Electoral meddling has become the gruel of US politics for months, and more servings are being promised in the wake of the indictments against 16 Russians and Russian entities dished out Robert Mueller last week. Such actions can, when taken in isolation, seem sensible. Righteous indignation can be channeled appropriately, and given the suitable icing of exceptionalism.
One of the difficulties behind the podium stance of virtue taken by the US political establishment on Russian interference in the country’s electoral process is one of simple hypocrisy. In the game, and importantly theatre, of international relations, the shove, give, and take are all powerful incentives. Express outrage, by all means, but do so with a certain sentient awareness that you have been as culpable as your opponent of the same charge.
Idealism, however, is the magic mushroom that clouds such assessments. Filled with pride and a sense of purpose, individuals such as former CIA director James Woolsey are happy to first say that the CIA “probably” inserts its nose in the electoral affairs of other states, then justify it.
Friday’s encounter with Laura Ingraham of Fox News was sufficiently frank, if unsettling, in pulling down any pretence about the role of US power and its self-justified assertiveness in the electoral processes of other states. “Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries’ elections?” posed Ingraham. “Oh, probably,” came the humoured response, “but it was for the good of the system in order to avoid communists taking over.”
Then came a few points of illustration: “For example, in Europe, in ’47, ’48, ’49, the Greeks and the Italians, we CIA…” Ingraham, at that point, charged in with an interruption, asking whether the US “did that anymore”. “We don’t mess around in other peoples’ elections, Jim?”
Faux, tinselled idealism is indeed an ugly sight of kitsch. From a man familiar with the dark arts and antics of an organisation he once ran, it was hard to keep it in. “Well… Only for a very good cause.” Through good causes, catastrophe breeds its dark spawn.
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