One of the most compelling pieces of evidence that the United States is currently in a national security crisis is the obvious disconnect between virtually all elements of the nation’s intelligence community and its Commander in Chief – signs are that disconnect extends to key presidential staff and advisors as well. We have experienced something similar before, in 2001. However that disconnect was more of a matter of priorities, not one of absolute “denial”, as we are facing now.

I’ve blogged on this before, including giving examples of exactly what the Commander in Chief should be doing – and what he obviously is not – on terms of the ongoing political warfare being conducted against its citizens and institutions as well as the failure of Congress to take any real initiative to address the exposure provided by the commercial internet media companies.

So, avoiding the temptation of being redundant and saying it again here, I’ll just anyone interested to a recent and very detailed interview I did with Mike Swanson:

And if you don’t believe me, check out the following stories which describe the extent to which President Trump totally refuses to even discuss Russian political warfare – much less addressing his duty to head a national effort to thwart it.


3 responses »

  1. Anthony M says:

    I think you are highlighting an important point. When politicians choose to use the politics of division to further their own selfish interests they are playing with fire. In the case of America, accepting and dealing with the implications of all this would interfere with Trump’s ability to continue to use divisive tactics that have proved quite effective for him and a number of other, generally right wing, groups across the western world, from Brexit to Orbán or from Bolsanaro to the Finns party or Vox. We can hardly then be surprised if external enemies choose to exploit these internal divisions
    There was an interesting paper recently by OpenDemocracy on similar tactics being used by evangelical Christian groups based or funded from the US against Europe and the same vulnerabilities could be exploited from a variety of angles.
    On a slightly more optimistic note there seems to be some good work being done in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries (there is a recent RAND study on this) on Total Defence, which incorporates Societal Resilience and countering political warfare, through hybrid warfare right through to full scale conflict. NATO appears to be involved in that. Hopefully those developments, amongst others, may begin to lay a framework that could be scaled more widely as the political context allows it.
    As you point out in you excellent book, ‘Creating Chaos’ the type of political warfare being directed against democratic societies forms part of a longer pattern of action / reaction by major powers. Democracy is currently very much on the defensive. The challenge is to think through the root causes of our internal divisions and how our societies can be more cohesive, thereby reducing our vulnerability, whilst at the same time educating the public to recognise this sort of thing as well as more ‘traditional’ push back’. Dealing seriously with societal resilience gets into areas that the political right simply will not consider such as the national security implications of inequality and poor education and the implications regarding our current neo-liberal economic model. Our vulnerability is hard wired into our societies.

    • larryjoe2 says:

      I’d love to be more optimistic and any spark of light is appreciated. It this point it seems more as if we in the U.S. have reentered the search for that long ago “light at the end of the tunnel” we sought for years during our quagmire in SE Asia. And back then that trauma was not actually accelerated by anything comparable to our current Constitutional crisis over separation of powers.

      There is also a bit of that same “love it or leave it feel” in the air – along with the emergence of the “know nothing” type solutions for fundamental problems – solve immigration with a wall, solve international affairs by simply withdrawing (well other than for JSOC around the globe and ongoing the air strikes against ISIS, which have now transferred back from Syria to Iraq and our ramping up daily), or dealing with environmental issues by getting rid of the scientist and advisory panels that point them out.

      It strikes me that at the root of it all, we have simply lost our national strength of being hard nosed realists, demanding facts and respecting them. Our refusal to deal in facts – and demand them from each other and our political leadership, is akin to Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Russian political warfare, or acknowledge and move openly against escalating racial and religious targeting – areas neither he nor his administration has launched a single legislative initiative.

      As you say, democracy is highly vulnerable, including vulnerable to mob rule – and mobs are highly vulnerable to manipulation by any political faction (liberal or conservative). Facts are one way to get ahead of that cycle. Americans used to be rugged individualists, with a disdain for being manipulated, seeing themselves culturally as a bit cynical and hard nosed, show me the facts (sort of like show me the bottom line). The question is, did we trade that in for YouTube?

      • Anthony M says:

        A very thought provoking reply, thanks…

        I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts on all this into something that would coherently fit into a short reply, but the topic is so wide ranging that will not be possible so I’ll limit this to just a few thoughts.

        I’m not sure if this is a cause for optimism or further pessimism but I don’t think that society as a whole was ever that hard nosed and realistic and democracy has always been very vulnerable to populist type politicians, particularly after financial crises. The current situation therefore, to a large extent, fits within a historical pattern of what tends to happen after major financial shocks. There is something new in the rejection of scientific evidence and other expert opinion by senior policy makers, but for the bulk of the population emotion has always tended to trump reason.

        There is something qualitatively different about the current period in that, in the past, the organisations that could reach millions in terms of news and information were comparatively few but those news sources have, in many cases, a quite terrible record of being partisan in terms of the issues of the day and in playing on peoples’ emotions – particularly those aimed at the mass market. It is the opportunity presented by technology to amplify the impact of dis-information / propaganda etc that is new, both in terms of reducing ‘barriers to entry’ to the market and allowing very sophisticated demographic targeting (as you discuss in Creating Chaos).

        The proportion of the population capable of analysing current issues in the way you might see, for example, in an NSC meeting, is actually quite small. This is why all politicians tend to present arguments for or against a particular policy in highly simplistic ways and often in quite emotional terms, very often to the point that the argument presented bears no relationship to the real reasons the policy is being pursued. An example from the UK currently is Brexit – which could make sense if you favour a libertarian economic agenda but is largely presented (highly successfully) around ‘taking back control’ and other arguments fit only for children. (full disclosure – I do not support Brexit). Conversely the Remain campaign focused largely on factual analysis (with some exaggerations) but didn’t connect emotionally to large sections of the population and therefore lost.

        There was a 19th Century British politician called Robert Lowe who opposed extensions to the franchise in the 1860’s. He is often misquoted as saying ‘now we must educate our masters’ (he actually said ‘now we must teach our masters their letters’) but I think the misquotation is actually quite apt for our time, but that would be a very long term strategy indeed.

        It may have to be a case of playing them at their own game and identifying arguments that ‘play’ with particular demographics whilst highlighting examples of the sorts of political warfare techniques that are being used (for some reason this rather makes me think of the Robertson Panel, but now I really am digressing!). Unfortunately I suspect certain politicians and their backers are quite happy to play a divisive political strategy as in practice it seems to be allowing (in the US and potentially in the UK) the interests of those backers to be pursued in and amongst all the noise, whilst so many people are more focused on being scared, angry, worried etc. about whatever and whoever. it’s a dangerous strategy that will blow up eventually if it isn’t stopped via the democratic process, but it can be very effective in getting people into power for a time.

        Now I’ve depressed myself…and I’d better get on with some work!

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