Cold War 2.0 (Might as Well Call It What It Is)

Meanwhile...Eric Trump contends that the U.S. airstrike on Syria last week proves not only that his dad is "presidential," but also that he's not connected to Putin in any way. - promoted by hesterprynne

Agent-operational measures aimed at exerting useful influence on aspects of the political life of a target country which are of interest, its foreign policy, the solution of international problems, misleading the adversary, undermining and weakening his positions, the disruption of his hostile plans, and the achievement of other aims.

John Schindler

In 2009, a number of Central and Eastern European leaders, including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, wrote a letter expressing their concern for the United States’ lack of attention and concern for them in the post-Soviet world.

The letter was prompted by an occasion: the Russia-Georgia war in which Russian-backed separatists in Georgia started a civil war in the country. The separatists were a proxy for the Russians, and the result of the war, in spite of protests from the international community, was that Russia essentially annexed two Georgian provinces.

Although the national security community was well aware of the problems Russia presented to Central and Eastern Europe, neither the Bush or Obama Administrations really addressed their concerns. Both administrations were almost certainly distracted by the threat of terror and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Russia proceeded to invade Ukraine and Crimea while other countries in the region suffered the corrosive effects of Russian-sponsored political and economic effects of war by other means.

Unlike Russia’s military actions, which were reported in the media, though with little context or analysis, it’s non-military tactics have been largely unnoticed. Even as it was reported that Russia was taking an active role in tilting the presidential election to Donald Trump, there was little or no attempt to understand the manipulation as part of a larger Russian larger strategy. Known as the Gerasimov Doctrine, the Russians recognize

“a ‘blurring of the lines between war and peace,’ and that ‘nonmilitary means of achieving military and strategic goals has grown and, in many cases, exceeded the power of weapons in their effectiveness.’ Gerasimov argues for asymmetrical actions that combine the use of special forces and information warfare that create “a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state.”

Special forces need not be involved to follow the doctrine. There is plenty that can be accomplished with active measures, the whole of Russian political warfare that ranges from propaganda to assassination. It was active measures that the United States experienced during the 2016 Presidential election. Propaganda isn’t new, but the technology to spread it and delicacy of the information ecosystem have changed.

Russia used armies of Twitter bots to spread fake news using accounts that seem to be aimed at Midwestern swing-voters. In addition to bots, Russia also used “trolls,” hundreds of computer operatives who pretended to be Trump supporters and posted stories or comments on the internet complimentary to Trump and disparaging of Clinton. The United States was completely unprepared for the intensity and sophistication of these tactics.

The seeds of more concerning strategies, those that have been successful in smaller, more easily influenced countries, seemed to have been already been sown in the Trump Administration. The Kremlin Playbook (2009), a report issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, describes the process for infiltrating and influencing Central and Eastern European countries:

Russian-linked entities work to support select state actors who in turn work on their behalf. This support can include investing in rising politicianscultivating relationships with prominent businessmen, or helping to ensure that its business affiliates become well positioned in government. From a position of authority and power, these local affiliates can work to expand a system of Russian patronage by ensuring that lucrative contracts and rewards are doled out to Russia’s preferred partners, who then are beholden to the Kremlin’s network and become instruments of its influence. Russia’s networks can be so extensive that they penetrate government institutions and investigative bodies, disabling a democracy’s ability to conduct oversight as well as ensure transparency and accountability, which erodes the rule of law and renders it vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation.

Capture of the American economy or political system would seem to be a long shot for the Russians, but Trump’s and his administration’s connections to Russia are concerning. If Trump were somehow able to lift or render ineffective sanctions on Russia, their efforts would be amply rewarded. From Rex Tillerson to Wilbur Ross to Paul Manafort to Michael Flynn to Trump himself, there are troubling connections to Russia, connections that make investigations imperative.

State capture is not the only Russian goal.

First and foremost, the Kremlin is interested in ensuring that it is able to maximize the economic benefits of its engagement with the region and further enrich members of its inner circle as they seek opportunities beyond the Russian economy. Another equally vital motivation is to weaken the European Union and the West’s desirability, credibility, and moral authority, particularly among EU aspirant countries such as Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, in order to reduce their enthusiasm to cooperate with and integrate into these structures. A final motivation is Russia’s desire to elevate itself and its model of governance as a more attractive alternative to the U.S.-dominated international order: an illiberal sovereign “democracy” that is economically controlled by a select inner circle.

Every country attempts to increase its economic advantage and present itself as desirable and moral, but like the Soviet Union before it, Russia’s goals are the antithesis of American ideals. The United States has a very mixed record when it comes to exerting its influence abroad, but Russia’s has always been worse because it has never cared about democracy. Its totalitarian days may be over, but Russia’s preference for authoritarianism has not changed. Colluding with the mafia and secret police, the Russian government has aided, abetted, and participated in stealing entire industries and capturing government from both the people of Russia and smaller Central and Eastern European countries. Not infrequently, the Russia government assassinates its citizens, particularly its reporters and critics. The United States may not live up to its democratic ideals, but we certainly have them.

The 2016 Presidential election was a disaster for the United States, but it has paid dividends to Russian in confusion and mistrust among our allies and the world. Populating the White House with a combination of relatives and incompetents (the two aren’t mutually exclusive) who lie to the American people as a matter of course, neglect to fill hundreds of government positions, our government is a disorganized mess. Entire government departments are being run by people opposed to their missions. Less than 100 days into the Trump Administration, American desirability, credibility, and moral authority have taken a major hit.

We have elected an international joke, a corrupt, narcissistic, incompetent demagogue, and Russia played a role in making it happen. Time will tell the extent of their role.



Discuss

133 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Vor y zakone

    n/t

  2. "Privet,"

    said Mama Bear.

  3. How does the trilateral commission fit into this?

    Not to mention the Illuminati.

    • Bob

      I appreciate your skepticism on this; we need as much as we can get in this house of mirrors.

      But, you know, there is this country called Russia, and sometimes they F with things. They have for a long time. So maybe comparisons to the Illuminati aren’t quite fair?

    • Ask a Chechan, Georgian, Ukranian or Estonian

      And get back to me. Mitt Romney was correct that Russia is a major geopolitical threat, McCain was right on the Georgia crisis, and this was the major reason to vote for Clinton if you were a traditional conservative over the court jester the FSB helped install. This iteration of Russia is more dangerous, more unstable, and harder to predict than the last precisely because it is nationalist and not ideological like the Soviets.

      The Soviets were done in by overextending themselves in proxy wars they didn’t have the resources to compete with the US in. Afghanistan, Angola, North Vietnam, Cuba-a host of client states that drained that system of resources. Russia-having adopted a capitalist economy-has been able to maintain its quality of life and economic prosperity despite crippling sanctions the likes of which were never applied to the Soviets even at the height of the Cold War.

      This is a nation that will have greater military capabilities in the years to come and has made strategic investments in gaining assymetric advantages over the US when it comes to cyber warfare and intelligence. While we have wasted our CIA chasing comparatively small scale terror networks they have used theirs to influence the elections of other countries and steer politics in their direction.

      I was there during the Georgia War and Rice told me to my face it wasn’t going to happen and it did three days later. I saw their cyberwarfare disrupt our embassy and its ability to make a difference on the ground. I saw the Estonia attack a year later that crippled that country for a day-something out of the Day the Earth Stood Still-and I fear if they could unleash something like that here.

      Hillary ran a piss poor campaign-but there is no denying that Comey and the FSB compounded her errors and made her momentum slide irreversible. Trump is a notorious delegater-I doubt he has any philosophy on governance or any handle on what his aides may or may not have coordinated with Russia to achieve. I do know that he didn’t care if they did, so long as it worked. And I do know that Flynn was embedded in the Russian nationalist ideology and was going to promote it within the White House.

      I do know that Trumps break with precedence on Assad and NATO enticed Putin to help him since chaos was preferable to the stability and predictability of Clinton-not to mention her deep relationships to world leaders to create a viable anti-Putin coalition.

      • Russia is a weak country

        Russia is a weak country with a currently strong identity. The USA has a weak identity. You can see this when the country turns on foreign adventures. What are we spreading?

        McCain etc hope to get ground troops into Syria or Ukraine so some of them get killed. They were very happy that our ambassador in Libya got killed, because it presents Americans with a cardboard cutout of a mission and identity in the absence of the real thing.

        There is no reason for us to be in Syria or the Middle East. We seem to be fighting both sides! We will feel so much better when we get out.

  4. Fake news did not cost Hillary the election

    People read news that backs up what they wanted to do in the first place.

    Case in point, this web site.

    The political elite is united in using instability as an excuse to push corporate power into ever farther corners of the globe. These people are the richest, most powerful people in the world. They use minor issues to keep the left and right divided on having more wars. They don’t give a fuck about black lives matter or transgender or whatever, except for the occasional pleasure toy.

    Hillary Clinton was a bought and paid for member of that elite. They were completely terrified of Donald Trump but his success as an antiwar candidate from the right is still freaking them out, because even though they have captured him, the sentiment to get out of war is no longer anti-patriotic.

    Russia hacking is a joke. As I told you, any amateur who took a look at the evidence could tell you it was a fake story. It seems true to you because that is what you want to believe.

    If Hillary lost on policy then you might be wrong about something. It’s so much more comforting to blame Russia.

    • Now this would be funny ...

      … if you said it with a smile.

      Case in point, this web site.

      • Hillary lost because she is a woman

        Maybe Hillary lost because she is a woman. But those who voted against her needed to find a politically correct story to publicly justify their votes. That doesn’t change that they would have voted for Trump either way.

        • We're not looking to relitigate the election

          Hillary lost, and most likely would have lost either way.

          But even if she won, I’d want to know if a foreign power was trying to interfere.

