Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

26 December 2017

Pearl Harbor III

[For analysis of the ultimate arbiters of treason by our nation’s own leaders, click here. For links to popular recent posts, click here.]

Since Pancho Villa’s brief incursion into New Mexico in 1916, no foreign power has dared attack the United States openly and directly. But we have suffered three surprise attacks.

The first occurred when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The second was the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, which mostly targeted innocent civilians. We are still fighting foreign wars to avenge that attack and prevent recurrences.

But the third surprise attack is current and ongoing. It has been so clandestine and subtle that many of us don’t know about it, and some doubt it’s even going on.

Yesterday the Washington Post gave us all a solemn Christmas present: compelling evidence of this third sneak attack and its consequences. It has been going on for years, and at the explicit order of the president of a foreign power, Vladimir Putin of Russia.

It’s fitting that the Post played this vital warning role. It’s the only major newspaper we have left that (by the grace of Jeff Bezos) is completely independent of both partisan politics and monied venality.

The attack has killed no one yet, at least as far as has been made public. But it has been so subtle, clever and pervasive as to weaken our nation and our society in fundamental ways.

It will take far longer than the four years of our involvement in World War II for us to recover from the damage so far. It will take at least a generation. And if the war becomes open and overt—and doesn’t morph into species’ self-extinction by becoming military and nuclear—it could last a century.

Nevertheless, it’s a war we must fight and win. If we don’t, our values and our unique contributions to human civilization could yield to tribal tyranny for a thousand years. Although far more subtle, this fight is every bit as vital as ours against the Third Reich and Imperial Japanese tyranny.

We have not yet begun to fight. We have been arguing among ourselves about whether we have been attacked, and, if so, what we should do about it and how strongly we should respond. We have been arguing despite that fact that our own intelligence agencies are unanimously confident of the fact of the attack, while refusing to assess the precise extent of the damage.

Two other relevant facts are indisputable. First, Donald Trump is our president. In our entire history, we have never had a president with his inexperience, incompetence and wretched character. Our own intelligence agencies agree unanimously that Putin waged a cyber-disinformation campaign with precisely the aim of electing Trump and diselecting Hillary Clinton.

Cause and effect? We don’t know. But Putin’s aim is clear, and it was achieved. More than that: we have evidence that Putin himself considers this operation one of the most successful and important in the thousand-year history of Russia’s spies and deceivers.

The second relevant fact is that, since our own Civil War, we as a nation have never been so divided on ethnic and racial ground. While our political division has been growing for years, Trump has played a decisive role in exacerbating it. He has pitted Christians against Muslims, Jews against Muslims, conservatives against progressives, Evangelicals against Catholics, Anglos against Hispanics, white against black, rich against poor, and native-born Americans against recent immigrants, both documented and not.

As the Post story reveals, division of this sort has been Putin’s chief objective all along. Electing Trump as president was just one means to that end. Divide and conquer: it’s a goal as old as Caesar.

But Putin is hardly as brilliant a propagandist as Rupert Murdoch and his Fox. Putin could not have succeeded without accomplices and “useful idiots.”

Our President of course has played the role of accomplice-or-idiot in chief. Mitch McConnell is a close second. Seeing transient partisan advantage, Mitch jumped on the Trump bandwagon with both feet, despite his well-justified disdain for Trump. Mitch recently achieved his first-ever notable legislative accomplishment—the GOP tax scam—by so doing.

In exploiting the short-term self-interest of these two men, Putin has been a brilliant tactician. He aimed his arrows directly at the two Achilles’ heels of our society. The first is the growing mindless partisanship against which our Founders warned us in vain, their so-called “faction.” The second is the tendency of our capitalist system, especially when poorly regulated, to produce extremes of wealth and economic inequality.

Whether they acted with design or mere negligence, Trump and McConnell have tried to minimize this very real threat. They would have us ignore it. Both men are far too committed to their own short-term self-interest to mount an effective response. In that respect they are both traitors.

No one today remembers precisely why the Trojans rolled the huge Greek Horse inside their gates. But they did, and Troy is history—an object lesson in fatal human error. We must remove these men from power, ASAP, lest we Americans become victims of a twenty-first-century cyber-Trojan Horse.

