Glenn Greenwald and other Russia Deniers

What’s up with Glenn Greenwald and others on the left who generally deny the possibility that Russia successfully interfered in US domestic politics, tipping the election?

I think part of it is the desire to avoid facing an unpleasant fact; namely, the fact that the preponderance of evidence indicates that Russia acted in a hostile way that merits serious consequences in return. Note that this does not mean war; it does however mean an end to any sort of normal, routine relationship that one would have with a non-hostile nation.

If you emotionally invest a great deal into a political theory which paints the US military/industrial complex as nothing but a conspiracy to inflate foreign threats in the name of sucking down tax dollars, then it might be awkward to have to admit that some threats from abroad actually do exist. It can be even harder if you remember a time when bloated military spending (and thoroughly evil imperialistic interventionism) were being justified on the basis of a military confrontation with the (largely ethnic Russian) USSR. It can be harder yet if your name is Glenn Greenwald and when you were a reporter for the Guardian, you helped Edward Snowden expose some crimes of the US national security establishment.

Of course, a more nuanced view that allows room for there to both be actual threats from abroad and for there to be mostly fake ones hyped up by a self-serving national security state is also possible. But it tends to be emotionally very easy and seductive to operate in a world where actors get reduced to simplistic good or evil characters, even if on an intellectual level one knows better (Greenwald is not stupid).

It’s not the first time that many on the left have fallen into such a trap. In the 1930s, many pacifist leftists found it impossible to admit that Nazi Germany was a military threat. For many of those leftists, opposing World War I was a defining experience, and there was much merit in the claim that WWI was largely a result of the foibles of an imperialist ruling elite first squabbling over how to best steal land and oppress Africans then siding with the side their bankers had lent a lot of money to. One of the reasons Neville Chamberlain found it so easy to appease Hitler is that appeasement had broad support from across the political spectrum in the UK.

None of this is to say that the US ruling class is blameless in all this. As I’ve written before, the US and its allies basically laid the foundations for the current state of affairs, by encouraging and supporting Boris Yeltsin when he staged a coup against parliament and proceeded to create a strong presidency in Russia. Putin simply inherited that presidency and started putting it to uses other than the originally intended (by the West) one of ramming through a transition to a fully capitalist economy.

Likewise, Britain was not blameless in the rise of Hitler. Together with the rest of the European Triple Entente countries, the UK ended the war on terms extremely humiliating for Germany. This undermined the German economy and created a fertile environment for demagogues like Hitler to arise. Such humiliating peace terms (and their paving of the way to a later, more brutal war) were in fact correctly predicted by socialist Rosa Luxemburg in 1915.

But that no more proved that Hitler wasn’t a threat than the US history of intervention in post-Cold War eastern Europe proves Putin isn’t a threat.

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