When Intelligence Organizations Make Policy

File Photo of Donald Trump Waving Before Large Crowd with Trump Signs, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

(JackMatlock.com – Jack Matlock – August 16, 2018)

Jack Matlock is a career diplomat who served on the front lines of American diplomacy during the Cold War and was U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union when the Cold War ended.

Last night, when I was casually browsing in a copy of my Autopsy on an Empire that I had taken off the shelf to give a friend, I ran into the following passage on page 175:

“Chebrikov’s Xenophobia

“Throughout 1987 and 1988, Moscow seemed confused over how to respond to the growing assertiveness of the non-Russian nations. Some things were permitted, some were opposed but tolerated, some were forbidden or repressed. But there was no consistent pattern.

“The KGB, however, had an answer. When the summer of 1987 brought a wave of demonstrations in a number of cities-an unprecedented situation, since previously demonstrations had occurred singly and infrequently.-KGB Chief Chebrikov considered it necessary to offer a public explanation. This he did in September in a speech charging that Western intelligence agencies were stirring up the minority nationalities. This comment, which was to be revived from time to time as the troubles intensified, had no foundation, but respect for the facts had never been a KGB specialty.

“Chebrikov’s allegations did, however, provide certain operational advantages for his organization. By placing the blame on outsiders, it relieved the chief of Soviet intelligence of the embarrassing duty of explaining that the Communist Party was the culprit. Also, by blaming Western intelligence, he served notice to those critical of the regime that they could be suspected of espionage if they persisted. Chebrikov was to repeat those charges in 1988, and his successor reverted to them on the eve of the Soviet Union’s collapse”

One of the factors that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union was Mikhail Gorbachev’s failure to understand the power of nationalist sentiment among Soviet citizens. The KGB constantly informed him that the nationalist leaders were simply troublemakers with small followings.

Now, we are witnessing the same phenomenon, mutatis mutandis, in the United States. Erstwhile intelligence chiefs trying to convince us that “Russian interference” brought about the election of Donald Trump. Anyone with respect for the facts and for credible evidence to substantiate assertions can recognize the implausibility of this argument, yet some Democrats seem to be doubling down on it. I believe that is a mistake. A big mistake.

I consider it important for the Democrats to take at least one of the houses of Congress this fall. It is dangerous, in these troubled times, to have a single party controlling all three branches of government. (Not that it controls our current president!)

Hyping the anti-Russian hysteria not only keeps us from dealing with Russia in a rational way, it is going to weaken the capacity of Democrats to win in November. The reason “Make America Great Again” had such resonance in this red state (Tennessee) was the perception that we are constantly fighting wars without winning. It is not just disgruntled white males. America is supposed to win the wars it chooses to fight and we are still mired in unwinnable conflicts. President Obama promised to take us out, but then was seduced by the quixotic dream of creating and enforcing a misnamed “liberal world order.” Here in Middle America, we see little but disorder from making war with countries that have not attacked us. And we see more of the crippled veterans than you folks on the two coasts.

If the Democrats want to win in November, they better start putting up some peace candidates who will force the party to bring in a leadership dedicated to making America great again, but not in the mean and invidious way of the Trump supporters, who divide us and weaken us both at home in abroad. Trump’s core supporters will likely go along with anything he espouses, but it was not they who elected him. Those who tipped the scales in the electoral college voted holding their noses. They simply voted against the Democratic candidate. In part their attitude resulted from a campaign to vilify her, but only in part. The deciding factor for many of those who tipped the vote election day was the feeling that Secretary Clinton, if president, would continue and intensify our quixotic and destructive military interventions abroad.

And, Mrs. Clinton, please understand that those who tipped the scales against you in the election are not all deplorables. Your failure to understand them, your evident disdain for them, is what cost you the 2016 election.