On Flynn’s resignation

With Flynn’s resignation, the anti-Russia hysteria, which had been receding a little bit recently as people were busy losing their mind over other things, is back with a vengeance. This story has been developing for more than a month and, after weeks of trying, the establishment finally got their first victim in Trump’s administration. According to the press, Flynn had to resign because he misled Pence about the nature of his conversation in December with the Russian ambassador, by not telling him he had discussed the sanctions against Russia. Everybody in the media is now saying that Flynn’s resignation confirms what they had been saying all along, namely that Trump is Putin’s creature, so let’s talk about this first.

Flynn is accused of having discussed the possibility of lifting the sanctions against Russia in December with the Russian ambassador. There is also speculation that he might have encouraged the Russians not to retaliate after Obama announced more sanctions against Russia. Even if this were true, which it may be, it would not be a reason to punish Flynn. In fact, if people in this country were not completely insane, it would be a reason to reward him, as he clearly did the world a favor by contributing to reduce the tensions between the US and Russia. Obama enacted the sanctions in question against Russia for political reasons and not because Russia had meddled with the election. Indeed, it was just a way of fueling the story that Putin had thrown the election to Trump, who otherwise would have lost against Clinton. If people in Washington were rational, those sanctions would be scrapped instantly, so Flynn did nothing wrong if he suggested to the Russians that Trump would eventually get rid of them, on the contrary. I’m working on a very long post about this and, more generally, the claims made about Trump’s relationship with Russia, so for the moment I’ll leave it at that.

In any case, what should be clear is that, even if Flynn did what he is being accused of, this would in no way confirm the crazy theories about Trump’s relationship with Russia that have been advertised as fact in the media for months. Yet that is exactly how this story is being spun in the media. If you don’t believe me, just watch Morning Joe today and listen in particular to what Thomas Friedman from the New York times is saying, who compared what just happened to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. Indeed, the other pundits but also the hosts of the show, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, were barely less hysterical. (Scarborough is a typical Republican of the anti-Russian variety who has been going after Bannon and Miller for weeks, while Brzezinski is exactly what you’d expect to find on MSNBC and the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor for Carter whose love for Russia is well-known…) I could literally cite dozens of other examples, but I have better things to do with my time than document the incompetence and insanity of the American mainstream media, so this will have to do.

Another thing which is said against Flynn is that, by talking about policy with the Russian ambassador before he was sworn in, he violated the Logan Act. The notion that people went after him because his actions constituted a violation of the Logan Act is beyond preposterous. The fact that so many people who are supposedly intelligent actually believe pundits when they say that is nothing short of astonishing. The Logan Act is an obscure statute that has never been enforced and, if it has not, it’s because it would be incredibly stupid, at least in the kind of circumstances we are talking about in the case of Flynn. It’s perfectly normal for a member of the incoming administration to be talking with foreign governments before he’s been sworn in to facilitate the transition. There is absolutely nothing sinister about this, especially if the person in question is trying to defuse tensions with another government, which again is the accusation that is made against Flynn. I say that again, because I cannot repeat it often enough. Not only is there nothing wrong with what Flynn has been accused of doing, but on the contrary, if he really did it, he should be praised for it. In any case, what is clear is that Flynn wasn’t forced to resign because he violated the Logan Act, because nobody really gives a shit about that. Which brings me to the actual reasons for his resignation.

First of all, Flynn’s resignation is just the latest episode in the war between the American deep state and Trump, which has been going on for a while now. People in the intelligence community, in the State Department, in the media, etc. don’t want to hear about a détente with Russia and they will do anything in their power to prevent it. Now, although he had been very critical of Russia in the past, Flynn was in favor of such a rapprochement and he’d made a lot of enemies among the intelligence community, so he was a victim of choice. If you want to know who went after him by leaking the content of his conversation with the Russian ambassador to the press, just ask yourself who had access to that information in the American government and you will have the answer to that question… Again, I will say more about this in my post on Trump’s relationship with Moscow, so I’ll leave things at that for now on this point.

Another important factor is the internal struggle within the administration between the establishment Republicans and the populist wing led by Bannon with the help of Miller and, before his resignation, Flynn. There have been reports in the press, which seem to be pushed by the Bannon/Miller wing of the White House, that Priebus is also in a hot seat. (Indeed, Breitbart just published a piece saying that Priebus might have to leave, which is a good sign that Bannon is going after him.) Priebus is very close to Paul Ryan, whom Bannon hates more than anybody in the world (I plan to say more about this in a post I’m writing about Bannon), which also explains what has been going on in the White House during the past few days. The Republican establishment is trying to get rid of the populists who hijacked their party and Flynn was just the easiest target in that group. But they clearly have no intention of stopping with him and Bannon knows that, so he’s likely to go on the offensive because he understands that, if he doesn’t quickly establish his perimeter in the administration, they are going to get rid of him too. In other words, after this episode, he’s going to be screaming for blood.

Although many people don’t realize it, this internal struggle within the administration is actually more important than the conflict between Trump and the Democrats, because it will have a more decisive influence on the direction of the US government in the years to come. In many ways, liberals have been the useful idiots of the Republican establishment, who is trying to get rid of Bannon and the populists who used Trump to take over. (Of course, I’m not talking about the leaders of the Democratic party, who are well aware of everything I’m saying.) I have lost track of how many times I have seen a friend on Facebook share the latest nonsense posted by Lindsey Graham or another member of the Republican establishment because they think it shows that even the Republicans are concerned about Trump. And they are concerned about Trump, but not for the reasons my liberal friends think…

They are mostly worried that Trump and the populists who are using him to push their agenda might jeopardize the “invade the world, invite the world” program, which had been virtually unchallenged in American politics since the end of the Cold War until Trump came along. The Democrats also worry about that and, in addition, they want to undermine Trump by making him look illegitimate, which gives them another reason to push anything that lends credibility to the story that Trump is Putin’s creature. Add to this, although it’s clearly related, the hostility of the deep state to Trump and you will start to understand what is going on in Washington right now. I wouldn’t be sorry that Flynn, whose pathological obsession with Iran was dangerous, had to go if I knew for sure that whoever is going to replace him wasn’t going to be even worse and if I didn’t fear that it’s a sign that the anti-Russian faction was winning the internal struggle in the administration, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

26 thoughts

  1. Somehow this post managed to be tagged everything except “Michael Flynn” (just noticed because Google directed me to your Michael Flynn tag page when I was trying to find this post).

  2. “Obama enacted the sanctions in question against Russia for political reasons and not because Russia had meddled with the election.”

    Everything else in the post seems to hang on this claim, which is bad, because I don’t see that you have any evidence to support it. Everything hangs on this claim because, if the sanctions were an appropriate response to Russia’s apparent meddling in the election, Flynn had no business assuring the Russian ambassador that the Trump administration would lift them as soon as it could. If the sanctions were appropriate and justified, Flynn’s actions were not only illegal but bad policy as well, and the excuse you offer for Flynn evaporates.

    So what reason is there for thinking that the sanctions were not an appropriate response to Russia’s apparent meddling in the election, and were instead motivated by a desire to undermine the incoming Trump administration? Obama presumably believes (as the nation’s intelligence services claim) that the Kremlin orchestrated the release of the hacked DNC emails with the purposes of handing the election to Trump. Maybe the intelligence services are mistaken, lying, or overconfident in their assessment, but Obama has no way of knowing this. And, when a hostile dictatorship spies on American politicians and uses the fruits of espionage to influence an election, it’s hard to believe that the American president should stand idly by and do nothing. Sanctions seem like the bare minimum of acceptable responses. Hence, Obama would have been totally justified in imposing the sanctions purely on grounds of policy.