          • But you have to love a troll

            that doesn’t read the post and relies on his own unsubstantiated positions.

          • Nobody really has cared about foreign powers interfering with our country. . .

            . . . when it suits their other needs. The Washington Times was founded and propped up by the Unification Church (a foreign religious cult, with ties to other foreign powers.) It spread disinformation for years for the express purpose of distorting the American government and skewing our elections to suit Rev Moon.
            And it’s still in business. Still doing it. And nobody seems to mind a bit.

            • Not a great analogy, but OK

              The Washington Times is completely transparent!
              The whole point of investigating what Russia did or didn’t do is that we don’t know, and we need to know.

              • That's because you are being consistent JimC

                You feel sunshine is the best disinfectant in all circumstances and support the light being shone on secretive Russian intelligence activities that may have influenced the American election while also shining it on our own intelligence services to know exactly what they are up to. I can admire that position, even if I disagree with it.

                What I do not understand is those that defend the DNC hacks as a blow for public transparency but oppose any investigation into finding out why and how an authoritarian government may have contributed to this. It is pretty hard to argue Assange isn’t employing a double standard according to his own stated principles when it comes to choosing what he exposes and what he withholds.

                Choosing to undermine democratic intelligence agencies while working with authoritarian ones. I see a massive double standard there. He’s never exposed the picadillos of the Russian elite or how much money they have gained through their corruption. The Panama Papers and wikileaks were all one sided disclosures that shamed the US and its allies. It would only seem fair for him to undermine Russian officials and leak their state secrets with the same relish he has for leaking ours. Until he does so, or until he states a valid reason for why he does not do so, the questions will persist. And it is a similar double standard that cheers on the leaked emails and does not beg to ask how or why an authoritarian government was responsible for them.

                • I'm not sure I'd say "all"

                  But re: this

                  Choosing to undermine democratic intelligence agencies

                  That’s a contradiction. I know intelligence agencies believe they are protecting democracy, but they are inherently undemocratic and must be regarded with skepticism.

                  If undemocratic goes too far — problematic?

                • I've yet to see anyone speak

                  intelligently about not investigating the Russia Connection. I’ve only seen idiocy here and elsewhere.

                  Seascraper is not worth responding to. I’m not sure Bob Gardner is. I have strong doubts that he even bothered to read what I wrote. His comments on this thread have been moronic and off-point.

                  1) Bob began with an ad hominem attack “How does the trilateral commission fit into this? Not to mention the Illuminati.” The implication is that the Russian Connection is a conspiracy theory, the intellectual equivalent of the dog ate my homework. Instead there is an investigation into a conspiracy. The former provides conspiracy as evidence, the latter uses evidence to suggest a conspiracy.

                  2) “Nobody really has cared about foreign powers interfering with our country when it suits their other needs.” What does that even mean? Nice use of indefinite pronouns.

                  He goes on to cite the Washington Times, which has a First Amendment right to publish a newspaper, to support his vague statement suggesting that I pick and choose what foreign powers I pick on. My point is, we have to watch out for the Russians again. After 20 or 25 years of relative irrelevance, they’re back, and they’ve got a new game. Russia is generally a national security and espionage issue, but the average person needs to aware that Cold War 2.0 has more to do with (dis)information than military might.
                  The Americans–Trump & Co.–are the legal issue. There is more than enough information to require investigation into American collusion with the Russians and the infiltration of Russian allies in the White House.

                  3) Doubleman said he agreed with Masha Gessen: “Russiagate is helping [Trump]—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.” I addressed the “conspiracy theory” above, but the “xenophobia” accusation is absolutely bizarre. Where’s the “intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries”? It’s a straw man argument.

                  4) The More Navel-Gazing Lefty Argument. Gessen says we need to focus on “documentable, and documented issues.”

                  • The Lefty Navel-Gazing Argument, cont...

                    Gessen says we need to focus on “documentable, and documented issues.” Like there isn’t plenty of documentation of Trump & Co.’s Russian connections?
                    My sources for this post were a 2009 report and a recent New Yorker article. I’ve cited news stories and court cases going back 20 years.

                    In The Nation, Greg Grandin argues that the Russia Connection “let’s the Democrats off for their own failures.” He’s mad because Rachel Maddow has been spending time on the issue.

                    5) Impeachment is Impossible Argument. This is another straw man argument Gessen and Grandin bring up. Gessen says it’s THE reason anyone is focusing on the Russia Connection. Grandin agrees. The fact is, it’s not. The first reason for the attention is national security. A valid reason to write and report on it. From my partisan perspective, it is another distraction for the administration. Chances are high that Trump won’t finish his term. Impeachment and the threat of impeachment contribute to those chances. Scandals have been known to cripple administrations, a good thing as far as the Trump White House goes.

                  • Not bizarre in the slightest

                    It’s not xenophobic to investigate the connections, and that is not what Gessen argued or I supported. What is xenophobic is to blame Russia for almost all problems, like what one of your favorite sources, Louise Mensch, did this week by claiming that Russia paid protestors to make the BLM actions in Ferguson happen.

                    • Thanks for responding to

                      what I wrote. It’s refreshing to respond to what I said, though calling Louise Mensch one of my favorite sources is stupid (troll). I follow Mensch. I also follow John Schindler. Seth Abramson. And Adam Khan. I’ve never cited Mensch to support anything I’ve said.

                      Also, I’ve never blamed the Russians for all, or almost all of our problems, in the election or in our country. In fact, I don’t know anyone who is doing so. This is a straw man as far as my posts are concerned.

                      Gessen wrote: “Russiagate is helping [Trump]—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.” Maybe you can explain what she means better than I can?

                    • Re: Gessen

                      Just read the rest of what she wrote. It is quite clear and not at all bizarre. There are many on the left and in the press trying to pin every controversy to Russia. One example she offers is Sessions who’s very limited Russia ties were the big news about him, rather than everything else horrible about him that is well-documented.

                      You cited Mensch as one of the shortlist of your sources on these issues and described her as someone who “knows what she is talking about.” I’m not sure how else I am supposed to take that. If you described her as a wild conspiracy theorist who sometimes links to relevant news you would have been accurate, but you didn’t. She’s awful.

                    • I accept your definition

                      of Mensch as an apt description of what I think, which I admit was not what I wrote. (If that helps).

                      I can only speak for myself as far as the Russia Connection goes. Sessions is just a blip as far as I can tell. The problem is, he either lied or came close to lying to Congress. Leahy asked,

                      “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?”

                      He said no.

                      His answer is suspicious as were his contacts Kislyak, given the degree of contact the Russian diplomat/spymaster had with the Trump campaign and given Sessions involvement with the campaign.

                      I don’t know what you’re reading these days, but WaPo reported it. I think the story got the attention it deserved. The media, which I often criticize, does this with every story. They report it, don’t know if it means anything. The media is feeling its way on a story most reporters don’t have the background knowledge on.

                      I read a thing in Politico today about Chabad Judaism and its connection to Putin, Kushner, and Felix Sater. I’ve known about Kushner and Sater’s connection to Chabad since February. I thought it was funny that the Port Washington Chabad synagogue gave its Man of the Year Award to Felix Sater, a convicted Russian mobster. Is there something nefarious about the connection between the Russians and Chabad? I have data, but I have no idea. A lot of Russian mobsters and oligarchs happen to be Jewish. I register the data, but I”m not making any conclusions.

                      The main focus of stories is on Flynn, Sater, Manafort, Page, and Cohen. There have been sidebars into Kushner’s ties to Russia lately. But until something new comes out, these guys are the focus.

            • Get real

              The Washington Times is primarily a hard-copy medium with a readership of about 37 right-wing cranks. The Russian intervention involved hijacking enormous numbers of individual accounts, coordinating them in a hidden bot-net, and manipulating that bot-net by remote control.

              The two are not remotely comparable. The closest analogy might be between a kid setting off an M-80 and a nuclear power obliterating a major city.

              • The Washington Times

                Has been very influential for a long time, promoting right-wing causes. I’m astounded and a little suspicious that you would jump to the Rev Moon’s defense.

                • You're kidding, right?

                  How is anything I’ve written a “defense” of anything or anybody?

                  The Washington Times is about as “influential” as the National Enquirer. For those who are convinced that alien races have journeyed light years in order to abduct middle-aged women in New Mexico, the Enquirer is “influential”. For the rest of us, it’s a crackpot publication aimed at a crackpot audience.

                  The Washington Times is the same.

  5. " THERE'S A SMELL OF TREASON IN THE AIR."

    Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

  6. I might add

    I’ve long been a lone voice on this blog attacking Snowden as a patsy, sounding the alarm on Russia, and discussing their vast cyberwarfare. Or that I was willing to admit Ukraine into NATO and really beef up our deterrence in Eastern Europe. I proposed a new containment strategy and got a lot of flack for it. There was a lot of liberal criticism of my stances here prior to Clinton getting hacked.

    So I would hope that this sudden awakening that the threat was real continues regardless of how it affects partisan politics. This is a serious threat to our entire country-they are the only power with the capability of destroying the US. And they can do this without launching a single atomic weapon. ISIL can’t do it, Al Qaeda can’t do it, Iran can’t do it, North Korea can’t do it, and even China can’t do it. Russia can-and unlike those other powers-if cornered I worry that they will.

    • Snowden

      I don’t want to hijack the thread with a Snowden tangent, but patsy or no patsy, regarding his revelations, I’d rather know than not know.

      • I respect that

        I can disagree with your position on disclosure while admiring your consistency in applying it throughout these discussions. It’s far more consistent than Trump and his allies who praise leakers that help them and hunt leakers that “hurt” them. You’re take is that all leakers should be protected since the public has an objective right to know. I disagree with the underlying philosophy of an objective right to know-but I also think you would agree with me that those espousing it should apply that same standard and spirit of disclosure to their own sources.

