“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
One of life’s unanswered philosophical questions. Last month, a big tree fell in the forest, and nobody heard, nobody listened. It was not widely reported in any of the major news outlets, there was no notable discussion in blogdom … it was a warning destined to go unheeded, to die of neglect.
The ‘tree’ was a white paper issued by the Department of Defense titled Russian Strategic Intentions. It is a 150-page, 25-chapter document that outlines Russia’s aggression, which includes the use of propaganda and disinformation to sway public opinion across Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the U.S. It assesses Russia’s intentions in an attempt to understand what drives its strategy, outlines a range of malign activities attributed to Russia in regions as diverse as Africa and the Arctic and lays out ways the United States could strengthen its response.
The study addresses what it refers to as Moscow’s “gray zone” activities — the emboldened attempts by Putin’s regime to undermine democratic nations, particularly on Russia’s periphery, using means short of direct military conflict.
“These activities include threatening other states militarily, or compromising their societies, economies, and governments by employing a range of means and methods to include propaganda, disinformation, and cultural, religious, and energy coercion.”
‘Compromising their societies’ and ‘propaganda, disinformation’, does any of this sound familiar? Does anybody recall that every U.S. intelligence agency, bar none, has confirmed Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, with the intent of securing the election of Donald Trump? Does anybody recall the Mueller report, a 2-year study that verified Russian interference in the election on behalf of Donald Trump – meddling of which Trump and his campaign were well aware? Does anybody recall that just recently Trump said if somebody came to him with ‘dirt’ on his opponent, he would accept it?
The paper also raises alarm about what the authors view as a burgeoning anti-American alliance by Russia and communist China, who have traditionally been fierce competitors, but may now see mutual benefit in an alliance against the U.S. and its allies.
Now why was a report with such important information, such relevant conclusions largely ignored? Why didn’t it receive headline status at The Washington Post and the New York Times? Perhaps only because the average reader is bored with that which he doesn’t believe has a direct and immediate impact on his own life. But, one has to wonder if reader apathy/ignorance was the only reason, or if there was a more sinister attempt to ‘bury’ the story? Yes, I understand that I may be seeing shadows where there are none, but in the current climate, can you blame me?
The ramifications of this report are many, but two stand out:
- The U.S. is ripe for the pickings, as they say, in our 2020 elections. The Russians will use every toy in their large toybox, pass up no opportunity to ensure that Trump stays in office for another four years. Thus far, thanks to the ignorance of Trump supporters and the malevolence of Mitch McConnell and others in Congress, we are leaving ourselves wide open for Russian interference.
- The U.S. was once a trusted ally, well-respected and sometimes even liked, among nations in the Western world. We are rapidly losing that reputation under the current administration, and it is disturbing that Trump & Co pander to the strongarm leaders like Putin, Kim, Duterte and Bolsonaro, while denigrating the leadership of our allies. We once accepted responsibility for supporting and aiding our allies, but that has rapidly changed under the present administration, and we can no longer be counted on, no longer trusted.
I found it deeply troubling that last month while Trump was in Osaka for the G20 summit, he joked with Putin, saying, “Don’t meddle in the election, president”, with a wink-wink and a grin. Putin chuckled. This is no laughing matter, folks. Without Putin’s interference three years ago, we would now have a wise, intelligent President Hillary Clinton. Without Putin’s interference next year, we might once again return to a position of respect in the international community, but if we continue to ignore Russia’s influence, the world will be left open to the equivalent of Soviet dominance.
Putin has long worked toward restoring a Soviet-style empire, and if his power, his theft of democratic processes is allowed to continue unchecked, the world becomes a lot less safe. We cannot afford to ignore this, cannot be so apathetic to it that our free press no longer even bothers to report such things. The world is changing, and Putin is perfectly positioned to take advantage of those changes to put much of the new world order under his domination. Did you ever ask yourself why Putin went out of his way to put Trump in office? Because, in the absence of any great intelligence or understanding of world affairs by Trump, Putin knew he could control Trump like a puppet and enlist his assistance in his grand plan.
We must wake up, we must see what’s happening and make our opinions known. We must hold the free press accountable to tell us all the news, else they may someday cease to be the free press, just as we may someday cease to be free to voice our opinion. Free speech is rather like many other things: use it or lose it.