    So your argument has to be this: Obama may have been justified in imposing the sanctions for the reasons he cited when imposing them, but his actual motivation was to damage the incoming Trump administration. Now, given that the sanctions were justified on their own merits, I’m not sure how much it matters if Obama secretly acted from a different, sinister motivation instead. More importantly, though, I’m not sure why you think you have this window into Obama’s soul that allows you to know that his stated motivation– which is, again, entirely reasonable on its face– is a lie and that he actually allowed partisan political considerations to dictate his foreign policy. Maybe you are just especially cynical, which is okay, but you still need to present evidence for your conclusion. Absent that evidence, your defense of Flynn seems to fall apart.

    1. It’s not for me to prove that Obama wasn’t justified in taking new sanctions against Russia, it’s for Obama and the people who believe him to prove that his decisions was justified. As it happens, the evidence in the public record is clearly insufficient, so I don’t think it has been proven. I know because I have read pretty much everything that has been published on this in the past few months by private cybersecurity firms, the US government and newspapers. (And, for what it’s worth, I’m hardly the only one who has looked at the evidence and concluded that it was insufficient.) As I say in my post, I will plan to post a very detail piece to make this case, but it’s going to be a very long post and I have a dissertation to work on so it will take some time.

      You say that, if the US intelligence is mistaken, lies or is overconfident, Obama can’t know it. But that’s obviously false, since he is intelligent and, unlike the rest of us, has access to all the evidence, so he can determine whether the claims they make are justified. As I already noted, the evidence in the public record is clearly insufficient, but people often say in defense of the US intelligence that, depending on what else they have, they may not be able to make it public for security reasons. However, as several former intelligence officers recently noted (https://consortiumnews.com/2017/01/17/a-demand-for-russian-hacking-proof/), this isn’t very plausible because the US has ignored such considerations in the past to release sensitive evidence because the government judged that it was important enough to warrant taking such a risk. Clearly, the allegation that Russia interfered in the US election in favor of Trump is important enough to warrant such a move, especially since the sanctions against Russia make worse a situation that is already very dangerous between 2 countries that have enough nuclear warheads to wipe out mankind.

      I also want to note that, as Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, pointed out in this article (https://consortiumnews.com/2017/01/20/obama-admits-gap-in-russian-hack-case/), Obama himself implicitly admitted that the US government was only confident that Russia had hacked the DNC, but not that it had released the material it obtained in that way to Wikileaks, who is the organization that leaked it. Although virtually nobody makes this distinction, that Russia hacked the DNC and that Russia decided to leak the material to help Trump are distinct claims, which require different kinds of evidence.

      If all the US government can prove is that Russia hacked the DNC, then contrary to what you say, the sanctions Obama took against Russia in December are totally unjustified for the simple reason that this sort of things happen all the time even between allies and they don’t take sanctions against each other. For instance, a few years ago cables released by Wikileaks showed that the US had taped Merkel’s phone and spied on the French presidency, which is far worse than hacking a political party. But neither Germany nor France enacted sanctions against the US. I could give countless other examples.

      So, in the absence of more evidence, I think it’s perfectly rational to assume that Obama was driven by political considerations when he imposed more sanctions on Russia in December on the ground that Moscow had allegedly interfered in the US election. I don’t think the burden of proof is on me. (It certainly won’t be after I have published the post in which I examine the evidence used to assert that Russia had interfered in the election.) This is all the more true that Obama waited until after the election to impose those sanctions on Russia, even though as anyone who has examined the evidence published by the US government after that can tell, there was essentially nothing in there that had not already been published months ago by private cybersecurity companies. Again, it’s possible that the US intelligence has conclusive evidence that Obama was reluctant to make public so as not to compromise valuable intelligence assets/capabilities, but in that case he should have published that evidence anyway, because as I already noted the stakes are too high. The fact that he didn’t, plus the point made by McGovern (as well as the weakness of the evidence that is publicly available), is I think pretty strong evidence that he couldn’t justify his decision. It’s not as if there wasn’t precedents in recent history that invite us not to take seriously the claims of intelligence officials under intense political pressure…

      1. Your argument now hangs on the claim that if the intelligence services had convincing evidence that Russia was responsible for the leaks, they would have made this evidence public. Again, I do not see how you hope to support this claim. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that they might wish to keep their sources in Russia confidential in order to maintain the information channel or protect them from reprisals. You may wish for them to abandon all caution in order to prove to your satisfaction that Russia interfered in the election, but I do not agree that they have any obligation to do so. Certainly the fact that they have not proved their assertions to your satisfaction is not sufficient reason for you to believe that those assertions are false.

        You argue that the executive branch has sometimes released classified information in the past in order to build public support for certain policy decisions. This is true, but it is also true that the executive has sometimes declined to release classified information that would have helped to build support for certain policy decisions. All Obama did here was impose fairly mild sanctions on Russia, and it doesn’t seem obvious to me that it would be worth jeopardizing important intelligence assets in order to justify the imposition of mild sanctions. So you do not have actual evidence here, either.

        You might also consider citing some sources that do not moonlight as Russian propagandists.

        1. Can you give me one example in which the US intelligence has published a report to back the policy of the US government without providing hard evidence that has later been proven to be accurate? If you want, I can give you several examples in which it has been proven to be false, but I can’t think of any in which it has been confirmed independently later. I will add that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence under whose direction those reports were prepared, is already known to have lied under oath in Congress. His hostility to Russia is also well-known, as anyone who has watched him talk in front of Congress on C-SPAN can tell. So, given how weak the evidence that has been made public so far is and how bad the track record of those who made those claims is, I think it would be entirely unreasonable to take the claims of the Obama administration seriously on this.

          You also seem to think that the sanctions Obama slapped on Russia in December are not such a big deal. I couldn’t disagree more and I don’t think you understand the significance of the sanctions. It’s true that, in themselves, those sanctions aren’t a big deal, but they are nevertheless significant because they make it much harder for Trump to pursue a détente with Russia if he wanted to. As long as the US maintains sanctions against Russia, the US won’t be able to reach a durable détente with Russia, if only because Putin couldn’t sell a normalization of the relationship with the US and cooperation with the US administration to the Russian public opinion, which despite what many people think because they don’t know the first thing about Russian politics also matters in Russia, as long as there are still sanctions. But any additional sanctions against Russia make it harder for Trump to get rid of sanctions against Russia in general, because he’d have to fight the hawks in Congress who will raise hell about each and every one of them. You may think that it’s not such a big deal if the sanctions remain in place, but I don’t think you realize how tense the situation is between the US and Russia at the moment. A few weeks ago, we were just one incident away from a shooting war in Syria, which would be extremely dangerous. Again, we’re talking about the two largest nuclear superpowers, which means the stakes are very high. Even a very low probability of a conflict should be cause for significant concern because a conflict would be such a disaster. You think those sanctions don’t justify putting in jeopardy valuable assets/capabilities if they exist. I disagree and I note that the US government has done that in the past in at least one case — i. e. in the Libyan affair in the 1980’s — where the stakes were clearly much lower.