        Where I do think it matters in this case is that I would also rather know than not know the real purpose of those revelations and how/why organizations Snowden worked with worked with Russia and their intelligence services. Whats Assange’s real motives and who is he working with/for? Why Snowden choose that country for asylum over others that offered him similar protection that aren’t great power rivals of the United States/authoritarian states in their own right?

        Those are also unanswered and whenever they are brought up either principal deflects it by retreating to the principle that they won’t divulge their sources. Yet I think the same transparency and scrutiny they apply to state secrecy should apply to their own sources. If it’s Russian intelligence that gave them the information-acknowledge it. I think that’s only fair.

        • Slander

          “Why Snowden choose [Russia] for asylum over others that offered him similar protection that aren’t great power rivals of the United States/authoritarian states in their own right?”
          It was widely reported at the time, that Snowden was trying to get to one of the countries in South America, and that the US Government put pressure on those countries to deny him asylum, as well as warning other countries not to let him pass through on his way to asylum there.
          In effect, the US government orchestrated Snowden’s asylum in Russia, which, if there were any legitimate concern at all about him being there, was an act of stunning incompetence. So far as I know, no one in the national security establishment was held accountable for this.
          For you to suggest that Snowden stayed in Russia because he was disloyal is really contemptible.

          • But...

            …Snowden DID still choose Russia over coming home, and the US had every right to pressure those countries. He might not be a Putin loyalist either, but he’s serving Putin’s purposes nonetheless, and it sounds like he is OK with that, or at least prefers it to the alternative.

            • Salem witch trials

              A prevailing “test” for witchery in Salem was to toss the victim into water. If she floated, she was a witch using sorcery to save herself. If she drowned, she was innocent (and dead).

              You espouse the same approach towards Mr. Snowden.

              • Well for starters...

                …I believe in actual trials rather than supernatural judgement. You are still presuming an outcome to the Snowden case which I am not.

            • The alternative was jail

              n/t

              • Maybe...

                …but first, Snowden could prevail and second, that would be the more principled alternative.

                • Fair enough

                  I grant that facing the consequences would have been braver. I can’t say I really blame him for facing a different consequence that seemed a bit better.

                  Besides, his girlfriend went over there (according to Stone’s movie anyway).

                • Twisted logic . . .

                  It might be a braver world if nobody ever sought political asylum, or became refugees, but instead hung around to “face the consequences” and wait for the ensuing outcry.
                  But, c’mon–Snowden met every test for political asylum.

                  • By that standard so did MLK....

                    ….but I don’t recall him running and hiding (though I DO recall him spending a stint in a Birmingham jail and writing an inspiring letter from there). I can’t think of any equivalent modern circumstance in which fleeing the US would make seeking asylum appropriate the way we would see it if someone were coming here from elsewhere seeking same.

                    • Not remotely comparable

                      MLK was never the subject of a nationwide — never mind worldwide — dragnet conducted by the federal government. He was never charged with breaking any federal laws. His public activity had nothing AT ALL to do with revealing secret behavior that federal authorities were lying to the public about.

                      MLK has nothing to do with this discussion, and his experience is irrelevant.

                    • What's irrelevant...

                      …is the cause of his aggravation of authorities. J. Edgar Hoover had it out for MLK and thought he was a communist plant. Point is, both got themselves in some legal trouble which arguably served the greater good anyway.

                    • @Christopher: You're being obtuse

                      The entire federal government and military intelligence community was not merely “aggravated” by Mr. Snowden, they were pursuing a high-profile world-wide effort to extradite, charge, convict, and — some argued — even execute him.

                      Mr. Hoover never charged MLK with anything. Yes, Mr. Hoover harassed him. Still, the animus against MLK was nothing like that against Mr. Snowden.

                    • Whatever

                      Of course the details are different, but MLK risked legal consequences while Snowden ran and hid. Ellsburg also stayed as previously noted. Yes, Snowden was/is being legally pursued, and as such he should come back and avail himself of all the legal and procedural protections afforded by our laws, constitution, and justice system. I doubt there would be a shortage of lawyers ready, willing, and able to defend him, maybe even pro bono, and if for some strange reason I’m wrong on that point, counsel must be appointed to him by the court if he cannot afford one. I emphatically do NOT recall the relevant provisions being repealed or case law overturned. Please NEVER call me obtuse! You can disagree with me, but never doubt I am being any less than sincere (except when I’m obviously employing humor). Pretty sure only murder is a capital case in this country.

      • Snowden is a traditional whistleblower...

        And Obama wanted to prosecute him for espionage. Democrats were great on civil liberties and transparency, until they actually had power themselves.

        Now that we have Russia driving fears on the left, I wonder if we will see a return to true liberalism. I do not really see Warren or Bernie leading the charge, although I like what Tulsi Gabbard has been saying on Syria and foreign policy.

        • I think there are unanswered questions about him

          And it’s worth asking why he choose Russia and what his relationship-if any-to Russian intelligence services is. His first instinct was to flee to China and then he fled to Russia. Neither are bastions of open information and transparent government, but both are rivals who would be interested in the information R had which he may have used as a bargaining chip.

          There is no denying that the program he revealed was unconstitutional and I would argue had he faced prosecution in the US there would have been a massive public outcry in his favor. I would’ve donated to his defense and I am sure it would’ve been a teachable moment for the country. Ellsberg stayed here and was eventually exonerated and celebrated for his actions and it’s a road not taken for Snowden. For me, the flight to Russia will always put an asterisk next to his motivations. Others here disagree and they have well argued reasons for that. My perspective is colored from my own experience handling classified information and seeing the capabilities of Russian cyber intelligence first hand.

          • Daniel Ellsberg disagrees with you

            Daniel Ellsberg disagrees with you, and has said so loudly and repeatedly since Mr. Snowden emerged.

            I fear you minimize the changes he so clearly articulates (emphasis mine):

            Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.

            Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

            There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).

            I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

            He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)

            We TORTURED Ms. Manning. I fear you gravely understate the extent to which we have tumbled towards tyranny, even under Barrack Obama.

            With conditions as bad as they were in 2013 midway in the administration of Barack Obama, what do you think would happen today under Donald Trump?

            I fear you are in denial about how bad our government is today.

            • I am not in denial about America-Snowdens supporters are in denial about Putin

              I fear you are in denial about how bad our government is today

              I fear too many on the left are still in denial about Putin and the real threat he poses to the United States. Including Snowden and his defenders. I did not say I opposed him fleeing the country-but why go first to China and then to Russia? Sounds to me like he was shopping around sensitive information with regimes hostile to the United States in exchange for asylum. Why not go to another country where the US does not have an extradition treaty or hang out with his serial rapist friend in the Ecuadorian embassy in London? Why not accept the governments offer of immunity in exchange for giving up all the information he has and detailing exactly what he may or may not have given to Russia? I’ve seen credible reports Obama offered this via a backchannel and it was rejected by Snowden himself.

              Any progressive defending Snowden or Assange after 2016 is in denial about their aims, their past alt right affiliations, and their tactical and possibly strategic alliance with Vladimir Putin.

              I can respect Ellsberg and disagree with his conclusions. Had he defected to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War he would’ve been rightly labeled a pariah and it would’ve undermined his credibility in releasing the Pentagon Papers. And he is also wrong-the Church committee worked and has severely limited the ability of the FBI and CIA to engage in domestic counter intelligence. Arguably too much if you ask the Pulse shooter or the Marathon bombers or 9/11 hijackers.

              Ask Dr. King if the FBI and Justice Department was a lot fairer to deal with in the 1960s. Ellsberg is a hero of mine-but waging a just war against your unjust government takes a toll on anyone. The intelligence services are our best bulwark against the totalitarian and foreign influences of the present administration. 60′s era and Iraq fatigue skepticism is not wanted in this particular case.

              • The value of Ellsberg's opinion on Assange and Snowden

                came from who he is, not what he knew.

                That doesn’t mean his opinion is worthless, but did he know Assange was or would be in bed with Putin?

                Some of the #natsec people I follow say Snowden was either a spy or a dupe. I registered the information, but I haven’t seen anything but innuendo at this point.

              • False equivalence

                I know of no evidence, other than idle speculation, that Mr. Snowden played any role in any of the Russia hacking. When you offer him in the same sentence as Mr. Assange, I suggest you conflate two very different persons.

                My recollection is that Russia (I don’t know about China) was the only country that was willing to protect him from the heavy-handed US attempts to extradite and prosecute him.

                In my view, this discussion about Mr. Snowden has become a distraction from the point of the thread. We KNOW that Russians actively manipulated the 2016 election. There is strong and growing evidence that multiple high-ranking officials within the Donald Trump campaign actively cooperated with that activity.

                Mr. Snowden is a sideshow and distraction.

                • We agree here

                  Mr. Snowden is a sideshow and distraction.

                  In charity I summarized my disagreements with JimC on this topic as a secondary point to an area where we had agreements and it predictably went off the rails a bit.

                  I am with you and Mark Bail that this issue is incredibly serious and important and the Trump administration has not been forthcoming at all regarding it’s ties and it’s connections. I think JimC’s consistency is admirable but his skepticism is sorely misplaced in the Russia case. He seems to be recognizing this by looking at Mark Bails far better sourced arguments on the topic. I’ll leave it at that.

            • Snowden is a coward...

              …and you are way too cynical for me. There are plenty of people stateside who would make darn sure Snowden got a fair trial, a few of them even wear robes and sit on high benches. Ellsburg’s bolded quotes above are assertions unprovable until tried.

              • I daresay ...

