases, even though outsiders had penetrated the DNC network also.

In politics, someone once said, there are two reasons for what people do: the good reason, and the real reason.

The supposed hack of the election is the "good" reason for the Russian hysteria, since it relieves the Democratic establishment of blame for last November's debacle.

But that doesn't really explain why all sorts of people inside the government have thrown themselves into the fight. I believe the real reason lies elsewhere. It is a dispute over the direction of foreign policy.

For 70 years the United States has projected itself as the leader of the Free World. For 45 years the Cold War provided a coherent narrative and framework for the American role. But even after the collapse of East European bureaucratic "socialism," the alliances and institutions created during the post-war period continued, and especially NATO, which steadily expanded right up to Russia's borders despite solemn American promises to the Russians that it would not do so.

Trump believes it is time to abandon the "leader of the free world" stance and take on more sharply American allies, especially Germany and the European Union it dominates.

He made his overall stance extremely clear in his CPAC speech in February:
Global cooperation -- dealing with other countries, getting along with other countries -- is good.  It’s very important.  But there is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag.  This is the United States of America that I’m representing.  I’m not representing the globe.  I’m representing your country.  (Applause and shouts of "USA! USA! USA!)  There is one allegiance that unites us all, and that is to America.  America -- it’s the allegiance to America.
As it started to become clear after the election that "America First" had not  been just sucker bait for the masses, but he had an actual policy to go with it, the Democratic and National Security establishments declared war against Trump.

They almost certainly very sincerely disagree with Trump's policy, but it is also true that their power and privileges are threatened.

Trump's proposal to increase the military budget by 10% is aimed at splitting the coalition against him. That's why there are no details, no plans, no strategic vision. The war this budget is aimed at winning is the one at home.

Trump's position is a difficult one because not only are most high-ranking government bureaucrats against him, but it is far from clear he even has a majority in his own party for the policy, and he certainly does not in Congress.

And Russia is the key to the policy change. For several years now, a faction of war mongers in our political class (Hillary Clinton prominent among them) has been pushing for a policy of increasing provocations and confrontation with Russia since "terrorism" was getting worn-out as the justification for wars abroad and the creeping police state at home. If Russia gets cast in the role of the heavy again, it would be hard to sell pulling away from Europe.

How far trump intends to take his policy I don't know and perhaps neither does he. It almost certainly is just a shift in emphasis, not the policy reversal that Trump and Bannon imply with their rhetoric. But these things have a logic of their own, and even if you're aiming for one destination, there's no guarantee you wont miss overshoot the mark..

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