Well, if you were wondering who really runs things in Washington, D.C.—where the real power lies—now you know: it’s with the intelligence agencies, with a little help from the Main Stream Media. Next question: why do they hate Russia so much?
December 29th, the day still-President Barack Obama expelled a raft of Russian diplomats on suspicion of having influenced our election, General Michael Flynn—at that point merely a private citizen but about to become President Trump’s national-security advisor —had a phone conversation with the Russian ambassador.
Nothing wrong with that. Or perhaps not quite nothing. There is a federal law called the Logan Act that prohibits private citizens from talking to foreign governments.[18 U.S. Code § 953 ] The Act was passed in 1799 when one George Logan, a Pennsylvania state legislator, had talks with the government of France, ticking off the John Adams administration, which had majorities in Congress. In the subsequent 218 years, there has been just one indictment under the Logan act, and zero actual prosecutions. The Act is regarded as a bit of a joke, and the jurisprudential consensus seems to be that it is in fact unconstitutional, although with zero prosecutions in 200-plus years, nobody thinks it’s worth the trouble to test the matter.
“According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. “[Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?, By David Ignatius, January 12. 2017]
That is seriously illegal. It’s also highly irresponsible, as it gives the other party meta-intelligence—that’s intelligence about intelligence. Without knowing what we’re doing or how we’re doing it, the Russians now know a thing we can do: listen to their ambassador’s phone conversations in defiance of whatever kind of subterfuge or encryption he’s using.
But if there’s been a Main Stream Media hue and cry over that illegality and that irresponsibility on the part of our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, I missed it. All the fuss has been about what Flynn told or did not tell Vice President Pence, and how the President was then briefed.
It’s penny-ante stuff; so much so you have to wonder—as some commentators have wondered—whether Trump used the whole nothingburger as an excuse to dump Flynn this week because he was dissatisfied with him.
It got blown up into a major story because of synergy between the intelligence people and the MSM, the spooks and the hacks. Dwight Eisenhower famously warned us about the military-industrial complex. What we’ve seen this week is the intelligence-media complex showing its strength.
The spooks can of course do major damage on their own. In alliance with the MSM, though, they are lethal. A leak is just a leak; the MSM decides what to make into a major story and what to leave as a filler item on page 23. And, working as they do in a pillar of the CultMarx establishment, the media hacks are happy to take what scraps and fragments the vengeful spooks pass on to them and work them into bricks to throw through Trump’s windows.
So again I ask: Whence all this hostility to Russia?
I am honestly baffled by it. In what way is Russia a threat to U.S. interests? They have no claims on our territory. They’re not a commercial rival. They’re not flooding us with cheap workers to depress our own people’s wages and burden our welfare services. They haven’t sent any terrorists to fly planes into our skyscrapers. Why are we even supposed to be bothered by their espionage activities?
It’s true that the present Russian government is unlovely. It’s true they might do mean things, like invading Estonia. That would be deplorable, but no sane person really thinks the U.S.A. would go to war over it, as the NATO charter technically requires.
Indeed, the temptation to show up NATO for the hollow sham it is, is the only reason I can think of for why Russia would invade Estonia.
The Estonians should make what arrangements for mutual defense they can with neighboring countries, and avoid provoking the bear. They face nothing worse than small countries with big neighbors have faced since the beginning of time.
Russia’s just another country, like Brazil or Indonesia. I can’t see any reason we shouldn’t get along with them on the same terms as with those countries. The Cold War’s been over for a quarter of a century, for Heaven’s sake.
I can’t even figure out a conspiracy theory about our Establishment’s hostility to Russia. Has the Homintern been at work, stirring up anti-Russian feeling because they won’t legalize same-sex marriage? Does someone think they want to dominate the Middle East so they can control the Arabs’ oil? Do influential American Jews still nurse resentment for the Kishinev Pogrom? None of that strikes me as even remotely plausible.
Is it just inertia? The Cold War created huge, entrenched sub-establishments within the federal government—lots of iron rice bowls. These sub-establishments don’t want their rice bowls broken. They don’t want their corner of the swamp to be drained. Swamp-draining-wise, they are massively conservative, in the style of the Third Duke of Norfolk: “I would all things were as hath been in times past.”
That’s not much more plausible than the conspiracy stuff, though. After twenty-six years, years that saw the War on Terror and the rise of China, are significant power centers in the U.S. government really still obsessing about Kremlin plots and tank divisions rolling through the Fulda Gap?
Is it just the perception that Vladimir Putin is a nationalist—a nationalist that will help other nationalists any way he can, funding Ms. Le Pen’s political campaigns [ Marine Le Pen’s links to Russia under US scrutiny, Telegraph, UK, December 21, 2016] and hacking the emails of Donald Trump’s opponents?
It’s a mystery to me. I throw it open to the listenership. Why am I supposed to believe that Russia is our enemy? Why am I supposed to care about their hacking, so long as they don’t hack into my bank account?
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He’s had two books published by VDARE.com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.