                I daresay that Mr. Ellsberg knows more about this then either you or me. Which part of Chelsea Manning’s multi-year solitary confinement do you defend?

                You and others who sit in comfortable isolation and toss around epithets like “coward” make me roll my eyes. I suggest that you walk a mile in the shoes of Mr. Snowden, Ms. Manning, or Mr. Ellsberg — or even stroll on a nearby road — before being nearly so judgmental.

                • Acutally no

                  Mr. Ellsberg hasn’t handled classified information in over 40 years. I was in the exact same position and took the exact same oath as Ms. Manning and did not violate it, even though I had disagreements with the Rice State Department and Bush administration.

                  I was there to learn how the Foreign Service worked, and believe me when colleagues of mine tell me her revelations jeopardized their safety I am inclined to believe them. When Sec. Clinton and Sec. Kerry mention that it undermined ongoing sensitive negotiations, I am inclined to believe them.

                  This is because I know how the modern State Department works, and I had access to the very same open source intranet that anyone could use. On slow days I would spend hours reading all the cables coming in and it was thrilling to see how our diplomacy worked worldwide. That kind of openness within the department was invaluable and it’s lost now because of Manning.

                  That kind of openness was what set the State Dept apart from the Pentagon and now the DOD and DIA are conducting diplomacy instead of the DOS-which Trump is gutting even further. The Foreign Service was quite possibly irrevocably broken by Wikileaks, and it certainly will be further hurt by these cuts. These are consequences I do not believe Manning desired or intended, but she was properly prosecuted for her misconduct.

                  That is not to say the treatment she endured was justified in any way-she should’ve been treated like a normal prisoner and not subjected to torture or mistreatment in any form. One can support her prosecution while also recognizing the compassionate pardon and the unjustness of her treatment.
                  In many respects I am far more sympathetic to her since she was manipulated by forces outside her control and under severe mental stress. A case could be made that she was mentally ill and unfit to stand trial, and I wouldn’t automatically disagree with it. But the law she broke is there for a reason, and her disclosure endangered thousands of American lives abroad and permanently eroded the ability of the State Department to do it’s job. I cannot stress this enough. And if you don’t get it that’s fine.

                  • And please

                    Which part of Chelsea Manning’s multi-year solitary confinement do you defend?

                    None of it. Which consequence of her recklessness do you defend? I recall you being quite vigilant in attacking the Bush administration for uncovering Valerie Plame, Manning did that a thousand times over.

                    You and others who sit in comfortable isolation

                    I had the same clearance and worked the same position. So with all do respect-when you and JimC have clearances and know how intelligence and foreign policy actually works behind the scenes maybe you can lecture me on what to think about them.

                  • I guess we just disagree on this

                    You seem focused on the security protocols and whether or not anybody has a right to violate them. I suggest that Mr. Ellsberg is focused on the obligation each citizen has to step forward when dealing with what he or she concludes is immoral government behavior.

                    The fact that forty years have passed doesn’t, in my view, change anything about what what he did, why he did it, or the consequences. He knowingly and intentionally violated the security provisions of the day. He was prosecuted for doing so, and he prevailed.

                    His bombshell revelation was proof that three administrations had explicitly lied to the American public and the congress about events and activities in Viet Nam. That was explosive then and would be today. The Nixon administration made the same arguments about him that you and others make about Mr. Snowden, Ms. Manning, and others.

                    It is not that I “don’t get” the consequences you describe. It is instead that I think you overstate those consequences, and understate the consequences of the betrayal of trust that these whistleblowers documented.

                    When we lie to foreign governments (such as Pakistan and Afghanistan) about what we are doing, with whom, and for whom, we endanger thousands of lives. At some point, each person in a position like that must make a determination about which path is more harmful.

                    We correctly ruled at Nuremberg that each and every official and soldier has an explicit obligation to disobey orders and commands that they know to be immoral. Such commands are ALWAYS secret. The fact they are secret does not, in my view, mean that they should therefore be obeyed.

                    In my view, these harsh attacks on these individuals are unwarranted.

                    • So it sounds like we all agree...

                      …that Ellsburg’s actions were justified. Where we differ is what will happen afterwards. You’re right that Nixon made the same arguments, but the fact that Ellsburg ultimately prevailed gives me the hope and confidence that Snowden could too against similar arguments if only he would come home and face them.

                    • Manning ultimately prevailed

                      The pardon is proof that the government overreacted and overreached. And a signal to Snowden to come home.

                    • Manning was pardoned a couple of days before Obama left,

                      If anything, the Obama administration made it impossible for Snowden to capitalize on the Manning pardon. And remember, Trump has suggested that Snowden be executed. If he ever returns, Snowden will have his day in court, then many days in prison.

                      I am sorry to say that Obama’s legacy with whistle-blowers will hobble transparency for many years to come. If we can’t protect the most consequential whistle-blower in a generation, why should anyone expect protection from retaliation?

                      Even our Liberal Lion had not a word to say in Snowden’s defense. Do we really expect to unearth Trump’s Russia ties in this environment?

                    • I'll agree on that

                      First that the Obama and Trump administrations have both handled retrieving this asset incredibly poorly. I mean, I’ll be quite clear that I wouldn’t want to “face the music” with this administration if I were in his shoes.

                      That said-I also think it’s proactive to lobby it to create some kind of conditional immunity for him to return. I don’t think he should be prosecuted for leaking the NSA program-I do think there are other aspects of the law he broke and other information he disclosed that he should have to answer too. Particularly what his relationship to Russian intelligence is.

                      Even if he is being honest with us and has not actively given up information-his very presence in the country (partly a result of some botched planning by the Obama WH) puts whatever information he does have at severe risk of being compromised by Russian intelligence. His continued presence there is a lose lose for us and for him-which is why working on a deal is paramount.

                    • @jconway Agreed that Snowden may have exposed us to risk by being in Russia

                      even if unintentionally (I think it is unclear what information he even has at this point). Of course when we treat whistle-blowers like enemies of the state, we should not be surprised when they flee the country.

                      But there is no way Snowden is going to get anything like a fair deal. The issue is not just Trump. The National security establishment wants Snowden’s hide way more than Trump does.

                      Media coverage could make it difficult to prosecute Snowden and force a deal. But Snowden is not even getting widespread support on the left, so the media will just reflect the Washington Party’s view that Snowden is a criminal. Public opinion was initially favorable to Snowden, but the lack of liberal support has changed the environment. Things may have actually turned out better, had a Republican been in the White House, based only on a political dynamic that would encourage Democrats to stick up for the guy.

                    • Pakistan lied to us

                      Let’s not forget which government was actually harboring bin Laden and supplying the Taliban. I for one am glad Obama went in without alerting the ISI. There are some situations where lying in geopolitics is justified. Just as there are situations where secrets out to be kept.

                      Not to belabor this point-but Ellsberg revealed a specific instance of government malfeasance. Manning just released literally the entire DOS cable
                      for the world to read and in doing so blew the cover of agents abroad and risked the lives of our troops and operatives overseas while ending several sensitive negotiations before they could bare fruit. I am not overstating the damage and you are calling Hillary Clinton a liar if you downplay it.

                      Snowden revealed a specific program but may have revealed others to his Russian handlers. We have no way of knowing. Nobody comes out of this looking good. The government shouldn’t have done the illegal program in the first place and shouldn’t have allowed someone like him access to it. James Clapped admitted the program was illegal and a mistake. I take issue with the fact that he has essentially defected to a power that has repeatedly hacked into the upper echelons of our government.

                      It’s naive, in my view, to believe he isn’t at best constantly monitored and wiretapped by FSB so information is leaking to them by virtue of their monitoring all his activities. At worse-there’s a reason he has good accommodations and unfettered access to the media. And it’s not because Greenwald is bankrolling him. But my skepticism is a form of speculation. As much as your faith in him is. The intelligence proving Trump benefitted from deliberate Russian interference is not.

                    • I think you and Ms. Clinton are incorrect on this

                      I’m not calling Ms. Clinton a “liar”, nor you. I’m asserting that both you and Ms. Clinton are incorrect about this.

                      Ms. Manning was a PRIVATE, for crying out loud. The very fact that she was able to get the material she took demonstrates to my satisfaction either (a) the actual importance of the material or (b) the criminal negligence of the organization that allowed her to remove it. The same is true of Mr. Snowden.

                      I don’t think we’re going to come to agreement on these questions about Ms. Manning or Mr. Snowden. We enthusiastically agree about Russia’s role in putting Mr. Trump in office.

                • Where did I defend what happened to Manning?

                  The one thing I would say, not as excuse or justification but maybe as a distinction worth noting, is that she is military and he is civilian. You realize you are asking me to believe, and it sounds like you do believe, that the Bill of Rights, something which unlike our current WH resident actually does make America great, isn’t worth the parchment it’s printed on? I’m sorry, but I absolutely cannot do that. Our traditions and laws are way too solid and I am confident that there are many people ready, willing, and able to stand up and make darn sure it is adhered to. We are not the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China.

                  As for Ellsburg, I would if anything take the opposite lesson from his experience. If he could survive a Nixon White House and a Hoover FBI and still get his day in court, then surely Snowden can now. I applaud him for revealing the information he did; I do not respect him running and hiding afterwards. Besides, pretty sure we have whistleblower protections and enough members of Congress who would be friendly to his cause.

          • Lovely irony

            Neither are bastions of open information and transparent government, but both are rivals who would be interested in the information R had which he may have used as a bargaining chip.

            So … these closed governments wanted information our open government wanted to hide? Or something like that?

            • Sure

              Snowden would have access to a lot of secrets the American government has a reasonable right not to share. Is your position that we shouldn’t have state secrets or intelligence agencies at all? There is an element of their work that requires security classifications and hiding information from the public. Not every American should know the location of our nuclear silos. Not every American should know who all our agents in the field are.

