The Russian Boogeyman has returned! Or has it? Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 has created a narrative that Russia is responsible. The narrative states that Russia was not only behind the DNC hacks, but also supposedly hacked into voting machines themselves. A false narrative now believed by a majority of Democrats. This narrative is creating a dangerous climate both at home and abroad. Putin’s Russia is painted as a grave and exceptional danger to the US and the West.

Tensions with Russia have not been this sour since the 1980s. Vladimir Putin is painted as the world’s ultimate villain by the DC establishment. He is the Russian Boogeyman personified. This narrative against Putin had been brewing for the past decade, culminating in the 2016 election.

Putin is not exactly a savory character. It’s not impossible that the Russians hacked the DNC. Interference in the politics of other nations is something that Russia and the United States have done for years, including to each other. It wouldn’t be shocking if Russia hacked into the DNC.

Still, the intelligence community has presented no hard evidence to prove that Russia was behind the hacks. Officials merely assert that Russia is behind the hacks based on experience. That’s not exactly evidence. The CIA and “intelligence community” are notorious liars as well. The CIA lied before, including convincing Congress that Iraq had WMDs. James Clapper, head of the NSA, lied when he said they were not collecting bulk data on Americans. That’s cause for skepticism. Their framing that Russia hacked the election for Donald Trump (without evidence) is also very dangerous.

Tensions with Russia have been ramping up for years. These allegations certainly won’t reduce them. What isn’t understood here in the saber rattling is that Russia is a nuclear armed power. Russia has the largest nuclear stockpile in the world, more than capable of destroying the US and Europe. Russia is not Iraq, Libya, nor Iran for that matter. Conflict with them has drastic consequences that won’t be easily reversed.

NATO has been beefing up forces in Eastern Europe. This is in response to Russia’s action in Crimea, but still poses a great danger. Issues are still tense between the US and Russia in Syria. The danger posed by a breakout of conflict is unimaginable. We can’t be lite about this. War with Russia means possible destruction for the world.

The rhetoric is boiling. Some have asserted Putin is an existential danger on par with ISIS. Others have described him as a “new Hitler” just waiting for the moment to strike. It’s sad that the term Hitler is thrown around so loosely. It doesn’t mean anything today. Every world leader we don’t like is painted as a Hitler. Saddam was Hitler, Gadhafi was Hitler, Assad is Hitler. Little Hitlers running around all over the place.

Such a narrative about Russia is dangerous and unnecessary. Has Russia misbehaved? Of course. They invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Crimea in 2014. Both acts were highly illegal under international law. But, Russia did not commit these acts because they are an exception to the family of nations.

Noam Chomsky laid out the morality of foreign policy among nations succinctly. There is no morality. The United States and the West doesn’t fear Russia because they are an exceptional danger. Russia is feared because it behaves as other nations do. Anyone who takes treaties and agreements with nation states to heart is extremely naïve. Nations break agreements and treaties all the time. Look what the US Congress just did to the Iran Deal. Geopolitics is an amoral game. Russia is not an exceptional country, its standard behavior for a country like Russia.

It’s hard to be shocked at Russia’s behavior over the last decade. This is especially true when you learn what the US has also done. To say the US keeps and abides by its international agreements is ludicrous. To say the US behaves as a moral actor is equally ludicrous.

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003. No UN resolution approved this. The invasion was illegal under international law. The invasion destroyed Iraq. Well over 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, as well as 4,000 American soldiers. Iraq today is still torn apart by conflict. While the US moans about Russia bombing in Syria, Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen into starvation.

US foreign policy sins could be listed in dramatic detail. Russia has behaved no more aggressively in the world than the US has. We are told that Russia is a grave threat and that “something must be done.” This has all been amplified by the 2016 hacking allegations. A new Cold War, or potentially a Hot War, is not worth this kind of drama. Destructive wars have been fought over a lot less.

Freedom to question the US narrative is under threat. Cold War era red-baiting has returned. It’s ironic that its now the Democrats championing this tactic, which had long been a calling card of Republicans. Anyone who questions the narrative is now by definition an agent of Putin.

Being skeptical makes you a Putin “troll.” This is unhealthy in democratic discussion. Anyone who does not confine to the narrative is written off. That is extremely dangerous. This also forces progressives to feel they must overcompensate in attacking Putin. Just criticize Putin when he gives a reason to do so and there are plenty of them. Understand the broader context of geopolitics before you chalk him up as the new Hitler, however. No one’s skepticism of their government should be silenced due to allegations without evidence. Nor should we risk World War III based on assertion alone.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “Why did they stay home? Because Hillary was a weak candidate and her policies and performance did not appeal to voters.”
    And Trump wasn’t a “weak candidate”?
    Consider how much was at stake (and do I really need to make a list of how much was at stake?), I’m sorry, “Democrats” who stayed home were DINO’s, ignorant and irresponsible citizens. And that’s with an effort to be polite about it. Inexcusable.