          I’m also not the only one who thinks so, countless cybersecurity experts who have examined the evidence and journalists who are used to dealing with intelligence officers and former intelligence officers have already said the same thing. (See for instance what Seymour Hersh, who among other things broke the My Lai massacre story and the Abu Ghraib prison one, said on this: https://theintercept.com/2017/01/25/seymour-hersh-blasts-media-for-uncritically-promoting-russian-hacking-story/. As he points out, the report published by Clapper isn’t a real intelligence report, if only because real ones always contain dissenting opinions. The existence of dissenting opinions within the CIA, by the way, was revealed by the Washington Post article that first talked about the briefing given to some Congressmen about this, but it was never investigated after that. I will add that half of the DNI report was about things said on networks like RT that are completely irrelevant to the claims used to justify the sanctions.) Again, I will publish a detailed post about the evidence that is publicly available as soon as possible and, after I have done so, we’ll see if I’m just having weird evidential standard… I also note that you completely ignore my point about the fact that Obama himself seems to have admitted that the government doesn’t have a high confidence that Russia leaked the material it allegedly hacked through Wikileaks. As I pointed out, the mere fact that Russia hacked the Democratic party, even if true, clearly doesn’t justify Obama’s response as long as it didn’t also leaked the material. (I will also note that, even according to the DNI report, the NSA doesn’t have high confidence in the advertised claim, even though it’s presumably the agency in the best position to have the relevant evidence. Again I will say more about this when I publish my post about the allegations agains Russia.) Neither have you addressed my point that Obama waited until after the election to retaliate, even though as far as we can tell based on the publicly available evidence, nothing essentially new was learned during that time. (Even newspapers like the New York Times admitted as much.)

          You seem to claim that people on Consortiumnews “moonlight as Russian propagandists”. I doubt that you could provide any evidence for that claim, which is completely gratuitous and ad hominem, something people who are right usually don’t need to resort to… (This attack on Consortiumnews, among many other media, has already been made by the Washington Post based on a report by PropOrNot that has been so thoroughly debunked that even the Washington Post had to admit it was a mistake to publish the list.) Robert Parry, who founded the website and still runs it, is a highly respected journalist who, among other things, broke some of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980’s. To my knowledge, Consortiumnews has never published any false information, which can’t be said (far from it) of newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post, who have published most of the stories accusing Russia of interfering with the election and on which you presumably rely, to say nothing of the US intelligence community which you seem to think is so credible that we should take its word for it even when the stakes are so high. If you want to play at who relies on the most credible sources and who has read more about this, we can do that, but you’re not going to win…

          1. “So, given how weak the evidence that has been made public so far is and how bad the track record of those who made those claims is, I think it would be entirely unreasonable to take the claims of the Obama administration seriously on this.”

            Your are claiming that because Clapper is “hostile” to a brutal, expansionist dictatorship– as well he should be– because he once lied to Congress in order to keep a classified intelligence program secret, and because the intelligence services have not been willing to publicize all evidence pertaining to the DNC hacks, we should put no prima facie weight on the intelligence community’s consensus that the Kremlin was the source of the DNC leaks. This does not strike me as a rational inference.

            “but they are nevertheless significant because they make it much harder for Trump to pursue a détente with Russia if he wanted to.”

            There’s a suppressed premise here that capitulation, rather than strength, is the best way to secure enduring peace with Russia. It’s not obvious to me that this is true. Relaxing the sanctions might cool tensions, but it might also embolden Putin and lead to further aggression towards American allies that will increase the chances of conflict the line. You are placing far, far too much confidence in your own speculation about the long-term ramifications of various foreign policy choices.

            “(I will also note that, even according to the DNI report, the NSA doesn’t have high confidence in the advertised claim,”

            No, but they do have moderate confidence, i.e. they believe that “the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.”

            “Neither have you addressed my point that Obama waited until after the election to retaliate, even though as far as we can tell based on the publicly available evidence, nothing essentially new was learned during that time.”

            You realize that this piece of information actually cuts against your thesis, right? It would have made no sense for Obama to wait until after the election to blame Russia for the DNC leaks if he were doing it for purely political purposes. His decision to wait may have cost the democrats the presidency! From what I’ve read, Obama held off in part because he wanted to avoid even the appearance that the accusations against Russia were a partisan ploy. So I think you have this completely backwards.

            “I doubt that you could provide any evidence for that claim, ”

            The rationale and motivation for the claim is a line from the Ray McGovern article you linked to: “As I suggested to RT viewers right after the last press conference…” Russia Today, as I assume you know, is a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin.

          2. « Your are claiming that because Clapper is “hostile” to a brutal, expansionist dictatorship– as well he should be– because he once lied to Congress in order to keep a classified intelligence program secret, and because the intelligence services have not been willing to publicize all evidence pertaining to the DNC hacks, we should put no prima facie weight on the intelligence community’s consensus that the Kremlin was the source of the DNC leaks.  This does not strike me as a rational inference. »

            No, I never said that Clapper was hostile to Russia for those reasons, I said that he was hostile to Russia and that anyone who has seen him testify in front of Congress over the years on C-SPAN can tell that. I also pointed out that he wasn’t credible given his track record, but that’s a separate claim. Also, my problem isn’t just that the US intelligence didn’t release « all the evidence » to support its claims, but that the evidence it released didn’t contain anything new and was clearly insufficient. In the case of the DNI report specifically and the claims it contains about hacking, it didn’t contain any evidence whatsoever, but only assertions that were not backed up by anything. If the US intelligence has more evidence, it has not even described what kind of evidence it might be, let alone released it. You also talk of a consensus of the intelligence community, but we actually don’t know that there is a consensus. In fact, we know that there isn’t a consensus on the degree of confidence different agencies have on the various claims made in the DNI report, since it says that the NSA has a lower degree of confidence than the CIA and the FBI. Moreover, as Hersh notes in the article I mentioned in my previous comment, there is pretty much never a consensus even in a single intelligence agency, since actual intelligence reports always including dissenting opinions. As I also noted, we actually know that such a dissenting opinion exist within the CIA, since the Washington Post reported it. Again, the reports that have been published by the US government aren’t actual intelligence reports, they are collections of allegations quickly put together by political appointees at the request of the government to support their position. You also haven’t told me when that kind of document, which doesn’t contain any hard evidence, has ever been proven to be correct independently after it was used by the government to justify its position. Finally, you repeat the talking points of the media and politicians in Congress on Russia (« brutal », « expansionist », etc.), but I will address that below.

            « There’s a suppressed premise here that capitulation, rather than strength, is the best way to secure enduring peace with Russia.  It’s not obvious to me that this is true.  Relaxing the sanctions might cool tensions, but it might also embolden Putin and lead to further aggression towards American allies that will increase the chances of conflict the line.  You are placing far, far too much confidence in your own speculation about the long-term ramifications of various foreign policy choices. »

            Again, you are repeating talking points about Russia, but they are completely empty. You talk of « further aggression towards American allies ». Can you please tell me which American allies Russia has committed acts of aggression against since Putin became President in 1999? No, you can’t, because there isn’t any. (Think hard before you start talking about Ukraine.) The same thing cannot be said, on the other hand, about the US and at least one Russian ally. I also plan to post something on the alleged threat that Russia poses to American allies, but it suffices to say that it’s completely ridiculous and there is no evidence for this, unless you are using « aggression » and « allies » in such a vague way that your claim is completely uninteresting. It’s a fact that the US has been guilty of far worse violations of international law than Russia since Putin has been in charge (do you really want to deny that?), but for some reason I don’t see you or many people who demonize Russia use the same dismissive language to talk about the US… I could talk for hours about the history of the relations between Russia and the West during the past 17 years, which I don’t think you know very well, because you seem to be under the impression that it’s Russia that is the aggressor, when nothing could be further from the truth. (To be clear, I’m not saying that Russia has no responsibility at all in the current situation, but the West in general and the US in particular has way more responsibility.)

