Although, or perhaps because, we seem to have a problem with politicization of the Intelligence Community – not many intelligence officers wish to view current national security problems through a political lens – if they expressed such views as I have described below – their careers would be in jeopardy, at a minimum. Conservative columnists have broadly and often discussed progressivism’s assault on Western traditions, values and institutions for many years – but what I attempt to do here is apply these ideas – ideas which I am certain are true – to our present Intelligence Controversy of the Year – Russian disinformation and influence programs.
Regarding Russian disinformation and covert action – they have always done it – why is the Obama Administration so worried about it now? Why does Russian propaganda seem to strike more fear into the Western “powers that be” than in the past….?
The reason is fairly simple – because as our media becomes more biased, more manipulative – as our society falls increasingly under the sway of Progressivism, more out of tune with the principles of the majority of Americans – Russian propaganda, disinformation becomes more effective. Why is this so? Because Russia has set itself up as an alternative to the Western progressive model.
When Western leadership/institutions were more responsive to their own people, say for most of the past 75 years – Russia was unable to gain a solid foothold, although they have long sought to subvert Europe and the United States. Only now, however, as more average Americans – and Europeans – become disenchanted with our unresponsive governments – do Liberal Western Institutions fear the loss of their control over their respective societies to the siren call of a Russian “alternative.”
As an example, if you are a French middle class family man, you have seen your country overrun by unaccountable refugees, an explosion in violent crime and terrorism as a result – and you have seen your elitist leadership ignore your concerns for your children’s future. The French alternative right party of Marine Le Pen is the only party willing to take a stand against the immigration flood – would you really care that Le Pen is being partially bankrolled by Russian interests? This is the reason that the European elitists are alarmed at the rise of what they proclaim to be “Alt-Right” political parties – and Putin is there, happy to exploit the opportunity.
Europe as a whole, so long under the control of the Progressive Elite, is much more vulnerable to Kremlin machinations than the United States. Some have said that Russia has sought to create this European refugee crisis with its Middle East Policy to sow further European chaos. Perhaps…but make no mistake- it takes two to tango: if Europe had been unwilling to naively import a million non integratable, virtually unidentifiable refugees – would such a Kremlin gambit have been successful?
Russian/Soviet disinformation programs for the past 90 years have always relied upon a population losing faith in its leadership – and often sown the seeds of discord within troubled nations through their covert action programs. Whether it was Poland in 1949, Cuba a decade later, or any number of third world nations, this was the Soviet long term plan – when the people gave up hope – it was the time for the Soviet Union to swing in with the promises of a “People’s Republic” directed against an “elitist intelligentsia.”
Putin has updated this vision for a post-Communist world, projecting a Russia based on Orthodox Church moral principles, not answerable to a global elite and dedicated to fighting “cultural imperialism.” Saying that these Russian “values” are often propaganda does not remove their appeal to disenfranchised populations. Western European and American attempts to force reform on the LGBT issue, for example have met with resistance from mostly Orthodox Eastern Europe. Putin has seized on such actions as the “cultural imperialism” described earlier. Whether one is in favor or opposed to such policies does not obviate the need to consider the diplomatic and political ramifications of such moral decisions.
Putin’s projection an image of strength and loyalty to his “friends” particularly in the troubled Middle East is merely icing on the cake – a strong contrast to a vacillating, weak US which seems to save its greatest invective for its allies. What makes the situation with Putin vs the West unique, however, is that the Russians need not expend much effort to cause the West to lose faith in its institutions and values. We have done a good job of that ourselves. The West’s media/educational/societal “elite” ironically embracing principles of socialism, appeasement, moral equivalency and most of all – Political Correctness (a Soviet term, “politichiskaya pravil’nost”, by the way) – have done the Russians’ job for them.
We see this revealed in American/European polling showing a loss of trust in basic social institutions: government, the press and the church. As our faith in our own institutions, our “cultural confidence” fades, we become more susceptible to Russian propaganda and all it brings. Item: when our press/gov continue to discuss a 5% unemployment rate – when the people KNOW that 95 million Americans of working age are without a job – they know intuitively that they are being lied to, they lose trust – and also tend to seek alternative news sources in the face of distortion.
Some alternative sources are under the sway of “influencers” – thus constituting a Russian “Mission Accomplished.” A vibrant, unbiased media, with the accompanying trust of the people – would be the greatest foil to any Kremlin propaganda. Soviet strategy in the Cold War for infiltration/coercion involved subverting key institutions – the church, press and, most chilling of all – youth organizations. Scouting, youth church organizations were the priority target of Communist cadres.
The Soviets understood, above all, that “children are our future.” Would anyone visiting the NYU campus post-election believe that the decades-long progressive assault on education to create “liberal factories” has been unsuccessful? Russian propaganda/disinformation is thus a symptom, not a cause, of a much more serious malady. So what to do about this? Well, the US government has suggested, and some European countries (such as Czech Republic) have already set up, centers to monitor and counter Russian propaganda. These may be effective on the margins, but I am skeptical of any significant effect. To quote Ronald Reagan, “… there are simple answers to many of our problems – simple, but hard. It is the complicated answer that’s easy – because it avoids facing the hard moral issues.” We must face the hard moral issues.
Should the West decide to undertake the monumental task of rejecting the rot of progressivism and thus restoring strength in its institutions, Russia would find no fertile ground for its alternative ideology.
Let’s hope that a Trump presidency is the first step in such a journey.
Featured image courtesy of The Huffington Post