              I see little difference between what Chelsea Manning was praised for doing and what Scotter Libby was prosecuted for doing. Both exposed agents in the field to great risk and undermined the ability of the Department of State to conduct diplomacy. Nothing Manning did is whistle blowing, and I have yet to see anyone point to something that was disclosed that did not undermine our governments ability to conduct diplomacy and foreign policy. Officials need the candor to communicate in private truths they cannot in public.

              And many of our individual contacts and allies within hostile governments were exposed and eliminated because of these cables. Including folks within the PROK willing to put pressure on their own government to denuclearize, folks with Iran willing to cut bigger deals, and folks within Saudi Arabia trying to liberalize that country.

              If you think the government has grown more transparent because wikileaks you are fooling yourself. Now the DIA, NSA, and DOD are conducting diplomacy since the feeling is ‘State’ can’t be trusted. This has been compounded by Trump’s devastating cuts to the Foreign Service and diplomatic corps and an intentionally weak Secretary of State. The consequences of this are going to be quite damaging.

              As for Snowden, I think it is not unreasonable to conclude that there is a price he has to pay in order to be safe and secure in Russia. Putin isn’t just keeping him there to humiliate the US, he has conceded he has handlers and is monitored and the possibility he has had to give up sensitive information to our enemies-information that does not help the American public and may even hurt it-is incredibly high. Snowden was an experienced hacker and coder, and it may not be a coincidence Russian cyber espionage was sophisticated enough to hack the highest echelons of our government in 2016 with a major possible defector in their midst. We simply do not know-and Snowden has done nothing to assuage my concerns.

              • There's the rub

                Officials need the candor to communicate in private truths they cannot in public.

                NO THEY DON’T.

                They say they do; they continually assert that right and cite things that “prove” they need it. But open government is absolutely possible, and it ought to be what the world’s greatest democracy strives toward.

                There are no “private truths” the public cannot handle. Once you believe such things exist, you’re playing their game (in which they control the rules and hold every piece). Good luck.

                • I don't believe you believe this

                  Should the Iran deal have been on C-SPAN? Should the Camp david accords been conducted in full view of the public? I’ve been to high level confidential diplomatic. Riefingd where both sides could speak candidly and say things they couldn’t in public-and it was beneficial. For the nation seeking American assistance to be honest about its concerns and for the American diplomats
                  To be blind about the limits of our help. Both sides needed that to move forward and it was a lot more productive than the meeting in front of the cameras. You simply don’t know what you’re talking about here.

                  Diplomacy requires candor to work and that means being able to say what the home government and home populace might not want to hear. Similarly, I am
                  Glad we have the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Since the closed societies will have spies whether we do or not-so we might as well use ours to advance our interests. Oversight is critical and it’s very different from open source diplomach which has never been conducted in the history of mankind.

                  You and Ron Paul are welcome to pretend this is a Jeffersonian republic, the rest of us live in the reality of a globalized world and welcome the ability of our nation to use ”tis power for good to shape world events. It is up to our lawmakers and citizens to watch the watchers and make sure they aren’t breaking our laws our hurting our interests. But that is vastly different from srlwining the security state in a bathtub. It’s a necessary evil in the real world.

                  • Autocorrect did a number on that

                    But there will always be a need for backchannels and secret negotiations. This has been a part of American diplomacy since the founding and you’re naive to think otherwise. Frankly it’s always been a part of human diplomacy.

                  • Middle ground is needed

                    I find this a bit similar to questions about fidelity between a husband and wife. Each party needs freedom to have close and extended private relationships with others. That freedom is based on an assumption, contract, and promise that it will not be abused by allowing the relationship to cross whatever boundaries the couple establishes. One reason that adultery is such a painful betrayal is that it exploits that necessary freedom and turns it into a source of pain, suffering, and deceit. In that context, adulterous affairs are often discovered when somebody — a best friend, a colleague, sometimes even the other party in the affair — spills the beans, sometimes by obtaining information improperly. Is is wrong for them to do that?

                    I agree that “private truths” and back-channel communications are a crucial part of effective diplomacy and politics. When unscrupulous men and women betray that trust, then AWFUL consequences follow.

                    In my view, the US government betrayed the American people by conducting the massive and improper (even if not illegal) surveillance operations disclosed by Mr. Snowden. America needed to know our government was doing this, and Mr. Snowden did a public service by telling us.

                    The rest of this stuff about Mr. Snowden strikes me as chaff intended to distract us from material that matters. He was a low-grade IT staffer, and the very fact that he was able to obtain and then distribute the material he took strikes me as evidence of criminal negligence on the part of the US government. If this material was really all that sensitive, then it should have been MUCH harder for Mr. Snowden to obtain it.

                    If you pile a fortune of jewelry, gold, and diamonds on your kitchen table and then walk away leaving the doors and windows ajar and unlocked, then I (and your insurance company) have very little sympathy for your loss.

                    Yes, diplomacy and politics needs private truths and back-channel communications. Society also needs to protect whistleblowers who tell us when that faith has been betrayed.

                    • And to be clear

                      I find no disagreements with either of these points.

                      In my view, the US government betrayed the American people by conducting the massive and improper (even if not illegal) surveillance operations disclosed by Mr. Snowden. America needed to know our government was doing this, and Mr. Snowden did a public service by telling us.

                      The rest of this stuff about Mr. Snowden strikes me as chaff intended to distract us from material that matters. He was a low-grade IT staffer, and the very fact that he was able to obtain and then distribute the material he took strikes me as evidence of criminal negligence on the part of the US government. If this material was really all that sensitive, then it should have been MUCH harder for Mr. Snowden to obtain it.

                      And I think the Obama administration made a grave error suspending his passport when it did and not coming to some kind of deal. Best case scenario all of his communications and information are being monitored by the FSB. He’s an asset we can’t allow to stay on foreign soil-and I’d favor some kind of conditional immunity to bring him home and turn him into a cooperating rather than an instigator.

                      I can’t speak to the NSA-I can say having access to an open flow of classified information was vital to the work I did, and more importantly, the work the professionals I shadowed did at the State Dept. It is no longer as open as it used to be which I think contributed to siloing and the gradual shift in foreign policy and even diplomacy moving to the DoD.

                    • And I favor the middle ground

                      By no means do I support the kind of secretive foreign policy the Nixon, Reagan or Cheney administrations engaged in. Nor do I support the expanded powers Obama kept or his overreaction to whistleblowers. I do support the ability of our State Department to conduct diplomacy behind closed doors when need be and the ability of our defense agencies to have vital national security secrets protected from foreign eavesdropping. If anything, our cyber vulnerabilities have been exposed in 2016. And I think we can all agree that more needs to be done to protect secrets from falling into the wrong hands. And so long as the Russians are spying on us, I am more than comfortable with spying on them.

                  • "A necessary evil in the real world"

                    You keep proving my point! All the secrecy is self-justifying — it exists, and therefore it has to continue. This is how we’ve always done things. It worked out great for the Romans.

                    I’d like to see progress and openness. You have advocated for legislative openness. What do you say to people who defend secrecy on Beacon Hill?

                    (Please stop calling me [or anyone else] naive. Thanks.)

                    • Surely there's a difference

                      Between not taking roll call votes in committee on a contentious issue like transgender equality and having a select intelligence committee that meets in secret to examine classified information. If you don’t see a distinction there than your view is too manichean for my tastes-though I admire the consistency with which you apply it.

                    • Should we have told the newspapers (and Germans) about the Manhattan Project?

                      There was a small congressional committee overseeing it-using yournlogic its recordings should have been on C-SPAN. There is a reasonable degree of secrecy to protect national security. Are there no instances where it makes sense for you? What’s your limit?

                    • Great example

                      That may sound sarcastic, but I mean it sincerely; great example.

                      It’s likely that Germany knew about the Manhattan project. We know for certain that the Soviets (as we then called them) did. We knew a fair amount about Hitler’s (unwilling) scientist. I recommend this book.

                      But that was war. Do we need secrecy in war? Yes. Do we need war? (Maybe — human history suggests we like it quite a bit, and we show no signs of getting rid of it.)

                      These questions don’t have easy answers, but the IC makes them more complicated, by design, and for self-justifying reasons. The net effect of this, especially in the age of the global war on terror, is damage to democracy. You mentioned TPP upthread. I’m so old I can remember when our Senator was refusing to vote on TPP because she hadn’t seen it. Now we accept it as an Obama accomplishment, and it’s bad that Trump got rid of it? These are unhealthy impulses.

                      For me it comes down to: What are we working toward? If we want more democracy, that means more openness.

                    • I wish I shared your idealism

                      So long as there are hostile power spying on the US and trying to interfere with our interests we will need some form of IC. It’s the price we pay for being a global power-and if we aren’t the pre-eminent global power China or Russia will fill the void. There is just no way a nation of our size, power, and influence can go back to being an agrarian republic.

                    • Yes, "some form of IC"

                      But we can have a lot less than we have now — 17 agencies, HRC said — and still be a far cry from an agrarian republic.

                      Gotta run … peace out.

    • "... only power with the capability of destroying the US."

      So how does it make sense to maximize tensions with them? “. . .admit Ukraine into NATO and really beef up our deterrence in Eastern Europe.” ?
      Mixing paranoia and bullying is a perfect way of getting into a shooting war with a nuclear power.

      • Should we give them Sudentland then?

        Giving in to bullies empowers them. Responding to their aggression with proactive moves to counter that aggression is smart defense. It contained the bear for over 70 years and it can contain it again.

        • I don't know which is most disturbing . . .

