American Democracy Is an Easy Target

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
January 17, 2018

The American foreign-policy community has spent the past year arguing about how to counter Russian influence operations. Newspapers such as the New York Times have written article after article describing how Russian trolls ran campaigns to discredit Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Twitter commenters with hundreds of thousands of followers claim that Russian influencers and agents-provocateurs are everywhere on social media. Research centers warn that Russia has the “motive and the means” to “undermine democratic political and social institutions,” suggesting that Russia is capable of destroying America’s democracy in very short order.

Meanwhile, elite bipartisan initiatives such as the Alliance for Securing Democracy have charged Russia with engaging in a coherent and tightly organized campaign across social media platforms, “pulling strings on both sides of the Atlantic,” undermining democracy in the United States and Western Europe. They propose that the United States counter Russia by developing Cold War-style strategies to “defend against, deter and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions.”

All these people are not only getting Russian influence operations wrong. In an important sense, they are also amplifying the effects of the very operations they decry.

Read the full piece at Foreign Policy