            « No, but they do have moderate confidence, i.e. they believe that “the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.” »

            There is no way of knowing what this means unless we know what evidence they have and, as I already noted, the only evidence they have made public is totally insufficient or, in some cases, totally inexistent. (Again, I will argue at length for this, but it will take some time because it’s long. In the meantime, you could actually read the evidence that has been published by private cybersecurity companies and the US government yourself, which based on your repeated assertions I’m going to assume you haven’t done.)

            « You realize that this piece of information actually cuts against your thesis, right?  It would have made no sense for Obama to wait until after the election to blame Russia for the DNC leaks if he were doing it for purely political purposes.  His decision to wait may have cost the democrats the presidency!  From what I’ve read, Obama held off in part because he wanted to avoid even the appearance that the accusations against Russia were a partisan ploy.  So I think you have this completely backwards. »

            Your argument implicitly assumes that Obama thought Trump actually had a chance of winning, but we know he didn’t since this has been reported ad nauseam and Obama repeatedly said so himself, including after the election… (See for instance his interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic after the election.)

            « The rationale and motivation for the claim is a line from the Ray McGovern article you linked to: “As I suggested to RT viewers right after the last press conference…”  Russia Today, as I assume you know, is a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin. »

            Do you have any evidence that McGovern was actually paid by RT for this? No, you don’t. Even if he had been paid for that and you could prove it, you would still be guilty of the ad hominem fallacy unless you could show that what he says is wrong, but you can’t. Indeed, you still haven’t addressed his point.

          3. 1. If you are denying that Putin is a dictator, or that he has expansionist ambitions, I suggest that your judgment has been badly distorted by excessive exposure to Russian propaganda.

            2. To be clear, the only point on which the NSA expressed moderate rather than high confidence concerned whether Russia leaked the DNC emails specifically with the goal of helping Trump. The consensus view *among* the agencies (not *within* the agencies) was that the evidence warrants high confidence that Russia was responsible for the leaks.

            3. “Can you please tell me which American allies Russia has committed acts of aggression against since Putin became President in 1999?”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Georgian_War

            4. Obama may not have expected Trump to win, but he surely recognized that Trump’s chances of winning were greater than zero, and that going public about Russia’s responsibility for the DNC leaks would hurt Trump’s campaign. In fact, he wanted to do so, but was unwilling to without support from congressional Republicans, and McConnell nixed the plan.

            http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/11/obama-and-congress-knew-about-russian-hacking-and-they-did-nothing.html

            So you have badly misjudged Obama’s role in this: the fact that he waited until after the election to emphasize Russia’s role in the DNC leaks, when it could no longer do the democrats any good, is in fact strong evidence that he did not act as he did for political reasons.

            5. You say: “Even if he had been paid for that and you could prove it, you would still be guilty of the ad hominem fallacy unless you could show that what he says is wrong, but you can’t. Indeed, you still haven’t addressed his point.”

            Earlier you were claiming that the fact that James Clapper is hostile to Russia is a mark against his credibility. Now I am telling you that the fact that McGovern moonlights as a guest on a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin undermines his credibility. Either both of these are ad hominem fallacies, or neither is. I’m of a mind that neither is– it seems to me reasonable, when evaluating how much weight to give a source of information, to take into account whether they might have a personal stake in the matter and whether they have a track record of morally dubious political allegiances.

          4. 1. I think the claim that Putin is a dictator is simplistic and doesn’t say much interesting, but perhaps more importantly, it’s largely irrelevant since the US has good relations with much worse autocrats and I don’t see anyone constantly bringing that up. I absolutely deny that Putin is expansionist, because the evidence for that claim is next to inexistent. I know exactly what you’re going to say, because that’s what you read in the New York Times (« what about Crimea, Georgia, blah blah blah »), but I don’t have time to reply to this now and I plan to write something about the so-called Russian threat that will address these claims. For now I will just say that people who make those claims usually haven’t read much about Russian politics and the recent history of the US-Russia relations. You keep suggesting that my judgment has been corrupted by Russian propaganda, but I have read thousands and thousands of pages from all sides about all this over the years and follow Russian politics rather closely, which I very much doubt is your case.

            2. You’re correct about this, but again the DNI report contains virtually no evidence of the claims we are discussing and the evidence in the public record is clearly insufficient. (The fact that the NSA has a lower degree of confidence, as I already noted, is nevertheless meaningful, especially in view of the fact, which has been pointed out even by the Washington Post in the article I discuss below and already mentioned before, that some people in the CIA also disagree with the assessment some Congressmen were briefed about after the election.) As I said before, I have read everything that’s available in the public record about this, not just the reports that were released by the US government but also the ones that were written by private cybersecurity firms on which the US government seems to rely for the most part, at least as far as the evidence it publicly discussed is concerned. I very much doubt that you have done the same thing. I also note that you still haven’t given me any examples of cases where such a report, which again isn’t a real intelligence report, was released by the US government and the information it contains was subsequently proved to true independently.

            3. When I said that you should think hard before you start talking about Ukraine, I almost added « or Georgia ». I now see that I should have. First, contrary to what you seem to think, Georgia wasn’t and never has been an American ally in any meaningful sense. It wasn’t part of NATO in 2008 and still isn’t today, despite the fact that the US and NATO made their intentions to integrate Georgia eventually clear at the time (something they have since then denied by lying through their teeth about it), which largely explains what happened. Thus, the US government had so treaty obligation to defend Georgia, nor were there anything else in the relationship with Georgia that could be described as an alliance. Moreover, while the situation slowly deteriorated over a long period of time and both sides had responsibilities in this, the open warfare was initiated by Georgia, as even the mainstream media eventually admitted after the war. Like I said, you can look as hard as you can, you won’t find a single American ally that has been attacked by Russia since 1999.

            4. The article you cite doesn’t contain any evidence that the US intelligence had determined that Russia was behind the DNC/Podesta leaks before the election and that Obama specifically wanted to impose sanctions on Russia but didn’t because the Republicans in Congress were not on board and he wanted bipartisan agreement on this. What it says is that Obama had the Gang of 12 in Congress, which includes several Republicans, briefed on the alleged Russian interference in the election. We don’t know what they were told exactly during that meeting in September, but we know they weren’t told that the US intelligence had determined that Russia was behind the DNC leaks, since in a public statement in October (https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/215-press-releases-2016/1423-joint-dhs-odni-election-security-statement) the Office of the DNI only said that « the recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts », which is way short of that. Even more damning, according to a Washington Post article I have already mentioned several times (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-orders-review-of-russian-hacking-during-presidential-campaign/2016/12/09/31d6b300-be2a-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html?utm_term=.d4a682ad0e41), even in December when someone from the CIA briefed some members of Congress, « intelligence agencies [did] not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. » It’s also patently false that, since Obama didn’t impose new sanctions on Russia because of that until after the election, it couldn’t do the Democrats any good anymore. As I already pointed out, it delegitimizes Trump and makes it harder for him to pursue a détente with Russia, which was his stated intention.

