Isn’t it beautiful irony that during the campaign Trump claimed the election was being rigged against him, while all along it was being rigged for him?
The Russians (bless their little Ruskie hearts) are being accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computer system in an effort to influence the results of the recent presidential election. Virtually everyone across the political spectrum (except for Trump, who may have benefited from this activity) have expressed outrage over Russia’s blatant attempt to interfere with the delicate balance of American democracy.
And rightly so, because if voters lose confidence in the validity of election results, the divisiveness existing in our current political environment will be exacerbated; maybe to the point of undermining the authenticity of our democracy. This potential problem extends beyond our own shores, because if our election results are brought into question, no longer will America be able to present itself as the model of democracy for other countries to emulate.
If (and there is little doubt) that Russian hackers did make an effort to impact the presidential election, it is a clear violation of our national sovereignty that is so egregious it could be considered an act of war, worthy of retribution. But there is a problem: Russia has, of course, denied any hand in such nefarious activity. For the American government to call out Russia by offering clear evidence that the cyber-attack was initiated and sponsored by the Russian government (maybe all the way up to Putin), the American intelligence services would have to reveal how they know what they know about the Russian activity. Doing so would expose America’s own capabilities to hack into Russian systems; obviously something the intelligence community does not want others to know.
Responding with nothing more than a hissy fit …
In response to Russia’s blatant cyber-attack on our democracy, about all the American government can do publicly is fret and stew over the incident. Investigations can be undertaken and Congressional hearings can shine an indignant spotlight on Russian activities and assume a holier-than-thou stance. The American government can take the high-ground and show the world how despicable the Russian government is by attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, but it can do little else publicly.
There is one problem when it comes to America taking this approach. Our government does not come to the party with “clean hands.” It is like the old cliché of “reaping what you sow.” The painful truth is that America has a long history of attempting to meddle, influence and even rigging elections in other sovereign countries. Examples of this type of American meddling in the elections of numerous democratic countries could – and has – filled numerous books.
“Nation building” and “regime change” have been the basic stratagems of American foreign policy for two centuries. The objective has been to try to assure that the governments of independent countries are sympathetic to the political and economic interests of America. Tactics employed have ranged from funding those who support American interests, all the way to fomenting and financing coups against democratically elected leaders who disagree with American policies. Some efforts to “influence” the “election” of governments favorable to American policy went so far as to include military action and occupation.
One of the clearest examples of American meddling in the internal affairs of another country involves Iran. In 1953 Mohammed Mossadegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. His “mistake” was to oppose the economic interests of America in the Middle East. The CIA funded and fomented a violent coup that replaced Mossadegh with a guy who became to be known as The Shaw of Iran. We all know how that turned out.
In 1954 the CIA instigated and financed the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz. His “sin” was to challenge the politically connected United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation. The CIA subsequently backed a series of dictators who maltreated the people of Guatemala for almost 50 years.
One of the most infamous episodes of American attempts to meddle in and influence democratic elections in sovereign countries occurred in 1973. Salvador Allende, an avowed Socialist, had been democratically elected president of Chile in 1970. His policies of industrial nationalization soon had him on the wrong side of American interests. President Nixon personally orchestrated the overthrow of the Allende government and the installation of the ruthless dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. (Allende was said to have “committed suicide” when the CIA backed “rebels” stormed the Chilean Presidential Palace.)
One of the most brazen examples of America meddling in the democratic elections of another country involved Italy. The Italian elections of 1948 pitted the weak centrist Christian Democrats against a rising tide of influential leftist parties (some clearly Communist) and labor unions. The CIA entered the fray in support of the Christian Democrats with “bags of money” to finance the election campaign. There were even reports that the CIA organized a secret propaganda campaign that included forging documents intended to sully the reputations of opposition leaders.
The pot calling the kettle black…
The point of this very limited tour of what have been numerous attempts by the American government to disrupt the democratic elections of other sovereign countries is to point out that if Russia did indeed hack into our election, we are only getting a taste of our own medicine. Modern electronic technology may be more subtle than the ham-fisted actions America has employed in an effort to install a foreign government more sympathetic to our interests, but Putin’s objective in meddling in the election is just the same.
There is no doubt that Putin favored Trump over Clinton. By launching a cyber-attack on the DNC and releasing embarrassing communications, Putin was simply taking a page from an American history of interfering in the elections of other countries, in an effort to see a government more favorable to his interests, While there is (and never can be) any credible evidence that Russian cyber-attacks actually influenced the outcome of the election, at the very least they were able to raise a specter concern as the validity of the presidential election. And by doing so, weaken American democracy in the eyes of the world. The end question is: What are we going to do about?