- - Wednesday, November 8, 2017


It is common knowledge that the reason Ronald Reagan fired his first 1980 campaign manager, John Sears, was his loss to George H.W. Bush in the Iowa caucuses straw poll. Mr. Sears was replaced by William Casey, with Edwin Meese and Michael Deaver getting more involved in the campaign, and all of them urging to let “Reagan be Reagan.” This change resulted in Reagan’s securing the Republican nomination and the presidency.

Turning to the current U.S. foreign policy, it is interesting to recall Donald Trump’s campaign statement at a rally in Iowa, saying “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia and China and all these countries?”

Mr. Trump repeated this thought many times, largely ignoring avalanches of criticism and even accusations of being a Manchurian candidate. Just a few days ago, Mr. Trump said that getting along with Russia could help to solve the North Korea crisis.

Well, this is easier said than done, as it’s no exaggeration to say that American politics is in a Russia frenzy. You name it, the Kremlin is behind it. “Russiagate” was first aimed at President Trump by his political enemies in both parties, but like Frankenstein’s monster, it has now turned on its creators as well.

The Democrats’ headaches include the fishy dossier compiled by British spy Christopher Steele, paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) after early seed money from “NeverTrump” Republicans; the Uranium One fiasco and links to possible bribery via the Clinton Foundation donations and a fat speaking fee to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s hubby Bill; and the Podesta Group’s getting dragged into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who was previously a lobbyist for Ukraine.

But the cake goes to the Senate intelligence committee’s inquisition of tech company executives over ads placed by persons supposedly “linked” to the Kremlin. “The 2016 election was the first time in history that goofy advertisements were considered an act of war,” comments James Bovard in The Hill. Mr. Bovard did an extensive research and found that “Russian political advertisements amounted to only .004 percent of the total content that Facebook users saw last year in the United States.

Do the members of Congress believe that American people are so stupid, naive or easy to manipulate that a few social network ads, some in broken English, or one cable TV channel can change their minds?

Let’s leave aside for the moment the absurdity of what is amounting to hysteria — including the total lack of irony among media and politicians seemingly unaware of how much the U.S. has meddled in Russia’s and other countries’ politics.

Instead, to keep things simple, let’s assume all the allegations against Russia and its devious mastermind in the Kremlin are absolutely true. Then what?

The increasingly encountered term “act of war” doesn’t leave much room for maneuver. In principle it could mean a military response, but there doesn’t seem much stomach for that. Yet.

More typical are the recommendations of Michele Flournoy, President Obama’s undersecretary for policy at the Department of Defense and believed to be Hillary Clinton’s pick for Pentagon chief had she won the presidential election. Ms. Flournoy and many others on Capitol Hill call for a very costly and wide-ranging collaborative effort across federal, state and local governments, as well as with technology and media to counter key elements of Russian information warfare and impose huge costs to deter Vladimir Putin from future interference.

The establishment calls this a strategy, but it’s better described as an invitation to political warfare as far as the eye can see. And that’s no doubt music to the ears of lots of people, particularly those who have a personal or monetary stake in perpetuated confrontation and crisis. But how that serves the interests of the American people is less clear.

The U.S. electoral system does need substantial improvements and modernization, but the outside interference is the least of its numerous problems as everyone, including the most adamant anti-Trump and anti-Russia politicos, admit that it did not change the final results.

The largest problems deal with the ultimate role of the money, political and media corruption, digging the dirt on opponents rather than concentrating on issues, etc.

Besides, if we want Russia or any other country to stop meddling in our elections, are we ready to publicly admit that we also did the same to them and pledge not to do it again?

Going back to Mr. Trump’s instincts on major benefits resulting in getting along with Russia:

Consider, for example, Syria. At the moment, U.S.-supported Kurdish-led forces on the east side of the Euphrates River and Russian-supported Syrian army on the west are finishing off the last territorial holdings of ISIS in Syria. This wouldn’t be possible without professional military-to-military coordination between the Pentagon and the Russian General Staff.

Destroying ISIS was one of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises. He’s on the verge of achieving it, in part because of Moscow’s cooperation.

There are lots of other trouble spots where we should be working toward mutually acceptable outcomes that are easy to find, from terrorism to the Korean Peninsula and Ukraine.

Mr. Trump promised to Make America Great Again — restore our infrastructure and industry, build that Mexican wall, replace the Obamacare mess.

The choice is clear. We can waste tremendous resources and historic opportunity with an endless, sterile and dangerous confrontation with Russia. Or we can let Trump be Trump.

Which will it be?

⦁ Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow.

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