            5. You’re making a false equivalency between the case of Clapper and that of McGovern. Clapper has been proven to have lied under oath in front of Congress, no less, in the past. In view of this fact, it’s perfectly rational to take what he says with a huge grain of salt. In fact, not only is this rational, but I think it would clearly be irrational not to do so. On the other hand, even if it were true that McGovern has been moonlighting for a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin, it would not by itself show that he’s ever lied or even been wrong, which makes his case very different from Clapper’s. Moreover, as I already noted, you don’t have any evidence that McGovern has ever been paid by RT for taking part in some of their shows. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t, since as far as I know, people aren’t paid for this. He certainly never has been an employee of RT or, at least, you haven’t given any evidence that he has. Yet that is what you imply when you use the term « moonlight » to slander him and undercut his credibility. The truth is that, until a few days ago, you had probably never even heard of McGovern, but this doesn’t prevent you from slandering him because you can’t address the perfectly legitimate point he made. He is a decorated intelligence veteran who worked for the CIA for several decades and, even more importantly, has never been caught lying or even been mistaken on anything he said as far as I can tell. For instance, he was one of the few people who criticized the intelligence used to justify the war against Iraq in 2002/2003, which was sold to the public in a way very similar to the way in which the allegations of Russian interference in the election were sold by the Obama administration.

            P. S. Sorry if your comment didn’t appear right away, I just realized that I had to approve it. I think it’s because there was several links in it, which makes WordPress suspect that it might be spam. It’s happened a few times before with other people.

  3. “First, contrary to what you seem to think, Georgia wasn’t and never has been an American ally in any meaningful sense.”

    Georgia was an American ally in 2008, when it was invaded by Russia. Your qualifier “in any meaningful sense” exists only to conceal a falsehood.

    “the open warfare was initiated by Georgia,”

    Open warfare between Georgia and Russia began when Russia rolled tanks onto Georgian soil.

    “It’s also patently false that, since Obama didn’t impose new sanctions on Russia because of that until after the election, it couldn’t do the Democrats any good anymore. As I already pointed out, it delegitimizes Trump and makes it harder for him to pursue a détente with Russia, which was his stated intention.”

    It’s true that releasing the information after the election still has some small political benefit for the democrats, but releasing the information before the election is a strictly better strategy, from a partisan point of view. It would still have delegitimized Trump and made it difficult for him to pursue capitulationist policies towards Russia, but it would also have hurt his chances of winning the presidency and improved the situation for democrats in down-ballot races. Hence, the fact that Obama waited until after the elections suggests that his motivations for releasing the information were not purely partisan. The fact that he vainly sought cooperation from the Republican congressional leadership before going forward serves to underscore this. As I said, your original interpretation, that the delay counts as evidence that Obama’s move was politically motivated, is senseless and totally backwards. You should concede as much.

    “On the other hand, even if it were true that McGovern has been moonlighting for a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin, it would not by itself show that he’s ever lied or even been wrong, which makes his case very different from Clapper’s.”

    Clapper once lied to Congress to preserve the secrecy of a classified program. Your McGovern appears (how regularly?) in Russian propaganda. There is no plausible measure of trustworthiness where Russian propagandists rank above the Director of National Intelligence, even if the Director of National Intelligence did once lie to Congress to preserve the secrecy of a classified program.

    1. “Georgia was an American ally in 2008, when it was invaded by Russia. Your qualifier “in any meaningful sense” exists only to conceal a falsehood.”

      I added the qualifier because the US didn’t and still doesn’t have any treaty commitment to defend Georgia, unless members of NATO which are protected by article 5. However, I’ll grant you that in a broader sense they were allies and that I shouldn’t have said that, since the term is also used in that broader sense in ordinary discourse. But this is largely irrelevant anyway, since it ignores the US responsibilities in what happened in 2008, as I already noted and explain in more details below.

      “Open warfare between Georgia and Russia began when Russia rolled tanks onto Georgian soil.”

      Sure but that’s not what I was talking about. Georgia initiated large-scale operation against South Ossetia, where many Russian peacekeepers were stationed. There is simply no great power on earth, whether Russia or any other, that would tolerate this without intervening. But more important, look just at what happened in the early days of August 2008 is really taking a narrow view of the crisis, which is explained by a series of events which took place in the years before that. If you want to know everything, even though it was indisputably Georgia that started the large-scale military operation in this affair, I’m personally convinced that it’s exactly what Russia wanted and that Saakashvili fell into a trap. But the reason why, according to me, the Russians wanted this to happen is that the US, although they denied it repeatedly since then (despite many public statements US and NATO officials made before the war), was actively trying to bring Georgia within NATO. This was unacceptable to Russia, for the same reason that it would be unacceptable for any great power to have a country on its border, which has been part of its sphere of influence for centuries, be integrated into a powerful military alliance that was created against it. The fact that Putin won’t let another major foreign power surround Russia by plotting to bring countries at its borders within the most powerful military alliance in the history of the world, one that was created against its predecessor state, doesn’t make him an expansionist. It makes him exactly like any other leader of any other great power in the same circumstances. The war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, far from being a result of Russian expansionism, was actually a result of the repeated attempts of the US to surround Russia on all sides by funding parties hostile to Russia in countries near its border so that, once in power, they start the process to join NATO. If you think the US would have reacted differently, you should read more about the history of the US interventions in the Western hemisphere and the various avatars of the Monroe doctrine. This crisis and the events that led to it, which go back at least to the dislocation of the USSR, are very complicated questions and it’s extremely misleading to just say something like “the bad, expansionist Russians invaded Georgia in 2008”, although that’s of course how most commentators, who don’t know the history of the US-Georgia-Russia relations any more than you do (because they haven’t read much about this except perhaps about the events which took place during the war itself), present things all the time.

      “It’s true that releasing the information after the election still has some small political benefit for the democrats, but releasing the information before the election is a strictly better strategy, from a partisan point of view. It would still have delegitimized Trump and made it difficult for him to pursue capitulationist policies towards Russia, but it would also have hurt his chances of winning the presidency and improved the situation for democrats in down-ballot races. Hence, the fact that Obama waited until after the elections suggests that his motivations for releasing the information were not purely partisan. The fact that he vainly sought cooperation from the Republican congressional leadership before going forward serves to underscore this. As I said, your original interpretation, that the delay counts as evidence that Obama’s move was politically motivated, is senseless and totally backwards. You should concede as much.”

      I’m not going to concede something which is so obviously false. You’re totally ignoring the points I made in response to your previous comment. What information do you think Obama could have released before the election? As I noted, the US intelligence, even if we believe what they say, didn’t determine that the Russian government was responsible for giving the material obtained by hacking the DNC/Podesta’s email account until several weeks after the election. What the US intelligence had determined before the election, the Obama administration did release, as the DNI official statement from October I mentioned in my previous comment shows. Again, according to the Washington Post and the New York Times, even in December, the US intelligence told the Senators it talked to they hadn’t yet been able to show that Russia was responsible for publishing the material obtained by hacking the DNC/Podesta. So the notion that Obama refused to engage in partisan bullshit is perfectly ridiculous. Even if this were not true, you keep ignoring the point I made before, namely that Obama clearly didn’t think Trump could win the election. The only thing you said in response was that he didn’t think Trump had a zero chance of winning. Well, sure, but that’s totally uninteresting. What matters is that, as Obama himself said repeatedly before and after the election, he didn’t think Trump had any real chance of winning the election. In view of the fact that, according to the evidence publicly available, even the US intelligence didn’t think they could show that Russia was responsible for the publication of the material hacked from the DNC/Podesta’s email account until several weeks after the election, it would hardly have been without risk from a partisan point of view to take sanctions against Russia before the election on the ground that it was trying to help Trump, precisely because it would have been transparently partisan. What is possible is that, when he sent officials to talk with Republican leaders in Congress about this in September, he was hoping that he could turn them against Trump, but it clearly didn’t work.