As the midterm elections approach, Democrats and progressives must identify Trump and McConnell’s GOP not just as rich men who sold our nation out to the plutocrats for power and money, but as the traitors that they are. These two, and those who follow them, are the greatest threat to our survival as a nation that we have ever encountered, precisely because they are powerful insiders disguised as “normal” pols.

Only after we get rid of them can we begin to fight this war with Putin. Removing them will take at least a year.

As we work on doing that, we must focus on the existential threat that Putin’s disinformation campaign presents. We have come close to refighting our own Civil War in the twenty-first century. We are on the verge of dividing our precious melting pot into blazing fragments of warring clans. This is not the way to fight a secret, subtle war, which requires knowing precisely who the foreign enemy is.

Donald Trump enjoys the fruits of inter-ethnic tolerance and harmony in his marriage with Melania Trump, a Slovenian immigrant. Mitch McConnell enjoys them in his marriage with Asian-immigrant Elaine Chao, Trump’s Secretary of Transportation. Both should burn in Hell for their parts in fostering anti-immigrant hatred, ethnic bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny for partisan political advantage. How can men with their records ever help resist Putin’s divide-and-conquer strategy?

Besides curing our growing internal division, our counter-warfare must involve three steps. First, we must recruit the best minds and programmers in our private sector for both defense and offense. Amazon and Google should lead the pack because they have the best and most imaginative programmers and the best organizational skills.

In contrast, Facebook and Twitter are scatterbrained sites for the disorganized and superficial. Not surprisingly, they they have been the chief targets and unwitting tools of Russian disinformation warfare, along with Instagram and other quick-hit sites. In the name of national security, they should be subject to as much regulation as our Constitution permits. They should no more be immune from corrective action than isolated warehouses in which nests of spies are living.

Our wartime private-public collaboration should have two objectives: both defense and offense. The goal of defense should be to exclude foreign propaganda from our Internet, period. Our Supreme Court may have to decide whether foreign enemies and foreign intelligence agents have rights under our First Amendment, but the answer should be obvious. Protecting the free speech of our citizens and legal residents cannot leave us defenseless against foreign enemies.

The goal of offense should be full-scale information warfare. It should include massive disinformation and propaganda—a task for which we should recruit Rupert Murdoch, the world’s expert in the field.

As an American citizen by virtue of a private act of Congress, Murdoch should not refuse to help. If he had tried to foist his empire of lies off on Russia, today he would either be a minion and sycophant of Putin or a corpse. He may not be grateful (moguls seldom are), but he should make himself useful, or we should send him back to Australia stripped of his artificial citizenship and without a return visa.

The second level of our cyber-warfare should involve “practical measures”—the control of electronics and machines. Objects should include everything from machine tools and lighting in homes and factories, though communication and transportation infrastructure, to power plants, with the capability of causing everything from economic loss to full-scale social destabilization. There is little doubt that Putin’s minions have developed such measures themselves, and we should work on similar offensive capability even as we harden our own infrastructure in defense.

Third, we should never lose sight of the fact that this cyber warfare might get out of hand. It’s hard to read the Post’s story without believing that President Obama’s caution, late in his own term, stemmed from the constant threat of Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal.

In order to reduce that threat, we must reshape our own nuclear arsenal with small, accurate weapons sufficient to decapitate a nation like Russia or North Korea. Faced with the choices between decapitation, annihilation, or species-self-extinction, such an enemy might be relied on to the make the sensible choice. At least having the option of forcing that choice would be better than not having it. We must not let fear of Armageddon force our guard down and render us defenseless.

The Trojan Horse is the best analogy. The “gift” borne by Greeks seemed so innocent and so non-violent, at least until nighttime, when the soldiers hidden inside emerged. Just so does Russia’s cyber disinformation warfare seem innocuous and (to our useful idiots) even doubtful.

But the Trojan Horse destroyed Troy utterly and completely just the same. Today, the very name of that ancient city-state stands for a foolish victim of simple deceit.

Just imagine what a shadow of ourselves we might be with a man like Trump as president for another three years, let alone seven. Then overlay another several years of setting every ethnic and religious group against every other, with our white supremacists against all, as our infrastructure and relationships with allies and trading partners continue to decay.

Those have been precisely the ends of Vladimir Putin’s disinformation war against us. And whatever the precise effect of his efforts, no one can deny his success so far.