          Your nostalgia for cold war brinksmanship?
          The aid and comfort that your proposals give to Al Queada and ISIS?
          Your easy violation of Godwin’s law?
          Your assumption that Ukraine, Syria and Eastern Europe are ours to give away?
          Or your willingness to use the supposed subversion of the recent election as a rationale for a confrontational foreign policy.

          • I find your attitude here quite disturbing

            There is nothing “supposed” about the Russian intervention in the 2016 election.

            You seem to have your head planted deeply in the sand about the reality of the cyberwar we have been in for some time now, and the leadership position the Russians have in that war. You do understand that we have been using cyber weapons to destroy NK missiles after launch, right? You do understand that all the major powers (and a great many minor players) are weaponizing cyber attack vectors every day, right?

            Your steadfast resistance to admit the facts about what is happening all around us is makes your attempted insults all the more offensive. You remind me of another poster, who seems to have departed, who insisted that RT was an objective news source with no connection to the Russian government.

            What I find most disturbing is your continued attempts a ridicule while you spin yourself deeper and deeper into a ridiculous hole.

          • I'm with you Bob

            We don’t agree on anything else but as far as war goes if you are against it I’m with you

  7. The far left and far right have always had one thing in common

    Isolationism. It was pacifists like Dorothy Day and rightists like Henry Ford who kept us out of WWII until Pearl. It was leftists like Henry Wallace (who’s Progressive Party was infiltrated by Soviet intelligence agents) and rightists like Robert Taft who argued forming NATO was an act of aggression.

    I favor containment-not rollback. The people of Russia seem to be happy with Putin and but we can and should offer their dissidents asylum-but I would never favor toppling his regime by force.

    I also do not favor allowing him to manipulate our elections or those of his neighbors and rivals in Europe. I do not favor giving him a free hand to reabsorb the Baltic states back into Russian control. When the Ukranian people voted over and over again for Western leaning governments and EU/NATO membership they should be allowed to do so. When their uprising against an authoritarian and kelptocratic puppet of Putin is being met with Russian special forces waging a secret war against their population we should give them a fighting chance.

    As we saw with the sanctions and even more recently with Syria strike (which I oppose for other reasons for the record) when the US stands up to Putin he backs down. Failing to stand up to him enables him to get away with more.

    I am neither a hawk nor a dove. I want the US and it’s allies to succeed and it’s interests to be protected. Realism recognizes the need to beef up allies, use mutual defense pacts like NATO and similar groups in Asia to contain and counter expansionist states like China and Russia. Realism recognizes that the Iran deal was a good deal-and could lead to an eventual realignment of relations in the Mideast. Realism questions our unwavering commitment to destabilizing actors like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Realism recognized Hussein’s Iraq was contained and did not need to be overthrown. Realism laments the destablization that action and the Libyan intervention caused.

    So that’s where I stand-critical of US foreign policy when it hurts the US and supportive of it when it helps the US.

  8. Russian intervention is either a charge worth investigating . . .

    or an article of faith that must be held to no matter what. Apparently it’s the latter for you, Tom.
    I do find Mark Bail ridiculous, now that we are all using ad hominem attacks. I don’t see much difference between his latest post, with his dark assertions about how the Russian mind operates, and the type of stuff we used to see from the John Birch Society.

    • Thank you for sharing

      This last comment greatly clarifies your position. I appreciate your candor.

      By the way, an “ad hominem attack” is a logical fallacy that conflates a disparaging comment about an individual with an argument being made by that individual:

      Tony wants us to believe that the origin of life was an “accident”. Tony is a godless SOB who has spent more time in jail than in church, so the only information we should consider from him is the best way to make license plates.

      I have criticized your commentary, sharply. I have, by implication, criticized you. I criticize you because I find your commentary on this topic deeply flawed (to the point of trolling). That is not an “ad hominem attack”. It is, instead, simple and direct criticism of your commentary.

      • Bob Gardner is a troll.

        In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/)

        is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

        Observe how Bob has nothing substantive to contribute, but accuses with straw men, ad hominem arguments, and mischaracterization. At least on this topic, he’s not capable of engaging with evidence or valid arguments.

        Where did I make “dark assertions about how the Russian mind operates”?

    • The Birchers hated NATO

      And were largely old right isolationists. They opposed the Korean War.

      My stuff is no different from the way Democrats from Truman to Carter analyzed the Soviet Union. I think Putin is far less ideological and far more nationalist which is a dangerous combination.

      • The irony of using language

        we haven’t heard since the 1950s isn’t lost on me. Many of the espionage principles remain the same, however. The question is, how we deal with the issues. For some on the Left, it seems that the best way to deal with them is to pay no attention to them.

  9. Attempting to recenter

    Let’s assume for the moment that Russia openly favored Trump, and tried to help.

    1.) Why?
    2.) How?
    3.) How effectively?
    4.) It’s actually not sufficient evidence that they released DNC info but not RNC info. They may well have been planning to release that but came under too much scrutiny, or whoever released it might have been a non-state actor.

    Then let’s assume for a moment that they played no role at all.

    1.) Would they deny it? Or is it better to let us speculate?
    2.) It seems like, if they played no role, Trump would be happy to have that proved. Why not push for that?

    One point I’ve made already but might bear repeating. “Russian hackers” are everywhere. They commit all kinds of corporate fraud, for example. But as far as I understand, they aren’t generally state actors. Do we have evidence of Russian state involvement?

    • I answer the why and

      how in my post. John Schindler has specifics on the how.

      Russia’s espionage culture is unique and in key ways markedly different from how Western countries approach the spy-game. It’s a product of the Soviet secret police, that brutal and cunning force, and it’s no accident that Vladimir Putin’s spies proudly call themselves Chekists today to commemorate them—just as they did in the days of the KGB. “There are no ‘former’ Chekists,” as the KGB veteran Putin has stated, and this attitude permeates his Kremlin.

      • I see seeds of why

        But there are too many threads for me. Russia favored Trump because
        ______________________________ ?

        • This should be obvious

          Mark has done a great job detailing close business and financial ties between the Trump Empire and Putin. Between the Trump campaign and it’s associates and Putin.

          And we know why Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon wanted this alliance-to unite eastern and western Christianity against Islam once and for all. They openly and repeatedly stated this was their objective.

          On Russia’s side it was recognizing that these individuals were useless idiots to sow chaos. There is currently no clear leader in Europe. May is pushing Brexit and barely holding the EU together, France is bracing for Le Pen and even if she loses-their other contenders aren’t statesmen. Germany has Merkel who is now being hit from the right over refugees and EU and from the left over EU and Germany bankrolling the rest of Europe.

          With all that instability Putin’s largest geopolitical rival elected someone not committed to NATO, not committed to overthrowing Assad, and not committed to historic American and western power structures and alliances. Not to mention Russia benefited by the TPP being jettisoned.

          President Clinton would’ve meant a firm, multilateral alliance to contain or dismantle Assad. A firm commitment to NATO. A commitment to helping Ukranian separatists stronger than Obama’s. A commitment to helping Merkel and May bridge the divides in the EU. A commitment to enforcing international law and human rights as part of American foreign policy. Some of these commitments are problematic for sure-but they all would’ve hurt Russia and her strategic interests while strengthening the US and its allies. Now with Trump-it’s chaos. Just what Putin wanted.

          • Putin, McConnell, and Ryan have one thing in common

            All three knew they had a lot to lose under a Clinton presidency and were willing to roll the dice on President Trump to realize their long held policy priorities. For Putin, it was restoring the Soviet near abroad, keeping Assad in power, and becoming an equal geopolitical partner to the US. For McConnell, it was the Scalia seat and the possibility of the Ginsberg seat. For Ryan, it was the possibility to overturn ACA and shrink the welfare state entirely. With the exception of McConnell, the gamble hasn’t paid off so far.

            *not comparing Republicans to Russia, just analyzing their shared rational basis for supporting Trump

          • Slow down a bit please

            If Russia did this, it was a massive risk.

            > Close business ties.
            OK sure. But interfering and failing would have soured US-Russia relations. Worth the risk? For Paul Manafort?

            > Flynn and Bannon
            Those guys are not credible at all. They say all kinds of crap, all the time.

            > On Russia’s side it was recognizing that these individuals were useless
            > idiots to sow chaos.
            He wants chaos on our side? We didn’t like it when there was chaos on their side. Loose nukes and all that.

            The EU stuff makes some sense, but I question whether that’s really enough for them to wade into our election.

            The Clinton stuff doesn’t wash for me. She portrays herself as more hawkish, but we don’t really know what her stance toward Russia would have been. She says Putin doesn’t like her — that is probably true, and if so it’s some motivation, but enough?

            To recap, the burden of proof here has to be really high. We can’t just make assumptions about what Russia wanted or thinks. A few perhaps, but we’re making too many of them.

            • What proof would convince you?

              Sincerely asking

              • The burden is on the prosecution

                Present the proof (not you literally), and history will decide.

                I apologize for this analogy, but this discussion reminds me a little of Sports Illustrated’s infamous piece on the Patriots a couple of years ago. The gist of it was that Belichick was so much in other teams’ heads that they complained (anonymously, to SI) about warm Gatorade. Meanwhile the coach in New Orleans was suspended for an entire season for having his guys try to hurt other players, and there’s nary a peep about that.

                The point being — we should be wary of what we think we know. When we know, I’ll be convinced.

            • Some additional responses

              What I presume motivates these people are power, prestige, and money. Why did Manafort do marketing and set up campaigns for dictators? He was getting illegal payments in Ukraine and working for Putin at $10 million a month. (If we were motivated by the same things, we wouldn’t be commenting on BMG like it’s our job).

              U.S.–Russia relations have been in the crapper since they annexed Crimea and part of Ukraine. Obama slapped pretty hefty sanctions on Russia.