  2. I’m not going to disagree that Hillary was a weak candidate; indeed I supported Sanders, up to the point when he lost the nomination. There were many factors contributing to Hillary’s loss.

    Re Putin, I think you seriously undervalue the importance of a stable and democratic EU, 500 million people. After 2 world wars and centuries of religious war (and let’s not omit its colonial period) Europe became IMO a vanguard of democracy and human rights and an important counterweight in a multipolar world. Putin – now abetted by his poodle Trump – clearly would like to see the EU fragment.

  3. I think it goes beyond “bogeyman.” Aside from his absolutely miserable human rights record, Putin is subsidizing rightist-nationalist movements that threaten the stability of the EU, which in case you hadn’t noticed, has been a success story in terms of its democratic, human rights, environmental and pro-consumer policies. As well, as a counterbalance to some of America’s excesses. Do you wonder why Russia and China scuttle U.N. proposals that might help stabilize MANY areas that are feeding refugees into the EU? Do you think those 2 dictatorships are friends of democracy? NOT.
    Hillary lost for a number of reasons, INCLUDING Russian meddling. I also consider the other main causes to be voter disenfranchisement by the Repugs, male voter misogyny, FBI meddling, 30 years of anti-Hillary agit prop from the right-wing noise machine, dumb-ass voting for Stein – which could have put HRC over the top in some swing states, and last but not least, the correlation of Hillary losing in areas where male white voters actual lifespans have been a declining function compared to other areas of the U.S. Never mind “it’s the economy stupid”, how about “it’s the grim reaper”?
    Now I’ll grant that from a realpolitik perspective, all the boo-hooing about Crimea and Ukraine overlooks the simple fact that Russia has its own geostrategic imperatives, and those would include not losing control of the port of Sevastopol, and not having Ukraine as a member of NATO. Russia HAS lost control over Ukraine. Well, toughsky. We can co-exist, but Putin’s not our friend, never has been. And if this was Russia, you’d have thugs knocking at your apartment door.

    • Barry I won’t argue that Russia has acted in ways that counter-act US interests. I’m not excusing Vladimir Putin. I just don’t view him as an extraordinary threat. His behavior is typical for a country as large as Russia. Great powers do these things all the time, including the United States. I never said Putin was a friend to democracy. Then again, the US isn’t really either. The US has supported, and still supports, some of the most dictatorial countries on the planet. Remember, the US helped put in power dictators like Suharto, Pinochet, Mobutu, the Shah of Iran (which led the 1979 revolution). Today we support the government of Saudi Arabia, by far one of the most tyrannical regimes there is. A theocratic monarchy where women are not allowed to drive, vote, or serve in government. LGBT are executed there, as well as drug dealers, liberals and non-believers. It’s a Sharia state, an ISIS that made it. It’s regime is far worse than even the Mullahs in Iran. At least Iran allows its women to drive, vote, and serve in government.

      I couldn’t disagree more on the Hillary aspect of your point. While Hillary may have been targeted unfairly in some ways by Republicans, she still had a record that made progressives doubt her. She voted for the Iraq war, Libya, supported NAFTA, flip-flopped on the bankruptcy bill as well as marriage equality. Her veneer seemed inauthentic. She barely even hit the campaign trail. Did you know she never campaigned once in Wisconsin? You realize that was supposed to be a solid Democratic state and she lost it? She lost because the Democratic base didn’t turn out for her the way they did for Obama. The Obama Coalition did not turn out. More Democrats stayed home and didn’t vote than those who voted for Jill Stein. Why did they stay home? Because Hillary was a weak candidate and her policies and performance did not appeal to voters. The DNC rigged the game to get her to win, and she smuggly acted as if the base had no choice but to vote for her. She abandoned progressives and tried to appeal to “moderate Republicans” to vote for her, she chose Tim Kaine as her VP rather than a firebrand progressive. She was a bad candidate, and blaming her faults on Jill Stein is ludicrous.

      Again, I’m not arguing that Putin is a good guy, because I don’t think he is. However, building him up as an exceptional danger when he behaves no more aggressively than we have is not constructive.

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