If we don’t reject the Trojan Horse and take countermeasures, the most powerful nation in human history will have been brought down by clever deception and subterfuge. To avoid that sad fate—both for us and for our species—we must get rid of our own useful idiots and begin to treat our present circumstance as the fight for national survival that it is.

The Arbiters of Treason

The men and women who staff our intelligence agencies are true patriots. They spend their lives—at great personal risk and under the constant burden of secrecy and uncertainty—trying to penetrate webs of lies, deceit and disinformation spun by foreigners who wish us ill.

When they tell us we are targets of a massive, secret campaign of disinformation designed to turn us against each other, we had better listen. For we are a nation of immigrants and diverse groups. We are destined to become a majority of minorities at least by 2043, if not before. Already minorities are turning the tide of domestic politics, as they just did in helping Doug Jones secure a senate seat in Alabama.

Our diverse minorities make us the most resilient, resourceful, innovative and creative society in human history. That’s precisely why Putin and his spooks and trolls are trying to turn us against each other. They are assaulting the citadel, our greatest strength. And with a small investment in trolls and Tweets, they are doing it on the cheap.

In denying that any of this is happening, our own President and Senate Majority Leader are committing acts of treason. They are, in effect, urging us to roll the Trojan Horse right through our gates. They are pushing to let inimical foreigners destroy the most diverse and resourceful society our species has yet seen.

Not only that. They are slipping into treachery for the worst possible reasons. Trump wants to salve his wounded childish ego and perpetuate the lie that his victory in last year’s presidential election was overwhelming—a landslide—secured by his own political brilliance, not foreign skulduggery. McConnell has more venal motives: he is trying to maintain his tenuous grip on political power, which he has just used to steal the substance of our nation for corporations and the rich—the only significant legislative achievement in his long and ignoble political career.

We will survive the Trump-McConnell tax scam. It’s a major blow to our national ethos and our finances. But numerically it’s hardly fatal. It will add less than $1.5 trillion to our national debt, which is already well over $20 trillion. That’s less than ten percent.

What Putin’s spooks and trolls are after is much more serious. Harmony and cooperation among our many national minorities, including recent immigrants, are the chief sources of our nation’s strength. Spoiling them by turning us against each other could be an existential threat.

Who will judge these traitors? Our courts are weak and subject to delusion by shiny abstractions. Just so, our Supreme Court decided, in Citizens United, that money is speech. The tax scam is only the most recent and depressing consequence of that delusion.

Congress is split by ideology and lust for power. No one, apparently, can change the GOP’s rush to serve its rich donors, even as the Trojan Horse rolls through our gates.

But in our system, the ultimate arbiter is neither judges nor Congress. It’s our people. They get a vote next November.

That’s why it’s vital that the issue of treason be put before them simply and plainly. They must see the Trojan Horse in all its menace. They must understand the treachery of our own President and Senate Majority Leader denying that reality through direct lies and distraction.

Steven Spielberg understands. It’s no coincidence that the great movie producer’s and director’s newest film, “The Post,” is in release just now. It tells the story of the “Pentagon Papers.” That leaked internal government report revealed, for the first time, how badly and deeply our own president and pols had lied to us about our War in Vietnam.

That war was the most terrible foreign-policy mistake in our nation’s history. It devastated an innocent nation, Vietnam, just trying to secure its post-colonial freedom. It devastated a whole innocent region of Southeast Asia, killing an estimated 3.5 million people (mostly civilians), and setting the stage for the sui-genocidal regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia. It killed over 58,000 of us. And as the Washington Post’s publication of the Pentagon Papers revealed, the whole tragedy was based on lies and deception by our own government.

So we’ve been here before. The same principles apply. Our naked emperor and his reluctant servant McConnell are trying to deny the reality of the Trojan Horse even as it rolls through our gates. Somehow, the patriots in our intelligence services must let the people know how real and threatening the Horse is. Their job is hard: they must avoid spilling our own secrets or revealing sources or methods.

But our people must know. Next November, they must deliver a crushing electoral verdict against our traitors, who would open our gates to our most implacable enemy for their own personal or political reasons. They must reject the Russian Horse and prevent our own Internet, which we invented, from becoming an instrument of our enfeeblement and destruction.

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