              Flynn is not credible. That’s why he’s under investigation. He likely violated the Logan Act, FARA, and the Emolments clause.

              Aside from Breitbart recirculating Russian fake news, I haven’t seen Bannon’s name mentioned in connection with Russia.

              In terms of assumptions about what Russia wants or thinks, read The Kremlin Playbook link. And read the link to John Schindler. This is new territory for all of us. It’s not new territory. We shouldn’t be more credulous than usual, but we shouldn’t more skeptical because we don’t like how it feels. It’s impossible, at least for me, but I don’t want to have to take back something I’ve written because it’s incorrect.

              I try to act like a good reporter: I read a lot, I consider the source, but I try not to reach a conclusion until I have enough sources to write a post. I read Louise Mensch because I get leads from her tweets, not because she’s a trustworthy source. I may not interview people, and I don’t have an editor, but I try hard not to mislead people either.

            • you forget...

              The Clinton stuff doesn’t wash for me. She portrays herself as more hawkish, but we don’t really know what her stance toward Russia would have been. She says Putin doesn’t like her — that is probably true, and if so it’s some motivation, but enough?

              … the order of the cart and the horse: Putin’s documented dislike of Clinton is easily traceable to Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State where she was demonstrably more hawkish than Obama with respect to first Libya and then Syria. Putin couldn’t abide Obama and Clinton was, from Putin’s POV, far worse. Putin doesn’t like her… and with reason… she has demonstrated toughness and character in the job.

              I think the entire Russian project of electoral interference was conceived solely to add misery to Clinton’s life with the view that she would, ultimately, be elected POTUS, and this precisely because Putin knows how tough she can be. That it succeeded far beyond its intent is something nobody forsaw.

        • Based on my reading, Russia

          does a lot of investing in people hoping they’ll pay off. The idea is to plant a lot of seeds, not knowing which will mature into something harvestable. I think this is basic “spywar” and that we try to do similar things. Those people can do favors, legal or illegal.

          Russia’s political warfare also makes us look bad. That’s Politics 101: make yourself look better and your opponent look worse.

          Again from what I’ve read, Putin & Co. started out just trying to stink up the election, cause problems, make us look bad. Making us and our democracy look bad lessens our stature and appeal as an ally. Trump certainly makes us look bad. Seventy year-old alliances have been upset by his rhetoric alone. This political warfare isn’t sufficient for Russia to take us over, but it makes us look bad.

          The Russians believe (see Gerasimov Doctrine) that the methods they used in our election are the future of warfare. Cyber warfare will amount to as much as 75% of war. They have been using it in Europe to soften up opposition to their economic and political infiltration. They shut down the internet in Georgia when they invaded. Part of what they are doing is experimenting with their tactics.

          Trump and his people are a seed. Russia started to cultivate Trump back in 1986, and he took out a one-page advertisement in major news papers criticizing America’s involvement in the Middle East and South China Sea. He’s been doing business with oligarchs/Russian mafia for decades. It’s more than likely that he has laundered money for them. It’s more than likely that they have compromising information on him (not necessarily peeing hookers). Russia would love to get sanctions lifted, though I think it’s unlikely that will happen. Still I believe there are likely policy changes and decisions that could be made to help Russia.

          For Russia, Trump & Co. offer 1) an opportunity, albeit a very tiny one, for state capture, 2) the opportunity to make the United States look bad, 3) an opportunity to try hybrid warfare in the United States, and 4) an opportunity to plant more seeds in the United States.

  10. Russia first

    “IN 1946 a young U.S. diplomat named John Fischer wrote an earnest little book called Why They Behave Like Russians. Fischer, who’d served with the United Nations in postwar Kiev and Moscow, was attempting to explain to a bewildered U.S. public why their wartime ally Joseph Stalin, recipient of billions of dollars in American Lend-Lease aid, had suddenly turned on Washington, declaring it a deadly enemy, and seemed hellbent on starting a Third World War. The book is still a fascinating read—not least because so many of its conclusions continue to ring true today.”
    This is the start of an article in Newsweek by Anna Nemtsova. The article is called “How Russia Views the World”. The article and book are both great reads. It boils down to Putin following (for his country) a Trump promise on the campaign trail “America first”. Our adversarial relationship has gone on a long time but the best thing that came out of this latest interaction is the heightened distrust of Russia and the fact that Russia exposed our weakness in the cyberworld for what I think is a minor temporary advantage. Imagine if the hacking had happened during a shooting war.

  11. Carter Page

    I would say “The plot thickens,” but it’s already beef stew. Washington Post:

    Page’s role as an adviser to the Trump campaign drew alarm last year from more-established foreign policy experts in part because of Page’s effusive praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his criticism of U.S. sanctions over Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine.

    In July, Page traveled to Moscow, where he delivered a speech harshly critical of the United States’ policy toward Russia.

    • The legal problem, the one that

      prompted the warrant:

      “The government’s application for the surveillance order targeting Page included a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators’ basis for believing that Page was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, officials said.”

      FISC agreed that there was probable cause–sufficient reason based on facts that a crime was committed–that Page was engaged in espionage or terrorism. NOTE: Probable cause means there is enough evidence for a warrant. It doesn’t mean someone is guilty or will be indicted. It was most likely Russian spies trying to recruit him that provided the basis for a warrant.

  12. Hillary has some blame for this...

    When there were anti-Putin protests in Russia in 2011, she called for regime change. When she ran for president, she promised to start a no-fly zone, aimed ad Assad AND Russia, in Syrian airspace. How would the US respond to provocations like this?

    I am not a fan of Putin, but he is not the only one to blame here.

    • Hillary didn't invade Georgia

      Putin did. She didn’t level Chechnya. Putin did. She didn’t sponsor separatist factions in neighboring states. Putin did. She didn’t suppress all dissent and jail opposition figures. Putin did. She didn’t scapegoat Muslims and homosexuals. Putin did. She didn’t wage a cyber Pearl Harbor on Estonia. Putin did. Everything he has done is straight out of the Stalin playbook for consolidating power after succeeding a weak ruler. Eliminate rivals and centralize the state in your personhood. Blame foreigners and internally weak ethnic, religious and sexual minorities for the foibles.

      The realists are wrong here. Yeltsin was invited to join NATO, the EU, and the WTO and those invites were still open to Putin. It is the Russians that choose nationalism over liberalism at every turn. It is they who backed their fellow Slavic butcher in Belgrade over an international response to stop his genocide. It is they who engaged in their own indiscriminate shelling of civilians in Chechnya-the one republic they didn’t give up after the collapse. It is they who propped up authoritarians in neighboring states while helping them crush dissent. It is they who broke their promise not to interfere in Ukraine in exchange for its voluntary surrender of a nuclear deference.

      I am generally in the realist camp when it comes to foreign policy, but Russia is the one area the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists got right and the realists got wrong.

      • Agreed that Putin is no liberal

        But there is a difference between supporting our national interests and opposing Russia for the sake of opposing Russia (in the case of Syria, it is opposing Russia and Iran, partly for the sake of our Saudi alliance, which we are also aiding in Yemmen).

        Syria is a shamefully tragedy. But if our geopolitical interests demands bombing the two strongest factions into submission, then I would not call that liberal at all. I would call that spilling other people’s blood, for the sake of painting the globe red, white and blue. This is one issue where America First has the moral high ground, imho.

        • It certainly is liberal...

          …to intervene on behalf of humanity, regardless of who is on the opposing side, and regardless of whether or not it directly touches on our interests.

          • I would only add

            If we are sure the intervention will make the people we are protecting safer without making us less safer. Those questions were not asked of Iraq or Libya and have to be asked regarding any further involvement in Syria.

            Eg-Kim Jong Un is worse than Assad but there is no way to topple him without sacrificing millions of lives.

          • The US National security establishment...

            …has been itching to bomb Assad for years. Bombing Syria is largely about bolstering our geopolitical stance in the region, which I think we should reconsider. Obama was ambivalent about all this for a reason.

            • I oppose this particular strike

              For the same reasons Sen. Chris Murphy has outlined. It’s a symbolic strike that may very well deter Assad from breaking international agreements and that’s a good thing. But the manner in which this White House arrived at making the decision, its lack of consultation with Congress or allies, and its lack of a long term consistent strategy that would achieve a real strategic objective give me cause for concern.

              You can disagree with Hillary’s strategy of safe zones on the ground and a no fly zone across Syria-and I’ve stated my concerns about it during the campaign-but it was a goal and there were several steps she outlined to achieve it. This administration is wading into dangerous waters with a blindfold on.

    • Are you seriously blaming the victim here?

      That’s sure what it looks like.

      • OK, I did not mean to hit her when she is down...

        But as long as we are talking war, let’s at least consider that Hillary gave Putin very compelling reasons to be pro-Trump that have nothing to do with a Putin-Trump conspiracy.

        It just seems like reality is at risk of getting buried under partisanship here.

        • I don't see disagreement on that point

          Mark, Petr and I have been quite clear that his motives weren’t so much pro-Trump as they were anti-Clinton. I think he wanted to send a message that he could disrupt our elections and her administration-he was as surprised Rrump won as we all were.

          But like other actors who gained from preventing Hillary from inflicting policy loses-he took a gamble and it seemed to pay off. There is also no denying that Hillary would’ve been more aggressive than Obama on Syria. To me what’s dangerous about Trumps sudden reversal on strategy is that it didn’t seem well coordinated, well timed or well thought out. I think they wanted some good headlines and elite approval-which they got-but there is a lot less clarity on the end game.

          • I will take your word for that,

            In which case, I find all this puzzling.

            For example, I do not think we would be talking Cold War 2.0 if Russia and Iran were not cast as the chief geopolitical enemies of the Washington Party. And Saudi Arabia is a pretty awful regime, which has given Clinton Foundation money, but what is OK because we are on the same team, right? And their dirty war is OK for the same reason?