      “Clapper once lied to Congress to preserve the secrecy of a classified program. Your McGovern appears (how regularly?) in Russian propaganda. There is no plausible measure of trustworthiness where Russian propagandists rank above the Director of National Intelligence, even if the Director of National Intelligence did once lie to Congress to preserve the secrecy of a classified program.”

      The fact that McGovern has appeared on RT doesn’t show that he is a Russian propagandist anymore than the fact that he has appeared on the BBC — which he has — shows that he is a British propagandist. There is plenty of things you can hear on RT that aren’t Russian propaganda, although there is also Russian propaganda, just like there is Western propaganda on the BBC and any other major Western network, public or not. You still haven’t shown that anything McGovern has ever said has proven to be wrong, let alone that he ever lied or engaged in anything that can reasonably be described as Russian propaganda. Clapper, on the other hand, has committed perjury in front of Congress, something for which he could and should have been indicted. But that’s not the only thing about him that should make him a totally unreliable source. Among other things, he was also heavily involved in the mistaken intelligence assessment about WMD in Iraq, while McGovern criticized that assessment and was later proven to be correct. And this is hardly the only reason why Clapper shouldn’t be trusted, as you could see if you read more about him. In any case, you can’t slander McGovern without giving any evidence that he engages in propaganda, even though you clearly have no idea who he is.

      1. “This was unacceptable to Russia, for the same reason that it would be unacceptable for any great power to have a country on its border, which has been part of its sphere of influence for centuries, be integrated into a powerful military alliance that was created against it.”

        You are conceding now that Russia did invade an American ally, but arguing that the invasion was justified because Russia has a right to dominate small, neighboring countries. I do not agree that the Russian dictatorship has the right to dominate small, neighboring countries by rolling in tanks whenever it pleases, but it is good that we are now clear that Russia has indeed aggressed against US allies in the past.

        “As I noted, the US intelligence, even if we believe what they say, didn’t determine that the Russian government was responsible for giving the material obtained by hacking the DNC/Podesta’s email account until several weeks after the election.”

        You are contradicting yourself now. Earlier you said:

        “This is all the more true [given] that Obama waited until after the election to impose those sanctions on Russia, even though as anyone who has examined the evidence published by the US government after that can tell, there was essentially nothing in there that had not already been published months ago by private cybersecurity companies. ”

        Which is it? Did the intelligence services learn something new after the election, or didn’t they?

        “The fact that McGovern has appeared on RT doesn’t show that he is a Russian propagandist anymore than the fact that he has appeared on the BBC — which he has — shows that he is a British propagandist.”

        It’s pretty insane that you think there is no difference between Russia Today and the BBC. I strongly recommend you take a several-month break from reading the work of Russian apologists and RT commentators, and return to the subject once you’ve detoxed.

        1. « You are conceding now that Russia did invade an American ally, but arguing that the invasion was justified because Russia has a right to dominate small, neighboring countries. I do not agree that the Russian dictatorship has the right to dominate small, neighboring countries by rolling in tanks whenever it pleases, but it is good that we are now clear that Russia has indeed aggressed against US allies in the past. »

          I never said Russia had the right to do so, I said that in doing so, it didn’t act any differently than any other great power would have in the same circumstances, which is not the same thing. But you’re talking as if Russia was far worse than the US. However, as I keep pointing out and as you keep ignoring, the US has committed far worse violations of international law since 1999. Even as we speak, it is conducting military intervention in several countries (including one Russian ally) in total violation of international law, but I don’t see you lament what a horrible expansionist power the US is. And let’s not even mention what it did in various parts of the world, e. g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc., since Putin was elected President for the first time. (And a few months before that, it also illegally attacked Yugoslavia, another Russian ally.) The US is responsible for far more death and destruction than Russia. This is a fact that nobody can deny, yet I don’t see you demonizing the US.

          « “As I noted, the US intelligence, even if we believe what they say, didn’t determine that the Russian government was responsible for giving the material obtained by hacking the DNC/Podesta’s email account until several weeks after the election.”

          You are contradicting yourself now. Earlier you said:
          “This is all the more true [given] that Obama waited until after the election to impose those sanctions on Russia, even though as anyone who has examined the evidence published by the US government after that can tell, there was essentially nothing in there that had not already been published months ago by private cybersecurity companies. ”

          Which is it? Did the intelligence services learn something new after the election, or didn’t they? »

          There is clearly no contradiction between those statements, it’s not my fault if logic is not your strong suit. In the first passage you quoted, I said that the US intelligence didn’t claim it could prove that the Russian government was responsible for the publication of the material hacked from the DNC/Podesta’s email account until several weeks after the election. This is a fact, which can easily be verified, as I have already explained. In the second passage, I said that, once the US intelligence said they were able to show that the Russian government was responsible, there was nothing essentially new, compared to the evidence provided by private cybersecurity firms several months before that, in the evidence they released to support their claim, which is also a fact that can easily be verified. Again, there is absolutely no inconsistency here, as anyone with a basic understanding of logic can tell. One passage was about what the US intelligence said about what they could prove and when they said it, while the other was about the evidence they released to support their claims, once they said they could prove that Russia was behind the leaks.

          « It’s pretty insane that you think there is no difference between Russia Today and the BBC. I strongly recommend you take a several-month break from reading the work of Russian apologists and RT commentators, and return to the subject once you’ve detoxed. »

          I never said there was any difference between RT and the BBC, although I think I could easily show that, on foreign policy, the BBC is no more reliable than RT. The difference between you and me is that, unlike you, I watch both the BBC and RT, so I’m actually in a position to make that judgment. But I don’t even want to get dragged in this debate, because it’s irrelevant to the point I was making and that you keep ignoring. So I will just note that, while I have given plenty of reasons to think that Clapper was unreliable, you still haven’t given one example of something McGovern said that later proved to be false, let alone an example of a lie he told. Of course, that’s because you can’t, so instead you just rely on ad hominem attacks against him and me.

          1. 1. “Even as we speak, it is conducting military intervention in several countries (including one Russian ally) in total violation of international law, but I don’t see you lament what a horrible expansionist power the US is.”

            Would you kindly tell me which parts of the world the United States has *annexed* recently? Because I seem to recall that Crimea and South Ossetia were once part of countries other than Russia.

            2. “In the first passage you quoted, I said that the US intelligence didn’t claim it could prove that the Russian government was responsible for the publication of the material hacked from the DNC/Podesta’s email account until several weeks after the election.”

            No, you didn’t. You said: “As I noted, the US intelligence, even if we believe what they say, didn’t determine that the Russian government was responsible for giving the material obtained by hacking the DNC/Podesta’s email account until several weeks after the election.”

            There’s a difference between claiming that:

            (a) The intelligence services didn’t say they could prove that Russia was responsible for the leaks until after the election

            and claiming that:

            (b) The intelligence services didn’t, in fact, determine that the Russian government was responsible for the leaks until after the election.

