Bulletin: The Russia Freakout

By On July 17, 2018

Bulletin: The Russia Freakout

Bulletin is a chronicle of socialist comment and analysis from Jacobin’s Seth Ackerman.

An “Attack on America”

For the sake of argument, and because I think it’s probably true, I’ll assume here that the story laid out in Robert Mueller’s twenty-nine-page indictment last week is basically right: Russian intelligence hacked Democratic emails and leaked them to the internet. The goal was to help Donald Trump’s campaign and generally sow chaos in American politics.

But if this was, in fact, an “attack on America,” the reaction to it has been puzzling.

Imagine if Russia were to launch a real attack â€" say, a surprise strike on a US Navy vessel somewhere in international waters. How would the national security apparatus respond? First, presumably, it would try to figure out Russia’s motives and guess its next steps. Then calculations would be made about what military and political objectives to seek and how to safely achieve them. Moves and countermoves would be methodically gamed out. And confident declarations of serene resolve would be issued.

None of that is happening now. Instead, the mandarins of US power and their acolytes in the commentariat seem to be having a collective meltdown. “The warning signs are there. The system is blinking…. I believe we are at a critical point,” national intelligence chief Dan Coats intoned in a recent speech. “This ought to be a wakeup call to Washington: Putin’s shadow war is aimed at undermining Americans’ trust in our institutions. We know Russia is coming back in 2018 and 2020 â€" we have to take this threat seriously,” said Republican senator Ben Sasse. “We must deal w Putin’s Russia as the rogue state it is,” tweeted Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass.

Despite ubiquitous demands to “ta ke the threat seriously,” none of these voices has plausibly explained what the US ought to do about it. Democratic senator Chuck Schumer demanded that Trump “cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections.” And how exactly would that work?

Compare the US reaction to that of elites in Europe. In May, the European Council on Foreign Relations â€" an impeccably Atlanticist think tank whose trustees include a former head of NATO and the chairman of the Bundestag foreign affairs committee â€" published a report on how to respond to Russia. It singled out French president Emmanuel Macron’s response as a model.

Russia was widely suspected of using similar tactics to sink Macron’s candidacy in last year’s French election. “But Macron wisely avoided making Russian interference a central topic in the campaign,” the report noted. “Instead, he focused on France’s problems and how to reinvigorate Europe. This combination â€" keep an eye on Russia but focus on home â€" proved an effective way to both win French voters and handle Russian meddling.”

France then calmly took practical steps to deal with the problem. Its cybersecurity agency was beefed up. Its national election commission “established a mechanism allowing a candidate to request an investigation if it detected a cyber intrusion.” And electronic voting overseas was curtailed as a precautionary measure.

“Macron stated bluntly that Russian propaganda channels had spread false information during the election,” the report noted, “but he did so in a matter-of-fact manner, without succumbing to the hysteria that so often characterizes Western discussions on Russia in general and its meddling in particular. The French government had elegantly ignored a hacking attack on the eve of the election and Macron prevailed anyway.”

It seems clear that the current Beltway panic isn’t really a reflection of the magnitude of the perceived threat from Moscow. It reflects panic that someone like Trump could win an election in the United States. And yet, at the very most â€" and I doubt this scenario â€" Russia could have shaped the outcome only by changing a tiny, marginal number of votes in an election that would have been close anyway. Russian meddling is not the reason Trump was a viable presidential candidate.

Back in the 1990s, when US power was riding high and aggressive “democracy assistance” overseas was all the rage, its evangelists used to ridicule tinpot despots like Slobodan Milosevic who railed against foreign meddling in their politics. That was seen as the ultimate admission of weakness â€" of the brittleness of those leaders’ legitimacy.

Now those same evangelists issue daily, panicked warnings about the foreign threat to America from leaked emails and Twitter trolls. If Moscow’s goal was to un dermine the legitimacy of the US political system, they, too, are looking a lot like Russian agents at the moment.

More Extremists, Please!

An interesting finding from political scientists Torben Iversen and David Soskice: countries with more centrist politics tend to have higher inequality. See their paper here.

What Is “Global Feminism”?

…Overall, there is little doubt that the hegemonic form â€" the feminist politics with the most influential programme, the most professional infrastructure and the greatest resources at its disposal â€" remains the agglomeration of practices, campaigns, policy-making and research that falls under the rubric of ‘global feminism’. At the international level, it plays a lead role in setting benchmarks and orchestrating the flow of funds from corporate donors and overseas-aid ministries to women’s projects around the world. It has established a sophisticated programme, the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, and articulated a set of processes to monitor its advance. No evaluation of contemporary feminist strategy can ignore this stratum. If it is indeed hegemonic, then all other feminisms will be in part defined by their relation to it. At the same time, global feminism flourished under the high meridian of American power and its practice has been deeply informed by US exemplars and expertise; to understand either involves grasping the relationship between the two. To that end, it makes sense first to consider the character of mainstream US feminism, the strategic logic of its programme and its interface with the institutions of American rule…

â€" Susan Watkins in the New Left Review: “Which Feminisms?”

Jeffrey Sachs: “I do not want to save socia lism. I want to bury it.”

Branko Milanović, an economist in the World Bank and former student and colleague of Branko Horvat in Belgrade, remembered that around 1990 he happened on Jeffrey Sachs in a bookstore. Jeffrey Sachs had Milanović’s new book, which he asked Milanović to sign. Milanović recalled:

I thought for a second and wrote: “To Jeff Sachs, who is trying to save socialism.” Jeff was kind of shocked, and he said, “I do not want to save socialism; I want to bury it.” I was surprised then but realized later: I was still behind the curve regarding what was happening. I saw the early reforms in Poland as a way to introduce market elements into socialism, the same way that Keynesian economics introduced some state control into capitalism. Pushing the parallel further, I saw the socialist crisis of the 1980’s as a way toward the creation of a reformed and sustainable socialism. But Jeff (rightly) sa w it as the end of socialism and the beginning of the transition to capitalism.

â€" Johanna Bockman, Markets In the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism

Source: Google News Russia | Netizen 24 Russia

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