            Obama made an effort to wind down these pointless geopolitical contests (with some success in the case of Iran, but not Russia). He should have been more forceful in this regard, because now we have Democrats talking war over emails!

            I thought this was the sort of stupidity that liberals were against.

            • I examine these on a case by case basis

              Like Chomsky, you and Bob take the position that America should be more like Switzerland and just not have a substantial international military presence or foreign policy commitment. Some on the right like Pat Buchanan, Daniel Larison and the Paul’s hold to this view as well.

              Then there are the neoconservatives who favor every intervention and the liberal interventionists who are essentially the same only with more sanction from the UN and multilateral actors.

              I say look at our interests and protect what is vital. I see no American interest at stake in preserving the Saudi regime and I strongly oppose continuing to back their unjust and inhumane war in Yemen. We shouldn’t have allowed them to crush the peaceful protests in Bahrain either and I agree with Bob Graham they have never been held accountable for 9/11.

              After eight years of overtures to the Netanyahu government it is clear he is valuing present settlers over an Israeli future. The settlements are not in our interest and neither is defending a radical expansionist vision of Zionism. Two state solution or bust and he isn’t part of the solution he’s part of the problem.

              I see no reason to back Sisi in Egypt or to continue to back Duterte in the Philippines. I see no reason to back Erdogan and I wish the coup had been successful. I believe the Iran deal is just the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership.

              I believe Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea ought to be contained m, it otherwise this is a vital partner we can integrate into the liberal order. I would still be leery of their military spending but I do not favor a new arms race or Cold War with China. Be firm when need be to contain their expansionist aims and shore up the allies in the region with a strong commitment to mutual defense.

              And I believe part of what we learned differently after WW2 we didn’t learn after WWI was the need for a strong American led presence in Europe to contain expansionist powers like Russia. Russia still has an open invite to join NATO and the liberal order. But we should strongly contain it and bulk up the adjacent states we have treaties with to ensure they aren’t absorbed like Ukraine.

              That’s my foreign policy in a nutshell.

              • Sounds like we are in violent agreement on the need to reform mideast policy

                I do not expect us to be like Switzerland and I certainly do not support Chomsky’s critique of American power. But regime change in Syria would not be in our national interests or in the interest of limiting bloodshed.

                Russia will never join a US-dominated alliance and will never give up on seeking buffer states on the northern European plain. I am not against selling weapons to democracies, but we have very little national interest at stake.

                Geopolitics is, on some level, amoral and always will be. Weak border countries will always been dominated by larger neighbors. Even isolated countries are not totally free. Australia, for example, has always fought in wars it had little interest in, to ensure the Naval security it needs for exporting natural resources.

                Generally, I think we are overstretched and need to let regional players negotiate security arrangements that do not count on the US being world policeman. It is just not sustainable and we are better off if we begin withdrawing now, while we are still in a position of relative strength.

                • I think you're mistaken about regime change in Syria

                  Consider a scenario where the US and Russia remove Mr. Assad and replace him with another Alawite (or at least another Shiite). Suppose the explicit murder and brutality of the Assad regime is ended, even if the oppression against the opposition continues.

                  Suppose, then, that both Russia and the US join forces to eliminate ISIS. Of course Russia will continue to publicly complain about the US, and vice-versa. Iran will continue to publicly excoriate the US, and the US will continue to publicly excoriate Iran. So long as ISIS is removed, such public posturing is inconsequential.

                  I think that result is beneficial to both Russia and the US. I suggest that the resulting outcome is no worse than the status quo in Syria that we all lived with for generations before ISIS (when Syria was a Soviet/Russian satellite), and with ISIS removed from the equation.

                  The fundamental fact remains that when we took out Saddam Hussein, we created ISIS. We broke it — we own it. This is one reason why our refusal to help Syrian refugees (who flee the crisis we created) is so immoral.

                  I suggest that the awkward bottom line for most Americans — and virtually ALL American politicians — is that Israel, as it currently stands, is unsustainable.

                  There is no sustainable peace in the middle east without a two-state solution that recognizes the rights and sovereignty of the Palestinian peoples.

                  • I agree with where you are coming from

                    But that is impractical. It would likely require large scale us ground troops, which is not going to happen. I also do not see us working with Russia on that level. It is Russian and Iranian influence that makes us oppose Assad in the first place. Any solution that requires us to constructively work with those two actors is a total non-starter.

                    I am fine with bombing ISIS, but to also bomb the only faction capable of retaking the country is just spilling blood for its own sake. Bombing both sides in a civil war would bring the China Shop to a whole new level.

                    • I think real hard diplomacy could work

                      I think Tom’s proposal is an interesting road not taken. And I agree that removing Saddam was the trigger that caused this cascade of ethnic violence.

                    • @couves: Different approach

                      Indeed, it will require large scale ground troops. I suspect Russia is more willing to do that than we are. I don’t think we need to “work with” Russia at all. Similarly, I think it will involve Iranian assets.

                      I think we don’t need to “constructively work with” either. I think we, instead, stay out of their way while uttering public pronouncements about our “concern” for the “expansion” of “Russian interests” (or some such language).

                      I think that our focus on Assad and Syria is distracting us from ISIS (the cynic in me wonders how accidental that is).

                      In my view, the bottom line remains: ISIS needs to be removed. Any sort of democracy in the region is going to result in governments hostile to both Israel and the US. Hence, I suggest that we acknowledge this and move on.

                    • I for one reject the premise...

                      …that democracy automatically equals hostility. It may not happen overnight, but the sooner we show that we believe in democracy for everyone and really mean it, the less hostile that region will become.

                    • @ democratic hostility

                      The overwhelming majority of the people who live in the ME hate Israel and and by extension hate the US for supporting them. This reality is one key driver for why the US has supported authoritarian regimes and monarchs in the region for so long — the leaders we supported supported our interests, and were willing to oppress their populations on our behalf.

                      I agree that over time (as in generations), this hostility might change. Nevertheless, in the foreseeable future — this year, next year, this decade, next decade — that’s how it’s going to be.

                      In that context, so long as Israel continues its current behavior towards the Palestinians that hostility increases. Democracy for the ME necessarily means hostility towards Israel (and therefore the US) for as long as Israel continues its current behavior and so long as we support and encourage that behavior.

                    • I think your first paragraph is backwards...

                      …though there may be a bit of chicken/egg or vicious cycle at work here. It seems to me they hate us BECAUSE we support regimes that oppress them, but if we show some consistency in adherence to what we say are our values that could, and I predict would, change. That does mean calling out Israel for it’s oppression too. Carter came the closest to what I think our foreign policy should be – democracy and human rights, letting the chips fall where they may (and yes I know he wasn’t perfect either). This does not mean actively toppling all these regimes or refusing to talk with them, but it does mean not so actively propping them up.

                    • The land was theirs

                      The Palestinians hate us, and Israel, in no small part because we stole their land in 1949 when we created Israel. Many claim Israel is doing the same now with the settlements. They hate us because we wrap up such thievery in fancy religious language.

                      I agree that things will get better when we stop supporting the regimes that oppress them. Still, I suggest it will take generations for the victims of Israeli oppression and persecution to die and or be forgotten. The hostility of those towards us may lessen once we stop rubbing salt into their wounds.

                      We do have to stop pouring on the salt, though.

                    • We?

                      Pretty sure Israel has the distinction of being the only sovereign state created directly by the United Nations. Of course, the question of who was there first has roots millennia old.

                    • America has actually had a good plan for decades

                      It’s called the two state solution, and it means recognizing the 1947 UN borders as a basis for final territory and NOT recognizing the territory Israeli illegally annexed beyond the 1967 green line. And US and Palestinian Presidents have even been willing to allow Israel to annex some of the larger settlements to avoid another Gaza withdrawal in exchange for monetary and land compensation.

                      The main barriers on the Palestinian side are Hamas, who only help embolden the Israeli right and settlers with their attacks and of course the settler and religious parties by which Netenyahu depends on his governing coalition.

                      The Obama administration went out of its way to arm Israel, not push too hard on settlements, and block UN resolutions that would’ve been problematic for it. Netenyahu still treated him like the help and had the gall to lecture our President in front of Congress on an issue of American foreign policy. I am sick of him, and some time in the doghouse would do him good. No more military aid or foreign aid until they get their act together with the settlers and come to an agreement. No more aid to Palestine either until they come to an agreement. I am sick of babysitting these two. Of course with Trumps personal tax attorney as our ambassador this aint gonna happen…

                    • @Somervilletom large scale ground troops would be a huge mistake,

                      Especially if aimed at removing Assad. The risk of sparking wider conflict with Russia and Iran, not to mention casualties in Syria itself, is nowhere near worth the potential reward.

                      But maybe I am not understanding you. I agree that we should focus on degrading and containing ISIS and try to minimize conflict beyond that. We will probably end up providing some protection for an autonomous Kurdish region.

                    • @couves

                      I meant large-scale RUSSIAN ground troops. I think Iran will support that, since both Iran and Russia dislike ISIS as much as we do (though for different reasons).

                      The Kurds are a completely different kettle of fish. I have no opinion about that (it’s REALLY complicated …).

                    • Russian troops would make sense,

                      Although Russia has, in its own way, significant financial and domestic constraints with respect to a ground war. In fact, I think Putin has even had a “Mission Accomplished” moment –the parallels with us are interesting.

                      And while I think Russian troops could do a lot to calm the situation, their involvement would likely be viewed as an escalation or even a provocation by official Washington. Had Trump not invited the establishment to run his foreign policy, it is interesting to imagine what kind of creative deals he could have made. Of course this anti-Russian explosion on the left is not helping either.

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