            So, which is it? Did the CIA et al. determine that the Kremlin was responsible for the leaks after the election, or did they do so before the election? I would like to get a coherent timeline from you.

            3. “So I will just note that, while I have given plenty of reasons to think that Clapper was unreliable, you still haven’t given one example of something McGovern said that later proved to be false, let alone an example of a lie he told.”

            No, but I have pointed out that he works as a stooge for a dictator’s propaganda outlet. You can call this an ad hominem attack if you like, but, as we’ve seen, your views on what counts as an illicit ad hominem attack are ad hoc and self-serving.

          2. 1. First, for the sake of accuracy, Russia has not actually annexed South Ossetia, so the situation is different from Crimea. As for Crimea, before Russia accepted to welcome it in the Russian federation, it declared its independence from Ukraine by referendum. Although the referendum was organized quickly and in obviously not ideal (understatement) circumstances, no one who denies that a vast majority of the people in Crimea prefer to be part of Russia. (Crimea was actually part of Russia until 1954, when it was transferred to Ukraine by Khrushchev as a gift, something that wasn’t very significant at the time since both Russia and Ukraine were part of the USSR.) Now, I’m not saying this makes the annexation of Crime legal according to international law, which it doesn’t. But the self-determination principle is exactly what the West used to justify their support of the independence of Kosovo, which was obtained in 2008 following an illegal war in 1999. (Putin, by the way, warned the West at the time that it would come back to haunt them.) So the US and other Western countries are clearly not in a position to lecture Russia given this obvious double standard. (The same thing, about the double standard, could be said about South Ossetia and Abkhazia.) Not to mention the fact that, again, the US has violated international law far more often than Russia since the end of the Cold War and is responsible for a lot more death and destruction in the world.

            2. What I’m saying is that, as far as we can tell based on the evidence in the public record, the US intelligence didn’t determine they could prove that Russia was responsible for releasing the hacked material until several weeks after the election. Of course, it’s possible that they had determined that before, but the DNI explicitly said they weren’t able to make that determination in October and, according to the press, the US intelligence still couldn’t show it even a month after the election. Again, it’s not just that they didn’t say that they had determined that Russia was responsible for releasing the hacked material until after the election, it’s that they publicly said before the election that they could not make this determination. I have already explained this and provided the evidence, and it doesn’t change the fact that, contrary to what you claimed in your previous comment, the passages you quoted before were not inconsistent.

            3. You keep repeating that McGovern works for RT, but as I already pointed out repeatedly, you have provided no evidence for that claim, which I’m very confident is false. The fact that he appeared on RT doesn’t show that he works for them anymore than the fact that he appeared on the BBC shows that he works for the BBC. As for whether my views on what counts as ad hominem are wrong, I’m happy to let the people who are reading this exchange decide, but I’m not particularly worried… Again, McGovern has a proven track-record of being right, is a decorated intelligence veteran, has never been shown to lie. You haven’t been able to show that any of that is false, so all you can do is say that is falsely claim that he works for RT, while in fact he only appeared on some of their shows (but also on several other networks), which to me is irrelevant to his reliability. I, on the other hand, have pointed out that Clapper had not only lied under oath in Congress, but was also heavily involved in the intelligence fuck-up about WMDs in Iraq that led to the invasion which destroyed the country. So, like I said, I’m not worried.

          3. 1. The Crimean referendum was held when Sevastopol was crawling with Russian soldiers. It showed 97% support for accession to the Russian Federation, with an 83% turnout rate. North Korea would be proud of these numbers. It’s embarrassing that you would bring it up at all, and suggests that you are having difficult distinguishing between the fantasy-world created by Russian propaganda and reality.

            2. Self-determination could not mean that any enclave of ethnic Russians anywhere in Europe can reserve the right to join the Russian Federation at any time, and call on the Russian military to enforce that right against democratically-elected governments if necessary. This principle, again, would underwrite Russian conquest of much of Eastern Europe.

            3. “What I’m saying is that, as far as we can tell based on the evidence in the public record, the US intelligence didn’t determine they could prove that Russia was responsible for releasing the hacked material until several weeks after the election.”

            Wonderful. So, given that the intelligence services did not determine that Russia was responsible for the leaks until after the election, it makes perfect sense that Obama would also wait until after the election to propose sanctions, correct?

            4. “so all you can do is say that is falsely claim that he works for RT while in fact he only appeared on some of their shows (but also on several other networks), which to me is irrelevant to his reliability.”

            Really? So you think that if one journalist routinely appears on a dictator’s propaganda channel, while another journalist does not, and their claims are at odds, we should be indifferent about whom to trust, other things being equal?

          4. 1. I explicitly said that the circumstances in which the referendum was held were no good, so you’re once again attacking a straw man. What I said is that no one denies that a vast majority of people in Crimea prefer to be part of Russia. There are multiple polls conducted after the referendum and even some that were conducted several years before that by independent, sometimes Western organizations that can’t be suspected of a pro-Russian bias. I know you don’t know that, but you can easily verify this with Google if you don’t believe me. The fact that a vast majority of Crimeans prefer to be part of Russia is hardly surprising given the history of Crimea and how it came to become part of Ukraine. But of course you don’t know anything about the history of Crimea, because you have never read a book about any of this in your life.

            2. Nobody really knows what the principle of self-determination as embodied in the UN Charter really implies, as the Charter is arguably inconsistent, something I’m guessing you don’t know because you probably never read a book on international law. But I never said what you ascribe to me about self-determination, I just pointed out the hypocrisy of the West that obviously use a double standard in condemning the referendum in Crimea but supporting the independence of Kosovo. Now, I know that you’re going to Google Kosovo and start telling me all sorts of nonsense about the justification of NATO’s intervention in 1999, because again you have never read any book about this so you don’t know that the lies used by Western governments to justify this intervention have been thoroughly debunked, but I’m done trying to teach you things you could learn on your own if only your knowledge of the things we’re discussing didn’t come from a few articles you’ve read in a haste after doing a Google search to reply to me.

            3. You really are priceless… You started by claiming that Obama could have gone public with the fact that, according to the US intelligence, Russia had given the material hacked from the DNC/Podesta’s email account to DCLeaks, Wikileaks, etc. and imposed sanctions on Russia before the election but refrained from doing so because he didn’t want to play partisan games and couldn’t get the support of Republican leaders, which according to you showed that his decision to impose sanctions after the election was not political. Now that I have pointed out to you that, in fact, the US intelligence, even if we believe what they say publicly, wasn’t able to determine that Russia was responsible for the leaks until several week after the election, you’re trying to turn that around and say that the fact that what you initially claimed is false shows that Obama’s decision wasn’t political! It’s clear that, no matter what the evidence says, you will continue to believe that Obama’s decision wasn’t political.

            4. RT also regularly invites anti-Russian pundits, but of course you don’t know that, because you never watch and just repeat talking points you hear on CNN. Does that make them Russian propagandists? Anyway, what you’re saying is totally irrelevant to the points I made and I’m tired of playing this ridiculous game with you. Anyone who is reading this exchange can decide for themselves who has made the better case here. As I said before, I’m not particularly worried…

          5. 1. “I explicitly said that the circumstances in which the referendum was held were no good,”

            There was no “referendum,” there was an invasion. Get it right.

