Beware the Fog of War

Published at 08:40 on 6 January 2017

I believe Glenn Greenwald errs on the side of dismissing Russian influence in American politics (more about that below), but he does have a point about the “Russia hacked our electric grid” story.

Basically, Russia didn’t “hack the grid.” The hacked computer was a laptop that played no role in controlling the electric grid. Hacking an electric utility is not the same thing as hacking the electric grid.

The reason I believe Russia is significantly involved is not simply that the US intelligence community asserts so, but that it makes larger sense in the context of many observable unclassified facts.

By contrast, the claims of the Bush regime about Iraq being a threat were not believable in the context of observable unclassified facts:

  • The intelligence community actually disagreed with many of the things Bush was saying publicly. Whistleblowers such as Joseph Wilson, and scandals like the regime’s retaliation against his wife resulted.
  • UN weapons inspectors such as Scott Ritter and Hans Blix disagreed that Iraq was stockpiling WMD.
  • Saddam Hussein was a secular nationalist and Islamists such as Al Qaeda were his ideological enemies. There was no reason to believe Iraq had any connection whatsoever with the 9/11 attacks.

Yes, sometimes the intelligence community lies at the behest of the White House. But sometimes it tells the truth. Sometimes it lies but the lie is minor and doesn’t discredit a larger truth. We do not live in a simplistic melodrama world where institutions are either lying evildoers or truthful protagonists. This applies to the Russian government as much as it does to the US intelligence community.

In this case, the thesis that the intelligence community is generally being accurate and truthful is the one that is more consistent with observable reality. Moreover, the thesis that Russia did not hack the grid agrees with observable reality far more than the claim that it did.

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