The recent revelation that Russian entities funneled money into marketing on social media platforms like Facebook in order to create dissent within the American population, particularly regarding the 2016 presidential election, has made waves on social media, and for good reason. With many Americans continuing to counter concerns about Russian meddling as either non-existent or inconsequential, the discovery that foreign interests are willing to invest millions of dollars into influencing internal politics should serve as an indicator that these practices are not only effective, but commonplace.
For those within America’s intelligence community, this wasn’t a revelation at all. We’ve been well aware of how successful these kinds of operations can be for decades. After all, we’ve done our fair share of them ourselves.
The thing about international diplomacy is that it’s always required a “do as I say, not as I do” mindset, especially when it comes to intelligence operations. Every once in a while, a story will break about a Chinese spy stealing plans for a Defense project, and we as a nation gasp as their audacity – while American intelligence agents operating all over the world shrug and wonder if it was poor trade craft or a leak that got that guy burned… hoping the same doesn’t happen to them. The common axiom, “all’s fair in love and war,” isn’t exactly right – it’s more like “all’s fair in international intel and psy-ops as long as you don’t get caught.”
The United States has been complicit in a number of high and low profile regime changes over the years, and throughout, we’ve justified those actions by using cause and effect rationale to paint a picture of justification in the interest of our own security. That isn’t anti-American sentiments creeping past my patriotic seeming exterior, it’s an honest and objective assessment of America’s foreign policy. It isn’t that we’re bad guys, it’s that, when it comes to global conflict, there are no good guys and bad guys, there can only be “us” and “them.” No matter how elevated you may feel on your moral high ground, it doesn’t actually offer a superior firing position.