            2. “You started by claiming that Obama could have gone public with the fact that”

            No, *you* started by claiming that the intelligence services learned nothing new about the hack after the election, and inferred from this Obama’s decision to wait until after the election to go public must have been political. When I pointed out that this inference makes no sense– if Obama’s motives were partisan, the optimal timing for releasing the information would obviously have been prior to election day– you started contradicting yourself, claiming that the intelligence services did not determine that Russia was responsible for the DNC leak until after the election. You can’t even keep your damn conspiracy theory straight.

            3. “RT also regularly invites anti-Russian pundits, but of course you don’t know that, because you never watch and just repeat talking points you hear on CNN.”

            Man, you really don’t want to answer my question, do you? Here it is again:

            “So you think that if one journalist routinely appears on a dictator’s propaganda channel, while another journalist does not, and their claims are at odds, we should be indifferent about whom to trust, other things being equal?”

    2. Look, I will even grant you anything you want about Russia, because this discussion is getting dangerously close to the point of decreasing marginal return, assuming we’re not already way past it. No matter what you say about Russia, you simply can’t deny that, since Putin was elected President, the US has engaged in far worse violations of international law. You also can’t deny that the US, both under Obama and under Trump, has very good relations with foreign governments that are far worse than Russia under Putin, yet I don’t hear people constantly asking the President or Congress to impose sanctions against the countries in question. Yet, with the possible exception of China, a good relationship between the US and Russia is far more important than a good relationship between the US and any other country. Which, if you ask me, is really all that matters when people start demonizing Russia.

      1. 1. Do you really think that a moral evaluation of nation-states should proceed by tallying up violations of international law? America is a liberal democracy that respects human rights, as are most of its core allies. Russia is a brutal dictatorship. This makes all the difference in the world.

        2. I agree that peace with Russia is desirable, although not at the cost of surrendering Eastern Europe to Putin. In your last comment you said:

        “[The US] was actively trying to bring Georgia within NATO. This was unacceptable to Russia, for the same reason that it would be unacceptable for any great power to have a country on its border, which has been part of its sphere of influence for centuries, be integrated into a powerful military alliance that was created against it. ”

        I hope you realize that your suggestion that it is “unacceptable” for NATO to touch Russia’s borders entails that, in addition to Georgia and Ukraine, you would be willing to cede Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to Putin as well. I do not think your strategy of total capitulation is likely to achieve peace with Russia, and I do not think a peace predicated on a reformed Russian empire is worth achieving in any case.

        1. 1. First, I never said that a moral evaluations of nation-states should proceed only by tallying up violations of international law, but since I’m a consequentialist I do think that it should proceed by looking at the consequences of their actions and it’s a fact that the US has been far more disruptive than Russia in the world. Also, the claim that the US respects human rights is obviously false, something you can’t possibly ignore. It’s true that domestically the US respects human rights more than Russia, but it violates human rights abroad all the time and, again, has been far more disruptive than Russia in the rest of the world. Surely you don’t think that Americans are somehow morally worth more than other people.

          2. Despite what a lot of people say all the time, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Putin has any intention of invading Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland. On the contrary, it’s very clear that he will do nothing of the sort, for reasons I plan to explain in details in another post. For the moment, it suffices to say that, unlike Ukraine and Georgia, all those countries are members of NATO and, therefore, the US and every other member of the alliance are obligated by article 5 of the treaty to defend them in case of aggression. Moreover, even without the US, the countries of the EU would be more than capable of dealing with a Russian invasion, which makes it completely irrational, especially since Russia badly needs Western capital and technology, something Putin himself has stressed repeatedly since he became President and even before. But again there is no evidence that it has even crossed Putin’s mind to invade those countries and, on the contrary, he has clearly indicated that Russia had accepted their membership to NATO and would not try to obtain that they leave the alliance.
          On the other hand, since he made that clear, he also made clear that Russia wouldn’t tolerate further expansion of NATO toward its borders, which is totally understandable for security reasons I already mentioned. This is what the war with Georgia in 2008 was about and it’s also what the crisis in Ukraine since 2014, which let’s not forget was caused by a US-supported coup against the democratically elected Yanukovuch, is about. So I’m not proposing capitulation, because Russia never asked for any such thing. What I’m proposing is that the US and NATO take seriously the very reasonable security concerns of Russia, which again any other great power would have in similar circumstances, and stop interfering in its sphere of influence and accept to cooperate with Moscow on issues where we have common interests. I know this is presented by people like John McCain and the mainstream media as “capitulating to Russia”, but it’s actually very reasonable.

          1. 1. “First, I never said that a moral evaluations of nation-states should proceed only by tallying up violations of international law, but since I’m a consequentialist I do think that it should proceed by looking at the consequences of their actions and it’s a fact that the US has been far more disruptive than Russia in the world. ”

            Consequentialism is the view that the rightness of an action is exclusively a function of the action’s consequences. Consequentialists do not believe that we can evaluate an agent’s or a nation’s character solely based on the consequences of their past actions. In fact, no one believes this, because it’s obviously wrong.

            2. “It’s true that domestically the US respects human rights more than Russia, but it violates human rights abroad all the time and, again, has been far more disruptive than Russia in the rest of the world.”

            Here’s a distinction some might find important: the foreigners whose human rights the US violates, are they residents of modern liberal democracies, or are they instead citizens of failed states, dictatorships, and theocracies, beyond the reach of anything we might call justice? For example, does the US violate the human rights of Londoners by poisoning them with radioactive isotopes? Or does it call in drone strikes against suspected terrorists in, say, the tribal areas of Pakistan?

          2. 1. I don’t even know what a nation-state’s character could possibly be and I’m not interested. I just note that, while you constantly demonize Russia, it’s a fact that nobody who knows the history of the world since the Cold War can deny that the US has been far more disruptive in the world and is ultimately responsible for a lot more death and destruction than Russia. If you want to say that, nevertheless, Russia is much worse than the US because [insert talking points about how horrible a country Russia is], then it’s clearly pointless to continue this conversation…

            2. I’m sure that some people find this distinction morally relevant, but if you ask me, it only shows that their moral judgment is corrupt. I would be absolutely baffled if you really thought it was a useful distinction. Even if you did, it’s patently false that the people whose human rights the US violated were « beyond the reach of anything we might call justice », but the fact that you seem to think so speaks volumes about you.

            This conversation has clearly outlived whatever usefulness it might have had, so I won’t reply anymore after that. You clearly are in way over your head, because you have never read anything beyond a few articles in the press about the things we are talking about. There isn’t anyone reading this who doesn’t know that by now and I have better things to do with my time than waste it to explain to you all the things you don’t know because you don’t read enough about this. You keep ignoring the points I make or distorting them and you have clearly no idea what you’re talking about. But I can see that you won’t be satisfied until you have the last word, so I will gladly let you have it, for this farce has been going for too long already.

          3. ” You clearly are in way over your head, because you have never read anything beyond a few articles in the press about the things we are talking about. There isn’t anyone reading this who doesn’t know that by now and I have better things to do with my time than waste it to explain to you all the things you don’t know because you don’t read enough about this. You keep ignoring the points I make or distorting them and you have clearly no idea what you’re talking about. But I can see that you won’t be satisfied until you have the last word, so I will gladly let you have it, for this farce has been going for too long already.”

            Wait, I think I have something for this:

            “I doubt that you could provide any evidence for that claim, which is completely gratuitous and ad hominem, something people who are right usually don’t need to resort to…”

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